"It's going to be a two Lipitor kind of night."
So said Darrell Corti, the influential gourmand and grocer, who was among the judging panel for the Bacon Fest 2 chef's competition on Sunday. A sold out crowd of 260 crammed Mulvaney's Pig on the Corner to sample bacon dishes from local chefs at this festival finale. Like last year's Bacon Fest debut, this week-long festival was marked once again with food sell-outs and record crowds. The local appetite for bacon went unabated, and Corti himself is among the most ardent of fans for this cured pig meat. Taking a seat next to Corti at the judge's table, I asked him how often he cooks bacon at home.
"Every single day," said Corti, sporting his signature blue grocer's jacket.
Corti noted that his favorite bacon wasn't part of the competition, which is the one made by Morant's Old Fashioned Sausage Kitchen on Franklin Blvd. But the bacon remained bountiful, including examples from Mulvaney's B&L, Hook and Ladder Manufacturing Co., Grange, Formoli's Bistro and about a half-dozen more. We're talking bacon and egg popsicles (Fat Face), chicken fried bacon (Bacon & Butter) and a plenty more pork goodness.
But once all digesting was done and votes were tabulated, one local eatery swept the competition. That would be Magpie Cafe which won a bacon-flavored triple crown: the audience award and both "critics picks" in which each chef was judged both on a strip of bacon and bacon-infused dish. Kelly Hogge, pictured above in a photo from Ryan Donahue, wowed the panel and audience alike with miso cured bacon paired with kimchee and kumquat and a wonderful pastrami bacon. Congrats to chef Kelly and all others for a fine showing.
Meanwhile, there was a bit of a bacon backlash on the social media-sphere as Bacon Fest hype dominated much of the restaurant chatter this past week. That's bound to happen as events reach a kind of critical mass and the breathless praise for bacon keeps pouring on. Either way, the organizers of Bacon Fest should be applauded for generating such a boost to local businesses. Among the examples: The "Kevin Bacon Tribute Night" on Friday marked Old Ironsides' largest paid attendance ever (at one point the crowd started chanting, "Bacon, bacon, bacon!), and Shady Lady scored its busiest brunch business on Saturday. And chew on this: There was even a scalper outside Mulvaney's on Sunday with a ticket to the chef's competition and finale.
Look for a one-off Bacon Fest event coming this summer - and in the meantime, it's time to detox from all this yummy pork fat. Pass the quinoa!
FROM THE BEE: