Lights, Camera, Action! 

The saying alone invokes visions of cameras, Broadway lights and movie stars.

For me, that saying will now include food and chefs after celebrating a show stopping weekend (September 28-29, 2019) in Chicago’s Millennium Park during Bon Appetit’s presentation of the 12thannual Chicago Gourmet…Lights, Camera, Napkin!!!!

Every year Chicago Gourmet sets the stage for one of the most entertaining weeks of the year.  I say week because this year “Encore” events started on Tuesday with Chef Rick Bayless hosting a party before a performance of Hamilton. (I missed my shot and didn’t go to the city for this…a little Hamilton humor.)  

Some of the other events included an Italian Feast on the Chicago River, Jef (Mauro’s) Comedy Jam and new this year a Chili Cook Off! (Future note to readers: You don’t have to go to the big Chicago Gourmet weekend event to go to the encore events. Something to keep in mind for next year’s event taking place September 25-27, 2020.)

As it happens in the Midwest, the weather could have dampened the spirits of the guests but the turnout was great. (And a big thank you to all the organizers, volunteers and chefs for making it an amazing event.)  It proved the old adage that life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass but it is learning to eat in the rain.  

With that said, Part 1 of my Chicago Gourmet coverage is all about the food. Here are some of the amazing bites I was able to enjoy this weekend at Chicago Gourmet. (There were over 200 options for drinks and food…sadly I could never make it all of them so this is just a sampling of my samples!)

312 Chicago Crudo Pesce: Bay Scallops, shrimp, fresno pepper, green onion, cilantro
Chef Henry Cerdes of Irazu made 3 types of empanadas
(chicken/mushroom, beef/potato and jalapeño/cheese)
Chef Mario Garcia’s Burger (70 %Beef- 30% mushroom) blend was outstanding
with the fried avocado, arugula, tomato and herb mayo.
If I had to pick a favorite pavilion for the weekend, I think US Foods would have been right at the top of the list. Great job to all the chefs . (Photo Credit: Jim Losby)
Pops for Champagne Coconut and Spanish Chorizo Arancini with a poblano cream sauce
Patrick Sheerin’s Club 77 Beef Carpaccio with Giardiniera Aioli
Wanna taste a perfect meatball? Ask Chef Todd Stein from The Bristol to hook you up!
Smoked Salmon Mousse from Marchesa
Margeaux Brasserie made an elegant escargot in puff pastry (This is how you learn to love new foods….my first escargot will not be my last!)
Chef Tony Priolo of Piccolo Sogno/Nonnina/Maillard Tavern warmed my heart and belly with a silky squash soup drizzled with rich balsamic vinegar. (I was really cold so I took my cup of soup and immediately drank it!)
This was one of the most refreshing bites of the weekend a spicy octopus/shrimp salad with either cantaloupe or honeydew melon soup. Thanks Chef Cameron Grant of Osteria Langhe!
Revamping the menu at Free Rein, Chef Kristine Subido exemplifies the fusion of cultures as she taps into her Filipino roots to create dishes like this smoked pork belly and eggplant.
I wish my picture did justice to Stephen Gillanders (S.K.Y.) Awesome Korean shrimp lettuce wrap. Every detail from the crispy rice on top to the sprinkle of spices (the same ones used to make kimchi) made this one of my top dishes.
Classic Gyro from Jimmy Bannos Jr. and The Purple Pig/Piggie Smalls Mediterranean
I had food from Hampton Social on both days…this crispy pork belly, shishito pepper, with grilled peaches and a crawfish corn relish was a bite that hit every tastebud.
Farmhouse Chicago Trout Tartare with roasted corn, red onion, cucumber, lime, poblano and jalapeño peppers
There was enough chill in the air to make me appreciate the nuances of Maine lobster in a warm saffron broth and fish roe from Hugo’s Frog Bar and Fish House.
naoki Shrimp Tempura Poke (I would eat this every day if I could.)
The Burger Federation Spicy Pulled Pork Banh Mi
Diana Davila of Mi Tocaya Antojería….I apologize for not having a great description…I literally wrote in my notes “OMG.OMG. I met Diana Davila and I get to eat her food.” And then I had a great moment of just eating for enjoyment and not thinking of every aspect. My Fangirl moment will shared in Part 3 of my coverage later this week.
Paul Virant’s play on a Japanese cabbage pancake with salmon roe. (I’m a superfine of his so I can’t wait to try his new place, Gaijin)
Gemini in Lincoln Park served a great braised beef cheek with parsnip puree
Flora Fauna will be seeing me soon for more of their Braised Jackfruit Dandan.
ROOH Lamb rib with pickled onions and homemade yogurt
Gaylord Fine Indian Cuisine made a vibrant Chicken Tikka Makhani
There is always a tent dedicated to vegetarian options. Lao She Chuan, Koi Fine Asian Cuisine and my pals at Imperial Lamian made sure that no one missed the meat!
There is a lot of technical finesse to making a potato and brown butter sabayon but to make it at an outdoor event and serve it in pristine little eggshells…BRAVO Henry Hill.
Saint Lou’s Assembly/Moneygun made an amazing pork shoulder with HOMEMADE Spam!!!
A Tale of Two Chefs Short Rib sandwich was anything but short on flavor. POW!

In total, I think we tasted about 55 plates in two days. Thank you to Fever Tree Ginger Ale for the extra love I need to get through the day. Part 2 will be all about the “Star Chefs”, the very entertaining cooking demos and some great new books in my collection.

This is us.