One of the 8 Chicago Food Events You Don’t Want to Miss took place at Millennium Park last weekend – Chicago Gourmet 2015! With so many tasty treats to indulge in and top shelf wines, beers and spirits to sip on, maintaining a healthy diet during a day at Chicago Gourmet will make you feel like a kid trying to ignore the candy in a candy shop. But I’m here to tell you that it can be done. The key is to shift your focus from gorging yourself with delicious foods to growing your cooking knowledge with education from experts in the field. Use the following tips and tricks to guide you on how to eat healthy at Chicago Gourmet and leave both satisfied and guilt-free!
Although complimentary admission was provided to the following event, all views and opinions expressed on this blog are entirely my own based on personal experience.
Tip #1: Take Advantage of the Food and Wine Education. One of my absolute favorite parts about Chicago Gourmet are the wine seminars in the Choral Room of the Pritzker Pavilion. Do you love wine? Are you a wannabee sommelier? Have you seen the Netflix documentary Somm? Do you want a break from being outdoors all day? Always wondered what a $60-$100 bottle of wine tasted like? Then the wine seminars are where you want to be. This year I attended one titled “A Journey through Italy with Antinori, the First Family of Italian Wine” with highly entertaining and energetic Master Sommelier Robert Bigelow of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. During the 45-minute seminar, Robert walked us through the different regions of Italy as we tasted some of the most highly recommended wines from each region. The small samples offered in these seminars allow for perfect portion control to slowly sip and savor antioxidant-rich wines from around the globe. Make sure to be in line at the Choral Room entrance 15-20 minutes before the start of the seminar as space is limited.
Tip #2: Attend the Guest Chef Live Cooking Demonstrations. Take a seat at the Bon Appetit Main Stage or Culinary Stage for a 30-minute live cooking demonstration from your favorite celebrity chefs! These demos are a great way to take a break from all the eating and drinking while learning a few new cooking skills from the experts. This year I attended the “South by South” demo featuring Art Smith of Table Fifty-Two and Lorena Garcia of Lorena Garcia Cocina and Lorena Garcia Tapas. Typically known for his delicious hefty southern comfort food, Art Smith put a healthier spin on his traditional favorites with his 2013 cookbook called Healthy Comfort. Remember when we featured this book in our Best Healthy Cookbooks of 2013 roundup or when I met Alton Brown at the Harvest Dinner at Table Fifty-Two? Gotta love him. Additionally, Venezuelan chef, Lorena Garcia, brought a fresh Latin twist to her dishes. Her newest cookbook, New Taco Classics, features an abundance of nutritious recipes including guacamoles, lean chicken and fish taco ideas and plenty of fresh veggie side dishes. At the end of the demo, the chefs typically allow attendees to come up to the stage to taste their creations and you can even grab a cookbook for purchase on the way out.
Tip #3: Scout Out Healthy and Farm-to-Table Restaurants. If you do your research ahead of time, you can identify which restaurants onsite might offer the healthiest samples at the Chef Tasting Pavilions. While you can’t know exactly what will be served from each of the featured restaurants, you can at least guide yourself to tasting pavilions that are more likely to serve up wholesome and locally-sourced eats. Some of my favorites this year were Karyn’s Raw (raw and vegan fare), Homestead on the Roof (a literal farm-to-table eatery with an organic rooftop garden to supply it’s menu items), Firefly Grill (an Effingham-based restaurant featuring foods sourced from artisinal farmers, foragers and fisherman), and TWO Restaurant and Bar (wholesome, seasonal and locally sourced ingredients).
Tip #4: Don’t Forget About the Health Conscious Exhibitors! Intermixed with the tasting pavilions are a variety of food and beverage vendors. Review the list of exhibitors before you arrive and know where you want to stop once you get there. Some of my favorite healthy vendors this year included KIND Snacks (sampling their new savory Strong bars), Lifeway Foods (sampling frozen coconut kefir bars – local Chicago cafe, Starfruit, sells frozen treats featuring Lifeway kefir – remember when I stopped there on a food tour?), Barilla (sampling their whole grain and ProteinPLUS pasta varieties), and Farmers Fridge (sampling carrot-harissa hummus sprinkled with a nutritious seed mixture).
Tip #5: Include a Few Non-Food Related Stops. Every year Chicago Gourmet offers book signings from a variety of celebrity chefs. Not only is this the perfect time for you to stop by, say hello, and get your favorite cookbook signed, but it’s also a great opportunity to stock up on a few extras to give away as holiday gifts to friends and family! This year Rick Bayless, Emeril Lagasse, April Bloomfield, Tony Mantuano, Paula Hanley, Gale Gand, The Hearty Boys: Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Art Smith, Lorena Garcia, Takashi Yagihashi, Jose Garces, John Colette, Doug Sohn, and Karyn Calabrese were all there! There are also plenty of opportunities to purchase foodie sway like this adorable Fresh + Local t-shirt!
Tip #6: Treat Yourself in Moderation. Whether you prefer sweet or savory, survey the pavilions and find one treat that will really hits home and indulge in something small yet satisfying. For me, that was this blue mood mini ice cream cone. Bright blue in color, this Midwest treat is sweet with flavors that resemble marshmallows, Froot Loops and Fruity Pebbles all rolled into one. And on a hot September afternoon, man did it hit the spot at the end of the day. 🙂
How many of you actually have plans to eat healthy when you attend Chicago Gourmet? Should the event add a Eating Healthy Tasting Tour to their agenda for 2016 in celebration of us health-conscious foodies?