JULY 2017 – We don’t know about you, but one of our favorite childhood memories during summer is leaving the house in the morning and not coming back home until dinner, sometimes a bit later (mom was always a little annoyed with us if we came back too late, but we’d apologize and all was smoothed over). During those long days we’d ride around town on our bikes and get into all sorts of adventures — like putting pennies on the train tracks so they’d get flattened; finding crayfish in nearby ponds; playing kick the can; and finding wild strawberries and blackberries in the forest near our house. That was childhood in the Midwest.
Keith Potter, the chef de cuisine at Cindy’s, has similar memories, but instead of coming home to his mother putting dinner on the table, the two of them would go berry picking in central Illinois where many berry farms would welcome them to discover fresh blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. They’d take their bounty home and the next day, his mom and grandmother would make delicious preserves, filling the house with wonderful smells. Grandma would take things to the next level by making tomato soup, dilly beans and strawberry or dandelion wine and then “can” as many things as she could to revisit the height of summer freshness all fall and winter.
Those experiences have stayed with Potter and he is now the one doing all the cooking, preserving and canning, but this time he’s getting all the fresh berries from local farms including Klug, Seedling, Ellis, Nichols and Green Acres, all of whom sell at Green City Market. All season long, from Rainier cherries to blueberries, Potter and his Cindy’s kitchen team use the fresh fruit in an array of dishes and preparations. You can find pickled green strawberries flavored with rose, which helps to soften the bitter sour often associated with the first-of-the-season unripe berries. Next up: macerated or pickled blueberries served with a goat cheese tartlet. They’ll also take those first seasonal berries, which often have weak flavor or are watery, and turn them into jam or macerate them to bring out their flavor. Another item you’ll find on the menu this summer includes a dry-aged duck served with cherries and raspberries along with a raspberry- and blueberry jam-spiked duck jus. Watch the charcuterie menu for a composed cheese tart served with strawberry pinot noir jam and macerated strawberries and raspberries.
“Food is mostly sense memory for me,” Potter said, “and this time of year brings back many lovely thoughts of my mother and grandmother — the women who introduced me to good food and the bounty of the seasons.”