As experienced and written by Bridget Isaia
Seems like every innovative locavore chef in Chicago wants to feature Al Dente Pasta in their supper club! Chef Cleetus of City Provisions – part catering company, part food advocacy and soon to be deli located in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago – recently led a bio-diesel busload of foodies to Deitzler Farms in Elkhorn, WI for a farm dinner, and Monique and I were along for the ride. And the food. And the beer.
So why City Provisions, and why the farm? City Provisions is a sustainable operation that incorporates as much local food into its meals as possible. Their new deli (opening in July) will be stocked with food and goods from the Midwest. Al Dente pasta will line the shelves, and hopefully be featured in some ready-to-eat dishes (hint!).
But Monique’s involvement with City Provisions began long before talks of supplying the deli. In fact, Monique’s first taste of the supper club came from being alone in Chicago one evening and looking for a fun and unique night out. Surrounding yourself with food-lovers to go on a pilgrimage to a food producer sounds like a sure bet.
And Monique fell in love. Which leads to my second rhetorical question – why the farm? When Chef Cleetus was cooking up the idea to host a supper club, City Provisions didn’t have a location. So he thought, why not have a roving supper club, and connect people with the farms that produce our food?
The format goes: 50 friends-to-be gather at City Provisions in Ravenswood around 2pm, pre-drink a little water, load onto the bio-diesel bus, are fed appetizers from farm food and beer from a local producer, take a farm tour, eat a phenomenal meal prepared by the City Provisions staff, drink more beer, gather around a campfire, sing, drink more beer, load back onto the bus, drink a little more beer, sing a little bit more, and return to Ravenswood around midnight with a few more names for their Roladex/iQuivalent.
The details are much tastier.
Dietzler Farms raises all-natural beef cattle on a small farm in southeastern Wisconsin. After our bus arrived, we met Ben, the farm manager, along with Michelle Dietzler and a few other family members, who gave us a great tour of the farm. They supply a few of Chicago’s great restaurants, including Uncommon Ground, whose owners Helen and Mike Cameron were in attendance at the supper club. Otherwise, Dietzler Farms sells directly from their website and at the Green City Market. The City Provisions deli will be the only retailer to carry Dietzler Farms meat, another reason we can’t wait for it to open!
So that’s the beef, what about the rest of the menu? Chef Cletus told us he never repeats a menu item, but he did treat us to some cherished family recipes like his grandma Dotsie’s chopped liver served with local eggs and spring vegetables, and his mother’s shrimp scampi made with sustainable Laughing Bird shrimp, served with grilled sirloin steak atop a bed of Al Dente Land & Sea pasta. Perfect surf & turf!
My favorite dish of the evening had to be the slow-roasted short ribs and sauteed mustard greens served over Al Dente egg fettuccine. Butter was certainly a major ingredient in this dish, and the pasta was cooked perfectly. Monique even gave her approval to the cooks, who were a little nervous to have her in attendance…
The farm dinner was certainly unforgettable. Meeting the cows that provide this fantastic beef was a special part of the evening. We foodies think it’s vital for people to know where their food comes from, and for me, it’s very important to know how the meat I choose to eat is raised. Being able to see the cows in the pasture, to see the food they consume and meet the people that raise them made me that much more thankful to take part in this supper club.
Chef Cleetus, Jim Ebel from Two Brothers Brewing (who provided the beer, woo!), Ben the farm manager and Monique were all bombarded with questions from people in attendance about how their businesses started, where they get their inspiration, how many people work for them. It’s so inspiring for people to get to meet the producers of their food, and Monique and I were marveling at this return to being closer to our food, whether that is meeting the cow you will later eat, or meeting the person behind your favorite flavor of fail-proof pasta.
Cheers to farm dinners and local food, and to the people who care so much to make it a part of our daily lives!