Remember that weekend I went to the Taste of Chicago? I posted like crazy about it on Instagram. Well, we're practically a month later now. How did that happen? I'm not sure about you guys but this summer...no, this year is flying by. On one hand, I could cry tears of joy that fall is on the horizon but on the other hand, I wish I could slow time down a bit. Because of Chicago's long and grueling winter, we tend to go nuts in the summertime with festivals and events. Even when it's unbearably hot and humid outside, you can still see people digging into a heaping bowl of mac and cheese or eating their way through a slab of barbecue ribs. Bikini season? No. This is food season. Welcome to summer in Chicago!
I was invited to the Taste of Chicago again this year by Humana and had a blast making my way through the participating restaurants. If you're not familiar, the Taste of Chicago is an annual food event in July when dozens of Chicago restaurants offer some of their best dishes in full and taste portions. It's been around for almost 40 years and draws people in from a local and global scale. It's one of the world's largest food festivals, if not the largest. Humana has been a partner with the Taste of Chicago for a few years now with the goal to introduce healthier choices. It might seem a bit of a let down for a food festival (I mean come on...extra cheese, please) but it really isn't. You'd be surprised how many options make the Healthier Choices list that also feel indulgent and taste delicious. Here are a few of my favorite tastes from the festival.
Pulled Chicken Slider at PorkChop: light and tasty, this guy was a great start. NOTE - I always aim for the taste portions because I'd rather have a lot of little things instead of a few big ones. Besides, some of the taste portions are enormous.
Pad Thai Noodes and Mango Ice Cream from Star of Siam: the Pad Thai Noodles were bomb. This is an example of an enormous taste portion. Pad Thai is a favorite of mine so I couldn't pass it up. The Mango Ice Cream was a refreshing break from the heat.
Chili Lime Watermelon from Farmer's Fridge: an interesting and unique flavor combination, I was obsessed with this. Farmer's Fridge is a different kind of "restaurant." Instead of sit-down spots, they have fridges throughout Chicago with salads, breakfast items and snacks all in jars. It's like a healthy, fresh-food vending machine. Pretty cool, huh?
Bacon on a Stick from Bobak's: In full disclosure, this was not my choice. My little cousin is a bacon addict and his thing every year at the Taste is getting a taste-size bacon on a stick. This is not one of the healthier choices, not by a long shot. But he weighs nothing and plays outside all day so it's a little more forgiving for him.
Italian Watermelon Ice from Franco's Ristorante: another refreshing break in the heat. My cousins liked this more than the Mango Ice Cream but I am a firm believer that they are both delicious.
Chocolate Covered Strawberry from The Fudge Pot: I will never understand why my family insists on wasting tickets on one strawberry every single year but they do. I guess chocolate covered strawberries are just that irresistible plus it's one of those indulgent healthier choices.
Bao to the Pork Taste from Pork & Mindy's: I saved the two BEST for last. I have been dying to try Pork & Mindy's for a while now and I got a chance at the taste this year with their pop-up shop. They didn't disappoint. Jeff Mauro knows what he's doing. The Bao to the Pork sandwich is by far one of the best I've ever had.
Havarti Mac and Cheese from Mad Social: another restaurant I am dying to try with probably the best mac and cheese I've ever had. The flavors in this version are practically orgasmic. I will never look at mac and cheese the same again. You can call me an official "Mac and Cheese Snob."
Did you got to the Taste of Chicago? Tell me what your favorite bites were in the comments.