Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Southern monopoly

Posted By on 06.09.09 at 01:25 PM

While the city is doing a little dance tomorrow in advance of this year's Taste of Chicago, doings are afoot for the second Chicago Gourmet Festival.

Remember that? Aside from its inaugural organizational problems, the Illinois Restaurant Association's Dunkin Donuts-sponsored high-end food fete--the city's answer to national events such as the South Beach Food & Wine Festival--gave ticketholders plenty of opportunities to stumble around Millennium Park spilling vino down their throats, with relatively little food to soak it up.

While this year's fest is set for September 25 through 27, the Food Chain has learned that this year's primary sponsor is none other than Southern Wines & Spirits, the nation's largest booze distributor. Southern signed on last year too, but the IRA's marketing director Jennifer Hefferly told me its position this year as "presenting" sponsor means that only products in the Southern portfolio will be poured at the event. Hefferly wouldn't comment on how much the distibutor paid to be on top, but she assured me the Fest's host committee is taking steps to address last year's lopsided booze-to-food ratio. Expect to learn more in about a month, when an official announcement is made.

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