As soon as I open Rare Bird Preserves at an Eat Boutique Market, guests swoon and beg for a spoonful of everything, especially the Passion Fruit Curd that is so popular with our customers. Elizabeth Madden, owner of Rare Bird Preserves, shares insight into how to use her products and some of the great spots to eat near her headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. Thanks so much, Elizabeth! -Maggie
Q: When did you start making food and what inspired your food? Tell us about your food style.
A: I fell in love with jam making while a student at the French Pastry School in Chicago. I was moved by the beauty and simplicity of the process. I like to pick great ingredients and let them speak for themselves. Simple flavors approached creatively are stunning.
Q: What is a great way to use your small batch food item or a favorite recipe that uses it?
A: I like the phrase “beyond breakfast”. Using jam with breakfast pastries and toast is lovely, but I like to combine jams in my cooking at all times of the day. Making vinaigrette, glazes for pork or fish, an accompaniment to a cheese plate, mix into a cocktail or incorporate into a dessert. See the Rare Bird Blog for specific recipes.
Q: Where is your boutique food business located and what are some of the tastiest local or nearby eats (or drinks!)?
A: Rare Bird Preserves is located in Oak Park, IL. which is just outside of the Chicago city limits. You can find the best selection of cheeses, wines, craft beers and locally made artisan foods just around the corner at Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park.
Todd and Holland Tea Merchants located nearby in Forest Park, IL has an amazing selection of fine teas, which are a great accompaniment with jam and scones. We collaborated on a beautiful breakfast blend of Assam and Darlegling teas for Rare Bird.
Just a quick trip into the city: I head to Floriole bakery for a delicious slice of quiche or fresh made croissant. It’s hard to go wrong when ordering from their seasonal menu. They take such care to make everything perfect.
Q: What other small batch food items complement yours or which ones do you love to eat?
A: Local foods haunting my fridge.
Mess Hall’s Ghost Pepper Mustard. Despite the name it’s not painfully spicy, just a beautiful complex flavor. It elevates even my 9 year olds corn dogs to gourmet status.
For a small business owner with a husband and child, quick meals are a must! Pasta Puttanna’s fresh pastas grace my table fairly often. Add a salad and dinner is ready and delicious!
Although hard to think about cold food in the winter in Chicago, I always have some Ruth and Phils Gourmet Ice Creams and Sorbet in my freezer when the sweet cravings hit. Their Sour Cherry Sorbet is made with fresh cherry juice leftover from Rare Bird’s Cherry Lime jam.
Q: What’s most important to you (handmade, small batch or local ingredients) and why?
A: Those three components are a good place to start when looking for quality products. I prefer to work with my hands creatively. Small batch allow the care and attention to really learn your ingredients and processes. Working with local farmers helps you learn more about where your product is coming from and what are it’s unique attributes (fruit changes each season). Only then can you learn how to bring forth the depth and complexities in food.
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