The event features bacon in more than 100 culinary innovations.
Executive Chef Justin Moser served Iberico bacon with roasted potatoes and bacon fat bread topped with a compound sunflower, date and bacon butter drizzle; smoked and pickled onions; fresh arugula; and crispy, fried Iberico bacon bits.
“We used the bacon fat in almost every element of the dish. The rendered fat went into the bread and it was the base of the dressing drizzle,” he said. “Dates and bacon are a classic combination. The smoked onions complement the bacon and the acid cuts through the fat perfectly. The added crunch of the toast and fried bacon adds great texture.”
A classic potato croquette was stuffed with pimento cheese and braised bacon by Dan Weiland, executive chef. It was served with bacon jam, Calabrian chili paste and bacon powder. To make the latter, he mixed rendered bacon fat with maltodextrin, which absorbed the fat, converting it into a powder. This was used as a dusting to garnish the croquette.
“You can't go wrong with fried potato balls,” he said. “Bacon goes really well with potato, especially when fried. The chilies and sweet bacon jam help cut some of the richness of the braised bacon and heaviness of mashed potato.”
Breakfast all day is the tagline for 3 Squares Diner. Chef and owner Ian Voakes gave his signature malted custard French toast a creative spin with the addition of Alpine white cheddar, tarragon pistou and cherrywood smoked Nueske’s bacon to create the open face Croque Monsieur. One side of the French toast was seared, providing a caramelized crust with a satisfying crunch, while the topside had a soft, almost pillowy texture.
Executive Chef Jonathan Meyer is known for creating soulful, rustic, Italian-inspired dishes executed with a Midwestern sensibility. He stepped out of his comfort zone with a bacon dandan served on a rice cake and topped with a yuzu bacon fat vinaigrette and micro cilantro. The goal was to take a spin off traditional dandan with noodles and make it a finger-friendly food. This dandan has a unique buildup of Sichuan pepper heat, with the rice cake easing the immediate rush of heat common to Sichuan. The rich pork sauce with applewood smoked bacon balanced the heat during consumption, allowing just the right amount to linger.
Banh Xeo is a Vietnamese crepe, also called a sizzling pancake. To give it a Baconfest spin, chef and owner Eddie Aguilar filled it with Asian-marinated pork belly. He topped the pancake with coconut mayo, peanut sauce and a spicy aioli with cilantro and mint.
As the executive pastry chef of XO Marshmallow, Melissa Humphrey creates uniquely flavorful batches of fluffy confection served as is, in hot and cold beverages, and plated in many varied desserts, including s’mores. For Baconfest, Humphrey sandwiched chipotle marshmallow, chocolate and smoked bacon between two graham crackers.
Executive Chef Guy Meikle is known for his chic Eastern European dishes. For Baconfest he gave the classic Reuben sandwich an Asian spin by filling a bacon fat bao bun with five-spice Sichuan peppercorn, pastrami-cured bacon and Korean sauerkraut. This was garnished with tobikko thousand island dressing and chicharron dust.
One of the hottest new restaurants in The Windy City is Twain, which sits in an old auto body shop in the Logan Square neighborhood. This is the first restaurant owned by seasoned chef Tim Graham and his sommelier wife Rebekah. Graham’s talent is in providing contemporary interpretations of classics and that’s what he showcased in the bacon muffaletta. Bacon fat sesame bread was filled with layers of bacon pate, crispy bacon and an olive caramelized bacon relish.
Chef Joseph Farina was Friday’s people’s choice winner. He created a shaved pecorino cheese focaccia bread topped with Nueske’s bacon and roasted onions.