UNIVERSITY VILLAGE — After two hours in traffic, Mimi Ward, 41, made it to her first Baconfest Saturday. For the Aurora resident, the journey was worth it.
"I'm here to eat a bunch of pork," Ward said, laughing. "It's all worth it."
Ward was among more than 4,500 people expected to consume some of 8,000 pounds of Nueske's bacon during the weekend's Baconfest 2015 at the University of Illinois-Chicago's Forum.
Bacon lovers enjoyed bacon-inspired dishes from more than 170 chefs from restaurants around the city and surrounding suburbs.
The event brought in $75,000 in donations to the Greater Chicago Food Despitory this year, organizers said. Since 2009, Baconfest Chicago has donated more than $200,000 to the city's food bank.
Chef Kristine Antonian, at Quince Restaurant in Evanston, who won top honors last year returned with a new pastry dish, "When Pigs Fly," a chocolate bacon Oreo, served with bacon pop rocks.
"It's a lot of work, but it's super exciting to be a part of the festival," Antonian said.
Scott Manley, chef from Table, Donkey and Stick, 2728 W. Armitage Ave., returned a second year in a row as a guest chef with his dish, a cookie cake.
"It's a bacon custard pie with peas, carrots, bacon, chocolate and bacon," Manley said.
"Last year I tried to do something more complicated, this year I went with something simple, quick and tasty, and people are responding well," Manley said.
Other participating restaurants included The Chop Shop, 2033 W. North Ave. in Wicker Park, Old Town Social, 455 W. North Ave. in Old Town, and Mercadito Counter, 738 N. Clark St. on the Near North Side. (See slideshow for photos of some of the best dishes.)
Throughout the three-hour Saturday afternoon tasting session, folks milled around from table to table trying bite-sized bacon dishes and drinks.
Fred Kwong, 36, and his wife, Susan, 34, have attended the event for three years in a row.
"First of all, this is for a great cause, and secondly it's a great sampling of Chicago restaurants all in one room," Kwong said.
Ivelise Garcia, 40, of Garfield Ridge, counted dishes from Mercadito Counter and the Burger Bar, 1578 N. Clybourn Avenue in Goose Island, among her favorites.
"This is gluttony at its finest," Garcia said. "It'll take me two days to recover from this."
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