The perennially popular pork product starred in a number of small plates showcased at the annual event in Chicago.
At the first Baconfest in 2009, there were only 10 exhibiting restaurants and 75 attendees. This year, each of the three sold-out sessions included more than 50 chef stations. It was estimated that 8,000 lbs of bacon, all donated by Nueske’s, Wittenberg, Wis., was served in many varied formats.
With Hollywood origins, Stan’s Donuts, Chicago, likes to put on a show. That’s what Baconfest attendees got with the Maple Caramel Bacon Bar, a maple- and caramel-glazed donut-like bar topped with a nutty bacon streusel.
Giuseppe Scurato, chef and co-owner of Chicago-based Ceres’ Table features regional, Italian-inspired seasonal plates that pay homage to his Sicilian heritage. He served bite-size, Italian-style meatloaf topped with mashed potatoes and crispy bacon pieces.
More than 4,500 people and 170 of Chicago’s top chefs came together over three sessions of Baconfest Chicago, where ample bacon-inspired cocktails, craft beer and unlimited bacon treats were served.
Alison Safarcyk, kitchen manager of the Chicago location of Q-BBQ, created bacon dust using bacon fat and tapioca maltodextrin. This dust functioned as an extra layer of flavor to garnish a hand-cut potato chip tossed with barbecue rub and dusted with bacon powder and topped with pulled pork and bacon-infused North Carolina vinegar barbecue sauce.
Inspiration for The Hot Mess, a dumpling filled with Louisiana-style barbecue shrimp, bacon and pork, and smothered in cheese sauce topped with crispy bacon, came during a recent trip to New Orleans by the product’s creator, Chrissy Camba, chef and owner of Maddy’s Dumpling House, Chicago.
Edzo’s Burger Shop’s Eddie Lakin, chef and owner, said he is always creating offbeat milkshake specials for his Evanston, Ill.-based burger emporium. At Baconfest, he served a bacon maple peanut butter milkshake. A large-diameter straw allowed the crispy bacon pieces to be readily consumed.
Luxury brands, artisan bacon-makers and "bacontrepreneurs" displayed, sampled and sold a multitude of bacon-related products. Beyond food and drink, the show featured clothing, housewares and artwork.
Sweet meets savory in Epic Restaurant’s bacon and fudge ice cream sundae. Chef Daniel Marquis scooped applewood-smoked bacon and fudge ice cream into spiced-chocolate-coated sugar cones.
Patrick Sheerin, chef and partner of Trenchermen Restaurant, Chicago, believes there’s something magical about bacon and fried rice and developed bacon fried rice just for Baconfest. He used a short-grain rice so that the starches would help hold together the ingredients, which included crispy Berkshire bacon, toasted peanuts and a secret seasoning blend. For extra kick, the fried rice was topped with house-made bacon fat hoisin sauce and egg yolk jam. A panel of judges awarded him “Most Creative Use of Bacon.”
Chef Tyler Nelson of Viand Bar & Kitchen, Chicago, combined smoky honey grits, whiskey-cured pork belly, candied bacon, peppadews, cippolini and dates to make this Baconfest original — sweet whiskey bacon and grits.
In its seventh year, Baconfest is in the business of creating new memories for bacon aficionados. Many of these often require costume.
The Ultimate Bacon Bison Bite starts with cherrywood-smoked bacon and goat cheese-infused bison with jalapeño. It's rolled in smoked bacon and served with pepperoni aioli and blueberry, barbecue, buffalo, bacon dipping sauce. Created by Zachary Prince, executive chef of Woodhaven Bar and Kitchen, Chicago, the dish is on Woodhaven’s menu but with fewer enhancements of bacon, Prince said.
Whole Foods Market, a sponsor of Baconfest, served bacon brownie s’mores. Backdrops in the booth said “Bring home the bacon, not the antibiotics. At Whole Foods Market our bacon is naturally good.” All bacon sold through the natural foods retailer is free from synthetic nitrates and nitrites, artificial ingredients and antibiotics.