Chicago is a magnet for inspiring food artisans and producers. Here are a few favorites from Stephanie Izard, chef of The Girl & the Goat, Little Goat and Duck Duck Goat and 2011 FOOD & WINE Best New Chef.
Black Dog Gelato
Jessie Oloroso worked as a pastry chef at Scylla—Stephanie’s first restaurant—before opening this pair of beloved scoop shops. She borrowed inspiration from the gelaterias of Rome, making her products daily in small batches, and dreaming up unusual combinations such as white chocolate banana curry and sesame-fig chocolate chip. “Jessie uses local produce when it is in season and approaches her gelato with balance—a little salt, a little spice,” says Stephanie who offered sundaes from a Black Dog cart at her own wedding. She now serves the gelato at all of her restaurants, and even works with Jessie to develop custom flavors for her menus, such as the sweet potato scoop currently available at Duck Duck Goat. Black Dog Gelato: 859 N Damen Ave, Chicago; 773-235-3116; 1955 W Belmont Ave; 773-348-7935; blackdogchicago.com
Chicago’s craft brewing boom is an excellent showcase for good, old-fashioned bootstrap ingenuity. It’s an industry that’s full of stories like Josh Deth’s—a young guy who mopped floors and scrubbed kegs at other breweries, before opening Revolution, his own passion project, in 2010. Revolution now produces upwards of 50 beer styles, ranging from the saison-inspired Coup D’état and the bourbon barrel-aged stout Deth’s Tar, to seasonal specials like the tart Rosa Hibiscus ale. “We serve Revolution at all of the restaurants, and they help us launch rooftop season at the Little Goat each year with a big party. It ends up attracting a lot of brewers,” says Stephanie. Revolution Brewing: 2323 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago; 773-227-2739; revbrew.com
Chicago Distilling Company
Micro-distilleries are on the rise in Chicago, with players like Few Spirits and Letherbee courting fans well outside state lines. Stephanie favors this Logan Square upstart, a family affair operated by brothers Jay and Victor DiPrizio, along with Jay’s wife Noelle. The line relies on Illinois grain to create products like Shorty’s White Whiskey, named for Noelle’s grandfather, a Wisconsin moonshiner, and a few single-malt style whiskies—Stouted and Dunkelweizen—which take inspiration from the world of craft brewing. But Stephanie points to CDC’s strapping, juniper-heavy Finn’s Gin as the stand out. “Gin is a good place to start for a lot of these small distilleries because it doesn’t require any aging time in a barrel, and this one is really special,” says Stephanie, who features Finn’s on her cocktail lists. “I just love all of the different aromatics; even people who aren’t normally gin drinkers seem to enjoy it.” Chicago Distilling Company: 2359 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago; 872-206-2774; chicagodistilling.com