As a chef, you sometimes find inspiration in “odd” places. For us in the City Winery Chicago kitchen, a new world of ingredients, ideas and possibilities opened up when Dave Odd, president of Odd Produce, walked in.
Dave, whose long list of accomplishments and career interests includes comedian/reptile wrangler/paranormal researcher/wildlife photographer/forager, runs a business specializing in foraging and growing unique and unusual ingredients, including herbs, mint, mushrooms and fruit, such as local berries.
One thing I really like about working with Dave is the freshness of all the items. The company has a greenhouse and a farm in Harvard, Ill., for items it grows, and they also sources items from all over the country. For items they have flown in, they only order what they need, pick them up from the airport and deliver them immediately. For produce grown on their farm, they pick it the day of and deliver it fresh from their hands to our restaurant within a couple hours. They do not store any items, which ensures freshness and quality.
Specialty mushrooms are items we regularly purchase from Odd Produce. We use their wild mushrooms on our amazing mushroom flatbread. Dave also helped us concept and create an item on our latest menu called faux marrow, which is our vegetarian take on bone marrow. To create the dish, we stuff royal trumpet mushrooms with mushroom pate.
Right now for summer, we are sourcing a lot of berries from Odd Produce, including mulberries and Juneberries, all picked locally. Mulberries, which grow wild all over, look like a blackberry but are smaller. There are black and white mulberries, and they have a relatively tart taste. Juneberries are similar to a blueberry and taste like a blueberry with an apple flavor profile. We use these fresh berries on our dessert menu in the “Mixed Berry Pavlova” and on our brunch menu with the “French Toast Bread Pudding.”
Dave also sources speciality items for our bartender, such as elderflowers, which grow wild. He also has collected angelica for our bar program, which was used to make bitters and candy twizzle sticks and also used as a garnish on drinks.
We look forward to serving you some of our “odd” menu items in the dining room and on our outdoor patio soon!
- Chef Andres Barrera