Farmhouse to Open Nordcider Restaurant in Chicago
One of the biggest supporters of Midwest Wine is branching out into Midwest hard cider production. This fall, the owners of the Farmhouse restaurants in Chicago and Evanston will open a restaurant called Nordcider in Chicago.
“To the best of our knowledge, Nordcider will be the first restaurant to make (ferment) cider in a downtown restaurant in a large city,” said TJ Callahan, who opened Farmhouse with his partner Ferdia Doherty in 2011.
Callahan said a restaurant that features Midwest and other regional ciders is a natural extension for Farmhouse, which focuses on foods and beverages from Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois. “We think cider is more like wine than beer,” Callahan said. “It’s not just that cider is made from fruit, it also has more of the subtlety and complexity we normally associate with wine.”
Farmhouse currently carries the largest selection of Midwest regional wine of any restaurant in the Chicago area. On any given day, there are 15-18 regional wines on the menu, three or four of which are on tap.
See related story: Domaine Berrien Rolls Out Kegs at Chicago’s Farmhouse
Nordcider will feature in-house brands of hard cider as well as ciders from around the world. Callahan said he expects that the in-house ciders will be about 25% of cider sales and they will not be available outside of the restuarant.
Imported ciders are also a big part of the Nordcider offering. International cider regions that will be featured include the Basque and Asturias regions of Spain; the West Country of England; Brittany and Normandy in France and the Hesse and Frankfurt regions of Germany.
In the Midwest, finding cider apples can be difficult because Prohibition was the end of the line for many varieties of apples that are used only for cider making. (Culinary apples can be used to make hard cider, but cider apples have tannins and acids that sweet apples simply don’t have.) Like many Midwest cider makers, Callahan had to embark on a personal quest to find cider apples.
In 2012, Callahan and is wife, Molly, bought a 140 acre farm southwest of Madison, Wisconsin. On his farm are currently about 100 apple trees representing three dozen different cider apple varieties. Near Callahan’s farm, he met an apple grower that started planting classic European cider apples 10 years ago. Callahan is currently in negotiations to use some of these apples at Nordcider while his own apple trees mature.
Callahan is also looking for equipment of make cider at the new restaurant. He’s now looking for 500-1,000 gallon stainless tanks for fermentation and storage, although some of Nordicder ciders will be aged on oak.
Editors note: Some of the alleged “farm to table” restaurants in Chicago are about as local as North Philly Cheesesteak, so please visit Farmhouse and other restaurants and bars who honestly embrace local foods and beverages.