Category Archives: thick

Guest blog: Baconfest 2011

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…

Baconfest 2011 and the crowd is ready to go hog-wild

“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.

Tijuana Hog Dog


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.

Pork belly with farro


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

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Sugar cookies from Sweet Mandy B’s

Oy! WHY do I go in here? Actually, more specifically, why do I drive 3 miles out of my way to go in here? OK, yeah, so it’s the sugar cookies with buttercream frosting I recently discovered at Sweet Mandy B’s. Chewy-soft sugar cookies fresh from the oven, smothered in a thick layer of smooth, sweet, pastel-hued vanilla buttercream frosting I need to figure out how to recreate, and sprinkles. This place is chock-full of cupcakes, cookies, lemon bars, cakes and the long lines to justify their greatness, and..maybe it’s the plate, but these just make me think of spring, and serious sugar high. Sweet Mandy B’s, 1208 W. Webster, 773.244.1174

Sweet Mandy sugar cookies

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Sprinkles love…

Forget the conversation hearts…this is what I’m taking about…Sprinkles’ embraces the high holy day of sweets with flavors like Red Hot Velvet (red velvet cake with spicy cinnamon cream cheese frosting), and Raspberry Chocolate Chip (chocolate chip-studded Belgian dark chocolate cake with raspberry frosting). Valentine or not, it’s not too late to get in line and stock up. Sprinkles, 50 E. Walton, 312.573.1600

Raspberry chocolate chip cupcakes from Sprinkles


Red hot velvet

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Sweet Burger at Burger Bar, Las Vegas

Ah Vegas…I partly blame a recent vacation there for my lack of blogging, but you know I’d come back from Sin City with some serious eats (and $60 from slots! Holla!). That is why, dear readers, I will kick off my next few posts with something I went out of my way to try because I had to see it to f’ing believe it. I had heard about the Sweet Burger at Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay (where we stayed), and remember it being referred to as “a chocolate patty wrapped in a doughnut” or some such nonsense. No, no to the no. Quite the contrary. Think hazelnut-laden Nutella fudge pounded into a patty, then topped with slices of kiwi, strawberry and a slice of mango gelee that oozes over the sides like sweet faux Cheddar. An airy, sugary, glazed doughnut flanks the fake-out burger contents looking almost eerily too similar to a McDonald’s bun (well, a sugar-coated one). You don’t know whether to cut the thing with a knife and fork, grab its sugary, juicy self with two hands, or dip it in the accompanying swirl of raspberry “ketchup” on the plate. How ever you scarf it, it’s a very, very Happy Meal, indeed. Burger Bar, The Shops at Mandalay Bay, Vegas, baby..

The Sweet Burger at Burger Bar

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Peanut brittle at 16

From executive chef Frank Brunacci’s elegant and seasonally focused menu, to the most gorgeous Swarovski crystal chandelier in the city there are many, many reasons to love 16 restaurant in Trump Tower. But another to add to the list is Pastry Chef Sarah Kosikowski perfect peanut brittle. It was a discovery at the end of an amazing Opus One dinner (we swooned over the 2001, 2003 and 2006 vintages!), and so good that we ordered extra for the table after only a few pieces arrived on the tray of mignardise. Brittle often runs the risk of being sickly sweet, tooth-jammingly crunchy or too hard, but Kosikowski’s version is smooth, perfectly sweet and crunchy, packed just the right amount of peanuts and tasted freshly cracked. All that was missing was a bag to take a batch home. 16, 410 N. Wabash, 312.588.8000

Peanut brittle at 16

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Quimet y Quimet

Quimet sign


From the Boqueria there were tapas to be tasted, and tapas bars are plentiful throughout Barcelona. But oy, and I mean OY, did we have a fantastic experience at Quimet y Quimet, a postage stamp-sized tapas and cheese restaurant in the Montjuïc neighborhood. I knew they were famous for their canned seafood (a delicacy in Spain), and for being impossible to get into. I learned quickly that the tapas bars with waits, lines and general shit-showy-ness at the entrance, or spilling out onto the sidewalk meant the place was a winner. We hit the tiny tapas bar at the perfect time because we were able to barely belly up to the packed bar (no seats), and just started pointing at the fresh, dried, canned seafood, salt cod, anchovies, sardines, paté, jamon and endless other delicacies nestled under the glass and between the hungry patrons and two lone servers who were the mad tapas scientists behind the wonderful concoctions of seafood, pickled vegetables, vinegars, honeys and caviar layered atop crisp, toasted bread.

Dried tuna, egg yolk and other ingredients

And the eating parade began, starting with one of the highlights of the week…a insane combination of salmon, whipped cream cheese, honey and balsamic vinegar on bread.

Lox of love


The open-faced deliciousness continued…each more colorful than the next…

Canned anchovies and peppers


Dried tuna, tomatoes, egg yolk


Spanish blue cheese, peppers, balsamic


Salt cod, olive paste


And when we weren’t staring at the creations coming from behind the bar, we were looking at the floor-to-ceiling explosion of bottles, signs, photos and more..

Did I mention the endless selection of cava, vino and local beer?


And when we were done we gave up our coveted elbow space at the bar and already missed Quimet as we shuffled our way through the ornery line and onto our dessert destination (well, sort of…)

Looking back after an awesome dinner, planning a return visit for lunch the next day...

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Sea Salt Caramels

The sea salt caramels are put up at the registers of Whole Foods sometimes for a reason, it’s so one point of purchase impulse buy can lead you to a life of constant craving. It’s like a confectionary pusherman. That’s how I feel about the sea salt caramels at Whole Foods. Salt, chocolate, blah, seen it..but chocolate covered salted caramels topped with a sprinkling of thick, crunchy sea salt granules? Just try not to finish the box even when it’s above your desk and you goal is one a day. Yeah, just try.

Sea salt caramels from Whole Foods

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