Chicago’s most famous food festival is underway now, the 35th annual Taste of Chicago held downtown over 5 days in Grant Park. Although the fest has been significantly downsized in recent years due to the City’s budgetary concerns, more than a million visitors are expected to visit 60+ food vendors and wander the grounds waving ginormous turkey legs, ears of roasted corn, and a few more exotic treats such as rattlesnake and rabbit sausage. There’s music too, free concerts starring Spoon, Erykah Badu and Weezer.
Used to be ten long days, almost always in sweltering weather, of large and unruly crowds (I know, #notallcrowds), pedestrian food offerings (pizza and burgers? really?), and the infrastructure/ traffic nightmare that occurs when a major festival is plopped right downtown in a major city. There’s always a post-Taste news piece about the tons of garbage and recyclables collected and it’s always astonishing.
Did I mention -- 10 days?
Kudos to the Taste of Chicago organizers for stopping the madness and making real changes to turn things around again with a shorter timeframe, a more manageable number of food stalls, healthier food options, and experiential elements such as the addition of food trucks and pop-up fine dining experiences with top-tier local chefs.
However there is one summer festival that I look forward to each year, and have missed only once due to an out-of-town family event. (Stupid nuptials! j/k) Pitchfork Music Festival is in its 10th year, bringing many different genres of independent music to Union Park for 3 days of great tunes, delightfully hipster-ish arts & crafts, and awesome people-watching. The fun starts next week on July 17th. I’ll be there setting up camp under the shady tree with my folding chair, ground-cloth, and tote bag full of festival supplies.
Having a basecamp is a good festival strategy for my friends and me. I arrive early enough to stake claim on some prime real estate with a view of 2 music stages, the aforementioned shady tree, and nearby access to a row of port-a-potties. (The latter can be a good-news bad-news scenario.) Friends arrive at their leisure and then we take turns, sometimes keeping an eye on things under the tree, sometimes wandering the grounds -- going stage-side for your favorite bands or sampling the ancillary features, such as the very cool Flatstock poster show or CHIRP’s record fair, when the bands that you’re only meh about are playing.
I’ll have lots more to say about the Pitchfork experience in future posts but for now please enjoy this P’fork Playlist #1 with just a few of the musicians I can’t wait to see/hear.
Click their names to learn more about these artists – Steve Gunn + Ex Hex + Shamir + Mr Twin Sister + CHVRCHES + Sleater-Kinney
Ann’s Top Fest Tip #1: Bring a small pack of tissues and hand sanitizer. You might get lucky and find only porta-pottys that still have TP on the roll and porta-sinks that never run out of soap, but by Day 2 or 3 things could be getting kind of dicey over by Johnny-on-the-Spot Row. You’d better bring it.
Other worthwhile tips:
- Bring a small spray bottle filled with cold water (or fill ‘er up at an onsite water fountain). Spritz yourself (and unsuspecting friends, you scamp!) around the face and neck for a quick cool-down when you need relief from the usually sweltering heat.
- Some festivals allow each person to bring in a couple bottles of water. We freeze the water and stick it in a small insulated bag tucked inside the larger tote bag. The bottles thaw slowly throughout the day and can help keep other items cool.
- Bring a snack. Yes, yes, it’s prohibited to bring in outside food and it is a good idea to support the local food vendors, but it’s also a good idea to have a little protein-y sump’n sump’n at the ready. Sneaking contraband onto festival grounds is WRONG and I am shocked to learn that some people do this (on knees now praying for their mortal souls) … but I imagine it would be pretty easy to accomplish if one had a mind to.
A batch of these spicy roasty-toasty little numbers might be making the trip to Pitchfork with us next weekend. They’re also great for cocktail parties.
Recipe source: Rick Bayless, Fiesta at Rick’s cookbook
- 2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo Cook’s note: Depending on how much heat you like, you can de-seed one or both of the chiles
- 1 tablespoon adobo (tomato-y sauce in the can of chiles)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 scant teaspoon salt
- 4 cups (about 1 ¼ lbs) toasted blanched almonds
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Scoop the chipotle chiles, adobo, lime juice, ketchup, sugar and salt into a blender and process to a smooth puree.
- Pour into a large bowl along with the peanuts and toss until the nuts are evenly coated.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and evenly spread the nuts on it.
- Bake until they are fragrant and no longer moist, 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook’s note: In my case it took longer for the nuts to “dry out” – probably 40 minutes overall. Just pay attention.
- Cool the nuts on the sheet pan. They will crisp up as they cool.
This recipe can be made using any kind of nuts. Here’s another Rick Bayless recipe using peanuts.