Saturday, April 16, 2011

Chicago French Market

My friend Luis chose the location of our latest foodie adventure: Chicago French Market. The name made me a bit nervous - I was scared all we would see would be croissants and cream. But Luis knows better and my quick assumption couldn't be further from the truth! The market is a hidden gem in the heart of Chicago filled with over thirty local vendors and every type of food imaginable, whether you want to eat there or take fresh foods home to cook yourself! It is located off of Ogilvie train station, the Metra station I use whenever going home to visit my family, but I have never noticed it before.

We circled the market a few times before making our selections - he got a sandwich and I got lasagna. Delicious, dairy-free, gluten-free, raw, vegan lasagna from RAW. I have been craving
lasagna since I went dairy free two years ago (the cravings have obviously gotten stronger) so I was excited to see it offered. The woman who worked at RAW told me that everything was dairy free (yay vegans!) and almost everything was gluten-free (gluten-filled items include muffins, sandwiches, and pizza). She offered
me a glass of water while ringing me up and I thought of how
good some of those specialty, carbonated beverages other vendors offered looked, but made the responsible, healthy choice and went with water. The lasagna was really good and full of flavor from the zucchini, spinach, and loads of fresh herbs. I've been on a vegetable kick lately so was happy to have so many delicious vegetables in my take-out container. Luis and I sat at a table underneath the umbrella, chatted, and enjoyed our time in such an inspiring place surrounded by great food!

Here's why I really loved the Chicago French Market:
  • Options!!! There is so much to eat (and loads of wheat-filled products if you are so inclined) and there is literally something for everyone! As I told Luis as he was trying to make up his mind: we can always go back and try food from another vendor. If we planned our evening better, we could have probably had food from half a dozen different places or so and created a whole array of foods!
  • Accessibility!!! It is part of a major Metra station. (Current downside - there were some reroutes when arriving from the east due to construction.)
  • Price!!! Maybe working in Chicago has corrupted my thinking ($12 + tax for dinner for one person), but there's not many places to find specialty items at every day city-level pricing. Some of the fresh produce was much cheaper than I would pay at Dominick's or Jewel.
  • Knowledgeable foodies!!! Guided by suggestions from one vendor from Pastoral, I tried some hard goat's cheese and sheep's cheese (I believe I'm really just cow's milk intolerant. More on the cheese in a different entry.) There were some gluten free desserts (meringue cookies) and dairy-free sorbet.
  • Inspiration!!! After spending almost two hours there, Luis and I really wanted to go and cook. Maybe next time we will plan our day better and I will have a clean kitchen ready to transport our fresh food finds into delicious meals.
I judge the success of eating out based on if I am excited to go into the kitchen to create my own equally amazing dishes. The market was a total success. I even took a copy of the pasta place's menu for more inspiration for my own pasta dishes! (With my versions being gluten and dairy free, of course.)

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