The Fall season brings many wonderful things to Chicagoans. And nothing is more exciting for someone who loves the culinary scene more than Bon Appetit presents Chicago Gourmet. In fact, this is the 9th year of this upscale, diverse, educational, fun and delicious food festival.
(Aperol Spritz – Aperol, Mionetto Prosecco, Splash of Soda)
Taking place in Millennium Park, Chicago Gourmet offers attendees a full weekend filled with activities, adventures and great food. You will find chef demonstrations, interactive wine and cocktail seminars, the best of the best restaurants offering samples of their creations, wineries, spirit purveyors and breweries pouring their specialties, food brands sampling new products, cookbooks being introduced and parties like Friday night’s Hamburger Hop and the exclusive Grand Cru tasting.
This jam-packed weekend is an exploration into the food scene so much so that the theme this year is “Food is Art!” Quite appropriate when you see the masterpieces that these chefs display throughout the weekend in their food. Looking around the Great Lawn and you will see sculptures displayed as well. For the first time, there was a Host Chef who lead the demo stage who was none other than Chef Rick Bayless of the Frontera restaurant and brand.
While you are waiting in line for entry to the culinary festival, the lovely folks from Stan’s Donuts are starting your day off right with fresh donuts. In this case, they are Blueberry Velvet Coconut donuts. Instant energy for what will be a busy day.
Having been fortunate to attend this event over the years, I have figured out my plan of how to visit the restaurants and tents that intrigue me most. That means the first place I go is the Supreme Lobster Seafood Pavilion. Within the tent are four restaurants showcasing their specialties. Each one with its own flavor profile and chef excited to share in the details of their dish.
Inside the tent were:
- Chef CJ Jacobson, Ema, who made a tuna crudo dish with crispy lentils, turmeric, sweet gold tomatoes and avocado. Oh my was this good.
- Russell Kook Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House, pineapple gazpacho with king crab. Flavors fresh and bright. Delicious!
- Aaron Lirette, GreenRiver, smoked whitefish tartine, pickled radish and celery. Comfort food, most definitely.
- Dirk and Terry Fucik, Dirk’s Fish and Gourmet Shop, shrimp and cheesy grits in a creamy poblano broth. Awesome!
As we continued our exploration, we stopped by Texas De Brazil for the chilled flank steak with couscous salad. Now, while I don’t eat steak, those in our group were enjoying this dish. I loved the Israeli couscous with the fresh herbs!
Since you will find lines at the tents, restaurants have servers casually strolling around with large trays of their creations. In this case, it was s’mores cones filled with chocolate, marshmallows and bananas or chocolate and peppermint from the Big Green Egg to make your wait feel like seconds.
One of the simple things that you become most grateful for at culinary events such as Chicago Gourmet is having lots of ice cold water. Thankfully, Fiji Water had plenty of refreshing bottles to quench our thirst.
To make sure you get a feel for other food cultures, Fat Rice wanted guests to experience Macao by serving these Macao Rice Crisps. The ingredients are nori sheets, rousing, puffed rice cereal, sesame seeds, Korean chili flakes, butter, marshmallows and sesame oil. A must try for the curious!
Just to give you an idea of how large this culinary festival is, there are 10 Pavilions filled with restaurants and foods.
For some international flair, we had the tuna tataki on crispy rice from Kamehachi
and the Salted Egg Bao from Imperial Lamian.
And because this is a food festival, we must have a Gelato World Tour Tasting Pavilion where attendees got to sample and then vote on their favorite gelato. Now, this was a hard job but we did it for all of you!
Continuing the gelato theme as well as a means to cool off on this very hot Sunday, we tried a coconut gelato bar and a dreamsicle. Both winners!
Sometimes, it really is the simple things that make a difference when it comes to food. Four Corners Tavern Group offered another one of my favorites with this avocado toast. Clean flavors on really good toast. Yum! Then, we had to try their Rumfetti cupcakes on top of a shot of horchata. Small but mighty and just perfect.
Adding a little sports theme to the day, we entered the slider zone at Homegating. Choose your ingredients and plate your sandwich on your favorite NFL team’s dish and voila! Here’s to you Green Bay Packers!
For a little color in your sandwich, look no farther than the roast beef sandwiches from the Paramount Room. This twist on Chicago beef sandwiches included roast beef on a potato bun with giardiniera and paper thin cabbage slices.
A few more food offerings that I appreciated:
Ada ST. offered a charred broccoli, tahini butter, Greek yogurt sauce and nigella seeds
Nellcote presented a tasting of poached figs, grilled honeycomb, blue cheese and micro greens.
Gibson’s had a crab bisque that you needed to eat with a fork. There was that much amazing crab!
Chicago local, Eli’s Cheesecake, not only offered their Honey Almond Pistachio Ricotta Cheesecake but shared their brand new cookbook, The Eli’s Cheesecake Cookbook, Remarkable Recipes from a Chicago Legend.
- Varieties of cheese from Sartori:
- The vastness of beer, wines and spirits needs a whole separate day to truly appreciate. Here is just a small sample of what was there:
Having worked in the housewares industry for a number of years, I am familiar with luxury appliance brand, Thermador. Thermador is well known and highly respected by Chefs and homeowners alike. And at Chicago Gourmet, they were celebrating their 100 year anniversary in the kitchen design and innovation space with a big party! Thermador was the exclusive appliance sponsor for the festival. Here we have Chef Rodelio Aglibot from FireFin Poke Shop, educating on how to make poke to a packed audience:
Art came in formats beside chef creations as you can see below:
Cheers to you, Chicago Gourmet, for another year of spectacular food, wine and entertainment. Bon appetit!