I saw this huge weber grill being set up in Lincoln Park. Apparently, Better Homes and Gardens and Weber Grill were putting on some sort of food event.
My wife and I decided to go on Saturday, even though the weather wasn’t all that great. The whole time we were there, it was sort of on-and-off drizzling – the kind of weather that reminds me of a sinus infection. Annoying but not prohibitive. And it lasts much longer than you expect.
When we got there, the festival was set up like a mini taste of chicago but without the roving hordes of unattended teenagers. And, like the Taste of Chicago, there were people trying to sell you really random things that had nothing to do with cooking or food, like sandals or back massages.
The first thing we did was buy tickets. There were several local restaurants set up with booths and tasting portions. Tasting portions cost 3 tickets. My wife and I bought 30 tickets. Then, we walked around. There were a couple stages set up for food demonstrations and a stage set up for music. For the first half hour or so, the music stage was playing Bittersweet Symphony on loop over and over again.
The first thing we ate was from Girl and the Goat. This is what’s-her-name’s restaurant from Top Chef. She, apparently, is huge around here. I’ve been wanting to eat at this restaurant for a while, though.
The goat sloppy joe was nice and sloppy, just how you kids like em. It was a really interesting brown color that reminded you of Indian food and may have had many similar spices, but it did not taste like Indian food by any means. It was served on a simple dollar roll, which let the main ingredients stand out. To top the sandwich was a tangy cole slaw which was something in between a cumin mayo and russian dressing. The goat meat was really good, and it didn’t not feel like I was eating goat, which I suppose is the biggest victory of this dish.
From there, we went to Weber Grill, one of my favorite places to eat in Chicago. They were serving up some brisket sandwiches on their pretzel rolls. I was surprised that they weren’t bringing either ribs or a burger slider. But their pretzel rolls are indeed one of my favorite things that they have, so it was a pretty good choice. The meat was perfectly cooked and served up with a horseradish mayo. One of the best things I ate that day.
The next place we ate at was Mindy’s Hot Chocolate. They were serving up a frozen hot chocolate. I’m all for frivolity when it comes to making and even naming dishes. But this made no sense.
Confusing name aside, the frozen hot chocolate was delicious. My wife liked it more than I did, but that may be that this was more of a girl’s dish. It was somewhere in between a chocolate gelato and a chocolate shake. It came in a little styrofoam cup with comically small spoons. It was so good though that you just want to lick the cup dry.
At that point, we needed a break. We sat down at some benches to watch a food demonstration that was about to start.
We had ended up sitting at a cooking demonstration by the Spatulatta sisters. Apparently, they are James Beard award winners. Their cooking is targeted towards children or with parents who want to cook with their kids. We are neither, so I was completely uninterested. They were trying to make Korean food using a recipe passed down to them by their Hawaiian grandfather.
The girls were actually quite entertaining, but Better Homes and Garden totally screwed them over. Nothing was ready for this demonstration. For example, when the first step was to add 2C of soy to 4C of water, the soy sauce still had the sipper top on the bottle and there was neither water nor a vessel to put it in. I wanted to leave, but I would have felt bad getting up. The older sister is only 15, after all.
After the cooking demonstration, we got some more barbecue. We went to foodlife, which I may or may not have eaten at in the Water Tower Mall. Their Texas Smoked BBQ Brisket Slider was not good. The brisket was smothered in sauce, which didn’t make me think that the sandwich was either “Texas” or “Smoked.” The bun wasn’t very good either, and it was covered in what I think was onion particles that were really crunchy and hurt your mouth.
From there, we walked over and saw Stephanie Izard doing a demonstration.
Stephanie Izard was doing a food demonstration to a packed audience. She was talking about how she uses some sort of specific kind of salmon and how it’s really great this time of year. I was really bored. This was the third live demonstration I’ve witnessed in my life. And I’ve never enjoyed them. I think I just detest the format. It’s like watching cooking on TV, but you can’t see anything and it’s boring and slow.
After Stephanie Izard, we went to see the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile. This one had GPS. Parents kept shoving their kids inside to take a look. None of the kids ever seemed to be all that interested.
The weiner mobile was next to a stand where they were giving away free hot dog samples. Oscar Meyer is putting out some sort of new beef weiner that has no nitrates or something. It tasted like a regular oscar meyer weiner, which tastes like it is neither made of beef or free of nitrates. I’d call this new product a fail.
Better Homes and Garden also had a food booth – theirs was in fact the largest as it was the only one that was serving regular food and not just tasting portions. My wife got a grilled cheese, which was pretty much two pieces of toast and a single slice of american cheese. It came with a bag of a new kind of Lays chip, which you could incidentally also get a free sample of from the Lays booth. The chips were terrible, the food service from the Better Homes and Garden tent was miserable, and the sandwich was sad. The girl in front of us in line ordered a grilled veggie sandwich, and she got the raw hamburger fixings slapped between two slices of cold bread. When she complained, the guy at the Better Homes and Garden tent insisted that this was what the grilled veggie sandwich was supposed to be. Terrible.
The next cooking demo we sat down for also sucked. It was billed as a grilling cookoff between Art Smith and Ted Allen. In fact, Art Smith was emceeing a grill-off between two Better Homes and Garden recipe contest winners, where Ted Allen and Daisy from the Food Network would be their celebrity assistants.
Art Smith has lost a ton of weight. He looks great and scary at the same time.
Daisy Martinez used to have a show on the Food Network. I’m not sure it’s on anymore. Ted Allen, from Queer Eye fame, is on Chopped, a show that I think has finally started getting good. I hated watching this cooking competition. Again, watching cooking live is boring.
We then went to the Meatloaf Bakery, a place that I’ve been meaning to go to for quite a while. Disappointingly, they didn’t have mini meatloaf cupcakes, but I imagine that this was because the theme of the event was grill and chill. Their options were for a meatloaf skewer or a chicken skewer. The guy behind me asked if he could get a skewer without vegetables because he doesn’t eat vegetables.
The veggies were quite good, and as I’ve been refraining from buying tomatoes lately, eating these grilled tomatoes and onions was delightful. And the meatloaf was super tasty. It was everything I like about meatloaf, plus, they somehow managed to inject the flavor and texture of homemade mashed potatoes. Or maybe that was just me imagining things.
The last thing we had was sorbet from Black Dog Gelato. I thought this was a nice way to end the day. I really liked the canteloupe. My wife liked the black raspberry. We work out that way.
We decided to walk home from the event, and we explored the new lake paths. They had drained a little pond where my wife had once ridden paddle boats. They replaced it with a more natural style habitat. It’s much nicer this way.