The 17-day Chicago Restaurant Week festival is underway in the Windy City and the Chicago Department of Aviation doesn’t want air travelers to miss out.
So, through February 9, both Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) are hosting Airport Restaurant Week events to coincide with the food fest events in town.
morning Terminal 2 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport began to smell.
a good way.
The source of the smell: aromas from the fifth annual Channel Your Inner Chef culinary competition hosted by airport restaurateur HMSHost and the Chicago Department of Aviation.
During the 30-minute in-terminal cook-off four finalists from across the country created an original recipe using any of the ingredients available to them from a shared pantry revealed at the start of the event.
At least one of the ingredients had to be something picked that day from O’Hare’s hydroponic Urban Garden.
The contest took place in front of an audience of invited guests and travelers on their way to or from their flights.
Each contestant had a cooking station to work at that included a knife tied to the table, a reminder that the event was taking place on the secure side of the terminal.
I was in the audience for this year’s competition and was pleased to see winners from past years (all women) paired up as mentors to this year’s contestant chefs and on stage to help out during the first few minutes of the contest.
Then each finalist went to work on their own, whipping up dishes that included a pasta, a unique take on shrimp and grits and a Brie Schnitzel.
A panel of local judges evaluated the contestants on their recipe, presentation, showmanship and, of course, the taste of their dish and crowned Greeley, Colorado resident DeAndre Smith as the winner.
His winning dish: a pan-seared chicken breast with a brown sugar glaze accompanied by pickled rainbow carrots with Fresno peppers, fresh lemongrass, ginger and rice wine vinegar, along with a yam purée with cumin and almonds and flash fried kale.
“I thought about what my dish would be before I
came to the contest and was just hoping the ingredients I needed would be here,”
Smith told me, “I had to make a few adjustments, but it worked out.”
Smith’s prize is roundtrip airfare for two, as well as a VIP experience for two to the James Beard Awards Gala in Chicago.
Even better: Smith’s dish will soon be featured on the menu of an HMSHost-operated restaurant at O’Hare.
You don’t need a holiday to have a reason to order a beer the airport.
Heading out on a trip is usually reason enough.
But International Beer Day – celebrated each year on the first Friday in August – is underway today, so this would be a great day to check out the beers on tap in airport brewpubs across the United States.
There are way too many to list, but a few places to check out include Leinenkugel’s Leinie Pub at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport, which has self-service taps. Cask & Larder at Orlando International Airport, Flying Dog Tap House at Baltimore/Washington International Airport, Goose Island Bar at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Stone Arch at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and some of the others I list in this column about the history of airport brewpubs I wrote a while back for my ‘At the Airport’ column on USA Today.
There are oodles of others – so please add your faves in the comments section below and I’ll start making a list.
Several pop-up shops have popped up at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport- just in time for holiday shopping.
A bonus free-for-anyone lounge has returned as well.
Fans of Frango candies (created in Chicago back in 1929) will be pleased to find a Frango holiday boutique in Terminal 1, Concourse B, near gate B12 selling Frango cholate truffles in a vareity of classic and limited holiday flavors.
InMotion Entertainment, selling technology tools and gadgets, has a bonus pop-up shop in Terminal 2 and the Pop Gallery store, offering art, print and books, along with collectibles and toys, has popped in Terminal 3.
O’Hare has also brought back the Fly with Butch O’Hare Lounge, which first appeared at O’Hare last summer. The lounge is decked out in holiday trimmings and offers travelers comfortable chairs and chargng stations – and a nod to Butch O’Hare, the World War II Hero who is the airport’s namesake.
This summer, passengers at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway Airports will be treated to an “Air Carnival” with games, prizes, puppet shows, crafts, face painting and other activities.
The festivities have already begun at Midway Airport and coming up on Tuesday, June 16 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. will be an opportunity to make key chains for Father’s Day (at Viva’s Hallmark) and on Friday Friday, June 26 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., temporary tattoos will be offered (at Kidsworks in the Midway Boulevard food court).
On Tuesday, June 30 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. kids will be able to make Fourth of July hats at Relay, Concourse B near Gate B8.
During July, cookie-making and face painting, zoo animals, an introduction to musical instruments and puppet shows are on the agenda with all-day carnivals scheduled for July 30 and 31.
The schedule is still being developed at O’Hare International Airport, but at the end of July (on the 28th and 29th) the carnival in Terminal 2 will include stilt walkers, pinball games, video dance, airbrush tattoos, puppet shows, games, prizes and more.