Taste of Chicago 2011

Yesterday, me and Chris experienced Chicago’s epic foodfest known as “The Taste of Chicago.” It was our first year trekking down to Grant Park in Chicago’s Loop to spend a couple of hours eating selected fair from a dazzling variety of local restaurants.

The Taste did not disappoint.

We hit it early and got there right before the gates opened, which is definitely the way to experience The Taste. We also bought our tickets in advance so as soon as the festival got underway we were able to immediately start stuffing our faces.

The first taste portion we tried out was a potato pierogi. Very nice.

Our second stop was the Loving Hut booth. Loving Hut was the only all vegan booth at this year’s Taste. Having been a full fledged vegan in another life, I appreciated the effort.

The vegan fair at Loving Hut was phenomenal. On the left is a BBQ drumstick made of seitan and sweet and sour nuggets that were soft and flavorful.

The sweet and sour nuggets were my fav. This was seriously one of the best things I had at the Taste.

A view of the General area. Grant Park in the Loop.

Next up, we made a stop at Connie’s pizza to try their gluten free pizza. The cheese was perfectly gooey and the crust was crisp. I’m guessing they used a combination of corn and rice flour for the crust. I didn’t miss the wheat.

Chris then wanted to try a Chicago dog, so we stopped at the Vienna Beef booth.

I didn’t personally try this one, but Chris gave it a thumbs up.

Grilled chicken tacos with salsa verde from Càrbon. My second favorite dish. The salsa was spicy, the chicken was moist.

Of course, I had to try the fire roasted corn on the cob. Always a treat.

The day started out pretty hot and sunny so I was looking for a chilled treat after a few hot dishes. This bissop sorbet from the West African restaurant Lyanze was just the ticket. Bissop is another word for hibiscus, it’s a light sorbet sweetened with honey and topped with whipped cream. One of the more interesting options at the Festival.

Chris got adventurous and tried the African spiced rice and goat. He said it was delish.

Bobak’s sausage was a natural progression for Chris.

We ended with a Rainbow cone, which I had never even heard of before the festival, but apparently it’s a Chicago tradition.

Quite a delicious tradition.

There were tents for beer and mixed drinks through the festival, but we didn’t want to fill up on beer. We wanted to save space for the food. So, we waited and were rewarded by our patience with the wine tent.

If you’re considering visiting the Taste of Chicago, I highly recommend ending your visit at the wine tent.

We tried the muscato and sweet red from Gallo. Not terribly fancy wines, but refreshing. They made for a good digestiv on our way out of the park.

Overall, we had a great time. The Taste of Chicago runs through July 3. If you live in the area and are thinking about going, my suggestions are to get there at opening time and buy your tickets at Dominick’s rather than wait in line at the festival. Some people might think I’m crazy, but I’d also suggest bringing your own fork, to cut down on waste. I wish we had thought of that ahead of time. We sampled quite a few other dishes that I didn’t bother to photograph, including some amazing churros from this place:

I do regret not making room for fudge. I mean, if you’re going to a food festival, you really ought to eat fudge. There was also quite a few Cajun and BBQ booths that we just didn’t have room for. At around noon, the place became stiflingly crowded and the lines started getting out of control. But we were lucky, we got in, we got full, we got out.

Chicago, you rock.


Picture Perfect Picnic

It started with cherries.
I wait all year for them. I lurk around the produce stands waiting for that inevitable splash of red, because in my neck of the woods, they only come around for a few months in the early summer and then like a lovely apparition, they are gone. It was while walking through the park on my way home from the grocery store, that I realized the day was calling for a picnic. Finally, all of the trees were in full bloom, the sun was in full shine, the weather was cool and perfect.

But these cherries, these perfectly ripe, sweet little jewels, they needed to be devoured outside, in the open. These cherries were calling for a day just like that particular day when conditions were perfect for sitting on the damp grass and falling asleep under a spreading oak.

I’m lucky to live right next door to a little slice of country in the urban jungle. Our neighborhood park is mostly golf course, and the local little league team uses up most of the field for weekend tournaments, but we do have some lovely trees and a few secluded spots tucked behind fences. What better for an impromptu picnic than sandwiches and ripe cherries? I got the victuals together while Chris finished his work for the day, egg salad sandwiches on rye, pickles, marinated mushrooms and of course, the cherries. I poured some French rosé I had on hand into a plastic jug and Chris grabbed a novella he’d been wanting to read and we trudged off for an afternoon of al fresco lunching.

And ahhhhhh, what a fantastic time it was. We have not been avid picnickers, but there was something about the breeze, the sun and the distant squirrels bounding about that made everything taste like a memory or a dream. I remembered cold lemonade on a hot day, sprinting after my friends in a game of canonball, irrepressible laughter. That’s how I feel about picnics.

I might as well include a recipe while I’m at it, although I don’t know why anyone would need a recipe for egg salad. It’s not something I eat all of the time,
because it’s packed with fat and cholesterol, but every now and then I get a craving for a good ol’ fashioned egg salad sandwich.

Classic Egg Salad for Two
3-4 eggs, hardboiled
2 Tbsp mayo of choice
1-2 tsp capers
1 tsp dill
2 tsp dry mustard
1 chopped green onion
pinch of celery salt
swish of pepper

Mash the egg with a fork and mix with remaining ingredients.
I made the sandwiches in the photos above with arugula and sliced tomatoes. They were ridiculously good.

I think Chris would agree, we need to go on more picnics.