Today marks the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese zodiac, but around Sacramento it might as well be the Year of the Pig. The inagural Bacon Fest ran from Friday through Sunday, with some two dozen Sacramento area restaurants participating, and marked by packed events and food shortages from the bacon-hungry hordes. Pangaea Two Brews Cafe reported its busiest day ever due to its Saturday Bacon Fest event which featured bacon and beers specials. Because of this whopping success, Pangaea was closed on Sunday for an employee appreciation day.
Founded by local musician and bacon aficionado Brian Guido and Nick Miller, managing editor of the Sacramento News & Review, just five official events were planned when Bacon Fest was announced two weeks ago. Once word got out, that number jumped to 24 participating venues, including Samuel Horne's Tavern in Folsom, the Shady Lady and Lucca restaurant.
Highlights included "Kevin Bacon Tribute Night" on Friday at Luigi's Slice Fungarden, with local bands cranking out tunes from Kevin Bacon movies (think: "Footloose" and favorites from "Animal House" - "thank you sir, may I please have another!"), and a Bacon Fest breakfast at Magpie Cafe. Big crowds and bacon shortages turned out to the norm.
Needless to say, plans are already being formed for Bacon Fest 2013. Also look for a few one-off Bacon Fest events as the year moves along, including a "BLT Day" once the tomato season arrives.
"I was pleasantly overwhelmed," said Guido. "I knew we had something going, but it was much bigger than we anticipated. I'm glad we could showcase some high quality restaurants and give back to them by giving them some business when it's a slow time of year."
Despite competition from Sunday's San Francisco 49ers playoff game (ouch!), Bacon Fest wrapped up Sunday afternoon at Mulvaney's B&L Pig Next Door with a bacon competition featuring some of Sacramento's top chefs. 250 tickets were sold, with a chance to sample bacon small plates and even a bacon infused cider from Two Rivers Cider Company.
Yours truly was on the judging panel and the competition was pretty tight (here's a cool run down from the Heckasac blog). The contest was a little off the cuff - some entrants thought just bacon strips alone would be judged, while others created fully developed bacon-related dishes. But we got to chow down on plenty of pig, from decadently meaty strips of house cured Mangalitsa bacon (from chef Stan Moore of The Kitchen), bacon topped with an impeccably cooked quail egg (Billy Zoellin of the Golden Bear) and a charming bacon and egg popsicle from Jaymes Luu at Fat Face (trust me: it's yummy in a custard kind of way and much better than it sounds on paper).
But after careful deliberation and some quick math, Brad Cecchi of Grange nabbed top honors, a $13 trophy and priceless bragging rights. His bacon cheddar biscuit sandwich (with bacon jam, Canadian bacon and herbed slaw) won us over in a presentation that also included pork belly and beans. Though we quibbled that the beans were a little too firm, Cecchi still emerged as the winner. I'm hoping that sandwich lands on the menu at Grange, because it was rockin' in a bacon kind of way.
Pass the Lipitor, and see you at Bacon Fest 2013.
Chris Macias is the Bee's food and wine writer. Follow him on Twitter @chris_macias