Just let that sink in. Baconfest. An ENTIRE event dedicated to bacon.
Bacon. Mmmm bacon.
I attended the sixth annual Baconfest in Chicago this past weekend. Held at the UIC Forum, this bacon wonderland features over 160 talented Chicagoan chefs serving bacon-inspired dishes to bacon fanatics.
Can we just marvel over the number of times the word 'bacon' was in the above paragraph?
To get a sense of the seriousness of this event: the inaugural Baconfest was held in 2009 with 75 guests and 10 chefs. This year the event was spread over 2 days with 3 shifts (Friday dinner, Saturday lunch and Saturday dinner) and sold out at a whopping 4,500 tickets!
Baconfest is sponsored by Nueske's Applewood Smoked Meats, a family-owned Wisconsin bacon producer. Baconfest supports the Greater Chicago Food Depository and donates a portion of the ticket sales. A raffle and food drive are held at the event and since 2009, Baconfest Chicago has donated $205,000 to the city's food bank!
Some scenes from Baconfest:
I couldn't help but give some serious thought afterwards on the best ways to get the most out of an event like Baconfest. Therefore I present…
How to Attend Baconfest Like a Boss:
1. Look at that map! The handy guide provided at check in tells you what and where all the booths are, including what they are serving. Bring a pen and star your musts.
2. Walk around to take it all in. You WILL be overwhelmed. You WILL want to try it all. You WILL just want to say "the hell with it" and jump right in. Proceed with caution though, because...
3. This is a race, not a sprint. The shifts are two and a half hours, ample time to nosh on tons of bacon-y goodies. Avoid the instinct to stuff your face at the beginning and you will be rewarded with a happier, more well-rounded eating experience.
4. Drink it up. Your entry gets you seven drink tickets (of course only if you are over 21). Use these wisely. My tip is to skip the mainstream offerings and go for the gold with things like the bacon cocktail or bacon topped Bloody Mary.
5. Once you go sweet, you don't go back. Unless you have magic eating powers (and I envy you), once you switch to the sugary bacon treats it's tough to make a u-turn back to the rest of the fare. I was pulled in by the apple bacon pineapple fritters at 'Glazed and Infused' pretty early in the evening and struggled to make my way back to the non-sweet eats.
6. Grab water whenever you see it and hoard it like it's worth the world. Because it is. You've got to cleanse your pallet and as the night goes on, the appearance of water becomes a rare occurrence.
7. You'll start feeling a bit odd. You start to realize you smell like bacon (especially noticeable if you exit the main hall for a breather). You feel a bit greasy all over, and dare I say you get a bit of the meat sweats? Just go with it. This is Baconfest and you need to suck it up.
8. Split everything. Make a deal with your friend or significant other to share everything. Half bites mean trying double the amount of items!
9. Dress the part. Ladies, pull your hair back and bring a cross body purse to free up your arms. This is casual dining and the stand-at tables fill up fast. Be ready to juggle plates and cups!
10. Have fun! This goes without saying. You're at a fest of bacon; how could you not have fun?!?
Baconfest 2014 has just wrapped and I'm already looking forward to next year's event! Check them out here.
Note: I attended Baconfest Chicago free of charge, however all commentary above is my own. Do you really think I need to be told to rave about bacon?