Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Baconfest Michigan - Swooning Over Swine

I had the most fabulous time at Baconfest Michigan this past Saturday, with many thanks to my fellow writers Dave Bardallis and Jessica Webster for their assistance in fixing me up with some excellent VIP tickets ... two of them, to be precise.

Now, who would get the thrill of going to this gleeful gala with me?  Because, of course, you have to bring the right companion.  (Photo: One of Jeremy's favorites - a fried plantain topped with bacon and mustard-maple panchetta from Green Dot Stables in Detroit) 

My ex-boyfriend who fears his food - it can't have salt, sugar, or fat; and it can't have flavor, or else it would undoubtedly possess those other verboten qualities - would never have been a candidate.  My friends who are vegetarians wouldn't have enjoyed themselves too much; neither would my many friends who keep kosher ... nope.

But there was one candidate who shone above the others: Jeremy, of course!  I'm a pretty good eater, but a 21-year-old male is a consummate calorie consumer.  And you want someone to join you at this sort of festivity who has a healthy appetite, an adventurous spirit, and a willingness to pop an antacid (or a blood pressure pill) and keep right on going from the first vendor to the last.  (Photo: The sweet, succulent Bacon-Wrapped Pork Belly from One-Eyed Betty's in Ferndale)

Oh, yes.  Jeremy was my only choice for a Baconfest partner in crime!

There were 30 stations.  Jeremy and I ate and/or drank at 25 of them, and only missed a few because they'd run out of goodies before we found our way to them ... pout.  Since I didn't get to try it for myself, I guess I'll just have to make my own version of an Elvis Pie with peanut butter, banana, and - of course! - bacon, huh?  I did, at least, get to try the lusciously rich vanilla ice cream with bacon, maple syrup, and waffles stirred into it, though, with many thanks to Treat Dreams for appeasing my sweet tooth.  (Photo: Another of Jeremy's favorites - a panino [not a typo, it's the singular of "panini"] with bacon, turkey, cheddar, tomatoes, and bacon mayonnaise on ciabatta from The Panini Press in Berkley)

Jeremy thinks I out-ate him, but I think it was a tie - I tried a few more samples, but that's because Jeremy happily ate his entire portions rather than following my example by tasting only a bit ... though, admittedly, I did finish a pretty good number of them.  Never underestimate the skinny girl!  She may normally engage in moderation, but she enjoys good food too much to waste an opportunity such as this by only nibbling.  (Photo: Spicy, chewy Molasses Cookies with bacon from Lily's Seafood in Royal Oak)

As soon as we opened the car doors upon arrival, the amazing fragrance of bacon was in the air.  We walked up to the press table - past a long line of folks waiting for general admission, which was a rare Cinderella-type moment for me - checked in, were given our credentials, and entered into a sea of people, food, music, aromas, and other sensory stimulation.  Let the feasting begin!  (Photo: Sweet and salty Bacon Cashew Caramel Corn from Local Kitchen and Bar, which is coming soon to Ferndale)

As the proud owners of VIP badges, Jeremy and I were also able to go to a special area with four extra tables, two offering food and two offering drinks.

The first of the food stations belonged to the MGM Grand Casino in Detroit, which served some beautiful, wonderfully complex, and flavorful corn cakes topped with peppercorn bacon, a sweet ginger glaze, house-made butter pickles, and pork belly that had been cooked in Michigan's own Faygo root beer.  

The other VIP food station belonged to Forest Grill of Birmingham, home of chef David Gilbert (a 2012 semi-finalist for a James Beard Foundation Award as Best Chef - Great Lakes) and Brian Polcyn (a 2006 nominee for the same honor).  This, of course, has put the restaurant near the very top of Fairy Mary's Food Fantasies (a reference to my fairy godmother costume at Purim and a post about various food-related hopes and dreams, for anyone who is new to my party and thus dazed and confused).

I chatted with the Forest Grill representative a bit, telling her how disappointed I'd been that Chef Gilbert hadn't made the Beard Award finals, though I was happy to have had him noticed.  And then - with great anticipation - we tried these fabulous, smoky, spicy pork sausages in a salty, crisp/chewy pretzel wrap - the most elegant "pigs in blankets" I've ever eaten.  They were complemented by a lovely sharp mustard sauce that had a distinctive tang.

Then we meandered over to the drink tables.  Not being much of a drinker - and never a beer drinker - I was initially going to pass right by these stations and move on to more food ... we all know this is what I obsess about nearly every waking minute, after all!  But Jeremy saw that The Oakland Art Novelty Company was offering a variety of unique drinks, including one called "The Livin's Easy": pale ale served in a cup rimmed with a combination of pork rinds, cayenne, sugar, ghost pepper, and sea salt.

Ghost pepper?  The hottest pepper on the planet?  The famous pepper that scores a full ONE MILLION on the heat scale?  Oh, Jeremy had his heart set on my trying that!

So I sucked up some courage - frankly, more afraid of disliking the beer than the potential pain of the pepper mixture - and we ordered one of these babies.  Except that the station had run out of beer.  But not one to disappoint a child, even if that child is 21 years old and stands 6'3", the bartender went to very gracious neighboring station Jolly Pumpkin Brewery and had them fill the spice-rimmed glass for me.

And so, I smelled the drink ... my sinuses were still okay, not having been seared.  I tried to put my lips to the cup, but was feeling intimidated.  Jeremy, of course, was chuckling at my cowardice.  I touched my finger to the salt mix and tasted that ... just a hint of heat.  I let Jeremy do the same thing - and he's very, very sensitive to spice.  But he didn't think it was particularly oppressive, rather it was more salty than hot.

Then I took the plunge and put the beer to my lips, salt and all.  And here is just part of the expression on my face, as the other photos were too blurry to make out properly:

The beer was pretty good, as far as beer goes; I took another few sips as we wandered around, a never-before-seen occurrence in my life.  The spice wasn't too bad - certainly not painful, as I'd thought it might be.  This concoction was definitely the most unique thing I tried at Baconfest!  And it sure did have a kick, I'll have to admit ... :)

There was so much food to gluttonously plow through!  I think my favorites were the ones that combined sweet and salty, as well as offering contrasting textures - bacon caramel apples and blue cheese-stuffed dates with bacon were very high on my list of treats that nearly made me swoon.  I wish I could show you everything, but there are items I don't even have pictures of - whether because of lighting, balancing too many things, crowds, the station having run out before my camera and I got to them, or just a photo that didn't turn out well.  (Photo: Sweet and tender Bacon Butterscotch Scones from Cheeky Monkeys Foods in Royal Oak)

But they all definitely deserve to be noted: butterscotch pudding topped with crisp bacon bits ... Irish nachos with bacon ... bacon-wrapped corn on the cob ... bacon-wrapped meatloaf ... chocolate-covered candied bacon ... "Bacon-Infused Pizza Awesomeness" ... chophouse salad with creamy bacon-herb dressing ... "Pig Candy" (brown sugar-coated bacon strips) ... wasabi chips with green tea tapioca and duck-bacon ... figs stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in bacon ... applewood bacon brittle ... bacon and grit cake with maple-pepper bacon ... sweet potato, maple and bacon pie ... bacon fat truffles ... Triple Cheese Mac and Bacon Threat ... and bacon fat ice cream with pureed bacon.  Oy!

To read more about our adventures at Baconfest, go to's Food & Grocery page; today's post tells about the Ann Arbor area offerings in great - and delicious - detail.  If I'd included it all here, none of you would ever bother to finish reading the post!  (Photo: "The Frankenbacon," which is sausage and cheese wrapped in bacon, all smoked and coated in sauce ... and wrapped in more bacon - from Detroit BBQ Company in Detroit)

Well, as you can see, Jeremy and I pigged out (groan ...!) at Baconfest Michigan.  We had so much fun, ate so much fabulous food, heard great music, and enjoyed ourselves immensely.  I'm probably still oozing treyf ([TRAYF] = non-kosher), but very happily so!

Photo collage at the top of the post: a spicy, tender, fabulous Pork Belly Slider with pickled red onion, bacon jam, and grainy mustard from Cork Wine Pub in Pleasant Ridge; luscious, buttery hand-dipped Bacon Caramel Apples from The Root Restaurant and Bar in White Lake that were among my very favorite treats; and moist, seductive Bacon-Banana Cupcakes with Bacon Buttercream from Cliff Bell's in Detroit.


Unknown said...

I'm so jealous!! Sounds like you both had so much fun together.. and how could you not.. I mean you were surrounded by bacon!!! Next time you need a friend to go with you and Jeremy isn't available.. call me!! :)

Mary Sullivan Frasier said...

OMG, Mary! I don't think I've ever had such an intense craving for bacon in my life! LOL I want there to be a baconfest here! Like, right now... I also firmly believe that everyone should have their own Jeremy to take along with them to food festivals. He was, without question, THE perfect man for the job!

And I have to add that you are a real trooper, my dear. I would have totally wimped out with the chili pepper rimmed beer. I have zero tolerence for hot stuff. {Hubbs would have loved it... The man has an asbestos tongue}

OK, I'm quite sure that I've rambled on enough. I'm heading over to Ann Arbor. com to read more right now. That may or may not be a good thing, given my current desire to eat a pound of bacon, but I'll be brave and go for it. LOL Have a perfectly wonderful day, my friend! XOXO

Cranberry Morning said...

Oh my! There are way too many puns one could associate with this post. :-) Love the title. And you've got more courage than I do, to try that spicy beer. Jeremy sounds like someone who would be so much fun to cook for. Don't you love it!

Sheila said...

Bacon....even vegetarians crave it! ;) hehe I love bacon and I'm jealous I couldn't have been your companion! We could have done walking lunges all the way through to offset the damage.

Debra Hawkins said...

Ghost pepper? I am impressed. We always joke about eating something with ghost pepper. I am pretty sure I am about to go fry up some bacon, because man that all looked so good!

Judee @ Gluten Free A-Z said...

With all the food , I would have starved. No bacon here for this vegetarian, but glad you enjoyed yourself. Looks awesome..

Robin said...

The expression on your face is priceless!

I have been adding bacon slowly back into my diet. Just a little bit here and there when mom makes it with eggs or pancakes. I wouldn't have made a good partner for this marathon, but it all looked delish. Glad you had Jeremy to taste test with you:-)

Debra Kapellakis said...

I wish I woulda been there.

Chris said...

What a great event! Almost as good as our food blogger get together here in East TN (ha ha).

I picked up some Trinidad Scorpion chile powder two weeks ago (it briefly eclipsed the Ghost chile as hottest on planet last year before something else was even hotter). I tried 3 grains of it and felt it for 30 minutes. Not sure HOW I'm going to use it.

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