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Dining & Entertaining

Hardware Harvest

Sustainable gastropub looks to hops and root vegetables for fall menu

Kane County Magazine

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If you think Hardware in North Aurora looks like someone raided a demolition site and artfully constructed a building from the raw materials, you wouldn’t be that far off – reclaimed building materials play a significant role in the young restaurant’s design.

The building’s look ultimately points to a larger theme: sustainability – the driving mindset behind everything Hardware does.

Opened in June 2016, the gastropub is focused on reducing its carbon footprint with its own greenhouse, hop farm, micro-orchard and gardens, which employees water with reclaimed rainwater.

Alyse Marie Warren, Hardware’s executive chef, described the restaurant’s cuisine as “old school ideas about food done in a new way.”

“It’s really about getting back to the nuts and bolts of cooking,” she says.

Warren says that when it comes to designing the menu, she takes inspiration from everywhere.

“When you’re a chef you kind of eat, sleep and dream about food, so you’re never sure exactly where [an idea] comes from,” she says.

Lunch menu items include everything from grilled cheese with wood-grilled mushrooms and truffle cheddar to a Chicago-style hot dog made in-house. Or try a charcuterie board with selections of cheeses and meats, some of which are also made in-house.

The dinner menu features options like 14-hour in-house smoked brisket barbecued in Hardware’s own coffee stout and served with rustic mashed potatoes and corn relish.

And who says that meat can’t be sweet? For dessert, sample whiskey-braised pork belly served with Luxardo red cherry ice cream and a reduction of dark brown sugar syrup.

Hardware’s menu changes with the seasons and, this fall, Warren anticipates tweaking current dishes to make them more appropriate for autumn, as well as removing lighter summer dishes. Her favorite fall ingredients are root vegetables like celery root, squash and beets.

In addition to its food menu, Hardware offers mixed drinks, wine, 350 kinds of Whiskey, and beer brewed under its own label, BBGB. That’s where Brent Fiedor, Hardware’s brew master (and former executive chef), comes in. Fiedor brews all of the BBGB beer and helped build Hardware’s 1.5-acre hop farm in 2015, before the restaurant opened.

The goal for the hop farm, Fiedor says, is to be able to brew BBGB beer exclusively with hops grown on-site. This year’s harvest is the first one Fiedor can use for brewing. Hops get better after a few harvests, so first-year hops are not of a high enough quality for brewing, Fiedor says.

He anticipates that this autumn’s harvest will yield about 200 pounds of hops; and – at full yield – they will harvest 2,000 pounds. Warren hopes to have a harvest celebration next year where people can come and sample the hops, then return a year later – during the next harvest – to drink a special beer made from those hops.

BBGB beers are also branching out. Fiedor says that they have entered beers into both the Festival of Barrel Aged Beers in November and, this month, the Great American Beer Festival – the largest in the country – where they also will have a pouring booth.

The “whole idea of a gastropub,” Warren says, is that the food and the drinks complement one another.

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