April 2013 | chicago foodie girl


Recent Foodie Finds

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. :-)



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!



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.).
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