BACONFEST 2011 - A Ton of Bacon!

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I missed out on last year so I can't give you a comparison but I did witness the bacon Takedown. Among our Bacon Festivals in Chicago this is THE event to go to. With a new, bigger location, more pork-o-philes were able to enjoy swine, 1,500 in fact! Actually there are a lot of facts you should know:

 

  • 1,500 tickets sold - in like a day or two - the VIP tickets went in hours!
  • 56 Participating Chefs
  • 22 Exhibitors
  • 70+ events - Chris Pandel , The Bristol, mentioned they do that many events a year - this was for fun!
  • 1,653 Lbs. of donated food - Greater Chicago Food Depository
  • 1,653 Lbs. of pork donated by the Illinois Pork Farmers to GCFD - they matched!
  • OVER 1 TON of bacon was used by the Chefs, Vendors & Sponsors
  • $25,000 - expected donation to GCFD by the organizers - they'll confirm exact amount in a few weeks but that's AWESOME!

I was blessed to get a sneak peek of the dishes. The masses had already been forming and I could feel jealous eyes following me as I walked toward the entrance. To ensure my palate had a good base point, my very first bite was of the Nueske's Black Pepper bacon. Check! From there it was a race to eat and taste before the Bacon horde. I got a bite from Girl and the Goat, Miramar, Moto, iNG, Black Sheep, Forest Grill, Custom House, La Madia, Meatyballs, Paddy Long's, The Bristol, Inovasi, Piccolo Sogno, Boka, Café Spiaggia, Hearty, Big Jones, Black Dog, Province, Lillie's Q, Old Town Social, Longman & Eagle, The Southern and Stanley's. Phew... I'm happy to report my stomach didn't revolt!

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Of the lot I had a few favorites, Miramar's White Bean Bacon Bruschetta was really good and tasted like bacon. The most innovative was easily the Bacon Magic Shell from iNG. When asked how they made it, "With Love!" Piccolo Sogno's pancetta ragu was rich and deep with flavor. Paddy Long's Whole Hog not only looked amazing but tasted great, mmm crispy skin. Café Spiaggia didn't beat you over the head with bacon but rather used it as a composed dish with kale - nice bitter, rich bite. Old Town Social's Tijuana dog was spicy in a good way. The Southern and Lillie's Q also did well. BTW, there was one bite I spit out...cold, undercooked and no flavor!

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But the most complex, best bite came from Big Jones - Bacon and Foie Gras Moon Pie. That may sound subtle and simple but there was a lot more going on. Every flavor came together well and worked! The texture of the crunch and lush married well. The bacon was highlighted by all its friends on the plate.

I stood with my friend Samantha from Eater.com right in the middle as the VIP hour ended. As I stood there, the masses came rushing in like a flash flood of hunger! I felt like the lone rock in the middle of a rushing river. The enthusiasm was palpable.

I can only imagine this event getting bigger and BIGGER! My hat goes off to the organizing team. I can't wait to see what they do to top this year's event.

Special thanks to Seth Zurer, Baconfest 2011 for the picture of the bacon goers and Samantha Lande of Eater.com for the pictures of the HOG and the Big Jones bite.

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