Baconfest 2010 = SWINETACULAR

Mandy Zaransky

April 13 2010 - 7:00 AM

I’ll tell you what was wrong with Baconfest…not a damn thing! The crispy, salty Bacon was festival worthy. Yes, I am in full Bacon detoxification mode, but the $45 ticket fee, spike in sodium levels, and increased cholesterol was so worth it.
 
The creators of Baconfest went hog wild in planning.  Located at the Stan Mansion on Kedzie in Logan Square, Baconfest was perfectly arranged with vendors of all things bacon on the bottom floor, alcohol (including Bakon Vodka) on the second floor, and 12 of Chicago’s best chef’s in the grand ballroom.

In the first floor vendor gallery we had a chance to sample and purchase a sickening amount of bacon products and accoutrements. Clearly, Bacon is the food equivalent of the 80’s slap bracelet… trendy and fun, but too much of it could injure you!  I loved the DAS Foods Bacon lollipop, aptly named “Man Bait”! Also, 'Enjoy – An Urban General Store' in Lincoln Square showcased their kitschy bacon offerings. On their website you can find an entire page of Bacon novelty items

 
The guys from J&Ds are bacon-marketing geniuses. At the event they gave away full-sized containers of Baconnaise and offered up samples of their uber rich Bacon Ranch Dressing with pretzels. I can’t wait to spread a layer of Baconnaise on toasted bread with crunchy lettuce, tomatoes and a slice of protein… perhaps, uh, Bacon?
 
Creativity with pork translated into tasty portions plated by a dozen of Chicago’s best culinary minds.  I tried candied bacon, chicken fried steak bacon, bacon gnocchi, bacon fat cookies, pancakes with bacon, stone ground mustard with bacon, pickled bacon, bacon ice cream, and many dishes with pork belly.
 
For the record, I can’t get into the pork belly. To me, it is just a thick slice of grizzle. Why is there so much hype about “The Belly”? It might be flavorful, but it is hard to savor a dish when you need both hands to gnaw on a slab of belly.
 
Ok, back to my happy place… Bacon inspired dishes!
 Four chef’s created pork paradise on a plate:
 
1. Triple Bacon Veal Meatballs and Asparagus with a Lemon Thyme Bacon Sugo created by Chef Roger Herring of Socca
The pork and veal meatballs were so tender that you could cut them with a fork. Bathed in a savory lemon thyme bacon sauce, the meatballs were flavorful and rich.  I couldn’t help but circle back for seconds. Chef Herring must have channeled his great grandmother because this dish tasted like an old world recipe made with love.
 
2. Bacon Blueberry Corncakes with Burbon Brown Sugar Syrup and Sweet Cream created by Chef Dan Smith of The Hearty Boys
While unorthodox and unexpected for Baconfest, this dish tasted and smelled slightly sweet and delicious.  The corncakes were edged with crispiness, salted with bacon and  spotted with tart blueberries. The syrup and cream atop provided for a full balance of perfectly melded flavors and smooth textures. I can only hope that these cakes find their way onto the Hearty Boys menu as the blanket for little pigs, of course. 

3. Bacon Corn Dog with Bacon Maple Mustard created by Chef Chris Pandel of The Bristol
 
Corn Dogs always make me smile. This time, however, The Bristol made it better… gourmet, but not pretentious. The dipping mustard had an earthy richness in flavor that elevated the bacon and cornmeal crust. Warm and crispy right out of the fryer, from crust to stick, this corndog was a sinfully delicious experience! Crunchy then soft for the coating, firm and salty for the dog, as I dipped into the mustard time and time again, the flavor intensified. The mix of pork fat from the dog and the bold mustard brought the creation to a place of child-like enjoyment and an adult-awareness that this was no “from the freezer section” corn dog.
 
4. Bacon Waffle with Brown Sugar Bacon Ice Cream and garnished with Candied Dehydrated Bacon created by Chef Jared Wentworth of Longman and Eagle
 
What’s not to like… Brown Sugar and Bacon ice cream-loved it! Candied Bacon-crispy and salty-sweet all on top of a waffle that was firm on the outside with bacon bits and soft dough on the inside.
 
All in all, Baconfest 2010 was simply delicious and tastefully orchestrated.

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