Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Gourmet’

Hi Food Friends: Well, I’m back from Chicago Gourmet 2012 and I am full!  (Okay, maybe also the teensiest bit tipsy, on which I will blame any snarky remarks in this post).   I ate 23 things and tasted 18 wines and I’m here to share my faves.  In case you’re not familiar, Chicago Gourmet is a two-day food and drink extravaganza that takes places in Chicago’s gorgeous Millennium Park, in the shadow of the Pritzker Pavilion.  It’s sponsored by Bon Appetit magazine, the Illinois Restaurant Association and Southern Wine & Spirits, a trifecta of food and drink powerhouses.  More than 160 chefs participate and God knows how many wineries, brewers and distillers.  The event was sold-out both days and today was super-crowdy, probs because it was an absolutely gorgeous day.  (The fact that tickets are more than $150 a pop says something for Chicago’s avid foodie population!)

So the first thing I encountered was a really interesting Buick booth.  As not only a food freak, but a PR and marketing person, I am fascinated by Buick’s invasion of the foodie community.  This was about the fourth or fifth time I’ve encountered them at a food event, and they’re smart – they’ve changed up their gimmick, and this one was COOL.  They had all these ingredients – different chocolates, nuts, bacon, cinnamon, etc. — and you could create your own chocolate bar!  And then they send the bar to you in the mail in two weeks!  How cool is that?

I chose milk chocolate, bacon, buttered, roasted peanuts and cinnamon.  I can’t wait to get it and see how it tastes!  I don’t know if I’ll buy a Buick anytime soon, but they’re creating some interesting buzz in an interesting target audience.  OK, onward.

So, as I did last year, I set out to find the BEST savory item and the most TANTALIZING sweet item.  Now, I certainly didn’t taste everything on offer (seriously?  the line for the Supreme Lobster & Seafood Tasting Pavilion was, like, two days long – I couldn’t deal with that), but I tasted a fair amount and my very favorite was: Chef John Des Rosiers’ (Inovasi restaurant, in Lake Bluff) Pork and Chanterelles Rillettes with Aromatics and his own gin.

Shut up.  This dish had so much flavor and everything worked.  You could taste all the ingredients and nothing was overwhelming.  Served chilled, it had amazing, meaty texture and the herbal tang of the gin and the aromatics was just perfect.  Dear Chef Des Rosiers: we might have to establish a dealer-junkie relationship over this dish, because I adore it and want more!   Bravo!

Okay, I’ll share a few photos of other things that were also really, really good.

Clockwise, from top left: Glazed Pork Belly from Roka Akor, a Grilled Kale Salad on a Potato Cracker from Terzo Piano, a Lump Crab with Truffle situation atop Brioche, a Barbacoa (brisket) taco from Cantina Laredo and an amazing gazpacho with lump crab meat and avocado from Grill on the Alley.  Yum to all!

Then I took a short eating break and watched Chef Art Smith and Chef Takashi Yagihashi do a “Top Chef Masters – Chicago” demo, hosted by Bon Appetit editor Adam Rapoport (who is pretty dang hot, if you ask me.  Oops, the wine might be talking a little now.)  That was fun, to see them in person.  That Takashi – he’s a very funny guy!

On to dessert!  My friend Leigh Omilinsky, head pastry chef 🙂 at Cafe des Architectes at the Sofitel Hotel nailed it!  She did a pear bavarois (a custard sort of thing) with a delicious paper-thin wafer of fresh pear and a perfect cube of butter cake.  And some tapioca pearls for fun flavor and texture.

It was perfect: sweet, creamy, fresh and luxurious.  I. loved. IT.

As for the drinking: I’m not so much a spirits girl, so I stuck to wine (and a Leffe Blond ale; I like that stuff and I had to take a break from all the wine).  Want to see what I tried?  I will tell you: the Terlato Family Vineyards Episode and Terlato Family Vineyards Galaxy are amazing (full disclosure: I work at Terlato Wines now and this was my first tasting of these two and they are EXQUISITE red blends).

And there you have it: four hours of eating and drinking on a gorgeous fall day and one big, fat blog post.  Hope you are inspired to try some of the restaurants I loved from the day and some of the wines, too.  And if you were at chicago Gourmet, tell me what you loved!  (Shout out, too, to Isabelli Media Relations, for making my visit possible.)  Until next time!

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Hi Everyone!  Today I went to Chicago Gourmet to sample the sips, savories and sweets of more than 100 chefs and countless wineries.  It would be an understatement to say I am full!  But a stomach ache (and maybe a little hangover!)  is the price I happily pay for being an obsessive foodie in one of the greatest food cities on the planet!  The event is a two-day affair, running from noon to 5 p.m., and if you didn’t get to go this year, put it on your radar for next September.  It’s a festival of food, wine and spirits in the shadow of the gorgeous Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.   A ticket (this year is was $150), gets you a tasting plate with a handy notch for your wine glass (brilliant addition this year!)  and access to food and wine tastings, cooking demos and chef book signings.   Look at me with Chef Jonathon Waxman of New York City’s Barbuto and a “Top Chef Masters” star after his gnocchi demo on the Pritzker Pavilion stage!


As for the food.  I was out to find one savory and one sweet that absolutely blew me away and I found them both at Tasting Pavilion #4. 

This would be chef Thomas Heinrich’s work, from Stetson’s Chop House & Bar at the Chicago Hyatt Regency.  Yep, a hotel restaurant!  It was DIVINE!  Foie gras mousse (he had me at “foie gras”) on the bottom, a layer of port wine jelly, and then spicy Marcona almonds, dried strawberries and microgreens on top.  Silky, rich, salty, creamy, sweet, tangy, crunchy, crisp.  OMG. I ate the entire thing and savored it with a glass of Zinfandel, but you’ll have to forgive me, as a I tried, um, maybe 32 wines? (Shut up, no judging!)  So I cannot remember which one I tasted with this dish! 

And my favorite sweet?  This little beauty from Bittersweet Bakery – which is right at the end of my street (dangerous)!

Oh, yes. A gorgeous cream puff filled with salted caramel cream/mousse and then the whole thing covered in chocolate and sporting some glistening sparkles of tangy sea salt. Phenomenal!

So, want to see what else I ate and drank? 

Yes, I at 20 things today (making dinner completely unnecessary). From green leaf shrimp dumplings at the Peninsula Hotel to coconut curry truffles at Vosges Haut Chocolate to a divine crab and truffle canape from Prosecco to John DeRosier’s cold spiced heirloom tomato soup with goat cheese ice cream, everything was really, really delicious! 

And then there were the wines!  It was cool, cloudy (and rainy at times), so reds ruled my day.  I took a photo of every single bottle that I tasted.   (Again – no judging!)

And two beers (the Stella Artois / Leffe Blonde booth is always popular because they serve their beers in their special glasses and you get to take them home – fun!)  My favorite wine?  The Armand de Brignac Champagne.  They’ve been making Champagne (in France, of course) since 1763, but these new wines came onto the market in 2007 and they are all hand-made in very small quantities (so very expensive: like $299 for the Brut I tasted, and $499 for the Blanc de Blanc and the Rose). What a treat. Absolutely delightful.

And that is the story about my eating day at Chicago Gourmet.  Thank you, Bon Appetit magazine and other sponsors and organizers!  It was a delicious day.  Oh, I’m so full….. 🙂

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