Longman & Eagle
Given that the waits at Longman and Eagle can be a couple of hours, it was no surprise that the restaurant inspired one of the longer lines at Chicago Gourmet. The wait was well worth it thanks to this ridiculously tender sous vide pork cheek with pickled Honeycrisp apples, lentils, kale, Romesco sauce, and hazelnuts.
There were only a few dishes that I had seconds of at Chicago Gourmet. This dish from chef Jimmy Bannos Jr. was the only one I ate, couldn't stop thinking about, and went out of my way to stand in line again. The pig tail is braised in balsamic vinegar, pork stock, brown sugar, fennel seed, coriander and mustard seed. The egg salad on top had olive oil and lemon juice along with salt and pepper. All together, this was the best thing I ate at the event.
When I saw pastry chef Sarah Kosikowski eating her own Valrhona Caramélia pot de crème at a time when I would have thought she'd be sick of them, I took two because I figured they had to be good. My faith was rewarded as this was my favorite sweet bite at Chicago Gourmet. The milk chocolate caramel base was topped with apple butter and a pecan oat crumble. It was a creamy and crunchy cup of decadence that was put over the top thanks to a light burst of fall-fresh apples.
Chef Kevin Hickey and his team served a dessert to go with their savory course, a miso butterscotch custardy concoction topped with ginger caramel and honey crisp apple butter. I had no idea miso and butterscotch could work so well together; I've already started looking up recipes that combine them to relive this flavor combo.
Ethyl's Beer & Wine Dive
It's hard for any chicken dish to stand out at Chicago Gourmet, but one that did was this chicken and waffle croquette with orange butter, chipotle maple syrup, bacon and chive from Ethyl's Beer & Wine Dive. The soft and crunchy, sweet, spicy, and savory bite was as entertaining as it was delicious.
This sweet corn panna cotta topped with a beautiful (and safe!) poached Gulf shrimp along with heirloom tomatoes, bacon and fresh basil was simultaneously rich and refreshing.
Chef Dirk Flanigan made a great sea bream dish last year and used the fish to great results once again. This time he seared the fish and topped it with melon, kumquat, yuzu vinaigrette, and put a pickled watermelon rind on top.
This Sicilian lamb meatball with golden raisins and pine nuts by chef Tony Priolo would have been included even without the addictive eggplant carbonara at the bottom of the plate that brought a nice kick of heat at the end of the bite.
Café des Architectes
Chef Greg Biggers had some fun with his sweet and savory foie gras and apple cobbler by mixing some foie gras fat into the streusel. The bite was completed by a crisp and flaky housemade tart shell and a small dollop of crème fraiche on top.
The shadows got in the way of a perfect picture but nothing impeded this braised pork cheek with celery root puree and apple.
It was a little odd to see the folks from bistronomic celebrating that their main ingredient was canned sardines by proudly displaying sardine cans around their station. But one bite of this sardine rillettes with Laughing Cow Cheese on a baguette crouton made the pride perfectly understandable.
Chef Ryan LaRoche kept things relatively simple, but when he mixed Three Sister's polenta with Carr Valley smoked cheddar and added golden raisins and grilled Swiss chard, he made an irresistible bite of savory, sweet, and smoky flavors.
Hubbard Inn made a nice skewer of crispy veal sweetbread and Brussels sprout with a prosciutto vinaigrette.
Stetson's Chop House
Stetson's Chop House might be known for its steak, but Pastry Chef Brian Schoenbeck now has me eager to visit for his desserts. This three-layer caramel corn panna cotta started with a vanilla-tinted Jack Daniels caramel sauce at the bottom, a thick layer of sweet corn panna cotta in the middle, and pressed apples enhanced with Chardonnay and pucker on top. Finishing off this outstanding dish was manchego cheese, chili threads, and freeze dried corn.
The most surprising bit of deliciousness came from Hearty. The parmesan cheesecake with compressed apple on top was a rich sweet, salty and tangy treat.
I was depressed when I got home and realized my picture of Perennial Virant's roasted Delicata squash escabeche was blurry. Fortunately, the restaurant Tweeted a decent shot that I could borrow. The squash was finished with roasted garlic and a hot pepper vinaigrette that brought a nice kick at the end. The Moonglo, a raw goat milk tomme-style cheese with a washed rind, and the fried sage made for ideal complements.