Note: For today's edition, Head BDJ Lab Tech Jenni S. visited the annual Taste of Chicago in Grant Park, fully expecting to return with a report on a few of the bacony treats available at the famous festival of food. Instead, she found the fest to be TOTALLY BACONLESS. Here's her story.
I know, right? Acres and acres of fabulous Chicago edibles, and not a bit of bacon in any booth. However, the trip wasn't a total loss; I managed to quiz world-famous master sommelier Alpana Singh (pictured here doing partial jazz hands) on what wine she might recommend pairing with a bacon dinner: Charles Smith Wines' Boom Boom Syrah, available at fine liquor stores everywhere.
Baconlessness aside, the food I shoved into my hungry maw made braving the crowds (full of double-wide strollers, I might add--WHEN WILL YOU PEOPLE LEARN?!) worthwhile. Here's a rundown of what I noshed on.
VeeVee's: taste portion of goat/rice (4 tix) Since the whole point of the Taste is to taste tastes you don't taste all the time, I started with spicy goat meat atop rice from this African restaurant. Sometimes taste portions are small, sometimes they're generous--this was the former. One itty-bitty piece of goat on a pathetic rice bed--delicious though it was, it wasn't worth three bucks in tickets.
Aunt Diana's: frozen baby banana (3 tix) So much for my self-imposed "new stuff only" rule--I passed a kid wielding one of these cool creations and it looked like chocolate-covered heaven on a stick. Sure enough, each bite made my tummy do a little happy dance, and although the treat has "baby" in the name, it was anything but infant-sized. It's kinda hard to eff up something that has two damned ingredients, so maybe we shouldn't be handing a James Beard award to Auntie Di, but she gets points for simple tastiness.
Goddess and the Grocer: red velvet cupcake (5 tix) I dug the Chef's Table dessert area; some of my favorite places in the city (Bittersweet, Julius Meinl) stuck their bestest sweets in this gourmet showcase, the line for which was nonexistent (yet people yards away were standing eight deep waiting for lukewarm slices of pizza--yawn). I opted for this sweet, because I'm a total whore for cupcakes. I made a wise, wise choice--perfect balance of cream-cheesy frosting and cake with the optimal level of moistness.
Arya Bhavan: samosa (4 tix) This gets my vote for overall best value--I was expecting a modest-size pastry with a small amount of filling. Nuh-uh. After handing over a measly four tickets, I received a giant baseball-size samosa with just the right amount of seasoning (don't you hate when restaurants just stuff plain-jane taters in a crust and call it a day) and sauce on top. If I could only pick one of the Taste restaurants to visit after the fest, it'd be this one--even if it serves baconless veggie dishes.
Vermillion: chimchurri masala chicken wings (4 tix) Those that know me, know I loves me some spice. I've had hot-sauce-tasting parties, I eat jalapeno slices right out of the jar, and I openly laugh at the weak claims made by fast-food dishes purporting to be hot (spicy chicken sandwich? You, Wendy, are completely full of shit). The heat these wings brought, though, had me sweating and reaching for my water bottle.
Soul Vegetarian East: sweet potato pie (4 tix) This was my, "Oh, crap, I still have four tickets left and I want to get the eff out of here" selection--I felt like tossing my tickets would be wasting, and I didn't want to give my leftovers to the dudes that beg for tickets near the exit (news flash: they sell them to the people coming in, two for a buck). Not bad, but I would prefer my desserts not be so sweet they turn my face inside out.
A few random comments, if I may:
1. If I were to create a drinking game that required me to do a shot every time I spotted an ugly-ass Ed Hardy shirt, I'd have been three sheets to the wind before I made it 10 steps past the gate.
2. President Obama needs to make it a top priority to outlaw double-wide strollers. I nearly lost my pinky toe to more than one clueless mom from Wilmette pushing her melon-headed children in these behemoth vehicles.
3. I usually cringe when I see an attendant in a bathroom (I can push the dryer button myself, thanks), but I applauded the entrepreneurial spirit of the homeless guy that stood outside the Port-A-Potties, handing out paper towels.
Happy Independence Weekend, baconeers.