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Thursday, February 27

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Chicago Gourmet Wed Sep 21 2011

Chicago Gourmet Preview

Leaving the beastChicago's fancy food fest returns this weekend to the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Tickets are still sort of available for the fourth iteration of the event (Saturday is sold out, but Sunday passes are still available for $163.50, two-day passes for $272.50, and Saturday Grand-Cru tasting passes for $190.75 -- the Dine Around is still an option as well if you've been doing your eating homework over the summer). The schedule is finally available online, so if you've already got your ticket in hand and liver warmed up, you may want to take some time to put together a game plan. Sure, wandering in and just grazing seems like a good idea -- until you find yourself halfway through a line 40 deep, waiting for a single shrimp on a stick, and you don't even have a drink with you. Thoughts on planning a great Chicago Gourmet outing after the jump.

There are two main caveats, as far as I can tell, to having a great Chicago Gourmet experience: arrive early; and have some sense of your priorities when it comes to eating, drinking, and watching chefs do their thing on stage. The punctuality thing really can't be stressed enough -- it'll be crazy when the gates open on Saturday, and the lines will only get longer as the day goes on. Show up a bit early, get your wine glass filled as soon as you walk in, jump into the nearest tasting pavilion line, and you'll be able to start enjoying yourself right away. If you go with a group, divide and conquer -- split yourself into several different lines and grab bites for each other. Or fill everyone's wine glass and stick together -- you won't even notice if the lines are moving slowly.

In terms of priorities, picking one or two chef demonstrations or beverage seminars you're interested in will go a long way. If you try to do them all, you'll find yourself late in the day, starving, when the lines are longest for the food, and the fest is starting to close down for the evening. The cooking demonstrations are undeniably worthwhile, however, particularly if (like me) you're into seeing those names you know from PBS, Top Chef, or this blog in the flesh, doing their thing. Rick Bayless, Stephanie Izard, Alpana Singh, Tony Mantuano, Mary Sue Milliken, and Jonathan Waxman are all going to be there, for your entertainment! But they're not the only stars -- watching longtime Chicago peers like The Gage's Dirk Flanigan and Tony Priolo from Picolo Sogno get together to compare cooking notes and generally mess with each other demonstrates more than just two kitchens' techniques. It shows the real backbone of the food industry, without which eating and cooking might be more purely utilitarian, and less fest-worthy -- the respect, the camaraderie, and a small taste of the sheer weirdness that is working in a kitchen. So while the well-known names may dazzle you with their star power, don't overlook the local, lesser known chefs either.

Also, it's supposed to be 60 degrees out and raining all weekend. Bring a jacket, bring an umbrella, bring shoes you can wear in the mud, because there will be mud. And maybe even some gloves -- just in case. You don't want to risk any perfect morsel falling through cold fingers onto wet, trampled earth. Trust me.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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Editor: Robyn Nisi, rn@gapersblock.com
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