Monday, July 18, 2016

Travel Adventures: IFT16 Chicago Part 1

I work in the Fruit and Vegetable industry and, because of my job, I get to attend meetings when they pertain to my profession. I am a member of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).  They hold an annual meeting where industry professionals can come attend sessions, hear keynote speakers and walk around an expansive trade show. Topics revolve around all things food.  From food chemistry, nutrition, development, engineering, laws, food safety and defense - you name it, it's covered.  I thought I would share my IFT16 adventure with you.

Day 1, Saturday

I flew from Orlando to Chicago on Saturday.  I think I flew on the oldest plane I have ever flown on.  The airplane looked like something out of the 1980's. Seriously, why hasn't this plane been retired?!  It was so old that the vents above the seats had that dingy, yellowish coloring and wouldn't even turn so that you could direct the air flow.  The overhead bins were laughable.  Good thing I checked my bag! 

So..crazy side note:  I am pretty sure I spotted Susan Elizabeth Phillips in the airport getting her bag at baggage claim.

Clue #1: I know that RWA was in San Diego, the flight on the baggage carousel was from San Diego.
Clue #2:  I know that SEP lives in Chicago (Hello, Chicago Stars series!)
Clue #3:  I follow SEP on twitter and Facebook, I know what she looks like.  (I'm not stalking her, I swear.)

I tried to get a picture of her, but I was trying to be inconspicuous, so I know this is a terrible picture!!  What do you think?  Could it have been her?  I mean what are the chances????

I took Uber from the airport to my hotel.  Yes, I use Uber and I love it.  I can do a whole post on this later.  I am staying at the Sheraton Grand in downtown Chicago.  If you have ever been to Chicago, it is within walking distance of the Navy Pier.  I have stayed here once before and it is a nice hotel and in a great location.

I was hungry so I dropped off my bags and looked up a nearby restaurant.  I was going to try and eat down at the Pier, but none of the restaurants at the Pier had a good rating on Yelp.  I decided on D4 Irish Pub just down the road.  It had a 4 star rating on Yelp and I tend to frequent pubs. 

By the time I got to the restaurant, it was a little after 7:00.  I was able to get a table right away.  I have to say that the ambiance at this little pub was very nice.  It was slightly upscale for a pub and everything looked new, but also old world.  It was dark and cozy.  The menu selection was mainly sandwiches and comfort food dishes.  I settled on the burger, but it was a tough decision.  I do enjoy chicken pot pie and they had that on the menu too. 

My server was super attentive and Johnny-on-the-spot the whole night.  I had ordered my burger medium, but it was more like medium well.  Other than that, everything was great.  The fries were crispy and salty.  I would probably eat there again, but will probably try the chicken pot pie.  After dinner, I headed back to my room and called it a night.

Day 2, Sunday

I had to be at the McCormick Center for the first session at 8:30 AM.  They run shuttle buses from the hotels to McCormick.  It's really cool because they can avoid the traffic and have their own special route.  On this morning, however, Chicago was having a half marathon and told us there would be delays.  Yep, lets just say I didn't make it to the first session on time, more like 9:00!

View from my room

My specialty in the food industry is food safety.  I teach fruit and vegetable growers about food safety regulations as it pertains to them.  The first session I attended was entitled Improving Microbial Safety of Locally Grown Fresh Produce in Several US States Through Research and Extension Approaches.  Basically, it was talking about the challenges faced at farmers markets and implementing good food safety practices.

The next event was featured speaker Jacques Rousseau addressing Science Versus Sensationalism and Soundbites: How Can Consumers Make More Informed Choices?  A big issue in our industry is that most people get swept up in media hype and scare tactics and really don't know how to navigate what's true and what's not.  He talked about the issue and what we can do to make changes to address the issue.

At noon, the trade show opened up.  I didn't have to buy lunch because, after all, this is a FOOD expo.  There are plenty of samples to eat on the floor.  I wondered around for an hour or so snacking at various booths.  The Morton Salt booth had pork sliders on a pretzel bun.  Yum! 

Entrance to the trade show
In the afternoon, on the trade show floor, they feature Cooking up Science demonstrations.  Usually, a company has a product they want to feature and then they have a celebrity chef cook up a recipe using that company's product and then the audience can have a taste.  These are really fun to attend.  I went to two today: PureCircle and Qualisoy.  PureCircle featured macaroons and iced coffee that uses Stevia.  Qualisoy featured donuts with a caramel sauce that uses soybean oil.  Emily Ellyn, Retro Rad Chef, who won Cupcake Wars on the Food Network did the Qualisoy demonstration.  She is a hoot!  She gave everyone in the audience cat eye glasses and made us all get up so she could take a picture.  She took her picture with me and gave me an autographed recipe card.  So nice!!

Me and Emily Ellyn
I topped off the day with dinner at Volare Ristorante Italiano.  In my last trip to Chicago, my colleague took me here on a recommendation from the hotel concierge.  It did not disappoint and, needless to say' I enjoyed it. So, I decided to come back.  This is a small little Italian restaurant that features fresh Italian fare.  It is so yummy!!!  It's a little on the nicer side, so don't go in wearing shorts and a t-shirt.  Although, a lady tonight had on just that. *Sigh*.  I ordered the special, which was white fish (I can't remember if it was sea bass or halibut) in a lemon butter sauce with asparagus and risotto.  Can I just say yum?  The fish is so tender it just melts in your mouth. 

And that, my friends, concludes day 2. Stay tuned for days 3 & 4....


Lover Of Romance said...

ohhh fun!!! My sister and her husband are moving to chicago for medical school!!! definitely going to recommend these food places to them :) Especially that italian place....your pictures are awesome!!! Looks like you had a blast here!!!

Rowena said...

That is most definitely SEP. I remember when Holly and I shared an elevator with her at RWA in Anaheim. She walked out and we giggled like little schoolgirls. Haha.

Looks like a great conference. Your food looks delicious.

Jill D. said...

Renee - Wow, that is exciting for your sister. It's a great place to visit. There is a ton of stuff to do and lots of great restaurants.

Rowena - How crazy is it that I was in the airport, at the exact same time as SEP. CRAZY!!!

Wendy said...

OK, seriously - that is totally SEP.

I'm grossly behind on my blog-roll so I'm late in saying WELCOME BACK!!!! ::squeeze::

Jill D. said...

Hi Wendy!! Thanks for visiting. Hah! I thought that was SEP, but was so afraid it wasn't so I didn't go up to her, lol.

Mb Jackson said...

sounds like a fun work trip so far- I love Chicagp! Funny, you re stalking some poor lady in the airport, I did not know the name but I am sure she is an author if you are checking her out! sate travels!