The 6th annual Pastoral Artisan Producer Festival, presented by The Specialty Food Association and Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine, takes place April 30 at the Chicago French Market, and this year's roster looks to be bigger and better than ever.
The indoor festival, which is refreshingly FREE to attend, features more than 100 food artisans this year from across the globe, gathered together in the West Loop to showcase their distinct wares.
An impressive 30% of said vendors are new to the festival this year, a testament to its reach and inspiring message. For a bit of background, the event was conceptualized by Pastoral's owners Greg O'Neill and Ken Miller, who work diligently to showcase the hard work of local, national and international purveyors of quality products. It's an ethos they practice on the regular at their local Pastoral shops in Chicago, and the event serves as a grand extension of that mission and a way to engage consumers directly with producers.
Since the festival takes place during the event-filled James Beard Foundation Awards weekend, four nominated Midwestern chefs are set to take the stage to discuss artisan products and their approach to sourcing. They'll also each be partnering with a different producer for a cooking demo. Chefs include:
- Chef Erling Wu-Bower of Nico Osteria
2-time James Beard Best Chef: Great Lakes Finalist
- Chef Paul Fehribach of Big Jones
4-time James Beard Best Chef: Great Lakes Award Semifinalist
- Chef Dan Fox of Heritage Tavern in Madison
2-time James Beard Best Chef: Midwest Award Semifinalist
- Chef Tory Miller of L'Etoile in Madison
James Beard 2012 Best Chef: Midwest Award Winner
The festival at the Chicago French Market takes place from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., offering guests ample opportunity to peruse, sample, taste, talk with producers and sip wine, beer and spirits. In addition to the French Market itself, the event takes place throughout much of the concourse at the Ogilvie Transportation Center. Altogether, it's 32,000 square feet of artisan goodness.
Seeing as Chicago's preeminent cheese shop is behind the affair, you can rest assured there will be plenty of cheese. Cheesemakers in attendance include:
- Alemar Cheese Co. from Minnesota
- Capriole Cheese from Indiana
- Columbia Cheese from New York
- Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese from Kentucky
- Rogers Collection from Maine
One cool example of French Market vendors collaborating with producers is a special goat cheese gelato Black Dog Gelato is making with cheese from Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery in Champaign, Illinois.
There will also be salumi, small-batch wines, spirits, beer, confections and lots more, including the likes of:
- Utah's Creminelli Fine Meats
- Olympia Provisions out of Oregon
- Raaka Chocolate from New York
- Central City Wine Co. from California
- Uncle John's Cider Mill of Michigan
Added bonus for visitors from outside the city: there's a special Metra rate of $8 during the weekend, which makes it all the more convenient to check out this truly unique event.
Pastoral's Artisan Producer Festival
Saturday, April 30, 2016
11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Chicago French Market (131 N. Clinton Street, Chicago, IL 60661)