The Windy City’s popular and weekend long food and drink festival, Chicago Gourmet, returned for four days of culinary celebrations, on September 22-25, 2022. This is one of my favorite festivals, and I was very excited to be able to attend again since it wasn’t possible since the pandemic began!
Though I was disappointed that the festival’s usual Grand tasting in Millennium Park did not take place this year, a new opportunity presented itself to me in the form of Chicago Gourmet’s Tacos and Tequila., Presented by US Foods, this was the perfect kickoff to the festival weekend. My idol, Chef Rick Bayless, reprised his role as host to the spectacular showcase of gourmet tacos and agave spirits, presented by some of the city’s most impassioned leaders of authentic Mexican cuisine.
Guests were able to explore and sample a range of premium, high quality tequilas and mezcals to the accompaniment of DJ, mariachi and mojiganga performances. A serious tacoachiever, this event was a can’t miss on the beautiful Harris Theater Rooftop at 205 E. Randolph Street.
The impressive list of participating chefs that evening included Marcos Ascencio, Michelle Bernstein, Inocencio and Marcos Carbajal, Marco Colin, Maria G. Landa, Kevin Marquardt, Phil McDonald, Rick Ortiz, Saul Roman, Yano Sanchez, Andrew Sikkerlerus, Alfonso Sotelo and Jaime Sotelo.
Being a pescatarian/vegetarian, the taco samplings for myself were a bit limited, but I enjoyed the experience all the same. Barrio’s chips, salsa and autumn guacamole (squash, apple, pomegranate, toasted pepitas, crisp sage) were very flavorful with charred tomato, salsa verde and white habanero.
Tabu’s mole dip tacos were a big hit with sliced ribeye, caramelized onion, panela cheese, mole jus, hand pressed tortilla), as was La Luna’s mole verde pork belly (braised pork belly), mole verde, watermelon radish and puff rice).
Bar Takito offered an unusual steak and potato taco with chef marinated skirt steak, guacamole butter and potato terrine. I also got to meet Rick Bayless again! He was giving out taco samples for his Bar Sotano, which I reviewed when it first opened.
Being pescatarian/vegetarian, I was delighted to sample some delicious and creative meatless options including smoked gulf grouper cheek taco from Florida’s popular Black Bear Bread Company, exceptional shrimp tamales amrillito mole from Fat Rosie’s, Taquiera Chingon’s moo ping eggplant (marinated eggplant, green curry, peanuts and Thai papaya salad) and 5 Rabanitos Restaurante and Taquiera and Chile Toreados’ Taco de Hongos (smoked chipotle creamy salsa, caramelized onions, golden roasted potatoes with anejo cheese). One of the few dessert options offered was Michelle Beenstein’s (La Canute) spicy Mexican chocolate budino with creme fraiche whipped cream, which was just lovely.
The other stars of the evening’s event were the tequila and cocktails. There was an endless, overwhelming selection to choose from to taste. Some of my favorites included Bernstein’s spicy mango margarita, 400 Conejos Mezcal, 1800 Cristalino’s tequila cocktails (Agave Be Kidding Me with Gran Coramino Reposado Cristalino, agavero, blood orange, lime angostura) and Hart and Passion (Gran Coramino Reposado Cristalino, passion fruit, lime, ginger beer).
Tacos and Tequila was an exceptional event and it surpassed my expectations, providing amazing food, drink and hospitality. However, I felt that Chicago Gourmet had not been the same since pre-pandemic, when the wonderful weekend long tasting experience took place with hundreds of fabulous restaurants, chefs and drinks connoisseurs all in one spot to experience. Here’s to hoping it returns in all its full glory next year!
Photos: Jennifer Lunz
For more information of Chicago Gourmet, please visit the websites.