Monday, September 29

The 26th Annual Shaw's Oyster Fest

I'm a huge fan of Shaw's Crab House and have visited their restaurants many times over. However, once a year, they bring one of my favorite festivals to Chicago, Oyster Fest! This year's fest was held in a huge lot at Grand and the river and featured a selection of East, South and West coast oysters! I stopped by the fest with the BF and taste tested oysters from all over, as well as some non-oyster items.

West Coast Oysters & Seafood
First up was a sampler of the West Coast oysters. I realize the taste and texture of oysters isn't for everyone, but I'm a big fan of raw oysters. I usually eat them with just a bit of lemon juice squeezed on top, but I tried some of these with a small dab of cocktail sauce too.

West Coast Raw Oysters
The BF was a trooper and tried some as well...

The BF Trying a West Coast Oyster
...I think his face says it all :)

Next, we hopped on over to the other side of the fest where they were serving up Southern coast chargrilled oysters from Bub City, one of my favorite Lettuce Entertain You spots.

Chargrilled Southern Coast Oysters from Bub City
The chargrilled oysters were grilled to order and I got to watch them pour a little butter and paprika on top.

Chargrilled Southern Coast Oysters from Bub City
Southern Coast Oysters from Bub City
These cooked oysters had a ton of smoky flavor and were sizzlin' straight off the grill--I just wish there were more than three to an order!

Chargrilled Southern Coast Oysters from Bub City
We also tried Bub City's Fried Chicken Biscuit with oyster gravy. The one bite I had was good, but the BF really enjoyed it!

Fried Chicken Biscuit with Oyster Gravy
Lastly, we made our way over to the East Coast oyster booth...

East Coast Oysters
I tried another sampler of raw oysters for comparison, and these ended up being my favorite. I was surprised because I tend to prefer the sweeter West Coast varieties.

East Coast Raw Oysters
I put some hot sauce on top and slurped away! I'm pretty sure I need to enter next year's oyster slurping contest.

Ready to Devour My East Coast Oyster
Down the hatch!
With our few remaining tickets we tried the New England chowda which was insanely creamy and decadent. So much so we both could only eat a few spoonfuls.

New England Chowda
The fest also included an oyster slurp off contest, and several musical performances, including headliner singer/songwriter Brett Dennen.

Main Stage
Be sure to check out Oyster Fest next year, and if you can't wait that long, stop by Shaw's Crab House for their huge selection of fresh seafood, including those delectable little oysters!

Note: my entry to Oyster Fest was complimentary; however, the opinions expressed herein are my own.

Friday, September 26

Food Network in Concert at Ravinia Wrap-Up

I had a great time at the first Food Network in Concert at Ravinia last weekend! As I mentioned in an earlier post,  the one-day event brought together local and national chefs, Food Network stars, and great musical talent.

We started our day walking around the Greatest Hits food and wine tasting with more than 50 chefs and 100 wineries. It was truly an indulgent experience and I loved how we could interact directly with the chefs in such a relaxed atmosphere.

Greatest Hits Tasting

Noodle Paella
Cheers with Korbel
Richer Pour Wine Co.

Duck Tacos 
Squid Ink Pasta
Chicken Skewers on the Grill at Sunda

Pork Tacos
Mini Lobster Roll
Wine Tasting
Shrimp Bruschetta from GT Fish & Oyster
Bruschetta from Enolo Wine Bar
After the walk-around tasting,  I had the chance to attend one of the evening's seated dinners, Farm To Turntable. The dinner had a farm to table theme, all set to the sounds of DJ Alexandra Richards (who happens to be Keith Richards' daughter!).

Alexandra Richards
I met up with fellow Chicago food blogger, Steph Callahan, of Steph Eats Chicago and we both enjoyed the dinner together!

Steph Callahan of Steph Eats Chicago & Me
The event was hosted by Geoffrey Zakarian, co-host of The Kitchen, Chopped judge, and Iron Chef!

Geoffrey Zakarian
The dinner featured five courses, each made by chefs, four of which are from Chicago. Each chef is known for sourcing local ingredients and each course featured these ingredients. Every course was also paired with a wine, ranging from chardonnay to pinot noir, and moscato.

Farm to Turntable Menu
The chefs included Michael Kornick (MK), Joe Frillman (Balena), Bill Telepan (Telepan), Paul Virant (Vie, Perennial Virant, Vistro), and Jeff Mahin (Summer House, Stella Barra).

From L to R: Michael Kornick, Paul Virant, Joe Frillman, Jeff Mahin
The dinner was fresh, flavorful and beautifully presented!

Hiramasu Crudo:
roasted Nichol's Farm sweet corn, corn shoots, Thai chili scented olive oil, mint, watermelon radish, lemon cucumber 
Burrata Peperonata:
burrata, purple cress, pickled & smoked peppers, capers, pickled garlic
Foie Gras Torchon:
pickled peaches, pecans, and purslane
Grilled Pork Loin:
fresh tomato relish, mushroom conserva, arugula
Baked Figs:
ash baked mission figs, vincotto, ricotta dolce, tea infused cream, vanilla, candied lemon
After the dinner, Steph and I had the chance to meet Geoffrey Zakarian who could not have been nicer.

Steph, Geoffrey Zakarian, and me
To end our night, we grabbed a seat in the pavilion to watch American Idol season 11 winner, Phillip Phillips perform, as well as John Mayer. It was such a fun way to end a day of eating, drinking, and music and I was impressed with John Mayer's guitar skills. John ended up playing for two hours! It was pretty incredible. 

John Mayer at Ravinia
A Blurry John Mayer at Ravinia
After the concert, we continued the party on the Metra back to the city. Wine and cheese anyone?

Wine & Cheese Anyone?
I had such a blast at Food Network in Concert at Ravinia and hope they bring it back next year!

Note: my tickets to Food Network in Concert at Ravinia were complimentary; however, the opinions expressed herein are my own.

Wednesday, September 17

Food Network in Concert at Ravinia + a GIVEAWAY!

This Saturday, September 20th, music and culinary worlds collide at Highland Park's Ravinia. Food Network in Concert is a one-day-only festival bringing together local and national chefs, Food Network stars, and great musical performers. Food Network chefs including Anne Burrell, Alex Guarnaschelli, Jose Garces, Geoffrey Zakarian, and Chicago's own Jeff Mauro, will be on-hand for a variety of culinary events including themed lunches and dinners, and walk-around tastings. About 75 local chefs will also be taking part, including John Coletta, Jimmy Bannos (Sr. and Jr.), Tony Mantuano, Andrew Zimmerman, Gale Gand, Paul Virant, Mindy Segal, and the list goes on!

What can you expect to taste at Food Network at Ravinia? Even highlights include The Greatest Hits, a walk-around food and wine tasting featuring 100+ wineries and 50 chefs, the BBQ-themed Country Cookout: Farm to Turntable, Hot Hot Hot with the spiciest dishes from across the globe, and I Want Candy, a dessert-themed tasting featuring 15 pastry chefs from across the US.

The music component of the first ever event will include performances by headliner and Grammy Award-winning artist John Mayer, American Idol season 11 winner Philip Phillips, DJ Alexandra Richards, Twin Forks, and more!

To learn more, see the entire day's schedule, and purchase tickets, visit the Food Network in Concert at Ravinia website. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America.

As an added bonus, I'm giving away two tickets to Food Network in Concert, courtesy of event sponsor, al fresco! 

al fresco offers a variety of flavorful, healthy chicken products that contain no artificial ingredients, preservatives, nitrates, or MSG. Its line of products, including breakfast and dinner sausages and chicken burgers, are made from lean, boneless, skinless chicken meat, and are 50% less fat and 30% less sodium than leading beef and pork products.

To learn more about al fresco and find out where you can find products near you, head to al fresco's website!

Enter to win the pair of tickets below! The winner will receive a pair of Lawn Seat Tickets with Access to The Greatest Hits (total value $398). To see what is included with these tickets, head to the Food Network in Concert schedule and select "Lawn + Greatest Hits". 

You have until 12 am (midnight) CST on Friday, September 19th to enter. Winner will be notified the morning of Friday, September 19th and tickets will be emailed to the winner.

Good luck and I hope to see you at Food Network in Concert!

Tuesday, September 16

Al Fresco Weekday Lunch at Publican Quality Meats

It can be tough sometimes to take a lunch break during the busy work week, but every now and then I make an effort to get out of the office and enjoy our beautiful city. A few weeks ago, my friend and coworker Hannah and I walked over to Fulton Market (which is luckily a short walk from the office!) and stopped into Publican Quality Meats for a quick lunch. Both of us had eaten at The Publican, its sister restaurant which is also next door, but it was our first time at PQM.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day and we sat outside in the sidewalk cafe (rhyme time!). There was arguably as much, if not more, seating outside as inside the restaurant. Not only can you dine in at PQM,  it also is a butcher shop and market where you can purchase meats, cheeses, breads, and more. The restaurant also is a private space for The Publican, and offers full catering.

PQM changes its menu frequently, ensuring you're bound to always be able to try something new. We started with the butcher's daily cheese plate, a selection of three cheeses, accompanied by rustic breads, candied nuts, fruit, and homemade raspberry jam. The cheeses were fantastic and so was the bread! I could have easily ordered this as my main course.

Butcher's Daily Cheese Plate
We both ended up ordering sandwiches for lunch. As a fan of beets, Hannah tried the Beet L.A.T. with beets, bibb lettuce, avocado, pickled green tomatoes, aioli, sprouts, and smoked cheddar on multigrain bread. Her sandwich was served with a side of marinated kale in a light vinaigrette. She was a big fan!

Beet L.A.T.
The gyro came recommended to me by several friends, so that's exactly what I ordered. "The return of the gyro" featured big strips of braised pork belly, raita (yogurt sauce), escalivada (grilled veggies), pea shoots, and calabrian chili vinaigrette on griddled flatbread. Mine came with a side of spicy slaw that was amazing. Overall, the sandwich had a ton of flavor, especially from the raita and pork belly. The flatbread held everything together, without it getting too soggy. Both sandwiches were huge portions and we were able to take half home for another meal.

Return of the Gyro
Overall, PQM is a great lunch option if you're near Fulton Market or the West Loop. While it's getting a bit cooler outside, the sidewalk patio is nice (though the tables are NYC-like, a.k.a. very close together). Although it is a butcher shop by nature, the constantly-changing menu offers options for veggie lovers and carnivores alike.

I'm giving PQM 4.5 ghosts for their high quality ingredients, quiet and bright sidewalk patio, and reasonable prices.

Publican Quality Meats
825 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
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