To doggie bag or not to doggy bag?

April 19, 2012

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That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outraged fellow diners—well, you get the idea. 

With Earth Day on Sunday, I wonder, do you doggie bag?

Before I left for Baconfest, I packed my usual tote bag and water bottle, plus a couple of dozen of lightweight containers saved from Whole Foods bulk buys. As much as I love to eat—and drink—I know my limits. And from years of professional experience, I knew I'd be testing them at this event. I'm no Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas, the 98-pound champion competitive eater. So as I tasted, I saved my leftovers, which leaves my palate better for judging too.

I was very happily surprised to see compost bins at Baconfest. My friend and co-founder Seth Zurer said all the composting and green credit goes to our friends at FIG Catering, the event caterer. While all 107 restaurants brought in their own food, it was FIG's job to coordinate them. Co-owner and pastry chef Molly Schemper said the Greater Chicago Food Depository took leftover edible food to the Pacific Garden Mission, and Collective Resource based in Evanston removed thirty 35-gallon compost bins.

The most stylish doggie bag I've ever received anywhere in the world was from NoMI Kitchen. I went on opening night as the guest of Ken Hom—the Chicago-raised, rags-to-riches, Chinese-American chef (after his talk at Kendall which you can hear here). Ken ordered what seemed like a reasonable amount of their refined farm-to-table food, but we did have leftovers, which he told me I should take home. Maybe it's our Chinese-American culture, where it's normal to pack doggie bags at weddings—and even my great aunt's recent funeral luncheon. When our server brought out two chic chocolate brown tote bags, the only other table left in the restaurant asked if they could have one too. A new trend I hope?