The buzz for Baconopolis was reaching a fever pitch as we were getting closer to the event. Twitter was aflutter. The blogosphere was excited. The general populace was starting to froth over the festivities. And with tickets sold out way in advance, the anticipation was on another level. All for the delicious bit of smoked pork belly that we all know and love as Bacon. If there was ever an event to put bacon up on an alter it was this one. We can thank Tom Douglas and his team for bringing Baconopolis to us.
We arrived a bit early to see Eric Tanaka, the executive chef for all of Tom Douglas’ restaurants, working the grill outside the Palace Ballroom. Eric is a super cool guy and very personable, so it was great to see him warming up the crowd. As a primer for the event, Eric was griddling Oscar Meyer bacon to sample. Apparently, Oscar Meyer is the #1 selling brand of bacon in the country, so it was fun to try it as a barometer for the good stuff we had in store for us. My thoughts? Not much fat, not much meat, tasted a bit like charcoal, but hey, it’s bacon, it didn’t totally suck. But we had much grander bacon in our future.
Stepping through the Ballroom foyer we were handed our menus and noticed a funky little necklace that the greeter was wearing. It was a couple of strips of bacon and some sunny side eggs in the shape of skull ‘n crossbones. Sweet. And they were made by a waitress at Lola and were for sale at the event.
Here is the rundown of bacon producers and the dishes that the Tom Douglas team made with them:
- Bavarian Meats, Washington – Butterscotch Bacon Bites
- Benton’s Smoky Mountain, Tennessee – Bacon Hash
- Berkshire Meats, Minnesota – Tempura Fried Bacon
- Carlton Farms, Oregon – BLT
- Duskie’s, California – Pea Salad with Bacon Bits
- Hempler’s, Washington – Butterscotch Pudding, Bacon-Fat Confit Apples, Candied Lardon’s
- Neuske’s, Wisconsin – Elvis’s Favorite Sandwich; Hot Peanut Butter, topped with Bacon, atop Banana Bread
- Salumi Artisan Cured Meats, Washington – Classic Carbonara
- Scott’s Country Ham, Kentucky – Braised Bacon in Pork and Beans
- Vande Rose Farms, Iowa – Bloody Mary with Bacon Garnish
- Oscar Meyer, Illinois
That’s a lot of bacon. And all were really good. Some better than others, but all tasty. It was definitely better than the bacon we started with that night. We were each handed tickets for tastes of each producer and the dish, so we had about ten solid bites ahead of us.
Here is my breakdown of my three favorite bacons.
- Vande Rose Farms – This bacon from Iowa was my favorite of the evening. It had the perfect balance of what I want in bacon. Smoky, sweet, fatty, and meaty; all worked really well together and it was straight up tasty. In fact, I think I may order some. I loved this bacon so much that I was already thinking of how it would work in some recipes. From the notes that were provided, Bruce Aidell developed the recipe; the dude knows sausage and knows a thing or two about bacon.
- Carlton Farms – Hailing from Oregon I liked this bacon a lot because of the fat. Full and unctuous, I was excited thinking of the possibilities of what to do with the rendered bacon fat. It also had a nice light crisp to the meat.
- Duskie’s – From California’s Sonoma County, Duskie’s had some delicious bacon. I noted the salt; refined and bold, but not too heavy. The firm texture was another highlight, it made for a nice taste that I would love to have a side of with any meal. This bacon was from Duskie Estes, a Tom Douglas alum, whose restaurants Zazu and Bovolo are also in California’s wine country.
And my three favorite bacon dishes.
- Butterscotch Pudding, Bacon-Fat Confit Apples, Candied Lardons – Hands down my favorite dish of the night. Bacon is inherently sweet, so when the fat is used as a vehicle for dessert, magical things can happen. This dish would be exhibit A. We totally went for seconds. I would have this pudding put up to a feeding tube if I could. I do want to give it a shot as an ice cream base. I wonder if I could request Tom to add it to the Dahlia menu?
- Classic Carbonara – This Italian pasta dish was one of the best of the night. Carbonara is a dish that uses a ton of bacon (or in the classic way, pancetta), so it had a high probability of being good. Add the raw egg that cooks with the pasta, sprinkle on parmesan and pancetta from Salumi and you have a winner
- Pea Salad with Bacon Bits – Who knew that the salad at a bacon event would be one of the winners? I had high hopes for the tempura (too greasy), so this bright dish of bite size sugar snap peas and english peas topped with bacon was delicious. The creamyness of the dressing, with the bright peas, and the salty, savory bacon made for deliciousness.
There you have it! The Going for Seconds breakdown of Tom Douglas’ Baconopolis! We had a great time and the Tom Douglas folks know how to put on a party. We’ve attended a couple of functions there (loved the Iron Chef event) and had a blast. By the close of the event it was raucous! Raffles were being won (wish we could’ve won the bacon grocery bag or bacon lunchpail), music was playing (excellent mix), and the slideshow (loved the shots of Kevin Bacon, a bacon bra, and the bacon lattice pie ‘crust’).
The 1st Annual Baconopolis was a great event and a bargain (20 bucks!); I look forward to returning again next year. Bacon is a magical thing and I think the at capacity crowd would all agree.