This is part one of an endless part series covering all that is delicious in the French Market. It is potentially an endless series, because the turnover in the French Market can be pretty substantial. The problem is when one delicious food adventure disappears another replaces it. This is great in the sense that it offers an outstanding variety, but awful for my diet (and wallet) which I feel will never get off the ground here in Chicago.
Today's featured topic of discussion is Pastoral. Pastoral is the closest thing to a cheese shop that Chicago has to offer. Being a native New Yorker and a Wisconsin graduate, saying I am a cheese-a-holic would be an understatement. In fact I have never officially given my cheese addiction as a reason for attending Wisconsin, but to say Wisconsin being the cheese capitol of the US didn't factor into my decision would be a bold faced lie. After leaving NY at an early age for greener front lawns in NJ, my parents made it a point to bring my sister and I to NY every chance we got. The thing is, our daily trips to NY centered around food. We would literally eat our way through NY.
These trips to NY always culminated with a trip to East Village Cheese (review to follow) to stock up on cheese. That is right, East Village Cheese not Murray's, which is probably the most well known of all the cheese shops in NY . East Village Cheese is the more low key of the two, a true hidden gem. Like I was saying earlier though, the closest resemblance of a cheese shop in Chicago (at least that I have found) is Pastoral, although not quite the calibur of the cheese shops mentioned earlier in NY.
I am not here to talk about the cheese, at least not today, but rather the unbelievable array of sandwiches that Pastoral puts together. I tend to go with the Le Canard, which translates literally to mean "The Duck," so I imagine you can figure out what kind of sandwich we are talking about. As any sandwich aficionado knows, a sandwich begins and ends with the bread which is arguably the most integral part of the sandwich. Pastoral's bread is not only homemade, but it is also the perfect texture: crisp on the outside yet soft and chewy on the inside.
Between the bread is an expertly spiced duck confit. For those unaware of the deliciousness that is duck confit, it is meat from the leg that is then poached in duck fat. Pastoral is not shy about piling the duck on the sandwich, which makes for a very happy me. To complement the duck confit are confit-ified caramelized shallots, which are good enough to eat alone by the forkful. For a bit of color they add a mix of spring greens, including arugula, and the right amount of whole grain dijon mustard to really highlight the duck seasoning and pepperiness of the spring greens. Last but certainly not least, the sandwich is topped off with ooey gooey double cream brie-like cheese called Fromager D'Affinois. How could I mention a place like Pastoral and not mention a sandwich with cheese? Though the cheese is certainly not the star of this sandwich, it is definitely the Scottie Pippen to this sandwich's Jordan; good enough to perform on its own, but made better by being paired with greatness.
There are plenty of other options at Pastoral that are equally as delicious, but somehow the quack of the duck always draws me in. If anyone knows of a better cheese shop in Chicago, I would love to hear about.
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