On Friday, lovers of meat, strong drink and fire came together to watch meat fall of the bone amid clouds of smoke. It was an evening to unabashedly display one’s inner caveman and indulge in some of the finest BBQ the city has to offer while puffing away. The occasion? CigarBQue.
CigarBQue, hosted by Chefs Rick Gresh of David Burke’s Primehouse, Giuseppe Tentori of GT Fish & Oyster and Cleetus Friedman of The Fountainhead, was also a chance to benefit the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation. This nonprofit works towards improving conditions in the Dominican Republic, one of the best cigar-producing countries in the world.
Charity aside, it was a treat to try BBQ from these and a host of guest chefs including Matt Troost (Three Aces), Jimmy Bannos Sr. (Heaven on Seven), Mike and Patrick Sheerin (Trencherman), Lee Anne Wong (The Cooking Channel), Rey Villalobos (Table Fifty-Two), David Blonsky (Bull & Bear & Public House), Heather Terhune (Sable Kitchen & Bar), Chris Macchia (The Florentine), Roger Herring (Socca), Sarah Jordon (Boka), Willie Wagner (Honky Tonk BBQ) and Meathead Goldwyn (AmazingRibs.com).
I find that I prefer smaller, themed events like these as opposed to the smorgasbord of Chicago Gourmet or Taste of Chicago. It’s a wonderful chance to see, in an apples-to-apples way, how the talent stacks up, see familiar chefs apply their skills in a different context, as well as discover new-to-me places to try.
My long list of new places to explore also includes distilleries. I’ve seen and tried Koval whiskey at events, but after trying a mixed drink with infused fruit and cracked pepper this spirit finally stood out for me. I’m not sure I would have taken the time with too many drink choices.
The focus of the evening was, of course, on barbecue.
Highlights included the bourbon glazed shrimp from David Blonsky’s crew, the pork medallion from Trencherman and especially the oh-so-tender brisket that Honky Tonk BBQ served at the entrance. The tequilla push-up pop from GT Fish & Oyster provided a refreshing finish, but the best part? Watching guests and chefs smoke and eat and cook through the evening.
CigarBQue was a well-run event with no shortages, plenty of variety, and no lines. Cigars and barbecue aplenty were had by all. Other food festivals should take note and limit attendance. It’s more intimate and enjoyable experience.
I attended CigarBQue as a guest.