This past Saturday I joined the crowd of 3,000 hungry pork aficionados at the UIC Pavilion for the dinner shift of the fourth annual Baconfest Chicago, our city’s yearly ode to all things porcine.
Outfitted in my roomiest sweatpants and with a near empty belly, I went in bearing a well-crafted game plan to enjoy all 50 stations of Bacon-inspired small plates and cocktails. What followed was a gut-busting afternoon, in the best sense possible. My taste buds were tantalized by the likes of a doughy Nueske’s applewood-smoked bacon pretzel from and velvety cheddar-bacon jam dip from Sable Kitchen & Bar and sips of a cocktail called the Elvis Presley, a mix of Bakon Vodka, hazelnut liqueur, Banana liqueur and cream. If a dish could accommodate bacon, you could bet it was on the menu.
But even though I tried pace myself and eat and drink selectively (why waste stomach space on Diet Coke when you can have a date that’s been stuffed with bacon sausage and wrapped in, what else, more bacon.) my stomach screamed for mercy before I could try a sizeable number of dishes.
Luckily for me, and you, many of the chefs have chosen to offer their Baconfest dishes as specials or new menu items. So if you missed out on securing a ticket or need something to tide you over until next year, you’ll get your second chance.
Here are a few we have our eyes on:
Three Aces’s “Shake ‘n Bake,” which consisted of a bacon steak and vanilla-bourbon milkshake and won top honors for most creative use of bacon, will remain on the menu until the end of the week.
IPO is offering their Sous Vide Pork Belly featuring popcorn pudding, pickled ramps, spicy chicharrone and bacon; with a smoked Nueske`s bacon and popcorn broth, as a regular menu item starting today.
Café Spiaggia (pictured) is offering their Nueske’s wild cherry smoked bacon, Hooks 7-year cheddar gnudi with spring ramps for a limited time.
Mexique is offering their Pork Belly Taco – Pork Belly Taco – grilled apple, tomatillo pico de gayo, bacon, chile on a chocolate tortilla, until the end of the month.
For the full list of Baconfest-inspired specials, check out www.baconfestchicago.com.
Kelly Alesso is a marketing strategist by day and an aspiring home cook and artisan cheese maker by night. When she’s not seeking out ingredients for her latest cooking adventure, she loves discovering Chicago’s many dog parks with her cockapoo, Oliver, enjoying a well-crafted cocktail, and planning day trips. She also has an odd love affair with grocery stores. To read more about her culinary adventures, visit her blog at The Pink Apron.