Hi Food Friends: it’s been a while – 10 months to be exact. My blogging had to take a back seat for a while, as I needed to dedicate serious time to my “new” job at Terlato Wines. But today I went to Chicago Gourmet (my fourth visit) and was inspired to reignite my blog! Yes, my blog is mostly about cooking, and I didn’t do any of that today – only eating — but events like this are what inspire me to cook my head off! And I tend to think of fall as Cooking Season, so the timing is perfect. Herewith, I share some top trends I saw, sipped and savored at Chicago Gourmet.
First of all, it was possibly the most gorgeous day in Chicago EVER, as thousands lined up on the plaza at Millennium Park, in the shadow of “The Bean,” to get into the event. And second: a personal shout-out to my friend, Liz Sorrentino, who Executive Director’ed this whole affair to perfection!
Once in, I made a strategic decision: eat, eat, then drink, eat, eat, then drink, and so forth, so as not to get completely bombed. I tried 17 dishes, and 23 wines and one cocktail. Here are the six best things I tried:
Clockwise, from top left:
– Sunda: Lobster roll – chock-full of huge chunks of tender, sweet, juicy lobster, with minimal frou-frou – a whisper of mayo and celery for a bit of crunch. Delightful.
– Courtright’s: An herbed disc of goat-cheese over a salad of shaved brussel sprouts with bacon and vinaigrette. ADORE!
– Sumi Robata Grill: the cutest little skewer of wagyu beef with a tiny, perfectly poached quail egg and some yummy Asian-y / soy-ish sauce. GOD, that was good! And you know how much I love cute food – this one scored huge points on cuteness. Sorry the photos aren’t fab – it was too dang sunny out! OK, onward…
– Honey Butter Fried Chicken: Yeah, you would think they’d serve some of that, but no – they opted for a spicy pita chip topped with candied pork, roasted grapes and I think they said egg plant. Hope I’m getting this sort of right – but the point is, it was freaking delicious and those people can COOK!
– Municipal Bar & Dining Co.: Again – points for cuteness, with a tiny cone full of flavorful and tender tuna tartare on a bed of avocado cream. It was really good.
– Stetson’s: Yes, at the freaking Hyatt Regency Chicago. This is the second time they’ve wowed me at Chicago Gourmet. This time it was a red lentil puree, with amazing roasted octopus on top with some microgreens. Crazy good. Also: cute. Even though it was octopus. 🙂
Trends: Everyone was talking about how much octopus there was – I ate it three times and it was delicious every time. Pork everywhere – from roast whole pig to pulled, barbecued to candied – pork has taken bacon’s place in the hierarchy. Cocktails: there were more spirits at CG than ever. The one I tried — Campari, Cynar (an artichoke/herbal-y liquor), chocolate bitters and some Vermouth-like wine – was really nice.
Okay, on to wine! First let me say this: I work for a wine company. I am a HUGE advocate of everything in our portfolio. But it’s always good to try new wines, so that’s what I did.
Of all the above, the most interesting to me were a sparkling Pinot Grigio called Voga, in a radical bottle (think Voss mineral water). There was also Lady Lola – 80% Pinot Grigio, 20% Moscato blend. I’m no Moscato fan, but this was nice. Then, a very nice gentleman from Tedeschi Vineyards in Italy took me through their Valpolicellas, which were amazing. And I always like Grgich Hills, so I tasted through their Chard, Zin (yipes on that alcohol! 15.3%!) and Cabernet Sauvignon. Classic Napa-style wines, always consistently good.
But perhaps the most fun was the seminar I went to: Master Sommeliers & Their Desert Island Wines. It was a great tasting of six wines that three Master Somms collectively cited as their all-time must-have wines:
– Krug Grande Cuvee Champagne Brut NV: lovely light bubles, a touch of bready yeast, a tiny bit of honey. Lush and yummy.
– Chateau St. Michelle Washington State Riesling – Meh. I know Rieslings are raging now, but I still don’t really care for them.
– Antinori Cervaro della Sala 2011— 90% Sauv Blanc, 10% Grechetto, from Umbria. Really interesting – earthy, a touch of smoky bacon-y goodness and nice acid.
– Antinori Col Solari 2008- a Columbia Valley (Washington) Bordeaux-style red blend (Cab, Merlot, Malbec, Cab Franc). My own Desert Island wine – jammy, blueberry-ish, ripe black plums. Bring me some salami or a nice strip steak, stat!
– Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Cask 23” Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 — interesting Napa cab, with a rich, chewy texture, earthy, smoky, some salinity and maybe a whisper of lavendar.
– Antinori Solaia 2009 – a “super Tuscan” (so named because it apparently transcends the usual Tuscan blends. This was the big finale (at $225 a bottle). I liked it, but it needed food. Very dry, high tannins, with whiffs of cocoa and smoke. Would probably be divine with beef or a great pasta-mushroom-y type of dish.
I didn’t make it to the Grand Cru – where I know my colleagues were pouring EPISODE (an amazing Napa Valley Bordeaux-style blend) and Sanford Pinot Noir (I die of happiness every time I have this wine)
So, there you have it. Here’s to you – if I have any readers left — and to my next post! Bon Appetit to you!