Note to self: next year just block off the whole weekend for Chicago Gourmet, 'cause one day is definitely not enough!
Jim Goodrich and I started the day at the pre-opening press conference. Chefs, Mayor Emanuel, the Illinois Restaurant Association and Bon Appetit's Adam Rapoport welcomed the event with excitement and a champagne toast. The press conference was on the stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilioin, and since that's where the cooking demonstrations were being held we stuck around for the first one.
Chef Rick Bayless is no stranger to the limelight, and he entertained the crowd with humor as he showed us how to make guacomole. Along the way he gave tips on finding the best avocados, like shopping the Mexican markets and look for ones with the nub of the stem still attached. He also made it quite clear that dairy has no place in the traditional dish. "If you're of the dairy mindset," said the chef "there's a 12-step program for you."
After that we tried samples from Fogo de Chao, Gibsons, Untitled, Rockit Bar & Grill (love Chef Amanda!), and Restaurant R'evolution. The latter is actually in New Orleans, but it's Chef Rick Tramonto's latest endeavor and he is always welcome in Chicago!
The lines were long at the sold out event, but the planners conveniently set up the wine and spirits in the center. We watched more than one person grab drinks for friends and return to the lines.
At 2pm the Grand Cru opened, and for us that was pretty well all she wrote. Located on the roof of the Harris Theater, the tent was filled with wines normally reserved for those with really deep pockets and really large cellars. Veuve's La Grande Dame, Krug, Dom Perignon, Nickel & Nickel and Stag's Leap to name a few were poured in our rimless glasses. We tasted a $500 bottle of 25 year Laphroig (and actually preferred the $200 18 year) and a new beer/wine blend from Blue Moon. We ran into the mixologist of mixologists Adam Seger and marveled at Chef Greg Biggers' of Cafe des Architectes wildly creative macaroons. "Who makes macaroons with foie gras?" I exclaimed, and then pointed to the grinning chef. "THIS guy!"
After Grand Cru we stopped at a few more tents, including Stella Artois', before the event closed. I would have loved to return on Sunday to try more of the amazing cuisine, but I was hosting my own Chef's Table event.
Next year when those tickets become available, whether you indulge in the Grand Cru or not, get the weekend pass. With the cooking demonstrations and rotating chefs at the various tasting pavilions there's no way you can do it all in one day. Also be sure to get their app. It's free and includes the schedules and various Tasting Tours, like Asian, French, Italian, Seafood, and even vegetarian.
Congratulations, Chicago Gourmet, on once again showing why we're one of the world's preeminent cities for fine food and drink.