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Taste(s) of Chicago

Posted Jul 17 2012 10:56am

This past weekend brought Bobby’s parents to town for some fun in the (hot) Chicago sun. The temperature held steady in the nineties, but we still managed to pack in a lot of outdoor activities.

On Saturday morning, we attended the Taste of Chicago , which I hadn’t been to since 2010 .

The main purpose of our visit was to visit the Mirassou wine tent. One of their PR team members, Liz, had graciously invited all four of us to attend a private tasting and interview with David Mirassou , the sixth generation of America’s oldest winemaking family.

The tent was well-equipped with all of their wine varieties. Liz started us out with a few white wine tastings while we waited for David to join us: the Sauvignon Blanc , Moscato and Chardonnay .

I have to say, it was hard to pick a favorite (and you can visit all of those above links to see recipe pairings for each), but their Moscato was the newest addition to the collection and perhaps the most interesting. Usually I don’t like Moscato nearly as much as other whites because it’s too sweet for me – I know, shocking – but the Mirassou Moscato was the perfect blend of fruit flavors and was as light as it was refreshing. Consider me a fan.

We also had the opportunity to try Mirassou’s Pinot Noir , the number one selling Pinot Noir in the U.S. If red wine doesn’t sound good on a hot day, then you might be pleasantly surprised to see what they did with the bottle – I know I was.

As you can probably guess from the condensation, this red was chilled. I’ve never had cold red wine before but it was fantastic. I don’t think it could work with every red wine I’ve ever had, but it certainly did with this one and would make a great addition to a summer party.

David also shared the story of how pinot grapes ended up in America. The reason they are here at all is because of his family – David’s great-great-great grandfather (I think I said that right!) came to California from France in search of gold. While he didn’t strike it rich in the gold mines, he did notice that the California soil was incredibly fertile and somehow convinced his wife back home that it was worth carrying cuttings from their French vineyard in suitcase trunks all the way around South America by ship in order to bring the grapes to the U.S. While on the ship, they even bought the entire stock of potatoes and put the twigs in the middle of them to suck out the moisture. Thankfully, they made it, and the rest is history. I thought it was a pretty awesome story.

We had a wonderful time chatting with David and learning more about his family history.

As we were leaving, we also ran into Genevieve Gorder from HGTV . She’s currently working on a fun design sweepstakes with the Mirassou team and was going to be part of a cooking demo with David later in the day.

We said our goodbyes for the time being and headed out to explore the rest of the taste. With food tickets in hand, we made our way around to the various vendors and split a lot of great dishes.

There was a combination platter from Texas de Brazil , a Brazilian steakhouse. It had garlic sirloin, bacon-wrapped chicken and Brazilian sausage and was Bobby’s favorite out of everything we tried.

We also sampled tilapia and tequila lime chicken tacos from Carbón , which I had suggested because it was one of my favorite dishes from the last time I attended the Taste . These didn’t disappoint.

And we tried marinated beef kabobs and crab rangoon from The Noodle Vietnamese Restaurant . They were very generous with their portion sizes and both the meat and the crab were delicious.

Of course, no trip to the Taste of Chicago would truly be complete without a Rainbow Cone !

We had to devour it quickly because it was dripping everywhere, but somehow we managed. ;)

I think Bobby enjoyed it as much as I did!

Soon enough it was 1:30 and time to make our way to the cooking demo with David and Genevieve.

They had some great tips to share with the audience for planning summer parties and picnics:

  • When throwing a party, it’s best to have a white, a red and a sweet wine. David recommended the Mirassou Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Moscato, of course – along with all of the recipe pairings they have on their website.
  • Genevieve also suggested buying chalkboard contact paper to write the names of the wines down on the table (literally). I thought this was a genius idea for a wine tasting party so that you aren’t struggling to remember which variety is which.
  • She also stressed the importance of creating a space where people can sit down and be comfortable. This sounds like common sense, but if there isn’t an easy spot for people to rest their glasses, standing around and holding onto their drinks will get old fast. Guests may not be as likely to stay long and chat when their feet are tired or they’re uncomfortable.
  • When it comes to reusing wine bottles, Genevieve had two great design recommendations. One was to use drip candles on the outside of the bottle to create a funky design that could be used as a centerpiece or decor, and the other was to stuff Christmas lights inside the bottle to create an accent light . My Google searching also led me to this Pinterest board . I’m pretty excited.

We had a great time at the cooking and design demo. Thanks again to Liz for the invite!

The next stop on our list of Chicago adventures was the Adler Planetarium . Luckily for us, it had poured rain the entire time we were under the tent of the cooking demo, but let up just as we were leaving. There were some cool clouds as we made our way along the lake.

This was our first time at the planetarium. It was interesting and I would recommend the Welcome to the Universe show. It has a lot of great satellite imagery and the narrator knew his stuff.

After exploring the planets for several hours, we headed back to our place to grab the car and drive out to Toyota Park, home of the Chicago Fire soccer team. Bobby and I attended a game last year and thought his parents would enjoy it.

We had a cheering section near us that rivaled the official cheering section on the north end of the stadium! It made for a very loud and exciting game, which I’m happy to report the Fire ended up winning 1-0 – even with one of their players getting a red card.

It was truly a jam-packed Saturday! The rest of the weekend was more low-key, with a lot of game playing, walking around outside and video conferencing with the nieces pieces . All in all, a great visit with Barb and John.

Looking forward to seeing them – as well as Adam, Susan and Claire Bear – over Labor Day!

Do you have any major food festivals near you? If so, what are they?


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