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TODAY

Thursday, September 19

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Event Thu May 10 2012

Top Ten Highlights at the 2012 NRA Show

To say that any trip to McCormick place isn't for the faint at heart is an understatement; it can make any well-traveled person feel like they just got out of Kansas. Okay, I may be exaggerating, but after two days at the 2012 NRA show (National Restaurant Association, not National Rifle Association), I found myself wanting to run to the first spa to get a Swedish massage and do Vinyasa yoga while eating kale.

This was my first NRA Show and the feat of getting there felt like an accomplishment in itself. I rode the coattails of the hotel shuttles even though I didn't stay at any one of them and it worked like a charm. I felt proud for finding a loophole. Once I was there, after spending an hour trying to find my pass and then find the show, I walked into restaurant vendor mania. The NRA show is a vendor carnival of sort, like Costco on steroids and it's widely for those in the food-service industry, i.e. restaurant and food-service owners. There's no logical starting point to it (just like appears to be the case with McCormick Place) so I just walked, and walked ...and walked. I ate samples of cheese, pre-packaged pastas and hot dogs. It took me 30 minutes and a tweet to find the educational sessions. I did a tequila, vodka and whiskey taste test before noon. And while I had hoped that there would be more in the way of culinary invention and presence at the NRA, admittedly, it felt like my first Taste of Chicago experience without the annoying drunk people, and the best I got was pulled pork from Joe's on Weed Street at the IWSB event and cakeballs from Bleeding Heart Bakery (yeah, fudgy, gooey cakeballs).

If you didn't get the chance to check it out this year, here are some highlights from this year's NRA and International Wine, Spirits and Beer Show:

  • Chicago chefs Rick Bayless (Frontera), Stephanie Izard (Girl and the Goat), Sarah Kosikowski (Sixteen), Maneet Chauhan (Vermillion), and Homaro Cantu (moto) to name a few shared some of their culinary creations on the World Culinary Stage. Top of my list, David Burke (of David Burke Primehouse and inventor of the cheesecake lollipop) demonstrated "Ants on a Log" — bone marrow with snails. Who knew?

  • President Clinton delivered the keynote after being over an hour late although I'm not sure what he has to do with food nor the restaurant industry.

  • Michelob launched the Ultra 19th Hole, an iced tea and lemonade beer in a can concoction. Yeah, enough said.

  • Eli Cheesecake debuted the Hot Chocolate Cheesecake made with salted caramel — OMG

  • llinois' own Lifeway, which makes everone's favorite Kefir drink, debuted Dulce de Leche as a new addition to its packaged frozen yogurt. Sorry Pinkberry, our relationship may be over.

  • The Drunken Flower" by Patti Frank of Roots Handmade Pizza, featuring a mix of gin, St. Germain and pomegranate juice, won the Star of the Bar contest.

  • The skinny cocktail craze finally reaches the wine category just in time for poolside days with a new lower-calorie wine portfolio by Treasury Wine Estates called The Skinny Vine. In a quasi-Pepsi Challenge blind taste test, they were surprisingly close. (But too bad, the Skinny Girl brand is doing the same thing soon).

  • If you hoped vegan was a fad, judging by the amount of vegan booths, it's coming on strong in 2012.

  • Shockingly, people will stand in a really long line for half of a deli sandwich and an Icee.

  • Thankfully, there wasn't a flash mob this year, but if there had been one I would've liked to see Rick Bayless do a little salsa interpretation.

Click here to see photos and videos from NRA 2012.

 
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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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