I got a little lucky and scored two tickets for the first Baconfest Chicago Pro cookoff last Saturday, Oct. 24. The very nice people at the Publican hosted the event. Ten Chicago restaurants participated in the cookoff, and Paul Kahan of the Publican picked out beers to go with each item, with one exception. Each chef made an bacon or pork belly based appetizer.
First up, we tried One Sixty Blue's chicken fried bacon sandwich on a pretzel roll, with bacon fries and a concord grape catchup. The sandwich was good, but the portion was a little large for an appetizer. The bacon fries and the grape catchup was very good. Much better than I expected.
The Goose Island Brewpub made their own bacon for their appetizer. They used barrels from the production of their Bourbon County Stout beer to first cure the pork belly and then they use the wood from the barrels to smoke the bacon. They served their bacon with some frijoles, and some chilis and carrots that were cured in vinegar. This was served with their smoked bock beer. The bacon was somewhat too salty for me, but everything else was excellent.
Here's their bacon:
The restaurant that tried hardest was David Burke's Primehouse. Chef Rick Gresh really got into the spirit of Baconfest. He made his own beer and came up with the only handout to eat afterwards. His inside-out corn dog was good but a little dry and his bacon apple fritter was excellent.
Yeah, he made bacon fun dip. I'm saving mine for a rainy bacon-less day.
My favorite dish of the day was a black mole infused pork belly from Boka. It came with some bacon and some semolina gnocchi and a quince sauce. The spicy & sweet mix was great. I now want to check out Boka & see what the rest of their food is like.
The goofiest thing I tried was bacon ice cream with a caramel-lard frosting and a bacon crumble on top from Chalkboard. It was a little weird on its own, but was great with the paired beer, a New Holland beer called "Brother Jacob". Here are the ice cream makers:
The winner of the people's choice award was Eve. They came up with a pumpkin-bacon waffle with pork belly and maple syrup. It seems simple but it was amazingly good. The people at my table, other than me all picked it as their favorite and it was my 2nd favorite. We went to Eve earlier this month for dinner and really had a nice meal. I recommend it highly.
The Judge's picked the dish from the Bristol as their winner. They made a Bracole with egg wrapped with sausage which was wrapped in bacon. It was plated with some kale and bacon maple juice. It was good, but I didn't like it as much as the waffle or the mole dish.
It was a great time, and I can't wait for Baconfest Chicago in April of 2010!