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Chicagoist's Taste of Chicago Picks

By Staff in Food on Jun 25, 2010 4:00PM

Photo by yuan2003
It's that time of year again where Grant Park is blocked off, transforming it into the world's largest unwieldy potluck. For the next ten days, hundreds of thousands of people will flock to Taste of Chicago for everything from Abbey Pub's fish and chips to Vermillion's mango-cumin fries.

Looking at the list of restaurants and what they're serving, which I wrote was "underwhelming" a couple months back, it appears that they're now trying to strike a balance between the corn cobs on sticks and giant turkey legs and some actual variety to the food, all from restaurants with a presence within the city limits, as deemed by the Mayor's Office of Special Events.

For every person that doesn't wish to brave the crowds, there are ten who will. As always, the Chicagoist Food and Drink staff comes through with recommendations; Megan already weighed in last week with her suggestions for eating healthy at Taste. Following are the recommendations from LStolps, Anthony, Carrie and myself. Download that Taste of Chicago iPhone app and tear into it. — CS

Laura Stolpman: Well, I'm indulging while at Taste so I'll start with some Empanadas from Las Tablas Colombian Steakhouse (Booth #48). Steak with plantain, chicken with plantain and chorizo with yuca. When I'm ready for a snack, I'd visit Vermillion for Mango-Cumin fries with tamarind chutney (Booth #6) or Carbón for Elote (Booth #18). For dessert, head to Franco's Ristorante (Booth #43) for Stracciatella Gelato (vanilla gelato with chocolate shavings). I had it at least once a day while in Italy and can't wait to have it again!

Anthony Todd: This year, I'm going to be munching on some of the more off-beat selections at Taste. Rather then gorging myself at the stands representing Chicago's popular restaurants (which don't serve anything more interesting than pizza and hot dogs), I'm heading for Polish, African and Indian options that showcase the real variety of Chicago's food scene. I can't wait to try the sautéed goat with jolloff rice, and red beans and rice with jerk chicken from Vee Vee's African Restaurant (Booth #22); Bissap Sorbet (Frozen Hibiscus leaf tea with whipped cream) from Iyanze (Booth #2); and
Vermillion's grilled shredded tandoori turkey and Churros with spiced chocolate dip. Also, don't forget about the book signings. While I may lose all credibility for saying this, I secretly love Giada de Laurentiis and her glossy food and orgasmic eating style. She's signing copies of her book at the Gallo Wine Pavillion on Thursday, July 1.

Carrie Becker: Isn't life so much better when the sun is shining? Anyway, here are my Taste of Chicago eats. Star of Siam's Chicken and Vegetable Potstickers are little pillows of perfectly cooked potstickers (Booth #28). BJ's Market and Bakery's BBQ turkey leg is not reserved only for big burly men and tourists willing to try any Chicago novelty. It's juicy, nicely sauced and will fill your belly while your healthy friend sadly nibbles on her slice of watermelon that is not quite ripe to be summer delicious yet (Booth #27). Finally, ice cream is the only dessert I truly crave so its astonishing that I have not had the chance to enjoy Original Rainbow Cone (Booth #38).

Chuck: The cooking demonstrations at Taste often are marginalized compared to the turkey legs and corn cobs, but there are always some standout demonstrations for you to hone your kitchen skills. Example: today's lineup is loaded, with jimmy Bannos, Sr. and Jimmy Bannos Jr. kicking things off at noon, followed by Mario Batali at 1 p.m. and Cleetus Friedman of City Provisions at 4 p.m. Today's demonstrations conclude with a lesson on how to curb childhood obesity Gloria Hafer of After School Matters.

Other notable chef demonstrations happening at Taste include Epic's Steven Wambach (1 p.m., June 29); Big Star's Justin Large and Kith & Kin's Andrew Borchu (1 p.m. and 2 p.m., respectively, June 30); Big Jones' Paul Fehribach (Noon, July 2); and Michael Fiorello of Mercat a la Planxa (4 p.m., July 3). the Dominick's Cooking Corner is located at the main taste entrance at Michigan Ave. and Congress Drive.