Food, humor, Wipe the Drool

Host a Vegan Dinner Party Even if You’re Not Vegan (and most of your friends aren’t either)

vegan-dinner-party-go-jules-go-titlev2

A few weeks ago, I received a group text from my friend Christine:

“Ladies! I have perfected a vegan menu! When are you coming over?!”

Christine is not vegan. None of my local friends are vegan. I put my phone down and walked away. When things this good happen, I get very suspicious.

After a moment, I decided to reply. I downplayed it so as not to make her feel too much pressure:

“YES YES YES A THOUSAND YESSES! P.S. – I’m blogging the sh*t out of this.”

DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you purchase the linked product, at no additional cost to you. I only ever link to products that I truly love. Like this.

And thus, Chef and Tofu Goddess Christine and I bring to you:

How to Host a Vegan Dinner Party Even if You’re Not Vegan (and most of your friends aren’t either)

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Don’t worry. We’ll talk you through it.

STEP ONE: FIND FRIENDS.

STEP TWO: TELL THEM YOU’RE HOSTING A VEGAN DINNER PARTY.

STEP THREE: FIND NEW FRIENDS.

STEP ONE: PLAN MENU

Christine saw my post about vegan food hacks and suddenly remembered the power of The Almighty Peanut Sauce. (If you have vegan friends who also have nut allergies, you should rethink your friendship. Or you can use tahini.) This spoke to her overall philosophy when it comes to menu planning:

I thought it would be best to work with ingredients or dishes that are inherently vegan, instead of trying to make something ‘meat-esque’ and working with unfamiliar substitutions. Embrace and love the ingredients for what they are! If we are honest with ourselves nobody really loves cauliflower when it’s trying to be rice, or mashed potatoes, or (for the love of Pete) pizza crust. Have at it with those things, but embrace cauliflowery goodness and don’t play with our emotions when it comes to pizza crust. And zucchini is a delicious vegetable, but it will never be spaghetti, ever.”

APPETIZERS

Pan-fried vegetable potstickers a.k.a. gyoza (yup, the kind you find in the frozen section of any grocery store)

InstaPot hummus with veggies and pita chips (this recipe will change your life)

Olive tapenade (…from Trader Joe’s because for crying out loud you can’t do everything)

As you’ll soon see, this entire menu contains items you can make ahead, or drunkenly quickly prepare on the stovetop while you sip your mango and raspberry infused sparkling rosé. Who wants to host a party and have to worry about how long it will take your soufflé to rise? Christine pan fried the potstickers to crispy perfection while we chatted and snacked on the other items.

MAIN COURSE

Noodles with peanut sauce

Lettuce wraps with tofu, mushroom and water chestnut scramble

Both of these recipes continue to make your hosting duties a breeze because you can make the entire noodle dish ahead and serve chilled or at room temperature, and you can even make the lettuce wrap filling ahead of time (or at least do all of the chopping). Christine chose angel hair pasta for the noodle dish, a decision I will shamelessly mimic from here on out. So light! So tender!

Ethnic cuisine tends to contain lots of naturally vegan dishes, and will help you create a cohesive menu. How about spring rolls and a Thai coconut curry (this curry paste is my everything) or pineapple fried rice? Or samosas (the Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods versions are vegan!) with a dal (lentil) makhani or saag (spinach) tofu? Remember: Coconut milk, nuts, potatoes, and spices are vegan friends who make everything delicious!

Nervous about tofu? Pro tip #1 from Christine:

Squeezing tofu is one of those things that sounds intimidating, like rinsing quinoa or soaking beans. How will you know if you squeezed it too much? Or not enough? Am I still a good vegan friend and Earth-lover if I’m wasting a bunch of paper towels on my tofu? What would Mr. Whipple say about all that squeezing? In truth, it’s not that bad and it’s hard to do it wrong. If you don’t quite squeeze it enough for a recipe like this one, any excess liquid cooks off anyway. So I thought this recipe was a good entry point into My First Experience with Tofu.”

mr-whipple-charmin
I assume my invitation is just lost in the mail?

DESSERT

Coconut cashew milk rice pudding 

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This pudding was so good that even though we were stuffed from going back for main course seconds, we housed it. It’s easy to make ahead and totally company-worthy, especially when paired with pretty glasses and freshly cut strawberries.

Still feeing nervous? Christine’s pro tip #2:

If you’re not sure about ingredients, Google is your friend. I was excited to find this Vegan Condiments Guide so I could be sure that all the ingredients would work. That’s also where I learned that honey is not vegan. Bees are animals, too! (The more you know… cue the shooting star and rainbow.) Your vegan friends will think you are next-level if you know that honey isn’t vegan, and use agave syrup instead. Rock star status!”

HollywoodStar_gojulesgo
Hang on, Christine. Way ahead of you. Photo credit (prior to extremely necessary annotation).

STEP TWO: SET THE MOOD

I suggest it look something like this:

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Christine says:

Vegans tend to love the planet a bunch, so if you want to try something new that might be easier to sustain than your new-found vegan dining habits, splurge on some cloth napkins and work them into your daily routine. You’ll feel extra fancy and reduce waste all at the same time. One averagely messy eater can use a cloth napkin for a few days before sending it to the hamper until laundry day.”

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STEP THREE: ALL THE SMUGNESS!!!!

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“Did I mention I’m not even vegan?”

And that’s it, folks! Easy peasy Charmin squeezy!

A special thank you to Christine for hosting such a fabulous feast and sharing your recipes and tricks with the blogosphere! I’m only a little mad that you’re a better vegan cook than me.

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Dating, PSAs, Wipe the Drool

eHopeful Part 4: Crash Landing

“I can’t believe that was you in those pictures,” Frank slurred from the passenger seat of my car. We were sitting outside of my parents’ house after a night of playing cards with my family, where drinks had been flowing.

He hesitated and then added, “I know this sounds bad, but I never would have dated you if you still looked like that.”

“I know,” I replied. Oh, you wouldn’t date a girl who was 120 pounds overweight? Knock me over with a freaking feather, Frank.

In hindsight, I perhaps jumped the gun here. Perhaps.
In hindsight, I perhaps jumped the gun here. Perhaps.

“I do love you, Jules,” he said next, and I burst into tears.

“I didn’t know what to do or think when you wrote it in the sand [last month when you visited me on base],” he continued. “It really surprised me.”

“I know, I know, it was too soon,” I blubbered. “I’m still afraid to say it out loud. I’m just really scared.”

Frank was a Navy pilot and newly divorced like me. We had met on eHarmony three months earlier, and despite a 3,000-mile gap between us, romance bloomed. (For the rest of the story, I give you: Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.) He was smart, driven, handsome and creative, and showered me with attention and affection.

Also there were cool jets.
Also there were cool jets.

Meeting him felt like destiny, making sense of all of the winding, fragmented roads that had led me to that point.

I can't believe I don't own this sheet music,
I can’t believe I don’t own this sheet music.

In March, Frank and I met face-to-face for the first time in Seattle. It was sublime. Now, in late-April, he was on my turf: New Jersey.

This really happened.
This is an actual screen capture of the itinerary I made.

I had planned a jam-packed agenda for his visit, including trips to New York City and Philadelphia, and then a flight to Chicago for BaconFest 2014 to ring in my 32nd birthday.

Chyeah. It's a thing.
Chyeah. It’s a thing.

After my meltdown in the car outside of my parents’ house, we carried on as if nothing had changed.

During the 3-hour, traffic-filled drive to Philadelphia (Day 6 on the itinerary, in case you’re keeping track), Frank was chattier than usual. Maybe he was bored, riding shotgun instead of piloting my Hyundai Sonata. He suddenly started talking about his family and religion.

“I am bat-crap crazy,” he drawled, “and so is everyone I know, and you usually only hear about people like me on the news.”

[Editor’s Note: I may be paraphrasing.]

His Tennessee accent was strong, even after eight years in Washington state. I swallowed and kept my eyes on the road. Sure, we were very -very- different people, but after all, I didn’t want to date myself, did I?

eHarmony-Frank-Jules-Lady-and-the-Tramp
Although…

“This is fine,” I thought. “Maybe I could be the kind of girl he grew up with. Maybe I could drink the Kool-Aid.”

eHarmony-Frank-Kool-Aid

By the time Frank kissed me goodbye at the Chicago O’Hare Airport, I was spent (and sweating bacon grease). Eight days straight with someone you’ve only met once before would have been exhausting for anyone, but when you’re an introvert? Grueling.

When I got home, I still wasn’t sure how to feel. Something was definitely off, but so many things were on. For the next four weeks, I fretted over where we stood. Another nibble fell through on my house, which had now been on the market for over five months, and with no new job prospects on the horizon, I started babysitting. To make matters worse, Frank’s texts went from nonstop to frequent to sporadic.

“Going out with the guys tonight for drinks and then unknown fun,” he said one night in mid-May.

“Enjoy your mystery fun,” I wrote back, my heart sinking.

“I will,” he answered, and I imagined him cackling evilly, relishing in this torture, this test to see how far he could push me. I wanted it to work. I wasn’t ready for the alternative.

A week later, I woke up to an email entitled, “[No Subject]”. Frank had sent it after midnight Pacific Time.

“Jules, I hope you have enjoyed a fun and relaxing weekend with nice weather. There is no easy way to communicate what I need to communicate so I’m being straight to the point…” it began. It was a very nice letter.

Super nice.

So nice it almost covered up the fact that I got dumped.

Via email.

eHarmony-Frank-someecard

All right – your turn! Terrible break-up stories: GO!!! (You can even tell them in 4 parts if you want. I’ll bring the Ben & Jerry’s bacon Bloody Marys.)

I'm TELLING YOU. It's a thing.
I’m TELLING YOU. It’s a thing.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Dating, Wipe the Drool

eHopeful Part 3: High Altitude

“I feel like I’m dreaming,” I texted to one of my closest friends back home.

I was sitting on a piece of sun-bleached driftwood, my feet in the sand, staring west across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The water stretched between the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, where I was planted, and Victoria, British Columbia, approximately 25 miles away.

eHarmony-Frank-naval-base-beach

Every five minutes, a deafening roar pierced the silence. I looked up. This time, two fighter jets soared across the horizon. It was like they were performing synchronized swimming in the sky.

“Cooooooolllll,” I thought. “I’ll have to ask Frank about that move.”

Just a few months earlier, I separated from my husband, got laid off from work, and had no idea where my life was headed. Thanks to the wonders of online dating and a penchant for making the first move, I now found myself 3,000 miles from home, on a 3-day-long first date with a Navy pilot named Frank.

We had met face-to-face in Seattle just two days before (for more, check out Part 1 and Part 2!), and by then, I was pretty sure I’d met my soul mate. I mean, what were the chances my second eHarmony match would mention a love of bacon, hiking and dental floss all in one profile?

I dug my toes a little further into the sand, smiling. The earth was rockier than at Discovery Bay, where we’d been yesterday, serenaded by a nearby group of musicians. We had sat mostly in silence, in between bouts of making out, punch drunk and full of chocolate from a tour of Theo’s – one of the many surprises Frank had had in store for me.

eHarmony-Frank-Discovery-Bay

Earlier, we’d ridden the Seattle “Ride the Ducks” Tour, shivering beneath a tiny blanket, while we ventured from land to sea and back to land. Frank had sung along to the corny soundtrack -especially when it was a country song- which did a much better job of warming me up. His voice was on key, deep and rumbling, making me giggle and blush.

eHarmony-Frank-duck-tour eHarmony-Frank-Duck-Tour-2

That morning, Frank made green smoothies at his house and brought one for me for breakfast. It was delicious.

The Auld Holland Inn complimentary breakfast leaves much to the imagination.
The Auld Holland Inn complimentary breakfast leaves much to the imagination.

We had time to kill before he had to report to base, so Frank drove us up to Deception Pass.

“Do you know why they call it that?” he asked.

I shook my head, still not comfortable enough to make my usual jokes.

“The original explorers had trouble finding their way around Whidbey Island and thought it was a peninsula. But we call it that because some pilots try to fly under the bridge, which looks deceptively easy.”

I shuddered at the thought of trying to fly a fighter jet under the tiny archway.

eHarmony-Frank-Deception-Pass

“I was hoping you’d get to see my last flight on the Prowler [before we officially retire it],” Frank apologized. “But now it’s not scheduled until Thursday.”

“That’s okay,” I replied immediately.

“You’ll still get to see me fly today, though,” he added, while I wondered what the heck a Jersey girl with almost zero understanding of the military wore on base. My running outfit? Sneakers? I had only packed one small suitcase.

I tried not to ask too many questions as Frank explained that I needed to keep his I.D. on me in order to get around base. He introduced me to everyone, and some of his squadron shot him a knowing glance when they thought I wasn’t looking. The base reminded me a little bit of a college campus, a self-contained community with its own hotel, McDonald’s and gym. In my bright red raincoat and running shoes, I was sure I’d get thrown out any minute.

I camped out in a large room with movie theater-style seats and a projector screen, trying to look busy with my phone, while everyone else went behind closed doors to discuss top level security clearance-y type things. I glanced around surreptitiously; the back wall held the coffee mugs, each emblazoned with a flight name (think “Maverick” and “Goose”).

“When do I get a flight name?” I asked Frank later.

“You have to earn it,” he replied with mock solemnity. “Want to see us get suited up?”

I’d never been a sucker for a man in uniform, but snapped about a hundred pictures as Frank pulled on one thing after another from his locker.

eHarmony-Frank-flight-suit
I am no longer immune.

After missing both his ascent and descent (thanks to my sheer blonditude), Frank led me over to the tarmac to snap this photo:

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I was THISCLOSE to getting my picture inside.

That night we shared another romantic dinner and tried not to think about the inevitable.

Our goodbye the next morning was bittersweet, standing in front of my red rental minivan, my age-old insecurities threatening to spill over: How does he feel? Did he have a good time? Does he really want to be with me? As he walked away and put on the final piece of his flight suit, his cap, I thought,

“Nothing will ever be the same.”

I was right.

eHarmony-Frank-I-love-you

Stay tuned later this week for the final edition: Part 4: Crash Landing!

~*~*~*~*~*

Dating, Wipe the Drool

eHopeful Part 2: We Have Lift-off

Less than two months after I started corresponding with Frank, the Navy pilot I met through eHarmony, I volunteered to fly 3,000 miles, from New Jersey to Washington, so we could meet face-to-face. (You can read more in Part 1!)

Frank
The profile pic that launched a thousand ships (or, you know, one airplane).

“I should have been the one to invite you!” he moaned, which proved how little he knew me. He was the first person I met on eHarmony, and I had been the one to reach out. My middle name might as well be Sadie Hawkins.

Frank and I were communicating endlessly by that point, and I couldn’t bear the suspense any longer. We made plans to meet in Seattle, where we’d spend a night (“IN SEPARATE ROOMS,” I clarified repeatedly) and do some sightseeing, before heading north, closer to base, where I’d spend another two nights, he at home, me in a hotel. He hinted at a few surprises while I shopped for clothes and got my hair cut, both of us more excited as each day passed.

The weirdest part about the whole thing was that no one told me not to go. Not my parents, my siblings or my closest friends. Was I that stubborn? That in need of adventure? It was as if I’d been single for years instead of months; the ink was still wet on my divorce paperwork and I hadn’t been on the market in over ten years, yet I felt ready.

The flight to Seattle went smoothly, unlike picking up my rental car. I was delayed two hours, and wound up with the only thing they had left: A giant red minivan.

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“I got this,” I told myself as I drove into a city I’d visited only once before.  “No big deal. Just driving a MINIVAN into downtown Seattle by myself, about to meet my soul mate.”

“Is there any chance I can check in early?” I asked the front desk once I arrived at my hotel. My Pre-Soul Mate Meeting Plan definitely included a shower and change of clothes.

“No, I’m sorry,” the receptionist replied.

I went outside, suddenly feeling panicky, and texted my best friend.

“YOU GO IN THERE AND TELL THEM YOUR SITUATION,” she fired back. I obeyed, stomach in knots.

“I’m sorry,” the receptionist said, unmoved by my romantic tale. “There’s nothing I can do. But I can give you a free parking pass.”

I wound up changing in the main bathroom, right before Frank arrived, two hours early. It looked like I’d be making my grand entrance in the lobby, a la Kate Winslet on the stairs of the Titanic.

eHarmony-Frank-Titanic-stairs
Make it count, Frank.

But somehow he had been able to check in (must’ve been the Southern charm of a native Tennessean).

“I can come down or you could meet me up here,” he said, from the shroud of his room.

“I’ll come to you,” I replied, taking a deep breath and heading to the third floor, eager to avoid an audience.

Moments later, I knocked on his door and he swung it open, looking as nervous as I felt. I had worn my black wedge heels, striped cotton dress and yellow cardigan from Old Navy because I knew he liked them, but now was cursing my decision. I felt huge, standing nearly six feet tall, and probably not much lighter than him, though I’d finally hit my goal weight that month. In heels, we were almost the same height, blue eyes anxiously meeting blue eyes.

We awkwardly embraced. Oh no. Oh no. This isn’t how I expected this to go. Will we really click? Was this a mistake? Does he really like me? Does he still think I’m pretty?

We walked the short distance to the Space Needle, struggling for conversation. The March weather was mild compared to temperatures back home, but I shivered anyway. I relied on the people skills I’d honed through my work as a project manager, trying to keep uncomfortable silences at bay. Once atop the Needle, Frank pointed out various landmarks, his command of the territory impressive. He must be used to seeing it from up here, I thought.

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I listened to the slow, calm way he spoke, as if this kind of conversation could go on for hours with nothing more pressing to get in the way. A vast contrast to the animated, hyper speed I was used to, having grown up a breath away from New York City. I nodded and pretended to listen, while my head and heart and breath continued their intrinsic rhythm: Go-go-go.

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Eventually, as we toured Pike Place Market, accepting the samples of exotic fruits and vegetables offered to us, he took my hand.

Oh thank god. Relief flooded my body. He likes me! 

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Our first photo together. Beautiful, no?

eHarmony-Frank-Pike-Place-Market eHarmony-Frank-Pike-Place-monkfish

We shared a candlelit dinner followed by drinks at one of a million hipster bars in the city, where we both finally started to relax. We sat knee to knee in a cozy red booth, staring into each other’s eyes while he occasionally murmured compliments in my ear. I flushed from head to toe. My experience with romance up until then had been young and sweet and tongue in cheek, then familiar, comfortable and tongue in cheek.

I had never been so earnestly wooed.

It was working.

eHarmony-Frank-candlelit-dinner

Next up: eHopeful Part 3: High Altitude! (Don’t worry. I’ll wrap this shiz up in Part 4.)

~*~*~*~*~*~

Dating, Wipe the Drool

eHopeful Part 1: The Ascent

Meet Jim Bob Frank. Let’s call him Frank. Because frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Okay, yes I do. I soooo do.
Wait, yes I do. I soooo do.

When I joined eHarmony last year -because it seemed the most upstanding of the popular online dating sites- Frank popped up as a match almost right away. For those of you unfamiliar with eHarmony: a) Lucky! and b) They don’t trust you to wade through the man pool on your own. You take what they send you, and what they send you is based on their road-tested algorithm.

Sometimes they even have faces!
Sometimes they even have faces!

It was slim pickings out there, I could already tell, so the fact that Frank lived 3,000 miles away was of little concern. He was my age! And flossed!

I chose the least pushy of my options and sent Frank a smile, then waited with bated breath. By the next morning, we were corresponding through the protective nest of eHarmony’s guided email program.

THIS IS THE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE.
THIS IS THE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE.

I soon learned Frank was a conservative Navy pilot from Tennessee (stationed in the Pacific Northwest). I was a liberal project manager from New Jersey (stationed in suburban New Jersey).

Frank grew up with debutante balls and sweet tea, dogs roaming the family farm (and constantly getting hit when they wandered too close to the highway…seriously, how many times did this have to happen before you did something about it, Frank?! Don’t they make leashes in Tennessee?!). I grew up with Green Day and Trader Joe’s, roaming any one of the six mega malls near my house.

But if eHarmony said we were a perfect match, who was I to argue?

eHarmony-Frank-starfish
Did I mention he was an excellent speller?

We’d both recently endured traumatic divorces, but felt ready and excited for a new relationship. It took three weeks of novel-length letters before we exchanged actual email addresses, and another two weeks before we chatted in real time.

The first phone call was abysmal.

Our emails had been full of clever subject lines and sweeping romantic gestures. Our first phone chat? Stuttering and sweaty palms. The conversation felt forced, dry and unsatisfying. (Er, that’s what she said.) This is never gonna work, I thought.

After we hung up, two and a half brutal hours later, his nervous laugh echoed in my ears. My stomach flip-flopped. There was just something about it. Deep, sincere and rumbling. It reminded me of an old friend.

I couldn’t imagine not hearing that laugh again, and two weeks later, found myself saying, “Why don’t I fly out to Seattle so we can meet?”

IMG_6140
Okay so maybe patience isn’t my strong suit.

 Stay tuned for eHopeful Part 2: We Have Lift-off!

How long would you correspond with someone before forcing the issue volunteering to fly 3,000 miles to meet?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Food, Giveaway Junkie, Wipe the Drool

Birthday Bacon Bash Giveaway!

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.

Not for lack of trying, mind you.
Not for lack of trying, mind you.

I just returned to New Jersey after attending the most beautiful ceremony I’ve ever witnessed:

Baconfest-bag

That’s right. Baconfest Chicago 2014. On April 26, hundreds of like-minded souls gathered to pay tribute to the almighty bacon gods.

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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.

My BaconFest partner-in-binge-eating prefers to remain anonymous. I think you can see why.
My BaconFest partner-in-binge-eating prefers to remain anonymous. I think you can see why.

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.)

Bacon wonderland
Bacon wonderland

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.

They looked a lot like this (okay, you seriously expected me to stop eating long enough to take my own pictures?). Photo credit: http://nutmegnotebook.com/
They looked a lot like this (okay, you seriously expected me to stop eating long enough to take my own pictures?). Photo credit: http://nutmegnotebook.com/

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:

BaconFest-bloody-mary
Holy mother of bloody bacon Marys.

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.

Photo credit: http://baconfestchicago.com/
Photo credit: http://baconfestchicago.com/

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) The BSLT 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.

IMG_6547 IMG_6546

The delicate raw salmon and greens snuck into BaconFest thanks to the tempura flakes and bacon mayo.
The tender raw salmon and light greens snuck into BaconFest thanks to tempura flakes and bacon mayo.

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:

Photo credit: http://www.nutritionunplugged.com
Photo credit: http://www.nutritionunplugged.com

2) Bacon Wrapped Dates from the Municipal Bar & Dining Co – jumbo date stuffed with brie cheese wrapped in applewood smoked bacon:

baocn-dates
Photo credit: http://erith1.files.wordpress.com/

My only regret? I somehow managed to wind up with a leftover drink ticket.

I've never been more ashamed.
I’ve never been more ashamed.

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!

Tasting is believing.
Tasting is believing.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Food, Wipe the Drool

I Did It.

I hit my goal weight!

I FOUND THE WORLD’S BEST BACON.

This isn't it.
This isn’t it.

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.”

Seattle_-_Five_Point_Cafe_01

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.

Why didn’t anyone warn me they don’t wear colors in the Pacific Northwest?
Seriously. Why didn’t anyone warn me they don’t wear colors in the Pacific Northwest? (Photo taken in front of de wonderbaar Auld Holland Inn in Oak Harbor, WA.)

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.

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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. 

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Good morning to ME.

But then.

Oh.

And then.

The afterthought side dish:

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“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.

For bacon.

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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?!

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