Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chicago Gourmet 2010 …

Gourmet Chicago 2010 was a great compilation of cooking demonstrations, food seminars and best of all tastings. Where else can you eat at so many different quality Chicago restaurants in just one sitting?

The show focused on all of the great chefs who make Chicago a remarkable culinary destination. Yes, millions of people come to Chicago every year just to eat.

Over 100 of Chicago’s finest were featured from five star restaurants to Chicago’s cheap eats - which were recently listed in Bon Appetit’s September, 2010 issue. Also named were the 10 Best New Restaurants in America. Chicago's Purple Pig is one of them.

It was the best people watching event of the year.

The white tents made it a well-dressed event and some of the unique set ups made you feel like you could just hang back and let the world go by.

 I did in the Patron tent and I wasn’t even drinking.

                      Andrew Knowlton, Restaurant Editor, Bon Appetit

Bon Appetit so raised the bar when they came in as the main sponsor for this event.Not only did it sell out immediately but it also set the stage for the most successful Food and Wine show in Chicago ever.

Me? I so carried on without you!

The lines at the Latin/Asian tent were long but everyone who sampled there raved about how exceptional the food was. This tent was unquestionably the hit of the show. Patricio Sandoval from Mercadito, Bill Kim from Urban Belly/Belly Shack and Chan Le from Le Colonial were among the many featured chefs.

I also loved the samplings from the seafood, Mediterranean and Allen Brothers tasting pavilions. Everything I tried made me want that to be my next Chicago restaurant experience. My short “to go” list suddenly grew incredibly longer.

The desserts made a huge impression.Chef Eddie Lakin of Edzo's told me that he went through 40 gallons of ice cream in just a few hours making his famous malts.

Chicago Gourmet 2010 was my favorite Chicago food event and here is why:

Favorite Tasting : Mercat a la planxa

If I didn’t get it the many times my friend Molly from the Blackstone Hotel told me, I now understand. This was definitely the best taste of the show. So many inspiring creations and nobody even came close to the superiority of their tasting. It took one bite to convince me that this is where I want to send everyone I know for a great meal.

Here is what Mercat told me their secret is:

“We served lamb shoulder from a farm in Wisconsin called Pin Oak Ridge. Chef Fiorello believes this to be the best lamb in the mid west. The lamb was smoked for about 5 hours. We served the lamb with a Catalan barbeque sauce containing whole grain mustard and sherry vinegar. Accompanied with a purple fingerling heirloom potato escabeche, and roasted seasonal mushrooms - cinnamon caps and hen of the woods.”

I'm not going to even attempt that one at home!

2nd Choice: Firefly Grill

This sleeper blew me away. Their miniature BLT’s featured an interesting little cream puff to set off the sandwich. This was positively one of the best bites of the show.

Street Food

Uncle Bub’s truck out of Westmont cooked whole pigs in their BBQ wagon. Chef Mark Link gave me a taste of the real pig delicacy – the cheek. Amazing!

Favorite Place: The Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour 

Rustic, casual and ever so away from the maddening crowds, this space had the celebrated combination of great food and wine and a great staff to hype it!

It had the only chef station that was exposed to the elements. Fortunately for everyone, the weather was beautiful!

Wine: Franciscan, Simi and Other Great Wines

There were so many wineries here you immediately recognized that this was the supreme wine tasting experience. Never mind that bona fide winos paid an extra $175 to get a taste of the best of the best. It was so worth it said everyone I polled from the Grand Cru event.

The only complaint that I have is that the event was so spread out that I did a marathon of walking (and running) and Sunday was overcrowded. Other than that…everything was picture perfect!

Spirits: Old Standards With A New Twist 

Jim Beam got my vote. They have come up with some of the best new concepts on old standards. Case In Point: The Old Fashioned.

There were also some fun new event cocktails and spirits.

Purchase your tickets in advance next year because this show will certainly sell out again. I’m getting my FFF’s (friends and family foodies) lined up early.

Thanks to the chefs of Chicago, The Illinois Restaurant Association and Bon Appetit for a great show!