Taste of Chicago: A Midwestern Food Festival Experience

Friday, July 31, 2015


taste of chicago 2014 @sssourabh

Taste truly lies in smaller, sumptuous bites. And consequently, over time, I have begun vouching for smaller, savory bites of more food than carnivorous appetites of mountainous food teetering off a plate.

taste of chicago 2014 @sssourabh

Which is why Taste of Chicago, as the name has it, sounds like an alarmingly refreshing idea on paper: mixing far-to-table old fashioned country fair concepts of stalls and vendors and samplings with modern day cuisine.

Having attended for a couple of un-sequential years in a row, I have to admit that it is a fun escape into Chicago’s epic Millennium Park, with the Buckingham fountain providing a merry visual and sensual break from the city’s heated summers spent gazing at feminine legs and masculine biceps, all in petite clothing.

taste of chicago 2014 @sssourabh

The idea is to gather the best of a given culinary niche and expose hungry gapers to as much as they can savor in miniscule, but plentiful bites.

taste of chicago 2014 @sssourabh

Possibly the highest in my personal preference is the tasting experience, no pun intended towards the title of the event. For this trend is one that deviates from very immediate marketing but focuses on food itself. A number of pop up shops, newbies on the Chicago market, and genuine tasters fall into this quadrant. Jerk is my favorite example here, owing to its catchy name, this Brazilian spicy food truck lets it paraphernalia donned by its un-salesy vendors draw all eyeballs. Amplified further by Cajun fries with spicy homemade dressing which are a sumptuous addition to a snackable afternoon. And while I didn’t get around to it, the churro doughnut seemed to go on the innovative cronut trend, courtesy of Taco Joint.

taste of chicago 2014 @sssourabh
taste of chicago 2014 @sssourabh

taste of chicago 2014 @sssourabh

Lou Manalti’s, legendary deep dish pizzeria of Chicago, falls into this bracket rather by default, for what is a brand to do when no marketing but word of mouth is needed? Aptly choosing to focus on its food, the only misfortune is that the pieces are not really deep dish, nor do they score in the price department, for one could easily bolt to the flagship store to consume a bit more variety for a bit less.

taste of chicago 2014 @sssourabh
taste of chicago 2014 @sssourabh

Caffe Gelato would probably secure a shortlived place here owing to the cheesy t-shirt taglines like “Like it, you’ll like it!”, which pushes it into a marketing realm. Nonetheless, having tasted a plethora of their sorbets and a particularly refreshing bissap aka hibiscus sorbet from their neighbors Iyanze, the sheer value of sorbets and gelatos on steamy days benefits their existence. Cheers to Franco’s Ristorante on their perfectly flavored watermelon ice! Which is probably why the lines outside Star of Siam were painstakingly long to taste some truly unique flavor combinations, like coconut and green tea. Collectively adding to my dated list of quirky ice cream favorites.

taste of chicago 2014 @sssourabh

I saw several pop ups and brand names who had both a culinary spectacle to offer, alongside a convincing marketing tactic. Garifuna Flava: A Taste of Belize fared well by being one of the many who had their folks cutting and frying plantains in plain sight, the scents of which lured me towards my favorite potato substitute. Their marketing ploy was to have a graffiti silhouette of Food Network's Guy Fieri’s stamp of approval.

taste of chicago 2014 @sssourabh taste of chicago 2014 @sssourabh taste of chicago 2014 @sssourabh

BJ’s Market and Bakery had similar open air cooked meaty dishes that I didn’t taste. Spains finest olive oils hosted an interesting tasting of olive oils, with twitter enabled giveaways as a tactic to lure wanderers into grabbing well stitched totes and mouthfuls of a trending dessert: olive oil cake. Decadence at its finest, supplemented by Iyanze who jumped on the vegan bandwagon that my favorite city LA is so well known for, almost requiring less of a marketing push. And I approved of the spicy burger patty, albeit not the bun!

However all things must end, with new things savored and new lessons learned.
Till next year, addiction.


Full post on How Taste of Chicago Turns into a Food Marketing Experience

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