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Chicago Gourmet Tue Sep 30 2014

Chicago Gourmet: The Lollapalooza of Food

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After my brute force strategy failed at last year's Chicago Gourmet, I approached this year's event with a game plan that involved curtailing the amount of food I shoved in my mouth. Before the event, I perused through the lineup of 12 different food pavilions, seminars, and food demos. With protractors and complex algorithms, I outlined my favorite spots and created a list of simple rules:

1. No ceviches or crudos. No lukewarm octopus tentacles bursting through a citric pool of pungent onions.
2. No donuts, cookies or cupcakes, unless I was still thinking about that donut 15 minutes later.
3. No lobster rolls. No tacos.
4. No returning on Sunday.

Of course, the minute I stepped into Millennium Park, my plan crumbled like a warm shortbread cookie infused with tangerine peels. As someone with little to no ability to delay gratification, I should've known better. There I was, bulldozing food into my mouth like I had emerged from a 30-day fast. My ego is gently whispering, "Pace yourself," while the id is frantically screaming, "Holy shit, only 30 minutes before Carla Hall comes on stage! But don't you want to eat Bistronomic's 'Kit Kat' bar? And those wild boar meatballs?" Eventually, my frontal lobes gained control, and I realized that the best plan would be to eat eye-catching dishes I hadn't tried before.

Most Extravagant

Lillie's Q: BBQ Parfait consisting of pulled pork on top of coleslaw on top of baked beans, with pickle wedge. This enormous cup of food made nearly everyone exclaim, "Holy shit, that's huge."

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Most Spicy

Nellcote/Old Town Social/Leghorn: Hot chicken sandwich. The 2"x2" chicken nugget, wedged between thick pieces of Texas toast, was laced with a habanero sauce so horrifically spicy, I cried all during Stephanie Izard's cooking demo.

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Most Intriguing

Sepia: Grilled Eggplant Tortellini in Light Cumin Broth (Grand Cru). This light, Mediterranean-inspired dumpling was absolutely stunning. I glanced up at Andrew Zimmerman after my first bite and smiled like an idiot.

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Most Daunting

Coppa: Goat blood sausage, hummus, tahini (Grand Cru). The sausage was very gamey and metallic-tasting, but not bad for my first blood sausage.

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Most Disappointing

Glazed and Infused: Goat Cheese Donut with Red Wine Glaze. You want to like it so bad. But then your gag reflex reminds you that wine and cheese don't always go together.

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Most Inspiring

Antique Taco: Pumpkin Habanero Soup with spicy pumpkin seeds. This delicately balanced soup ate like autumn, and I felt warm and fuzzy afterward.

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Prettiest Dessert I'd Like to Eat Forever

Francesca's: Butterscotch Corn Pudding with Sweetcorn Gelato and Popcorn. This three-way corn dessert was good use of a product rarely used outside of savory settings.

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Prettiest Dessert I Wouldn't Necessarily Eat Again

Langham Chicago: Rectangular tart with a pistachio panna cotta, pistachio cake and sour cherry compote. This exquisite pastry was visually appealing, but didn't taste much like pistachio.

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Most Attractive Chef (CILF)

Spike Mendelsohn. I'm not ashamed. Though he's 34 and looks perpetually stoned, he's quite attractive in 3-D form.

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Eating all this food (and waiting in line/walking around for all this food) left little time to attend seminars, demos and books signings. You simply cannot ride all the rides. Last year, I met Hugh Acheson, Graham Elliot, Hubert Keller and a host of other incredible chefs, while this year, I managed to sneak a picture of Morimoto and his Asian posse. My suggestion for those attendees who prefer demos and seminars -- find a partner who will wait in the food lines for you (or vice versa, if you're more of a food-oriented person). Also, get there early (not late, because you will miss literally everything). Final piece of advice: stake out a "rest" area because you will need that shade soon enough. Defend that space.

dsc_1107.jpgNext to Christmas and Halloween, Chicago Gourmet is easily my favorite holiday. My goals for next year:

1. win that damn car giveaway.
2. Taunt the envious spectators with my Target swag and multicolored cocktails.

 
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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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