The celebration of bacon in all its forms took place this weekend at the UIC Forum with the sixth annual Baconfest. Over 4,500 people attended three separate sessions filled with the best bacon-loaded dishes Chicago chefs could concoct. Though the 7,800 pounds of Nueske bacon served is impressive, so is the $205,000 the event has raised since 2009 for the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
Baconfest has gotten bigger and more restaurants and breweries are represented, but it remains a condensed pig-out. Maybe change isn’t needed, but I find the timed sessions encourage rushing through amazing dishes at a dizzying, stomach-stretching pace. There’s little time to savor. I would like to see longer sessions with the addition of educational break-outs or cooking demonstrations. If I could eat slower, I think I’d enjoy the bacon more. Or I’d enjoy more bacon.
This was my second time through Baconfest (compare/contrast with 2011), and the first time experiencing the V.I.P. early access to the session. Unsurprisingly, early access made a huge difference. Instead of slinging pork as quickly as possible, chefs took the time to talk about their dishes; no one ran out of goods; and people weren’t packed in cheek to jowl. The flood of general admission changed the dynamic though the crowd was still a great deal of fun.
While there, I made a list of restaurants to seek out based on what I tasted. Laughing Bird (which opens early May) tempted me with a delicious dumpling, The Salsa Truck served an outstanding and over-sized Bola de Arroz Frito, and the glazed bacon from Quince was worthy of a second pass. Tete Charcuterie served a mouth-watering bacon terrine that made me want a whole plate. I also sipped a preview of Revolution Brewing’s upcoming Crystal Hero brew that was worthy of multiple return trips.
Baconfest is the epitome of living high on the hog. If you really love bacon, you’ll start making plans to attend next year’s pork-filled fest.