Yes, they did and it was a bacon lovers dream come true, but a cardiologist's worst nightmare. On April 14th, 2012, the organizers of annual Baconfest Chicago brought back another pork belly filled event to Chicago.
As described by Baconfest, LLC, "Baconfest Chicago 2012 is a full day celebration of bacon: a Fest to end all Fests. Baconfest's roster of bacon-foods, bacon-inspired crafts, and bacon-spirits comprises the greatest single culinary and cultural festival ever dedicated to Bacon and Bacon only."
This is the fourth year for this cured meat themed gala and as usual, it sold out. Within minutes! Seems that Chicagoans can't get enough of this salty meat treat. It makes you kind of squeal a little when you here it's coming.
Baconfest was held at the UIC Forum and consisted of 107 restaurants, 9 alcohol sponsors (including bacon vodka), 18 entrepreneurs and 4,257 pounds of Nueske's bacon.
The event has grown so large, they had to create two exhibition sessions for attendees. The first, lunch shift ran from 12:30PM- 3:00PM. Right at 3:00PM, they cleared everyone out to set up for the 2nd shift. The dinner shift ran from 6:30PM-9:00PM. The difference between the two; lunch had the small plate portions and dinner the more robust size morsels.
It didn't matter which session you got into, you couldn't finish everything in one shift anyway and it was all amazing. You'll pig out for sure.
According to Baconfest promoters, "We estimate that over 3,000 bacon aficionados will visit Baconfest."
They go on to say, "At the Bacon Vendor Expo, artisan bacon-makers and bacontrepreneurs will display, sample, and sell their multitude of local craft bacons and bacon-related products on the floor of the Vendor Expo.
At the Bacon Chef and Bar Expo, chefs from Chicago's hottest restaurants prepare and serve small plates starring bacon. Chicago's finest mixologists and brewers quench our throats made parched from all that delicious bacon with their refreshing bacon-based and bacon-inspired cocktails and brews."
Baconfest is not just a great place to get yer' oink on, but this is also being done for a great cause, The Great Chicago Food Depository. Although not set up as a charity, they do help raise funds and can food donations for the group. Last years event helped to raise $25,000 cash plus collected food totaling over 65,000 pounds.
Some of the other activities include awards presented to the ultimate baconites. Raffle tickets for insanely great bacon gift sets and "The Golden Rashers" award as they are called, go to pro and amateur chefs, poetry, video, song or other accolades of bacon.
This wasn't just a bunch of folks just frying up bacon, not that, that would be bad, but they stepped up the use and creation of it making it a key ingredient in their dish. Plates ranged from bacon and egg sandwiches to bacon wrapped loin of rabbit with a ragu of local asparagus and morels. Yeah.
Other notable noshes included: bacon confit with tropea onion agrodolce, pork palooza burgers, bacon mac n cheese (a crowd favorite), bruchetta of bacon lardon, bacon custard filled beignets, potato bacon pancakes, bacon shepherds pie, bacon grenades (mini bacon bombs beer battered and deep fried), BLT pizza, bacon bourbon caramel corn, bacon tacos, Willy Wonka inspired candies with bacon, bacon bloody Mary's, bacon kimchi mortadella, applewood smoked bacon-scented South African lobster cappuccino with crispy lardons and spring chive cream and of course bacon on a stick.
At the end of the shifts, 7 awards were handed out for best bacon creations, presentations and more:
Next year's plans are tentatively the same, but for more "pig-tails," check out their website, baconfestchicago.com. They also have a Facebook page dedicated to it. You can find special announcement, details on the chefs and their food creations, ticket sales and venue info. Oh, and be sure to watch close or you'll miss the action as they usually sell out within 20-30 minutes.
Ok, so the puns in this review are pretty bad, but Baconfest definitely is not. If you don't absolutely love this festival, you're either sick or it's against your religion.
Story by James Currie ©2012.