Forget 6 Degrees of Bacon, try bacon at -30 degrees Celsius in ice cream form or turn it up a notch with a strip of jalapeño bacon. These bacon creations and more will be offered the first-ever L.A. Bacon Festival on Saturday.
The everything-bacon celebration on Saturday is slated to feature more than 40 vendors who will be serving up pork belly in various forms to show the versatility of what meat purveyors have dubbed a timeless meaty treat.
"I've always said bacon is like meat candy," said Scott Slater, owner of Slater's 50/50. "It's the best flavor to put on your tongue and really goes with anything."
Slater's 50/50, which has four restaurants including Pasadena and Huntington Beach locations, will be participating in the festival showcasing its B'B'B' Bacon Burger with a patty that is half ground beef, half ground bacon topped with Bacon American Cheese, thick cut bacon, Bacon Island Dressing and a Sunny Side Up Egg on a Bacon Pretzel Bun (a pretzel bread made with bacon fat instead of butter and sprinkled with bacon bits).
Mendocino Farms founder Mario Del Pero, whose chain of Los Angeles restaurants highlights seasonal and local foods, theorizes that the popularity of bacon may have been propelled by the culinary world's efforts to use as many different parts of an animal as possible.
"This whole movement of offal has revitalized what is simply a very, very rich cut of belly meat," Del Pero said of the use of various organ meats like tripe, which is stomach lining. "You have some gifted fine-dining chefs who are able to use fine-dining techniques to cure that cut of meat so you're seeing people confit it, smoke it; with a sophisticated chef perspective, bacon can be celebrated in so many ways.
Mendocino Farms, for instance, will be debuting Executive Chef Judy Han's bacon marmalade that will be used in her new Mac & Cheese Bacon Sandwich slated to hit menus in spring.
One of the oldest processed meats in history, bacon has been best known as a breakfast side dish. Now bacon has grown to become the ingredient that steals the show to become a dish all on its own.
"It's become so popular that it's gotten into every meal of the day," Slater said, adding that bacon has made its way on to his restaurant's menu from salads to dessert. "It's really a fun food to play with."
Dan Silberstein, promoter for Drink Eat Play that is producing the festival, expects nearly 1,800 people to attend on Saturday, which isn't a stretch as Los Angeles is ranked No. 2 in the top 10 bacon consuming markets in the United States, according to the American Meat Institute.
A more than $2 billion industry, bacon has even transcended the plate, making its way into cocktails as bacon-infused vodka and even adorning the body as bacon jewelry, lip balm and a bacon bra, said institute spokeswoman Janet Riley.
"Bacon is being used in so many new ways that it's not just the typical greasy strip people grew up with," Riley said.
Del Pero added that the healthiest eater can't resist it either.
"People are eating healthier, but with that they like to balance it all out with some indulgence, and I think bacon is one of those jewels of indulgence that is here to stay," he said.