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Friday, September 20

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Event Thu Oct 03 2013

2013 Celebrity Chef Cook-Off for Common Threads

dsc_2460.jpgAs an evident fan of Art Smith, Chicago chefs, and healthy and happy young children, I was fortunate enough to attend the Common Threads' Cookoff fundraiser this week. Common Threads is a spectacularly-successful nonprofit dedicated to educating communities, especially underprivileged kids, on healthy food choices through cooking. Held at Fulton's on the River, this year's cook-off required chefs and mixologists to create a dish either in a glass, on a bun, in a shell, or on a stick. Attendees then vote for their favorite in each category. Guests could also bid on cool auction items, including a private helicopter tour of Chicago.

These tasting events always challenge my ability to sample everything, but after Chicago Gourmet, I breezed through the event like nobody's business. My favorite dishes of the night included:
• head-on prawn (Embeya): Succulent savory head bits gushing into my mouth seems (and is) very much a culinary sexual experience. I was quite dismayed hearing one attendee exclaim with horror, "Ew! What is that monster?" It ain't a monster; it a delicious crustacean.
• pain perdu with candied pecan and sweet corn ice cream (Sixteen): It was basically a mini French toast that paired great with corn. Patrick Fahy is a particularly creative pastry beast.
• Crispy pork belly with bourbon, butterscotch (Vincent): Shaped like a mini corndog, this meatball-like creature had a wonderfully spicy kick.
• Curry swordfish (Epic): I don't know why (well, actually I do), but I literally went back for fourths. Maybe fifths. When Chef Matthew eventually noticed, I felt an odd mixture of both shame and pride.
dsc_2495.jpg• Fried chicken biscuits, honey butter (Corner Tap): Their sweet homemade pickles balanced out the intensely-savory biscuits and fried chicken.
• Wild boar sliders (Piccolo Sogno): I haven't had wild boar often, so this little slider was a nice twist. Earthy and devastatingly tender, this slow-cooked protein was perfectly sauced.
• Buffalo chicken sausage hot dogs (Sepia): SAUSAGE + BUFFALO CHICKEN + HOT DOG BUN = PERFECTION. There is nothing mathematically or logically wrong with that equation.

Of course, the Fresh Alaskan crab chowder from Dirk's Fish & Gourmet Shop and creamy lobster wonton from Roy's also bear mentioning, as both were magnificently delicious. And though I hardly care about etiquette in any form or fashion, I admittedly found the dishes rather difficult to consume without utensils. I eventually formed the buns into scooping instruments and sticks as pathetic little forks.

dsc_2489.jpgFood aside, I also enjoyed mingling with the chefs, for whom I have enormous respect and admiration. I saw well-known chefs like Andrew Zimmerman (Sepia), Sarah G (Spiaggia), and Patrick Fahy (Sixteen), but the fun guys from Roka Akor, table-52, and EPIC rocked the event as well. All these chefs stand for 2-3 hours, plating downright delicious food for a good cause (and for marketing purposes, but that seems less romantic).

dsc_2431.jpgAs I admired the general splendor of Downtown Chicago at night (from the incomparable view of Fulton's on the River's veranda), I sipped slowly on Sprecher root beer and listened to conversations on unrequited love. But it was late, and stuffed beyond belief, I happily waddled home with my swag bag, filled with ZICO coconut water and gym membership coupons (both of which I'll be using if I continue attending these events).

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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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