Thursday, June 30, 2011


Yes, it is that time of year again. Time to navigate the millions of summer festivals around the city of Chicago. Yesterday I managed to calculate the perfect outing to Taste of Chicago. You see, it is usually in the brutal heat of July that this takes place and I have no desire to go. Why you ask? Because It is usually sunny, hot and humid and there are tons of sweaty people bumping into you with every step you take. Add to that the heat generated by all of the cooking taking place within the confines of the festival. It can be very unpleasant unless you plan properly. So, the weather was in the seventies and I got there just when it opened to avoid the crush of the crowds that can happen at later hours of the day. I would also suggest that you go with somebody else so that you are able to share the food.
When the festival first started there were actually small "taste" portions that were very affordable and allowed you to actually experience various "tastes" of the food of Chicago. Somewhere along the way this concept was lost and you only had the option of purchasing entree sized portions. I do not need to tell you how gluttonous the whole thing was. They have gone back to the original idea and each restaurant offers 2 "taste sized options" usually for $2 along with the regular entree sized options. Everything I tried was a $2 "taste option" and I shared that with another person to try the most items without having to roll myself home. I would suggest that you do the same because it is very inexpensive and you get to try many more foods than you would if you were to eat them by yourself. I do not have photos of everything I tried because some of it was not very photogenic. So you will have to use your imagination.
The Banana Leaf Restaurant - Two Jerk Chicken Wings - Yes, there were two, but one was snatched before I could shoot. There are three restaurants offering jerk chicken wings. This was the first year for The Banana Leaf so I tried theirs. I thought they were pretty good. Moist and spicy.

Lao Sze Chuan - Dry Chili Chicken - OK, if you do not like heat, do not order this. (I know you can see how many dry chilies are on that plate) I love hot food so I thought this was pretty good. The only problem is that this is a plate of protein. I am Chinese. Where is my rice? Unfortunately, you do not even have the option of paying for a side order of rice. There is none.

The Smoke Daddy - Pulled Chicken Mini Sandwich - This was an OK sandwich. I guess I just like a different type of BBQ, but it is a nice little sandwich for $2. I thought it was good, but nothing to write home about.

Vermillion - Mango Dusted Fries with Tamarind Chutney - I was intrigued by the description and that is why I bought these. In general, I would not go and buy some fries. Unfortunately, these just missed the mark. I expected a lot more from such an upscale restaurant. I really liked the flavor of the tamarind chutney mixed with the salt and mango dust (I think of fairy dust every time I say that), but the fries were not crisp at all. Undercooked and soggy. I like my fries crispy. It could be that the batch that mine came from were just sub-par and you might have better luck. If you can get a look at the fries before buying them I would say that you should go for it if they look crispy to you because the other flavors were pretty good.
If you need a little respite from all of the people and food, you can walk over to Buckingham Fountain for a bit of refreshment.

Speaking of refreshment, this is my big tip for you. You can really go without spending your cash on beverages. There are several beverage companies (Pepsi, Crush, Sierra Mist, McDonalds, Ocean Spray )giving out free drinks along the way. Just remember where each one is along the way and just grab a small glass or two during your journey and you will do just fine.
There were two more places that I tried but do not have photos to post.
BJS Market and Bakery - Mustard Fried Catfish - This portion was pretty small (two small nuggets), but the catfish was tasty. If catfish is what you are craving then you might want to indulge in the regular sized portion.
Loving Hut - Homerun Ball ( Fried Vegetable Protein with Sweet and Spicy Sauce) - I always like to try vegan foods to see what they have done with meat substitutes. This was just OK. I might have not ordered it if i had known it was deep fried and then covered in sauce. Not my favorite choices for summer eating. I will not give up on this place. I am going to go and try out the restaurant since I pass it at least once a week. I think that the food is better than what I tried. I will report back on that one. So, if you are going down to the Taste, that is what I sampled this year. Let me know if you find something I should have tried.

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