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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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
Photo Credit and many thanks to Evan Bindelglass!