If you like bacon, here are three local chefs you need to know. Each has a meticulous approach to curing, and will be putting together dishes of note during Bacon Fest. They’ll also be going head-to-head on Jan. 25, when more than a dozen chefs will mix it up at the closing-day competition at Mulvaney’s Pig on the Corner (adjacent to the restaurant), where $500, a set of Mac knives and bragging rights are up for grabs.
Restaurant: Mighty Tavern (9634 Fair Oaks Blvd., Fair Oaks)
Approach to makin’ bacon: Azevedo’s spent about 12 years in the pork-belly-curing game, testing out all-kinds of methods for creating a batch of bacon. He’s experimented with brines, various woods and more, but settled on a fairly purist approach of dry curing his bacon and smoking primarily with almond wood and the occasional fruit wood. For Azevedo, the most important part of the process is sourcing quality meat.
“A lot of commodity pork belly is really flaccid,” said Azevedo. “You really have to brine it and then cold smoke it. But if you get a nice piece of meat, the hot smoke will bring out more of the nuances of the actual pork, instead of just tasting salt and sugar.”
Bacon Fest menu highlights: Azevedo and the Mighty Tavern team will collaborate with American River Brewery on a three-course dinner, plus amuse bouche items, that are paired with four beers. Tentative courses include hefeweizen served with warm oysters, leeks and bacon confit; and Coloma Brown Ale paired with bacon marmalade glazed cheesecake.
Restaurant: Block Butcher Bar (1050 20th St., Sacramento)
Approach to makin’ bacon: “I do a pretty simple cure as my base,” said Macdonald. “If I’m making regular bacon, I cure it for 14 days then a day of smoke. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t smoke the hell out of it. It’s just a personal preference. I like bacon on the sweeter side, and more of letting the actual pork shine through rather than just biting into a campfire.”
Bacon Fest menu highlights: Macdonald and crew will be whipping up two styles of bacon: A sweet bacon with whiskey and brown sugar, plus a touch of cayenne for spice, and a savory style that’s well seasoned with clove, allspice and other ingredients. For those who fancy some bacon goodness on a stick, Block Butcher Bar will also showcase a bacon sausage corn dog.
“It’s not just ground bacon inside a casing,” said Macdonald. “We’re treating ground pork as you would a belly, then making sausage and smoking it.”
Restaurant: Mulvaney’s B&L (1215 19th St., Sacramento)
Approach to makin’ bacon: “We live in California and the quality of ingredients we have are so phenomenal that chefs are served well doing as little as possible (to them),” said Mulvaney. “I see young kids in their 20s coming up (in my kitchen) and instead of making bacon, they want to make bacon soaked in chartreuse and allspice and eight other things. I say, ‘That’s great and some day it might work. But right now can you just make some (bleeping) bacon?’”
Bacon Fest menu highlights: Throughout the week, bacon will be a recurring player at Mulvaney’s B&L, via bacon meatballs, biscuits with bacon gravy and poached duck eggs, and bacon swizzle sticks in bloody marys. Mulvaney and his crew also will smoke a whole hog that’s been boned and cured like one giant piece of bacon, then sliced a la Sam’s Hof Brau for guests at the sold out chef’s competition.