If there is one thing that I like as much as treating my ears to good sounds, it is treating my mouth to even better tastes, so I was thrilled at the opportunity to enjoy this year’s Chicago Gourmet Food Festival presented by the wonderful people at Bon Appétit. The fifth annual Chicago Gourmet took place in Millennium Park and featured “over 150 of Chicago’s finest restaurants and chefs, as well as hundreds of renowned vintners, spirit makers, and premium breweries from around the world.” In other words, it was a food enthusiasts [I prefer enthusiast to the overused “foodie”] all you can eat and drink playground. It must also be mentioned that the weekend blessed us with some of the most perfect weather in all of festival season. This was a big deal as Chicago had without notice gone into winter mode and I was left wondering where fall had gone. But alas all cards were in our favor, it was 75 degrees and sunny for the first time in weeks, we were starving, and presented to us was a tray and wine glass holder that we could fill to our hearts content for the next 6 hours.
As I scanned the map and schedule of the days cooking demos and featured chef tastings I tried my best to contain the line of drool that was surely starting to drip from my mouth. Moto, Gibsons, DaVanti Enoteca, NoMi, Ada Street, The Gage, Nellecote – oh my. How was I to try them all? What if I got full? Was 6 hours really enough time? I had to calm myself by visiting the Blue Moon Brewing Company tent before I embarked on the culinary adventure of my dreams. As I arrived to the tent I was handed a glass of Peanut Butter Ale and I knew all would be right in the world. Yes, Peanut Butter Ale, a nutty malty beer that took me back to my Power Rangers lunch box days and cured my tasting anxieties upon first sip. From there a regimented game plan was abandoned and it was decided it would be best to meander around the fest enjoying anything and everything that was presented to us. A little nibble of the Purple Pigs Pig Roast here, a little morsel of Gibson’s Filet slider there, wash everything down with a glass of Leffe and all was right in the world.
Where the magic happened.
While feasting to my heart’s content I was able to enjoy the vibes of a Miami lounge as the park interior was transformed to a lounge space with contemporary cushions and recliners scattered about the grass allowing guests to sit down and enjoy the scenery. It has to be said that I was skeptical about the music that was to be played throughout the day. As eating is a sensory experience, I often find it a necessity to accompany my meals with great beats, however I was unsure if my fellow food enthusiast would share my tastes in music. Again I was pleasantly surprised that the soundtrack to the day was a mix of indie, pop, electro remixes that all demographics of guests including myself found pleasing to the ears.
In between tasting we were able to catch a cooking demo from Richie Farina of Moto who some of you may know from Season 9 of Bravo’s Top Chef. Richie taught us to make a deconstructed bagel and lox utilizing the dry freezing, gas inducing, molecular gastronomy Moto is known for. Such as freezing a bagel in dry ice, throwing it in the blender, and rejoining the crumbs together as a base for salmon. Needless to say I will probably never utilize these methods for my breakfasts. Nevertheless, it was a demo that should not have been missed.
Such a beautiful pour.
Overall the 2012 Chicago Gourmet Food Festival was an experience that my taste buds will never forget. While my festival reviews are usually filled with gripes about how my experience could be improved in future years, this time around I only have one to share. While the endless supply of FIJI water was crucial to keep guests hydrated I would have liked to have seen a more ecological approach to water supply. Locally sourced food has been a staple of Chicago cuisine and the best chefs in our great city take pride in utilizing local farms to fill our bellies. While it might be hard to source water from a local spring, it is not necessary for precious resources to be abused so we can drink water from the islands of Fiji. Maybe next year festival organizers can take note from our friends at Lollapalooza and provide guests with easily recyclable Boxed Water instead. That being said, I cannot wait to return next year and tantalize my taste buds again with all the wonderful food, beer, wine, and boxed water I can eat and drink.
Special thanks to Brenna O’Leary, Isabelli Media Relations, and everyone who made Chicago Gourmet possible.
Chicago Gourmet 2012 Gallery