Chicago Festival Beat 2013: Baconfest vs. Poutine Fest.

Chicago Festival Beat 2013: Baconfest vs. Poutine Fest.
Baconfest 2011. Photo credit: Show Me Chicago.

CHICAGO, Wednesday, February 20, 2013.  Could poutines be the next bacon?  It would seem that time is running out on bacon's fifteen minutes of fame but if the rush to put down $100 for general admission tickets to Chicago's Baconfest 2013 (ticket sales open today) is any indication, bacon still seems to have sizzle.

From its relatively small beginning, five years ago, with a 10-chef cook-off at the Publican in October 2009, Baconfest now has 120 participating restaurants and is one of the hottest tickets in town--and not just this town as Baconfest has added fests in San Francisco and Washington D.C.

Past events have offered such fun creations as bacon flavored cotton candy, bacon lollipops, bacon drumsticks, bacon dumplings, bacon date consomme and pepper-cured pancetta along with lots of beer to wash away the salty taste plus the official "Baconfest Bloody Mary" infused with, what else but, bacon. This year's highly anticipated event will take place Saturday April 20th, at the UIC Forum (725 West Roosevelt) just south of downtown Chicago.

Bacon has pretty much had the fat-loving crowd in its greasy grips until now. It seems there may be a little competition heating up between the pig and the little known (in this part of the world) poutine.  Poutines, for those not in the know, originated in Quebec in the mid-1950's and then spread across Canada where they could be found in diners, pubs, roadside chip wagons and even fast-food chains including McDonalds. It is only recently that this French fast-food treat, sometimes referred to as "Canada's late-night drunk food" has moved south of the border. And once it hit U.S. soil it has undergone an amazing growth spurt. It is most definitely trending.

A poutine, for those who have yet to run across one, is in its most basic form made with crispy hand-cut french fries mixed with cheese curds then covered with a rich gravy. From there the combinations are limitless. Poutines can go upscale with the addition of lobster meat, shrimp, rabbit confit, caviar, or truffles. Or poutines can come back to earth with beef, pulled pork or lamb in the mix.

This year, in fact, this weekend, Chicago is having its first Poutine Fest, starting small (as did the first Baconfest) with eleven of Chicago restaurants competing for the title of "King of Poutine." Fest-goers will be able to sample entries from all the restaurants and vote for their fav. There will also be plenty of ice-cold beer all while helping raise money for charity. The  $65 VIP and $50 general admission tickets for this year's fest at Haymarket Pub & Brewery are sold out unless you can find them on Craigslist or on the street.

If you just can't wait until next year to get your poutine fix, you are in luck, as poutines seem to literally be coming out of the woodwork and should be easier than ever to find at a place near you. For starters, check out the following spots that will be participating in this year's Poutine Fest: The Boarding House Leopold, Scofflaw, EL ideas, Pleasant House Bakery, The Publican, The Gage, the peasantry, Red Door and Little Market American Brasserie.

And then you be the judge:  Are poutines, the next bacon...or can bacon and poutines co-exist?

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    Arts and Entertainment Reporter for media since 1997.

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