Fests to tempt the taste buds

Taste of ChicagoJune 27-July 6www.tasteofchicago.us Taste of LincolnshireJuly 25-27www.lincolnshirechamber.orgTaste of LombardJuly 2-6www.tasteoflombard.comTaste of Melrose ParkAug. 29-31www.melrosepark.orgTaste of RoselleAug. 1-3www.roselle.il.us

Hot dogs, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese—getting the average kid to go beyond the common kids’ menu fare can be challenging. But summer offers a unique opportunity to introduce new food in a fun outdoor venue. Food festivals, like the Taste of Chicago, can be fried foods traps, but if you look carefully they often offer hidden gems that can broaden your child’s food palette.

“It important to take (kids) out and expose them to different things and not settle for clichés,” says Steve Dolinsky, better known as"The Hungry Hound” on WLS ABC7 Chicago. Dolinsky is also the father of two elementary school-aged kids."Ever since the kids were 6 weeks old we would drag them to Chinatown in their strollers.”

Dolinsky says Asian food presents all sorts of fun opportunities to introduce kids to new flavors. Trade the chicken nuggets for a chicken skewer."Those tend to be fun to try and eat,” he says."Also, lettuce wraps are great. They’re hand held.”

While many parents stick to the kids’ menu at restaurants because of portion size and price,"taste” size portions offer an alternative. Many festivals, including Taste of Chicago, offer a sample portion that is smaller and allows a young eater to try something without committing to an entire meal. They usually cost less than a full portion, too.

“Chicago has great ethnic food—Mexican, Thai, Greek, Polish—(festivals) are a great way to introduce these flavors to children,” says Cindy Gatziolis, spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office of Special Events in Chicago. She says another advantage is that kids see other kids trying different foods."It is always positive when they see other young kids eating, leading by example.”

Taste of Chicago is the largest food festival in the area, but smaller, neighborhood fests can introduce your child to a restaurant or a new taste within your own community. They also usually feature entertainment to add to the atmosphere. One of the best advantages of outdoor food fests—no need to run the dishwasher or wipe the kitchen table.

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