In a food town like Chicago, having the opportunity to learn about new restaurants, dishes, foods, wines, spirits, beers and cocktails is always a reason to gather. Food makes us happy after all. Something that the Chicago Food + Wine Festival knew as they launched their first fest this weekend in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.
This two-day food and wine celebration highlighted our local chefs and their restaurants including those that are soon to be opening in Chicago. (See Monteverde from Chef Sarah Grueneberg and Earl’s Kitchen and Bar). The fest was held in a beautiful park just to the north of Chicago’s famed Magnificent Mile. The fact that it was in a “neighborhood” park gave it a very hometown feel.
Walking into the event, you realized a couple of things immediately. There were no long lines waiting at each table, there was plenty of room to roam the grounds, visit tents serving food and drinks, take a seat and be entertained and educated by Chefs cooking for the audience, stop by the book signing tent to meet your favorite chef and check out tents for a little shopping (Zappos) and do a couple art projects (wine charms and wine stoppers from Zappos). Ok, that last was a diversion to take a breather between cocktails and creations and recharge your phone in their lounge.
If you wanted to learn about the new Liberated wines from the Jackson family (Kendall Jackson)
Or hear about Hendrick Gin’s history and super cool cocktail mixer known as the Curious Cocktail Configurator, just stop by their tents.If you wanted to do a little shopping to stock up on cookbooks or t-shirts to remember the weekend, there was a tent just for you to visit.
Truthfully though, my favorite part was the opportunity to talk one on one with the chefs. They welcomed you to their table, introduced their masterpiece, explained the flavor profiles and genuinely wanted you to enjoy their dish. And trust me, we did!
In terms of the foods themselves, there definitely were themes that stood out. The wealth of seasonal tomatoes showed up in soups of every kind (including “Pizza Soup” from Longman and Eagle and Dusek’s Board and Beer), shrimp dishes (Jimmy Bannos, Jr, GT Fish & Oyster), kale salad and crawfish etoufee from Wishbone, elegance in plating (Stephem Wambach, Four Seasons Chicago), desserts that wowed (2 notables – Little Goat Diner Salted Peanut Butter Gelato with Concord Grape pate de fruit – peanut butter and jelly like you have never had before, Lulu Café’s Peach & Butter Pecan Ice Cream Sandwich – the “sandwich layers pushed it over the edge!)Chobani yogurt’s recipe creation offerings including Miso Butterscotch Budino (from Chef Stephanie Izard), strawberry rhubarb, lemon meringue, chopped Mediterranean salad and lamb sausage.
Most food-based events don’t give you the luxury of chatting with the Chefs who are sharing their creations with you. But here, you had the perfect chance to talk directly with your favorite chefs including Art Smith, Graham Elliot, Rick Bayless, Ludo Lefebvre, Tim Love, Tony Mantuano, Sarah Grueneberg, Giuseppe Tentori just to name a few. Each day had a different group of restaurants and chefs to visit and opportunity to sample their dishes.
With Wirtz Beverage providing a variety of their products for you to try, your palate was introduced to some new favorites whether craft cocktails, wines, beers or champagnes and prosecco. A taste from the past with Galliano’s Harvey Wallbanger cocktails was served by ladies dressed to fit the genre. Perfect timing as we enter into the holiday season of dining and entertaining.
Overall, the Chicago Food + Wine Festival did a good job of showcasing new restaurants to visit, chefs to watch, foods and beverages to share and recipes to be made. With a wealth of high caliber chefs and their restaurants in this city, we are already in anticipation of next year’s event!
Thanks for stopping by!