Eat Your May Flowers
As the old springtime adage goes, April showers bring May flowers. We've certainly had our fair share of showers and bullshit weather, so it's safe to say we should be expecting lots and lots of flowers this month to make up for it. Even better, many of said flowers are ripe for eating! Here's a handy guide for where to eat edible flowers in Chicago right now.
(Fallen Log at moto)
moto: Perhaps the springiest dish in Chicago right now, or to ever exist quite frankly, is the "fallen log" course on the menu at moto. The woodsy handiwork of executive chef Richie Farina, the dish looks like something you'd stumble upon while stomping through the woods, with soil, flowers, and, you know, a fallen log. Of course, unlike most things you step on in the woods, this one is edible. And delicious. Textures and flavors of spring are showcased throughout the whimsical creation, radiant with vibrant flowers that bring the whole thing to life.
Cellar Door Provisions: Edible flowers have been factoring pretty prominently into some of the nifty creations at Cellar Door Provisions. For example, magnolia blossom croissants, tartines with pork shoulder and cilantro flowers, and trout with day lillies.
Japonais by Morimoto: Edible orchid flowers take the stage at Japonais by Morimoto, featured throughout the Japanese menus in a number of novel ways. The springy stunner can be found (and consumed) as part of sashimi, whitefish and live octopus carpaccio, toro tartare, hamachi tartare, and all the raw bar items. Additionally, the restaurant uses an edible seasonal micro flower blend to accent the "air" cheesecake. Said micro flowers include blueberry cream viola, passion fruit cream viola, flowering herbs, Johnny jump ups, and Egyptian star flowers. And they're beautiful.
Paramount Events: Over at Paramount Events, edible flowers serve to enliven several current menu items. Borage blossoms and citrus marigolds lend their luster to a caramelized cauliflower side dish, basil blossoms and citrus coriander blossoms embolden a Spring Fields cocktail, and bachelors buttons are used as garnishes atop egg white frittatas.
theWit: A couple floral cocktails are on deck at ROOF and State and Lake Chicago Tavern, adding a bit of outdoorsy aesthetic to these already stunning libations. At ROOF, the Red Moon Rising cocktail contains Plymouth gin, lemon juice, plum bitters, Jordan Cabernet, and edible sun daisies. While downstairs at State and Lake, A Walk in the Park is a potent potable made with Absolut Vanilla, Absolut Craft Smokey Tea, vanilla, organic matcha green tea powder, almond milk, and edible firestick flowers.
The Langham: Tiffin Tea at The Langham Chicago seems like a perfectly apropos opportunity to engage in some flower-eating. The spring tea menu is flecked with all sorts of edible floral goodness, from rick shrimp rillettes with micro orchids to chicken salad with celery flowers and violet noir eclairs with crystalized violet petals.
Revolution Brewery: Thanks to Revolution, you can now drink your edible flowers. Their seasonal summer ale, Rosa, is steeped with dried hibiscus flowers and just hit the market May 1.
L2O: Edible flower dishes are best when shaped into micro balls and wrapped in avocado with a side of grilled tomato water. Such is the case at L2O, where one of chef Matthew Kirkley's signatures is chopped ahi tuna tartare shaped into a ball, wrapped in shaved avocado, and finished with Osetra caviar, basil emulsion, and violas.
LUXBAR: In other drinable flower news, LUXBAR has a lustrous cocktail called, appropriately, the Violet. Served in a Collins glass with hoshizaki ice, a violette float, and edible pansies, the drink features gin, Creme de Violette, lemon, and soda.
And finally, Genie Kwon of BOKA is an edible flower fanatic. The pastry chef is currently showcasing pansies in a coffee cremeux dessert with hazelnut, whiskey foam, and milk ice cream. Kwon was kind enough to elaborate on her love of edible flowers for us.
Kwon: Edible flowers really help to add a beautiful organic look to the plate. Ideally flavor and appearance are considered. You can get the best of both worlds with some of my favorite flowering herbs such as pinapple sage or coriander. Some other favorites include lavender and chamomile flowers. We are currently using pansies but have also used nasturtiums and marigolds. The flowers provide a sweet frangrance and a range of flavors from fresh and minty to wintergreen or peppery. Pansies are very versatile, come in a variety of beautiful colors and you can get them throughout the year. We source much of the produce used to flavor and garnish our dishes from a fantastic company called Urban Till. They provide products that are fresh, beautiful and have the most amazing flavor. They are able to customize their products to BOKA's needs and in specific quanties which helps eliminate waste. It is very important to us to support local companies and create seasonal dishes in a responsible manner. While one might consider the health benefits of using just a few flowers as a garanish to be negligable, there are nutritional benefits from most if not all of them. They do provide a source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. I think that the amounts of flowers one would need for cooking at home would make most varieties of flowers and herbs approachable in terms of price. Some flowering herbs might be harder to come by but they can really add a whole new element to a dish.
- Matt Kirouac