Sunday, October 2, 2011

Gourmet Chicago 2011

The Show: 100+chefs and vinters that made Chicago Gourmet 2011 the prime ticket of the season for foodies.

Ask anyone who was there again this year and they’ll tell you that it was better than the last and I didn’t think that was possible.

With more tasting tents, it was critical for getting the crowds through who wanted to experience a taste from each and every chef.
My favorite this year was a dish by Executive Chef Trevor Hoyte of IPO at the W City Center - Braised pork belly with brown butter celeriac, smoked Blueberries, burnt white asparagus, pickled red onion and pork rind.
There was an enormous variety of vinters, brewers and spirits producers in attendance. The long, impressive list, included Icewine’s Donald Ziraldo who has built Icewine into a world-renowned luxury product.

The surprise for me? It was more smooth than sweet and I really loved the taste. It would be a great pairing with an out of the ordinary board of cheese.

I was never into beer until recently thanks to Blue Moon. There are so many new beers and spirits on the market you could totally get into the beverages at this show without blinking an eye.

Better yet – when spirits are made into ice cream they get my attention. This Makers Mark Ice Cream – Burnt Sugar – was delicious as was Labriola’s  chocolate rum gelato.
This show was well worth the extra $$$ for the quality of the food, beverage and especially the education. Just when you think you know everything, along comes another surprise.
With over 100 of Chicago’s best chefs in attendance, you also got plenty of interface in each of the tasting tents.

Bon Appetit has been one essential addition to the mix that is now considered world class.

The Bonus: Got To Love A Mexican Chef Who Wins Them Over With Pizza
Fresh off his 8th season after a lengthy stay in Baja, he laughed at the question if he ate anything other than Mexican and told the audience that he was about to make pizza. Did I hear a uniform gasp? Pizza?

His version of pizza of course looked as good as anything else he’s cooked on Mexico - One Plate At A Time. This is a season 8 recipe so we haven’t seen the episode yet.

The pizza dough he uses is the same recipe that Jim Lahey developed for his no-knead bread. You know, the one I swear is the best bread I have even eaten that I bake in my dutch oven. The only difference is that Bayless adds beer.

Salsa Verde Pizza with Goat Cheese and Bacon

Pizza de Salsa Verde, Queso de Cabra y Tocino
Makes one large pizza, serving 4
From celebrated Season 8 of Mexico - One Plate at a Time

2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup room-temperature water
1/3 cup beer—a light lager is good here
A few tablespoons good-quality olive oil
2/3 cup Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
A couple of very thin slices of red onion
4 ounces goat cheese, coarsely crumbled into roughly 1/2-inch pieces
3 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and coarsely crumbled
OR 4 ounces Mexican chorizo sausage, casing removed and cooked thoroughly
2 tablespoons grated Mexican queso anejo, Romano or Parmesan
A handful of cilantro leaves
Make the dough. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, yeast and salt. Measure in the water and beer. Stir to combine everything into a rough-looking mass. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.

Form, bake and serve the pizza. Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Generously oil a 13 x 18 rimmed baking sheet (what’s called a “half sheet pan”). Use a rubber spatula to gently deflate the dough and scrape it out onto the baking sheet. Gently coax the dough—nudging and tugging—into an even rectangle about 9 by 13 inches.

Spread on the sauce, leaving a 1-inch border around the outside. Scatter on the bacon, sliced onion and crumbled goat cheese. Bake in the middle of the oven until puffy and brown, about 25 minutes.

Sprinkle with queso anejo and cilantro leaves, cut in squares and carry to your lucky guests.
Of course, I LOVE Baja and I watched the Mexico – One Plate at a Time season opener last night.
The 8th Season takes viewers from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas and reveals some of the top regions of the Baja Peninsula.
Like Bayless, I discovered the wonders of Baja long after I knew the Mexican mainland.
I’ve been everywhere in Mexico but the Guadalupe Valley, the 14 mile long stretch that is Napa 60 years ago.
Located north of Ensenada on the Ruta del Vino, the area is blessed with the ideal Mediterranean climate for grape growing.
The Guadalupe Valley has more than 50 large and boutique wineries and produces 85 percent of all wine made in Mexico, about a million cases a year.
Having been in the tequila industry, I am challenged by the fact that Baja is now producing top-quality wines.

It’s going to be my next Mexican adventure…and I thought that I had done them all!

Bon Appetit!