Everyone has at least one obsession. The obsession can bring you together with a diverse group of people with only one thing in common. It brings joy to you like no other commodity and you will all talk about it whenever you get the chance.
So when I heard that there was something called Baconfest in Chicago, I just had to go. I love bacon and I wanted to be surrounded by my other bacon lovin’ soul mates.
Started in 2008, Baconfest was born from the pork loins or I should say pork belly’s of Michael Griggs, Andre “Vonbaconvitch” Pluess, and Seth Zurer. Three guys with a common goal of bringing the “bacon nation” together for a day of food, fun and comradeship.
With my periodic table bacon t-shirt on, I had the joy of being inducted into the bacon nation this weekend. (There is more bacon attire out there than I ever realized.)
It was like the scene from Charlie and Chocolate Factory when the kids first see all of the candy….except replace candy with bacon. Table after table of some of the coolest chefs in Chicago offering tasting samples of creative dishes that showcase bacon.(Apparently there was a restaurant who did a Willy Wonka theme at dinner. Not being at the dinner session, I did not know they did that. With that said, I apologize if I offended anyone by using a Roald Dahl reference. I was just painting a picture and was not trying to steal their thunder by writing that description.)
I was grateful that Baconfest provided me with a map but for a lot of us, it wasn’t necessary. It was just fun to go to the tables and see (and taste) the chef’s creations. (There were over 55 things to taste at my lunch session and ANOTHER 55 things to taste at dinner.)
All my bacon dreams were fulfilled as I tried innovative dishes like “Baconomiyaki” (Japanese style pizza with bacon, napa cabbage, pickled ginger, scallion, nori and bonito flakes) from Chizakaya, Bacon-Wrapped Peppadew Peppers from Frontier, and the finger licking, Peppered bacon-wrapped pork wing with a bourbon coffee bbq sauce from Flo and Santos.
And for those REAL fanatics, there was some pork on pork action going on. Barn & Company’s smoked brisket slider with bacon jam, Bistro Campagne’s roasted pork belly with bacon apricot marmalade and bacon brittle, and The Florentine’s Short rib crostini with bacon jam were all so delicious.
Another highlight was being able to eat a couple lighter (if you can say that when bacon is involved) options. Union Sushi + BBQ and Spacca Napoli served a couple of really flavorful salads that weren’t overshadowed by the heartier dishes.
I loved everything I tried but special shout-outs go to Moderno (bacon cannoli, shaved reggiano, crushed pea powder), N9NE Steakhouse (topless bacon and steak slider), and Red Butter (sweet and spicy balls).
Props to all of the people who were able to get to all the tables. My small frame filled up quicker than I imagined. (I will train next year so I can eat more.) There were so many dishes I did not get to try and I’m glad that a lot of the chefs will be featuring them on their menu. (Here is a full list of all of the participants and dishes.)
The lunch session ended with an entertaining Golden Rasher Awards (the Oscar’s of the bacon world), raffle and check presentation to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. (They received multiple barrels of food donations and a check for $50,000) It was a touching way to end the event.
Great job to the “bacon boys” for organizing the event and all of your volunteers. I hope I can be a part of the “feastivities” next year.
And a special thank you to all of my new friends in the Bacon Nation. It was so much fun standing in line with you, hearing your stories, and sharing our mutual love of bacon. I hope to run into you again.