Tucked in a stretch of boutiques and stores off Broadway Avenue is a little cheese and wine shop called Pastoral. The cheese is the main attraction, as Pastoral’s concept was to go big on cheese and have everything that can be paired with it. Once you walk into the petite store, the first thing you notice is the case of glorious fromages. Extra soft brie, camembert, bleu cheese, gruyere, all beautifully wrapped and laid perfectly in their case. These cheeses are hand picked by the fromagere on staff, Cesar Olivares, who buys his cheese mostly from local farmers markets but also imports them from around the world.
Having both lived in Europe and grazed the plethora of open markets, co-owners Greg O’Neill and Ken Miller realized the dire need for such markets in Chicago, especially during the prime picnicking season. O’Neill and Miller opened up Pastoral, first in Lakeview and then in the Loop, and now boast the title of the official “picnic partner” of the Grant Park Music Festival. Pastoral not only offers a wide array of cheese and all that goes with it — marinated olives, beer, baguettes, wine, Perrier, mustards, preserves — but also tasty sandwiches and salads. A prime example of the quality and flavor is the Parisian sandwich ($7.49), which is made with thinly sliced Madrange ham, luxurious creamy D’Affinois cheese, tomatoes, fresh greens and grainy mustard on a perfectly crisped baguette. Picnic offerings include ready-made baskets for two with 24-hour notice or for one with four hours notice. Pastoral also offers classes teaching the true art of cheese and wine pairings.
Pastoral is the foodie’s dream spot. Grab your basket and fill it up with goodies for the park, or bring your book and buy a sandwich and some Perrier to nibble on at the sunlit tables on the patio. Forget daydreams of Paris; you’ve got the goods right here in Chicago.
Centerstage Reviewer: Katie Chelminski