Baconfest Winners!Awards and Podium Photo by Peter Tsai. flickr.com/photos/petetsai
To be the best at something takes dedication, and the willingness to pick yourself up and try again. For four years Mercat put its best hoof forward at Chicago’s renowned Baconfest, and while our bacon-fueled dishes were enjoyed by the masses, we were never able to ascend the stage when awards were handed out. That all changed this year, when Chef Evan took it to another level with his Arroz de Iberico Pancetta. The panel of judges and the public agreed, this was the dish at Baconfest, Chef Evan and Mercat a la Planxa took home the Golden Rasher for “Most Creative Use of Bacon.” Cue “We are the Champions”…
How does one bacon dish outshine the next? It’s all about the quality of the ingredients. If “Bacon Fest” elicits images of bacon on doughnuts, bacon wrapped everything and bacon on bacon then you are pretty in-tune with the annual festivities. However, Chef chose to look at all the components of the dish, while maintaining our Spanish flavors and elevated ingredients: bomba rice, house-made aioli and the king of pork- Jamon Iberico.
If you haven’t encountered bomba rice, please add it to your must-try list. A Spanish cultivar, bomba rice maintains its structure more than other rice styles. This allows for a more defined texture with every bite. You can really savor each grain.
As per Iberico, let us summarize: Also called Pata Negra, this ham comes from black Iberian pigs fed on primarily acorn diets. Not only are the shepherding practices sustainable thanks to the naturally foraged diet, but the pigs roam free. The ham is then cured for anywhere between 24 and 36 months. Now, try besting a dish that includes flavors from the world’s finest bacon with textures from the world’s finest grains.
If you are concerned that you missed out on Chicago’s best Bacon Fest lineup to date then fear not. You can find Chef’s winning dish on Mercat’s brunch menu every Saturday and Sunday, plus you can check out our hand-curated Jamón Iberico selections for dinner, 7 nights a week.