Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Baconfest Chicago for WIAW

For today's post I decided to do something a bit different. Thought it would be fun to participate in "What I ate Wednesday," hosted by Jen, from the blog Peas and Crayons. Now I'm not exactly following the rules for April since I definitely did not add an extra cup of veggies anywhere. But I wanted to share photos from last Saturday and thought this might be a good way to do it.


Last Saturday, my boyfriend Jake and I got to participate in the 2012 Baconfest Chicago over at the UIC Forum. This was my second year going and I believe Jake's fourth.

Never heard of Baconfest? It's exactly what it sounds like, a giant festival about bacon. 107 restaurants set up booths showcasing bacon-inspired creations. We, along with about 3000 others, got to sample all of them. Well...OK. Not all of them. It's pretty hard to eat through all of Baconfest without making yourself sick. But that isn't to say we didn't try.

Above left: Jake's shirt, a pig eating bacon, was a huge hit. Got a lot of compliments.
Above right: Pig balloons!


The Good

Bottom left: Chefs Dan Smith and Jason Mousseau from Hearty presented "Bacon Rice Crispies with assorted milk." Just the right amount of sweet. I think we tried the peanut butter crunch milk.

Bottom middle: Chef Monica Sehgal Sharma from Red Butter won most original use of bacon for her "bacon-chile gulab jamun topped with bacon-pistachio brittle." Soft. Sweet. Almost melted in your mouth.

Bottom right: Chef Rick Gresh from David Burke's Primehouse made "Cheddar Bacon Sliders." A little on the salty side. We ended up not eating the bread. But the meat was very good.




Top left: Chef Justin White from Smallbar presented "Sunny Side Farm Egg, Braised Bacon & Potato Tart with Jalapeno Bacon Marmalade and Dunbarton Blue Cheese." Lots of really great flavors together.

Top right: Chef Roger Waysok from South Water Kitchen, gave us "Bacon and Egg Skewer - braised applewood-smoked bacon with pickled quail egg, confit fingerling potato." Unfortunately all I have in my notes about this one is good. So I must have liked it.



Top left: Templeton Rye served up "The Rusty Doorhinge": a mixture of Templeton Rye, orange juice, lemon juice, simple syrup, Antica Carpano and orange oil. I'm normally not a big fan of whiskey, so originally I was going to pass. However, Jake and I had to wait in one of the longest lines at Baconfest to try it, so he convinced me to give it a shot. So glad I did.

Top right: Chefs Mark Link and James Harvatt from Uncle Bub's BBQ had a very simple "Candied Bacon - thick cut bacon coated in brown sugar and honey." I rolled mine up in a ball and popped it in my mouth all at once. Sugar-coated goodness.



The Not So Good

Bottom: Chef Phillip Rubino from Moderno had "Homemade bacon cannoli, shaved regganio, crushed pea powder." I didn't love everything at Baconfest, but this was the only one that I just couldn't finish. It was a finalist for the "Most Original Award" but I'm assuming taste just wasn't a factor in that decision. Tried two bites and then gave up.



The Best

Bottom left: Chef Paul Guerrero from Wildfire gave us "Neuseke's bacon-wrapped braised pork belly with horseradish crust." Amazing. I put a big star on my paper after I finished it.

Bottom middle: Chef Mario Santiago from May St. Cafe presented "Double-chocolate flan with cherry-smoked bacon, rum-cured cherries with berries." At this point, Jake and I were starting to get full, so we decided to start splitting the portions rather than each get our own. He was halfway through this one when he told me it was so good, I would have to get my own. He was right. We almost went back for seconds.

Bottom-right: Chef Lee Ann Whippen from Chicago Q had "Smoked Bacon Baklava - brined and hickory/apple-smoked pork belly layered between phyllo sheets topped with honey sugar glaze." One of the best at Baconfest. Everyone was talking about it. Just the right amount of sweetness.



Things to know about Baconfest

If you want to check out Baconfest next year, I highly recommend it. Tickets this year were $75 for general admission, $150 for VIP. I'm not entirely convinced the VIP is worth it. The only difference is you get in an hour early. But I felt like Jake and I had plenty of time to try everything. Although you do have to fight through the crowds.

Also we learned that you really don't have to eat everything. There were a few tables that we missed, mostly because the portion sizes were a bit extreme. There even was table with a full size burger. With 107 different things to try, you have to pick and choose. Even if this means not taking the second bite of something that you don't particularly like, or skipping the bun and just eating the meat.

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