We manufacture almost everything from basic ingredients. We do not make the cheese or churn the butter, we do not make the imported linguini or the Eiffel Tower mustard, but everything else is made in house from basic ingredients, including the breads, all the salad dressings, all the sauces (even catsup and mayonnaise).
Pork: Our pork products come from two sources, Amity Packing, which is generally acknowledged to be the finest pork packer in the city of Chicago, where we get the pork trim to make our sausages, and whenever we can, boneless rib ends, in our opinion the best piece of meat in the animal. During certain times of the year when these are unavailable, we turn to Indiana Kitchens for this product. To make our Bacon(Rashers), because Amity is a loin producer and does not have pork bellies, we get from International at Harlem and Grand in Chicago. They are “naturals” and come from Indiana Kitchens.
Red meat: Our ground meat is made at International Meats and is ground from tested/certified Angus steers. Note that I said steers, no cow here. Our Angus Bavette comes from National in Kansas City and is in their double certification program, which means that the animals are tested by the USDA for their genetic lineage. Currently they are testing at ninety-two to ninety-three percent Angus, compared to about forty percent in the so-called Certified Angus Association meat found in most grocery stores and chain restaurants. As for Angus of this quality, taste it, the meat speaks for itself. This, in my opinion, is the finest steak in the city.
For our Filet Mignon, or beef tenderloin, again we turn to International. Mignon means dainty, it comes from the small end of the Pismo, the muscle next to the New York in the short loin. It is the most tender but also the driest muscle (in terms of fat content) in the steer. Americans mistakenly call all tenderloin steaks Filet Mignon, but here at the Irish Rose we do the dish in the traditional French style, using the small end. Because John cuts for many of the finest restaurants in the City, these steaks are phenomenal. They are, however, dry aged and because of this we will not cook this dish beyond medium rare. Order something else if you do not like your meat red in color. It is simply too dry if cooked more than this.
Salt: The only salt we have in the house is sea salt. We use it exclusively in the preparation of all our dishes. Sea salt is made up of a number of salts that mimic the make-up of our bodies. Because sea salt tastes saltier than Kosher salt, less is necessary, and these two factors lower the sodium content of everything we make with it, especially our bacon.
Fats and oils: The only fats we have in the house are butter, extra virgin olive oil and pomace olive oil (the product of the last squeezing under heat and pressure). The pomace olive oil is used for frying (we do not use anything else) and in recipes where we don’t want the flavor of the oil to override the flavor of the other ingredients. It is important to note that our oil comes from the EU, where they measure and monitor to ensure that it is free from carcinogens that can be created during this process. It still has the heart healthy advantages of virgin oil.
Breads: The whole wheat flour from which we make our buns is a non-GMO soft naturally raised wheat that we get from Gustafson Farms. John grinds the wheat at the farm, then he brings it to us in refrigerated buckets without sifting or removing any of the bran or wheat germ. We combine it with local honey from Raines Honey Farm and Amish eggs to make a whole wheat honey brioche.
Our Baguette starts with unbleached no preservative flour from Ceresota. We use live yeast from Maloney on Fulton Market, olive oil, sea salt and water. Our recipe is Jacques Pepin’s long raise short raise; you can find it on YouTube.
Poultry: Chicken comes from the Amish. Deciding to have Amish Chicken in your kitchen is a challenge. The Amish at Gerber’s Farm, a cooperative, do not kill without an order so you must tell them on Monday what you want on Wednesday. This can be difficult to say the least, but it is refreshing to know that when I bring Amish Chicken back to the Rose, it was killed the day before it came to Chicago. I sometimes must substitute Perdue preservative and hormone free chicken and it is very good but does not have the cache of being small farm Amish. For some reason, I just trust folks who take the chickens to the slaughter house in horse drawn carts.
Eggs: are always Amish. I find nothing else compares. I buy mine at Maloney on Fulton Market Street. Speaking of Maloney, James, Melissa, John and Jack source many of my preservative free ingredients, like molasses, all my cheeses, preservative free Lea and Perrins sauce, and the list goes on and on. I could not have achieved preservative free without them and Cornille Produce.
Produce: Cornille Produce is the highlight of my purveyor list. My first trips to the market were with my longtime friend Doungsey Veravong. She had a grocery store on Sixth street where I used to go to buy Asian basil when you simply could not get basil from a food service company. Some twenty-five or more ago, I rode along with her on some of her buying trips to the Chicago market. From this initial introduction, I formed a plan to build a menu for my restaurant around those things I could find at the market. I thought it would be in the tradition of some of the finest restaurants in Europe.
Soon thereafter I decided to find out, with the aid of my good friend Tricia Davey, where Charlie Trotter the famous chef on WTTW, bought his produce. I found him. Tom Cornille assisted Charlie with his two famous books on vegetables. In addition, he brought in the unique Mexican produce items needed by James Beard awarded chef Rick Bayless (I once sat at a table next to James Beard in San Francisco, but that is a story for another time) of Frontera Grill fame. He was also produce supplier for Thomas Keller of the French Laundry and now the number one rated chef in the United States two years running, Grant Achatz of Alinea. Yes, the number seven restaurant in the world, and his produce ticket hangs right next to mine. Sorry, I had to gloat.
Tom is a constant source of ideas and ingredients. Recently when I decided to seek out a new meat purveyor, Tommy called up James Beard rising star chef Segar Bayer for a recommendation. It was Segar who sent me to International Meats, and for that I shall be eternally grateful. I recently told John, the owner of International, that I am the happiest with him of any meat company I have had in my thirty-five years in the restaurant business.
Lamb: My favorite item on the Irish Rose menu is Lamb Chops. I buy them form Nea Agora right next to UIC on Taylor Street. I buy now from Eddy as I bought from his father before him. USDA choice American raised and the choice of every restaurant in Greek Town. No New Zealand grass fed stuff here. This is the finest, fattiest tasting lamb you will ever eat.
My last stop before heading back to Rockford is Wabash Seafood. The list of their famous customers would be too long to go into here. I go there on Monday and Thursday for one reason: the truck from Canada. It gets to Chicago about ten AM and brings all the seafood from the East coast of Canada and the Great Lakes. This is the truck that brings the Walleye Pike, Whitefish, Salmon, Scallops etc. that fill up the fish section of our Fresh Board. I have an understanding with John, Tim and Jake. I will not stock anything that is not fresh and sustainable. I will not stock anything that has been chemically treated. I bought fish from Jakes grandfather Ron and now I buy fish from him. I love the continuity.
I am writing most of this down for my help. They need to know where this product comes from and the standards we have of buying only the best. It would be more convenient to just get our product off the food service truck, but simple has never been my style. I enjoyed putting this down in print. Hopefully you enjoyed it too.