It may feel like summer came early this year, but the season doesn't truly kick off until May 5 when the Green City Market moves from its indoor location at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum to the south end of Lincoln Park, where it will hold court 7 a.m.-1 p.m. every Wednesday and Saturday through October. This year, opening day will be celebrated with live music, tours and a demo by "Top Chef: Texas" runner-up Sarah Grueneberg ofSpiaggia.
While the market is a cook's candy store thanks to its array of local produce, meats, cheeses and baked goods, there are also plenty of ready-made snacks for immediate gratification. Here are a few highlights.
Start-up Seasons Soda makes its debut at this year's market, selling natural sodas with fresh-pressed fruits and infused herbs and no added sugars or preservatives. Owner Bobby Chang buys all his fruit from GCM vendors, and prices will vary accordingly. Apple-mint is shaping up to be the staple, but look for seasonal flavors such as cantaloupe-tarragon, Asian pear, watermelon-mint and strawberry.
Hoosier Mama Pie Co.
Paula Haney is back with her popular pies, muffins, scones, savory hand pies and (occasionally) turnovers. "This should be a great year for pie at the market right from the start," said Haney, who also has a small storefront at 1618 W. Chicago Ave. "We should have some early rhubarb, and we are still getting apples from our farmers, which is very unusual at this time of the year." Six-inch pies range from $8.50-$9.50 and 9-inch pies from $20-$25. Slices are sold only on occasion, so come prepared with a fork and knife.
Those addicted to Zullo's zeppole di mela (apple cider doughnuts) will be able to get their fix again this year. Owner Adriana Marzullo, who opened a food truck in Chicago last September, is bringing back other favorites as well, including chicken and veggie nuggets, panini, flatbread pizzas and sweet and savory hand pies. All items range from $5-$8.
Joshua Kulp and Christine Cikowski, chef-owners of private dining club Sunday Dinner (sign up for invitations at their booth) are GCM favorites for their fresh-ground burgers with seasonal toppings (The first combo this year likely will be green-garlic aioli, horseradish cheddar and arugula, $10). They're currently looking at spaces to open their own restaurant, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, which will feature local, hormone-free chicken and seasonal sides and desserts. Sadly, Kulp said frying chicken to their standards at the market "would be logistically impossible," but you'll be able to get a preview of the food when Kulp and Cikowski do a demo at GCM on Sept. 22. They'll join the market on Saturdays in late May or early June—and hope to open the restaurant by the year's end.
Peerless Bread & Jam
After baking bread in Chicago at popular spots such as Red Hen Bread, Medici Bakery and Floriole, Lauren Bushnell is going out on her own. With Peerless Bread & Jam (a.k.a. PB&J), she's specializing in whole-grain, naturally leavened breads and is planning a line of seasonal small-batch jams. She'll be at GCM Saturdays only, and prices range from $2 for smaller items such as rye pretzels to $6 for larger loaves.
Also new to the scene is Breslin Farms, a father-daughter operation from Ottawa, Ill., specializing in small grains and dry beans. Find them at the market in August at the Earth First Farms table, where their offerings will likely include their Tiger Eye and Calypso heirloom beans, which, as far as they know, aren't for sale anywhere else in Chicago.
Jude Becker, whose products are used by local restaurants such as The Publican, Girl & the Goat and Bar Toma, will bring back his regular selection of organic pork from his Dubuque County farm ($5-$20 per pound) on Saturdays. This year, he'll also serve up porchetta sandwiches fresh-cooked in a traditional Italian roasting box introduced to him a few years ago by Spiaggia chef Sarah Grueneberg.
In addition to her handmade, farm-fresh pastas (seasonal herb and fiery red chili are bestsellers), Jessica Volpe will bring hand-formed ravioli, compound butters and semolina pizza dough to this year's market. After gaining a loyal following at GCM, where she's been selling since 2008, Volpe opened her own shop at 1407 W. Grand Ave. last summer. There, she also sells high-end imported and local artisan goods, including salts, oils, cheeses, olives, charcuterie and crackers to complement her pastas ($10-$14) and dough ($6).
Erin Gibbons is a RedEye special contributor. email@example.com | @redeyechicago