The food scene in Chicago is very different from the food scene in other big cities in that it highlights the food community. Chefs across our city are constantly involved in collaborations with each other as well as local farmers or producers. Small businesses are celebrated often and charitable efforts frequently bring together the biggest names in Chicago cuisine. It isn’t uncommon for independent restaurants, like Honey Butter Fried Chicken, to constantly champion their local partners. Rarely do we see larger, more corporate establishments doing the same. But, in Chicago, even the big hotels get involved. Take for example The Langham Hotel’s Travelle Kitchen + Bar and their Green City Market dinners.
When Chef Ricardo Jarquin of Travelle Kitchen + Bar moved to Chicago last year, he made it a point to visit Green City Market and strike up relationships with local farmers. “My cooking style is very focused on Modern American,” he explains. “I like keeping things simple and sourcing from my surroundings whenever possible.”
Out of this mindset, the Green City Market dinner series was born. Every week in August to October, Chef Ricardo and his team collaborates with different farms from Green City Market to create a weekly dinner that showcases the produce. “The menu is a collaboration of our full staff and everything we want to experiment with.”
The eye-catching, glass-encased kitchen at Travelle reflects his motto of education and cooperation. “Someday you’re gonna die and you won’t have seen it all,” Chef Ricardo reflects. “So, we may as well learn as much as possible from as many different people as possible. It’s why I try to get the guys involved in all aspects, even if it’s something small. It helps their brains develop those creative muscles.”
At any point during the meal, diners can watch as a small team of men (I’ve always wondered why there aren’t any women in that kitchen) come together for menu development and synergetic cooking. As for the menus themselves, “We usually like to plan [the menu] at least two days in advance,” Chef Ricardo says. “Things tend to change when you get to the market when it comes to produce, so we have to make quick adjustments. We’ll run around like chickens with our heads cut off but we always manage to get something on the plate.”
This writer can attest that they do more than just get something on the plate. I’ve had the pleasure of dining at Travelle Kitchen + Bar several times but the Green City Market dinner menu has been my absolute favorite. Chef Ricardo outdoes himself (and that’s saying something for the winner of Cochon 555 in Chicago) with dish after dish of vibrant flavors and stunning presentations.
One of the stunners is Chef Ricardo’s watermelon salad with jicama, shrimp, cucumbers, tajin, and lime. He coaxes flavors out of a watermelon my taste buds have never felt before. They perplex and delight. It is sublime.
As for his shrimp rice, Chef Ricardo describes his favorite dish as “a play on rice porridge with saffron, soffrito, shrimp stock, tomatoes…it’s made like a risotto-style dish with a lot of shrimp and garnished with crispy jamon serrano and lemon aioli and herbs.” One can only hope it transitions over from the Green City Market menu to the main menu. A beautiful highlight of talent and high-quality ingredients.
Travelle Kitchen + Bar will be hosting three more Green City Market dinners, one each remaining Wednesday of October. Set up as a four-course meal and priced at $45 per person (+$20 for optional wine pairing), it’s an absolute treat for the senses and a great way to learn more about the local farmers and contribute back to Chicago’s farmers as 10% of all profits go straight towards Green City Market.
In case your wondering, Travelle Kitchen + Bar’s next collaboration will be with Chicago-based wine and spirits company, Tenzing, for a “Cellar Series”. The collaborative, informative events take place on Thursdays from October 26 –
December 21 from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. in the restaurant’s Cellar Room.
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