While I am not fast enough to jump on Baconfest 2011 tickets, my dedicated readers are! So when Jacky Hackett of cooking blog jaxhouse.com guessed her second post correctly, (this time the mystery goat), she asked if a post on Baconfest would be, er, Kosher? Since I didn’t get to bask in the bacon-ocity, I was happy to get her full report as well as some mouth-watering photos below…
“My husband and I were lucky enough to score tickets to Baconfest 2011. Baconfest is four hours of bacon goodness with some of Chicago’s greatest chefs preparing amazing dishes, and a few liquor sponsors provided drinks featuring bacon. But it’s not only about the swine, a food-drive is run at the event and a portion of the Baconfest proceeds are donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
We arrived at the UIC Forum to find a line winding around the block. Bacon fans poured over the menu to plot their strategy for working their way through the fest. The menu was an amazing read with offerings like bacon cotton candy, bacon biscotti, bacon-stuffed bacon, applewood smoked bourbon bacon jam, BLT martinis and bacon-infused rum. With more than 50 dishes it was a bit overwhelming; you truly did need a strategy.
We managed to hit about two-thirds of the stations. Even though servings were small, we got quite full after just a handful of dishes. A few of the chefs were out of food before we got to them, some just weren’t appealing enough to add to our overly full bellies, and a few we just overlooked. Choosing a favorite would be like choosing a favorite child, it just can’t be done…but here are a few we’re still thinking about..
Old Town Social (Jared Vancamp) served a Triple S Farms smoked bacon wrapped around a Monterey Jack-stuffed hot dog topped with pickled jalapeños, salsa fresco, and a lime aïoli. The hot dog can only be described as smooth, the bacon gave it a great smoky flavor and the toppings added a nice freshness.
Lillie’s Q (Charlie McKenna) served a pork belly and grit hash with a smoked gulf shrimp, bacon, on top of an ENC vinegar sauce. The pork belly and vinegar sauce were a match made in heaven and the grits were creamy and rich dotted with bits of bacon.
We also loved crispy pork belly with grilled ramps, peas, and farro drizzled with bacon agrodolce served by Gamba Ristorante (Tony Graves). Not only was it good-looking but the pork belly was cooked to perfection. The sweet and sour of the agrodolce balanced the rich fatty belly perfectly.
Magnolia Café (Kas Medhat) served their interpretation of Pork’n’Beans; white bean spread topped with thick cut bacon and greens on a sourdough bread.
Terzo Piano (Margaret Colleran Sahs) served an empanada with Dreymiller and Kray cinnamon bacon, dried seedling strawberry, toasted almond with a salsa verde. The empanada had just the right amount of sweetness with a touch of savory in the salsa verde. My husband described it as tasting like Christmas. We left the fest happy, full, clothes smelling faintly of bacon, and in desperate need of a nap.” — Jacky Hackett