Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Sunday, March 3

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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.

Continue reading this entry »

Judy Wu

Chicago Gourmet Fri Oct 03 2014

The Grand Cru Shines as the Real Chicago Gourmet

photo 1.JPGThis past weekend provided the perfect weather for more than 12,000 food and wine lovers to head to Millennium Park for the seventh annual Chicago Gourmet. The two day food event joins local and celebrity chefs for tasting pavilions, where you'll find the executive chefs themselves plating and handing out mini-versions of their creative interpretations on the Park's Great Lawn, live demonstrations on the main stage and endless wine samples and cocktail concoctions.

While live cooking demos and seminars account for most of what you hear about happening on the Great Lawn, the Grand Cru, located on the Harris Theater Rooftop, is where the real Chicago Gourmet exists.

As an additional cost to the entrance ticket ($199 on top of $170), Grand Cru is the step up, particularly when it comes to the wines, featuring master sommeliers, samples of higher-end vintages and carefully crafted mini-bites from top local chefs.

My Saturday visit included chefs Stephanie Izard (Girl and the Goat, Little Goat), Andrew Zimmerman (Sepia), Bruce Sherman (North Pond), Jimmy Bannos Jr. (The Purple Pig) and Chris Marchino (Spiaggia).

Bruce Sherman presented a smoked king salmon pave in a mutsu apple pudding with a ginger crumble. As usual, Spiaggia didn't disappoint with a roasted fig on a fennel puree, finished off with rendered andouille flecks. Bannos turned usually tough sirloin into a tender bite with a salt crust, matched with a piquillo pepper and tropea onion jam. The real winner was Zimmerman, with a perfectly al dente shaped roasted eggplant tortellini in a cashew, curry leaf and sesame broth.

photo (1).JPG Notable wines for sample included the likes of Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Opus One, Grgich Hills Estate and Trinchero. A few delightful shockers I came across were some beautiful pinot's and chardonnay's from Patz and Hall, particularly the "Chenoweth Ranch" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley 2012 and the "Hyde Vineyard" Chardonnay, Carneros 2012 -- both in the $60 range. Patz and Hall is a relatively young winery that relies on single vineyards and small-lot production.

The Barkan "Assemblage Series - Reichan" Upper Galilee 2010 from Barkan Wines of Israel was also an unexpected delight, combining the classic cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot blend. ($40). Israel, although no stranger to the wine business, is one of the lesser known regions to produce blended wines. This version tasted more like a classic Bordeaux and could be enjoyed with or without food. And Laurent-Perrier "Grand Siecle" Brut Champagne, NV and the "Cuvee" Brut Rose, both crossing the $100 mark, although pricey, should be in consideration the next time you have a big event or dinner.

Brandy Gonsoulin / Comments (1)

Chicago Gourmet Tue Sep 30 2014

Chicago Gourmet: The Lollapalooza of Food

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.

Continue reading this entry »

Judy Wu

Chicago Gourmet Thu Oct 03 2013

The Sunday Recap of Chicago Gourmet

In my second year going to Chicago Gourmet, I knew exactly what to expect: tons of wine, long waiting lines and more food than I could handle. The two-day event garners top Chicago chefs and others from around the country for a day of tasting pavilions, cooking demos and gluttony. It requires a game plan. The atmosphere was lively, the drinks were flowing and the couples were in tow when I walked in this past Sunday. Sunday offered a different chef line up than Saturday and I quickly mapped out who I wanted to sample: Two Restaurant, Three Aces, Browntrout, Honey Butter Fried Chicken and Telegraph at minimum; the rest would just be for soaking up all that wine.

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Brandy Gonsoulin

Chicago Gourmet Mon Sep 30 2013

Worthwhile Overindulgence at Chicago Gourmet

Pope Gregory I once described five ways an individual can commit the sin of gluttony, and this weekend, I committed them all. But you won't find me sprinting to the nearest confessional, dried barbecue sauce still smeared across my unholy cheeks. No, I don't feel the least guilty, as I have waited nearly a month for Chicago Gourmet, an event where sobriety and slender waistlines go to die celebration of Chicago food and wine.

The amount of food and drink I consumed is mentally incomprehensible, morally disturbing, physically impossible. I'm talking about 150+ restaurants, 40 food and wine exhibitors, and 300+ different drinks. Besides wearing my extra stretchy pants, I didn't have a game plan other than to storm the grounds of Millennium Park, grabbing whatever ceviche and cocktail was shoved into my hands.

Continue reading this entry »

Judy Wu / Comments (1)

Chicago Gourmet Mon Sep 30 2013

Wine Heaven @ Chicago Gourmet

mainlawnchicagogourmet.jpgFor me, Chicago Gourmet was all about drinks, mostly wine. With seminars on Bordeaux, Burgundy, and New Zealand plus a cocktail demonstration, plus the Grand Cru, I didn't see how I would have time to eat much at all.

I did eat, thankfully, arriving early enough that I enjoyed the Great Lawn of Millennium Park before the crowds swooped in. A volunteer suggested I start with the Supreme Lobster & Seafood Company Tasting Pavilion as that would get overrun first. I was thankful for his advice because with all these white tents with dozens upon dozens serving up food or wine, beer, and spirits, I hadn't a clue where to begin.

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Christina Brandon / Comments (2)

Chicago Gourmet Wed Nov 21 2012

Pre-Order Chicago Gourmet Tickets

chicagogourmet_holidaypresale.jpgChicago Gourmet 2013 isn't for another 10 months, but the chance to get involved in the Black Friday shopping frenzy was too great to resist. You can pre-order tickets to the gourmet food and wine festival starting at midnight Nov. 23 -- aka late Thursday night, while your turkey is still digesting.

Tickets for the festival, which will run Sept. 27-29, 2013, will cost $109 per day or $199 for a weekend pass during the presale. Regular price tickets will be $159 per day or $265 for the weekend pass when they go on sale next year. The presale will continue till Dec. 25 or until they sell out. There will be another presale sometime in the spring.

Andrew Huff

Chicago Gourmet Thu Oct 04 2012

What You Won't be Reading About from This Year's Chicago Gourmet

The 5th annual Chicago Gourmet hosted by Bon Appetit last weekend offered the usual to the gourmands of Chicago -- delicious and well executed small plates, unlimited wine, beer and spirits and up close looks at some of Chicago's favorite chef personalities; all on a fantastic beautiful Chicago day, exactly what I had envisioned Taste of Chicago to be when I first moved here. While you may have gotten a nice report on the who, what and the wheres, here are some snippets from Saturday that you probably won't be reading elsewhere.

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Brandy Gonsoulin

Chicago Gourmet Thu Oct 04 2012

Growing Up With the Smashing Pumpkins

ChiGour2012 039.JPGFolks attending the Dirk Flanigan (Henri, The Gage) and Tony Priolo (Piccolo Sogno, Due) chef demo at Chicago Gourmet on Saturday learned an interesting piece of trivia about one of the best pasta makers in the city, courtesy of WXRT's Lin Brehmer.

Joanna Kanakis

Chicago Gourmet Wed Oct 03 2012

A Photo Journal of Chicago Gourmet

Earlier this week we provided you a rundown of how Chicago Gourmet fared, but in addition we'd like to provide a visual tour those of you without $173 to burn.

Considering most of these bites are flash prepared outside, without heating or cooling elements; quickly dished out and then snagged by hungry, mildly intoxicated attendants, I'd say we fared decently this year. You judge for yourself.

All photos taken by Joanna Kanakis.

Joanna Kanakis / Comments (1)

Chicago Gourmet Mon Oct 01 2012

Review: Chicago Gourmet

3960645725_44dccb3f7b_m.jpgOnce I was ensconced at our beautiful Millennium Park, it was apparent that the lines in front of each "tasting pavilion" at Chicago Gourmet were going to be arduous in the hot sun of a warm fall day. Off goes the sport coat and "where's some water?" comes to my mind. Lines the length of 200 people inch their way towards a limited selection of 3-4 items per station only to grab said bites and start over again at another of the 20 or so tasting stations. The lines for the drinking stations weren't quite as chaotic, but there has to be a better way.

I felt bad exercising my media all-access pass and in solidarity with my peeps, no lines were jumped. That decision would haunt me but I wanted to glean the full on experience of the 99% of the ticket holders who shelled out $173 for a day pass (or $288 for the weekend). An additional $200 bought you a two hour Grand Cru wine tasting sponsored by Southern Wines and Spirits. Bring a date and you're in for nearly $800 -- pretty rich for most blood. For the money there were demos, tastings, seminars and exhibitors but even with a freebie press pass dangling from my neck, thoughts of value in regards to expense colored my experience.

Continue reading this entry »

Alan Lake

Chicago Gourmet Wed Sep 26 2012

Chicago Gourmet Kicks Off This Weekend


If you didn't hear, Chicago Gourmet is this weekend and a line-up of some of Chicago's best chefs and mixologists will be making it their sole job to keep you well satiated and hydrated. More than 160 restaurants are participating and this year offers even more to take part in. The popular Grand Cru tasting will feature 20% more wines than last year and The Purple Pig will host a pig roast to go with your nice Chianti. Saturday is already sold out but Sunday features appearances by Geoffrey Zakarian, Jimmy Bannos Jr, John Coletta and Chris Pandel. Check out the full schedule and other deets at the official website.

Here's a highlight from last year to whet your palette:

Brandy Gonsoulin

Chicago Gourmet Mon Sep 03 2012

Eat Now, Go to Chicago Gourmet Later

chicago gourmet 2012Bon Appétit and the Chicago Gourmet food festival has a deal for you: spend at least $35 at five of the 80 restaurants participating in this year's Dine Around program between Sept. 1 and Sept. 30, save the receipts and you'll get a free one-day ticket to Chicago Gourmet, which runs Sept. 28-30 in Millennium Park.

For the math-impaired, $175 gets you $178.63 worth of ticket ( $159 plus tax and fees). So you're paying your way in food -- but that's hardly a hardship, right? Plus, each restaurant will offer a special $35 prix fixe menu to make the whole deal a little easier. (You're welcome to order off the menu and still get the deal, though.)

Continue reading this entry »

Andrew Huff

Chicago Gourmet Mon Aug 27 2012

Publican's Erling Wu Bower Moves to avec

maar_tips_from_a_charcuterie_chef_v.jpegIt was just announced that Erling Wu Bower, sous chef at The Publican, returns in the coming weeks to avec as Chef De Cuisine (previously occupied by Koren Grieveson) under Executive Chef Paul Kahan. Bower isn't elaborating on what he's bringing to the table but it is rumored that the chorizo-stuffed Medjool dates, the focaccia with Taleggio cheese and the wood-oven roasted pork shoulder will remain untouched. Whew!

Image courtesy of Bonappetit

Brandy Gonsoulin

Event Thu Jun 07 2012

Design and Gourmet Food Collide Penthouse-Style for Charity

headerdiffalogo.jpgOn June 28, top chefs of Chicago, gourmands, restaurateurs and maybe even you will gather on the rarely seen penthouse level of the Reid Murdoch Building (325 N. LaSalle St.) for Chef's Table -- a culinary charity event to benefit DIFFA/Chicago, a not-for-profit fundraising foundation that distributes funds to Chicago-area HIV/AIDS agencies.

This exclusive event presented by luxury design company, Jenn-Air , and produced by CS Magazine in celebration of the annual July Restaurant Issue includes some of Chicago's most talked about chefs:

  • Jared Van Camp of NellcĂ´te
  • Celeste Campise of Spiaggia
  • Jim Kilberg of Coco Pazzo
  • James O'Donnell of Michael Jordan's Steak House
  • Chris Pandel of The Bristol and Balena
  • Kevin Hickey of Allium
  • Ashlee Aubin of Wood
  • John Des Rosiers of Moderno

There will be specialty wine pairings by Noble Grape and an appearance of several signature cocktails by famed mixologist Adam Seger from Hum Spirits, (which if you've ever had a chance to experience a Seger cocktail you can expect it to include infused tea, flower petals of some sort and things that you never imagined could go into a drink). Word has it that Hickey from Allium will feature a Soft Shell Crab "Panzanella," an ALLIUM Aviation Cocktail and a Wild Strawberry Cheesecake Sundae and that O'Donnell from MJSH with be cooking up his signature Delmonico steak. There's more, but I can't ruin the surprise. The event goes from 6 to 9pm, with 100 percent of ticket proceeds benefiting DIFFA/Chicago. Tickets can be purchased online for $150.

Be honest, when's the last time you're going to get a chance to party at a penthouse this year with the best chefs in Chicago while benefiting a charity?

Brandy Gonsoulin

Chicago Gourmet Wed May 23 2012

Three Top Chefs Get Inspired

Ever find yourself daydreaming what a dinner consisting of Koren Grieveson's wrapped dates (avec), Stephanie Izard's signature pork and apple ragu (Girl and the Goat), and Mindy Segal's All American Chocolate Cake (Hot Chocolate) washed down with a 3 Floyds Beer might taste like?

Wait, you should have that moment. Done? OK.

Come June 5th you may not have to imagine anymore when these award winning chefs get together for food and charity at Inspiration Kitchen (3504 W. Lake St.) to prepare an ultimate three course culinary experience with beer tastings from 3 Floyds Beer. Inspiration Kitchens assists more than 3,000 people and families affected by homelessness and poverty each year by offering skill-specific job training and employment placement. One hundred percent of the $200 ticket price will go directly to Inspiration Corporation and its programs and each guest will also receive an etching donated by critically acclaimed artist Tony Fitzpatrick.

The program begins at 7pm. and seats can be reserved by calling Evan Cauble-Johnson at 773-878-0981 x 221 or emailing at

Brandy Gonsoulin

Contest Sat Feb 11 2012

Vote for F&W's People's Choice Award for Best Pastry Chef in Chicago

There are only a few days left to vote for Food & Wine's People's Choice Award for Best Pastry Chef. Some of our very own competing against chefs from all across the country are:

Bryce Caron, Blackbird
Patrick Fahy, Cafe des Architectes
Meg Galus, NoMI Kitchen
Aya Fukai, Ria
Sarah Jordan, GT Fish & Oyster

If you sampled any of these chefs delectable's or just think they are underrated up and coming rock stars, get your votes in before February 14th. This is a foodie town right? Don't let New York win.

Brandy Gonsoulin

Chicago Gourmet Wed Sep 28 2011

Shaking & Stirring at Chicago Gourmet

During Saturday's Champagne toast opening ceremony for Chicago Gourmet, Editor-in-Chief of Bon Appetit Adam Rappaport said, "The New Yorkers in the room don't want to hear this but there is more great food, more great restaurants, more great chefs here in Chicago than any other city in America." This year, I think Chicago Gourmet proved that. Check out our earlier post in the week for a visual summary and the admission that (gasp!) this year, CG was worth its ticket price. And about that last part, I'd like to expound on it a bit.
Atmospheric; Aromatic

Honestly, CG reminded me of Green City Market Chef's BBQ, but with better coiffed patrons in a more picturesque setting. We had bites of every restaurant in town with locally sourced ingredients and plenty of booze to wash it down, but does the setting alone make up for an extra $50 on the sticker price? No. So why did we think it was so worth the sticker? A cocktail class.

Continue reading this entry »

Joanna Kanakis

Chicago Gourmet Tue Sep 27 2011

Things We Saw and Ate at Chicago Gourmet

The fourth annual Chicago Gourmet treated patrons this past weekend to another slightly damp, but mostly bright and temperate weekend of wine splashes, tiny bites, and of course ubiquitous bright red totes of swag.

In addition to such memorable morsels as NoMI's cheddar polenta with chard and onions (so creamily sweet and mild it almost could have been a savory dessert) and braised pig tails from the Purple Pig (fall-off-the-vertabrae-tender, topped with shredded hard-boiled egg, bathed in a fennel-dosed sauce), there were logistical improvements this year that really caught my attention. Plywood sheets replaced those perforated rubber sheets to give attendees surer footing on the wet grass; the line structure had been changed so that multiple vendors could be sampled in one trip through a pavilion, rather than a separate queue for each; a plastic plate with a notched space for your glass joined the gratis wine glass everyone received at the gates.

These seem like small things, but the overall impression I took away was that the event, potentially one of the bigger (and in the past, inflated) line items in the yearly foodie budget, seemed sort of...worth it. Case in point: a cocktail seminar not only introduced guests to the finer points of making a Manhattan, but sent everyone away with a bar set to get them started mixing drinks at home. And for the first time this year, I heard a CG patron say those two magical words that mark the end of a great meal: "I'm full."

Here are some of the sights and bites that made us feel full this year:

All photos by Joanna Ericson and Andie Thomalla

Andie Cavedo

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.

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Andie Cavedo

Chicago Gourmet Wed Jul 20 2011

Gypsy Pop-Up

The cute, shared-use sustainable commercial kitchen, Logan Square Kitchen, is presenting Gypsy - a pop-up restaurant offering globally inspired street food.

Gypsy's menu is developed by Chefs Oliver Poilevey and Scott Jambrosek of La Sardine and Le Bouchon. This culinary event is for one weekend only during the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival. Food will be designed to travel, allowing people to explore the music stages and art galleries while eating delicious food!

The Arts Festival is Friday through Sunday, July 29-31.

For more information, visit or call 773-342-2333.

Ryan Frieson

Chicago Gourmet Mon Sep 27 2010

Chicago Gourmet, Day 2 and Final Thoughts

Leaving the beastAnother food festival is behind us, and after the double-whammy of food coma and hangover has cleared (and nooooo, it didn't take a full 24 hours, some of us just have day jobs, jeeeez), it's time to look back on some of the highlights (and disappointments) of this year's Chicago Gourmet. The prevailing complaint, echoed in both the fog of overheard conversation as well as in the specific comments of my new coffee-line friends Aaron and Mary Beth: not enough food! As with years past, the booze outweighed the bites, which can get dangerous when we're talking consumption by actual weight. As new friend Mary Beth noted, "A lot of old ladies in the bathroom seemed like they were really having a hard time with that much alcohol." Yikes, not good for the old ladies (a not-insignificant demographic for C.G.), and not particularly more good for the folks who shelled out upwards of $90 for an extended meal. More thoughts on the ups, downs, and possible old-lady pleasing next steps for Chicago Gourmet...

Continue reading this entry »

Andie Cavedo / Comments (1)

Chicago Gourmet Sat Sep 25 2010

Chicago Gourmet, Day 1 Quick Bites

Chicago Gourmet 2010Proving the old adage that the third time is, indeed, the charm, Chicago Gourmet seems to have finally hit its stride. The balance between food and drink, while still topped towards the latter, feels a bit more equitable this year -- possibly based on the organizing decision to group most of the liquid suppliers in the middle of the festival, and leaving the solid foods on the edges. And for the first time, I left the Pritzker Pavilion well before the end of the day feeling, well, full. This year's Chicago Gourmet feels not unlike a food-themed amusement park: excitement is high, even though lines are long. Twenty minutes of standing around may result in a bite that's consumed in 30 seconds or less. But at least you get to revel in some Goose Island and pork belly at the bottom. Plenty of plush seating has been added this year in various formations so you can ease off your slowly-expanding ankles as your salt intake increases throughout the day. Seriously, it's a nice addition.

To serve and protectMore thoughts on the highlights on this year's fest as it draws to a close tomorrow. In the meantime, some tips for any attendees venturing out tomorrow:

  • Arrive on time, if not early. Lines stretched all the way down to Michigan Avenue just to enter the event this morning, and formed rapidly in front of the tasting and sipping stations inside. They only got longer as the day went on.
  • It may seem tempting to follow the smell of burning charcoal and dive headlong into the Allen Brothers tasting pavilion that's closest to the entrance. Don't do it -- grab a pour of wine (or an entire bottle of Stella, Leffe or Hoegaarden, with complimentary branded glassware!) first, and sip while you wait to make your way down to the chefs. This is actually a good practice to observe before getting into just about any food line.
  • If you're going in a group, make it work for you. Split up to gather multiple plates for your entire party and halve the time it takes to try two separate dishes. The hunter-nester division also works well, where one member of your group sets up camp at a table or cushy bench and the other reels in the goods. (This seems to be particularly popular with the stroller-pushing set.)
  • If the weather's anything like today, bring along some fingerless gloves. Just in case. You won't feel cold, based on the amount of alcohol available to you. But losing a plate due to stiff fingers would be a darn shame.
  • If you're getting a little wobbly after hitting up the center aisle of the festival, head to the Labriola Bakery station. They've got bread. Lots and lots of bread. Served with meatballs, pasta, or a caprese-style tomato and mozz slice. Or served with...more bread. It's great bread, and a wise idea.

If you've learned valuable lessons from Day 1, please post them in the comments. (And remember, we want to see your photos in the GB Flickr pool.) See you back there tomorrow!

Andie Cavedo

Chicago Gourmet Thu Sep 23 2010

Chicago Gourmet Preview

Chicago's other taste festival returns this weekend to the green pasture of the Prtizker Pavilion, where Chicago Gourmet will be setting up camp for its third annual appearance. Tickets are sold out at this point for everything but the Hamburger Hop event taking place tomorrow night ($75 for beer, wine and many many burgers), although I did notice that the Illinois Restaurant Association's event page allows you the option of transferring tickets -- should, say, your friend with a two-day Grand Cru pass suddenly meet with an unfortunate, unseasonal icy patch on their way down their apartment stairs... Those Dine Around receipts will also get you in, if you had the forethought, appetite and budget to participate.

The set-up of the event seems to be in keeping with the past two years--attendees will be able to explore culinary groupings (organized this year by category, Mediterranean, Gastropub, French, Asian, Dessert, etc., instead of a randomized association understood only by the event organizers) featuring bites from chefs all over town, watch cooking demonstrations in the stage area that's usually restricted only to the performers and roadies, allow Alpana Singh and lots of other local celebs to discuss everything from wine pairings to sustainable seafood without the pesky distancing effect of your TV screen or an annoyed dining room of hungry people willing you to get out of the damn kitchen, my hollendaise is growing a skin back there. And of course drink lots and lots of booze in tiny cups. Seriously. Lots.

Attracting a major sponsor in Bon Appetit magazine seems to be helping the festival firm its offerings up across the board, providing a financial as well as physical center for the event (the publication has its own pavilion tent, where the wares of the other sponsors can be sampled, and executive chef Cat Cora will presumably be hanging out between cooking demonstrations). Other major sponsors, Allen Brothers Steaks and the awesomely named Supreme Lobster & Seafood Company will also host dedicated tasting areas where the goods will be, unsurprisingly, steak- and seafood-oriented. And for the first time ever, attendees will be able to purchase food to take home. Not that this will curb the line of guests chugging their last dregs of wine before the security guards will allow them to hobble out towards Michigan Avenue. But it's surely one of the most sensible business evolutions in the Chicago Gourmet model -- extending the experience, building those chef- or brand- (or...chef-brand) relationships, and probably encouraging people to come back for more next year. We'll see. (If it's all floral honeys and dipping sauces, I'll be way less excited to pull out my wallet.)

Check back for insights and reflections over the next couple days. And if you've already got your ticket in hand and are trying to figure out which pair of eating pants offers the most style, be sure to post any of your photos to the GB Flickr pool.

Andie Cavedo

Chicago Gourmet Mon Aug 30 2010

Sometimes It's Good To Get Around.

Case in point? Chicago Gourmet 2010 taking place Sept. 24-26 in Millennium Park.

While you could shell out 150 bucks on a one day pass you may want to consider making better use of your hard earned cash by dining out at specified restaurants between Aug. 30 and Sept. 26 to earn a free ticket to the event. All you need to do is order from the prix-fixe menu at any five participating Dine Around restaurants, save the receipts, and present them in a special receipt holder (available at any one of the restaurants) at registration.

With eateries like Quartino, Sixteen and Branch 27 participating, you'd be a prude to say no.

Leah Sallen

Event Tue Apr 13 2010

Baconfest Chicago 2010

Smokey, savory, salted debauchery with a couple hundred of my best friends...

BFC 2010 Crowd.JPG

That's right, I was fortunate enough to get tickets to BFC2010. That's Baconfest Chicago 2010 for the uninitiated. Taking over the Stan Mansion (2409 N. Kedzie) in Logan Square, even on the approach from the corner of Kedzie and Fullerton, one could smell a hint of smoky pork goodness on the breeze that only became stronger as one grew closer to the Stan Mansion.

Continue reading this entry »

Cliff Etters / Comments (2)

Foodporn Thu Jan 07 2010

Chicago Gourmet Memory

sundra.jpg It's been several months since Chicago Gourmet but my mouth still waters every time I even think about looking at my pictures from that weekend. Sundra's sample - shrimp on a rice cake drizzled with an egg sauce - was by far one of my favorites. Yum. Sigh. Is it September 2010 yet?

Shanna Quinn

Chicago Gourmet Wed Oct 14 2009


Chicago ex-pat Naz suggested I check out Foodzie. He described it as "Etsy for food" so I dove right in. And it seems young, but it holds promise. So whether you like jam, snacks, dried or cured meat, coffee, or even produce you're in luck. And, thankfully, you can even search by locality. There are just a few Chicago area vendors currently, but the Creme de la Crimini Sauce by Coupla Guys sounds like something I'd buy on name alone. And these Damn Good Cookies made by Chocolate Gourmet look, well, damned good.

Cinnamon Cooper

Chicago Gourmet Mon Sep 28 2009

Impressions from a Chicago Gourmet Volunteer

A sea of white tents garnished with small purple flags were offset by the curved beams and metal sheets of Frank Gehry's structure at the Pritzker Pavilion, infusing the atmosphere of the event with the essence of Medieval Times meets "Star Trek: Next Generation." From my station under the Green City Market tent, my fellow volunteers and I dispensed sample-sized servings of gazpacho made from locally grown ingredients and encouraged patrons to bid on silent auction items whose proceeds will benefit the market, a 10-year-old institution that promotes local and sustainable farmers and producers.

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J.H. Palmer

Chicago Gourmet Mon Sep 28 2009

Chicago Gourmet 2009

Chicago GourmetWhen I first heard about Taste of Chicago many years ago, I envisioned it as big block party where you could just meander from fancy restaurant to restaurant and sample their best dishes. Probably on tiny forks. And that it would all be free. Obviously, neither the real Taste or its younger, more upscale cousin Chicago Gourmet quite achieve that dream. But in its second year, Chicago Gourmet seems to better evoke the feeling of that festival in my head than the Taste has ever managed. With an improved lay-out and better selection of food (even though drink was still more heavily represented), the Pritzker Pavilion was transformed into an open pasture for gourmet grazing, from the tone set by the complimentary wine glass at the door to the security check for pilfered booze on the way out.

More thoughts on this year's event after the jump.

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Andie Cavedo / Comments (2)

Ingredient Tue Apr 21 2009


Cheaper every yearI literally skipped with glee between my bus stop and Patel Brothers, 2610 W. Devon Ave., this evening after work because I heard that there would be cases filled glorious, individually protected and delicious Alphonse Mangoes. Yep, even though it was only 40 degrees and it was raining, as far as I'm concerned it is officially spring because my personal heaven-with-a-pit has landed stateside.

This isn't the first time that I've written about Indian mangoes and what an amazing joy they are to eat. I was worried that I may not get to experience the fresh mango this year due to a possible low yield. But thankfully there are at least some making it to the States, and they're $25 for a case of a dozen mangoes. Two years ago it was $36 a case and last year I paid $30.66 a case. And yes, a box of mangoes from Mexico will set you you back $6, but trust me when I say these mangoes are at least four times as tasty as the Mexican and Filipino varieties that can be found year-round.

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Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (3)

Interview Wed Feb 11 2009

Ironclad Love

Michael Nagrant, Chicago food writer and the editor of Hungry Mag, has an article in today's Sun-Times about how fantastic cast-iron skillets are. I also have much love for cast-iron skillets and Michael called me to get verification of something I'd written in that post.

Michael's love letter, written shortly before Valentine's Day even, to cast iron skillets is a great read. But the gist of the story is that cast-iron skillets are awesome and a great value for your money and indestructible. Literally, indestructible. Those fancy-pants pans? Not so much. If you purchase new, you're likely to buy a piece of Lodge cookware and you're just as likely to find it at the hardware store as you are at a cookware store on Michigan Avenue.

And apparently cast-iron isn't just for making food, you can make music with it, too. Dance music. He kindly sent on this tidbit of information that didn't fit in the Sun-Times article:

"Not everyone uses their cast iron for cooking, at least not exclusively. Local professional chef and percussionist [and Drive-Thru contributor] Alan Lake makes music with his. In 1986 while working as a sous chef at the East Bank Club, lake got a call from Pat Leonard, a boyhood friend who'd scored a gig as a music producer. Leonard told Lake to pack up his equipment and move out to LA to be part of his recording band. Part of Lake's "equipment" was a set of cast iron pans. Lake says, "Back then you couldn't just buy samples, so we had to make our own. I hung my skillets from s-hooks, rolled rubber bands around chopsticks to make drumsticks and played them like steel drums. Though they're not tuned, they (the pans) have different pitches by virtue of their size." These weren't just any samples though. Lake says, "You can hear those samples all over (Madonna's) La Isla Bonita and Papa Don't Preach and (Ferry's) Bette Noir album."

Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (1)

Chicago Gourmet Wed Oct 01 2008

A Sampling of "Chef's Tasting" @ Chicago Gourmet

dtchicagogourmet.jpgDespite the cloudy sky, Sunday at the Millennium Park was a lively scene. (Possibly even more so than Saturday, which was blessed with a beautiful blue sky--but this may be because of the different times of the day I was there on these two days.) Here, I'm showcasing some of the mouthwatering nibbles offered at the Chicago Gourmet's "Chef's Tasting" tables on Sunday.

Cordon Bleu School's Breakfast Tasting

The big tent of the Chicago Cooking and Hospitality Institute's Cordon Bleu program seemed to be always bustling with people looking for the culinary students' reliably tasty French nibbles, even when other tents were a bit on the empty side. Here, a silver tray full of ratatouille-stuffed new potatoes are offered to visitors who braved the early morning hours. (11 AM on a Sunday is early morning, right?)

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Yu Kizawa

Chicago Gourmet Wed Oct 01 2008

BYOB in the Hood(s)

dtchicagogourmet.jpgOh, Alpana, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways... Riesling, cabernet sauvignon, pinot gris, viognier... That's at least four, right? Throw in that musical laugh and adorable stories about hanging with Argentinian wine magnate Ernesto Catena in his maze-shaped vineyard with sommeliers-cum-belly dancers. (Whoa.) Even if you're not an avowed Alpana Singh fan, you have to admit the woman knows her wines, and was sharing her knowledge for the benefit of the city's BYOB diners at Chicago Gourmet this past weekend. Focusing more on the bounty of available ethnic cuisine the city offers rather than individual restaurants, the pairing of six wines with six neighborhood styles was a great introduction to thougtful BYOB shopping. Rather than picking up some two-buck Chuck or "whatever Trader Joe's has with a cute animal label," Alpana suggested springing occasionally for a $20 bottle of wine at the supermarket, especially since the restaurant mark-up of the same wine would put it closer to $70. All the advice and a few more delightful anecdotes below the fold.

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Andie Cavedo / Comments (1)

Chicago Gourmet Tue Sep 30 2008

Closing Time

dtchicagogourmet.jpgIn the same way that one shouldn't order fish on a Monday, showing up for the last couple of hours of Chicago Gourmet meant that I missed out on the bustle and excitement that the other GB writers experienced during their trips to the weekend event--no rubbing elbows with Bayless, no moments with sake masters--and I kind of wanted it that way. Could a high-end culinary event fill out three days' worth of festivities?

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Robyn Nisi

Chicago Gourmet Tue Sep 30 2008

Pairing Fine Cheese With Craft Beer


How many of you have hosted a wine and cheese party? How about a beer and cheese party? If it were up to Greg Hall, the latter would be a lot more common. As the brewmaster for the Goose Island Brewing Company, there is little doubt that Hall knows his beer, but he has also been involved with the American Cheese Society. The Chicago Gourmet seminar Hall hosted offered four Goose Island beers paired with three cheeses and one chocolate:

  • Harvest Ale and Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve: This ESB style beer pairs well with firm cheeses like the Pleasant Ridge Reserve or Jasper Hill Bandaged Wrapped Cheddar.
  • Matilda and Chimay cheese: this Belgian style beer works well with washed rind cheeses like the Chimay or Meadow Creek Farm Grayson.
  • India Pale Ale and Jasper Hill Bayley Hazen Blue: IPAs can be a hard style for food pairings because it has such an assertive flavor. The saltiness of blue cheese balances out the hoppy, bitterness of the IPA to highlight smooth, complimentary flavors.
  • Pere Jacques and Scharffen Berger 60%: The caramel flavors in this Belgian style beer pulls out the sweetness of dark chocolate.

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Gemma Petrie / Comments (2)

Chicago Gourmet Mon Sep 29 2008

Highlights from the Family Village

dtchicagogourmet.jpgNo festival is complete anymore without some kid-friendly programming, and that includes Chicago Gourmet, which had a grassy stretch with two performance areas, a smattering of convenience (albeit organic convenience) foods and some really friendly vendors--all hiding out behind the Pritzker Pavilion. I visited the Whole Foods Market Family Village with my 11-year-old son, Henry, who loves to try new foods and has strong convictions about what he'll eat (the most expensive thing on the menu) and what he won't eat (anything that ever breathed).

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Lori Barrett / Comments (1)

Chicago Gourmet Sun Sep 28 2008

Eating Up Celebrity Sightings

dtchicagogourmet.jpgI think I'm a little more easily star-struck than I'd like to admit, but there's something exciting about seeing some of the culinary world's brightest local stars in the flesh, in natural lighting...handing you a big plate of spicy steak stew. Thanks, Rick! The celebrity status many chefs have attained in recent years seems at odds with a profession where most of the action is behind the scenes (or at least, behind some sort of warming-plate barrier) and has garnered its fair share of skepticism -- not dissimilar from the criticism that plagues any sense of celebrity today, really. Although, in lionizing the artists and craftsmen who not only create beautiful, thoughtful and culturally rich works which we cannot only see or hear or feel, but also touch and taste and smell, perhaps our adoration is not is as misplaced as critics would have us believe.

BaylessI've eaten at Hot Chocolate regularly over the years, and still got geeked out at the idea of meeting Mindy Segal (she wasn't at the Chef Tasting Table, sadly, when I rolled in for some lovely, malty chocolate milk that was rich without leaving me with a sandy-feeling mouth. Ah well). I've had one wonderful meal at Frontera Grill and watched "Mexico One Plate at a Time" many lazy Sunday afternoons, and seeing Rick Bayless in person still made me smile. It's comforting to see these chefs, familiar to many of us only by name or media image, actually dishing out their creations, dealing with the splatter of sauce, and wiping away the sweat of chafing dish warmth and a surprisingly hot sun. And it's encouraging to see the reactions on the faces of real people enjoying food that perhaps we've only experience before in the pages of a cookbook or through a close-up on TV. More local legends and musings after the fold.

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Andie Cavedo

Chicago Gourmet Sun Sep 28 2008

Lessons on Sustainability ... from Las Vegas?

dtchicagogourmet.jpgWhen I think of Las Vegas, words like repulsive excess and unnecessary waste spring to mind. That's why I was pleasantly surprised by Rick Moonen's Chicago Gourmet seminar on selecting fish the sustainable way.

Moonen, considered one of the nation's top seafood chefs, owns RM Seafood at Sin City's Mandalay Place, a 200-seat restaurant designed to look like "a swank cruise ship," according to the Web site. The chatty, energetic chef knows how to put on the ritz, but it's clear from listening to him that his twin passions are protecting endangered seafood species, while helping home cooks get comfortable with preparing fish.

"Everything we cook has an odor, but do you ever hear someone say, 'Eeew, it smells beef-y in here?' No!" he said, alluding to one of the reasons people often cite for not cooking fish at home.

At his lecture at Chicago Gourmet, the chef focused less on cooking and more on educating. Moonen is a regular visitor to Web sites like, which "raises consumer awareness about the importance of buying seafood from sustainable sources." The site regularly updates a list of fish that are the worst and best choices for consumers who want to buy "green."

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Mandy Burrell Booth

Chicago Gourmet Sun Sep 28 2008

Overheard at Chicago Gourmet, Day One

dtchicagogourmet.jpg"I heard they ran out, so I brought my own plate. I'm f*cking prepared." -- Woman in line at Fox & Obel booth

"That girl was here at 11am sharp and was already kind of tipsy. And now she's falling down."
"Oh, I saw her earlier too. She told me how much she prefers New York to Chicago."
"Do you know her?"
"No." -- Exchange at the Foss Marai prosecco booth

"Well, my husband's kind of doughy, and they're a doughy couple, and that's just a lot of dough." -- Woman near the Bin 36 cheese and wine booth

"Tell me this one. Is this your sake?" -- Man at the SakeOne booth, immediately before dunking his entire glass into the spittoon

"I wish I had a purse." -- Man near entrance

"People are always asking me what wine goes best with Indian foods, and I'm like, why do you have to ask me that? What?" -- Alpana Singh

Andie Cavedo

Chicago Gourmet Sat Sep 27 2008

Chicago Gourmet Numbers

dtchicagogourmet.jpgSo... what were the numbers at Chicago Gourmet? The official attendance hasn't been announced, so there's only what I saw today. (Update: At 9:42 PM, just seconds after I posted this entry, there came an email titled "Chicago Gourmet Exceeds Expectations with More than 3,000 Visitors the First Day." According to the Illinois Restaurant Association, which sponsors the event, "the number of visitors to Chicago Gourmet exceeded expectations for the Grand Tastings Main Event. Seminars with world-renowned chefs and Master Sommeliers filled many rooms and the Grand Cru wine tasting sold out." Cool.)

It wasn't necessarily a huge crowd, that's for sure. Between the hefty entry fee, the sluggish economy and the fact that it's the inaugural year, the perfect weather on Saturday didn't seem to be enough to bring out a Taste-of-Chicago-sized crowd to its rarefied cousin. It is not to say, though, that Millennium Park was deserted. There was a big enough crowd that the lawn under the latticework of the Pritzker Pavilion felt lively. And it would probably be a mistake to assume that Daley & Co. are looking for an attendance comparable to that of Taste of Chicago. At any rate, these are two solid numbers that I captured today:

Wine Glasses
A volunteer for the Chicago Gourmet arranged 53 wine glasses for the arriving guests in the entrance area, set up on the east side of the Bean on Saturday.

Chicago Gourmet Tasting Area
38 people lined up for chef's tasting at the Chicago Gourmet on Saturday. As to how many minutes they had to wait for their nibbles, there are conflicting reports. (Not really.)

Yu Kizawa

Chicago Gourmet Sat Sep 27 2008

Sake for Everyday

dtchicagogourmet.jpgWhen Andrew (chief of Gapers Block clan) managed to secure press passes to the Chiago Gourmet for us, I immediately wanted to cover a seminar on sake. Normally, it would be $60 to attend (on top of the already hefty $150 day pass, I believe), which is a bit out of my budget. I was curious to see how sake is presented and received, given the recent surge of interest in sake in the Untied States. On top of that, as a relative newcomer to the world of sake myself, I was eager to try new varieties and listen to a sake expert describe their aromas and flavors. So I jumped to the opportunity.

After picking up the press pass and walking past a glassed-in seminar room with maybe eight people listening to a suit-and-tied presenter from an exotic winery, I sat down by the grand staircase on the first floor of the Cultural Center. I was a few minutes early. When I was checking the setting of my camera when I noticed a middle-aged, Eastern Asian guy sit next to me. I didn't think much of that; I just thought he was a tired visitor taking a break for a moment.

The man turned out to be the chef Takashi Yagihashi of Takashi, the seminar's presenter. As he walked up to the front of the seminar room, I kicked myself for not looking at him closely enough--I could have talked to him about the Chicago Gourmet and about sake without anyone milling around for their turn to speak to him. There were probably about 30 people in the room for the seminar. Some wore press passes, while others were paying guests (with occasional flashes of ritzy jewelry). It was interesting to see the sake seminar much better attended than the preceding seminar on wine--although, to be fair, there are more than fifteen wine seminars to choose from, whereas on sake there is only one.

Sake Cups and Starbucks
Yagihashi's sake cup collection, along with his Starbucks cup, made an eclectic tableau at the Sake for Everyday seminar.

Yagihashi started with a little biography of himself -- growing up in Mito as a grandson of a sake retailer, moving to the U.S., working his way up in prestigious restaurants, and opening his own in Bucktown -- and moved on to the brewing process of sake. Within a few minutes, everybody was intently listening to his charming and informative talk with occasional self-depricating humor (which reminded me of Japan so much!).

For the tasting part, there was generous pouring of one sake from each of the major sake category. A guy from Yagihashi's distributor joined and gave us a lively commentary on each sake. From the "Junmai" category, which uses rice grains polished at least to the 70% of their original size, we tried "Hitorimusume" from Yamanaka Brewery in the chef's hometown (link in Japanese). To my palate, it tasted a little harsh and alcoholic, although, after listening to Yagihashi describe it as "neutral and good with food," I could see it that way, too.

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Yu Kizawa

Chicago Gourmet Sat Sep 27 2008

Chicago Gourmet: Opening Night Gala

dtchicagogourmet.jpgI attended last night's Chicago Gourmet Opening Night Gala, along with many of the city's star chefs, chefs from Chicago's sister cities (who presented signature dishes from each of their countries), VIP guests and a whole lot of media. Mayor Daley was on hand for nearly an hour's worth of photo opps before servers began coming around with small apps and Champagne.

I talked for a bit with Chef Carrie Nahabedian, who marveled at the festival's good luck with the weather and expressed her excitement for the weekend. "With the caliber of restaurants here and the wineries involved, it's a great opportunity ... we're very optimistic."

When asked what she thought of the cost of the event (as Chicagoist's Chuck Sudo pointed out, the $150 per day / $250 for the weekend ticket price is only the beginning), Nahabedian acknowledged that it might keep some people away. "Certainly some people will see the price point and say 'this isn't for me,' but the there are others who will see it as a value." She felt that access to the number of restaurants, chefs and more than 200 wineries weighed favorably compared to the price.

Shortly thereafter, Chef Norm Van Aken -- once head of the kitchen at Lake Forest's Sinclair's and under whom Nahabedian, Charlie Trotter and Suzy Crofton once worked -- came over to say hi. The pair reminisced briefly about that era and talked a little shop before greeting Chef Rich Naglich, president of the ACF Chicago Chefs de Cuisine. The group broke in two as Naglich engaged two reporters and a Host Committe member came up to pull Nahabedian away.

Such was the nature of the evening -- the ebb and flow of an excellent cocktail party where a good portion of the attendees just happen to be expert chefs or reporters. I spotted Billy Dec wander past Bill Kurtis, the night's emcee, while members of the Terlato family talked about wine with attendees near the central bar. If the Illinois Restaurant Association has done its job, that comfortable yet stylish will be the tone for the weekend.

One oddity: Dunkin Donuts had a booth serving hot and cold lattes and giving away free packets of dark roast coffee grounds. Amongst all that luxury, it was unexpected -- although I did appreciate the pick-me-up.

Photos from the Opening Night Gala after the jump.

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Andrew Huff

Chicago Gourmet Fri Sep 26 2008

Drive-Thru @ Chicago Gourmet

dtchicagogourmet.jpgChicago Gourmet, the city's new high-end food and wine festival, kicks off tonight in Millennium Park and runs through Sunday. The Drive-Thru staff will be there, covering the festival from as many angles as we can. Watch for posts featuring that image up there, and follow along with posts in the Chicago Gourmet category!

Andrew Huff

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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...
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