Chicago Rocks the Fork at Annual Fest for Foodies
11th Annual Chicago Gourmet tunes into the Midwest’s best food, drinks and culinary concepts
In a city that has firmly crafted its reputation as a national culinary hub, it may be a challenge to pinpoint the don’t-miss event of the year. So, it’s even more impressive that Chicago Gourmet easily soars to the top of the list.
Now in its 11th year, the event draws nearly 14,000 foodies each fall to feed their passion with samples of exquisite flavors, a never-ending flow of wine and spirits, and chef-led cooking demos and seminars, all spread across the city’s magnificent Millennium Park. “Rock the Fork” hit all the right notes in 2018. Check out the highlights below.
Partners Carolina Diaz (TerzoPiano in Chicago’s Art Institute) and Cedric Harden (River Roast) rocked the guac at Chicago Gourmet. Their pumped-up recipe features big chunks of fresh avocado, not pureed, but smashed with the back of a fork to “keep its integrity,” says Diaz. Also in the mix: lime, fresh cherry tomatoes roasted with garlic, thyme and olive oil, and generous helpings of cilantro. The guacamole earned its rock star status with an earthier, fresher flavor and unexpected crispiness.
Legendary Chicago chef Lorena Garcia added another stunning success with the opening of Chica at the Venetian Las Vegas last year. Now the first female Latina chef on the Vegas strip, Garcia shared her delight at Chica’s rising profile with WGN’s Ana Beleval while wowing the crowd with a demo of her award-winning lemon bunuelos, fried dough balls drizzled with white chocolate sauce, a mixed berry compote and her signature lemon zest.
Tag team for the cure
Chefs Graham Elliot and Matthias Merges, partners in Chicago’s Gideon Sweet, a new small plates restaurant, worked their magic on a 12-pound ocean trout, as television personality Catherine De Orio provided the culinary play by play. Elliot also shared his freewheeling philosophy: “At Gideon Sweet, it’s not about saying these are my signature dishes and these are yours and we’ll just make a menu of those things. We scrapped all of that and just go in and cook what we’re feeling. We don’t follow recipes, but look at a gorgeous piece of fish like this one and consider what we want to do: broast it, confit it, grill it, make a simple little tartar with cucumber and dill vinaigrette. It can change daily.” At Chicago Gourmet, Merges opted for curing, a 72-hour process that immerses the fish in a half-sugar, half-salt mixture, accented with lavender, lime and lemon zest. Afterwards, “Wash it off, let it dry overnight in the refrigerator, and you will have a fish with a beautiful waxy deliciousness that you simply can’t stop eating,” he says.
Indian street food
From Mango Pickle’s bhel puri piquant blend of chickpeas, beets, puffed rice and chutney, to dosa, a crepe-like delicacy made from stone-ground fermented batter of rice and lentils, Indian cuisine was winning over adventurous palates at Chicago Gourmet. Ravi Nagubadi served up thousands of dosa, a dish reigning supreme in its homeland, but is a virtual unknown in America. That may be about to change.
Not your mother’s white zin
Provence-style rose is resurging among millennials with a lighter, dryer taste than the white zinfandel of the 1970s, according to Chateau D’esclans’ Sydney Edwards. Point taken by the thousands of 20-something attendees who took the “Rose all Day” signage to heart by quaffing large quantities of the company’s latest, The Palm by Whispering Angel.
Get on board
In addition to offering what they confidently assert is “the best chicken sandwich in the city,” Do-Rite Donuts’ doughnut wall drew long lines of patient cruller lovers waiting to create their perfect pastry.