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The Chicago French Market: A European Shopping Experience

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

When I lived in Italy, one of the things I enjoyed most about my daily life was food shopping - if you've been there, you know that shopping for groceries is pure pleasure. At my local market in Florence, there were multiple vendors who sold cheeses, meats, seafood, flowers, produce, pastries, olives all under one glorious roof. Each vendor was a specialist and could tell you endless details about where their products came from and how they were made. You developed a relationship with your vendor and you went back again and again. I loved the ritual of only buying enough food for a few days at a time instead of having to fill your cart for a whole week when you don't really know what you might feel like eating only days later. The food I ate was fresher, healthier and more flavorful; and there wasn't aisle after aisle of food products that bore no resemblance to actual food. I also loved that I could walk there and only take home what I could comfortably carry.

Well, I'm happy to report that The Chicago French Market has opened and I was so surprised to find that it isn't simply a food court in the Metra station - which was my fear going in - it's a legitimate market place inspired by traditional European markets. There's produce vendors selling organic, local and commercial produce (with some prices I saw beating the larger grocery store chains), there's two amazing cheese counters, a collection of small-batch cured and smoked meats to die for, a meat counter selling pasture-raised beef, artisan baked breads and pastries, wine, a juice bar, and they have vendors selling prepared meals that aren't from chains or franchises but instead offering freshly made preparations often from family recipes. There's Indian food, Mexican food, a raw food vendor (delish!!), a crepe stand, Vietnamese Banh mi sandwiches, and an espresso bar where you can stand and have your coffee just like Italy. This makes my heart happy.

The only problem is that I don't live anywhere near this market, so instead of making this a habit, I'm going to have to make it a destination. But for people living in the West Loop or Fulton Market neighborhoods or those who commute every weekday through the Ogilvie Metra Station, I'm jealous! Because you can walk there to pick up fresh ingredients to make a meal at home or purchase prepared food that's been freshly made with care by the person you bought it from. Where else can you do that 6 days a week? I mean really. Get there!

Click HERE for their website with a list of vendors and hours.

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