2009 Great Chefs Tasting Party

May 15 2009 - 9:42 PM

In general, I hate attending charity events, what with being surrounded by tear-jerker video presentations and the constant pressure to donate more money. I would much rather help a cause by volunteering my time and energy, so that I can see direct results. On the other hand, the prospect of scoping out over 40 of Chicago's best restaurants at the 17th Annual Great Chefs Tasting Party for Cerebral Palsy was very enticing. As it turns out, I, along with at least a few hundred other people, thought the Great Chefs event was well-worth the price of admission. In essence, this is the Taste of Chicago, with fewer lines, no porta-potties, high-quality food not on a stick, and the addition of an open bar. The Sheraton did an excellent job catering the event, with a live band, ample seating, and friendly staffers (the bartender knew my drink by round 2). And most important, you have the comfort of knowing your dollars are going towards fighting disease with United Cerebral Palsy.

Concurrent with the tasting party, a silent auction was taking place with a wide variety of goods and services. You could donate funds to purchase art supplies for Toylend, or bid on a tour of Napa Valley that included a bottle of wine signed by Mike Ditka (one of only 30 produced). Other items included framed Picasso sketches, White Sox tickets, bundles of restaurant gift certificates and other themed packages ("6 Date Nights," "Mother's Day").

There were too many excellent dishes presented last night to recognize everyone, but here are some of the highlights. If the Great Chefs Tasting Party were a high school graduation:

Most Likely to Save the Planet:
Cafe at the Ritz Carlton, Confit of Gunthrop Farm Pork Belly, Rhubarb Compote, and Heirloom Radish Salad

Most Likely to be a Millionaire:
Carnivale, Ropa Vieja

Most Creative:
Foodlife, BBQ Beef Brisket with Coca-Cola

Most Dependable:
Chicago Firehouse Restaurant, Steak with horseradish sauce and creamed spinach

Most Intelligent:
Lockwood, Scallops 3 Ways: brown butter, lime, toasted almonds, golden raisins

Class Clown:
Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House, Spicy lobster cocktail and crabmeat avocado shooter

Best Looking:
Coco Pazzo, Seared duck breast with oyster mushrooms, radicchio, pancetta and aged balsamic

Most Athletic:
Cyrano's Cafe on the River Walk, Trio of ostrich pate, pork rillette, chicken liver mousse

Mr. Congeniality:
Lao Beijing, Seafood dumplings

Most Likely to Make a Splash:
Melting Pot, Chocolate fountain, cheddar cheese fondue

Most Spirited:
Osteria via Stato, Assorted dessert display (of gargantuan proportions)

Most Likely to Stay Forever:
Trattoria 225, Fresh mozzarella wrapped in proscuitto and basil pesto

Most Likely to Leave Town and Never Come Back:
China Grill, Spicy Beef & Scallion Dumplings

Most Unique:
Saloon Steakhouse, Buffalo satay skewer with black sesame

Most Talented:
Tallulah, Spicy Maine lobster deviled egg with microgreens

Best All Around:
David Burke's Primehouse, Mou Shoo beef in pancakes, grilled ramps, pea tendrils, roasted garlic & chilies

[Photo: UCP]