YUM-O: How we crashed Rachael Ray’s Big Block Party

Rachael Rays Big Block Party

Never a dull moment in Chicago. Yesterday, it was all about crashing the taping of Rachael Ray’s Big Block Party.

A few of Dave’s friends who live in Wrigleyville received letters about the taping on August 21. The event was invite only, and residents would be allowed to cross the blockades to get into their apartments, but only with an ID showing a valid address.

When I got wind of this, I immediately called Doug (who also happens to be enjoying Furlough Fridays) and roped him into being my party-crasher partner-in-crime. We had another good brunch with Liz at Kitsch’n and set out on our mission.

First, we snuck around into the alley and then in through the back door of Doug’s apartment. After devising a careful strategy (act cool and cop a “Hey, I LIVE HERE!” attitude with anyone who hassles us), we strolled nonchalantly out the front door and into the middle of the block party.

Then, we saw her. The E.V.O.O. Queen herself. She was walking down Waveland towards Sheffield surrounded by camera crews, fans and and a respectable entourage. I started snapping pictures while shuffling backwards amidst the crowd. It was my first ever paparazzi moment (unless you ask Dave, who’ll say I’m guilty of this in our apartment).

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There she is.

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And again.

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Playing paparazzi was exiting and all, but I think it’s safe to say I shouldn’t quit my day job. Plus, it felt a little creepy to be totally honest.

We made our way to the main stage where Rachael introduced Kool & the Gang, who proceeded to perform every #1-hit-turned-cheesy-wedding-song from “Celebration” to “Get Down on it.”

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Amidst all the awkward chaos of a bunch of white people dancing to 80’s R&B/Funk/Pop (ourselves included), Doug seized the opportunity to get a picture with Rachael, who was jamming out (with an impressive amount of rhythm) just a few feet away from us.

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Then Jenny McCarthy came on stage for a mediocre interview. Turns out, the camera adds 10 percent sincerity. Sorry to disappoint all you Rachael Ray Show fans out there, but her interviews are even more fake in real life.

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This was right before I loudly booed Jenny McCarthy. You think I’m joking.

It’s not that I have anything against Jenny (I loved her during her Singled-Out days) but the chick said she’d never ridden the El during 20 years of growing up in Chicago. What can I say? It was a knee-jerk reaction. You’re not a true Chicagoan unless you’ve ridden the El next to sleeping homeless men.

After that we perused the free-food tents with Suchi (I’m probably not spelling that right), another party crasher. Here are some of the highlights:

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Frontera Guacamole

Mmm … Frontera Guacamole. Pumpkinseed, mango and red onion, and roasted red pepper and tomato variations.

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Rick Bayless

Oh, hey Rick. What brings you here?

Making Trail Mix

Bombay Trail Mix

Making Bombay Trail Mix at the Common Threads booth. This had an unexpected, but delightful flavor profile. Recipe to come.

Melon Soup


Melon Soup and cute little pastries from Le Cordon Bleu.

Red Mango

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Red Mango frozen yogurt. Red, white and YUM-O.


Beautiful produce at the fake farmers market. I almost slipped a few of those peppers in my purse. But then I chickened out.

Then, came the highlight of the day. Rick Bayless did a cooking demo! Mojo de ajo and banana-leaf wrapped Salmon covered in foil and baked on the grill. I’ll definitely try a variation of this recipe soon.

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Doug and I had front row seats. I think Rick’s looking right at me in this one. I’m not a stalker, I swear.

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Go Rick, Go.

Oh yeah, and Rocco DiSpirito did a demo too. Meh.

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At least he’s easy on the eyes.

The Big Block Party show airs the week of September 14th on WGN. If you’re lucky, you might see Doug and I looking like total jackasses. And listen closely for an audible “boo” around the 3-minute mark of the Jenny McCarthy interview. Sorry Jenny, nothing personal.


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