Monday, April 12, 2010

Bacon funnel cakes: a Berry good idea

Funnel cakes are a favorite snack food of American fair-goers and amusement park attendees. Delicious as they are, though, they could always be improved with tasty toppings...but which toppings? The people at Knott's Berry Farm put the question to the people, via Twitter, to determine which funnel cake adornments would please them most. The people came back with a resounding, unified answer:

"With chocolate, and bacon."

The sweet/savory treat--fried, drizzled with chocolate syrup, and sprinkled liberally with chopped bacon--was soon added to the KBF menu. The dish was supposed to be a temporary addition, but it soon proved so popular that its status was changed from temp treat to Special Guest Star for Life. Kind of like Heather Locklear was on Melrose Place. If you have a KBT ticket and an extra $8 in your pocket, you, too, can have a chocolate bacon funnel cake to munch on.

Read the whole heartwarming story right here, kids.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Baconfest: A day in bacon-smeared pictures

Head Lab Tech Jenni S. was fortunate enough to attend yesterday's astoundingly successful Baconfest Chicago event. After sleeping off her bacon hangover, she's finally made it to her laptop. Here's her recap of the day, in words and photos (which look blurry thanks to her getting the lens all smeared with bacon grease--dumbass).

Words can hardly describe how much fun yesterday's Baconfest went. The joint was full from floor to ceiling with the smell of bacon, and crowded with bacon-loving folk high on the aroma. I could write an entire novel about everything I loved--from the Pabst and Bakon Vodka at the bar, to the gorgeous Stan Mansion that housed the whole thing. However, I'm just going to share a few thoughts and a couple blurry pics--try not to drool on your laptop as you read--on my favoritest parts.

The vendors
Bacon-friendly stores and eateries from across this great land of ours toted their wares to the event to treat attendees to some samples, and to provide baconeers the chance to leave the event with more than bacon in their bellies. Our favorites included:

Bleeding Heart Bakery: Chicago's best and bacon-friendliest purveyor of baked goods was one of Baconfest Chicago's most generous sponsors. I had the pleasure of hanging out with owner Michelle, and her leading sugarslingers Erica and Dan, for a bit during the day, and sampled a ton (well, not literally, but close) of their goods. My favorite: the chocolate-covered bacon. Better than others because they use Nueske's, and because they dip it halfway, rather than cover, in chocolate for a more balanced bite.

Bacon Salt: My love for Justin and Dave's extensive line of bacon-flavored goods is no secret. At Baconfest Chicago, I not only got to taste some of their newest products (including Bacon Pop microwave popcorn and the Bacon Ranch dip), I also got to meet and hang out with the insanely cool Dave (Justin had to stay back at the Bacon Salt HQ to hold down the fort). Hope we get to cross  paths again, and not just because he might give me more Baconnaise (yum).

Soggy Paws: Why would a dog wash set up shop at a bacon event? Because the staff at this Uptown establishment love bacon almost as they love pampering pooches and, as such, they carry a huge range of bacony items for pet lovers to treat their canines with. They have pig ears and pig hooves (both of which Otto and Willie would love to sink their teeth in right now), but they also have adorable/awesome piggy toys. Our personal favorite: the super-tough portly rubber pig that smells exactly like bacon. They also carry superhealthy foods that contain pork--they look so good that you might be tempt to open a can and dig in.

Nueske's: I'm not the only person that thinks this Wisconsin company is the indisputable king of all baconmakers--an astonishing number of chefs in the Baconfest cookoff relied on the brand for their culinary masterpieces. Nueske's team members Megan and Thomas loaded up the baconmobile and made the trek all the way from Wittenburg to share the company's prizewinning pork with event attendees. Confession: I visited the sample table about five times. I definitely need to make my annual pilgrimage to their shop north of the Cheddar Curtain more often, so I can replenish my staff of their applewood-smoked stuff.

Das Foods: Katie Das' Man Bait maple-bacon lollipops are legendary. They were a hit at the National Confectioners Association show. While I managed to snag an entire bag of delicious candies from the lovely and gracious owner, I didn't manage to snag a decent picture. Whoops.

Wheel! Of! PORK!
I'm a sucker for trivia, so I was to thrilled to see the Illinois Pork Producers (another one of Baconfest Chicago's awesome sponsors) with their Wheel! Of! PORK! The group didn't much need to push its pork-positive message to the attendees--hello? we live and breathe pork, so we're totally down--but it was a blast spinning the wheel, learning about the hardworking men and women of the Other White Meat industry, and taking home I Dig Pig t-shirts and other goods. In addition, the group spread the word of its efforts to combat hunger in the state--especially important in this nasty economy.

The eats
The spread was eye-opening--I'm a lover of bacon and I've gotten pretty creative with the stuff, but my mind was completely blown by the staggering array of fanciful dishes. There was not a single loser in the bunch--any and all of the bites I enjoyed and would order off their menus in a second--so it's painfully difficult to pick favorites, but there were a few standouts:

The Signature Room: Chef Patrick Sheerin served up a pastrami-style hunk of pork belly, topped with kimchee coleslaw and crispy rye. The sizeable hunk of bacon on the plate (tasting portion? it was practically a meal in itself) was just about the most beautiful thing I've ever seen--thick, crispy on the edges and soft enough inside it practically melted. I couldn't help myself from going back not just for seconds, but for thirds.

Socca: I've passed by this Lakeview restaurant dozens, if not hundreds, of times. The next time I'm in that neighborhood, I will not be going past, but walking right in and sitting down. Chef Roger Herring (best culinary name ever, right?) served up triple-bacon veal meatballs and asparagus with a lemon-thyme bacon sugo. I wish I could cook meatballs this flavorful and perfectly seasoned, but I'll just leave it to pros like Roger--who in addition to being insanely talented, could not be a nicer guy.

Gary Wiviott: Many people claim to be BBQ experts (suck it, Flay), but this man actually knows his shit. He's the author of Low & Slow, one of the bestest tomes on the subject of thrilling with your grilling, and he presented on the subject at Baconfest. He wasn't cooking up enough of the demo food to share with everyone, but I was in the right place at the right time and got to sample one of his famous "dragon turds"--a jalapeno stuffed with spicy sausage and wrapped in bacon. I will be duplicating that magical dish soon, believe me.

Amateur Hour: Not all the chefs at Baconfest Chicago were pros--although the five contestants in the amateur bacon cookoff (sponsored by Nueske's) are skilled in their own right. Tina Bennett took home top honors with her Bacon Strip Cookies, a wondrous shortbread concoction loaded with bacony goodness--and again, while there wasn't enough for the hundreds of attendees, I was hanging with the Bleeding Heart crew when she came through with her award and some extra tidbits.

Organizers Seth, Andre and Michael should be super proud of themselves for putting together such a letter-perfect event. And you should do everything in your power to get to Baconfest Chicago 2011. See you there, baconeers.

BaconFest Chicago: HUGE success!

The team of BDJ Labs is currently nursing a bacon hangover, after an eight-hour day of buying, tasting, talking, and celebrating bacon. Later today, we'll share with you a bit of all the glorious bacon shenanigans you missed. In the meantime, please enjoy this picture of BDJ's Head Lab tech sporting the infamous Bacon Salt strip suit.

Friday, April 9, 2010

BaconFest Chicago is TOMORROW! SQUEEEE!

If the citizens of Chicago sometime tomorrow realize that the air of their fair city suddenly smells like pork and applewood smoke, these three guys are the reason why.

Bacon worshipers Andre Vonbaconvitch (left), Seth Zurer (middle) and Michael Griggs are the fellas bringing BaconFest Chicago to reality. After months of hard work assembling chefs, vendors, and sponsors--and after decades of cultivating a love for salted pork strips--their efforts will pay off tomorrow when the doors on the festival open at the historic Stan Mansion in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood.

"It's been a long time coming, with a lot of ups and downs," says Zurer. "We're tickled that the day is finally here."

So are we. Even the most die-hard bacon fanatics might end up with bacon hangovers after the event. There'll be bacon tastings from some of the most distinguished bacon-minded chefs in the country. Bacon artisans like Nueske's will be hawking their wares. Bacony edibles/drinkables like Bakon Vodka's infamous libation and Das Foods' Man-Bait maple-bacon candies will be on hand. Many are looking forward to the amateur bacon cookoff, with dishes from bacon-scallop gyoza to a BLT dog vying for the prize. There's so much stuff that not even the organizers can say what they're most looking forward to.

"I'm excited for the moment right before we open the doors," says Zurer. "I'll poke my head out and see what i can only assume will be a seething horde of excited-beyond-belief bacon lovers getting ready for their encounters with bacon greatness: checking their hair, smoothing their eyebrows, shpritzing some Binaca....

"Then I'm excited to see those same people at the end of the shift, shuffling out, goodie bags full of bacon booty, waddling a little from all the bacon they ate, smelling as if they'd been cured and smoked themselves, smiling deliriously in that pre-nap bacon euphoria."

Seriously, we at Bacon Du Jour could not be more excited. If you weren't lucky enough to get tickets, it's all right--cook up a plateful of Nueske's finest on Sunday morning and log onto BDJ for a BaconFest Chicago wrapup.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bacon hacks

"Hacking" isn't just for computers--anytime someone gets a hankering to alter a sign, billboard, placard or other public message by adding their own twisted bent on it. Sometimes, those hackers turn their thoughts to bacon:
Have you seen any bacon hacks? Perpetrated your own? If so, please send 'em along to the Head Lab Tech at BDJLabs_AT gmail_DOT com.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bacon Bad: Nightline report on bacon has no sizzle

I guess Nightline gets points for trying, but not many, because they didn't try to hard in their report on the bacon craze. One, they're very, very late in jumping on the bandwagon. Two, no one in the bacon "community" knows who this jackass is. Three, it features very little in the way of information--nothing about restaurants featuring bacon, no discussion with bacon makers, nada about events like BaconFest Chicago. Four, they disparage the fabulous bacon products from Archie McPhee, and we just can't tolerate that. We could go on, but we'll just let you watch this POS clip and judge for yourselves. Because Hulu's embed feature is totally frakked, you're going to have to click here to peep that mess.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Happy Birthday, Twinkie!

Today marks the 80th birthday of one of America's finest snack foods. Sure, they have a chemical makeup that enables them to survive decades on the shelf, and possibly endure a nuclear holocaust, but still--hard to resist the spongey sponge cake and the insanely sweet creme inside. The Twinkie was created way back in 1930 in Chicago, our hometown. Much has changed about the country since then--desegregation, television, computers, and whatnot--but our beloved artery clogger remains constant.

The Twinkie was one of the firsts bacon tests we recorded on BDJ--click here for a trip in the Wayback Machine.

Test #207: Bacon and PAPAYA

The subject
While American palettes are becoming ever more diverse, there's still sadly millions of people who don't venture outside a few dozen varieties of food or veggies at their local produce purveyor. Mango, papaya, pomegranate--these fairly common fruits are still just weird candy flavors to most Yankees. Sad--not only are these sweet treasures insanely delicious, they're also EVERYWHERE. You can find mango even at the most whitebread of supermarkets, and if you're willing to go to just a tiny bit of trouble, you can partake of the wonder that is a fresh papaya--which is what we at BDJ Labs did for our recent test. We broke into a succulent fruit and went crazy, but before the papaya was gone, we wrapped a few pieces in bacon.

The results
Yummy--the papaya didn't get too terribly squishy, and only took on a little baconness, so the taste bit remained complex and didn't turn into a homogenous blob.  Still, we think papaya is just fine on its own--not many things are great with bacon and even better solo. This is one of them.

The conclusion: Bacon + papaya = fabuloso

Monday, April 5, 2010

BDJ Under Construction

Bacon Du Jour is going under a facelift. If we were a fancy-ass big company, or had any Web budget whatsoever, we'd take hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars and pour those resources into crafting a stunningly beautiful, technologically genius piece of blogging art, launching the facelifted site with much fanfare. However, because we have no skillz and prefer to spend our money on bacon procurement, you're going to see gradual, less-than-awe-inspiring changes over the next few weeks. The design is part of it (see the banner--we're still working on it), but there's WAY more in the features/programming department, which we're more excited about than the superficial looky-look stuff:
  • MORE mad bacon experiments
  • EXCITING bacon-themed videos and vlogs
  • THRILLING stories about bacon and the people that love it
  • TANTALIZING bacon recipes from around the globe
  • INSPIRING stories from baconeers
Thank you for reading. We love you. No, really--we mean it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

BREAKIN' BACON: Bacon Baby bacon-flavored formula

The genius-pants guys at Bacon Salt have done it again--this time, a nutritious, delicious way to indoctrinate your recently-birthed spawn into the brother(or sister)hood of salted-pork appreciation. You might be tempted to hit the bottle yourself, just so you, too, can enjoy the sumptuous bacony goodness of this life-giving nectar.

If you'd like to get your little tyke sucking down bacon-flavored formula, you'd better act quickly. I hear from Bacon Salt Headquarters that supplies are extremely limited. If you love your baby, you'll waste not another second and click here IMMEDIATELY to get your formula.

My First Bacon

Ahead of next week's revamping of Bacon Du Jour, please enjoy this fabulous bacon-product from our friends at ThinkGeek....