Last night, May 14th, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 10th annual Spring Flours Benefit hosted by the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center at the Swissôtel downtown Chicago. Not only is the event set up to raise funds for a cause so important to many of us, but over 30 of the top restaurants in Chicago were serving up amazing gluten-free dishes.
The night began with a presentation by the founder of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, Stefano Guandalini, MD. Dr. Guandalini, originally from Rome, Italy, has spent many years dedicated to studying celiac disease. After coming to the US he was shocked to learn of the how few Americans were diagnosed with celiac and how little doctors screened for it. Studies have shown that 1 in 133 Americans have the disease, yet 97% remain undiagnosed. This led him to establish what is now the Celiac Disease Center at the University of Chicago to raise awareness, education and advocacy of the disease.
The Center is run entirely by funding so events such as the one last night are vital in maintaining their research and amenities. Money raised by last night’s event contribute to educating doctors that celiac disease is not as uncommon as many believe and to increase awareness. Money also gets used to fund research in how celiac disease is triggered and possible intervention, as well as how to better care and inform patients.
There were many impressive items in the silent and live auction that seemed to end with even more impressive monetary results. The event was well attended and it was quite a feeling to be among so many people there for one cause that probably effected everyone in the room in one way or another. I bumped into my personal doctor, from the center, as well as many people who are involved in the gluten-free community.
Now on to the most fun part of the evening, the food! The evening was just amazing in that we were located in an elaborate ballroom with what seemed like never-ending high-quality options that were all gluten-free. No questions needed to be asked about cross-contamination, no packages had to be checked. Everything was 100% gluten-free and safe. It made me giddy to know I could go up to any restaurant there and eat what I wanted, I was in gluten-free heaven.
Over 30 of Chicago’s top restaurants were in attendance and everything was fabulous. Dishes were plated impressively and individually so you could literally of had a 30-course plus meal. Everything from starters to desserts and drinks were in abundance. I was truly impressed by every restaurant there, but because I do not have room to mention each one individually, I am going to list my highlights. Ben Pao‘s Thai beef salad, Carnivale‘s ropa vieja with sweet plaintains, the sweet pea soup from Bistro 110, the Vietnamese spring rolls with marinated tofu from the Centered Chef Food Studios, the butterscotch custard creme from Mon Ami Gabi and Café Ba Ba Reeba, the house-made Italian sausage with braised lentils and velvet mashed potatoes from Osteria Via Stato, the fennel-encrusted tuna with arugula from RL, the Ahi tuna rolls from Roy’s, the sesame encrusted crab cakes, salmon terrine and raspberry pana cotta (pictured above) from the Swissôtel, and probably my absolute favorite, the mini beef barbacoa tacos from Foodlife. And of course I can’t forget the always amazing cupcakes from Swirlz, I enjoyed the lemon macadamia toffee and the chocolate twixie, which were both an absolute treat.
All of the chefs and restaurant staff were extremely friendly and genuinely seemed excited to be a part of this event. They were very helpful with any questions about the menu, and informed everyone of the gluten-free items available in the restaurants, many with copies of their gluten-free menus on display.
I definitely did not leave there feeling hungry, nor did I wake up that way. It left me with happy memories, and a list of restaurants to go to for my next special occasion or just a casual night out. I believe the event was a huge success in all ways and you could really see it on everyone’s faces. It was well worth the price of a ticket and I definitely look forward to this event again in the future.