Aw yeah, it's once again time for Sacramento to bask in the bacon.
Bacon Fest Sacramento 2 kicks into gear Sunday, with the celebrations of that cured pork belly goodness lasting through Jan. 27 at a variety of regional restaurants.
Now in its second year, Bacon Fest Sacramento shows signs of becoming one of the area's favorite food festivals. Its debut in 2012 was a big hit, with sellouts of special bacon dishes. Some venues, including Pangaea Two Brews Cafe, reported that Bacon Fest participation resulted in best-ever business days.
Bacon, after all, remains an especially beloved meat, whether it's enjoyed as a breakfast staple, wrapped around a filet mignon to add much-needed juiciness, or incorporated with a variety of dishes including fried rice and even ice cream.
As the saying goes, everything tastes better with bacon.
Bacon Fest Sacramento lasts a full week this year, up from three days in 2012. This year features a whopping 35 venues about three times the number from last year that will offer bacon-centric dishes, from fancy prix fixe meals to bar bites, plus a chefs competition and even local bands paying homage to songs from Kevin Bacon movies.
To get a better idea of what's sizzling for Bacon Fest Sacramento 2, we got in touch with Brian Guido, a co-founder of the event and bona fide bacon evangelist. Here's what he had to say:
Why do you think bacon brings people together so well?
You know, it's hard to tell. I think there's a love for cured and smoked pork belly. It's hard to replicate. There's nothing quite like bacon, especially when you get some that's good quality. The funny thing is this whole festival is about more than bacon. That's one reason why it got so popular. It's about sourcing good products and honing your craft.
So, aren't there other bacon festivals around the country? What sets apart Sacramento's Bacon Fest?
Patrick Mulvaney (of midtown's Mulvaney's B&L) told me about one in Chicago. I also read about one in Des Moines, but those are different kinds of festivals. Most are a one-day kind of huge celebration thing. There's not really much in terms of having standards of what product they'd be getting. It's just a free-for-all festival to pay homage to bacon. I'm all for that, but we wanted to do something different. There's a lot to choose from, and if one place is too busy there should be someplace close by where you can go.
What are the requirements for a restaurant to participate in Sacramento Bacon Fest? Do all pigs have to come from within 100 miles or something?
We do have standards. We get a lot of requests, but you need to source your pigs from ethically raised farms, they're not fed a bunch of antibiotics. The pork for the final event comes from the Modesto area.
This year, Sacramento Bacon Fest has some key sponsorship from the California Pork Producers Association. What kind of impact will that have on the events?
We have the ability to do more things and be more creative. Last year we hardly spent anything and it was a success. The (California Pork Producers Association) has been great at not putting any sorts of limits on what they wanted us to do. They've also provided the financing for the final event and some food, and allows us to take the ticket sales and give much more money for donations. It's also paid for our Web page (baconfestsac.com), a graphic artist to do more stuff, and we've done some spending on ads.
Speaking of the final event, what's the format of this cookoff? Last year there seemed to be some questions from chefs about what the rules actually were.
Well, you can set rules but that doesn't mean they'll be adhered to. Chefs are competitive.
This year, the deal is we'll have eight chefs. We provided all the pork and they have to do their own cure. They'll be cooking up a couple pieces of bacon and will be judged strictly on that.
Then, they have to make a sweet or savory dish, like a sharing plate for the judges. They'll also need to make enough for 200 people. There will be plenty of food.
What events are you looking forward to the most?
I'm looking forward to the final event. It's always a mystery. People ask what will be made by the chefs. I've heard some grumblings, but I really don't know and that's kind of cool.
I like the fact that we're going to have happy-hour bites at places, and I'm kind of into the coloring contest at Doughbot. And of course, there's the prix fixe dinners at Formoli's and Enotria.
I'm also liking the "Kevin Bacon Tribute Show" at Old Ironsides, especially since Mike Thiemann (of Ella Dining Room & Bar) will be taking over the kitchen. He'll be doing bar snacks, and eight bands will play songs from Kevin Bacon movies.
I hope you're not planning on getting your cholesterol checked after Bacon Fest. Maybe next year you could get a Lipitor sponsorship.
The great thing is we've never had to solicit money. If Lipitor wants to come in, hey, maybe we can work things out.
HOW TO PIG OUT DURING BACON FEST
Nearly three dozen venues are participating in Bacon Fest Sacramento 2, meaning there's plenty of cured pork belly to go around. The festivities kick off Sunday at Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co. (1630 S St., Sacramento) with a bacon-themed party that starts at 5 p.m. All of the shenanigans end Jan. 27 with a chefs competition at Mulvaney's Pig on the Corner (19th and L streets, Sacramento), but note that this event has already sold out.
For a full list of events, visit baconfestsac.com. Here are some of our top picks for the celebration of pork known as Bacon Fest Sacramento 2:
Jan. 21-27: Don't forget, kids love bacon, too. And they can participate in a Bacon Fest Sacramento coloring contest at Doughbot (2226 10th St., Sacramento), where free doughnuts are the grand prize. Also, Doughbot will be selling special bacon doughnuts.
Jan. 24: For perhaps the most highbrow Bacon Fest experience, head to Enotria (1431 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento) where executive chef Pajo Bruich and company will prepare a prix fixe bacon-themed menu. Given that Enotria's one of the toughest tables to get in town these days, better get on that reservation: (916) 922-6792.
Jan. 25: If you love bacon, this event will make you want to "Shout," à la Otis Day and the Knights from "Animal House." Witness the second annual "Kevin Bacon Tribute Night" at Old Ironsides (1901 10th St., Sacramento) in which local bands play songs from Kevin Bacon movies. As a bonus, Mike Thiemann of Ella Dining Room & Bar will prepare some bacon dishes to fuel all the rocking. $5. 8 p.m.
Jan. 26: Now this sounds like one especially tasty dish. Randall Selland, the restaurateur behind The Kitchen and Ella Dining Room & Bar, will create a special bacon paella at Selland's Market-Cafe (5340 H St., Sacramento).
Also that day, Pangaea Two Brews Cafe (2743 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento) will feature a "Beer vs. Bacon" event which includes a special bacon- centric menu and pints of Bacon Suicide IPA. Pangaea was the site of Bacon Fest's most popular event in its debut, so plan on getting there early. 5 p.m.