Wandering through the boutiques that make up LuxeHome (website), on the first floor of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, you didn’t know what you’d find. Tucked away in model bathrooms, kitchens with Wi-Fi ready refrigerators, and next to paint samples’ there might be a lobster roll, coffee-flavored sake, or a steel drum band doing a cover of Pharrell’s ‘Happy.’ Walk outside into the halls of Merchandise Mart to find the upper half of a woman on a delicious dessert tray, tree people wandering around, more music, more wine, and more food.
This was my first time at LuxeHome Chill, easily one of the most unique food and drink tastings held in the city. LuxeHome operates 30 boutiques on the first floor, with merchandise focused on home building and remodeling. Their ninth annual LuxeHome Chill invites Chicagoans to browse through their boutiques while helping to raise money for charity. Proceeds from ticket sales and a silent auction went to benefit the Lynn Sage Foundation, Respiratory Health Association, and Saturday Place.
Wine, Wine, and Stella Artois
Wine, Saki, Stella Artois, CocktailsLuxehome produces their Chill event with the help of Wine Spectator, and obviously it’s a wine heavy event. With my ticket, I was given a wine glass to bring around to sample dozens of brands and all types of wines from well known names like Francis Ford Coppola to a selection of Takara Sake. There were also some cocktails to be found, like a very strong Don Q Rum Manhattan and a selection of beers from Stella Artois.
Women dressed as trees at luxehomePersonally my tastes tend to favor cocktails and craft beer over wine and I would have enjoyed more options, but there was certainly enough booze around to liven up the night. By the end of the event, strangers were coming up to me and engaging in conversation. The best chat of the night involved a middle aged man who started to recall a bad acid trip after seeing the tree women on stilts come across our path.
The Best Food at LuxeHome Chill
The food at LuxeHome Chill ranged from small bites to fairly large sandwiches and burgers. While my stomach has, for better or worse, increased quite a bit since starting my career as a food writer, I regretfully couldn’t sample all 50 dishes. And though nearly everything was quite good, here’s the best of what I tried:
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse: Filet Mignon Sliders
Luxehome filet minion slider from Double Eagle SteakhouseTowards the end of the night when the sight of a pile of meat on bread was one of the last things I wanted to see, I knew I couldn’t resist a filet mignon slider. From Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, they somehow managed to cook incredibly tender and flavorful steak in a store. Besides the excellent meat, the sandwich stood out thanks to a spicy and sweet onion jam.
HighLine Bar: Deviled Duck Eggs & Bacon
bacon eggs at Luxehome ChillA lot of people find it weird to eat anything other than a chicken egg, but duck eggs are pretty incredible. They’re larger and more flavorful, just don’t eat them if you’re watching your cholesterol intake. The deviled duck eggs from HighLine Bar were rich and creamy, with a bit of savory lacquered bacon on top. Diners also had the option of giving their eggs a kick with several different hot sauces.
I find Mercadito to be a little overpriced, but I’ve always enjoyed going there for tacos. Next to paint samples and to the sound of a mariachi band, I was thrilled to chow down on one of their shrimp tacos. Inside a small corn tortilla, the shrimp is topped with garlic and a chipotle mojo with a slice of avocado on top, and it’s absolutely delicious. I’d definitely recommend visiting their River North location if you’re hungering for higher-end Mexican cuisine with trendy d’cor.
Nick’s Fish Market Lobster Bisque Soup
A recent trip to Boston got me hooked on lobster. The Hubbard Inn had a sizable and tasty lobster roll and while I do recommend checking out the cool, retro-club vibe of their bar/restaurant, Nick’s Fish Market was the best lobster dish of the night. Served in a little shot glass, the lobster bisque was warm and bursting with lobster flavor. Generally I find lobster bisques to be a little weak sometimes, but Nick’s bisque was full and rich.
Osteria La Madia
Osteria La Madia had one of the unique snacks of the night: a puff pastry filled with a chicken liver mousse and topped with a light marmalade. I didn’t read the sign and at first look assumed this was going to be a dessert. It was a pleasant surprise biting through the fresh pastry to find savory, soft chicken’I could easily plow through a table of these on an empty stomach.
Prime & Provisions Bacon Bites and Whipped Potatoes
Prime & Provisions was one of the first booths I stopped by and started off the night right with something small and loaded with flavor. Served with tasty whipped potatoes, I munched on a thick slice of tender bacon seasoned with black pepper and topped with a dark chocolate sauce and Michigan maple syrup. I loved how they were preparing bacon in an already unusual way to us Americans’ who tend to prefer it burnt to a crisp and then adding in two very different sweet tastes.
Rural Society Carpaccio de Pulpo
Walking past plates piled with long octopus tendrils next to fancy sink water taps was too unusual to pass up. Rural Society’s Carpaccio focused heavily on raw Octopus. While Chicago isn’t typically known for having the freshest seafood, for geographical reasons, their Octopus was unbelievably tender and hardly chewy. Balancing out any fishy taste was a tomato-based sauce, while a chip provided a satisfying finishing crunch and excellent blend of textures.