Gallery: Baconfest Chicago 2011: Bigger, Better and Baconier Than Ever

"Plethora of Belly" from Forest Grill

Charcuterie master Brian Polcyn from Detroit's Forest Grill made a sausage from pork belly, pork shoulder and sauteed mushrooms and served it atop caramelized onions and potato salad with bacon. Apparently that wasn't enough for Polcyn so he added a crisp piece of maple bacon on top. This delivered wave after wave of bacon flavor.

Seared Belly on Grits from Inovasi
Seared Belly on Grits from Inovasi

Chef John des Rosiers took a Becker Lane pork belly that he cured for a few days and then confited, pressed and seared it. Honestly, that meat would have been outstanding on its own, but served with a raw cabbage and verjuice salad and on a bed of Anson Mills grits with blue Mediterraneo cheese, it was truly a stellar bite.

Bacon Drumsticks from iNG
Bacon Drumsticks from iNG

A number of chefs went the dessert route but none did so more successfully than chef Thomas Elliott Bowman of iNG. His bacon drumsticks included bacon ice cream, bacon caramel, bacon magic shell and were topped with bacon lardon. Oftentimes bacon-themed desserts suffer from salt overwhelming the sugar but these drumsticks had no such problem.

Bacon Italian Beef from Socca
Bacon Italian Beef from Socca

Chef Roger Herring wins the award for the most Chicago-centric plate of food: the bacon Italian beef. Herring took a few different smoked pork bellies and smoked pork loin and shaved them into paper-thin pieces. He topped the meat with a hot and sweet bacon giardiniera that was so good I asked for another spoonful after finishing my sandwich. And because, well, why not, Herring spread a whipped bacon sugo on the Turano rolls to complete the sandwich.

Bacon Cannoli from Atwood Cafe
Bacon Cannoli from Atwood Cafe

Chef Derek Simcik won the "first to run out of food" award with his bacon cannoli. Greedy diners violated the one-plate-per-person rule for this tube of mascarpone gently flavored with bacon fat and maple syrup, encased in a crisp but chewy pecan lace cookie dotted with bacon. Simcik also made bacon fruit roll-ups but they were gone before I got a chance to try them.

Tijuana Dog from Old Town Social
Tijuana Dog from Old Town Social

Jared Vancamp is one of Chicago's best and most impassioned creators of cured meat. He brought his housemade Monterey Jack-stuffed hot dogs (beef and pork fat) and wrapped them in Triple S Farms bacon. Served on a bun with pico de gallo, pickled jalapenos and lime aioli. It was not the most bacony offering at the event, but definitely one of the best.

The Bristol's Bacon Banh Mi
The Bristol's Bacon Banh Mi

Chris Pandel is a three-time Baconfest participant, not to mention one of the most enthusiastic. He took crispy bacon, smoked and cured beef tongue, bacon head cheese with pistachios, bacon and beef liver mousse, and piled it all on bread from D'Amato's with a bacon aioli and some veggies. Yes, that's five versions of bacon on one sandwich and yes, it's every bit as good as you'd imagine.

Bacon and Foie Gras Moon Pie from Big Jones
Bacon and Foie Gras Moon Pie from Big Jones

Chef Paul Fehribach started with a honey graham cookie and piled on a bacon and foie gras terrine, bittersweet chocolate, cayenne candied peanuts, candied bacon and crystallized coffee. Porky, fatty, sweet, spicy, soft and crunchy, all at once. There was so much going on that it took a few minutes to completely process. And when I figured it all out, it was hard to stop myself from going back for another.

Bacon Rillettes and Maple Bacon Cotton Candy from Longman & Eagle
Bacon Rillettes and Maple Bacon Cotton Candy from Longman & Eagle

Chef Jared Wentworth delivered a three-part snack. The bacon rilletes covered with dehydrated bacon was the most intense bacon bite at the whole event and it was sensational. The sweet maple bacon cotton candy started the palate cleansing, a job that was finished off with the shot of Cabin Still whiskey—that's how Longman & Eagle rolls.

Bacon, Pancetta and Kale Salad from Cafe Spiaggia
Bacon, Pancetta and Kale Salad from Cafe Spiaggia

Sarah Grueneberg and Aaron Diener teamed up to make a salad fit for Baconfest. Accompanying the kale was housemade hickory-smoked bacon as well as some pancetta, grilled ramps, hard-boiled eggs and aleppo pepper, all finished off by an eight-year-old balsamic vinegar.

Province's Pork Belly Sandwich
Province's Pork Belly Sandwich

Province took some housemade pretzel bread and piled on extra fatty bacon along with avocado and tomatillo salsa. The bacon itself was great, but it was actually the vibrant salsa that stood out in Baconfest's sea of heavy foods.

Reuben from one sixtyblue
Reuben from one sixtyblue

Three-time Baconfest participant Michael McDonald made bacon pastrami for his twist on a Reuben that also included his sauerkraut with ham hock and ramps.

Pork Turtle from Veerasway
Pork Turtle from Veerasway

First the restaurant cured the belly with sugar, coriander, cumin and salt, then roasted it in an oven for six hours and pressed it for a day. The meat then took a caramel bath before being coated in dark chocolate topped with paprika and cumin.

Swine and Thine from Sable
Swine and Thine from Sable

Unfortunately I missed Sable's food, but did catch their outstanding drink, one of seven served at Baconfest. The Swine and Thine, which will be on their menu soon, features bacon-infused Zacapa rum along with chocolate liqueur and housemade chocolate bitters.

20110411-146627-Baconfest-Chicago-Bacon-Primary.jpg
20110411-146627-Baconfest-Chicago-Bacon-Primary.jpg