You know I'm a big fan of Taste Network's Cochon 555 parties. Rancho Gordo participates in all the bay area events by serving beans to help with all the pork love. If you haven't been, five chefs get five heritage pigs and the competition begins. Five wineries and various friends, like us, show up and it's a great event.
I had a hunch that helping out in Chicago would be a good idea and I wasn't wrong. My only regret is that I didn't have more time. I did manage to spend three hours at the Art Institute, mostly showing my ignorance. I had no idea how many incredible and famous pieces were housed there. It's almost staggering.
I also managed to meet with the great folks at Fox & Obel and Rancho Gordo will soon have a good home in Chicago. More as things develop but I couldn't be happier about selling through a retailer in Chicago.
One of the highlights of the trip was getting to have brunch with Rick Bayless and his family at their home. The place was gorgeous and the food was delicious, naturally, but knowing them personally is now something I'll remember forever. They're great people to know; sharing a common interest in Mexican food makes them all the more interesting. Sometimes it's dangerous to meet your heroes and sometimes some of your dreams come true!
The big event was Sunday night at the Blackstone. It was a scene but a good scene. I was thrilled to find even more of my heroes there: Herb and Kathy Eckhouse from La Quercia, serving their excellent pork. They won the Bon Appetit Hot 10 award the year before I did and I've been following their progress ever since. What a hoot to meet them in person! And even hootier to discover they've been shopping Rancho Gordo online for some time. Honestly, there was excellent food, wine and more but meeting them was the big deal for me.
I met a lot of great chefs, brewers, vintners and more. Brady Lowe, the event producer, arranged dinners at Stephanie Izzard's The Girl and The Goat and the Blackstone's own Mercat a la Planxa. Both were great in very different ways. Both restaurants were part of the event and Mercat's Mike Fiorello won. I was too busy serving beans to taste much of the food but Mike arranged to have beans cooked and they did an excellent job so I was pretty confident that he deserved the win, just on his being such a great guy.
I had to leave with an 8:00 am flight. Ouch! The one nice thing was Rick Bayless has a Frontera Torta shop at the airport and rather than pay and suffer through bad United Airlines prefab nastiness, I was enjoying an excellent egg and chorizo torta all the way back home to the bay area, feeling smug and already filled with a little nostalgia for Chicago.