Tips and touts for Chicago Gourmet

Tribune critic

The fourth annual Chicago Gourmet food and wine festival, running Saturday and Sunday at Millennium Park, is just a couple of days away. If you're planning to go, and really you should. here's some useful information:

Getting in: There's a second entrance this year, on Millennium Park's South Promenade. This is likely going to be way less congested when the festival opens each day.

New layout: The main wine-sampling tents, and there are four of them, have been moved to the center of the Great Lawn. Each wine tent has one food vendor inside, and a food tent immediately outside. The Chef Tasting tents, and there are nine this year (up from five last year), are scattered around the site's perimeter.

Efforts have been taken to ensure that there's always food, somewhere. During shift changes at the various chef tents (times staggered so this all doesn't happen at once), one or two food carts will appear, so there still will be nibbles available at every tent.

What not to miss: Don't overlook the wine seminars, which are held upstairs from the main stage in the Choral Room or in the seminar tent on the site's eastern border. You'll get to taste some unique wines and hear expert commentary as well. Plus you get a place to sit. I'm told that the Cabernet Sauvignon seminar (5:15 p.m. Saturday, Choral Room) is worth the price of admission (that is, general admission; the wine seminars are no additional charge) all by itself. Also make time for Joseph Spellman's "Blends Classic and Modern" seminar (1:30 p.m. Sunday), which will feature Justin wines. Limited seating for all wine seminars, so be sure to get there a little early.

I'd also make time for the cooking demonstrations by John Hogan (Keefer's) and Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia, Terzo Piano); these long-time friends will put on a good show. At 3:45 p.m. Saturday. and Top Chef Masters contestants Mary Sue Milliken and Jonathan Waxman's demo at 12:30 p.m. Sunday sounds pretty good, too. 

Booths to hit: Do not skip the Supreme Lobster Tasting Pavilion, on the south edge of the lawn; the chef lineups there throughout the weekend are terrific. Among the individual sponsored tents scattered throughout the lawn, I plan to hit the pig roast at Tent 6, the Mondavi Discover Wine Tent (14) and the tents belonging to the Peninsula Hotel (16), Roederer Estate (41) and Frontera Grill (44).

Oh, and bring an umbrella; Skilling says it'll rain on and off. Hopefully, mostly off.


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