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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Baconfest Chicago: Gourmet Gluttony

As I prepared for Baconfest Chicago, I perused the menu for must haves. It started making me really think about this bacon obsession and try to figure out the cause (see Fried Mainstream Foodies post). I narrowed the 49 choices to a group of 14 with room for some random extras should they look good.

I showed up, got my map, and stood in line waiting for the festivities to begin. It was such a variety of people waiting in line with this shared love of bacon. Groups of older people, younger people, and mixed groups waited. People brought their children to experience the bacon madness. Heavy people, thin people, and people of all ethnicities waited in line for two hours or less to get into this three hour-event. Few were observers, like me and Mr. K, Most were donning bacon-themed clothing (purchased and handmade). 

In Praise of Lard — You had me at bacon — I ♥ Bacon — In Case of Emergency Feed Me Bacon  

The line snaked through the courtyard, and as the hour grew near the area was packed. As we waited, I heard people telling their life stories, bonding with others in line. They talked of past events, strategy, and what brought them there. Some where there from far off places to make a birthday wish come true, others were given the surprise of baconfest for a special occasion.

The doors opened. As we neared the open doors the smell of pork was heavy in the air. We entered the dark auditorium to the sight of booths of people with bacon-themed bites of food in hand ready to share them with you. I made a bee-line to my #1 taste, the potato bacon pancakes from LOKaL. We got sidetracked with a delicious Bacon Shepherds Pie from Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro and the biscuits and gravy from Big Jones (on my list). They were too good, and I was too hungry to even try to snap a picture. I shared these tastes with Mr. K. I wish I could have said that about more of the tastes.

We worked our way through bacon-wrapped rabbit and pork wings. Small sandwiches and artisanal concoctions beautifully plated. I'll provide the full list, but needless to say we had our fill. If I had room to go back for seconds, I'd have went for the egg, bacon and potato tart, the pea and bacon salad, or the bacon and steak slider. If I had a TON of room, I'd go for the bacon-wrapped pork wing or the brisket (with bacon bbq sauce and bacon jam).

I did have a couple of surprises and let downs. The bacon baklava (a questionable one on my list) was quite good. The bacon mac-n-cheese bites were a rich pasta with bacon covered in a cheese sauce not a deep-fried grease ball. South Water's breakfast skewers with the pickled quail egg was surprisingly delicate in flavor. The bacon and pancake pops were a let down. I was expecting more savory-sweet than sugar-coated sweet.

With booth after booth of the bacon-wrapped and bacon-infused, I was able to find some plates with delicious greens in this sea of lard. I could write a whole post about the the quest for greens!

The $75 General Admission price-tag came with a good representation of gourmet foods from well-known restaurants instead of a full menu of deep-fried fair food. The quality beverages available, like Greenbush brews and even a properly-spiced Bacon Bloody Mary, matched the quality of food.

Overall the event was really well done. Each booth had plenty of food. Only a few times did I feel that I shouldn't get in the way of some of these people and the bacon on the table (bacon stampede). Water coolers were plentiful to wash down the salt-laden pork. With the tables covered in trash, a few more strategically-placed trash cans would have been nice.

I was disappointed in the amount of waste. The portions were bite-sized for the most part, yet people intent on trying it all were leaving partially-consumed food everywhere.

I didn't get my bacon obsession questions answered...I was too busy partaking in the baconness. I'm really glad I was able to get tickets to this event. If you even have a slight fondness for bacon or a passion for food, I suggest you try to get tickets for Baconfest Chicago 2013.

For all of my pictures, check out my Google+ album.

Full Food Listing
  1. Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro 
    Bacon Shepherds Pie. A hearty standard pie with a little bite of bacon on top.
  2. Big Jones
    Bacon fat biscuit with crispy bacon, pea gravy, and piccalilli
  3. LOKaL
    Potato-bacon pancake with apple compote
  4. Chicago q
    Smoked Bacon Baklava – brined and hickory/apple-smoked pork belly layered between phyllo sheets topped with honey sugar glaze
  5. South Water Kitchen
    Bacon & Egg Skewer (braised applewood-smoked bacon with pickled quail egg, confit fingerling potato
  6. Smallbar Division
    Sunny Side Farm Egg, Braised Bacon & Potato Tart with Jalapeno Bacon Marmalade and Dunbarton Blue Cheddar.
  7. David Burke’s Primehouse
    Cheddar Bacon Sliders. I think my bacon must have been missing...unless it was bacon cheese that it was dipped in. Very good.
  8. ZED451
    Bacon pancake pops in a bourbon glaze. The glaze was this white chocolate-like coating.
  9. Frontier
    Bacon-wrapped peppadew pepper, stuffed with Carr Valley Cocoa Cardona cheese and dates.
  10. Piece
    New Haven-Style Pizza – hand-formed, topped with our tomato sauce, mozzarella, and Nueske’s bacon
    Big Black Mariah – American-style porter brewed with a small percentage of smoked malt for a rich, full mouthfeel and flavor. 
  11. Signature Room
    Bacon-wrapped loin of rabbit with a ragu of local asparagus and morels. Super tender with very green-tasting asparagus.
  12. Moderno
    Homemade bacon cannoli, shaved reggiano, crushed wasabi pea powder. Not good. Could not finish it. Just...not good. The bacon was not really showcased. The cheese (mascarpone?) did not go well with it.
  13. Jones Dairy Farm
    Slice of delicious bacon. They had little white chocolate shaped like fried eggs with a strip of bacon on it...I did not have that.
  14. N9NE
    Topless Bacon & Steak Slider - on brioche with pickled pepper horseradish crème sauce and microgreens. Well balanced. The sauce complemented the bacon well. The steak was super tender. They had the Weber grill right there for the steak.
  15. Benny’s Chop House
    Nueske’s bacon and pork head cutlet with Michigan spring ramp kimchi on buttermilk biscuits, togarashi spiced pork rind ‘fries’. The pork rinds were okay...not spiced. The rest was okay....whatever was in that cup was not okay.
  16. Hopleaf
    Bacon rillette-stuffed arancini (cooked with bacon stock and Ommegang Three Philosophers), fava bean / ramp puree, preserved lemon, radish, and frisee
  17. Flo and Santos
    Peppered bacon-wrapped pork wing with a bourbon coffee barbecue sauce. I could just pull the bone out clean. It was so tender. The bacon was so crunchy. The sauce was perfectly balanced.
  18. The Florentine
    Short rib crostini, bacon jam, horseradish and parsley. I feel the horseradish overpowered the rest a bit. It still was tasty.
  19. The Bacon Lady
    Bacon chocolate whoppie pie. Not good at all. Bad aftertaste too. But people were buying bags full of them.
  20. Barn & Company
    Smoked brisket slider with bacon jam and bacon BBQ sauce. I haven't had brisket this good in a very long time. It was so well put together with the salty flavors.
  21. Chalkboard
    Bacon and egg cheesecake. I actually spit this one out. I saw these little boxes, unfinished, everywhere.
  22. Spacca Napoli
    Bacon, fresh peas, sugar snap peas, pea shoots, pea sprouts, extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, pecorino romano. Amazingly fresh. Highlight of the whole fest.
  23. Union Sushi + Barbecue Bar
    Panko Bacon with baby arugula salad – served with a bacon reduction and house-tonkatsu sauce. Meaty bacon. The salad was very salty, but it was still good. Water needed after.
  24. Pleasant House Bakery
    Bacon and pork pie with bacon fat crust. A little bland, but the sauce on the side added good flavor.
  25. Lillie’s Q
    Bacon on Bourbon Street – Bacon custard-filled bacon beignet with Cafe Du Monde coffee and chicory bacon syrup.
Drinks, Cocktails, and Syrups
  1. WATER and lots of it!
  2. Greenbush Beer
    Doomslayer Maple Brown, Brother Benjamin Imperial IPA, Divine Rabbits Berlinerweiss with Jo Snow's Woodruff Syrup, Anger Black IPA, Rage Imperial Black IPA.
  3. Bacon Bloody Mary
    With a cornmeal and black pepper rim. Wonderfully spiced. Good even without the bacon
  4. Tropical Sunrise
    Disgusting concoction of grenadine, orange juice, and butterscotch with bacon vodka. Butterscotch and
  5. Tea and Sympathy
    Bacon-washed plantation rum, earl grey and balsamic shrub, and bacon-lemon flambee. Did not taste as complex as the ingredients sound.
  6. Jo Snow
    This company makes this delicious syrup to add to coffees, italian ices, cocktails, and italian sodas. They let us sample the syrups in some soda water. I walked off with two bottles: fig vanilla black pepper and tamarind chili. They had a number of very unique flavors both sweet and savory.

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