BaconFest Chicago

If you haven't made the trek to BaconFest, you'd better start planning for 2016.  It is a show of culinary porkdom, craft cockpigtailing, smokey sensory meaty goodness.  I waded through a sea of people looking for a pork fix, piggy tricks and drink mix.  There were cooks from Chicago restaurants like Big Jones, Duck Inn, Epic, Lockwood, Perennial Virant and Taco Joint. Meaty, salty eats everywhere surrounded by beer from Lagunitas, Goose Island and Lakefront Brewery along with Wirtz cocktails.

The biggest quandary on what to do is where to start or how.  I figured it was best to start in the middle and work my way out, taking small bites from each vendor to save my stomach for later, while grabbing cocktails from Templeton Rye and Tito's and foregoing gutstuffing brews. 

Wading my way through the masses, I managed to find my favorites:

- Tanta (118 W Grand Ave).  They made my favorite dish of the Fest, a Chicharron Glazed Bocado, a spicy thick piece of bacon with pineapple which had the right amount of everything. Delicious

- Kanela Breakfast Club (1408 N Milwaukee Ave).  This was an extremely close 2nd, with an amazing dessert- Bacon Infused Loukoumades (Greek Donut) accompanied by the most outrageous candied bacon I've ever tasted!

- The Duck Inn (2701 S Eleanor St).  The most insanely delicious hot dog ever- The Frankenduckie: a duck fat dog wrapped in bacon with cheese sauce, pickled jalapeno and Calabrian chili relish. 

- Acre (5308 N Clark St).  Chicken Liver and Bacon Pate which was so delicious I almost asked for fourths!

- Sheekar Delights (Glenview IL).   One of the best Baklava ever with bacon, pistachio, walnuts and simple syrup, which made it lighter and better.

- Velvet Taco (1110 N State).  The Cuban Pig: a taco stuffed with grain mustard, slow roasted chili rubbed pork butt, cured ham, applewood peppered bacon, gruyere and pickles.  Perfect Cuban taco.

- Rub's Backcountry Smokehouse & The Budlong (6954 N Western Ave).  Nashville Hot Chicken Club was an insanely heat rubbed chicken paired with Nueske's smoked bacon.  I love the heat.

- Old Town Pour House (1419 N Wells St).  Ebel's Weiss Braised Pork Belly.  It was like pot roast but 100x more delicious with onion marmalade, red pepper coulis and sweet serrano chili pepper.  Love love love.

It's so hard to stop talking about the food but I'll stop there and leave your imaginations (and drooling) to wander).  Too many cocktails to think about my favorite with Koval, Tito's and Templeton Rye in the house.  You'll have to taste through the madness!  

Windy City Wine Guy trying to entertain his Wife   

Windy City Wine Guy trying to entertain his Wife

 

Super Bowl XLIV Wine/Beverage Picks

The big game is around the corner, and whether you're entertaining or bringing your favorite snacks and beverages to your friend's house, you'll want to put your best foot forward and pair up your eats with your drinks.  You can impress your friends and make them envious of your picks.  Besides Peyton and Drew, you'll be the talk of the party!  So let's get on to some colossal pairings:

Before we get into the wine, I always like to have some beer onhand.  It not only has that slight hoppy bitterness but is also a thirst quencher.  For this Sunday I like Lagunitas "The Censored" Rich Copper Ale.  It has everything you want in a beer and more.  A creamy, malty flavor, slightly bitter but smooth hops, a rich copper color, a touch of citrus, caramel and brown sugar.  You can find this for around $10.99/6 pack.  It's also great because it pairs well with most foods you'll enjoy, including spicy ones.  I love it with chili, wings and spicy chips.

Wine value picks with tough names are what's called for on Super Bowl Sunday.  You should have some white onhand, in case it's called for, and I couldn't think of a better one to have than 2008 Big Fire Pinot Gris ($12.99).  This grape has a great roundness to it and the wine packs the fruit in: grapefruit, tangerine and pears.  You can feel honey and smell flowers in the glass, giving you no problem when the spice from hot wings comes a-knockin'!

For the reds, we'll kick off with 2007 Torres Sangre de Toro (blood of the bull), a blend of Garnacha and Cariñena ($8.99).  It packs cherry and raspberry fruit flavor with cola and dried floral scents.  The medium body and soft tannins are a great blend to accompany your Super Bowl chili creation.  Next we aim to please our Pinot lovers with 2007 Three Saints Pinot Noir ($24.99).  Even if you're not a Saints fan, you will still enjoy the blackberries, raspberries and tea notes, along with the ripe acidity.  We can finish off the wine with two big, luscious examples.  First off, we have 2007 Tait "The Ball Buster" Shiraz, which has big dark fruit, vanilla, oak and smooth tannins ($17.99).  Also go for 2008 Owen Roe Abbot's Table ($22.99), a big blend of eight varietals, mostly Sangiovese and Zinfandel.  It's a big bite of rich red and dark fruit, and ready to take on your pizza and nachos.

The most important thing to take away from the pairings is what goes well with this cuisine.  You will be enjoying some spice, tomato based items (chili, pizza) and fried and greasier dishes.  You will need beverages that have a touch of sweetness to put out the fire, are fruity, a lower alcohol content (usually enflames spices) and that have a touch of spice themselves to mesh with the food.

I love making my own food (especially my World's Best Nachos), especially for big events.  I will have to include my wings and pizza recipes later, but in the meantime, I will give out some of my favorite vendors:

No matter what you pick, remember to drink responsibly, don't mix it with driving, and have a great time.  Any event that you get together with people you like is a sure to be a great time, so make sure it is positive from start to finish.  Have fun!