Maybe there are some people coming to BaconFest 2010 who don't have at least a little crush on bacon. But Lindsay Beeson, who will be providing bacon toffee candy bars, bacon toffee ice cream in maple cones, and bacon bourbon caramel corn as half of the catering group Craft and Spoon (with Meg Parrish), is clearly besotted with the stuff. "It's like ice cream or something, just kind of this genius food that's so simple but so very satisfying."
And Beeson was onto bacon-in-strange-places baking early on, developing a recipe for Knoxville Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies almost a year ago to sell through Coffee and Chocolate and Old City Java, and coming up with Bacon Toffee late last fall. "I started using Benton's bacon a couple of months ago, and I had to adjust my recipe to account for the smokiness, thus bacon toffee was born," she says. "I mostly use it for the chocolate chip cookies, but I do plan to make toffee bars, wrap 'em up and sell them at the farmer's market this year."
She's not sure how long bacon's going to be the cool addition to sweets, like Magpie's maple bacon cupcake, but her affection is unswerving. "I love bacon. I always, always steal a little cut of it when I candy it for the cookies. Always," she says. "And for foods that are not sweets, I think bacon will never not be a thing; the love for bacon is pretty mighty."
Webster is in charge of determining suitable wine pairings for all the small plates being prepared by Beeson and other food professionals for the (already sold out) Swine and Dine event. "It will all depend what role the bacon is playing in the dish, but typically with cured meat, Old World-style wines are best—Spanish, Italian, French," he says.
He'll start with an unoaked chardonnay with the first course, one that's "only seen steel," thus offering a little more true expression of the varietal. No doubt it will be wonderful, but who will be paying attention to the wine at that point? How can a mere wine vie for attention in the presence of Nama general manager and super-chef Holly Hambright's first course: lobster bisque with a big ole bacon-wrapped seared scallop on top?
Really, how can any ordinary comestible compete with bacon? Don't ask Sohn; this week she's thinking BaconFest, but she most always has some bacony analysis and creativity in the works. She makes a mean bacon pimiento cheese; she's got this bacon-greens-poached eggs thing down to an art. "Doneness is a big issue," she intones gravely. "I go back and forth between liking to be able to feel the texture of the fat, and wanting the bacon cooked more. A couple of weekends ago, I cooked collar greens and poached eggs for brunch and really made the bacon super crisp. The crispness of the bacon with runny poached eggs was perfect.
"I think, especially with Benton's, that bacon's an essential flavor. It kind of encompasses the essence of pork. And another great part about it, despite the extremely distinct strong flavor, bacon is also flexible, can work well as a flavor accent."
Bacon, Sohn will tell you, can take a determined cook to many heights. And she's quite serious as she delivers her parting shot, her bacon dream: "I really want to try to make a Cruz Farm Buttermilk/Benton's bacon ice cream."