Happy 10th anniversary, Chicago Gourmet!

If you’re a foodie, look no further than to Chicago Gourmet to satisfy your appetite for great food&drink and awesome entertainment. Indeed, no other festival compares to Chicago Gourmet when it comes to variety, quality and craftsmanship. I recently spent an amazing Sunday at this food fest trying delicious food, attending engaging chef demos and meeting old friends. It was hot, humid, but all the more exciting: where else do you get the chance to learn so much and to meet so many? 🙂

Bon Appétit presents Chicago Gourmet celebrated its tenth anniversary in Millennium Park at the end of September. The packed schedule featured an array of cooking demos, wine & cocktail seminars, book signings, and amazing tastings from the best food and beverage spots in the country and beyond.

The celebration started early on Sunday morning…

… and went on through the day. The weather was hot and stuffy, yet bearable as long as you made sure you drank plenty of the water offered by the organizers.

What an awesome way to spend your weekend in this beautiful city of ours! 🙂

When it comes to food, you really have to pace yourself at Chicago Gourmet if you want to be able to try as many dishes at possible. There’s plenty of choice, and it’s so easy to get full fast and then miss out on some of the most delicious tastings just around the corner! This is why I started off with light, veggie-loaded dishes such as this papaya salad, courtesy of Jin Thai Cuisine

… and then sampled the whimsical deconstructed version of vegetarian stuffed peppers served by Winnetka-based Avli Restaurant. The steamed mussels on offering at the Marchesa stand were also light and a lot of fun to eat!

After this veggie overload, it was time to make the carnivore in me happy 😉 I had a blast at the Mexico tasting pavilion, where several Yucatan-based chefs cooked their famous regional dishes for a very large crowd.

Authentic food, presentation and delivery – that’s what I was really looking forward to:

The tacos I tried at the Mexico pavilion have stayed with me ever since: melt-in-your-mouth pork, unadulterated spices, minimally processed veggies, honest-to-goodness tortillas. There are a lot of good things to be said about authenticity in cooking, and I believe the dishes prepared by the Yucatan chefs succeeded in being flavorful, straightforward and most importantly honest. I really like honesty on a plate 🙂

After this taco interlude and also a brief stop at the Texas de Brasil stand for a flank steak with chimichurri sauce and cous cous salad…

… it was time for sweets, yay! I started off by sampling something seasonal and not overly sweet: a candy apple! Again, I wanted to pace myself to be able to enjoy as many dishes as possible 😉

After a quick stop to sip a fragrant and stunningly looking pomegranate liqueur

… I went back to the realm of sweets and savored a tequila-infused mixed berries ice cream. I really needed something cold to help me cool down on the heat:

At this point I decided to take a break from sampling and took refuge in the cooking theater, just in time to attend a demo held by Chefs Lorena Garcia and Art Smith. A whole roasted pig was about to be brought in!

Bottled water on hand, I watched the chefs as they prepared a dish of smoked pork with rice & beans and talked about their culturally inspired culinary pursuits. What a good opportunity to learn and to relax at the same time!

By that point, the heat was subsiding, and I felt brave enough to face the crowds again. After a glass of premium sangria

… I hit the food section one last time. The cooking demo had made me hungry, and I was looking for something both light and refined as my late afternoon bite. The Asian BBQ duck steamed bun with pickled carrot, cilantro, cucumber and a miso-habanero aioli I tried at the Joy District stand surpassed my expectations: not only was it refreshing due to the overabundant veggies, but the bun itself was unbelievably soft and airy to the point of being weightless. I could have easily gone for seconds since this dish was so delicate and delicious:

After more bottled water, a stop at the Big Green Egg stand to sample grilled coned s’mores…

… was followed by one last sweet treat courtesy of Mastro’s Restaurants. Spongy and moist, their butter cake served with vanilla bean ice cream was truly one of the highlights of the day:

The heat had become bearable, but it was also 5pm and time to say good bye to Millennium Park. I left Chicago Gourmet with a full stomach, satisfied senses and a happy mind. Through carefully pacing myself I was able to enjoy well-composed and flavorful dishes out in the open air, on one of the hottest days of the year. This food fest also gave me the chance to interact with various cultures, one plate at a time, and to observe ingenious reimaginings of famous classic dishes. Last but not least, I also managed to discover a few spirits that I could definitely use in future recipes (tequila-infused ice cream, anyone?). All in all, this was a fun-filled day and an inspirational event for foodies and non-foodies alike.

Happy 10th anniversary, Chicago Gourmet – and see you next year! 🙂

*Disclaimer: While I was offered a complimentary ticket to attend this event, all opinions expressed here are my own. I was not financially compensated by any of the companies mentioned or shown in this post.


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