Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chicago Meets Meat

On Wednesday, November 17th, Park Grill’s Executive Chef Bernie Laskowski and I attended the 2010 State of the Plate conference. It was the first of its kind in Chicago, bringing distributors, producers, educators, chefs, and restaurateurs together for one day to learn about and discuss sustainable foods, with a major focus on sustainable meats. It was a fantastic opportunity to really understand exactly how the meat industry works in America today (it’s not pretty) and to provide an opportunity for sustainable producers and distributors to connect with chefs and other consumers to form business relationships.

Because of this event awareness was raised about where our food comes from and how it’s produced, which has been intentionally hidden from the American public for years. It’s now our job, on the consumer level, to right the wrongs of the food industry by purchasing sustainable foods (foods that do not detriment the environment, the animals, the workers, or our health). America prides itself on producing food the cheapest and fastest in all the world, obviously there are consequences to that. Our mindset as a whole needs to change. Instead of looking for the cheapest and easiest way, we need to start looking for what is the best way; the right way.

The verdict at State of the Plate was that choosing grass-fed, not corn-fed, beef as well as eating local and seasonal produce are the best, most sustainable options. Finding grass-fed beef at grocery stores is extremely hard these days, but the Green City Market has made it a lot easier for Chicagoans to purchase sustainable foods from local farmers. Check out the website (http://www.chicagogreencitymarket.org).

If you are going to venture into the grocery store to look for sustainable foods you will need to be able to decipher the complicated and sometimes meaningless labels and terms that you will encounter. Click here to download a glossary of meat and agricultural terms created by the Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op.

As far as restaurants go on the green food front, Park Grill has made some pretty significant menu changes to address this growing consciousness. The new menu offers dishes with more of an emphasis on seasonal vegetables, instead of huge quantities of meat, and when meat is offered it is often from the local farms we work with. Recently Chef Bernie purchased a whole cow from Marcotte Farms and created specials to ensure the whole animal was utilized, from tip to tail.
Click here to see the full menu.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Green City Market BBQ 2010

The Green City Market BBQ was a blast! This was one of the BEST events this summer, showcasing Chicago's finest chefs & eaters. The food and drinks were out of this world!

The Park Grill served Grilled Mint Creek Farm Lamb with baby beets, pickled raspberries (how cool is that!?!) and Prairie Fruits Farm chevre.

Our resident Mixologist Dan Scheuring, with the break out hit of the evening, the Fire & Ice cocktail. A firey yet refreshing blend of Cazadores Blanco infused with market fresh Illinois Jalapenos (these puppies pack quite a punch), market fresh peach puree, and vin de glacier.

My favorite comment of the night about this drink...
"it's like Mardi Gras in my mouth!"

Chef Bernie Laskowski of the Park Grill, digging into one of our plates.

We can't wait 'til next year's BBQ!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010



Today's Dessert Special: Strawberry Rhubarb Crostada, candied almonds, caramel sauce, toasted almond ice cream

Mick Klug Farm strawberries and local fresh rhubarb, the perfect combination. There's no doubt I'm having this for lunch.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Farmers' Market Love

I can't wait for Saturdays to roll around, not just because it's the weekend but because I get to go to the Green City Market!

Here's the loot from the my last Green City Market trip:

Cippolini Onions and Shallots from Nichols Farm and Orchard

Fresh Asparagus from Mick Klug Farm (we use his produce at the Park Grill). I snuck one of his a freshly picked strawberry from the kitchen the other day that was just bursting with flavor.

Sage from Growing Home, a non-profit organization that offers job training and employment opportunities to homeless and low-income people by teaching them organic farming as well as business and life skills.

Crisp and spicy arugula. It was delicious!

A Prairie Dropseed, mixed milk cheese from Prairie Fruits Farm . It was so good I had to hide it in the back of the fridge so my husband wouldn't eat it all. More on Prairie Fruits Farm to come....

I hope I see you at the market tomorrow. I'll be the one in the Florida Gators baseball cap!

How Green is your Lunch?

I stumbled across these super cute reusable snack bags on Abe's Market's website http://www.abesmarket.com. They are made from 100% cotton twill and are a great alternative to plastic snack bags that get tossed after one use. Your PB&J will be proud to ride to work in one of these eco-friendly baggies!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Light Switch Saga

I’m not sure what it is about turning off lights. It’s been like pulling teeth to get people in the office to turn them off when they leave the restroom; even though leaving the lights on is a huge waste of energy and money.

My first attempt to get the lights turned off was to put up signs (written in English & Spanish) in the restrooms. But half the time I went in there I found that the lights had been left on. This was very frustrating.

Last week I thought I had solved the problem. Nick Rios, Park Grill’s Facilities Manager, and I installed occupancy sensors in the employee restrooms. I'm so proud of myself for not getting electrocuted! But, alas, these sensors don’t stay on long enough. They save us money but leave people in the dark - which isn't fun when you're in the restroom.

When used correctly, occupancy sensors are a great way to manage energy usage. They are activated when movement is detected and then shut off after a period of time. When the lights in the employee restrooms are left on 24-7 (8760 hours a year), it costs us around $105; using occupancy sensors will cut that in half, saving us $52.50 a year. That doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up.

So, I’m on the hunt for some better occupancy sensors. Any suggestions for quality sensors that don't break the bank?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Oh Mister Sun, Sun. Mister Golden Sun!

Days like today make me happy to be in Chicago, they make the frigid winters so worth it! I wanted to share some photos I took on my way into work this morning, the Plaza is gearing up for what is sure to be a busy day and the scenery in Millennium Park is beautiful.

I can't think of a better venue for al fresco dining than the Plaza at Park Grill!

Tulip Mania!

What are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy this gorgeous day!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Problem With Paper

I had the coolest tree house as a kid. My dad built it for my sister and me in two big oak trees in our backyard. Over the years a thick layer of brightly colored paint covered the inside walls from the constant “redecorating” we did. We had sleepovers under the stars, and I remember the peaceful sound of the wind blowing through the branches at night.

The tree house is now gone, but the trees are still there and whenever I see paper being thoughtlessly wasted I think of those beautiful trees being cut down.

Paper products constitute the largest component of garage produced in the United States. Reusing paper is a simple way to conserve our natural resources and save your business money. Reusing and recycling paper saves virgin trees from being harvested, keeps pollution out of our rivers, reduces green house gas emissions—and trees are pretty for goodness sakes!

Mohawk paper has a great Environmental Calculator that calculates the environmental impact of your paper purchases at: http://www.mohawkpaper.com/resources/resources-calcs/

Small Changes can make a huge difference:

For example, our menu paper contains 20% Post Consumer Fiber. This small percentage of PC Fiber has a HUGE positive impact on the environment.

By using paper with 20% recycled content, every year we save 2 trees, conserve 855 gallons of water, prevent the release of 186 lbs of greenhouse gases, keep 6 lbs of water-borne waste out of our rivers and stop 95 lbs of solid waste from entering a landfill… and that’s just with our menu paper!

Here are some paper saving ideas that we’ve implemented at the Park Grill:

o Institute a “Think Before You Print” Campaign: Put a sign on every printer reminding employees to print all in-house documents on reusable paper

o Use a double-sided printer whenever possible
o Electronically receive and send faxes
o Print documents only when necessary
o Think of creative ways to reuse paper:I made note pads from old menus

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Restaurants- Why go Green?

Restaurants are the largest consumers of energy in the retail sector, annually spending an average of $3.77 per square foot on electricity.

They also produce a whopping amount of garbage. About 50,000 tons every year, 95% of which could have been recycled.

And with the average American spending 48% of their food budget on food eaten away from home, restaurants are in a position to make a huge positive impact on the environment through the adoption of sustainable business practices.

Below is a list compiled by The Green Restaurant Association, a non-profit organization that certifies restaurants who meet their environmental standards, of ways that going green can benefit your restaurant.

Cut Costs
Improve Staff Productivity and Morale
Increase Customer Loyalty
Drive in New Customers
Stay Ahead of Legislation
Create a Healthier Environment
Receive Great Publicity

At Park Grill, we are passionate about the environment and are working hard to make our restaurant green. Making sustainable business practices a priority not only helps the environment, it’s great for business.