April 2013 | chicago foodie girl


Monday Foodie Porn

Happy spring! Yes, I realize spring technically started over a month ago; however, it was still very much winter in these parts until just a few days ago (we had tickets to a Sox game on the 19th that was snowed out!). The piles of dirty of snow have finally melted, the trees have sprouted tiny buds, and there's a whiff of the telltale spring smells (dirt, fresh grass, wet pavement) in the air. I'm so sure that the crappy weather is finally done that I actually put away the errant pile of scarves and mittens yesterday. Yippee!

We're rapidly nearing the end of the semester. My students' writing portfolios and my final few homework assignments are all due by the end of this week. After a whirlwind week of grading, I will be done, done, done with the semester! Yay! I have a really fantastic group of students this semester and while I'm sad to see them go, I'm also excited to finally have time to tackle my huge spring/summer to-do list (including a backlog of foodie porn & recipe posts, two new classes to design, and six grad credits to complete).

A few food highlights from the last few months...

Cupid's Choice Donut from Dunkin' Donuts: I have to admit that I'm a bit of a donut snob, as there are so many amazing donut shops in Chicago, but even I am powerless when it comes to the charms of cute heart sprinkles and rich Bavarian Kreme. :-)



Monday Foodie Porn: Baconfest 2013!

Bacon Nation!

Baconfest: we came, we saw, we conquered. Well, realistically, it's more like Baconfest conquered us... no matter how much you love the swine, really, there's only so much you can inhale before it gets the best of you (as first-timer Mario discovered). :-)

Baconfest 2013 was even more fabulous than its predecessor - mostly because I knew what to expect and I actually followed my own advice. As much as I wanted to stuff my face with one (or five) of everything, I knew I couldn't handle it, so I made a plan and mostly stuck to it (admittedly, I did get sucked into a few extra tables once I saw their fabulous creations). In our two hours of extreme bacon consumption, we encountered everything from bacon scrapple with bacon sriracha, bacon-salt cured egg yolks, and a bacon Malort Julius (the "Wake n’Bacon" from Three Aces) to chocolate bacon mousse in a bacon phyllo cup topped with bacon granola and bourbon caramel (Triple Bacon Chocolate Mousse from Chicago q). Mario's favorite (it was a tie for me) was the Benton ham & scallion waffle with Nueske’s bacon jam, Tim Burton’s bourbon maple syrup, and boozy smoked bacon & banana ice cream coupe from deca. Holy amazingness!

Feed us bacon!
Of the sixty-something restaurants that participated in the dinner shift, we sampled bacon delights from thirty of them... that probably equates to at least a pig each, right? As I mentioned last year, I had a fantastic time, but I'm glad Baconfest only happens once a year. While there's no such thing as too much bacon, my stomach does need a full year to recover from the meat-eating mania! :-)

During the hour & a half wait in line, we poured through the official guide and mapped out our route.  
The aforementioned amazing Benton ham & scallion waffle from deca.

Pork belly pastrami sandwich served on a pretzel bun, with Gruyere and caramelized onions from firefly grill. This was by far my favorite sandwich/burger of the evening, thanks to the delicious pastrami & the adorable presentation.

Bacon fat fries topped with homemade cheese sauce & bacon crumbles from Hash House A Go GoCan you really ever go wrong with fries and cheese?

French toast, seared bacon confit, cured egg yolk, and bourbon barrel aged maple whipped cream from 3 Floyds Brewing CoI'm a huge fan of the sweet/savory mix and this dish was totally spot on! 

Bakon margarita (Bakon vodka, tequila & bacon salt rim). Super potent & delicious! I wasn't sold on Bakon last year, but I can now say I am officially a fan.

Maple glazed potato hash, house smoked bacon, Labatt's bacon gravy, and smoked bacon Labatt's beer cheese from ManBQue.

Goose Island bourbon county stout braised bacon with kickapoo blue cheese, rhubarb salad, and a pickled quail egg from State & Lake.

Applewood-smoked bacon finocchiona with fig mustard & cornichon (right); Cherrywood bacon country pate (middle); and port cherries, fennel, smoked bacon & peanut butter verrine from QuayThe verrine was one of my favorite dishes of the entire festival (there's just something about peanut butter & bacon!). On the other hand, I came to the definite conclusion that I really don't like pate.

Carnitas de Pescado: 24-hour cured braised cod with fava beans, corn salsa, bacon vinaigrette, and crispy bacon from Mercadito

Bacon and Sweet Corn Hush Puppies with crème fraîche and chipotle lime emulsion from Market Bar.

Maple bacon tartlet with candied bacon from Terzo PianoI am a sucker for just about anything maple - I sooo could have had another piece if I hadn't already been stuffed by the time we made it to their table! This tartlet had the *perfect* balance of sweet maple and bacon.

Bacon gelato and Nutella drizzle (served over a mini waffle square) from Black Dog Gelato. BDG is my favorite gelato/ice cream store in the city. They have a wide variety of sweet & savory flavors (the sesame fig chocolate chip is incredible!) and the owner, Jessica, is super nice & so passionate about gelato. 

Bacon onion jam pop tart with smoked vanilla ice cream and bacon topping station (bacon icing, bacon powder, bacon bourbon maple caramel, bacon hot fudge, bacon peanut brittle, bacon whipped cream) from Acadia.

Bacon pate, beer jam aspic, bacon brioche, and bacon mostardo from Perennial Virant.

Smoked pork belly sliders: Hawaiian buns, pickled pineapple relish & brown sugar ginger soy glaze from SableYes, that is Chef Heather Terhune from Top Chef Texas!

Maple bacon mini doughnut from Glazed and InfusedHoly doughnut o' heaven! I've had maple bacon doughnuts before, but wasn't overly impressed by any, as they were all far too greasy. This one was perfection... I shouldn't be surprised seeing as it was from Glazed and Infused (their Crème Brûlée & Red Velvet doughnuts are to die for!).

P. Double B.L.T. (pork belly, bacon, lettuce, tomato & bacon jam) and Chef Ryan Poli from Little Market

Bacon Cake from Gingersnap Sweets & SuchOnce again peanut butter + bacon = awesomeness!

Rhubarb-glazed Italian-style doughnut w/Nueske’s bacon crème anglaise from Cafe SpiaggiaYes, that is the adorable Chef Sarah Grueneberg (Top Chef Texas) and yes, I acted like a total goofy fangirl when I met her (girl crush alert!). Not only was she sooo nice (especially considering everyone wanted to take pictures with her), but also, her food was seriously incredible. It was a tie between this awesome doughnut & deca's waffle for my top pick of the fest.

Adorable/morbid piggy balloons galore!

Pigs everywhere give Baconfest two hooves up!

Full Baconfest menu here



Baconfest Survival Guide

Guess what time of year it is?! I'll give you a hint: it has nothing to do with spring (we're still mostly in the wintery ick in this part of the country). I'll give you another hint: oink, oink, oink. Give up?? Oh, all right, I'll tell you (I suck at this game anyway!): it's time for BACONFEST! Woo-hoo!

Yes, my dear readers, it's time for that magical day of bacon, bacon, and more bacon. The fifth annual day of bacon worship takes place this weekend, and of course, I'll be right there amongst the thousands of other bacon lovers, fighting for my piece of the pork pie. My trusty bacon-lovin' sidekick (aka Diana) had a bit of a scheduling kerfuffle (as in she won't even be in the state), so she bowed out and graciously passed on her ticket to Mario. Let's just say he wasn't the least bit displeased to hear the news. :-)

Seeing as I'm now a Baconfest veteran (you can read all about my experience last year here), I thought it might be a good idea to put together a little survival guide for all of the newbies. I did quite a bit of Baconfest prep last year (yes, I'm a nerd and I love to research & plan), but I will admit there were a few things I wasn't quite prepared for (e.g. the person who tripped and smashed her gooey bacon mac-n-cheese bite right into my camera lens).

1. Have a plan and PACE YOURSELF!
Take a look at the map beforehand and find the locations of your must-sees. Mark down all of the awesome porky delights you absolutely must sample (I highly recommend hitting up the 2012 Golden Rasher winners, Three Aces and 676 Restaurant, as well as Sable, Black Dog Gelato, 2 Sparrows, Atwood Cafe, Glazed and Infused, Little Market, and Mercadito). Restaurants will often run out of food and/or you'll be too full to try every single thing, so make sure you hit your favorites first! Also, figure out a plan of attack - which of your favorites are closest together? Which direction will you go when you first walk in the room? Will your entire group move from table to table together or will you split up? I know this may sound slightly anal, but trust me, you'll understand the need for a plan once you're engulfed by the delicious bacon blanket the moment you step into the room and you're consumed by the temptation to just start shoving everything in sight into your mouth.

Also, keep in mind that you will be presented with more porky amazingness than you ever thought possible. Try to resist the urge to eat absolutely everything - if you don't love a dish, then don't finish it! Save your stomach space for the items that you truly love. Remember that it's not a competition... as much as you may love bacon, you really do have a finite amount of space to stuff all of that pork. Take breaks and pace yourself!

2. Dress comfortably and travel light
Baconfest is a magical, delicious experience, but keep in mind that no matter how you approach it, you will leave the fest a sweaty, bloated, thirsty mess (but a very happy one!). You'll be packed into a relatively small space with not only hundreds of other bacon lovers, but also steam trays, fryers, mini ovens, and random drunk frat boys. Dress comfortably/light and don't wear anything you cherish too much, as there's a very high likelihood you'll leave the fest with a random grease spot or two. If you have any bacon-themed clothing, definitely wear it! Baconfest is a veritable bacon-themed fashion show.

Make sure you bring a bottle of water with you. While there will be water available at the fest, it won't necessarily be easy to make your way through the crowd to get to one of the stations. Once the meat sweats hit, you'll be glad you don't have to push through the throbbing crowd of crazed bacon lovers just to procure a tiny cup of water. Other than some water and your basics (ID, cash, cell, camera, etc.), try not to bring much else with you. You will get a tote bag at check-in, so you'll have something in which to dump all of your BF swag.

3. Get there early
This was the crowd waiting to get into Baconfest last year... an hour & a half before the doors opened. Baconfest is some serious business. Plan to get there early - you can use the time in line to study the map & plan your route. As much as waiting in any line sucks, the Baconfest crowd is quite fun (there's ample opportunity for fun foodie conversations, singing, media interviews, etc.).


Birthday Business

*Guest post by chicago foodie girl contributor, Diana

Hi All! Sorry for the absence, I've been so busy lately, I've barely had time to breathe! I wanted to come back for another Friday Five, but you going to have to hear all about my birthday instead!  :)

I celebrated 21 times two (ha!) three weeks ago and although it was a low key celebration, I spent about a week detoxing from the rich foods and sugar consumption! Holy hell, that was crazy!

Here was my weekend...

Friday the 22nd - I had to work that day, so I ordered three dozen cupcakes for the office from Molly's Cupcakes (one of my two favorite places for cupcakes - Alliance Bakery is the first!) and had them delivered for the employees to enjoy. I ordered Chocolate with Chocolate frosting, Vanilla with Vanilla frosting and Red Velvet. They were so good (just the right amount of frosting and the cake portion was the perfect moisture, not too dense), and were such a crowd pleaser that I had to grab a stash to take home!

I have to tell you, there's a significant difference between cheap chocolate and quality chocolate, so when you bake, I recommend using quality chocolate like Callebaut, it's a little pricey, but worth it. And trust me, you can definitely taste the quality of the chocolate in those cupcakes, wow!

Can you tell how much I love chocolate? They've outnumbered the others in the container!!  :)

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