Guess what time of year it is?! I'll give you a hint: it has nothing to do with spring (we're still mostly in the wintery ick in this part of the country). I'll give you another hint: oink, oink, oink. Give up?? Oh, all right, I'll tell you (I suck at this game anyway!): it's time for BACONFEST! Woo-hoo!
Yes, my dear readers, it's time for that magical day of bacon, bacon, and more bacon. The fifth annual day of bacon worship takes place this weekend, and of course, I'll be right there amongst the thousands of other bacon lovers, fighting for my piece of the pork pie. My trusty bacon-lovin' sidekick (aka Diana) had a bit of a scheduling kerfuffle (as in she won't even be in the state), so she bowed out and graciously passed on her ticket to Mario. Let's just say he wasn't the least bit displeased to hear the news. :-)
Seeing as I'm now a Baconfest veteran (you can read all about my experience last year here), I thought it might be a good idea to put together a little survival guide for all of the newbies. I did quite a bit of Baconfest prep last year (yes, I'm a nerd and I love to research & plan), but I will admit there were a few things I wasn't quite prepared for (e.g. the person who tripped and smashed her gooey bacon mac-n-cheese bite right into my camera lens).
1. Have a plan and PACE YOURSELF!
Take a look at the map beforehand and find the locations of your must sees. Mark down all of the awesome porky delights you absolutely must sample (I highly recommend hitting up the 2012 Golden Rasher winners, Three Aces and 676 Restaurant, as well as Sable, Black Dog Gelato, 2 Sparrows, Atwood Cafe, Glazed and Infused, Little Market, and Mercadito). Restaurants will often run out of food and/or you'll be too full to try every single thing, so make sure you hit your favorites first! Also, figure out a plan of attack - which of your favorites are closest together? Which direction will you go when you first walk in the room? Will your entire group move from table to table together or will you split up? I know this may sound slightly anal, but trust me, you'll understand the need for a plan once you're engulfed by the delicious bacon blanket the moment you step into the room and you're consumed by the temptation to just start shoving everything in sight into your mouth.
Also, keep in mind that you will be presented with more porky amazingness than you ever thought possible. Try to resist the urge to eat absolutely everything - if you don't love a dish, then don't finish it! Save your stomach space for the items that you truly love. Remember that it's not a competition... as much as you may love bacon, you really do have a finite amount of space to stuff all of that pork. Take breaks and pace yourself!
2. Dress comfortably and travel light
Baconfest is a magical, delicious experience, but keep in mind that no mater how you approach it, you will leave the fest a sweaty, bloated, thirsty mess (but a very happy one!). You'll be packed into a relatively small space with not only hundreds of other bacon lovers, but also steam trays, fryers, mini ovens, and random drunk frat boys. Dress comfortably/light and don't wear anything you cherish too much, as there's a very high likelihood you'll leave the fest with a random grease spot or two. If you have any bacon-themed clothing, definitely wear it! Baconfest is a veritable bacon-themed fashion show.
Make sure you bring a bottle of water with you. While there will be water available at the fest, it won't necessarily be easy to make your way through the crowd to get to one of the stations. Once the meat sweats hit, you'll be glad you don't have to push through the throbbing crowd of crazed bacon lovers just to procure a tiny cup of water. Other than some water and your basics (ID, cash, cell, camera, etc.), try not to bring much else with you. You will get a tote bag at check-in, so you'll have something in which to dump all of your BF swag.
3. Get there early
This was the crowd waiting to get into Baconfest last year... an hour & a half before the doors opened. Baconfest is some serious business. Plan to get there early - you can use the time in line to study the map & plan your route. As much as waiting in any line sucks, the Baconfest crowd is quite fun (there's ample opportunity for fun foodie conversations, singing, media interviews, etc.).
4. Buy your merch early
I made the mistake of waiting until the end to try to buy one of the awesome Baconfest t-shirts. Total FAIL. The souvenir items sell out quickly. If you want one (and you totally will!), use some of your pre-fest waiting time to hit up the merchandise booth.
5. Have fun!
Baconfest is such an awesome event and there are so many fun foodie opportunities. Try the cool bacon-themed desserts (my favorite dish last year was the bacon pancake pops in a bourbon glaze). Try at least one bacon cocktail (I tried the Elvis Presley: Bakon vodka, hazelnut liqueur, banana liqueur & cream). Talk to the chefs and find out about what they're serving and their inspiration - they love talking about their food! Compare notes with the other festival-goers (everyone there looooves bacon & it's worth making friends who can potentially point you toward the sleeper hits).
I'll be at the dinner shift with my adorable Domo hearts bacon pin (and my adorable boyfriend!), Please stop and say hi if you happen to see me... we can bump greasy fists and give some exuberant oinks of approval. ;-)
Long live Baconfest!!