Northport farm sets table for restaurant owned by 'Iron Chef America' contestant
Bare Knuckle Farm is in its second year of operation. Co-owners Jess Piskor and Abra Berens grow a diverse array of vegetables, as well as chickens, ducks, geese and pigs.
The meal, to be held in Chicago’s westside suburb of Western Springs, will feature seven courses, each paired with a Northern Michigan wine or beer.
“This is one of the Midwest’s premier restaurants and it is creating an entire meal around the bounty of one Northern Michigan Farm,” said Piskor in a news release.
Berens works at Vie in the winter. “Vie is a restaurant that truly values Midwestern farmers. Paul (Vie’s chef/owner) heads out with the staff twice a week to farmer’s markets to buy local meat and produce. When he found out I wanted to start a farm, his first question was, ‘what are you gonna grow for me?’” said Berens.
The featured menu item is pork, from pigs raised by Bare Knuckle Farm at their neighbor Gene Garthe’s farm.
“The concept was that we’d run the pigs under Gene’s organic fruit trees. The pigs would eat all the fruit that drops to the ground. Gene wouldn’t have to worry about bugs in the rotting fruit and our pigs will eat like kings. Most pigs just eat oats and corn. Imagine the flavor of a pig raised on tart cherries, apples and pears,” Piskor said.
Piskor and Berens believe this style of cooking is part of a larger trend. “More and more, people, both home cooks and professional chefs alike, are rediscovering the quality, tasty food grown by farmers right in their area,” Piskor said.
“Chicago is still in our backyard when you consider that most produce is trucked in from over 1,500 miles away. People are going to sit down for a dinner at Vie and know that all the food they are eating came from a place with a face,” said Berens.
In fact, diners will be able to see those faces. Piskor and Berens, along with the fruit farmer Gene Garthe are the guests of honor at the dinner. Guests will see the farmers who grew the very food they are eating. All except for Berens, who is also going to work in the kitchen with Virant, cooking the food.
“I have worked both in professional kitchens and outside in our garden. It is beautiful to combine the two — cooking the beets that I planted three months ago and serving them alongside the ducks I’ve known since they were a day old,” said Berens.
Black Star Farms wines, Tandem ciders and Right Brain Brewery beers will accompany Bare Knuckle Farm’s carrots, beets, squash, ducks, geese and pork.