Chicago Gourmet 2014 - Food Walk

An event that the city will remember and yearn for every year, Chicago Gourmet is what a foodie's dreams are made of!

By: Soumya Jain | Photographs by: Gautam Agarwal

Posted on: October 13, 2014

An event that the city will remember and yearn for every year, Chicago Gourmet is what a foodie’s dreams are made of!
It was a food orgy. These are probably not ‘proper’ words to be used in serious journalism, but nothing else can describe the Chicago Gourmet 2014 better. This was my first experience of Chicago Gourmet, and boy, am I glad I didn’t miss it! 
On reaching the Millennium Park, I see long queues of people waiting to get in. The Chicago sky, which had been cloudy for the past 4-5 days, miraculously opened up to show how bright the sun could be! Quantities of food inside, a perfect weather, chilled beers and wines - I could feel it in my bones that it was going to be a glorious day!
“We are in the gourmet capital of America,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago at the press conference for Chicago Gourmet. The conference, by the way, started with some delicious gourmet doughnuts and a perky champagne from Roederer Estate.
A toast and many thank yous later, we were free to explore the massive event that Chicago Gourmet is, with the city’s superstar chefs coming to ground to serve well-thought of gourmet delights. We started with the first station and made our way around. Soon we were gorging on little delicacies which looked so beautiful and tasted even better!
Sample Chef Constantinos Chaidaropoulos’ goat cheese salad with fall fruits like citrus and figs. We know now that Stetsons Modern Steak & Sushi at Hyatt Regency Chicago is in good hands. Who would have thought that goat cheese could be paired so beautifully with figs? Busy in belting out those tiny glasses with the dish, Chef Chaidaropoulos couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the event. “We have participated before [in Chicago Gourmet] and will continue to do so. We love the crowd it generates and the exposure we see from the event. We are always looking at ways to maximize exposure for the restaurant and this always proves to be successful in doing so for us,” he said.
Moving around, we saw a lot of liquor companies spreading cheer with their drinks. Personally, I was happiest to see Moet et Chandon filling our wine glasses, while my companion was more excited about the Glenmorangie 18 year old on stand and available for tasting. Plethora of high-end and excellent wine companies around, it wasn’t too hard to find a  wine which would pair well with whatever you are eating.
Demo sessions by chefs, tutorial events on how to host a party, a separate area dedicated to global street foods, there was a lot happening at Chicago Gourmet which was impossible to cover in a single day. From MK Restaurant’s baby octopus to Indian cardamoms at Somrus, unique ingredients were played around with very well at Chicago Gourmet. And then, we reached Grand Cru. With some of the best chefs, sommeliers and spirits on offer, this exclusive space had a slightly higher ticket price too!
Armand de Brignac, Signet by Glenmorangie (again!), Laurent Perrier and more, Grand Cru was a delight for appreciators of fine spirits. Mr Pierre Lasserre, Club Manager - Sommelier at The Carlton Club in The Ritz-Carlton Chicago, personally liked the Louis Roederer Champagne station the best. A participant at Chicago Gourmet, he is all praises for the event. “I think it is great to be part of an event that promotes Chicago gastronomies. Appreciation for quality food and wines ultimately leads to better lifestyle choices,” he said.
And then, of course, there were the fine delicacies at Grand Cru. Chef Jamie Bissonnette of Toro and Coppa (located in New York City and Boston respectively) was kind enough to modify his dish on the spot (even between all that hustle-bustle!) and give me a little vegetarian twist. Removing the meat, he served some greens with hummus and a delicious pick-me-up yoghurt dip. And as I was leaving, he called me back to add a veggie pie to it. Talk about chef’s passion!
Chef Andrew Zimmerman of Sepia, one of the classiest restaurants in town, was treating eager mouths (like ours) with a tiny eggplant dumpling in rasam broth (made of red gram pulses and Indian spices). An exotic little bite, he couldn’t have delivered it faster if he tried, because this treat was a hit! “Each year, I’m impressed with the number of guests who attend Chicago Gourmet. It’s such a massive undertaking, but the organizers do a great job putting it together and making sure everyone is happy. We always receive great feedback. I think guests really enjoyed our dish this year,” he said. Personally, however, he indulged in Bar Toma’s Chef Tony Mantuano’s dish at the Grand Cru.
And just as we were about to leave, we spotted the Wisconsin cheese station. Serving a variety of aged cheeses, they were the perfect accompaniment to the Grand Cru drinks. Bliss!
All involved - the chefs, the liquor companies, the guests - reported a high satisfaction quotient from the event. Though seeing large crowds, the event organizers pulled it off with perfect élan! “It is such a good event that I wouldn’t change a thing. The only comment I had was from last year - there wasn’t enough space to prep back from the serving table. However, this year we had plenty space to work in. The students from Kendall College were a tremendous help and the extra equipment for storage in the back was essential to a successful tasting. Overall better than last year- they are constantly improving on an already great event!” said Chef Chaidaropoulos.
Looking forward to visit Chicago Gourmet next year with the 2015 dates already announced, I agree with Mr Lasserre when he says, “You can count on it, it is always a lot of fun.”

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