Last weekend, we presented the eleventh edition of the bacon-scented fever dream that is Baconfest Chicago – nearly 150 restaurants convened at the UIC Dorin Forum, along with beer-makers, distillers, wine merchants and bacon-makers to celebrate America’s favorite cured meat together.  If you were there, you know it was a good time.  If you didn’t come, well, here’s a little recap to let you know what you missed.

Before we get to the meat of the recap, we have to pause for a moment to acknowledge that Baconfest is not just an annual pig-out – our event supports the Greater Chicago Food Depository with a donation from the proceeds, a raffle and food drive on site.  In 2019, everyone involved helped raise another $30,000 for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, plus guests at our event bought $11,390 in raffle tickets bringing the cumulative Baconfest financial impact to $480,488. When combined with the 1,000 pounds of non-perishable donations that guests brought this year, that translates to 1,458,385 million meals for Chicago’s neediest families.  That’s something to marvel at.

THE FOOD!

The reason Baconfest was created was to allow people to have the opportunity to celebrate bacon in the most over-the-top way imaginable. We knew, in theory, that there were unlimited culinary applications of bacon, but every single year the chefs exceed our expectations. Take a look at the Baconfest 2019 food menu and the Baconfest 2019 drink menu. Marvel at the food porn our event photographers Anne Petersen and Peter Tsai captured with their lenses.  If you were there, relive the glory; if you weren’t start planning for next year. We hope everyone will be inspired by Baconfest to find creative uses of bacon in their own lives.

2019 was the year of the Pop-Ups at Baconfest.  VIP ticket holders on Friday night got to sample a Baconfest-exclusive bacon-kotsu ramen made by Mike Satinover, aka Akahoshi Ramen, aka @Ramenover on Instagram, aka u/Ramen_Lord on Reddit.  He’s beguiled Chicago noodle aficionados with limited access pop-ups in the city for a year and his Baconfest ramen was just as eagerly devoured as the bowls he’s served at Paulie Gee’s and Momotaro.  The only line in the VIP hour was for his sample-size ramen bowl, made with bacon-infused tonkotsu broth, seared sousvide Nueske’s bacon, green onions and wood ear mushrooms, and noodled with noodles from the finest noodle maker in the country, Sun Noodles. If you weren’t there, well, too bad for you, because Mike says this ramen was a one-time deal for Baconfest attendees only.

We also welcomed our good friend Lou Bank from the organization SACRED Agave, who popped up at our Saturday sessions with a variety of heirloom mezcals made from Oaxacan agave.  VIP ticket-holders enjoyed a vertical tasting of three spirits made by maestro mezcalero Victor Ramos in Miahuatlan, Oaxaca, Mexico. All three were made by cooking tobala agave in a stone-lined earthen oven; milling that agave using an oxen-pulled stone wheel; fermenting it in open-air wooden barrels, and distilling it in wood-fired copper-pot stills. Lou shared expressions made in 2015, 2017, and 2018.  General Admission ticket holders on Saturday got a mezcal experience, too! Lou shared tastes of an espadin expression that was distilled through Dark Matter Coffee by maestro mezcalero Eduardo Angeles in Santa Catarina Minas, Oaxaca.

Also new for 2019, Baconfest hosted representatives of Illinois’ budding culinary cannabis industry.  Saturday Lunch attendees connected with the publishers of Kitchen Toke magazine, a fine publication devoted to culinary uses of cannabis. MedMar Dispensary also exhibited, telling attendees how they can connect with medical cards for cannabis. And Baconfest had its first dish made from cannabis – hemp seeds in this case, nothing intoxicating - Chicago Artizen presented a hemp-heart topped bacon brittle enrobed in Guittard Chocolate. And it was delicious.

Golder Rashers

In each Baconfest session, judges give out Golden Rasher Awards, the most coveted prize in the culinary world, for “Most Creative Use of Bacon” and “Best Front of House Presentation.” This year, for the second time in Baconfest history, we dabbled in direct democracy by allowing attendees to pick a winner for the “People’s Choice” Golden Rasher award using the latest in text-message voting technology.

Photo: Peter Tsai

Photo: Peter Tsai

 

Here are the results:

FRIDAY DINNER

Golden Rasher for Most Creative Use of Bacon, Judges’ Choice

Winner

Finalists (in alphabetical order):

  • Current RestaurantJonathan Meyer - Applewood Smoked Bacon Dandan – with rice cake and sweet ginger yuzu
  • HaiSous Vietnamese KitchenThai Dang - Cà phê và sinh tố dừa & Cánh Gà Chiên Nước Mắm Với Bacon - Bacon coffee coconut slushie with crispy bacon on top AND Vietnamese fried wings wrapped in bacon with caramelized fish sauce 
  • Jordan’s Food of Distinction - Applewood Smoked Bacon-Scented South African Lobster Bisque – with organic baby leeks and chive oil
  • Table, Donkey, and StickJustin Moser - Iberico Bacon Tartine – Iberico bacon, bacon potato bread, persimmon bacon butter, smoked pickled onion
  • Vie, Dan Compton and Frank Hutman -Bacon Salami Toad in the Hole – bacon-fat brioche, bacon salami cotto, mostarda

Golden Rasher for Best Bacon Dish, People’s Choice:

Winner

  • Victory Tap, Joseph Farina - Nueske’s Bacon Focaccia – Nueske’s bacon, roasted onions, shaved pecorino focaccia

Runners up (by number of votes):

  • WHISK, David Rodriguez - Bacon Shrimp and Grits
  • City BarbecueBrian Carney - Lolo’s Pulled Pork Sliders – low and slow smoked pork shoulder topped with creamy coleslaw and Swine Wine sauce
  • Crīo, Luis Guzman - Cochinita Pibil – Guajillo tortilla, Pibil-style pork belly, mango-pineapple-habanero jam, plantain dust, pickled onions
  • Bar TakitoDaniel Munoz - Pork Belly Arepa – Columbian-style corn arepa with hummus, miso-glazed pork belly and scallion relish

Golden Rasher Award for Best Front of House

Winner: XO Marshmallow

Photo: Anne Petersen

Photo: Anne Petersen

SATURDAY LUNCH

Golden Rasher for Most Creative Use of Bacon

Winner:

  • Davanti EnotecaJames Day - Candied Bacon, Medjool Date & Stone Ground Polenta Spoon Bread – bacon whipped lardo + calabrian chili + honeycomb + radish

Finalists (in alphabetical order)

  • Bistro CampagneAdam Grandt – Bacon-Wrapped Braised Pork Belly – with pecans, English pea puree, radish, bacon-dusted chicharrones, butterscotch demiglace
  • Catering by May StMario Santiago - Applewood Smoked Bacon Chocolate Jalapeno Flan
  • Market House on the SquareDan Marquis - Smoked Bacon & Elote Fritter – bacon & lime mayo, cotija cheese, smoked chili, chicharrones
  • Sheekar DelightsDiane Joseph - Bacon and Bourbon Baklava – freshly baked and chopped Nueske’s bacon is mixed with walnuts, hand-buttered and rolled with paper-thin phyllo sheets, then baked and drizzled with our legendary Bourbon-infused syrup and topped with bacon!
  • The Swill Inn, Lamar Moore and Dustin Drankewicz - Pimento Bacon Poppers – pimento cheese-stuffed jalapeños, wrapped in bacon, fried and served with bacon aioli PLUS a Bacon Kola Phosphate

Golden Rasher for Best Bacon Dish, People’s Choice

Winner:

Runners up (by number of votes):

  • Baptiste & Bottle, Emilio Gonzalez - Bacon Mac & Cheese – crispy lardons, charred jalapeno, bacon crumble
  • Market House on the Square, Dan Marquis - Smoked Bacon & Elote Fritter – bacon & lime mayo, cotija cheese, smoked chili, chicharrones
  • The Fat ShallotSam Barron - Truffle BLT – crispy bacon, tomato, avocado, arugula and truffle aioli in a brioche slider bun
  • Atwood , David Fingerman - Bacon Panna Cotta – with milk crunch, candied bacon, and almond

 

Golden Rasher Award for Best Front of House

Winner: Rack House Kitchen & Tavern

Photo - Anne Petersen

Photo – Anne Petersen

SATURDAY DINNER

Golden Rasher for Most Creative Use of Bacon

Winner:

  • YolkTaki Castanis – K.F.B. (Kentucky Fried Bacon) – panko-crusted bacon with a bourbon glaze and blueberry BBQ sauce.

Finalists (in alphabetical order)

  • Good MeasureMatthew Troost - Thinking Fieri – applewood smoked bacon brandade-loaded baked potato things, bacon-jalapeno ranch, bacon fat fried potato skin crispies
  • Kimski, Anthony Baier - Bacon and Sauerkraut Pierogi
  • SteadfastEnder Oktayuren - Nueske’s Bacon Poke – bacon sticky rice, pulled bacon, fermented chili and bacon hot sauce, bacon Kewpie
  • The Florentine, Zachery Walrath - Handmade Bacon Filled Tortellini – ramp and pecorino crema, pickled ramps, English peas, Nueskes bacon breadcrumbs

Golden Rasher for Best Bacon Dish, People’s Choice

Winner:

  • McWethy’s Sports Bar, Dan Casey - Bacon Braised Brisket Tacos – bacon salsa, cilantro, chopped onion, chef-made tortillas
Runners Up (by number of votes)
  • Cantina Laredo, Damon Workman - Bacon Flan – bacon custard with bacon toffee
  • 676 Restaurant & Bar, Dominique LeBlanc Beers - Bacon Chowder Oyster Shooter – fresh shucked oyster topped with applewood smoked bacon chower and finished with Bourbon … bottoms up!
  • The Broken Barrel BarBryant Anderson - The Bacons Maiden – bacon and chocolate braised short ribs, cheese stuffed peppadew pepper, lemon-truffle, micro cilantro, sex panther
  • Copper Fox GastropubCortney Pierce - Fancy Bacon – slow roasted pork belly, charred corn grits, poblano hollandaise

Golden Rasher for Best Front of House

Winner: The Broken Barrel Bar

Photo: Anne Petersen

Photo: Anne Petersen

Awards for Attendees

Some of our guests’ love for bacon is so strong that they are inspired to express their bacon creativity.

Kimber Sullivan took home the Golden Rasher Award for Best Bacon Poem with her masterpiece in miniature “Undone”.  Her sister, Pamela McPherson was the beneficiary of the fruits of her victory, four VIP tickets to Baconfest and very kindly did a reading of the winning poem, which is reproduced here in its entirety.

Undone

Bacon, thou candy of the meat variety

I love your crisp upon my tongue

Your smell dismisses all propriety

I am thoroughly, entirely, undone

Photo: Peter Tsai

Photo: Peter Tsai

Each session saw numerous guests who dressed up for the occasion. We picked a favorite in each session:

Friday Dinner

  • Frieden Liebe Johnson for her Strippe Bacon
Photo: Peter Tsai

Photo: Peter Tsai

Saturday Lunch

  • The Nice Lady in the Bacon Hat
Photo: Peter Tsai

Photo: Peter Tsai

Saturday Dinner

  • Three Inflatable Pigs
Baconfest Chicago 2019 - Saturday Dinner costume contest_40596243863_l

Photo: Peter Tsai

Thanks to our sponsors and volunteers

The highlights of Baconfest are unquestionably the porcine delicacies, but there are two other groups whose participation makes Baconfest possible: our sponsors and volunteers.

With three sessions, each of which has about 50 different restaurants, more than a dozen drink stations, and about 1,500 ravenous people, Baconfest is a potential logistical nightmare. Our volunteers did a masterful job keeping everything running smoothly, supporting restaurants, guiding eaters, keeping aisles clear, and even sorting garbage to make sure everything that can be recycled or composted reaches the right destination.

Baconfest Chicago 2018 - crowd

All of our amazing sponsors contribute so much to make Baconfest possible. We would especially like to thank Nueske’s, which once again donated multiple tons of bacon for our restaurants to make use of.

Photo: Peter Tsai

Photo: Peter Tsai

 

 

Jewel-Osco, too, returned as presenting sponsor of our Saturday Lunch session!  We were so grateful to have their team (including JoJo) and their bacon partners on site with us sharing bacon-love with the masses.

Here’s a full list of our sponsors for your delectation:

  • Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Meats
  • Jewel-Osco
  • Goose Island Beer Company
  • Lagunitas Brewing
  • Labatt Blue
  • Samuel Adams
  • Deschutes Beer
  • Kinslahger Brewing
  • Pabst Blue Ribbon
  • Angry Orchard
  • Virtue Cider
  • Pura Still
  • Coopers Hawk Winery
  • Mike’s Hard Lemonade
  • Breakthru Beverage
  • Bulleit Frontier Whiskey
  • George Dickel Whisky
  • Tito’s Handmade Vodka
  • Aberlour Scotch Whisky
  • Ole Smoky Distillery
  • Templeton Rye
  • Hendricks Gin
  • Wagshal’s Imports
  • Burton’s Maplewood Farm
  • Big Fork Bacon Sausage
  • Chiro One
  • Passanante’s Home Food Service
  • Big Shoulders Coffee
  • Smeraldina Water
  • Getaround.com
  • 91.5 WBEZ – Chicago Public Radio
  • Window Works
  • The Conrad Hotel
  • MedMar Dispensary
  • Kitchen Toke Magazine
  • DJRC
  • Hall’s Rental
  • Windy City Linens
  • Onyx Distribution

And of course, we cannot forget to thank our stalwart catering partner, J&L Catering, who staff our event with the best catering team in the business, led by their formidable manager, Laura “Lala” Ramirez.

SHARE YOUR BACONFEST STORIES!

We’ll add more about Baconfest Chicago 2019 on soon, but we wanted to put this brief recap out to get this year’s winners the recognition they deserve. In the meantime, please share your favorite Baconfest moments on to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and tag us!  We LOVE reading your stories of the bacon-ocity.

And here’s to another eleven years of bacon-delight!

Photo: Peter Tsai

Photo: Peter Tsai

  • April 9, 2019