For the ninth year in a row, Chicago Gourmet put on a remarkable event of exquisite food. Seriously, this event is foodie haven. The crème de la crème of restaurants, wineries and breweries all gathered to give attendees the best food experience they could hope for.
I attended on a Sunday, and as usual Millenium Park was buzzing with delicious sights, sounds and smells. This year’s theme was Food is Art and was hosted by the renown Chef Rick Bayless.
First stop in my course-plotting was the NFL Homegating tent debuting the very fun Slider Zone, where guests got to create personalized sliders with their favorite team brand paraphernalia and then take pictures of their work-of-art on a Slider Cam. The tent was packed because who doesn’t love interactive demos? I was very proud of my own veggie burger, which I carefully crafted and was very tasty too.
I then marched straight to the Seafood Pavilion, which is usually my hub at Chicago Gourmet. Per routine, the lines were the longest and as much as I dread them, it also feeds my intrigue about what seafood will be offered. My fish favorites this year in the following order, were, Dirk's Fish Shrimp and Grits served by one of the most darling chefs, Dirk Fucik and his wife Terry. I wasn’t at all surprised at the perfection in this dish which was flavorful all around. Next was the Smoked Whitefish Tartine from GreenRiver which was a delicate looking dish with bright notes added by fresh radish and celery. Another favorite Chicago Chef, CJ Jacobson at Ema was personally serving up amazing mini portions of an Ahi Tuna Crudo with avocado, tomatoes, crispy lentils and turmeric vinaigrette, which was also delicious. I'm going to have to visit the restaurant soon, as I certainly didn’t get my fill of this dish.
The drink offerings didn’t lag behind either and I stopped by Thermador, which was celebrating its 100th birthday.
Their star lounge was serving fun gello shots of all kinds along cake pops and it was a party in there!
I also partook in many cups of an amazing watermelon concoction served by Saint Lou's Assembly, which was also easy on the eyes.
Needless to say, this was all in between wine tastings I was indulging in. I made sure to never be without a glass of Rose in my hand, because that would've been a shame.
Lots of other seafood offerings that were outside the Seafood Pavilion, such as the Cebiche from Tanta, bringing Peruvian flavors straight to us in Chicago. A perfect serving of scallops, shrimp, rocoto-aji Amarillo and leche de tigre in each cup, served with an Ace of Hearts drink consisting of Jim Beam, Bourbon, ginger beer and passion fruit being the perfect counterpoint to the food.
The Salmon Rilettes from Blue Door Kitchen & Garden was a lighter take on the traditional dish, with Rutabaga latke, crème fraiche and brown butter apples. I’m a sucker for seasonal ingredients anyway and this dish was already spectacular.
Along the lines of lighter bites, was Arami’s super delicious Ebi Poke by Chef Ajay Popli. This fish salad with poached black tiger shrimp with a subtle sweet wakame and Maui onion was absolutely out of the world. Bernie’s Lunch & Supper’s Chef Ryan Sand put out a beautiful White Tuna Confit with smoked Sofrito and heirloom beans, which I highly encourage you to go try. The velvety texture of the tuna with the fruity olive oil was anything but ordinary.
Four Corners Tavern seemed to be a popular stop for Chicago Gourmet attendees this year, and I had to check out the hype. I hadn’t eaten Avocado Toast in awhile so I was extremely pleased to find it here. But the bigger hit was the Rum Chata cupcake shot with funfetti. Easily the star of the show and many points for creativity!
Taking a much needed sugar break from all the briny food, I headed straight to Stan’s Donuts and picked up their very last Blueberry Velvet Coconut donut and learned later that they went through 5000 of these in two days. While on the sweet kick, I also stopped and got a gelato creamsicle, and then Big Green Egg’s Elvis's Smores Waffle Cone I had been eyeing all along. This was another hit with chocolate chunks and marshmallows tucked inside a cone and then grilled for a second. I can still smell it!
With no more room to spare, I went to locate my friend who I had drifted from while on my seafood hunt. We stopped by Campari for their featured cocktail to have one last drink, then proceeded to The Bean for our annual, customary photo. I think our smiles said it all.
I’m not sure I can say with this much confidence about any other food related event in the city, but at Chicago Gourmet everyone leaves with a feeling of enchantment and pure satisfaction. I’m already looking forward to next year!