Beautiful weather set the scene for a perfect day at Millennium Park as I perused my way through Bon Appetit’s Chicago Gourmet 2013. Guests were there to enjoy exclusive tastings from some of Chicago’s finest restaurants and chefs, attend live cooking demonstrations, book signings, learn about the latest food trends, seminars from Master Sommeliers, speak with renowned vitners, spirit makers, breweries from all over the globe and the opportunity to sample some of their finest and latest creations.
Exhibitors lined the walkways with samples of their goods, it’s non stop food and drink, you really have to know how to pace yourself as you walk, taste and sip along the way.
One of the things I really enjoy doing is attending the live cooking demonstrations, the venue where they have it is very intimate, up front and personal, not a bad seat in the house! Loved this one in particular with Chef Hubert Keller where he transformed a very rustic braised beef dish into something you would have at a fine dining restaurant, I can’t wait to try it myself! Chef Art Smith and Chef Lorena Garcia became great friends during their time on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters” which was very evident from the chemistry they had together. For their demo they fused her Latin with his Southern cuisine and made a masa cake stuffed with an avocado smashed chicken salad, and it was all gluten free. Chef Sarah Grueneberg is the executive chef of Spiaggia along with Chef Carrie Nahabedian of NAHA, their demo was all about vegetables, they talked about venturing out of our comfort zones, trying different varieties of peppers, squashes, eggplant, beans, okra, mixing them together into a ratatouille or salads, be adventurous in the kitchen you can’t go wrong when it’s all fresh and in season. Oh, FYI, the latest trendy vegetable is…. cardoons! They taste like artichokes, I’m in! Here’s a view of the culinary stage, I seriously could have spent the whole day there, I really wanted to see Chef Graham Elliot but I was getting hungry and thirsty! So many choices this doesn’t even scratch the surface, Mexican, Italian, Asian, Southern, French, American, Seafood, Brazilian, I could go on and on! There were several Chef Tasting Pavilions and yes, some had long lines but they seemed to move fairly quickly once they got going, besides it gave you a chance to slow down and digest a bit because in the tasting pavilions you would normally get anywhere from three to seven bites from the various restaurants featured. Why don’t I make chimichurri sauce more often? It takes a good piece of meat and elevates it to another level! I’ve learned from the past in order for me to make it through the day when sampling, you must pull off all bread products and just take a few bites, that’s it! With the exception of a lobster roll! Desserts were everywhere, sticky toffee pudding, root beer floats, cupcakes, gelato, apple and plum creations along with a separate Dessert Tasting Pavilion, which I didn’t even enter into for fear I might never come out! There was plenty of charcuterie to nosh on while sampling your favorite drinks, small bites of proscuitto, salami and salty cheese, they even had a “protein bar” that was filled with cups of chili ready to go. Wine of every variety, champagne, Patron, Stella, sake, whiskies, vodka, cognac, Grand Marnier, again I could go on and on. I encourage you to really sample what you like, mixing too many different things might not be such a good idea and remember to hydrate, there’s plenty of water stations all around. I’m partial to Prosecco and the two brands that stood out for me were Zonin and Voga although I have to admit I liked Voga brand a little better and their bottles are gorgeous! A great gift for the holidays. I will be making many trips to Binny’s! Deep blue skies in Chicago, great food and drink, nice crowd, entertainment and education, what more could you ask for on a beautiful Sunday afternoon? Hope to see you next year!