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Photos: Our Takeaways From Chicago Gourmet 2017

By Chicagoist_Guest in Food on Sep 26, 2017 10:36PM

By Leigh Kunkel

Once an event has been around for a decade, you have to accept that it’s more than a passing trend. So it is with Chicago Gourmet and the cult of the local foodie. The annual gathering, which is dedicated to “all things culinary,” drew thousands of people to celebrate its tenth anniversary over the course of the past week, culminating with a two-day, all-you-can-eat-and-drink extravaganza in Grant Park. The crowds braved the 90-degree weather to try dishes and see demonstrations by some of the city’s best chefs. After eating and drinking our way through a truly staggering number of things, here are a few of our takeaways from the event.

Global warming is real.
Seriously, it’s practically October, and the sun was beating down so hard that you would have thought it was mid-July. The line for tents that were serving warm-weather staples like Aperol spritzes, frosé, and prosecco stretched across the lawns, while those peddling scotch and Napa cabs stood mostly empty. A crowd favorite was the rainbow Jell-O shots from the Four Corners Tavern Group tent, which left everyone slightly tipsy and very nostalgic.

Japan Airlines was the weekend’s MVP
At a festival dedicated to decadent gourmet food, we were surprised to see people crowding around the Japan Airlines tent, until we saw what they were giving away: fans. As the temperatures soared and shade became hard to find, those fans were a lifesaver. Well played, JAL.

Celebrity chefs are definitely still a “thing.”
At the opening ceremony, we were surrounded by 30-something women craning their necks to catch a glimpse of Australian chef Curtis Stone. “You’ll know him when you see him. He’s just, like, ugh, soooo handsome,” one of them explained to her friend. Rick Bayless is a perennial favorite, but it was ABC’s the Chew’s Carla Hall (formerly of Top Chef fame) who seemed to be the big winner this year, with enthusiastic fans crowding her book signing, as well as her cooking demo with Pork & Mindy’s Jeff Mauro. And props to Chicago Gourmet for bringing a diverse group of chefs to the event; it was nice to see a wide variety of backgrounds and cuisines represented.

Vegetables are finally getting their due
A couple of years ago, we lamented the fact [] that there were almost no vegetarian options available. This year, there was a dedicated “Go Veg Or Go Home” tent, with offerings like CJ Jacobson of Ema’s smoked cucumber salad, and Ali Dewjee of Bombay Wraps’ samosas and mango lassis. (Which might have gotten combined with the sample from the RumChata tent. Possibly. Maybe.) Several other tents also got in on the meat-free game, like Rhyme or Reason’s potato gnocchi mac and cheese, which ordinarily we could eat a whole bowl of, but considering the weather, the sample cup size was just right. And Gaylord’s simla aloo with black pepper-cilantro naan had the perfect amount of spice to cut through the starchy potatoes and bread.

That said, meat is still king.
From whole-roasted pigs to an entire tent (with a line stretching across the park) dedicated to lobster and seafood, meat is in no danger of being dethroned. Country Financial’s BBQ, Beer and Bourbon tent was a highlight for many attendees, featuring chefs from Chicago classics like the Berghoff and Rosebud Steakhouse, to more modern takes like Saint Lou’s Assembly and Vol. 39.

And a couple stray thoughts to close out…
Stan’s Chicago Bismarck doughnut, which features a neon-orange cheese and cream filling, topped with caramel and Garrett’s popcorn, is much more delicious than it has any right to be.
The name “Champagne Fountain” is misleading when it’s really just a giant stuffed champagne bottle that blows bubbles.

See you next year, Chicago Gourmet!