In late November of 2013 we attended the SLO Bacon Fest at the conference center at the world-famous Madonna Inn. We were ecstatic to find a local event after attending one of the best events ever created, Bacon and Barrels, in Santa Ynez earlier in the summer. More on that event later.
Thank the swine gods, bacon is front and center in the culinary picture these days. After the whiny 90’s where everything was unhealthy, this century has luckily focused on enjoying life rather than keeping yourself like some longevity lab experiment. And the fact that bacon pairs so perfectly with nearly any taste – salty, sweet, spicy, sophisticated, plain – and is the perfect pairing with so many beers, wines and cocktails, makes it possibly the most perfect and versatile ingredient that we just can’t get enough of. It doesn’t even have to be modified or enhanced to be enjoyed. But back to the event for now, which I think will prove my point.
The first of many treats we consumed was a maple bacon Cinnamon Roll from Old West Cinnamon Rolls, a staple on the Central Coast. Now, maple bacon has been experimented with a lot, lately, and I get the appeal, but most concoctions are simply too sweet for me to enjoy much of. Old West has always created a cinnamon roll I can dive into from start to finish without a sugar coma, so the addition of these unique flavors made those ingredients the star. And come on – how else would you rather start your morning, really? With a cup of black coffee, there’s nothing better.
When it comes to bacon and alcohol, I have to admit, I’m really intrigued. I was probably set out on this obsession by our good friends at Sidecar in San Luis Obispo who first served me a Bloody Mary one Sunday brunch with a twisted stick of candied chipotle bacon that made you want to figure out how to make a straw out of it. Simply delicious – remember that mention of bacon being so good with sweet and spicy?
Anyway, the buzz around the Bacon Fest floor was of a bacon vodka that we set off in search of, and lo and behold, we ran into our favorite bartender (and restaurant owner) Josh from Sidecar, serving up what I fondly refer to as “crack tots” (trademark pending). First off, there are not enough tater tots on the Central Coast, so when we discovered Sidecar had them, they became a regular snack when walking around town. Second, they are so perfectly crispy, soft, light and have BACON IN THE MIDDLE that, served with their own tangy barbecue sauce, they are perfection in their simplicity. Don’t try them if you don’t want a new addiction.
And now a word from our sponsor. I should let you know that one thing we have always respected about attending San Luis Obispo events is their commitment to providing funds to charities. The Bacon Fest was no exception. Though we were enjoying every moment on our bacon quest, we were also helping to fund Ward House Charities that provides after-school meals to children in need. In fact, with 700+ people in attendance, the event donated $3,200. As if we needed another reason to love bacon.
Our pilgrimage to find bacon vodka finally led us to the other side of the hall where we ran into bacon chocolatiers, my college saviors Woodstock’s Pizza (with bacon of course), and Southern comfort food from Bon Temps Creole Cafe – another family favorite. At this point, we also started to notice that people were running out of their samples! What?! It’s Bacogeddon, a Bacastraphe (okay that didn’t work so well)! The attendees just like bacon too much. Something tells me a head cheese event wouldn’t have the same problem, but things were getting real, so we stepped up the pace.
We found the Bakon Vodka stand, sampled the Bloody Mary and shots, and were a little “meh” about the experience. Maybe it’s because bacon can’t be turned into a flavor injected into an alcohol so easily. You need the crunch, the toothiness. You want the whole mouth-coating of fat that spreads over your palate. You need that shot of salt that seems to cut through the fat and prepare your mouth again for that next gnawing. The cocktails I’ve really enjoyed had real bacon actually in them so you could get all that. But I applaud what Bakon is trying to do, and they appear to be winning lots of awards, so I urge you to check them out for yourself if you run into them. Let me know what your experience is.
We have absolutely fallen in love with bacon events. Please let us know when you hear of any, and we’ll do the same. They are such a natural fit for what we see happening on the Central Coast with fresh seafood, farm-to-table meals, grass-fed, free-range meats, and the current explosion of more artisan wines, beers and bourbons. This was the inspiration behind Bacon and Barrels, mentioned at the beginning of this mouthwatering treatise. A word of warning: I’m not the only addicted one. Mark your calendars now – help each other out in our own bacon support group – and jump on tickets when they become available because there’s many of us out there and the events sell out FAST!
Even though Bacon and Barrels isn’t related to Bacon Fest discussed in this post, you MUST check them out in San Diego on May 30th, or, if you have the willpower to wait until July 18th, check them out in Santa Ynez. And to experience the next SLO Bacon Fest, check out their site – it’s coming up again November 22nd (which is WAY too far off!)
So long for now bacon brothers.