Frietkoten Belgian Fries & Beer at Chicago French Market

Being a sommelier is not all wine- it includes all things beverage including spirits, liqueurs, coffe, tea and beer.  I love being able to delve into the other areas and my latest invite to Frietkoten (Flemmish for "Fry Shack") at the Chicago French Market offered me an excellent beer tasting.  They specialize in two things: beer and fries, both Belgian style.  Belgians have the longest known history of making fries, since 1680 as they had a habit of accompanying meals with fried sardines, but when their rivers were frozen, they substituted potatoes.  Their beers are world famous as they make over 8700 different and consume about 93 liters/year on average.

The concept behind Frietkoten sprouts from owner Jeroen Hasenbos and his life experience of Amsterdam Fry Shacks.  Family recipe includes hand cutting the fries, blanching and double frying them.  There are 20 different sauces available in both Mayo form like Truffle, Wasabi, Green Chile and Garlic, along with Ketchup form like Roasted Red Chile.  He also features over 20 Belgian and American "Belgian Style" beers (3 organic) both on tap and in bottle like Dupont's Avril Biere de Table, Urthel Saisonniere, De Koninck Pale Ale, Bosteel Tripel Karmeliet and Brasserie Lefebvre Blanche de Bruxelles.

Not much goes better with these crisp, full flavored fries and sauces than beer- try them out next time you stop The Chicago French Market (131 N. Clinton)!


Chicago French Market Part 3: Bake it Up!

As my tour at the grand opening of the Chicago French Market continued, I couldn't help but notice how many baked goods were available.  Breads, cakes, cookies, pies, pastries, tarts, and candies were all ready to be eaten by hungry shoppers.  The best news is there will always be more, as local bakeries, patisseries, and chocolatiers will be there with fresh goods daily.  Some of them were even able to take some time out and give some video info about themselves and their goods:

First off, here is an interview with Ellen of Necessity Baking Co.:


Their bread tastes amazing, as it is soft and flavorful inside, with a chewy crust outside.  And Ellen informed me that they have a bread baked with chorizo and cheese- can't wait to try that!  If you want any of their line of breads, you can contact them in advance, and they will be sure to stock and save them for you.

I then visited Provo's Village Bake Shoppe, located out of Riverside and owned by Wesley Kuras.  He focuses on giving his customers fresh, sweet, handmade European baked goods like pies, kolacky, and breads.  I particularly like the danishes, as they are soft, sweet, and made with fresh local fruits.

For more sweet pastries, I stopped at Vanille Patisserie.  The sweet team of Dimitri (the 2008 World Pastry Champion) and Keli Fayard bring the goods from North Clybourn sure to please.  Mousse cakes, tarts, and chocolates are their specialty.

Next came the mother-daughter team of Stasia Hawyrszczuk and Dobra Bielinski of Delightful Pastries.  They have been baking up breads, pastries, and cookies since 1988 at 5927 N. Lawrence.  They bake local and fresh- no preservatives or chemicals and even make low-fat and low-sugar sweet rolls if you're looking to keep the weight down!

Just across the way I spotted Sweet Miss Giving's (SMG), which not only gives us some great sweets to purchase, but also donates 50% of all profit to Chicago's homeless and HIV/AIDS afflicted.  SMG also offers up Uncommon Grounds coffee out of Saugatuck, Michigan.  You can find their goods at many locations in Chicago, including the French Market.  Here's a small interview with the shop manager:


If you're looking to get more of a coffee and sweet fix on, try Espression by Lavazza.  All of your favorite Italian style coffee and espresso creations accompanied by pastries, chocolates, and gelatos, brought to you by a 114 year-old family business.

Last on my sweets tour was Canady le Chocolatier, a favorite of mine from the South Loop.  Michael Canady has been pleasing the sweet tooth of South Loopers (and me!) for years now with his handmade chocolates, gelatos, and crepes.  His array of chocolates are on full display at the French Market, and make sure to visit his shop for the rest!

There are two other breadmakers: Chundy's Bistro and Pastoral Artisan, but I will save them for my next feature.  In the meantime, grab some bread and pastries, and don't forget the cannoli!

Chicago French Market Part 2: Soap and Flowers

So as I continued through the Chicago French Market on opening day, I ran into two vendors who were not about food or beverage.  The first was Abbey Brown Soap Artisan.  They not only create handcrafted natural olive oil soaps and body oils, but also feature works such as pottery, jewelry, and paintings from local artists.  Here is an interview with Abbey Brown proprietor, Deborah Kraemer:


You can also find their home storefront at 1162 W. Grand Avenue.

I also ran into the Market's local florist, Les Fleurs.  They feature fresh flowers from all over the globe, in all sorts of forms: fresh cut, potted plants, and European style flower arrangements.  So not only can you freshen yourself up with soap and oils, but you can freshen up your place with flower arrangements!

Introducing Sebastien Bensidoun, the Face Behind Chicago French Market (Video)

At the grand opening of the Chicago French Market I had the chance to meet Sebastien Bensidoun, President of Bensidoun USA, a fourth generation French Market Developer firm.  The Bensidoun family expanded their operations from France to the United States, and now operate more than 95 open-air and indoor markets.  I was immediately impressed with their efforts to bring something back that has been lost in American culture- the local market.  As said by Sebastien:

"The bustling, one-stop market with individual artisans and purveyors has been a staple of life and culture for centuries in cities and towns across Europe, and was also a central feature of American communities leading up until World War II when modern supermarkets and big-box stores replaced them in most U.S. cities and towns.  As a result, the vitality, choice and entrepreneurial spirit offered by these markets nearly vanished here.  The new movement in America to support local farmers and artisans gives us an opportunity to bring this European-inspired marketplace back to life, and provide Chicago consumers and tourists with year-round, permanent access to their local bounty."

With the opening of the Chicago French Market in the MetraMarket, the Bensidoun family now operates 14 permanent and seasonal markets in Chicagoland: Geneva, Glencoe, Glen Ellyn, Lisle, Lombard, Mokena, Niles, Villa Park, Western Springs, Wilmette, and Wheaton.  Here is a bit more from Sebastien on the new Chicago French Market: