Martha Stewart Wine & Food Experience in Chicago a special tour stop for Graham Elliot

The Soldier Field crowd gasped on Saturday, but it wasn’t because Khalil Mack sacked another quarterback. It was surely Chicago Bears weather outside, but inside the toasty United Club, Martha Stewart revealed to her own league of fans that she was readying three 30-pound turkeys for her Thanksgiving spread.

It was part of the Martha Stewart Wine & Food Experience, presented by USA TODAY, which landed in Chicago as part of a 12-city tour celebrating outstanding food, drink and chefs. 

More than 1,000 guests grazed on bites of coffee and cocoa-dusted venison carpaccio (courtesy of Travelle’s Jeff Vucko); Tony Priolo’s outstanding sformato di zucca (that would be savory heirloom squash flan to the rest of us); and banana cake with foie mousse and banana nut by Steadfast among the many dishes prepared by 30 participating restaurants. The Grand Tasting sampling experience featured local chefs and restaurateurs in branded booths allowing food fans to taste some of the best of the city in one afternoon. 

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Chicagoans Jelian and Terrell Steward attended the food feast “to get some ideas for their catering company.” Kari and Connor Blankenship, professed devotees of the culinary arts, were thrilled to meet Graham Elliot, who signed aprons and posed gleefully for selfies with his fans.

The chef, author, restaurateur and television personality has participated in the Wine and Food Experience in other cities, however, the Chicago rendition was particularly exciting.

“I do TV and people assume I live in LA, but this is where I live and cook, and it’s important for people to remember that. Plus, the palate is super discerning here with people going out to dine and try new things three times a week – it’s very exciting for chefs when you have people who appreciate what you do,” Elliot said. 

Other chefs just like to get out of their restaurant, meet fans and see others comrades in cookery.

Stephanie Izard, the first female chef to win Bravo’s Top Chef and Executive Chef of Girl & the Goat, has a long list of Chicago restaurants yet to sample and the eatery on the top of her list, Etta, was serendipitously placed right next to her booth.

“As a matter of fact, I think my husband is going to take me there for my birthday,” she laughed. Izard advised everyone to do potluck for the holidays (she is contributing a couple ducks for the grill and a turkey while guests bring their best side dishes). 

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Chef/owner Joe Frillman of Daisies, a small indie eatery in the hot culinary neighborhood of Logan Square, jumped at the opportunity to participate in the Wine & Food Experience Chicago to allow attendees to experience what’s cooking beyond downtown. Frillman, who serves as executive chef, office manager, front of the house helper and face of Daisies, won the 2018 Jean Banchet Award for Best Neighborhood Restaurant in Chicago. 

Spirits, beers and nearly 40 wine varietals, including three Martha Stewart Wine Co. varietals, moistened the pipes of attendees and there was a conga line of the spiritually curious at the Rums of Puerto Rico booth offering eight aged sipping rums. Interactive elements also kept attendees buzzed from stenciling aprons to learning how to be a proper mixologist.

As pork shoulder with dried fruits perfumed the air, all eyes were on the lifestyle leader preparing a recipe from her latest cookbook, “Martha Stewart’s Pressure Cooker: 100+ Fabulous New Recipes for the Pressure Cooker, Multicooker, and Instant Pot.” If you’re one of the lucky 40 coming to Stewart’s place for Thanksgiving, know that the favorite hostess gift she ever received was a 14-ounce tin of Beluga caviar. That and a nice bottle of fine White Burgundy. 

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