Guests mixed and mingled amongst the savory bites and wines and spirits at the 10th anniversary edition of Chicago Gourmet in Millennium Park, September 22 and 23, 2017 (photo by Ed Graham)

Chicago Gourmet Brings Decadence to Millennium Park with 10th Anniversary Festival

By David Henley

Chicago Gourmet, the city’s premiere find dining and wine festival in magnificent Millennium Park, celebrated its 10th anniversary with a sparkling bash of decadent delectables and vivacious wines and spirits, delighting a capacity crowd in Chicago’s jewel on the lakefront this September.

​Created by the Illinois Restaurant Association in an effort to showcase Chicago as an international culinary destination and presented by Bon Appétit magazine, Chicago Gourmet has brought world class chefs and spectacular culinary experiences for foodies to indulge for a decade now, and each year those experiences just keep getting better.

Of course, special events thrilled participants once again this year, including the popular Hamburger Hop showdown, where top chefs go head-to-head for an opportunity to be crowned People’s and Judges’ champion. (This year returning “Hop” winners faced off with newcomers to the competition.) Also on hand was the Grand Cru culinary and wine indulgence, offering guests a taste of Chicago’s “Ones To Watch,” innovative chefs furthering the city’s growing profile as a cutting edge culinary Mecca, with expertly curated wine selections from Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Illinois, the event's presenting sponsor. Both events took place at Harris Theater’s stunning roof top deck.

This year, Chicago Gourmet also presented a host of ancillary events at iconic venues around the city celebrating the festival’s first decade. The Farm2Table Dinner on the 606, presented by the National Honey Board, brought Chicago’s spectacular greenway to life with gourmet food created by the legendary Rick Bayless (Frontera Restaurants). It also featured pours by Casa Noble Tequila and parings with New Zealand’s biodynamic Trinity Hill Winery.

​Japanese Dinner Under the Stars was an unforgettable dining experience arranged smack dab on the Pritzker Pavilion Stage as celebrity chef Ivan Orkin (Ivan Ramen, Chef’s Table), Chicago’s own Takashi Yagihashi, and international star Naoyuki Yanagihara (Vice President of Yanagihara School of Traditional Japanese Cuisine) created a lavish, multi-course Japanese dinner with expertly matched selections from Suntory Toki whiskey and Joto Sake.

But, honesty, the key attraction for this festival was the two day main event featuring amazing bites from the city’s elite chefs and the viticultural treasures that thrilled guests each day.

​This year, the festival articulated a distinct theme of culinary decadence. And believe you me, participating chefs did not disappoint.

Dotting the sprawling Millennium Park plateau were bright, pallid tents featuring culinary gems from luminary chefs from the spectrum of restaurants throughout the city. Among the most decadent, Avondale’s Honey Butter Fried Chicken offered (you guessed it) honey butter fried chicken: crispy, succulent boneless strips of tender white meat plated atop a pat of the creamiest honey butter you’ll find. Mastro’s Steakhouse presented festival goers with a delightfully self-indulgent butter cake topped with a rich dollop of vanilla ice cream. And, my personal favorite, Wrigleyville’s Four Corners Tavern gave guests one of its signature starters, a mouth-watering waffle cone with buffalo chicken nuggets topped with blue cheese and served (a la Wrigley Field) in a hole filled baseball bat – scrumptious and fun!

Luminary chefs shined throughout the weekend. Hubbard Inn Executive Chef Matthew Wilde mixed subtly and style with his superb pheasant sausage pie, featuring sweet corn (sourced from Spring Valley Farms in Wisconsin), Taleggio cheese frosting and black truffle. The savory bite, garnished with a dusting of black garlic and shaved autumn truffle, offered a sneak peak at Wilde’s upcoming fall menu, which revels in seasonal flavors and comforts.

Other top restaurants like Autre Monde and Avli also brought inspired cuisine that further underscored the culinary excellence Chicago has come to represent on the world stage – and the decadence at work in Millennium Park this September.