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Monday, November 23

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Chicago Gourmet Tue Sep 29 2015

Filipino Feast Surprise & More at Chicago Gourmet

rsz_dsc_1544.jpgEach year, I attend Chicago Gourmet with a different goal. Year one: eat all dem stuff. Year two: Eat less stuff, attend all the seminars. This year, I wanted to find new dishes--ones that would astound me and make me come back to the restaurant that served it.

Truthfully, that goal was surprisingly difficult to reach. Between the salsa and ceviches, sandwiches and rolls, crostinis and pastas, salads and cookies, I wasn't altogether mesmerized by anything that would make me reach for seconds. I was drinking rather morosely in the corner of the park when I saw a crowd of onlookers gathering around a roasted pig. My curiosity piqued, I joined the gathering only to stumble upon the most magnificent thing my feeble eyes have ever witnessed. The team at Sunda had crafted a monstrous Kamayan feast: three long tables covered with banana leaves, topped with white rice, lechon kawali, shrimp and chicken adobo skewers, grilled head-on prawn, Chinese long beans, mangoes, and longaniza. Oh, and homemade chili sauce and garlic vinaigrette. Everyone who managed to grab a seat at this communal table was crying with joy, or wanted to. This wasn't crappy, haphazardly-grilled meat--we're talking about gigantic prawns that dripped with juice and chicken that peeled apart with flavor. The crackly skin on the lechon was like fainting on a bed of glittery marshmallows.

rsz_dsc_1550.jpgFor me, this particular moment captured the essence of Chicago Gourmet because not only was the food extremely fresh and tasty, but it highlighted an understated aspect of eating: sharing a meal with others. As for other parts of the event, here is my perspective:

Pros
1) Smartphone app means people will no longer have to flip through the dense event manual with their sticky, donut fingers.
2) Exciting dishes: veal-stuffed ravioli, fried chicken, chorizo tacos, escargot with puff pastry, peri peri chicken, seaweed and octopus salad. Having the opportunity to try 200+ dishes is pretty darn amazing (Pro tip: Skip the crostinis, sandwiches, carb-loaded stuff. It's not that they're bad--they'll just fill you up too quickly.)
3) Side-booths and the center aisle contain tons of freebies. When the lines get long, meandering through these smaller booths will get you 1) wasted, 2) loaded with lots of freebies, giveaways, and charcuterie.
4) Meeting the chefs. Sure, they're sweaty and probably tired of repeating their menu item for the 80th time, but cool! Look! Hey, can you take a selfie with me?

rsz_dsc_1542.jpgrsz_dsc_1538.jpgCons
1) The Rise & Shine Gourmet was not only a rainy cold mess, but the event conceptually makes no sense. I understand pandering to the yogamat crowd, but stretching will literally make no dent in the 5,000 calories you will consume.
2) It's the same chefs. Rick Bayless and Art Smith are everywhere. Sure, there's Emeril Lagasse, but I've already seen his face a thousand times at Macy's in the kitchenware aisle. Show me someone new.
3) Lines are theme-park long and weave around the park till all the lines are smashed together. The wait-times are further exacerbated by individuals who stop to inquire what each dish is, or whether gluten is in the brioche bun.
4) The whole event felt overly sponsored--American Express macaroons, BMW chips, Barilla pasta. In fact, six of the 10 tasting pavilions were sponsored, including an American Airlines tent. The importance of sponsorship doesn't escape me, but having a Progresso-flavored cocktail at a gourmet event is akin to having Mario Batali headline Weight Watchers.

 
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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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