Ooh, là, là. Every October a bit of French flair makes a showing in Chicago. This past weekend the Lycée Français de Chicago held its Fall French Market within the hallways, classrooms, and gymnasium of the school. I like this market because you can shop and taste the wares of more than 50 vendors, including Figaro Parisian Antiques, Careful Peach, Bijoux Fantasia, and Provenance Food & Wine, and find unusual and one-of-a kind items with a French theme or produced by local artisans.
It is at markets and fairs like this one that I discover solopreneurs, like Margaret Gillman, a jewelry designer. Although she always had a love for gemstones, a corporate layoff 14 years ago ultimately propelled her to into jewelry making (and a different day job). This bracelet of yellow chalcedony caught my eye for its pale color and a design that incorporates a quirky mix of a pearl and sterling silver beads. Maybe the leaf was a fitting motif for the crisp autumn day that it was. Any lame excuse sufficed, and home it went with me. Margaret specializes in necklaces made with unusual stones, but also designs earrings, bracelets, rings, and pendants for pearl necklaces. Her operation is pretty low tech – no website – but you can call her for information on where she shows.
Of course, no French market would be complete without croissants, crêpes, and baguettes, the last item of which also came home with me. The crusty loaf, from Awake Café, finally gave me the reason to open the can of Yarra Valley Persian Fetta that had been sitting in my refrigerator for months. A product of Australia, this “fetta” is like no other I’ve tasted. Made from cow’s milk by Yarra Valley Dairy, this handmade, farmhouse, uber-creamy cheese is packed in an olive oil infused with fresh thyme, bay leaf, black peppercorns, and garlic. It can be added to a salad or pasta dish, but the best way to enjoy it in my opinion is with a loaf of crusty bread that is the perfect vehicle for dipping in the oil along with a robust glass of red wine. À votre santé!
Lycée Français de Chicago
613 West Bittersweet
Chicago, IL 60613
Yarra Valley Dairy
Available at Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine, Chicago