This was my first year attending Chicago Gourmet at Millennium Park and I had the most amazing time! I came perfectly prepared (see my event tips) and enjoyed a day full of delicious food, elegant wines, and talented entertainment!
The park opened at noon for the event, and there was quite the line at the entrance!
However, the weather was a beautiful 80 degrees and the crowds were in great spirits!
Upon entering everyone was given a wine glass and a swag bag which included a tasting plate, a Chicago Gourmet program, and much more!
I walked around for the first hour, getting a lay of the land and tasting a couple things along the way.
On my way in, I grabbed a cold refreshing cocktail from the Whiskies of the World tent. I sampled a whiskey and ginger ale from 2 Gingers Irish whiskey and continued on to the Cocktails al Fresco tent where I found a Cruzan Passion Punch cocktail – an amazing combination of watermelon and passion fruit juice with lemon and mint.
There were so many scenic cocktail tents – I certainly couldn’t make it to them all in one afternoon!
Magnolia Bakery had a beautiful stand of cake samples from which I of course tried the festive Pumpkin Spice Cake – delicious! (I will admit, I actually ended up going back for seconds of this cake later in the day!)
I stopped by my first tasting pavilion of the day! The tasting pavilions are fantastic – each tent offered samples from 4-5 different local restaurants. Depending on the time (12-3PM or 3-6PM) there were different restaurants represented under each tent! So take your sampling plate out of your swag bag, and load it all on!
At Chef Tasting Pavilion 2, I enjoyed ceviche from The Mid-America Club, Foie Gras, Honey Black Pepper Goat Cheese and Carrot Ginger goodies (labeled accordingly) from Cafe des Architectes at Sofitel Chicago Water Tower, and Insalata de Zucca (roasted butternut squash, farro, whipped goat cheese, apple cider vinegar, and watercress) from Davanti Enoteca.
I stopped by the Chandon tent to enjoy a bit of rose sparkling wine!
I paired this with a tasty little cupcake from Sprinkles!
At The Refinery, they were cooking up some Wagyu Beef Short Rib and Sticky Toffee Pudding – yum and yum.
And then there was THIS! Guys from Porkies Pig Roast pulling pork from a freshly roasted pig – certainly not something you see every day!
Blue Moon had a rather festive setup that put everyone in the spirit for fall! I sampled the Pine in the Neck Juniper IPA and took it with me to my first culinary demonstration!
I absolutely LOVED the decor in the Blue Moon tent!
I took a seat at the Bon Appétit Culinary Stage for the Butchery & Homemade Charcuterie live cooking demo by Rob Levitt of The Butcher & Larder (on the right) and Andrew Zimmerman of Sepia (on the left).
Together they cooked up an exquisite ham top round into tasty little Italian beef style sandwiches with jus (you can see the final cooked roast in the mirror image). I walked away with lots of great tips from these two well-known Chicago chefs and cannot wait to visit The Butcher & Larder for some quality pastured pork!
I wanted to stop by another tasting pavilion before my next scheduled event, so I got in line for the Seafood Lobster & Seafood Co. Tasting Pavilion. Here I sampled Lobster Boudin Blanc (with pickled chanterellles and sweet corn mustard from Allium at Four Seasons Chicago, Smoked Catfish (with buttermilk, herb puree and “som tum” salad) from Trencherman, an additional seafood bites from Oceanique, Tavernita, Tavern on Rush, Little Market Brasserie and E + O Food and Drink!
Next I headed off to the Choral Room for one of the highly recommended wine seminars! I attended No Second Wine: The Uncompromising Quality of Faust and Quintessa by Master Sommelier Larry Stone of Quintessa Vineyards. He walked us through Faust and Quintessa wines from 2007, 2009 and 2010 and spoke to the group about the affect that yearly weather change has on the flavors of wine.
From the wine seminar, I made my way down to the main stage for the next event – Bon Appétit: Top 50 Best New Restaurants Panel. The panel included Abraham Conlon of Fat Rice, Curtis Duffy of Grace and Patrick Sheerin of Trencherman. The group spoke on their experience in the restaurant business, the affect restaurant critics and reviews have on business, and other ins and outs of the industry. It was great to experience this “up close and personal” event with the chefs themselves!
After plenty of drinks, it was time to find some more tasty eats! Next up, Chef Tasting Pavilion 10. Offerings included a bloody mary and pickles from SuckerPunch Gourmet (love their products!), fried chicken and biscuit sandwich from Nellcote/Old Town Social/RM Champagne, a ceviche-like treat from The Drawing Room, and corn chowder from Green Zebra/Sage Restaurant. My final tasting pavilion stop was Chef Tasting Pavilion 7 where I enjoyed scallops from EPIC (pictured above), and a seafood salad from MK The Restaurant.
I took my bridesmaids out last year to Perennial Virant for a fabulous brunch! Shortly after, my sister-in-law gave me Paul Virant’s cookbook, The Preservation Kitchen. When I saw that Paul was going to be doing a book signing today at Chicago Gourmet, I had to bring my book along!
My final stop was a live cooking demo featuring everyone’s favorite chefs – The Original Culinary Gangsters of Chicago! From left to right: John Hogan of Keefer’s Restaurant, Jimmy Bannos Sr. of Heaven on Seven/The Purple Pig, Catherine de Orio – the newest host of Check Please, and my personal favorite Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia (the site of our wedding reception last year!)/Terzo Piano/Bar Toma. Together the cooked up a Irish/Greek/Italian-inspired dish with crowd pleasing humor.
Takashi Yagihashi of Takashi/Slurping Turtle even made a quick cameo!
What a joy it was to end the evening with such classic entertainment by some of the most talented chefs in the city!
Chicago is so incredibly lucky to be the home of such amazing food, incredible talent, and outstanding restaurants. Chicago Gourmet showcased all of this perfectly and was a true celebration of what the windy city is all about. I was extremely impressed with the event – from the food and drinks to the organization of events and demos. It was an unforgettable experience and I certainly hope to return again next year for more fun!