Chicago Gourmet 2014

The seventh annual Chicago Gourmet festival, aka the biggest and most spectacular culinary event of the year, took place in Millennium Park the last weekend of September. As you may recall, last year was my first time attending the festival - the moment Chicago Gourmet 2013 came to a close, I was already eagerly anticipating the next round. After a single day of rubbing elbows with celebrity chefs, stuffing myself with gourmet food, and drinking myself into a bit of a stupor (really, it was impossible not to!), Chicago Gourmet quickly took on the number one foodie festival place in my heart.

As with last year, a little over twelve thousand attendees swarmed the park over a course of three days in over to sample food, wine, and spirits from some of the country's best chefs, breweries, vitners, and spirit producers. After our foray into culinary heaven last year, Diana and I learned that one day just wasn't enough time to get through everything we wanted to, so we made the bold choice to go for a full two days. While the weekend was utterly exhausting, it was also exhilarating and completely fabulous! Not only did we have enough time to hit up all of the food and drink vendors, we also had the chance to attend several chef demonstrations and book signings without feeling like we had to rush through anything. We even decided to make a full girls weekend of it by staying at a nearby hotel... of course that meant we didn't have to worry about transportation and could drink to our little hearts' content. ;-)

Here's a bit of what we did/ate/drank during our two days of fabulous foodie fun...

 We kicked off the first day with The Mexican Takeover (a Top Chef quickfire-esque demo) with Chef Rick Bayless and Chef Carlos Gaytan
Seafood Mousse Tamal with saffron aïoli by Chef Carlos Gaytan

Hanging with one of my favorite Chicago chefs, Carlos Gaytan
Not only can the man cook, but he's also totally adorable and incredible nice - it was such a pleasure to finally meet him! 
 Rockit Burger Sliders with Brie from Rockit Bar & Grill

Goodies from one of the Chef Tasting Pavilions

While waiting in line at the second Chef Pavilion, we had time to take in the gorgeous afternoon...

 and some time to nosh on some adorable Chocolate Coconut Donuts from Lou Mitchell's Express. As I mentioned on Instagram: Donuts = awesomeness. Mini donuts on a stick = extreme awesomeness!! 

Mini Short Rib Italian Beef from Harry Caray's: provolone, giardiniera, au jus, parmigiano, and garlic bread. I've never been a big fan of Italian beef (yes, I'm a bad Chicagoan), but I finished every single bite of this delicious sandwich. Holy short rib happiness!!

Goat Cheese Doughnut with Red Wine Glaze from Glazed and Infused

 In case you weren't completely aware, here's proof that yes, I am a giant dork. ;-)

Chicago's Mix Bismark from Stan's Donuts: filled with cheese popcorn pastry cream, topped with caramel, and sprinkled in cheese & caramel popcorn

  After a few hours of noshing, we took another time-out for Carla's Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes from Around the World with Carla Hall

We also stuck around for Chicago's Original Italians with Jeff Mauro (aka "Sandwich King") and Chef Tony Priolo (with moderator Lin Brehmer of 93XRT)

 Vosges Truffles & Russell's Reserve Old Fashioneds

 Brisket Topped Brisket from Q BBQ

Van Gogh Espresso cocktail (always a favorite!)

Moscow Mule and Southside Crafthouse cocktails (the Southside is officially one of my new favorite drinks!)

 From the BBQ Pavilion: pork belly sandwich, pulled pork sandwich, bacon-wrapped blue cheese pork ball, and chilled smoked shrimp with BBQ remoulade

We ended day one with a gorgeous sunset/reflection from our hotel room

The second day of the festival was just as gorgeous as the first!

Goodies from the Lobster & Seafood Pavilion, including the delicious shrimp taco with jalapeno slaw

Peach Champagne Slushies from Chandon - my favorite drink of the entire festival (we may have stopped by their table a few times... or four)

 Dessert Pavilion: Salted Caramel Macaron from Vanille, Mexican Chocolate Biscotti from Nonna Santi's, Sour Cherry Clafouti from Bittersweet, and the Mint Julep Sundae (Backyard Mint ice cream, Koval bourbon salty caramel sauce, hand-whipped cream, and fresh mint) from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams (my favorite dessert of the weekend!)

 Mango Cocktails from Belvedere Vodka

Steak Sliders and Caprese Salad

 Olive Oil Cake

Tastings from the Green Zebra, The Radler, Yum Cha Dim Sum Parlor

 Creamed Corn 
We ended our time at Chicago Gourmet with a few of these beauties from Absolut (watch for an upcoming Thirsty Thursday recipe!)


Fall Fun Extravaganza!

Last weekend was absolutely gorgeous (and most likely our last perfect fall weekend of the year), so Diana and I decided it was finally time for our fall fun extravaganza. Every year, we designate at least one day to pack in as pumpkin/apple/fall awesomeness as possible.

While we vary our activities each year, we always make time for a visit to Tom's Farm Market in Huntley, IL. Compared to some of the other mega markets/pumpkin patches in the area, it's relatively small, which is most definitely part of its charm. They go all out with fun pumpkin decorations and the corn maze (it was zombie-shaped this year); they also have a small petting zoo with some very friendly goats and sheep, along with the cutest little cafe that serves some dang good cider and donuts. The best part that because it is a smaller family-owned market, there are always all sorts of personal touches (including various depictions of Tom's family as scarecrows/pumpkinheads) and it's never too crazy packed.

 I started out with a lovely breakfast of pumpkin pancakes with pecan crumbles and maple-spice butter from one of my favorite neighborhood brunch spots, Uncommon Ground. Sooooo much pumpkiny deliciousness!  

Cuban Sandwich with pulled pork & ham, baby swiss cheese, pickles, dijon mustard & mojo dipping sauce on a telera roll; Smashing Pumpkin latte (with a scoop of Bobtail pumpkin ice cream); pumpkin pancakes and chicken sausage

 Tom's Farm Market

The most adorable little pumpkin!

 Tom's parents, immortalized in the pumpkin outhouse ;-)

 Getting sassy with the pumpkin Cat in the Hat

 The rabbit area has a fantastic mini replica of Tom's barn

 This cute little goat wanted nothing to do with me or my camera until I offered him some snacks

As soon as he was finished noshing, he went right back to snubbing me - he definitely drives a hard bargain ;-)

After we finished in the petting zoo, we headed over to the zombie corn maze - of course, we were far too cool to take a map, so we ended up circling though one of his legs at least three times.

 Corn maze shadow selfies

 Once we finally escaped from the corn maze, we made our way down the wooded path o' pumpkin doom (ooooh!)

 The sky was so incredibly blue and clear - we couldn't have asked for a more perfect fall day!

We ended our visit with some delicious apple cider and pumpkin spice doughnuts

Happy Halloween to all of our awesome readers!