Would you spend $50 — $100 for VIPs — to eat a couple of dozen bacon-centric dishes and drink as much craft beer as your system and your conscience would allow?
Well, I and about 2,499 of my closest friends did just that at Bacon-Fest 2014, held Saturday afternoon at Union Station.
If you missed Bacon-Fest 2014, a fundraiser for the Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City, your cholesterol level and waistline thank you. But if you love bacon, you missed one heck of a party.
Let’s start with the food, which, as the name suggests, was all about bacon. There was everything from the obvious —Farmland’s hickory- and applewood-smoked, thick-cut, peppered and Sriracha bacon — to the sublime — bacon brownies, and cured and smoked pork pulled from a whole hog smoked for the better part of a day.
In all, there were 13 vendors dishing out bacon-themed goodies. I spent the most time with Our Sassy Pantry, makers of amazing sweet and savory jams, and last year’s winners of the “Best in Sow” competition for the tastiest creation at Bacon-Fest.
The two sisters who operate Our Sassy Pantry said they didn’t even know there was a competition before they walked in the door last year. They were better prepared this year, serving up bacon jam and flatbread pizzas and mini phyllo dough cups filled with savory cheese and topped with their bacon jam.
Our Sassy Pantry did not repeat their Best in Sow performance. That honor went to Sasha’s Baking Co. and its Bacon Sticky Bun. I didn’t get the chance to try them, but I heard they were amazing.
Aside from Our Sassy Pantry, I have to give props to Lidia’s for its heirloom BLT, Paradise Locker Meats for the aforementioned cured and smoked pork and the Ameristar Casino for its hoisin- and lime-glazed pork belly served over sesame rice.
There were many other tasty bacon treats too.
The beer was tasty as well: the malted creations of Amerisports inside the Ameristar Casino. I liked the Face-off Pale Ale, which was hoppy, but not overly so. However, I loved the Draft Choice Special, a Saison that was fruity, creamy and extremely complex. The lines were long for the suds, but I braved them repeatedly.
Lastly, let me share a word or two about the crowd. It was large. But it was also diverse and totally into the spirit of the event, which wasn’t so hard to do considering it was all about eating and drinking to excess.
Among the more memorable crowd interactions for me was the guy with the Duck Dynasty beard dressed in a suit made to look like bacon. I complimented him. Took his picture. And found out he bought the concoction on Amazon. I guess you can find anything and everything on the Internet.
My final impression of Bacon-Fest 2014 was the bacon-eating contest. I positioned myself to the side of the stage and spoke to one of the contestants, Devon Parnell, and his wife, Amanda.
Parnell is a normal-size human who wasn’t sure how much bacon he could consume in the allotted five minutes. His wife appeared very nervous, so I asked them both why they were doing this. Their answer was the surprise of the day.
Turns out it was her idea, not his — an anniversary present for him. If my wife is reading this, please know this is not a gift I would enjoy. But then, to each his own.
As I mentioned, I had to leave just as the contest started, so I didn’t get a chance to see 12 people jam copious amounts of bacon into their faces against the clock.
I did, however, get a text shortly after from a friend who stayed behind to witness the carnage.
It said simply, “Our man came in second.”
Happy Anniversary Devon and Amanda. I hope to catch you for your next anniversary at Bacon-Fest 2015.
Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons, or nearly 300 half-hour episodes produced on six continents. Eckert is also an avid wine collector and aficionado, having amassed a personal wine cellar of some 2,000 bottles.