Friday, April 3, 2009

Foodies Dine Underground, Farm-to-Fork

Underground dining clubs have burrowed into the Chicago scene, as they've done in New York and San Francisco. Here, rogue chefs cook high-end, locally grown chow, and serve it in funky, changing locations such as galleries, warehouses or even the chef's home.

Foodies are eating it up, since it costs less than a restaurant (multi-course meals run $50-80, and you can bring your own booze). It also has an "underground" feel, since chefs don't reveal when/where their events take place until the last minute. Three groups have sprung up - Clandestino (which is hosting an event tonight southwest of the Loop), Sunday Dinner, and X-Marx. The hungry go to the groups' websites, get on the mailing list, and grab a spot when they send out event invitations. Chefs typically serve 20 to 40 diners at communal-style tables.

A riff on this theme is "on-the-farm dining." Several groups now offer city slickers the chance to go where the chickens roam. Again, chefs emphasize local, sustainably harvested foods. They're served outdoors, with tables set up amid the fields. At least three groups do it, all within a few hours drive from Chicago: City Provisions, Prairie Fruits Farm, and Learn Great Foods (which also goes into southern Wisconsin).

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