Saturday, September 27, 2014. 11:48am.
Standing at the intersection of Madison and Michigan, I look up and see Millennium Park. I have visited the Chicago icon countless times before. Playing tourist in my own city. Taking selfies in Cloud Gate, more commonly known as The Bean. Seeing concerts at Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
This day was different though; it was my first time attending Bon Appétit's Chicago Gourmet. I had heard stories of what the event was like, yet I refused to go into the experience with expectations. I wanted to be able to take in all that was around me - the food, the drinks, the people, the experience. I did not want my mind to be clouded with preconceived notions of what I should get out of the day.
The food this weekend is without a doubt every foodie's dream - their adult version of Disneyland. Samples galore, sharing the experience with like-minded individuals, brushing elbows with top chefs in the Chicago food scene. Scattered throughout the great lawn were tasting pavilions and exhibitors. With eleven pavilions in total, there were options for every taste imaginable - desserts, BBQ, seafood, and street food.
The first piece advice that I would give to any future-goer is this: go into the day with a flexible plan. Know certain must-hits, but be willing to adapt as the day goes on. My suggestion? When you first enter Chicago Gourmet, go straight to the Supreme Lobster & Seafood Chef Tasting Pavilion. This is the best samples you will receive while in the event. And there will be a line. If you are with friends, take turns filling up your complimentary wine glass with samples or stop by the Maple Leaf Farms tent for duck bacon (really, my mouth is already salivating as I remember the deliciousness that came forth).
The options are endless - from gourmet restaurants to Target and Chipotle. Chicago Gourmet covers the entire spectrum of the food scene. Take advantage of the opportunity in front of you. So, you are hungry and standing in line to get food from Mercadito, The Bergoff Restaurant, The Gage, III Forks, or Three Dots and a Dash? Don't just walk through the line, pick up the food and leave. Engage the chefs. While there may be a line of hungry foodies behind you, be sure to take the time and know what the chefs have prepared for you. Make a conscious effort to be engaged and willing to learn from the masters before you.
Really, there are more posts than you can imagine that could be written about the food at Chicago Gourmet. You will find your favorites. You may even find a few that you are not particularly fond of. But at the end of the day, you've had the chance to take a culinary walk through Chicago. Smile. And loosen up your belt a notch or two.
Tomorrow SMAK will continue its coverage of Chicago Gourmet with a look at one of the baking demos. There will even be a recipe you can try at home!