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Baconfest is going big.

The second annual all-bacon tasting extravaganza will be held in April at the UIC Forum, which can (and will, organizers say) accommodate more than twice the number of attendees as the inaugural fest -- an estimated 2,000 pork-eating fans.

Andre Pluess, one of the fest's chief architects, also expects to double the number of chefs and vendors. This year's Baconfest was held at the Stan Mansion, 2408 N. Kedzie. A preview dinner, held last fall, drew about 100 people.

There is method to all this porcine madness. As with the first fest, a portion of the proceeds will go towards the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Tickets go on sale early next year - that's right, next year, because it's never too early to plan your spring eating calendar. Go to baconfestchicago.com for updates on tickets, participating chefs, preview dinners and more.

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Because we seem to have hit a lull in bacon-themed events...

A Chicago Bacon Takedown has been announced for Sept. 11 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln.

This is not to be confused with Baconfest Chicago, which is ramping up for its second annual tasting in the spring with a series of all-bacon dinners featuring Nueske bacon. The first is Sept. 13 at Chalkboard, 4343 N. Lincoln, and it's already sold out.

While Baconfest and its satellite dinners are chef-focused and meant to showcase what top toques can do with everyone's favorite pork product -- April's Baconfest drew 1,000 people, and organizers are looking to hold the 2011 event at either Navy Pier or the UIC Forum -- the Takedowns are strictly home cook affairs (and sponsored by Hormel Bacon). The cost to attend is $15.

According to Takedown organizer Matt Timms, a Brooklyn actor and filmmaker who hosts these in his spare time, the event -- from 1 to 3 p.m. -- is open to amateur cooks with bacon recipes they feel are extraordinary.

"I've always celebrated the amateur cook," says Timms, 36, who says he falls squarely in that category. "It's just a really fun, incredibly unpretentious event. People come and get to try 20 different bacon recipes."

Seven years ago, Timms was just another chili-cooking Brooklynite. He felt his chili had some potential, so he joined the International Chili Society. But he found their contests to be a bit too restrictive. "I thought, why not do a no-rules event?' " he says. The Chili Takedown was born.

Timms has since hosted takedowns for everything from cookies to curry to fondue. The Bacon Takedown is part of a six-city national tour. Depending on how this goes, he'd like to return to Chicago for a Tofu Takedown.

Those interested in competing should email Timms at mtimms7@hotmail.com. What's in it for you? A year's supply of bacon. Tickets to the September Takedown can be had here.

Meanwhile, keep on top of Baconfest happenings here.

"The more, the merrier," says Andre Pluess, one of Baconfest's founders. "People call bacon a fad ... The Beatles were a fad, and they came and they went, but their music lives on. And people keep coming back to the Beatles year after year after year.

"We feel that way about bacon."

A killer of a sandwich

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doubledown.jpg
[540 cal, 32g fat, 1380mg sodium]
Really, KFC? Really?

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Seems like just yesterday BaconFest was but a gleam in a few pork-obsessed dudes' eyes. But it really, truly is happening.

Tickets for the April 10 event go on sale at noon tomorrow. Because the event is essentially split into two tastings or "shifts," each featuring 12 chefs, the organizers have very specific guidelines for purchasing tickets. For those ambitious enough to attempt to attend both shifts, a warning: "We won't call you an ambulance."

Tickets are $45. Check out the roster of chefs here.

Update: In case you're wondering why Paul Kahan, whose middle name might well be "pork," isn't on the roster, organizer Andre Pluess says he and his whole Blackbird/Avec/Publican crew are, appropriately, going wild boar hunting. Of course, Kahan did pull his weight at the BaconFest preview event in October, held at the Publican.

Pluess and his co-organizers, Seth Zurer and Michael Griggs, are so amped up about the event and its future possibilities, you'd think this was RedBullFest.

"We're hoping there will be a second annual. Though, our wives and girlfriends are probably hoping there won't be," Pluess says. "Our goal is eventually to move it to an outside model. But we want it to be a little more highbrown than the Iowa bacon fest, you know, with people walking around in pig suits. Ours is more chef-centered."

Pluess is hoping to have Rick Bayless make a special appearance either in the fest's opening or closing ceremonies to "do a reading of our Bacon Manifesto," he says.

Chefs' dishes are just now being hammered out and probably won't be finalized until the last minute, but you can at least count on a bacon sundae of sorts from Chalkboard's Gil Langlois.

Langlois made the concoction, which included bacon cotton candy and walnut and bacon crunchies on top, for the October event at the Publican. A Chalkboard manager says Langlois has refined it further; the bacon is now coming from a new local farmer who raises acorn-fed pigs.

Let's drown our sorrows about Gourmet's closing the Chicago way, shall we? With bacon. And get this man (chef John Manion of Goose Island Brewpub) his own TV show, or get him on Conan, or something.

This video was done in anticipation of the VIP Pro Bacon Cook-Off on Oct. 24, which should tide folks over until the main event, Baconfest, in April.

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The creators of Baconfest Chicago (which is pretty self-explanatory, wouldn't you say) took to Twitter this morning to divulge details of just how they envision this whole porkfest shaking out.

They promise a bacon expo, bacon cook-off, bacon-themed poetry slams and fashion, a bacon cocktail lounge and even the Golden Rashers -- the Oscars of bacon, as it were.

The fest is set for Oct. 25 at the Stan Mansion, 2408 N. Kedzie. Plenty of time to get your arteries ready.

Becks Loves Pigs' Butts

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BecksMilan.jpgSoccer superstar David Beckham, now playing for international powerhouse AC Milan, has a passion for pigs' posteriors, a UK Web site says.

Now, before you think, "Oh, Posh Spice, poor gal. Hope she doesn't catch anything from her hubby," you might want to know that said pig butts are a delicacy that David Beckham has come to enjoy recently.

Beckham, according to The List "reportedly has a huge appetite for Culatello - which translates as "little bum" - an Italian delicacy made out of pig's rears."

Beckham, "The List" reports, "was first given the food by his club's former manager Carlo Ancelotti, and the pair have been spotted eating it on a number of occasions."

"A source" told the site, as if it was reporting on an extra-marital affair, "David can't get enough of this fine delicacy. It's got a much lighter and less meaty taste than most other prosciuttos. He's dying to get Victoria to try some."

Culatello, we learn, is a refined type of prosciutto made from heavier pigs and cut to a fraction of the thickness of normal prosciutto and aged, and may be cured with wine. It is most commonly served as a starter with melon or figs.

Hmmm. Well, put it that way, it doesn't sound so bad.

Pols and pork producers can debate all they want about what to call the so-called swine flu. We'll keep eating our bacon, thank you very much.

We trust the Centers for Disease Control when they say you can't get swine flu by eating pork or pork products. Just like we trusted them when they said you can't get avian flu by eating chicken. We, and plenty of other Americans, ate our chicken and lived to tell about it.

Thankfully, Chicago's porcine-minded chefs aren't pushing the panic button, either.

"Grilled swine flu with creamy SARS, smoked West Nile virus and bird flu reduction ... mmmmm, tastes like fear!" So quoth the cheeky Graham Elliot Bowles about an hour ago on Twitter.

Go on -- be with bacon. Show some love to the pork chop. After the jump, a recipe to get you in the mood.

Baconpalooza

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Something called BaconFest Chicago is brewing, the folks at MenuPages say. Conceived by a trio of bacon-obsessed guys, the all-pork fest may or may not take place sometime in the fall at a yet-to-be-determined site, according to the BaconFest Web site.

Of course, there already is a Facebook group (with 232 fans and counting!) and Twitter account set up for BaconFest. Because in this city, our love of pork knows no bounds.

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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