Chicago Gourmet is one of my favorite food and wine events of the year and it is almost HERE! Pre-events start today, Sept. 26, and the main event is this Saturday and Sunday at Millennium Park. It’s always glorious being in the majestic environs of Millennium Park surrounded by so much food, wine and talent! I’ve now got it down to a science: I know how to avoid lines, how not to overeat and feel gross and how to maximize every precious dollar of the ticket price. (Because let’s face it – it is not cheap!)
- Get There When it Opens – But Not Too Early – unless you love standing in line. People get there crazy-early, because, I don’t know why – they’re super-excited probably – but guess what? You’re setting yourself up for a world of hurt, cuz you’re already going to be on your feet for hours, so save yourself! Get there at high noon, when it opens and you’ll breeze right in. The line moves really fast once the clock strikes 12.
- Download the Free App from the Apple Store. It includes the complete schedule and map and you can go through it and press “add to schedule” so you don’t miss tastings, demos, book signings or other things.
- Take a Detour Instead of jumping straight into the Food Pavilion lines on the grassy area, why not detour over to the BBQ Pavilion? Because you know what’s in that BBQ Pavilion? Stella Artois. Pouring delicious beer in their cute mini-chalices, which you can take home with you. Down the hatch! (I always head there after wine seminars, because after you’ve had a lot of wine in your mouth, you want something cold, crisp and bitter like a beer – pro tip.)Or head straight to a cooking demo like the 12:15 Saturday Chorizo Cha-Cha with Rick Bayless and Diana Davila. Trust me, you can’t eat everything at Chicago Gourmet, and you want to make your time count, so don’t spend half of it in lines, okay?
- Ride the Chef Cycles The chefs in the Tasting Pavilions switch out once each afternoon, so you have two sets of chefs offering tastings. Some Pavilions open at 12, others at 12:30. And at 2:30 or 3, chefs in all Pavilions cycle out and you get a fresh batch of chefs and dishes to taste going until 5:30 or 6 p.m.
- Meet Your Heroes First, the whole shebang is sponsored by Bon Appetit, so you know Adam Rapoport is going to be there and he’s a fun presenter. But check out this list of mad talent. You’ve got Chicago chefs, restaurateurs, somms, brewers and mixologists and you’ve got Food Network stars and you’ve got “Top Chef” stars, including our hometown winner Chef Joe Flamm and you’ve got media personalities. So hit them up for a hello, a fan chat or a photo.
- Control Yourself, for FS (yes, that is my acronym for “fuck’s sake”). I did it my first time – probably my second time, too: I over-ate. And I felt awful – like, sick-awful. So you know what I do now? Take one bite and chuck it. Unless it is really, really delicious – and then I take two bites and chuck it. Because you want to taste as much as you can without overdoing it.
- Do Not Get Sloppy Drunk. You know who hates the people who over-do it at the Wine Pavilion? Everyone. Do not be that person who is reeling through the grass in high heels or hiking boots sloshing your plastic cup of wine all over people. Make sure you’ve got some food in your belly and drink like a pro (which means don’t get wasted.) Besides, how’s that hangover going to feel at, like, 7 p.m. on a Saturday night? Not great, I’ll tell you that much!
Alrighty, food and wine friends – to see you there!