Today I’m celebrating the fact that, despite all signs pointing to an early Death by Pork, I’ve officially lived to see 32 29.
I just returned to New Jersey after attending the most beautiful ceremony I’ve ever witnessed:
That’s right. Baconfest Chicago 2014. On April 26, hundreds of like-minded souls gathered to pay tribute to the almighty bacon gods.
The Midwest air outside was as crisp as the bacon that awaited us. You could smell it from blocks away. Everyone was in high spirits as they entered the UIC Forum. Speaking of spirits – your admission included 7 drink tickets! Seven! Yes. I truly was among my people.
Once inside, I had no idea where to start, so I got in line at the first station and just worked my way around. (In case you’re wondering, yes, my jeans and I did eventually regret this plan.)
Halfway through my trek, I saw Carriage House was serving Bacon Crispie Treats: Fried pork rinds (yeah, you heard me) in place of rice crispies, bacon marshmallow, and bourbon bacon caramel glaze, served with a side of bacon chocolate milk for dipping.
When I went to pick up a little square treat from the oh-so-tempting tray, 5 came along with it. I glanced up sheepishly, and the guy manning the table said,
“Take them all! There are no rules at BaconFest!”
And he was right. It was succulent lawlessness at every turn, dozens of people elbowing their way towards things like this:
Another highlight was Pigs in Mud from Farmhouse: A cup of rich, chocolate bacon custard, crispy bacon soil, topped with a sugar-coated gummy pig. This adorable concoction even earned them the “Most Creative Use of Bacon” prize.
The top 2 winners in my book?
1) Bacon balls courtesy of Mark Hemmer from Bridge House Tavern: A rich yet delicate blend of Nueske’s bacon, veal and foie gras with a Luxardo cherry in the middle, served with a cherry maple glaze over apple-jicama slaw.
(I scarfed this too quickly to get a picture.)
2) TheBSLT courtesy of chef Andre Christopher from Bistro Dre: Bacon crusted salmon sashimi with bacon tempura crunch, bacon mayo, bacon ponzu, micro lettuce, baby tomatoes and caramelized bacon red onions.
The line in front of the Bistro Dre stand proved I wasn’t the only one loving this creation.
I’d suffer bacon-less nightmares if I didn’t include a couple of honorary mentions:
1) Bacon Infused Scotch Egg from The Gage– bacon yolk, bacon bread crumbs, with smoked pork belly, petite greens with bacon vinaigrette, smoky-bacony kimchi broth:
2) Bacon Wrapped Dates from the Municipal Bar & Dining Co – jumbo date stuffed with brie cheese wrapped in applewood smoked bacon:
My only regret? I somehow managed to wind up with a leftover drink ticket.
What other food would you like to see celebrated, festival-style? Leave a comment by 12pm midnight EST on Sunday, May 4, 2014, and I’ll randomly pick a winner to receive a Vosges Mo’s milk chocolate bacon bar!
During recent travels, I stumbled across a fun little bar and restaurant in Seattle called The 5 Point Café. (No, they’re not paying me to mention this. Though if they were, I’d ask for compensation exclusively in pig.) They opened in 1929 and own the bragging rights of “the longest run family eatery in Seattle and oldest bar still in existence in Belltown.”
I did not know this when I entered.
All I went equipped with was the recommendation of my hotel concierge:
ME: Any good spots nearby for breakfast?
CONCIERGE: Well 5 Point has sort of your typical diner breakfast, and they’re just up the block. Everyone has tattoos.
ME (to self): Gee, I’m sure you mentioned that last bit knowing I’ll fit right in.
The idea of an omelet and mimosa was too much temptation to resist for this Jersey native, so I zipped up my bright red raincoat and trekked around the corner to find an unassuming café with a large U-shaped bar and seating on either side.
I was told I could sit anywhere, and because it was a quiet Wednesday morning, decided to hog (pun SO intended) a booth. When the coffee came, I closed my eyes and smiled. Ah, Seattle. Thank you. Thank you for getting it. I may wear neon, but I like my coffee black, and jet fuel strong.
I took an uncharacteristically long time to order, because everything on the menu sounded so good. I was craving avocado, so finally went with the California eggs benedict. At the last minute, I said, “Can I get a side of bacon, too, please?” It was $4 for 4 strips. I couldn’t decide if this was a bargain or a rip-off, so reserved judgment.
When my plate came, I was overwhelmed. In the best way. There were two poached eggs atop tomatoes and avocado, resting on dense english muffins. All of this was smothered in hollandaise sauce, alongside PERFECT hash browns: shredded, with a completely crunchy, crispy top.
The afterthought side dish:
“Our famous bacon,” the waiter said, as he rested the magical plate to my left. Four strips of the thickest bacon I’d ever seen sat before me. Still, I was skeptical. Was it too thick? Would it still be crispy?
I took a bite and… cue Meg Ryan-When-Harry-Met-Sally moment. It melted in my mouth. I took another bite. My life was forever changed. It was tender and fluffy, yet fatty and crispy. I saw the face of Leonardo DiCaprio wrapped in the voice of Justin Timberlake ensconced in the body of Channing Tatum.
Their website makes it sound like they might marinate it. Maybe it was deep fried. I don’t know. I don’t care. I don’t even know what I did on the rest of that trip. All I know is I’m going back.
What’s the most decadent thing you’ve ever eaten?
P.S. – I’m actually headed to BaconFest 2014 in Chicago next month and will let you know if I find anything that can top this. Anyone else going?!
We were originally going to go Friday-Sunday, but decided to leave on Thursday afternoon so we’d have a full day with Darla while her two adorable kiddos were in school.
Without traffic, it’s a 6 hour drive from New Jersey.
We took Rachel’s car, agreeing to split the driving time. Did I mention her car is new? And if there’s a pothole, I’ll hit it?
Somewhere between New York and Connecticut, we (and by we I mean me) hit 37 potholes. And I’m not talking little divots in the pavement.
On Rachel’s high-tech dashboard, we watched the air pressure in the driver’s side tire plummet.
By the time we reached Boxborough, Massachusetts, we had a flat. Rachel pulled over while I surreptitiously checked her fuel tank. Plenty to keep the car running and heated for at least an hour or two. Whew.
“I don’t know how to change a tire. Do you?” she asked with a laugh.
“I’m from New Jersey. I don’t even know how to pump my own gas,” I replied. “But I just renewed my AAA membership!”
In under 30 minutes, a tow truck arrived. The driver got the spare out of the trunk and started rooting around while Rachel and I bounced up and down trying to keep warm.
“I can’t find the key,” he announced.
It took us much longer than it should have to understand that tires have unique “keys” to unscrew the lug nuts so no one steals them. The spare in your car is supposed to come equipped with its matching key.
We tore apart the car, but alas, no key. Thanks, Toyota.
Eventually, he said our only option was to go to the nearby dealership and have them change the tire – when they opened. In the morning.
Oh, did I mention Rache had 20-inch fancy rims?
“I’m so sorry I broke your car!” I wailed for the first of many times.
After the tow truck driver unloaded the car at the dealership, he said he could drive us to the nearest hotel. Nevermind that we had two non-refundable rooms waiting for us a mere two hours away in Maine.
“Do you have anywhere for us to put our luggage?” we asked.
“Just your laps.”
Our essentials were scattered between six bags, not including my swinging 1970s, fully-loaded cooler, which took up half the back seat. I grabbed my laptop and two bottles of champagne. “Screw it,” I said to Rachel. “This is all I need.”
When we arrived at the hotel, Rachel explained our predicament to the front desk. The man at the counter replied deliberately, “You have a coupon, riiight?” He nodded slowly.
“Um…yeeees,” Rachel said, catching on.
When we saw the receipt: 50% off! What’s more, our room overlooked a funky indoor pool, white lights and palm trees (you go on with your bad self, Holiday Inn), so we opened the balcony sliders, and more importantly, the champagne, and toasted to the kindness of strangers.
Rachel called the dealership at 8am the next morning, and they finally got back to us with the verdict two hours later.
“It’s not just a flat. Your rim is damaged beyond repair.”
“Of course it is,” Rachel replied.
“And since you have 20-inch ones, we’d have to custom order a replacement. It wouldn’t be here until Monday.”
“So…my only options are to wait until Monday…or get 4 new 18-inch rims and tires?”
“Correct. And it’d probably cost the same either way.”
She covered the mouthpiece. “I knew. I knew when we got that car with those friggin’ rims…” She spoke into the receiver, “I guess I’ll have to get four new tires and rims, then. How long will that take? …Okay.”
“I’m so sorry!” I cried.
“Jules, it’s not your fault. I hit them, too,” Rachel reassured me, gracious as ever. (It was totally my fault.)
Turns out they had to order the ‘regular’ rims from a nearby dealer and couldn’t start work until 1pm.
They gave us a complimentary rental car, and we killed time at a local diner.
At 3pm, they gave us the good news: “Almost done.”
At 4pm: “We just realized we have to put all of the tire censors back on. It’s going to be another hour.”
5pm: “Okay, just finishing the paperwork.”
5:02pm: “Our computers just froze.”
5:30pm: “Let me give you the damaged tire and rim. Oh, wait, it’s filthy, we need a bag. Hang on.”
5:35pm: “We can’t find any more bags.”
5:45pm: Finally, FINALLY on our way. “Good thing we left Thursday night.”
7:00pm: Reach Maine.
7:30pm: Darla texted. “I can’t get out of my driveway. It’s a sheet of ice.”
That’s right. At last we were in Maine, 24 hours behind schedule, and NO DARLA.
But there was lobster. Lots and lots of lobster.
Saturday morning, another text from Darla: “I still can’t get out!!”
So Rachel and I shuffled around the icy streets of Freeport alone, waiting for the temperature to climb above freezing.
At one point, it was so slippery, a gift shop owner reached out a hand while holding the door, towing us inside. Later, when we peered longingly into Freeport Chowder House, the man inside waved us in.
“Are you open?” we asked.
“Not for two hours, but I never turn down customers,” he replied. “I don’t have the fryer going yet, but what do you want? Lobster roll?”
Rachel and I looked at each other. “YES.”
It was noon on Saturday before we saw Darla, but she was worth the wait.
Despite the many snafus, this li’l trip north had so many heart-warming moments, I wouldn’t trade it for anything would totally trade it for another 10am lobster roll.
P.S. – I even learned how to pump my own gas!
Since the word count on this post is already as atrocious as the potholes on Route 15,I hope you’ll head over to Rachel’s Table and She’s A Maineiac to read more about our adventures!
Have you ever had any vacations that didn’t go, ah, according to plan?
I’m sorry. I don’t know where the “chocolate bacon” came from.
I think about Rachel all the time.
I thought of Rachel when I texted my hub, Peppermeister, about Monday night’s dinner:
I thought of Rachel when I made last night’s dinner, and Peppermeister left me a bowl of his mysterious homegrown peppers. Surely I couldn’t put any in the bacon turkey meatloaf without trying them first?
In all seriousness, Rachel is one of those undeniably special people who is not only talented, beautiful and clever, but always knows just what to say to let you know she’s there for you, and she gets it she’ll totally hook you up with the Amish bacon. I hope you’ll join me in wishing her a VERY happy birthday!
If you had to wear someone’s face on your chest, whose would it be (besides Rachel’s) and why? (Bet you didn’t think you’d be answering that question today.)
My friend, JM Randolph, author of the spectacularly funny and engaging blog, Accidental Stepmom, is hosting a Pi Day Pie Challenge.
What the fudge is that, you ask?
In her early blogging days, JM had to make a ‘Pi Day Pie’ for her stepdaughter’s math class – they were celebrating March 14th (= 3.14) as Pi Day. Though JM claims to have half-assed it, this was the result:
This year, JM decided to host a contest where you can create your best Pi Day Pie, and the winner gets “Poopourri” (seeing smelling is believing)! But really, everyone’s a winner, because… pie.
There was obviously no way I wasn’t entering this contest.
I love pie. Me ‘n pie (pie and I?) go way back. I even talk about pie on my About page. I’m very proud of the fact that I make my own crust.
But this experience uncovered a dark secret. Something I’m hesitant to admit…
I f&*$#% hate making pie crust!
I hate it the way Michelle hates wrapping presents.
We’re pretty spread out here in western New Jersey, and there’s a kick-ass balance between “what you do is your business” and “but I am curious about that package, so I’ll help you carry it inside.” Our next door neighbors, Dave and Judy, threw us a welcome party when we first moved in, complete with a homemade banner, and, more importantly, Sangria.
Our neighbor around the corner, Linda, dropped off a bushel of apples from her orchard this fall, while the ones across the street gave us a discount on our Christmas tree (yes, there’s a Christmas tree farm across the street! It’s amazeballs out here, Chipmunks, I’m telling you…even if you do lose power every time an owl sneezes).
As if that wasn’t enough, then there’s our neighbor, Jeff. He’s close to our age, and lives behind us in a gorgeous house. He’s the quintessential neighbor: He owns every power tool under the sun and knows how to use them all, helped us clear trees post Hurricane-Sandy, and leaves delicious food in the mailbox. Peppermeister doesn’t even mind the pepper-growing competition, with Jeff’s garden in plain sight.
This Valentine’s Day, I thought it was time to show Jeff how I really felt. It started with my famous homemade double-chocolate cookies:
And ended with this note:
I must be quick, for Peppermeister does not know of this!
Your seafood sauce was the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted. Bestill my heart!
I’m slowly poisoning Peppermeister.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
-Go Jules Go
Psst…between you and me, Peppermeister is looking a little worse for the wear. It’s only a matter of time, Jeff.
What’s the nicest and/or creepiest thing a neighbor has ever done for you?