Another new, must-see Taste feature was the Celebrity Chef du Jour booth, which kicked off with Carlos Gaytan
. His dinner was long sold out, but diners could buy his signature jamaica
glazed pork belly on a celery root slaw (the dish was made and served by Washburne students, as WBEZ's own Niala Boodhoo reported
(pronounced HUH-my-kuh) are the blood red hibiscus calices
used to make agua fresca
that looks like punch.
I didn't actually taste this one myself. This dish pictured above was ordered by George Nydza of Chicago, and his friend, Rita McGuire of Grayslake, Ill. They've been friends for 30 years and have been coming to Taste since the beginning. "I saw the chef making it on WGN this morning," said Nydza. "I've heard a lot about pork belly but never had it, so I thought this one has got to be good — and it's not that expensive." At ten tickets, Gaytan's huge pork belly portion came out to $6.67; at Mexique, a lunch-sized pork belly sandwich rings up at $12.95.
I hear the complaints: that Taste is too hot and crowded, that the food's no good, that nobody goes anymore
. I've made those complaints myself. But a walk-through on a relatively cool opening morning reminded me why other people still love it and have always loved it. It's big city life — or at least a taste.