You may have heard that Taste of Chicago is the city's premiere dining event. With over fifty restaurants, a slew of entertainers and smattering of fireworks to bombard visitors with three city blocks worth of calories, it's hard to argue. And there are others who will tell you the thirty-one year old event hasn't aged well, and your waistline would be better served in the Fall when Chicago Gourmet descends upon Millennium Park with its fancy cooking demonstrations and full pours from California wineries.
I enjoy these two events and feel they provide an introduction to Chicago's restaurant scene for newcomers as well as showcase the city as a culinary destination. However, for a more intimate and adventurous food festival, I think you should consider the Green City Market BBQ.
While a hundred bucks for the Green City Market's annual fund-raising BBQ in Lincoln Park sounds like a lot of money, I feel it's a quality experience. No where else will you be able to stand next to celebrity chefs like Rick Bayless and Stephanie Izard; do a side-by-side comparison of the rib-eye at Primehouse and the rabbit sausages from Crofton on Wells; and eat food that's garnished with grilled zucchini flowers, served on Chinet plates. The sting goes away a bit when you realize the event is a fund raiser and the proceeds go to the many educational and outreach programs the Green City Market sponsors.
This year, the BBQ has an impressive roster of over one hundred local chefs, restaurants, vineyards and brewers. How the organizers have managed to do this year after year without rampant commercialization isn't hard to understand. Local chefs are strong supporters of the market and believe in building relationships with area farmers and producers. It's not uncommon to spot chefs shopping here on a Saturday morning or see them giving cooking demonstrations for the public. But if you want access to them all at once while cooking BBQ-inspired cuisine for your dining pleasure, then clear your calendar and get to this event.
The Green City BBQ takes place July 21, 2011 between 5:30pm–8:00pm at the Outdoor Market on the South end of Lincoln Park, 1790 North Clark Street. Tickets are still available, but expect the BBQ to sell out soon.