Food & Beverage

Cookies, Cocktails, and Killer Breakfasts

A culinary recap of the top tastes at Convening Leaders 2015

cookiesYesterday I half-floated, half-limped home from my first Convening Leaders. The week flew by in a blur, and I returned to my desk with a pile of business cards, a notebook full of story ideas, and a deep respect for the work that PCMA staff puts in all year to bring this event to life. I’m still digesting it all in my head, definitely, but also my stomach:gin_punch The lobster tamales at the opening night reception at the Museum of Science and Industry. The bacon-dotted guacamole at the Mexico lunch, and the smorgasbord at the “Food For Thought” luncheon. The cookies-and-milk afternoon snack. The dizzying spread of small plates at Navy Pier during the closing party (Faves: Citrus-cured mackerel from The Gage, and Gold Digger Punch from Heaven Hill Distilllery). The artfully composed Vancouver brunch, complete with Bloody Caesars.

smorgasbordBut the dish most likely to make it into my home repertoire came off-site — specifically, at the Hilton Chicago. On Monday morning, the Hilton staff held a combo breakfast/press conference to publicize the company’s ever-growing sustainability initiatives, including Meet With Purpose (more about that in a future story). Journalists famously flock like sparrows to free food, and the Hilton offered it up in abundance: Muffins, frittata, croissants, yogurt-compote parfait, all arranged in a farm-like tableaux of fresh herb pots and wooden crates.

The star of the spread was a dish so simple and delicious that it’s going to be my new breakfast staple, if I can wangle it: Baked grapefruit. Chef Mario Garcia (who’s incredibly proactive about local sourcing, though not as much in the dead of winter) and his team marinate wedges of grapefruit in brown sugar and slivered mint, then toss them with streusel topping and bake the entire thing until crunchy. The acids of the grapefruit soften via heat and are lifted and accented by the springlike mint and crunchy topping. It’s TO DIE FOR.

baked_grapefruit2Chef will pass on his recipe soon, but outlined enough of the broad strokes so that I can give it a whirl this weekend. It’s the perfect bridge food between the rich treats of Convening Leaders and the healthy food we vow to eat in January: Light, fresh, and nourishing, but just sweet enough.

Corin Hirsch

Corin Hirsch is a writer who specializes in food and drink.