If you want to challenge, delight, and expand your palate all in one setting, look no further than Chicago Gourmet, the Windy City’s annual celebration of food and wine. Earlier this week, I gave an overview of the 5th Anniversary of Chicago Gourmet, including a glimpse of the food, wine, and beautiful setting. Now, let’s take a deeper look into the very items that would easily classify this gathering as one of the best foodie events in the country.
As someone who has attended the high profile Chicago Gourmet more than once, I can tell you that the portion sizes are slight – more like tapas or appetizers. For some who are watching their portion sizes, this approach to serving food is welcome. However, for others who are use to gigantic portions spilling over onto their neighbor’s plate…well, they may be a little disappointed. But quite honestly, when the food is so flavorful, a little taste goes a long, long way.
Let’s take the pulled pork for example….I don’t normally eat at Gibson’s (too much red meat for this health-consious girl); however, I absolutely devoured the slider-sized pulled pork sandwich and know several others that did (yes, even the Mayor!). Not only was my previously hollow stomach satisfied, but once I had a taste of the savory dish, I was left thinking about the meat for the rest of the day. Hmmm, maybe that’s why I was drawn to the grilled sausage at Fogo de Chao.
And what would all of this meat be without a little cheese? Ok, more like a LOT of cheese. Chicago Gourmet did a great job at strategically placing large cheese, meat, and bread boards throughout the wine pavilions and tents. This enabled the wine drinkers to taste away, but still be able to nibble periodically, without breaking stride.
Tender meat and tangy cheese are obvious crowd-pleasers. Yet, for me, one of my favorite dishes the whole day, was a small, unassuming cup of butternut squash soup, compliments of the Palmer House Hilton. It was a perfect savory sip to showcase in the Fall, especially later in the day when the clouds rolled in and chilly winds swept over the city.
Also a winner were the spicy Boursin cheese stuffed peppadews (sweet and spicy pickled peppers from South Africa). They nearly made my eyes water – but the combination of smooth, creamy cheese and spice was outstanding.
For those of you who desire something a little sweeter (aka dessert), there were a few memorable discoveries, including Vosges cone-shaped chocolates – really anything from Vosges is worth mentioning; the tiny but beautiful raspberry tarts; and the absolutely delicious brownie-marshmallow skewer that will easily tempt you to say, “may I have another? Not for me of course, but for my friend who seems to have gotten lost on his way back from the Stella Artois tent.”
As I was leaving Chicago Gourmet and walking toward the Bean, I realized that, despite the snack-size portions, the variety and quality of food left me surprisingly full. For a fleeting moment, I contemplated how much weight I had gained during the previous 6-hour food and wine love fest. But then I thought, hey….life is way too short to not enjoy decadent food, lovely wine, and a second brownie-marshmallow skewer.