When I imagine my happy place, I think of a sunny 70 degree day with a slight breeze, I think of an awe inspiring backdrop, and I think of more food and booze than I could possibly devour. Send me to the 2013 Chicago Gourmet and I am in my happy place.
With the cityscape standing proud in the background, Millennium Park turned into a foodie oasis Sept 28th and 29th. The event was filled with speakers, seminars, food demonstrations, book signings and of course lots and lots of food and booze. Chefs, Sommeliers, and mixologists from around the country and over 100 of the best restaurants in Chicago rolled out tastings all day Saturday and Sunday. It would have been hard to leave hungry or sober.
With the sun shinning and my palette ready I stumbled upon my first tent: the whiskey tent. Here they served up a fairly new Irish whiskey called 2 Gingers. Being of the fair skinned and red haired I knew I must try this. I had the option to taste a cocktail mixed with ginger beer (that’s a whole lotta ginger) but I opted for a neat pour. With a slight spicy note and a caramel finish, the whiskey went down smooth… much like the rest of the event. Prosecco was next, followed by a much needed food stop where I sampled a beef tenderloin crostini, served with a horse radish cream sauce and topped with basil oil from Chef Rufino Carbajal of The Saloon Steakhouse. The dry aged tenderloin melted in my mouth while the spicy and tangy horseradish fulfilled my palette. In that same tent Chef Stephen Dunne of Paramount Room rolled out a crispy pork belly with a sweet sesame cracker, red cabbage slaw and a peanut butter sauce. I savored the sweet and salty flavors, while I was entertained my the different textures of this dish.
As I moved on, I decided it was time for another cocktail. Fortunately, the food to booze ratio is heavily weighted on booze. I stumbled upon the Absolut Vodka tent, which I must say, thoroughly impressed. Absolut was giving tastes from their newest promotional vodka, the “Absolut Chicago” which has “a savory blend of olive and rosemary.” Although the flavor seems not to encompass the essence of Chicago, it tasted delicious in their signature Bloody Mary and most of us can agree that brunch + Bloody Marys = Chicago summertime.
The rest of my Sunday seemed to flow seamlessly between food and beverage tents. I moved on to another Bloody Mary from the Palmer House that was served with a crazy good cornbread muffin, topped with homemade honey. Later, the Chopin tent did not disappoint. We were able to taste all three of their different vodkas: the rye, wheat, and potato, as well as, some small batch spirits. We learned about how vodkas can range and vary, and how the Chopin distilleries work. We were recurring patrons to the Heitz Cellars booth where we sipped on a smooth 2007 full-bodied cabernet, and the list keeps going.
The day was filled with meeting and greeting, telling stories and sharing good food and drink. We learned a lot, tasted incredible food, and discovered new restaurants and bars that must be visited. It was a day for the Chicago culinary scene to shine and it did, ever so brightly. I would definitely call this event a party not to be missed.