Chicago Gourmet 2013 Review – A Celebration of Food and Wine

I am a huge foodie and wine lover and always have been. I have been to satisfying food expos in the past but for me, Chicago Gourmet 2013, hosted by Bon Appétit Magazine, trumped them all. The event was held September 28th and 29th in Chicago, Illinois outdoors at famous Millennium Park. Started in 1998, Chicago Gourmet 2013 offers two delicious days of samples of food and drink from over 150 of Chicago’s highly acclaimed chefs and restaurants, as well as national and international wineries and breweries. The expo featured food and drink tastings, cooking demonstrations, book signings and much more. There were new events added in 2013 which included Friday night’s Hamburger Hop and late night party, and also the Grand Cru Wine Tasting on the roof of the Harris Roof Theater.

A Chicago Gourmet 2013 poster.


I attended the event on Sunday, September 29th. It was a beautiful warm and sunny day at Millennium Park when I arrived, which was perfect for a day-long culinary experience. It was very pleasant for me as I tasted gourmet food and wine while strolling across the park. When I entered the expo, I was greeted with an event program, a goody bag complete with restaurant coupons, candy samples, and a plate with a convenient holder for a wine glass.  

The Bon Appetit welcoming food tent.


The Bon Appetit welcoming food tent.


One of the many chef cooking demonstrations at Chicago Gourmet 2013.

At first, I felt a bit overwhelmed trying to figure out which of the dozen white tents I should visit first. I finally decided to go to the food tents first and then the wine/drinks tents. (I handle alcohol better on a full versus empty stomach!) All of the award winning Chicago chefs were doing cooking demonstrations and giving out free samples of their delectable menus. I had appetizers, main courses, and many desserts. Among my favorites were the sticky toffee pudding with spiced Asian pear and apple from The Refinery, the sweet potato brûlée and and walnut crumble with whipped crème fraîche, spiced rum and sweet potato chips from The Gage, and the vegetarian and vegan samples from Karyn’s Cooked and Karyn’s on Green. The sticky toffee pudding tasted of wonderful spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to me. It had a wonderful aroma nicely balanced by the toffee sauce and the pears and apples.

The Refinery's sticky toffee pudding with spiced Asian pear and apple.


The Refinery's sticky toffee pudding with spiced Asian pear and apple.


The Refinery head chef, Lawrence Letrero.


The Gage's sweet potato brûlée and walnut crumble with whipped crème fraîche, spiced rum and sweet potato chips.


The Gage's sweet potato brûlée and walnut crumble with whipped crème fraîche, spiced rum and sweet potato chips.


Karyn Calabrese is a very creative chef specializing in all organic, vegan and vegetarian cuisine. The food samples offered at her tent included vegan-glazed doughnuts (which I ate too many of of!), and the steak wrap (meat substitute with spices, onions, lettuce, peppers and chipotle), spinach stuffed raw ravioli with a sundried tomato sauce. As I savored each bit of Karyn’s simple yet delicious cuisine, I reflected on how being a vegetarian or vegan doesn’t mean boring or bland food-it can be very creative and delicious with never-ending ideas for recipes.

Karyn's on Green and Karyn's Cooked tasting tent's vegan-glazed doughnuts. .


Karyn's "steak" wraps (meat substitute with spices, onions, lettuce, peppers and chipotle).


Karyn's spinach stuffed raw ravioli with a sundried tomato sauce.

One other food tent that stood out for me was, of course, a candy tent, which further helped to satisfy my sweet tooth. At the Candyality store tent, there was a sign asking “What’s your candy?” Based on the candy you picked, you received a sample and were given a candy personality type. I chose dark chocolate Junior Mints and was described as “creative and sophisticated.” Also, in between wine tents, I felt a strong urge to sample all three types of cupcakes from the Magnolia Bakery tent. When you need to choose between many delicious-looking cupcake flavors all at once, such as pumpkin spice cake with maple cream cheese icing, chocolate cake with chocolate butter cream, and caramel cake with caramel meringue butter cream, I have always thought it has been my duty as a foodie to try everything on the menu!


Magnolia Bakery cupcake samples.


"What's Your Candy Personality?" Display.


"What's Your Candy Personality?" Display.

I unfortunately was not able to visit the Grand Cru Wine Tasting event on the Harris Theater Rooftop that day. The Hamburger Hop event was out as well since I am not carnivorous at all. However, Chicago Gourmet 2013 definitelysatisfied my craving for fine wines, beer, whiskeys and scotch. As was my problem with deciding which of the numerous food stands to visit, I had the same challenge with the many drink tents as well. It was not possible to visit every single tent in a few hours so I had to choose wisely. Some of my favorite drink tents that I stopped by included Kim Crawford, Blue Moon Brewing Company, Simi Wine, Francis Ford Coppola Wine, Mionetto Bollicini Prosecco Wine, and Whiskies of the World. I tasted wonderful, yeasty brewed beers, several dry, full-bodied red and white wines, refreshing sparkling wines, and some nice, strong whiskeys.

The Simi Winery tasting tent.


The Whiskeys of the World Tasting Tent.


Signs depicting where the scotches and whiskeys are from.


I had such a great experience at Chicago Gourmet 2013 that I hope to return and review it next year. After three hours of great food and drink, I left Millennium Park stuffed as a turkey. Something else I learned was about how many wonderful new restaurants and wineries, breweries, and distilleries that continue to open in Chicago. I love learning about these new places, and going to a food event like Chicago Gourmet 2013 is a great way to do so.

Visit the Chicago Gourmet 2013 website for information on Chicago Gourmet 2014.


*Photos: Jennifer Lunz



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