Belly Up Roll

Bacon Fest 2013

If there was a town called Baconville, I would be the Mayor; if there was a Baconland, I would be the ambassador; and if there was a Bacon Church, I would be the fracking Pope O’Pork. What I am trying to say is that I like; no, love bacon, like the interwebs loves cats, the Kardashians love attention, and Jim Jones apparently loves Julius Caesar. It is this obsession for all things salty and cured that gave birth to my annual Bacon Fest Celebration, which Kat and I host for all of our friends who are swine inclined.

Jim Jones' Giant Julius Caesar Head!

Jim Jones’ Giant Julius Caesar Head!

Bacon Fest is one part food competition and two parts all out, bacon celebration. Each year we gather between 13 and 16 foodies who love to cook and ask them to let their imaginations run wild, the only rule is that the star of their dish must be Bacon! This once small gathering has been growing each and every year and this year. This year it became obvious that I could no longer host it at my house, so we decided to upgrade to a hall.

The Creed Of Bacon Fest

The Creed Of Bacon Fest

After calling around to several local halls for rent, we found that it was quite difficult to acquire a hall that would allow you to utilize their kitchen. That is until we stumbled upon the Ridgewood Elks Club, located at 111, North Maple Ave., in Ridgewood, NJ. The Ridgewood Elks club had everything our bacon soirée could possibly need, a large main room, tables, chairs, a deluxe industrial kitchen, and a very reasonable price tag. They also had a cash bar so our guests could wet their whistle in between courses, named the Jolly Cork.

Ridgewood Elks Club

The Ridgewood Elks Club

Once the hall was booked and the invites went out, my next challenge was to decide what I would concoct as my entry to this year’s contest. The competition for Bacon Fest has been increasing exponentially with each iteration. What began at first as a friendly rivalry has evolved into a passionate tournament that would make Tyler Durden proud.

I originally created an entry in my head that I was generally content with, but I knew I could do better. I racked my brain, spending damn-near every waking hour thinking about how I could improve my dish for what has become the Academy Awards of salty meat. That is until one fateful night when I got a little tipsy and passed out while visions of bacon fairies still danced in my head. I only slept for about an hour that night, because I was awoken from my restless slumber after tasting the most amazing baconey goodness that had ever crossed the threshold of my lips.

Counting Pigs Instead of Sheep!

Counting Pigs Instead of Sheep!

Still groggy and now all worked up on dream bacon, I grabbed my smart phone and began researching, like I had never researched before. My thumbs were moving a mile a minute, it was as if St. Anthony, the patron saint of bacon and the namesake of the Bacon Fest Cup, himself had possessed my fingers and they were doing his bidding. After an hour of zealous obsession, my bacon fantasy had come to fruition. I returned to my slumber counting pigs one by one that evening, knowing that I was well prepared for this year’s pork laden prizefight.

Me As The Bacon Pope!

Me As The Bacon Pope!

On the day of the event, each cook was issued a number designation and a time slot when they would present their dish to the judges. Each dish would be explained to the lucky people that were chosen at random and then judged based on Taste, Presentation, and Originality. As time ticked by the anticipation of the salty and savory war that was about to be waged on the culinary battlefield began to increase. Slowly but surely you could feel the tension in the kitchen as the cooks were doing their final preparations.

The following was the artery-clogging lineup that rocked Bacon Fest 2013, in the order that they were presented:

Sweet Potato And Bacon Lettuce Wrap

Sweet Potato And Bacon Lettuce Wrap with Yogurt Dill Sauce Presented by Stephanie Bates.

Sueyy-shi

Sueyy-shi: Loaded mashed potatoes wrapped in bacon, dressed with BBQ sauce, and bacon skillet spread. Presented by Dave Michaels and Allie Maurer.

Bacon Maple Popcorn

Bacon Maple Popcorn Presented by Jennifer Sellers

Apple-Bacon Empanada

Apple-Bacon Empanada with dried cherries, mascarpone, and Apple-Bacon Caramel Presented by Keith Shatsoff and Bryan Barnhart.

Bacon Cassoulet

Bacon Cassoulet: Medley of bacon, beans, and pancetta prepared in a traditional cassoulet in bacon cups. Presented by Tyler Hutchinson and Sara Toth

Bracon Bad:

Bracon Bad: Bacon Confit Brulee with Fring’s Blue. Presented by Tyler and Jessica Ochs.

The Heaven Hog

The Heaven Hog: Mozzarella, Spinach, and Bacon Pork Tenderloin. Presented by Timothy Hurwitz and Michael Pindilli.

Belly Up Roll

Belly Up Roll: Braised Pork Belly and Avocado Sushi Roll with a bacon maple chutney. Presented by Michael and Katherine Arp

Candy Bacon Chocolate Brownie

Candy Bacon Chocolate Brownie with Jameson Caramel Sauce topped with candy bacon. Presented by Kevin and Kimberly Feehan.

Dude Food Magic Bars

Dude Food Magic Bars: Dessert Bar with pretzels, potato chips, chocolate, peanut butter and Bacon Presented by Brian Massey and Kristen Dyak.

Bacon Mac and Cheese

Bacon Mac and Cheese with Spiced Bacon Twists presented by Chris Buro.

Pork Star Ice Cream Cake

Pork Star Ice Cream Cake Presented by Matthew Arp and Emily Holmgren.

Pancetta Meatballs

Pancetta Meatballs in Joan’s homemade sauce Presented by Joan Perreca.

Clearly even though this was a competition and there was a winner declared, the judges were the actual victors in this epicurean struggle because they got to eat the above mentioned food. Granted the cooks were also judges, so I guess we all won, but this ain’t some new age hippy dippie coed baseball league where there is no score kept, and everyone wins ribbons for participation. This is Bacon Wars!

The Cup of St. Anthony

The Cup of St. Anthony

The reason all the cooks wake up at 6:00 A.M. on the morning of Bacon Fest and shovel their own money into their dish, is to the have the honor of taking home the Cup of Saint Anthony! The Cup of St. Anthony is similar to Lord Stanley’s Cup, only it is better, because people actually care who wins this cup. (Hockey Burn!) Whoever takes first place in Bacon Fest is granted the righteous reward of placing their name on the cup and displaying it at their house for an entire year.

In this culinary death match that lasted 2 hours and featured more bacon than most regular folks eat in a year, only one dish reigned supreme. Alas, it was not my dish this year, although I did take third place, with the Pork Star Ice Cream Cake taking second, and all of the dishes bowed down to the Apple-Bacon Empanada which made most people let out a louder moan of satisfaction than they do in their own bedrooms.

Bacon Empanda Inside

The Winner Dissected!

While baconey goodness followed baconey goodness in this divine swine parade, our guests were placing money in the donation jars that were being passed around and tickets in the raffle prize baskets. All the proceeds of Bacon Fest 2013 were donated to Eleventh Hour Rescue, a local animal rescue agency, which saved our own dog from a kill shelter and delivered her to our hearts.

Tickets

Charity is fun!

All the raffle prizes were generously donated by some of the fantastic businesses that this Blue Collar Foodie frequents on a regular basis. I would like to take this time to give a shout out and some electronic love to these wonderful businesses that did not think twice to support this remarkable rescue agency through our event. These benevolent establishments and every single person that donated their hard earned money at our event have helped this rescue agency not only save the lives of animals but also connect them with their forever family.

Lilly Likes Bacon

Lilly Loves You For Supporting Eleventh Hour Rescue Almost As Much As She Loves Bacon!!!

These are not your standard, everyone be damned but me corporations; these are honest companies that are aware of their societal footprint and want to help their community. Please help me say thank you to these exceptional establishments by supporting them as they supported us.

Meatball Obsession: At Meatball Obsession®, it’s all about the meatball. That’s why we call it an obsession. We use the original, all-natural old-world Mancini family recipe and slow-cook it in pots. At Meatball Obsession we serve grandma’s beef, turkey and sausage meatballs in her Sunday Sauce. Our food is meant for people on the go so you can enjoy your meatballs in a cup with dipping bread or stuffed in a custom-made Italian pocket bread. We deliver too. – 1 Garden State Plaza, Paramus NJ 201-843-3888.

Twisted Elm: Twisted Elm is a gastropub in Northern NJ. We are a casual, pub-style restaurant with an award-winning chef in the kitchen and a fun, relaxed atmosphere at the bar. Our creative menu is prepared using the finest local and seasonal ingredients, and we proudly serve delicious, naturally-made wines. We have hand-tossed brick oven pizzas – even for our gluten-free guests! Bringing the craft beer scene to Bergen County, we offer a rotating selection of the finest American and imported brews. – 435 River Dr. Elmwood Park, NJ 07407 (201) 791-3705

Baconery: Two ingredients that make everything taste like heaven in your mouth. Apart, these ingredients represent a delicious cornucopia of different tastes, but together they create an explosive flavor that is seldom rivaled in the food world. Everyone has talked about it. People have dreamed about it. Most were afraid to put them together. It’s a secret, twisted fantasy that everyone hides their love for. And now it’s a reality. Available Online and at their Brick and Mortar location at 911 Columbus Avenue, New York, New York (104 & 105th)

J&D’s: We’re Justin and Dave, and this is our improbable bacon-flavored story. Who are we? We’re just two regular guys who love grilling and football on Sunday afternoons, eating until we can’t get off the couch and of course, the taste of great bacon. And it’s our dream to make everything taste like bacon. Whether you’re a regular griller or a gourmet chef, are counting calories or are a vegetarian who craves mouth-watering bacon taste without the bacon guilt, this is what you’ve been waiting for.

The Swiss Pork Store: It’s a throwback, a dinosaur, a trip to the old country. In the same location since 1950, time has moved forward only on the other side of the door. Even the customers will tell you how long they’ve been coming here to shop.

A local legend of the original owners is that one of the two men who opened the place in 1950 was German, the other was Swiss. They were concerned about anti-German sentiment just after WWII, so they named the shop the Swiss Pork Store, with a wink and a smile. 24-10 Fair Lawn Avenue, Fair Lawn, New Jersey 07410

Breaking Bad Bacon

For those of you who did get the Breaking Bad Reference.

Photo Credit and many thanks to Evan Bindelglass!

The BCF’s Top Ten Football Foods

I am well aware that the post you are about to read is not a restaurant review, but if you are anything like me, and most guys in this country, you understand that Sundays, from early September to mid-February, is no time to be gallivanting around town visiting restaurants.  By 1:00 PM any self-respecting Blue Collar Foodie should be on his/her couch, with the Television tuned to whatever Nationally televised NFL game that is on,  while the oven, smoker, grill, or slow cooker is gradually cooking some type of food that will be consumed joyously at around 6:00 P.M. by family and friends.

As I have stated in previous posts, Football Sundays at my house are damn near religious events.  Tuesday morning during football season, I begin my search for my recipes for the big day, much like the players begin their workouts.  I scour Google, Allrecipes, Food Network, and the like for something that tickles my fancy.  By Wednesday I usually have my game plan and the first shopping trip is done after work, this is where I pick up my non-perishables and proteins, anything that can keep until Sunday.   Thursday and Friday the invites go out and we find out how many people will be watching the games with us.  On Sunday, Kat and I are up early shopping, preparing, seasoning, preheating, and marinating.  The following is what I consider the BCF’s Top 10 Foodie Football Finds for any given Sunday.

Since there is usually three different times that football games are on television during the regular season, I feel that there are really two distinct eating times during the games.  I always cook appetizers for the first game, 1:00 PM, to prime everyone’s stomach for the main event which I serve at halftime of game two, 6:00 P.M, leaving the late night game for digestion and discussion.

5: Guacamole

Coming in at number five in the appetizer class is everyone’s favorite use for an avocado, Guacamole.  This dish has been around since the 16th century, and was very popular in the 1940’s and the 1960’s.  We can all thank our west coast comrades for the resurgence of this classic Mexican dip, since the Avocado has become more popular than celebrities flipping off paparazzi in California, and has since spread like wildfire throughout the country.  This tangy concoction of Avocado, garlic, cayenne pepper, and whatever the hell else the recipe tells you to throw into a bowl and mix until somewhat smooth has become a staple at my house for basically any party.  It is not only simple to make but it is an affordable replacement for the prehistoric and lackluster party basics, salsa and onion dip. The following is just one of the recipes I use, I like variety, so you can try this one, or better yet hunt down a recipe that makes your mouth water and give it a go this Sunday!

4:  Sausage

At the very respectable number four spot for the appetizer division is the ever so manly Sausage.  Some foodies will tell you that sausage is an entree, which I understand, but I am all about slicing these veritable grenades of flavor and cooking them until they are crisp on my grill top.  With an arsenal of toothpicks at the ready and an array of dipping sauces whatever sausage you buy can turn into a crowd favorite in minutes with little to no prep and cook time.  I recommend going to the Swiss Pork Store, located at 24-10 Fair Lawn Avenue, in Fair Lawn, New Jersey 07410 to procure some of the best homemade sausages on this planet!  But, if you want to make things easier on yourself you can always pick up any of the packaged sausages from the local grocery store, I for one, like these the best.

3:  Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos

Rounding out the top three for the appetizers, is a new recipe for my household, but these spicy little devils have stolen my heart, Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos.  First and foremost, anything wrapped in Bacon is always welcome on my team, but when cheese and hot peppers were combined with the world’s best condiment, yes bacon is a condiment; a new level of love was formed.  These petite gems are not only inexpensive and stress-free to make but they are the perfect companion to whatever beer you and your guests are imbibing while shouting at the television as if the coach and players can hear you.

2:  Chicken Wings

The second best appetizer for any football Sunday, in my opinion, is the ageless classic and utterly delicious chicken wing.  Whether they are hot, mild, garlic, sweet, honey, teriyaki, or plain these scrumptious pint-sized buggers just scream football.  Not only can you make them every week for less than 10 bucks, their versatility allows you to never cook the same batch twice.   Not only can you create 100’s of different flavors by combining sauces you can fry, grill, or bake them to create even more variety.  All in all, these vintage sporting event treats are a great choice for the novice chef trying to feed a small army.

1: The Bacon Explosion

The BCF’s top appetizer and truly what should be the winner in any appetizer competition from this point forward is and should always be, THE BACON EXPLOSION!  Nothing goes better with football and beer than a meat log filled with cheese and bacon, wrapped in more bacon, slathered in barbecue sauce and cooked to perfection.  This dish has been known to convert more vegetarians than the crusaders converted heathens.  Although this is a non-traditional appetizer, once you make this stunning bacon wrapped meatgasm, you will forever remember the first time you tasted it, and for that very reason since October 19, 2008 THE BACON EXPLOSION has been The Blue Collar Foodie’s Favorite Football Appetizer!

 

Once the appetizers are all gone and the chips are starting to dwindle your guests are going to become restless.  If you are doing things properly, by the beginning of the second game your entire house is going to smell glorious, and your friends are going to know that dinner is going to be just as good as the appetizers were.   Now after serving one of the aforementioned appetizers you could settle for cooking some hot dogs and hamburgers, or maybe even order some pizza, but that would be the easy way out.  I am the type of person that agrees with the old phrase, Go big or Go Home, I don’t just settle for what is acceptable, I want to crush acceptable into a fine dust and add to one of the next dishes that make up the Blue Collar Foodie’s Fantastic Football entrees.

5:  Chili

Number five on my list only finds itself that low because I have to wait until the colder months to truly enjoy it.  This mélange of ingredients that takes the entire day to truly meld into a cohesive mouthwatering meat potion is one of my favorite dishes to munch on, during a cold blustery football Sunday.   One of the many reasons I love making and eating chili is because everyone has their own recipe and method of cooking, but no matter what they all taste great.  I for one hardly ever make the same Chili recipe twice. With literally 1000’s of recipes to choose from on the internet, I feel that having the same one all the time is just meaningless.  Check out the winners of the International Chili Cook-off recipes for inspiration or be adventurous and create your own.

4:  Barbecue Chicken

Barbecue Chicken is a very simple, yet difficult to master dish, that can go from undercooked to charcoal in a matter of minutes if you are not paying attention.  Furthermore, it is very easy to end up with chicken that is burnt on the outside and pink on the inside, which not only tastes horrible but can be dangerous.  It is these problems that usually make people shy away from cooking this delicious meal, which is exactly why, you should master this art.  There are only a few people in this world that cook truly superb barbecue chicken, and if you can distinguish yourself as one of them, you will have friends lining up at your doorstep at 12:30 P.M. on Sunday begging for a seat on your couch.  Now go get started!

3:  Pork Tenderloin

In third place, and one of my most favorite cuts of swine, other than Bacon of course, is the Pork Tenderloin.   It really does not matter how you prepare this succulent cut of pure porky goodness, it will turn out to be a fan favorite.  This type of meat is so damn popular it has a website devoted to it where you can find recipes and cooking tips that is literally named PorkTenderloin.org.   I have cooked this wonderful piece of meat a dozen different ways and I have never been disappointed before, and neither have my friends.  If it was up to me Chicken would be demoted and we would start calling pork just THE WHITE MEAT!

2:  Brisket

The runner up in the Entree class, Smoked Barbecue Brisket, almost took first place, and really is an amazing meal for anytime of the year, but especially during football season.   In fact, both first place and second place honors were given to meats that are smoked, low and slow, all day long.  (TWSS)  This particular cut of meat is served at almost every BBQ joint I have ever been to, and there is a damn good reason for that.  Brisket has an ideal flavor absorbing quality and due to its fibrous make-up, takes to smoking, like a cheetah takes to running.   Remember though, smoking is a skill that must be honed; one cannot just assume that the first brisket that he or she smokes will turn out as good as a true pit master’s does.  With that said, practice makes perfect and even if your brisket is not perfect, it will still taste fantastic, so I don’t mind practicing.   Try this recipe for your first one.

1:  Ribs

The winner of the entrée group and still tailgate/football party champion of the world, are the one and only, fantastically tasty, PORK RIBS!  Whether these flavor-filled racks of ridiculously good yumminess are grilled, baked, or smoked does not really matter.  There is something about Ribs that just exude football and manliness.  I for one enjoy the smoked variety slathered in my favorite barbecue sauce, surrounded by all the best barbecue sides that I can manage to squeeze on my plate.  Although, ribs, are very forgiving due to their appetizing nature, be careful when smoking and grilling them, there is nothing worse than a ruined entrée to ruin your perfect football Sunday.  For a full rundown on the proper way to prepare a rack or two of awe inspiring ribs, click here.

The most important thing to remember when hosting a football Sunday is that people are over to watch the game first and eat your food second.   Which means, if you expect people to enjoy their Sunday you must keep the game on at all times, and allow people to eat while sitting right in front of it.  If you are worried about a little barbecue sauce getting on your couches then perhaps hosting a football Sunday is not for you.   However, if you don’t mind spending your entire Sunday, cooking, drinking, and watching your favorite teams do battle on the field, then as the envelope said to the stamp,  stick with me kid and we’ll go places.