Chicago's Downtown Farmstand turned 2 last weekend, but it's celebrating all month long.
Available only in October, and only at the market at 66 E. Randolph: a pumpkin cupcake from Sweet Miss Givings bakery, topped with cream cheese frosting and candied ginger ($3); and Intelligentsia's Farmstand coffee blend.
The festivities ramp up this week with samples galore from other local vendors. Wednesday's the big day, with tastings from Pasta Puttana, Co-Op Hot Sauce and Chicago Rooftop Honey, and a farm-to-table talk at 6 p.m. led by David Cleverdon of Kinnikinnick Farm and Seedling Orchard's Peter Klein. Also on the panel: Alison Bower of Ruth and Phils Ice Cream and Cleetus Friedman of City Provisions, both of whom use products from Cleverdon and Klein.
The Farmstand is a pet project of the city's cultural commissioner Lois Weisberg. Judith Dunbar Hines, the city's director of culinary arts, has been charged with carrying Weisberg's vision through.
One way she's doing that is by partnering with our food pages. In May, we introduced the Low Mileage Kitchen recipe column, written by Hines. It's been a win-win: the Farmstand gets a boost, and we get recipes -- good, solid recipes using seasonal, local foods.
The Downtown Farmstand isn't the only shop of its kind in the city -- something to applaud, isn't it, that local food producers and entrepreneurs are getting more shelf space? There's Green Grocer Chicago in West Town, which opened a few months prior to the Farmstand; the Dill Pickle Food Co-Op in Logan Square; Provenance Food and Wine, and Friedman's recently opened City Provisions Deli. There is, too, the Chicago French Market -- but that's another story.
All this, of course, is a shameless plug for the Farmstand and the aforementioned businesses. Ever heard of Wind Ridge Herb Farm? B True Bakery? Neither had we -- until places like the Farmstand came around.