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.

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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.

IMG_6544

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.

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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.

5-pt-cafe-interior

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. 

5-Pt-Cafe-CA-eggs-benedict
Good morning to ME.

But then.

Oh.

And then.

The afterthought side dish:

5-Pt-bacon-heaven

“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.

5-pt-bacon-2

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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