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!)
Steak Sliders and Caprese Salad
Olive Oil Cake
Tastings from the Green Zebra, The Radler, Yum Cha Dim Sum Parlor
We ended our time at Chicago Gourmet with a few of these beauties from Absolut.