"Exploring the French Market-West Loop, Chicago," by Chef Casey


French Market-West Loop, Chicago

I just moved to the West loop not too long ago, and each free day I have I try and explore the area which is known for being jam-packed with fantastic restaurants! This past weekend I took a stroll around the corner to check out this French Market, located at 131 N. Clinton Street. It opened at the end of December of 2009, and everyone has been talking about it since; I had to check it out.  As soon as I walked in, I was pulled in every direction; with vendors including: Artisan soaps, Chocolatiers, Fumare smoked meats, Les Fleurs, Vanille Patisserie, Wisconsin Cheese Mart, Produce express, and my last and final stop at the market… Pastoral; a cheese and wine shop in the European Tradition, offering artisanal domestic and international cheeses, fresh breads, and handpicked selected wines. I was in heaven.

As I was meandering through the little shop with my headphones on, I was taking in all of the wonderful scents of the cheese and meat, as well as carefully reading the labels of wine. I was instantly greeted by two Pastoral employees, both incredibly eager to help or answer any questions I had. I did not know too much about Pastoral as a company, and I wanted to learn more. I removed my headphones and approached one of the ladies working there and asked her for some wine suggestions. Her personal favorites and recommendations were superior, but it was her knowledge behind all of her choices that I was admiring. She sold me on a 2006 Pinot Noir from the Hinman Vineyards located in Eugene, Oregon. This fruit forward wine includes grapes from all over Oregon for a rich, strawberry jam and vanilla vino; a varietal including 91% Pinot Noir, 8% Merlot, and 1% Syrah. This bottle is food friendly, and crowd pleasing. I was very satisfied.

About an hour and a half later I had purchased 6 bottles of wine and a few different cheeses. The best part was that I had not even realized I was at this tiny little shop for so long because I was learning so much and enjoying reading about their products. My suggestion to you for the next time you go exploring somewhere; ask questions, smell, taste, indulge, and learn. The best part of that day was having such a wonderful and informative conversation with an extremely competent and happy employee. Her passion for food and wine, her willingness to share her knowledge, and allowing me to pick her brain made for a great day. Take advantage of people so happy to help and go explore the little places you’ve always wanted to check out!


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