Baconfest Michigan 2013 Review

Baconfest Michigan
swag swag.

Did I ever think I would spend a summer evening at the Royal Oak Farmer’s Market wearing dog tags that said BACONFEST VIP and eating ridiculous amounts of bacon-wrapped, -filled and -studded delicacies?  No, never. But that’s exactly what I did on Saturday night.

Baconfest Michigan
You know what I don’t want to eat at Baconfest? Plain chunks of bacon.
Now, to be 100% honest, I’ve never been the worlds biggest bacon fanatic. I think it has something to do with how smelly it is while it cooks. In fact, I went through a few year phase where I just wouldn’t eat it. I’m past that now, and even cook with it once in awhile. When I saw that the restaurant lineup for Baconfest read like a who’s who of my favorite restaurants in Detroit, I rounded up some friends and planned to be a VIP in attendance. We absolutely did not make it to all of the booths – it seriously boggles my mind that anybody could do that – we were tapped out of bacon-eating an hour in, and we were even sharing samples! I may have discovered that bacon is just not something I enjoy eating in excess. Regardless, here’s the highlights and lowlights:
Baconfest Michigan
BLT & German Potato Salad from Sub Sonic Subs. Yes please!
Highlights
  • Bacon-Wrapped Country Terrine from The Root. I know I’ve said it before, but I love The Root. And I love the old-school preparation they chose here – who makes terrines anymore? Everybody should, they’re awesome. Served with a homemade spicy mustard, this was one of my favorite bites all night. #charcuterieobsessed
  • BLT & German Potato Salad from Sub Sonic Subs. I had never even heard of this restaurant before, but this sandwich totally rocked. It seems like a cop-out to serve a BLT at a bacon festival, right? Who cares, it was great. And the potato salad was topped with some sort of spicy, bacon-y deliciousness. This was the only place I went back to twice.
  • Braised Slab Bacon w/ Heirloom Tomato Cassoulet from Ocean Prime – Sounds fancy, but it was simply perfect. A chunk of braised sweet & smoky pork belly sitting on top of a warm white bean ragout. I wouldn’t have wanted more than a few bites of it, because it was rich, but luckily that’s exactly what they were serving – a few bites.
  • Biscuits & Bacon Jam from The Union Woodshop – I don’t know how they qualify this as bacon “jam” but I also really don’t care. Sweet bacon mush served with a biscuit? Alright, bring it on. 
  • Bacon On A Stick (Bacon strips dipped in liquid brown sugar with BBQ sauce and pepper) from Green Lantern Pizzeria – who knew just bacon on a stick could be one of the stars of the show? It was so sweet it was basically like bacon candy. And we all lost our minds over it.
Baconfest Michigan
Bacon Meatloaf with Arugula Salad from The Franklin Grill

Lowlights
  • Can we discuss the drinks that were offered? The cocktails and wine were absolutely terrible. The only liquor options were one of the pre-chosen 5 or so cocktails. Three of them involved bacon vodka, which was a total no-go for me. Absolutely not. The other 2 were basically mixtures of pure liquor. Seriously, we watched them make it. Not the most refreshing option to wash down all that bacon. The wines were equally terrible. Only two were offered – the white wine was some sort of apple wine that tasted like a Sweet Tart but worse. The red wine tasted like vinegar. There were a variety of Michigan microbrews on tap, which is always a good thing. No complaints on the beer front. I should have stuck to just that.
  • I figured “wow, these drinks suck, I’ll just get a bottle of water!” Except no, I couldn’t. Not more than two hours into the event, all the bottled water was gone. So wait – you’re going to feed me huge amounts of the saltiest food in the world and not have enough water to go around? Really? Seriously? Come on. Oh – and I heard this happened last year too. Terrible.
  • I had the following conversation with a very large man. He asked me to pass him a basket of food from a table I was near. It was Rosemary Bacon Foccacia with Whipped Ricotta and Roasted Peach Bacon Chutney from The Meeting House. There was also a teeny-tiny, microscopic bit of some sort of green herb garnish on top. I then watched the man turn up his nose and pluck any and all green pieces off and set them aside. Jokingly, I said “oh, the green stuff won’t hurt you! hahaha” He then grumble-growled at me “WE’RE AT A MEATTTTTT FEST!!!” Sigh. I guess he was right.
  • Pork Belly Bahn Mi from One Eyed Betty’s – Oh, One Eyed Betty’s, I love you so much, so it hurts me to do this. But this sandwich sucked. You had clearly pre-made them and wrapped them in foil to keep them warm. As soon as I unwrapped it, copious amounts of grease leaked out all over my hand, making me not want to go much further. I know it’s a Baconfest. I get it. But this was just too greasy. No bueno.
  • Some of my favorite restaurants, that were on the original list of participants, were total no-shows – Local Kitchen & Bar, Grange, Green Dot Stables – where were you? I missed you!
Baconfest Michigan
Bacon Mac & Cheese from one of the many places serving it.
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Also, just a reminder for readers who typically only visit on weekdays, I participated in #sundaysupper this week, so I posted yesterday about my first batch of homemade ice cream for the summer – Strawberry Pop-Tart Ice Cream. An ice cream for kids, or kids at heart.

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  • Suzanne

    Totally love bacon, I would be in heaven at a bacon fest!!

  • Baconfest attendent

    The plain bacon was put out so that the guests could get an idea of what the restaurants were using in their dishes. I was told by a chef that since all the dishes prepared the bacon differently, they wanted everyone to know what the bacon taste like on its own.

  • JP

    Thanks for your reviews, but I take offense to your comments regarding the cocktails.
    First, Bakon Vodka was s premier sponsor of the event, so I featured 1 cocktail from their recommendation, and two additional variations with quite complementary flavors.
    Second, we learned last year that a full bar with endless drink options is the absolute worst idea at this event. There is simply no way to plan for it and it creates endless stress on my bar staff who were paid well by me, but tipped poorly, because when people pay with a drink ticket, they assume they are not required to tip…wrong. The thematic cocktails were carefully chosen and featured so as to highlight one particular spirit and how it works or can work with bacon – flavors like smoke, orange, chocolate, brown sugar, etc. are the “obvious.” There were 5 cocktails in the general admission bars, and an additional 2 in the VIP bar.
    Third, the drinks were not “basically mixes of pure liquor.” That is just a completely false statement. I developed each recipe to showcase specific flavors, and EVERY one of them was an approximate 2.5:1 mixer to spirit ratio…roughly the standard for drinks that feature mixers. Furthermore, each of the four bars were staffed with professional bartenders who know how to mix drinks. They followed the guidelines. If you got an overly boozy drink, it was a fluke and the staff would have gladly exchanged it.
    Fourth, unfortunately I can’t take responsibility for the wines, but yours is the only negative feedback I’ve heard. Again, these were thematic choices based on their pairing potential.
    Fifth, the cocktails were such a hit, specifically the rum and bourbon ones, that we were forced to make an emergency restock due to so many repeat customers, offering accolades such as “the bar setup and menu is so much better than last year.”
    Sixth, beers were specifically chosen to offer a variety of styles from local breweries, specifically Kuhnhenn and Dragonmead, along with features from North Peak, Right Brain, Saugatuck and Jolly Pumpkin.

    Furthermore the water concerns me, as when breaking down the event, I personally loaded ten cases of water into the U-haul. Beverages were available throughout the night. This did not happen this year or last.

    Again, while I do appreciate feedback, some of the information you gave was just incorrect, and unfortunately with quite an offensive tone. I do not speak on behalf of Baconfest Michigan, but I do speak on behalf of myself and my bar staff who were contracted to be a part of this successful event.

  • http://www.foxeslovelemons.com/ Lori @ Foxes Love Lemons

    Hi JP – thanks for all of the additional information. Certainly, this review was just my own opinion, and I’m sure other attendees loved the drink options. I’m only speaking for myself here. Bakon Vodka just isn’t my thing, but of course I understand that they were a sponsor, and the drinks made with it were creative. I bet they were a big hit with people who love bacon more than I do.

    I’ve been to many events simliar in size or larger than Baconfest, with open bar, limitless options. I’ve seen bartenders handle it perfectly. If that isn’t feasible for Baconfest, so be it. The fact is, I WAS served a drink that was pure liquor with “a splash of grenandine” for color (the rum drink option). I watched the bartender make it, and assumed that was how it was supposed to be made. Maybe it was a fluke and I should have asked for an exchange, but the bars were so busy that I didn’t want the bartender to have to bother with it. I do agree that there were a variety of beers, and it seemed like most people loved them.

    I asked for a bottle of water at the table to the left of the stage, near the photo booth, at around 9pm. I was told that the water was gone. I asked if it was gone everywhere, and I was told yes. If you had 10 cases of extra water at the end of the night, that’s too bad. The employee staffing the table didn’t know that.

  • http://www.foxeslovelemons.com/ Lori @ Foxes Love Lemons

    I think these events are popping up around the country. I’m SURE NYC wil have one soon!

  • http://www.foxeslovelemons.com/ Lori @ Foxes Love Lemons

    Oh, that’s a good idea. I was just joking about not wanting to eat plain bacon. I just thought it was funny to walk up to a table and see plain bacon just sitting there :)

  • The Hubs

    The bacon-butter cake with the bourbon ice cream from Ocean Prime was very good as well. I’d actually say they were my favorite booth, all around.

  • Laura Dembowski

    I went through a serious bacon phase when I was a little younger. I haven’t had it in awhile now because it’s soooooo salty, but I could go for a piece or two. However, I love the smell. I would cook it just so I could smell it. I always wanted to try bacon jam. I can’t believe some restaurants didn’t show up, and did you get to try that foccacia? It sounds awesome!

  • http://www.foxeslovelemons.com/ Lori @ Foxes Love Lemons

    Haha, we’re total opposites on the bacon smells! If only I could cook bacon at my house, and ship all the smells over to you so you smell them and I don’t :)

    The foccacia was totally awesome! I want to try re-creating something simliar at home sometime soon. As far as the restaurants that didn’t show – maybe I worded it incorrectly. It’s just that they were on the ORIGINAL list of participants when I first bought my ticket. They must have pulled out sometime between then and the event, because they were not on the final list of vendors :( It’s too bad, because they were some of the ones I was looking forward to most!