The Marvels of (and Marvelous) Farmer's Markets

Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce - Saturday, June 23, 2012
Julie Horowitz Jackson happily calls Bucktown her home now for fifteen years. Virtu, 2034 North Damen Ave, celebrated 11 years in business earlier this year. Her husband owns Color Wheel Studio, another Bucktown business, and their son attends Pulaski International School of Chicago, one of Bucktown’s four neighborhood CPS schools. Go goat or go home!

A couple of sunny Sundays ago, I took the kid down to Wicker Park for opening morning of our neighborhood farmer's market. In teaching him how to shop locally in order to sustain our community, I can think of no better way than through the sensory wonderland of a summer market.

Upon our arrival at the Northwest corner of the park, we were greeted by dogs, kids, tomatoes, and neighbors. Tomatoes, lettuces, and a whiff of Brunkow Cheese on the breeze. Horseradish cheddar? Check. In the bag and on to River Valley Ranch to visit with some Hen of the Woods mushrooms.

The kid and I make a practice of hunting mushrooms after a rainy day on the way to school. Hen of the Woods and Chicken of the woods, while rare round these parts of Bucktown, grow abundantly in our fair state. If you happen by River Valley Ranch's booth this Sunday, be sure to grab some marinated mushrooms or pickled asparagus. Your Bloody Marys will never be the same.

Passing up the buckets of peonies (I prefer to purchase mine from Larkspur or Pistil & Vine), I head to the cornerstone of the marketplace, Nichols Farm. You might recognize Nichols Farm from the menus of Hot Chocolate or The Bristol. Occupying the center stalls of Wicker Park's market, Nichols Farm offers plants and produce ranging from basil and tomatoes to bright spring onions and some of the best apples in the Fall. This Sunday in June, we picked out some gorgeous baby squash and basil to toss with our pasta for dinner later that night. Yum. Yum. Extra yum.

Finally, we head to Gramp's Pickles for a jar of horseradish dill pickle rounds. Are you sensing a theme? The kid likes his pungent flavors....

Around the arc of the market you will find the freshest of produce, eggs, cheese, even meat by way of Jake. If you happen to get hungry along the way, grab a muffin or a donut from one of the bakeries present. Perhaps you are looking for something savory? Try a goat cheese kalamata olive crepe from Flip. Or just go for the nutella and banana crepe because, really, why wouldn't you?

After enjoying breakfast at the fountain, we head into the park proper for a little running around. Much to our surprise, there was a puppet show going on discussing the finer points of Vivaldi, of course. A little classical culture for the kids? I think yes, what a delightful end to a perfect morning.

Now, off to open Virtu....

See you next time.

The Wicker Park & Bucktown Farmers Market takes place every Sunday from 8am-2pm from June 3 until October 28.

Wicker Park & Bucktown Farmers Market Vendors:
  • Arnold J Klehm Grower, Inc., Hampshire, IL
  • Blue Sky Inn, Chicago, IL
  • Brunkow Cheese, Darlington, WI
  • Delightful Pastries, Chicago, IL
  • Enrique Jimenez Foods, Norridge, IL
  • Flip Brands Crepes, Chicago, IL
  • Garden Offerings, Huntley, IL
  • Gramp's Pickles, Des Plaines, IL
  • Highrise Baking Company, Chicago, IL
  • Iron Creek Farm, LaPorte, IN
  • Jake's Country Meats, Inc., Cassopolis, MI
  • Mint Creek Farm, Stelle, IL
  • Nichols Farm and Orchard Inc., Marengo, IL
  • River Valley Ranch, Burlington, WI
  • Seedling Enterprises LLC, South Haven, MI
  • Spencer Foods, Inc, Chicago, IL
  • Tomato Mountain Farm, Brooklyn, WI

Mother's Day in Bucktown, a Suite in Three Parts.

Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Julie Horowitz Jackson happily calls Bucktown her home now for fifteen years. Virtu, 2034 North Damen Ave, celebrated 11 years in business earlier this year. Her husband owns Color Wheel Studio, another Bucktown business, and their son attends Pulaski International School of Chicago, one of Bucktown’s four neighborhood CPS schools. Go goat or go home!

Putting my money where my mouth is, this working mom spent a joyous Mother's Day out and about in the neighborhood on a glorious sunny Sunday. 

The day began with the inaugural brunch at newly opened Red Door located at the corner of Charleston and Damen. Perhaps you've heard? Chef Troy Graves and his scrumptious ways are back in Bucktown once again. You may remember Troy from his days at Meritage or even Tallulah up North. Tastebuds rejoice in savoring gastro pub fare offered in an enlightened elegance. 

The space is cool and cozy with wood grained tables and banquettes. An elongated bar reaches across the dining room where you can sip hand crafted cocktails of añejo and ginger rhubarb or choose one of many brews from an extensive list. Jeremiah Krickhahn, Red Door's mixologist, simmers his own syrups in house.

Today we sat outside on the impressive patio and dined on traditional fare executed with Troy's twists. Known for his tasteful juxtapositions of both savory and sweet, I had the soy salmon with cucumber and asian pear on a bagel. Mr. Me had the Applewood smoked bacon and eggs and the kid snarfed the asparagus and gruyere quiche with mixed greens. A flight of mimosas was had in mango, ruby grapefruit, and that yummy rhubarb ginger I told you about before. 

As if the meal wasn't enough, the best part was the company. Seated, community style, in this outdoor room, were so many of our neighbors, friends and customers each enjoying the day with family. 

Dinner is served all week long, with the place turning more bar friendly after 10pm. On the menu you'll find small plates to share. Our favorites (so far) have been the fava bean toast with burrata and strawberries in a balsamic glaze, gnocchi or mussels, and the fantastic burger with onion marmalade.  

I can't tell you how happy I am to have this corner bistro spot open once again. Just in time for some summer sun, that patio will be packed all season long.

From Red Door, we crossed the street to visit our friend Beth at the lovely Larkspur

Painting with flowers doesn't quite come close to what we found on Sunday morning. Brilliant bouquets full of anemone and ranunculus were on hand amidst a field full of flowers fresh for you to choose. I can now say that I've seen the biggest hydrangea blossom I have ever laid eyes on, a heart shaped one that was bigger than a not so small child. 

One of my favorite things about this neighbor of mine is the fact that she grows much of her stock on her own farm in Michigan. It doesn't get much more local than that.

After our visit, we headed a few blocks North to Logan skate park, one of the neighborhood's best kept secrets.

Hidden under 90/94 at Logan and Western you will find an enclosed stretch of concrete, metal and wood alive with the sound of rolling skate trucks and the distinct clink of a grind.

On that sunny Sunday the ramps were filled with kids of all ages, a skater chick here and there (woo hoo!), all waiting their turn to go with the flow. I got to sit and watch the kid master three new feats, fearless as ever, and completely mortified by my mere existence. 

It's not so often that I get to enjoy a day free from Virtu, but when I have a spare moment, I try to spend some time (and some money) in our local independents.

Throughout the Six Corners and the streets beyond, we have many an option as to where to dine, play or shop. Think about your actions and consider this: each time you spend money locally, you are keeping more of those funds closer to home. 

For a really neat way to spell this out clearly, check out the handy economic distribution calculator over on the Independent We Stand website.

I just entered the stats for Chicago and it told me that if every family spent just $10 a month in locally owned independent businesses, more than $277 million dollars would stay in our city. That's quite a lot of food for thought.

Check me next time when I blahg about the Wicker Park Farmer's Market. I can't wait for opening day on Sunday, June 3rd. See you there.

Artist’s Notes by Flat Iron Artist, Charlie Rees

Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce - Friday, April 20, 2012

This blog entry was contributed by: Charlie Rees of the Flat Iron Artists' Association, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave.

It was that type of day, late this morning, Friday, April 13th, when I had to escape the studio, go for a walk, breathe in the spring air and enjoy the sun. No need to be superstitious.

I headed out of the studio, across Milwaukee Avenue, down Damen, straight to Wicker Park and there, by chance, discovered some delightful works of art. They were not pretentious or insulting. They contained no political messages. They were not the work of vandals. The art was perfect for a spring morning, colorful, expressive and playful, the work of children.

Many people walking through the park, earplugs firmly in place, playing with their smart phones, missed these beautiful extemporaneous pieces of art. This is sad; because, with spring showers, winds, foot traffic, this art will vanish. Hopefully, these artists will come back to continue their delightful work. 

Art is all around us. All we have to do is stop, take a moment, look and enjoy.


A Family's Community: Wicker Park Bucktown

Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce - Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Julie Horowitz Jackson happily calls Bucktown her home now for fifteen years. Virtu, 2034 North Damen Ave, celebrated 11 years in business earlier this year. Her husband owns Color Wheel Studio, another Bucktown business, and their son attends Pulaski International School of Chicago, one of Bucktown’s four neighborhood CPS schools. Go goat or go home!

Now that I've got two blog posts under my belt, I find myself being asked "Why do you do it?" The blog posts?

That's easy. Because I've lived and worked in this neighborhood for so long that I've found tons of stuff about Bucktown and Wicker Park to share with my customers.

For me, I think the question goes deeper than all of that. It speaks to the warmth and generosity of this community in which my husband and I have each chosen to open up shop and raise our son.

image courtesy of Color Wheel Art Studio

The best part of my week is Monday, my one day off. Back in the day, I used take my son on a long walk through our streets hitting as many parks as we could before he crashed. There's Ehrler Park on Cortland that's great for kids of the smaller scale. In it, you'll find a sand box, wee swings, and a tiny train to play in, hence the park became known to us as "train park". 

Just down the street from the train park sits Pulaski International School of Chicago.

It used to be called Pulaksi Fine Arts Academy, but over the past few years, it has blossomed through community involvement to house one of the city's IB (International Baccalaureate) programs. Here, the focus is on developing balanced, lifelong learners who will grow into compassionate global citizens. 

As an open invitation to all of the businesses of the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce, the Friends of Pulaski welcome you to join them at a business meet and greet on Tuesday, April 24th at 9:30 am.

The hour long tour will start out in the auditorium of the main building and move on throughout the school. As a business owner interested in investing deeply in my own community, I welcome you to join me, I will certainly be there. RSVPs are requested at

On the other side of Bucktown is Walsh Park on Marshfield between Wabansia and Cortland.

Open, airy and room enough to run, we called this "school park" as it is across from Burr Elementary, where our son went to pre-school. Burr is a wonderful magnet cluster program featuring world language as their specialty. It's a great group of kids who have the opportunity to learn, of all things, Japanese, even at the Pre-K level. Incidentally, Burr is hosting their Gala this weekend. You can bid online for lots of goodies from some of our neighborhood greats like Club Lucky, Virtu, Color Wheel Studio, Building Blocks Toys, and the The T-Shirt Deli.

Half way in between is the Drummond play lot.

It quick, it's convenient, you can bounce a ball around all while getting to see the community garden created by the kids at Drummond Montessori. From what I understand, one of the LSC Community members offers a lot of TLC to the raised beds of the blacktop. Speaking of the LSC, it stands for Local School Council. Elections happen to be today, April 18th. You can walk into any of your neighborhood schools and vote as a community member. Remember, it takes a village to raise that child.

Our favorite park in the 'hood happens to be Wicker Park.

So many of us are familiar with the fountain, the playing field, the fact that it houses some serious awesomeness like the Wicker Park Farmer's Market, the Green Music Fest, Movies in the Park, etc. My son and I know and love it, though, for the bears. The bears? Yes, the bear fountain where kids of small stature can stand underneath their playful spray any time after Memorial Day. We are waiting for the fountains to be turned on at "Bear Park".

At Wicker Park you will be amazed by the sheer number of kids that come through after school from A.N. Pritzker School. Pritzker houses the local gifted program. Keep an eye out come May, as you will see Pritzer's 4th Annual Community Arts Project entitled "Playthings" hosted by many of our local neighborhood businesses.

So, why the long chat about our local schools? Because it is important to so many of us, business owners and families, alike, that we each invest in our community on both sides of the dialog.

So often, I am asked by a PTO to give something to their upcoming event. The next time a parent walks in your door with a letter asking for your help, I urge you to consider donating to one of the many schools within our community. There's always a benefit that needs bruschetta, a team in search of jerseys, even a classroom that ran out of simple construction paper. So many resources have been cut from our curricula that there are opportunities for each of us, all throughout the year. Help out one of those schools, and I guarantee the kids will love you for it. The giant pile of hand drawn thank you notes will totally melt your heart.

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