A Chicago summer

People across the United States are finally shedding their winter coats, donning shorts and sundresses, and embracing summer’s warmth after what (always) feels like an eternal winter. In Chicago, summer means plenty of barbecues, fishing, swimming, and soaking up some Vitamin D with loved ones.

This is where Chef Mario Batali and his family spend their summer each year. In this piece, Batali shares some of his go-to summer meals and hobbies as well as his favorite aspects of spending summer alongside sunny Lake Michigan.

Prep your taste buds

Summer is a fantastic season for embracing all five senses: plants and trees are beautiful to behold in full bloom, the scent of grilling meats and veggies wafts through the air and the sounds of happiness and fulfillment ring through the neighborhood on the weekends. Laughter comes easier — summer makes life’s everyday stresses seem a little less serious and cultivating new friendships tends to come more naturally as opportunities to socialize spring up in the form of pool parties, barbecues and fireworks displays.

"Summer is a fantastic season for embracing all five senses."

For Fourth of July specifically, arguably one of the best days for barbecuing with friends, Batali shares that one of his favorite traditions is to “slow smoke a couple of pork shoulders, low and slow, and serve them pulled with North Carolina-style vinegar sauce on nine bean row brioche buns with a slaw [he makes] with kohlrabi. [They] have side dishes based on whatever is in the market that week — usually favas, sugar snaps, baby chard and kale Caesar salad with a [dessert] crisp made from the end of last year’s tart cherries.”

While vacationing there, he and his family also enjoy using their pizza oven, smoker and outdoor kitchen when hosting dinner parties with friends. The Batalis also “love to pickle, pick cherries, make pies [and] fish for whitefish and walleye.” If your mouth unintentionally started watering while reading all that, no one could really blame you...

MAKING MEMORIES: The Batali's have been spending every summer on the lake for the last 17 years, giving them plenty of opportuntiies to go for a swim or entertain guests on their patio.


Relaxing Lake Michigan style

There are many aspects of Chicago that keeps Chef Batali and his family coming back each summer for the past 17 years. There’s the opportunity to take a refreshing swim every day, plenty of golf courses to take advantage of, chatting with friends at the local bakery and entertaining guests on their patio.

Oh, and then there’s the array of hand-crafted, passionately made foods and drink to be found in the area. “There are fantastic artisan butchers, salami makers, cider and wine makers, craft brewers, delicious small restaurants and caterers all over, each consumed with a passion for the region’s remarkable and unique microclimate, soil and aquifer.”

Being able to return each year allows them not only an escape from the everyday, but it also enables them to discover whatever changes took place in their absence. And it makes sense — summer is the perfect time for slowing down, observing your surroundings and taking a moment to unwind.

Batali says, “The entire Great Lakes area has really come into its own as a spectacular destination for Americans and the world; We are proud to be part of it here on Lake Michigan.”