Dish list spotlights a hot new Streeterville cafe, Espression by Lavazza, as well as the recent FamilyFarmed Expo, a three-day festival of local food and other goods.
—Espression by Lavazza: A new twist on the Old World: The U.S. launch of Espression by Lavazza, Italy's leading coffee company ( that was founded in 1895 ) , has occurred in Chicago at the Drake Hotel, 140 E. Walton. However, despite ( or maybe because of ) the tony address and the chaos on nearby Michigan Avenue, the cafe is a sedate getaway.
Espression by Lavazza takes Lavazza's passion and creativity in coffee and beautifully channels them into a single physical space. Lavazza Director of Marketing Ann Ertsas told Windy City Times that Espression 'touches all the senses'—a justifiable conclusion. Chic art on the walls often dazzle; the sleek counters, chairs and even carafes are made of various materials just begging to be touched; cool music is piped in through the speakers; and the smells of the items there are comforting, to say the least.
Ah, yes: the menu items. Espression has enough tasty items to entice anyone, at any time of the day. Training Manager Giancarlo De Marinis served an amazing array of sandwiches and other treats such as involtini di salmone affumicato, smoked salmon roll-ups with asparagus, cream cheese and mixed greens. Another item, prosciutto e brie panino, played up the salty and sweet beautifully with its combination of prosciutto, Brie cheese and fig conserve on a panini bread. The gelatos were sublime, with such flavors as pistachio, chocolate and lemon.
However, it's the signature espressos that really shine. There are literally dozens of espressos and related drinks—and all that Windy City Times tried were especially tasty. Espessone is espresso topped with flavored light mousse ( in flavors such as caramel and chocolate ) , while espresso nocciolato and espresso autunnale will make anyone a fan of the hazelnut spread Nutella.
In addition, the staff was especially friendly, with De Marinis adding that he is 'training people to recognize customers' by their orders as well as their faces. He said that his goal is to 'make people comfortable.' The prices, by the way, are quite reasonable, leading Ertsas to say that Espression is, essentially, 'affordable luxury.'
The hours for Espression are 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; and 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Lavazza cafes are in the Loop at 111 W. Jackson, 134 N. LaSalle, 27 W. Washington and 162 E. Ohio. See www.Espression.com and www.Lavazza.com .
—FamilyFarmed Expo: Where did Windy City Times sample delicious pastries, down wheatgrass juice, try mead and talk about compost tea? It couldn't have been anywhere else but the FamilyFarmed Expo, a festival of local food and goods that took place at the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph, Nov. 21-23.
Just a few of the standouts included:
—Manna Bread ( www.MannaOrganicBakery.com ) : The bread, which is high in fiber and free of salt and flour, comes in such flavors as cinnamon date, carrot raisin, sun seed and millet rice. It's sold at Whole Foods.
—Golden Legacy Quality Meats ( www.miturkey.com ) : The garlic-and-herb turkey was divine, but this Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company other varieties, including tomato-basil, honey smoked and oven-browned.
—Kallari ( www.kallari.com ) : There's an altruistic twist with this company; Kallari produces and sells gourmet organic fairly traded dark-chocolate bars. ( Locally, the bars can be found at the Greenheart Shop, 746 N. LaSalle, and the New Leaf Natural Grocery Store, 1261 W. Loyola. )
—A la card ( www.alacardchicago.com ) : With this business, eating well is in the cards. Each item in a deck of 52 cards describes a unique chef-driven/owner-operated restaurant—with many of the eateries having localvore connections. Additionally, each card is a $10 gift certificate to the restaurant it describes.
—Oriana's Home Orchard ( e-mail OrientalPear@juno.com ) : This Winslow, Ill.-based orchard offers more than your standard fruit—try persimmon, Asian pears and atago.
—Chicago Indoor Garden ( www.chicagoindoorgarden.com ) : Beans, greens and grasses, oh my! Vegans will appreciate this business; shoppers can choose the more mundane ( alfalfa, lentil or soybean ) as well as the more exotic ( mung, Alaskan pea or adzuki bean ) .
—Delightful Pastries ( delightfulpastries.com/ ) : Proving that not everything has to taste like grass—not that grass is a bad thing—this West Side bakery offers a, well, delightful assortment of sweets. The farmers' market regular has a ton of items on its menu, including paczki ( Polish-style filled doughnuts ) , cheesecakes, croissants and muffins. If you're really worried about gaining weight, there are also low-fat and low-sugar varieties.
—AquaRanch ( www.aquaranch.com ) : This Flanagan, Ill.-based company has a tilapia farm, but it sells much more than tilapia filets, such as tomatoes and peppers. It also offers 'custom-sized liners for tanks, ponds and growbeds used in aquaculture and aquaponic systems of all sizes.'
—Marilyn's Bakery ( www.MarilynsBakery.com ) : This bakery, based in Hobart, Ind., offers a slew of reasonably priced cakes, breads, toffees and pies. However, there are also homemade meals, such as chicken pot pies, quiches and pasties—which has nothing to do with strippers.
—Consolidated Printing Company ( www.ConsolidatedPrinting.net ) : Why was this company at the expo? Well, for one thing, it's been around for over 30 years—and has been green the entire time ( before being eco-friendly was 'in' ) . The business—which printed many items for President-elect Barack Obama during his campaign—uses all environmentally responsible products, including vegetable inks from U.S. farms and alcohol-free fountain solutions.
—Wild Blossom Meadery & Winery ( www.WildBlossomWines.com ) : This winery—based in Chicago—offers items you're unlikely to encounter in your standard beverage store, such as various kinds of mead ( e.g., wild berry and chocolate honey buzz ) , strawberry nectar and green apple Riesling.
—Organic Garden Company ( www.OrganicGardenCo.com ) : If you're the type of person who gets excited when you hear the phrase 'worm castings,' this site's for you. They mean business here when it comes to helping gardens and lawns—a fact that becomes all too clear when the subject of 'compost tea' comes up.
—Mint Creek Farm ( www.MintCreekFarm.com ) : You won't find beef at this Stelle, Ill., farm; it's all about the lambs and goats—and the animals graze exclusively on grass, not meal, resulting in a tastier product. People can get everything from lamb bratwurst to boneless should roast, and shoppers can even get the ( shudder ) accompanying organs and bones with certain items.
—King's Hill Farm ( www.KingsHillFarm.com ) : This Wisconsin farm is all about 'building a sustainable future,' according to its brochure—and, to that end, is part of the commuity-supported agriculture ( CSA ) network, a pact in which a prepaid grower agrees to produce a veggies for each member. Moreover, King's Hill has dozens of organic vegetables on its list, including eggplant, celeriac, dill, shallots and beets.