Bacon Fest Sacramento was once the little piggy of local food festivals, with just a few participating eateries and a mere three-day run. But now in its fourth year, Bacon Fest is running full boar as one of Sacramento’s signature food celebrations.
More than 70 eateries from around the region plan to take a bite out of Bacon Fest, which kicks off Monday and continues through Jan. 25, offering related food and drink specials and much more.
In addition to bacon corn dogs at Block Butcher Bar and pan-fried bacon meatloaf sandwiches at Ella Dining Room & Bar, you’ll find bacon-mania in the form of bacon swizzle sticks in bloody Marys at Mulvaney’s B&L and bacon in ice molds for charcuterie-tinged craft cocktails at Hook & Ladder. Bacon will even take a melodious turn at Friday’s Kevin Bacon Tribute Show at Old Ironsides.
After all, bacon has yet to go the way of boutique cupcake in terms of played-out foods. Bacon Fest chefs competition at Mulvaney’s, set for Jan. 25, sold out in less than a day, and previous editions of Bacon Fest have resulted in single-day sales records for its participating restaurants.
Because, hello, we’re talking bacon here. It’s a timeless menu item that has transcended the breakfast plate to become a high-profile part of a variety of dishes in both lowbrow and haute cuisine, given its winning combo of sweet, salty and savory properties.
But there would be no Bacon Fest Sacramento without its co-founders and resident bacon evangelists: Brian Guido and Nick Miller.
The two have known each other for a decade, but truly bonded over bacon. Miller, 36, spends his days as co-editor of the Sacramento News & Review but originally knew Guido through mutual friends in local beer circles. Though Guido, 44, works at the California State Archives, he’s also known about town as a local musician and avid supporter of local foods.
Guido knew of successful bacon festivals in Chicago and Des Moines, and thought bacon would be the perfect vehicle to celebrate local restaurants in a farm-focused region such as Sacramento. He ran the idea by Miller one night at downtown’s Beatnik Studios, and Bacon Fest was soon born.
Here are their reflections of Bacon Fests past, and what’s coming this week:
Q: Of all the foods to exalt, why bacon?
Guido: It’s an item that lends itself to a lot of different flavors and cuisines. It’s got that right amount of protein and fat that’s perfect for long cooking or curing. (And) we wanted to celebrate the art of butchering and charcuterie.
Miller: Personally, I don’t even eat a lot of bacon. But what I like about it is that it’s so unpretentious. We’re not talking about truffles or foie gras. It’s the gut of a pig. And in this town, all the chefs are buddy-buddy, so they’ll cook bacon and have a beer. I think everybody totally embraces that.
Q: What’s the best Bacon Fest food item you’ve ever had?
Guido: Man, we had an opening party at Hook & Ladder (in 2013) and Billy Ngo (of Kru) made this pork belly and uni bite that was really good. The 50-50 sliders at Shady Lady were also killer ... . And oh, the caramel bacon gelato at Devine Gelateria, that was pretty crazy.
Miller: I’m not a dessert person, but the bacon bon bon at Magpie was just unbelievable. It had a delicious dark chocolate profile, the rich ice cream, then the sweet, savory bacon. It was killer.
Q: What song from the Kevin Bacon Tribute Night at Old Ironsides touched your bacon-loving heart the most?
Guido: For a while we thought that every band should do “Footloose” to see all the variations they have. But I really liked “Almost Paradise” from the Foxtails. It was very alt-country, super slow.
Miller: Oh man, the blues guitarist Aaron Moreno (who played a cover of “Sleep Walk” by Santo & Johnny, from Bacon’s 1997 film “Telling Lies in America”). Holy smokes. You know how you go to a show and everyone’s drinking a beer and chatting? Aaron’s playing was so beautiful that he just stopped the room. He ripped it.
Q: For the newbies, how do you recommend approaching seven straight days of bacon?
Guido: The opening parties are great because you get to try a bunch of small bites. Last year we had four different chefs.
Miller: You need to be honest with yourself, right? The whole point is to celebrate local restaurants and support them. So come to Hook & Ladder on opening night, eat a ton of bacon and have some cocktails. See how you feel on Tuesday and go from there.
Q: How do you detox your system after all this bacon?
Guido: I haven’t had bacon in probably three weeks or longer. Even when we go out tasting (during Bacon Fest), a lot of stuff for me is just bites here and there. I try not to have a full meal. I always try to eat a lot of vegetables.
Miller: Last year I did a juice fast leading up, but this year I’m feeling pretty healthy, so I’ll do a seven-day juice fast after Bacon Week. That’ll do the trick.
Q: Have you ever reached out to Lipitor as a potential sponsor?
Guido: We talked about it. Here we’re going from (Dine Downtown Restaurant Week) into Bacon Fest, then all of a sudden it’s Beer Week. Then in March, I’m in Austin for South By Southwest. It’s a long stretch for me to try to manage.
Miller: Patrick Mulvaney wants us to expand Bacon Fest into a giant thing like (similar festivals) in Chicago and Iowa. So maybe then we’ll have to reach out to the big boys for sponsorships. But both Guido and I had our cholesterol checked, and we’ll both live a long time. Bacon Fest will be OK.
Call The Bee’s Chris Macias, (916) 321-1253. Follow him on Twitter @chris_macias.