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Chicago Gourmet Sat Sep 25 2010
Proving the old adage that the third time is, indeed, the charm, Chicago Gourmet seems to have finally hit its stride. The balance between food and drink, while still topped towards the latter, feels a bit more equitable this year -- possibly based on the organizing decision to group most of the liquid suppliers in the middle of the festival, and leaving the solid foods on the edges. And for the first time, I left the Pritzker Pavilion well before the end of the day feeling, well, full. This year's Chicago Gourmet feels not unlike a food-themed amusement park: excitement is high, even though lines are long. Twenty minutes of standing around may result in a bite that's consumed in 30 seconds or less. But at least you get to revel in some Goose Island and pork belly at the bottom. Plenty of plush seating has been added this year in various formations so you can ease off your slowly-expanding ankles as your salt intake increases throughout the day. Seriously, it's a nice addition.
- Arrive on time, if not early. Lines stretched all the way down to Michigan Avenue just to enter the event this morning, and formed rapidly in front of the tasting and sipping stations inside. They only got longer as the day went on.
- It may seem tempting to follow the smell of burning charcoal and dive headlong into the Allen Brothers tasting pavilion that's closest to the entrance. Don't do it -- grab a pour of wine (or an entire bottle of Stella, Leffe or Hoegaarden, with complimentary branded glassware!) first, and sip while you wait to make your way down to the chefs. This is actually a good practice to observe before getting into just about any food line.
- If you're going in a group, make it work for you. Split up to gather multiple plates for your entire party and halve the time it takes to try two separate dishes. The hunter-nester division also works well, where one member of your group sets up camp at a table or cushy bench and the other reels in the goods. (This seems to be particularly popular with the stroller-pushing set.)
- If the weather's anything like today, bring along some fingerless gloves. Just in case. You won't feel cold, based on the amount of alcohol available to you. But losing a plate due to stiff fingers would be a darn shame.
- If you're getting a little wobbly after hitting up the center aisle of the festival, head to the Labriola Bakery station. They've got bread. Lots and lots of bread. Served with meatballs, pasta, or a caprese-style tomato and mozz slice. Or served with...more bread. It's great bread, and a wise idea.
If you've learned valuable lessons from Day 1, please post them in the comments. (And remember, we want to see your photos in the GB Flickr pool.) See you back there tomorrow!