moss started construction on Bar Pastoral today, the latest addition to the Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine family, an intimate 45-seat cheese and wine bar flanking their original Lakeview retail location.
For those of you who don’t know Pastoral, get thee to one of their existing three retail locations dotting Chicago for a slice of Morbier (a semi-firm Cow’s milk creation with a traditional layer of ash in the middle; trust us, it’s delicious) and find yourself in the position to craft the most heavenly picnic in Chicago.
Bar Pastoral is the company’s first foray into sit-down service, and will pair the team’s sterling curation skills with hot and cold small plates, charcuterie and a cozy, old-world atmosphere emblematic of their Loop, Lakeview and French Market stores.
“We have always envisioned a sit down extension of our retail concept as a natural evolution of our concept,” Co-founder and owner Greg O’Neill said. “As my partner, Ken Miller, says, it’s ‘Pastoral Live’, an opportunity to show our customers and visitors what was in our head when we created Pastoral. It is a great opportunity to experience the Pastoral experience in ‘our house’ as it were.”
moss approached Bar Pastoral’s design with an eye for the rich history of the products it sells—places like the famous wine regions of Sonoma, Tuscany and Provence, which have been perfecting the art of viticulture and cheesemongery long before Kraft singles and Franzia. Caves were a traditional method for aging cheese because of their cool temperature and consistent humidity. Inspired by these caverns, particularly the ones we got to see first hand in Loire Valley, France, moss opted for barrel-vaulted ceilings, which will diffuse delicate ambient light from overhead and give the tall space a more intimate feel. “The vault, which extends the length of the space, allows us to tell the story of the wine and cheese marking process while making a purposeful architectural statement,” said Matt Nardella of moss, “Even the display of the cheese and meats in the space take cues from ancient cheese and wine making with the use of stone and straw.”
moss is building custom herringbone shelving for Bar Pastoral’s collection of reds, whites and rosés, which will allow the wine to lie on its side, keeping the cork moist. Cheese, as the other star of Pastoral’s pursuits, will be prominently displayed on reclaimed wooden cheese pegs and beds of straw. Two custom-designed light fixtures will hang over the antique tin-faced cheese bar and central round table, recalling old world cheese hardware like a cheese press and butter churner. The north wall, it was discovered during demolition, was built with hollow clay tile fire bricks, each stamped with the word ”American”. These will be exposed and painted above the custom leather bench seat. Exposed masonry on the south wall will further lend itself to the rustic, warm feel of the space—as well as being kinder to the environment by reusing existing foundations.
The original Pastoral color palette, continued at Bar Pastoral, was inspired by trips O’Neill and Miller took all over the world; muted stone, wood and honeyed straw, evoke warmth and agrarian landscapes where artesian traditions were born, and continue to thrive. Pastoral is passionate about preserving old world, sustainable methods of production, and their list of sources stretch from as far as Australia to Prairie Fruit Farms in Champaign, Illinois, where some Pastoral alums have gone on to become cheesemakers.
While wine and cheese can be associated with stuffiness, Bar Pastoral, like Pastoral’s other shops, is about warmth; getting the customer involved, and paying an ode to the true origins of these delicacies: artisans and cheesemongers, who are not royalty, but simply craftsmen and women with a sublime skillset, working with good land, dairy and grapes. Bar Pastoral drives home accessibility by housing staff with an encyclopedic knowledge of cheeses, and a low, approachable soapstone countertop, where customers can get in on the action.
moss’ design of the space echoes the belief that the history of a place, the story of a food, a technique or a tradition are incredibly important in creating a more sustainable habitat for us all. Like we discussed in our introduction to Begyle Brewing, mass produced anything neglects origin, history, and variety for fast, bland predictability. Drawing the finest products from backgrounds developed locally, with nods to seasonal ingredients and regionally adapted methods are the best way to appreciate the world’s bread basket; foods, libations and tastes are highly diverse, and that’s what makes a great wine or cheese such a personal experience.