Taste of Chicago closed Sunday night and while the check hasn't hit the table yet, the grandaddy of all food fests has received mixed reviews, including mine. The reports don't mention a beloved event that's been held around the same time for a dozen years and known arguably as the real Taste of Chicago: the Green City Market Chefs' BBQ.
The numbers can't compare, with Taste's millions of attendees and the BBQ's 2,200. Plus Taste is intended as a profitable event for both the city and vendors, while the BBQ is a benefit. Neither can be the other, but for sheer culinary artistry, and both outdoors, the relatively little BBQ towers over Taste.
One number merits comparison. This year's Taste scaled down from nearly 60 vendors to only 40, while the BBQ program lists 101 chefs — plus cocktails, beers, wines, cider, coffee and tea. The actual number was as hazy as the smoke that hung over Lincoln Park, since some teamed up and offered more than their expected menus, and all used primarily product from the market.
The one night only fête is the Green City Market's "largest fundraiser and supports the market and its educational initiatives including chef demos, Club Sprouts, Edible Gardens, farmer education programs, Heirloom and Heritage Project, annual Locavore Challenge, [and] Savor the Seasons festivals."
Food on sticks. You'll find more at state and county fairs, but not the Dothraki amuse-bouche that was The Butcher & Larder's intensely flavorful grilled chicken heart. Also tasted: Spiaggia's carne salata (Calabrese style cured beef carpaccio) on an edible breadstick and Pecking Order's Filipino style chicken BBQ.
Asian-ish. Which leads me to this notable trend, not only Embeya's lemongrass beef and lettuce wrap, but Trenchermen's pig skin noodles, actually served in a Chinese take-out box with chopsticks. Also tasted: Perennial Virant's duck sausage, Red Door's bulgogi glazed spareribs, Big Bowl's Asian BBQ pork and Yusho's robata tofu.