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Chicago food events

Another year, another stellar Chicago Gourmet food fest: rocking the fork Chicago-style!

How is it possible for 2018 to have flown by so fast? For starters, the past 12 months have been very busy for our family. Interviewing Chef Rick Bayless has been one of this year’s highlights. Of course, welcoming baby Alex has been the best highlight of all 🙂 Here’s hoping for a fab new year, filled with good health and plenty of great food! Before 2018 departs, however, it’s time to review one of the biggest food fests of the year: Bon Appétit presents Chicago Gourmet. This review is long overdue, but then again, so are all of my blog posts as of late. Blame it on baby Alex, I say 😉

In 2018, Chicago Gourmet organizers came up with the special theme Rock the Fork to highlight the organic connection between the Windy City and food and music, respectively. Nearly 250 restaurants and chefs served their dishes at various pavilions spread across Millennium Park, and members of the public experienced the sounds of various musical genres (ranging from blues and classical to international, pop, rock and more) while tasting their way through Chicago Gourmet’s myriad of flavors and cuisines.

This was the second time I attended Chicago Gourmet (you can read my review of the 2017 edition here), and my experience was very different from last year’s. Keep Reading

Culinary Fight Club Final Plate competition: cutting-edge pork dishes, elegant desserts – and so much heart!

Apple fritter with charred blueberry compote – the dessert made for the public by Chef Ryan Rondeno at Culinary Fight Club The Final Plate

It was noisy, as usual. There were heat, sweat and smoke all over the miniature grills they were expertly maneuvering. Ever so often, one chef’s hands would shake, as if hit by a cold breeze. And yet, there was no breeze in sight, just pure human emotion and plenty of adrenaline rush. Hands and hearts were trembling because at stake was the title of 2018 Culinary Fight Club Grand Champion. Not anyone could do it, and these chefs were the best: there had been twenty at the start, and only four of them were now nearing the finish line.

I’m no stranger to Culinary Fight Club competitions (check out my reviews here, here and here), and as such I am familiar with their format and supportive of their mission to reward culinary excellence and to feed the hungry. Nothing compares to seeing culinary competitions unfold in front of you – the tension, the sweat, the drama, it’s all so intense. Pressure? Check! Surprises? Check! Delicious food? Of course! 🙂 Keep Reading

My recent BlueStar pizza class experience: the science of pizza, revealed in a cooking space like no other

Chefs Leo Spizzirri and Susan Swanson during the BlueStar pizza class

Chef Leo Spizzirri  is a man of a phenomenal energy and charisma, and what keeps him motivated is something most of us enjoy: pizza 🙂 He talks fast, his hand gestures are broad, and his eyes light up whenever he shares stories from his past as a pizzaiolo certified by the International School of Pizza or as a consultant for some of America’s largest pizza manufacturers. What he’s most passionate about, however, is his current job as a pizza instructor at the North American Pizza and Culinary Academy (NAPCA) in Lisle. Do you ever think about what goes on inside your pizza? About the chemical reactions among the ingredients? About the stress level applied to the dough? If you’d like to find out more about the science of pizza, meeting Chef Spizzirri is a must. Believe me: you will not be disappointed.

I met Chef/instructor Spizzirri when I attended the BlueStar pizza class held at NAPCA, which Chef Spizzirri manages along with his business partners, Chefs Anthony Iannone and Renee Gabbett. This is a full review of my experience – and what an experience that was! Keep Reading

Winging it at WingFest 2018: so many wings, so little time!

How do you like your chicken wings: mild with dashes of parmesan, hot with ghost pepper galore, or BBQ-style, smothered in smoky bourbon sauce? Or maybe you like the exotic kind, brimming with gochujang, pineapple and mango? Whatever your preferred flavors or tolerance of spicy food, you were bound to find your favorites and to discover new ones at the 19th edition of Chicago’s Best WingFest, which was held at UIC Pavilion earlier this month.

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile you know that I’m not into spicy foods. Furthermore, being heavily pregnant has made me very cautious when it comes to trying out new dishes. What if there wouldn’t be anything mild enough for me to be able to eat at WingFest? What if my feet would get more swollen, and my ankles would hurt even more as a result of standing up for hours? All in all, was it really worth it? In the end, curiosity got the best of me: I attended WingFest, and I’m happy to report that my fears were unfounded. The mild wings were plenty and delicious, the crowds were manageable, and the experience was a lot of fun 🙂

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My Culinary Fight Fest experience: I would walk 500 miles!

It had happened again: our car had broken down and DH and I were walking back home, sweaty and exhausted, in the asphyxiating heat of the summer. I had asked him to pick me up from Culinary Fight Fest downtown, and he, the ever-helpful husband, had agreed – but now we were stuck 5 miles away from home, with little money left after towing the car to the repair shop, and not willing to spend extra on a cab. We were walking and talking, and suddenly it hit me: By yourself, the journey is long – but you can walk 500 miles when you have friends to help along the way 😉 Every time I attend a Culinary Fight Club competition I notice surprising things, which previously escaped me. At this edition, I noticed joy: the pure, unadulterated joy of the CFC organizers who were engaged in a meaningful project as friends, walking the long path of life together, as one big family. Re-energized by these thoughts, my draining walk home after the competition alongside DH (my best friend) became easy and made perfect sense 🙂

Currently in its second edition, Culinary Fight Fest Chicago took place at Hard Rock Cafe earlier this month. Chefs who had won either the judges’ vote or the public’s vote at a previous Culinary Fight Club event were invited to compete against chefs who had won other different themed competitions in various cities across the country. A veritable Clash of Culinary Titans, Culinary Fight Fest was also an excellent opportunity to raise money for Fight2Feed, a non-profit organization that feeds the hungry across Chicagoland. It was a display of competitive spirit intermingled with awesome camaraderie – “the best time of my life,” as one contestant put it.

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Hard Rock Cafe Test Kitchen menu review: heaps of Chicago inspiration, loads of delicious food!

The folks over at Hard Rock Cafe surely work hard to please! They want to know what music you like, the first live concert you went to, and what you make of their dishes – and they want your feedback delivered raw, spontaneously, and straight to their faces. I definitely like this no-nonsense approach: what’s better than an honest opinion, delivered on the spot? I like the approach – and I like the HRC food even more 😉

I recently got the chance to taste several dishes from the Hard Rock Cafe Chicago Test Kitchen menu, which showcases HRC’s commitment to locally inspired and responsibly sourced ingredients. It was an amazing night, filled with good jokes, great food, and karaoke performances – and here’s my review of this experience. Keep Reading

Rooftop magic galore – and other fun weekend spots & events around Chicagoland

My friend Marina admiring the beautiful murals at Gino’s East in Streeterville

What are you doing this weekend? With so many fun food-related events going on in Chicagoland, there is plenty of choice – and only 2 days to spare! DH is almost always at the office during the weekend, and as such we have yet to make any plans. Hopefully he won’t have to leave for work and we’ll be able to go to at least one of the events below. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Keeping my fingers crossed 🙂

Taste of Chicago is the highest anticipated foodie fest by far this weekend. Keep Reading

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