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Baconfest 2011 Raises $25,000 for GCFD; Sears, Toland Take Home Golden Rasher Awards

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Paddy Long's whole Berkshire hog wrapped in a Nueske's bacon weave
Paddy Long's whole Berkshire hog wrapped in a Nueske's bacon weave

[Photos: Samantha Lande]

On Saturday, the UIC Forum heated up and the smell of bacon permeated the air. More than 1,500 people brought their appetites and some, their finest pork-influenced attire, and descended upon Baconfest 2011. The event began with a large screen version of their kick-ass promotional video before the bacon gorging began. The VIPs entered first to mingle with the chefs and eat before the floodgates opened at 12:30 when the masses that had been lined up around the block rushed in.

Some observations:

Lots of people love their bacon, and the minute the doors opened, it was clear there was some strategic plotting to the best route. The line at the Fifty/50 got long pretty fast as they supplied the "official" Bloody Mary of Baconfest (with bacon in it, of course). Some went straight for their favorite restaurants, others went clockwise, a few just followed the masses.

Some of the biggest lines were for the Meatyballs Mobile "Coq in Balls;" Stanley's Kitchen "Bacon and Eggs" and Boka's braised bacon with bacon spatzel. Forest Grill was the only out of state representative (Birmingham, Mich.) and with charcuterie master Brian Polcyn at the helm, it also garnered a lot of attention.

There seemed to be some friendly competition happening around the room, with Chris Dunstatter from 694 Wine & Spirits chanting "BLT or Buns," trying to get the neighboring line for Wow Bao to try his "Kick Ass BLT." Patrick Sheerin from Signature Room taunted his neighbors around his "bacon wrapped bacon" and even created a word especially for Baconfest, "bellyliciousness."

It looks like some new menu items may have come out of this event. Look for Stephanie Izard's bacon and Rogue Rive smokey blue cheese soup to possibly make the menu at Girl & The Goat as she tweeted "... think our bacon soup will find a home on the menu." Mixologist Mike Ryan also mentioned that the "Swine and Thine" cocktail he was shaking up with Zacapa rum, bacon syrup, creme de cacao and housemade chocolate bitters will soon be seen at Sable Kitchen & Bar.

The charity aspect of this event was strong, as Baconfest supported the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Over four full barrels of canned goods and another 15-by-15 foot area of groceries was filled to the brim (see the Baconfest blog tomorrow for an exact count). All of that will be matched pound for pound from the Illinois Pork Producers Association. To top that off, $25,000 of ticket sales will also be donated. Bacon for a good cause? We like it!

The winner of the Golden Rasher (the official awards of Baconfest) for best dish was Nathan Sears from Vie serving a roasted pork belly with Meyer lemon marmalade, buttermilk biscuit and pinenut aillade. James Toland from The Black Sheep took home the Golden Rasher for most creative use of bacon (we are pretty sure his Elvis outfit didn't hurt) for his banana panna cotta, cherry wood smoked bacon brittle and peanut butter froth with a lady finger spoon.
· Golden Rasher Awards [Baconfest]
· All Baconfest Coverage on Eater Chicago [~EChi~]

The Black Sheep

1132 W Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60642

Boka

1729 North Halsted Street, , IL 60614 (312) 337-6070 Visit Website

Girl & the Goat

555-3 Mateo Street, , CA 90013 (213) 799-4628 Visit Website

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