NATO officials get taste of Chicago

March 22, 2012 8:24:34 PM PDT
A delegation led by Chicago's first lady Amy Rule, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's wife, and Gov. Pat Quinn is in Brussels to generate excitement for the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago.

Thursday was a moment for Chicago to shine in the Belgian capital, and ultimately the rest of Europe. Rule toured a new exhibit at NATO headquarters. The exhibit opened with a special 'taste of Chicago' menu, including home town favorites to whet the appetites of summit organizers and NATO staffers for the summit.

"Chicago is a perfect match for a NATO summit, and we thank you for the opportunity to share our city with the world," Rule said.

"Chicago is a world class city. And this is a unique possibility to show that to the world," said NATO's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

In addition to preparation sessions for the summit, where an exit plan for Afghanistan will be topping the agenda, meetings to encourage tourism and trade were scheduled.

"We want to try to get companies, large and small, that are in Europe to invest in our state, to create jobs and, at the same time, we have to open up exports to anywhere in the world," said Quinn.

On Thursday evening, dignitaries were wined and dined in a distinctively Chicago style at the U.S. ambassador's home during a sit-down dinner for 130 international guests that included the Chicago delegation. The Lonnie Brooks band entertained the crowd, bringing his Chicago blues to Brussels.

The dinner, prepared by Chicago chef Stephanie Izard of Girl and the Goat restaurant, capped a day of sampling Chicago's best. Izard shipped special ingredients for her three-course meal.

"Many people are eating pizza and hotdogs and stuff, so we're going to go on the other side, which is all these fun restaurants and different flavors from around the world, and a lot of chefs have a fun style," Izard said.

ABC7 has learned there are many Chicago connections to NATO. Secretary General Rasmussen's son and grandchildren live in Illinois. So in addition to addressing solutions to serious global issues, summit visitors will likely carve out a bit of personal time in Chicago.

Mayor's wife makes 1st speech to NATO

Earlier in the day, Rule told NATO delegates that the city is the ''most American of American cities.''

Rule quoted her husband at the event in Brussels, which was her first public speech since Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office.

"Our greatest treasure is our people. We have a wonderfully diverse population in many distinct neighborhoods throughout the city. My husband likes to call Chicago the most American of American cities," Rule said.

"It is very important that we have an opportunity in May for all of us to get to know each other better. We want you to come early and stay late and enjoy the great state of Illinois," Gov. Quinn said.

Secretary General Rasmussen also spoke about the summit and traveling to Chicago.

"NATO is the world's strongest military alliance, bringing Europeans and Americans together-- and the strong message for Chicago would be that we're going to make that alliance even stronger," Rasmussen said.

The NATO summit is May 20 and 21st in Chicago. While NATO members gather for work, the nation's first lady Michelle Obama will host the spouses of NATO leaders while they are in town at the Gary Comer Youth Center, located on the city's South Side, not far from where Mrs. Obama grew up.