The biggest, most glorious festival of eating and drinking is almost here: Chicago Gourmet! This year’s event is themed “Lights, Camera, Napkin,” focusing on the connections between food, drink and entertainment. Have you got tickets? (As of today, Sept. 25, there are still a few available for Sunday’s Main Event and Sunday’s Grand Cru event, plus the Friday night Hamburger Hop – one of my favorite events!) Get ’em while you still can!
But you can’t just stumble in and wander into the first food line you see. No! You need to be organized! I go almost every year and I’ll be there this Sunday, checking out the wine scene. Here are a few of my recommendations on how to do it right, so you don’t go hungry or hammered!
Five Easy Steps for Crushing it at Chicago Gourmet
- Study the schedule ahead of time. There are live demos with famous chefs moderated by other “famies,” as I like to call them (like Adam Rapoport, editor of Bon Appetit, for instance), book signing opportunities, and seminars. Also – you gotta love the names of the sessions – they are truly masterful puns! Let’s break it down:
- Wine Seminars These are my favorite part (duh). In fact, last year, I came hungry and left hungry because all I did was wine seminars. (What kind of idiot goes to Chicago Groumet and doesn’t EAT? Me, that’s who. I’m not making that mistake again). You should consider doing at least one, because you learn a lot, get to taste some impressive wines — all in seated, air-conditioned comfort. Note: once you’re in, plan on staying … it’s not cool to bounce from these seminars early.
- The Wine Pavilion There’s a strip of tents smack down the center of the lawn packed with hundreds of wines on offer from all over the world. It’s an awesome opportunity to explore wines you’ve never had! (Pro tip: You know what drives other people crazy? The people who linger, and linger at a wine table, making empty conversation, hoping for a re-pour. Don’t be this person! These people are pouring tastes, not full glasses, so keep it moving, so others can enjoy.
- Food Pavilions! Okay, yes, you are going to encounter lines – it’s inevitable. The strategy to enduring those lines is the buddy system – one person stands in line, the other goes to get two tastes of wine, so you can sip and stand. (Also handy to know: the name of the Tasting Pavilion is the sponsor’s name, not the description of what’s being served.)
- Cooking Demos: These happen in two places – the Main Stage and in a tent on the east side of the lawn. There are seats (first come, first served) and food is sometimes – but not always – served. It’s a chance to see some of your favorite chefs and restaurateurs in person and learn from them – they’re fun!
There you have it. Hope you are .5% more on top of the situation than you were before you read this. Happy eating and drinking!
P.S. When you get tired of wine – especially red wine – there is nothing like guzzling a refreshing mini-chalice of Stella Artois beer, and they will be there again, with their mini chalices (you get to keep the glass… I think this year might get me to a set of six!) Head for the west side, Backstage BBQ and Beer Pavilion. You’re welcome. 🙂