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Feature Fri Mar 27 2009
When the opportunity to write a post about City Provisions' March supper club event arrived in my inbox, the title of the email "Breakfast for Dinner" sold me on it right away. I love breakfast foods (who doesn't?) and really couldn't turn down the offer, even if I wanted to.
I claimed the story without really knowing what I was getting myself into. Later that night, I began to do research on City Provisions and I couldn't believe how lucky I was to get an inside look at this amazing company AND eat truly amazing food.
Chef/Owner Cleetus Friedman began working in restaurants when he was just 14 and decided at a very early age that he wanted to be a chef. In 1995 he moved to Chicago and after a very successful catering career at restaurants like Heaven on Seven and Café Bacci, he decided to start his own company. His goal was to create good quality, healthy food with ingredients from local farmers. From any food-appropriate event (weddings, corporate lunches, fundraisers, to name a few) to entertaining classes, City Provisions can do it all. Beyond catering, Cleetus hosts a monthly supper club that really took off after what was intended to be a one-time event.
Cleetus began to build relationships with local farmers who supplied him with proteins and produce. It didn't take long for these business relationships to turn into friendships, and last summer he partnered with a local farmer and hosted a dinner event at his farm with the intention of featuring not only the food, but also to support a local brewery (every course was paired with a different beer) and educating the guests on the process of working with a local farm.
A group of 40 guests rode a biodiesel bus to the farm (on the bus they had appetizers paired with beer), took a hayride around the farm to get an idea of how it operates, and enjoyed a five-course meal prepared by Cleetus and his staff. When his guests couldn't eat another bite, they sat outside around a bonfire and got to know each other. I overheard one person say that the farm dinners have the ability to "open your heart and make you feel like a kid."
This event was a huge success, and in just six months City Provisions had hosted five farm dinners at five farms with contributions from six breweries. During the winter months, the company hosts the supper club at their space on Chicago's North side. This is where I headed last Tuesday for the March supper club, which had the theme "Our Love for Breakfast Foods."
The night started out with Prairie Pure cheddar egg, spring green pistou and peppered biscuit paired with a aquavit Bloody Mary. It ended with rosemary- and sausage-stuffed French toast with agave nectar-Tahitian vanilla vodka syrup, complemented with a pear rosemary cocktail. Yes, these courses were as delicious as they sound, and the three in between were also fantastic. Everything was truly amazing, the flavors were exciting and unique and it was obvious how much passion and thoughtfulness went into each dish and drink. I appreciated the simplicity of the recipes - Cleetus has an amazing ability to turn traditional breakfast foods into a flavorful, one-of-a-kind dish. I could go on and on about the food, but nothing I will say can tell you how great it really was.
The meal represented alcohol from North Shore Distillery, proteins from Farmer Nick Janovski, pottery from Melissa Monroe and baked goods from Nicole's Devine Bake Shop. Each of these guests was in attendance and some took some time to speak about their contribution to the dinner. Farmer Nick spoke about how his farm operates and shed some insight on what free range, cage free and organic really mean. Nicole talked to us about her history and relationship with Cleetus and Derek from North Shore Distillery told us about each cocktail before it was served - from ingredients to the history of the drink and exactly how it is made. He even let us help make the Ramos Gin Fizz.
The experience was incredibly enjoyable and inspiring. Cleetus' dedication to the community and his passion for food is evident when he talks about City Provisions, his partners and his recipes. Next month, the theme is "Music Inspired by Food," and it promises to be a hit: another five-course meal paired with beers, and a DJ spinning the inspirational tunes. I would absolutely recommend checking it out.