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The Food Issue

Rare pigs, vexing cheese, heirloom grains, black pepper gelato, farming for the city, and the best new restaurants of 2009

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The five major food groups provided the loose organizing principle for our annual food issue. It's an elementary concept, and maybe even corny, but also pleasingly broad, leaving room for a wide range of stories on developments in Chicago's culinary scene that reflect the larger culinary culture.

Mike Sula's piece on a local effort to raise rare Mangalitsa pigs spotlights the growing farm-to-table movement and ongoing interest in local, artisanal, and sustainable agriculture, as does Lisa Shames's piece on Wisconsin's citywise Harvest Moon Farms. Julia Thiel's DIY adventure in mozzarella making was undertaken—if not concluded—in the spirit of the Slow Food movement. Anne Spiselman's look at what local chefs are making with unusual grains reflects burgeoning interest in reviving and preserving ancient foodstuffs. And Anne Ford's profile of the local entrepreneur behind a new gelato franchise points up how artisanal values are penetrating even the chains.

A list of the year's best new restaurants, compiled with a paring knife to Mike Sula's throat, rounds out this special issue.

Meat
Meet the Mangalitsas
Local chefs invest in a rare breed of pig said to be the Wagyu of the pork world.
By Mike Sula

Vegetables
City Farm
From a Chicago couple, a Wisconsin organic farm that understands its urban customers
By Lisa Shames

Dairy
My Mozzarella
Fast, easy, inexpensive, and delicious to make at home? I beg to differ.
By Julia Thiel

Grains
From Amaranth to Job's Tears
On local menus: creative preparations of rare and unusual cereals
By Anne Spiselman

Fats
Ambassador of Pepe Nero
A gelato-smitten entrepreneur brings the unconventional Paciugo chain to Chicago.
By Anne Ford

Plus
The Best New Restaurants of 2009
From Browntrout to Zebda
By Mike Sula and Martha Bayne

Previously
Food Issue 2008
The Whole Hog Project, the best new Chicago restaurants, favorite restaurants of Chicago chefs, and more

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