Hundreds of people recently took part in one of the city's annual culinary highlights: Chicago Gourmet.
Spanning Sept. 21-24 mostly at the Harris Theater rooftop at Millennium Park, Chicago Gourmet featured, as usual, several events, including Tacos & Tequila, Somm Sessions, the Hamburger Hop competition, Late Night Gourmet (at TAO Chicago, 632 N. Dearborn St.), Grand Cru, Rise & Shine Gourmet, and Prost! In the Park.
I was fortunate enough to visit the afternoon Grand Cru (Sept. 23) this year. (There's an evening one as well.) Patrons gorged themselves on various items from restaurants such as Kindling, Parachute and Bloom Plant Based Kitchen while imbibing on offerings such as beer, wine and champagne. (The nighttime Grand Cru had items from restaurants like The Dearborn, Piccolo Sogno and Gibsons Italia.)
As for Hamburger Hop (Sept. 22), which involves a chef competition, there was a departure of sorts as Chef Shota Nakajimafrom Seattle spot Takuwon the 2023 Chicago Judges' Award AND People's Choice Award. Nakajima's Osaka Burger featured a Slagel Family Farms beef burger with provolone cheese, yuzu kosho cilantro kewpie, and pickled daikon and carrots on a Turano brioche bun. Celebrity chef Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat/Little Goat/Cabra /sugargoat/Duck Duck Goat/Girl & the Goat Los Angeles) hosted the evening.
Chefs Art Smith and Lorena Garcia hosted Rise & Shine on Sept. 24 while Chef Sarah Grueneberg hosted Prost! In the Parkan Oktoberfest-style eventlater in the day.
Chicago Gourmet was another triumphant event, and there were smiles all around.
Easy Bar (1944 W. Division St.; www.easybarchicago.com ) is normally a low-key dive bar with some friendly folks.
However, on the fourth Sunday of each month, at 5-7 p.m., the place comes alive as Drag Me to Bingo takes place in all its rainbow-hued glory.
Convivial hostess Ginger Forest and assistant Jean Natèe take patrons through two hours of revelry involving drinking, a coloring-book competition featuring queer icons and, of course, nonstop bingo (with everyone whooping it up whenever "O-69" is called). There are also loads of prizesalthough few in Easy Bar took pleasure in a patron named Tim winning the two biggest prizes of the night: a foot massager and a bottle of vodka. (When you win a prize, the person has to spin a wheel and then sashay/march down the aisle with that prize, unless you win a free drinkand plenty were won the night I went.)
Sunday specials available all evening include $3 Miller High Life, $5 Evan Williams Shots, and $9 beer-and-shot combos.
And then there's Jen, the bartender. Sporting her Pride shirt and always looking cheerful (even having to constantly pour drinks), she's a local treasure.
By the way, playing bingo is completely freeand SO much fun.
Note: These visits were arranged.