• The lines at Chicago Gourmet 2008

This year is the fifth anniversary of Chicago Gourmet, the upscale alternative to Taste of Chicago that’s supposed to put Chicago on the map as a culinary destination. Time really flies—it seems like just yesterday that I was wandering around first the Pritzker Pavilion rooftop, then Millennium Park, desperately searching for edibles at the much-anticipated and generally disastrous first Chicago Gourmet. In honor of Recycling Week on the blog, here’s the first paragraph of my recap of the event (which wasn’t exactly glowing):

This past weekend’s Chicago Gourmet event must already be the most-blogged local food event of the year, with the Stew and Gapers Block averaging about a dozen posts apiece, and several other sites not far behind. So far, though, nothing I’ve come across has used to word “clusterfuck” to describe the event. Which is strange, because it’s been running through my head all weekend.

The event has improved dramatically in the years since, though. The second year was actually my favorite: taking heed of the problems from the year before, organizers made sure there was plenty of food, and lines were short. In 2010, the third year, attendance went up by 25 percent, for a total of 10,000 attendees over two days—good for the organizers’ profit margins, bad for the length of the lines. The crowds made some people cranky, but at least there was a lot of good food. It just took a while to get it. I missed last year’s Chicago Gourmet because I was out of town, but I hear it was better organized, making the lines shorter. I’m hoping that the organizers have finally hit their stride and that this year’s event will go smoothly. Tickets for Saturday are already sold out, but according to the website, a few Sunday and weekend tickets are still available.

Sat-Sun, noon-6 PM, Millennium Park, $160-$265