Chicago's first Food + Wine Festival was a bit soggy over the weekend in Lincoln Park, perhaps accounting for a light turnout that resulted in very few lines. And, unlike the L.A. Food + Wine Festival, which also went on over the weekend, Chicago didn't get a performance from The Roots.
But then again, it's L.A's fifth year, and Chicago attendees were in good spirits while drinking spirits. C3 Presents is already tweaking the Chicago event, as Charlie Jones said he's already plotting changes for the festival's next two years in Lincoln Park. For one, he wants to spread the energy more evenly throughout the fest grounds.
It also wouldn't hurt to ensure booths don't run out of food. Lillie's Q was done serving hot links around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. Gibson's ran out of their sliders shortly thereafter. The event, which drew about 4,500 people over all three days, definitely highlighted the wine portion. Check out The Tribune for a good breakdown of some of the food highlights.
The cooking demonstrations definitely lived up to the hype. On Saturday, Stephanie Izard pleased crowds with her preview of Duck Duck Goat. Tim Love, a fest partner, ditched his Texas roots briefly by donning a Blackhawks sweater while talking about the art of burned food. He even signed autographs on fans' forearms. Even with the rain, Rick Bayless packed them in under the tent.
On Sunday, Graham Elliot drew overflowing crowds for his cooking demonstration/comedy routine. Jonathan Waxman went up against GE but drew a nice crowd. Jimmy Bannos drew laughs while cooking jambalaya and cracking jokes about the "Twin Cities" of Berwyn and Cicero and his Thanksgiving turkey recipe that uses 8-12 pounds of butter. Wine enthusiasts lined up for a tasting seminar more than 30 minutes before it began.
The largest lines on Saturday came courtesy of the ladies at Hoosier Mama Pie Co. which ran a DIY pie stand (#DIPie). Visitors picked a crust (ginger snap, classic or chocolate), their filling (fruit or chocolate), toppings (coconut, chocolate shavings) and whipped cream. Toast & Taste, the Saturday evening walkaround tasting and concert, was lightly attended partially due to a constant drizzle, but those who made the trip south to Grant Park seemed to enjoy the superstar chef lineup that included Rick Bayless, Stephanie Izard, Graham Elliot, and many more heavyweights from Chicago and around the country.
The sun finally emerged on Sunday afternoon, and attendees hit the dancefloor in force that surrounded a centerpiece DJ booth in the middle of the main tent, letting loose to the likes of Michael Jackson and DMX. Dusek's served up a creative pizza soup (housemade pepperoni and ricotta on a spoon over a shot of tomato sauce), Sarah Grueneberg served a preview dish from her highly-anticipated Monteverde (proscuitto butter on toast), and chef Tom Van Lente dished up cups of crab salad while representing Big Star and Dove's Luncheonette.
Joe Fish chef Joe Farina even broke a little news while serving up lobster rolls: Joe Fish will reconcept after Labor Day to become straight-up Italian in a nod to Farina's roots and to make up for the shuttered Centro. The menu and name will change after the holiday, with meatballs, sausage and peppers, whole fish and zuppa di mare making a comeback.
Look out for that in the coming days, and hopefully look out for better weather, more food and more people at Chicago Food + Wine Festival next summer.