Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Real Food Rehab Holiday Gift Guide: Chef Paul Virant

So far, I have only three regrets in life. One - not going to Sydney, Australia when my best friend was working there for a year. Two - not buying the most drop-dead-gorgeous, turquoise silk, Rozae Nichols dress (on sale!) that would've been in style forever and Three - not eating at Paul Virant's restaurant, Vie, a helluva lot sooner.

I could kick myself for all the years I spent not eating his food that I'll never get back! What was I thinking? This past summer, I had the good fortune to be taken to Vie for my birthday for the first time. It was the best restaurant experience I've had in years, hands down. I don't claim to be a restaurant reviewer, so the best way I can describe it is like a stylish neighborhood joint that just happens to serve three-star food. The service was charming and laid back and the food was simple, seasonal and so, so soulful. There was love on my plate, this I can tell you. And now, I bring you Chef Paul Virant...

WHO Chef Paul Virant was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. He has a bachelors degree in nutrition and studied culinary arts at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. His restaurant Vie, located in Western Springs; a suburb just west of Chicago, serves modern American food with a heavy emphasis on Midwestern seasonal products and specializes in traditional methods of food preservation such as canning and charcuterie. Chef Virant was named Best New Chef 2007, by Food & Wine Magazine and just recently competed on the TV show, Iron Chef America on The Food Network. In 2010, Vie Restaurant will be launching its "Tribute to the Farmer" series beginning January 28th, March 4th and April 22nd. Details to follow...

THE GIFT A wonderful gift anytime of the year is preserved or canned local produce. Ideally, this would be done by you, handcrafted with love for your family and friends. This task is not always realistic for everyone, and fortunately many local farmers and food artisans produce these delicious accompaniments. Shop Green Grocer Chicago and Green City Market for products from Seedling Fruit, River Valley Kitchens, Hillside Orchards and Kinnikinnick Farms to name a few. They make preserves, pickles, tomato sauces, etc., that they grow and capture at their peak in a jar for future enjoyment. This type of artisanal skill is something that's a large part of our focus at the restaurant, so looking to 2010, consider taking a preserving class at Vie beginning in May and offered throughout the growing season. Someday, maybe, we will sell our own line of preserved items, until then, happy sourcing and happy learning this old school craft.

WHERE DO YOU LIVE? I live in Hinsdale, Illinois with my wife Jennifer and two boys, Lincoln and Zane.



A sandwich (hot or cold) with pickles of course...

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