(Hi. This is the part where I tell you that this post doesn't reflect the views of my employer and other things that I'm putting out into the ether just in case someone is offended.)
You remember when your parents would have parties? Remember how your friend Ken's mom's voice would be on 10 when you were trying to sleep and then your dad would wake you up so you could do your crappy impression of (insert whatever cartoon character was popular when you were 6 here)? Now take that party, add like 500 people to it, and give them unfettered access to all the wine that has ever existed.
Welcome to Chicago Gourmet, people.
The annual event is a hot-ticket item put on by the Illinois Restaurant Association. According to the site, the event is "a celebration of food and wine showcasing more than 100 of Chicago’s finest restaurants and chefs, as well as hundreds of renowned vintners, spirit makers and premium breweries from around the world." So you know it's going to be a function. Tickets aren't cheap to this thing (one day passes were hitting for around $170) and there's no way in hell I can swing that, so thanks to the good folks over at FIJI Water, I got to attend. Shouts to them. After mildly freaking out about what I was going to wear (I didn't know if it was going to be fancy or whatever), I rolled to Millenium Park with my homegirl and the goon Luis. Walking in, I'm handed a bag with a tray/wine glass holder (more on this in a bit) and a map that I never got around to using. If you've never attended one of these before, here's some things you should know if you plan on going next year:
Have a foodie spirit guide:
(SIDEBAR: The word "foodie" is played out. Why can't we come up with another term to describe these folks? Here's a submission off the top my head: "chomper." Imagine that in a 1,000 word thinkpiece on summer squash. "Chicago chompers rejoice! All the supple flavor of ..." You get what I'm saying.)
If you aren't as well versed in the food and drink game, you need some intel from someone who's already ten toes down in the scene. My co-worker Kate knows her stuff, and she definitely coached me on what to eat and what to skip. She also told me that I should pace myself on the alcohol and make sure to get dinner after the event. I didn't know what she was talking about.
I should have listened.
The food. Lord Jesus, the FOOD!:
There were these chef stations where local chefs were whipping up bite-sized portions of their wares and if you had the patience to wait in line for them, you were rarely disappointed. I had a few bites that I can guarantee that I can't afford the regular portions of and wanted to propose to the entire staff right there. The chefs were in there selling these things like they were a pre-owned Nissan Maxima, too. "Oh, here's a deconstructed BLT on a parmesan crisp with fresh arugula." Put it in my word hole! "This is a nouveau-Parisian homage to one of those Ninja Turtle fruit pies you used to eat everyday" Gimme! I ate as much as possible, except for the portobello mushroom burger that I literally had SNATCHED OUT OF MY HAND by some J.Jill-clad whore of Babylon. Not even kidding, she took it out of my hand! I wanted to hit her with the damn Tombstone but was quickly talked down. Lady, if you're reading this, I sincerely hope you spill hot coffee on your shirt within the next 12 hours. Anyhoo, BREAKING: FOOD IS DELICIOUS.
Chicago Gourmet is the real life Catalina Wine Mixer:
So for every food station, there were approx. 1,211,312,241 booze stations to match. Damn near any alcohol you could want in the world was available to us and because whoever organizes this thing is the second coming of Tesla, you got this little plastic tray that could hold your wine glass. What a beautiful creation. I tried something like 438 different kinds of wine, from (pretend I'm doing a snooty accent) fume blanc to cabernet to malbec to prosecco to chablis from the bad part of the Rhine River Valley. There was a booth called "Whiskies of the world" that I legit squealed when I went to. By the way, if you take a bunch of those little samples and pour them in your wine glass, you get where you're trying to go a lot quicker, trust me. TL;DR: I got MC Hammered. And I wasn't the only one. As I stated in a tweet, Chicago Gourmet is a Freaknik for Senior VPs. The North Shore's finest were in there, turned up like it was a combination of a Buffett show and the BET Awards. It wasn't like people were falling out or anything though, more like you'd get into that drunk conversation where you try to sound articulate, but end up just screaming catch phrases like "THE BEARS ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE," into each others faces, and there's that one guy who doesn't have any black friends and so he thinks it is now time to ask you every question he's ever had about black people and reminds you that he LOVES Derrick Rose, man. It was too much.
Anyhoo, I had a blast. Love to everyone I saw out there, and I can't wait for next year. Now, has anyone seen my sunglasses and/or my dignity?