Taste Set to Open Amid Big Changes

Food festival takes on new look in 2012

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    NEWSLETTERS

    New gourmet dishes, pop-up restaurants and craft beers are available at the 32nd year of the food-based event. Dick Johnson reports.

    It's fair to say that this year's Taste of Chicago tastes a lot different.

    Aside from the obvious changes -- a new date and a shorter duration, five days instead of ten -- the world's largest food festival looks different in several other respects.

    A shorter festival also means less restaurants participating, with 36 restaurants setting up booths compared to 59 last year. New to the slate this year are 15 pop-up food booths, three different restaurants that will set up each day.

    But one thing you won't find on the menu are the popular BBQ turkey legs. Tim McGivern, the man responsible for the most iconic food item at the annual festival, is sitting this year out due to health issues.

    You may have a better chance of finding a goat leg, because Taste organizers have made a move to offer some high-brow food options, a nod to the increased respect Chicago has received in the global culinary scene. The Celebrity Chef du Jour, featuring celebrity chefs such as Stephanie Izard and Graham Elliot, sold out quickly.

    Ticket sales haven't been as brisk for concert seating, which for the first time is offered on a ticketed basis at the Petrillo Music Shell. Only half of the $25 tickets had been sold a couple of days before the festival's launch, although lawn seating remains free. Featured performers include Jennifer Hudson, Death Cab for Cutie, Michael Franti, Chaka Khan and Dierks Bentley.

    But at the end of the day, when you're strolling down Columbus, there'll be plenty about the festival that will still taste the same.

    Admission to the Taste of Chicago remains free, and 8 bucks still gets you a strip of 12 food tickets.

    The festival will be open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. each day.

    Happy eating.