Quick recap: Ingles is a Western North Carolina grocery chain that I am associated with as an“Ingles Chef”. They asked me to join the group because, as The People’s Grocery Store, they wanted to have a group of Chefs representing them whom home cooks find it easier to relate to than celebrity chefs or restaurant stars. This works for me because I don’t have the training or the chutzpah to claim to be any more than a pretty good cook who has been doing it for a long time and knows a bit about it. Anyway, this past week on pretty short notice, Ingles decided to ask us all to prepare something for Asheville Baconfest 2017. It wasn’t their fault–the opportunity to sponsor a booth came to them at short notice. But honestly, who would turn down Baconfest under any conditions? We were asked to provide 500 samples of a food, savory or sweet, which used bacon as a major component. Oh, I thought, that’s not too bad. And after some pondering I decided to add some bacon to my Pepsi and Chocolate Mini-Cupcakes (recipe available in my cookbook) and top the Peanut Butter Icing with Candied Bacon. Obviously I had no real idea how much work and time goes in to making 500 of anything! Fortunately I started early baking my cupcakes and freezing them. Even then it took three days of baking. Next four batches of icing and finally a whole lot of candied bacon.
The day of Baconfest dawned clear and bright. And I started right in on icing the cupcakes. Did I tell you that I had no real idea how much work went in to making 500 cupcakes? I have to be honest here, I ran out of time and went tearing out of the Carolina Bed & Breakfast late and even then I had to leave 50 cupcakes behind. But the cupcakes were divine and even though I was late getting off I still made it to the site of the Asheville Baconfest at the Highland Brewery in time to make sure my offering made it to the VIP tent before they opened the doors to the event.
This was the first time I met any of the other Ingles Chefs and it was interesting to see who they were and hear their stories (and see their food). It is a pretty eclectic group of people including a winner of the ABC reality show, “My Diet is Better Than Yours“, a private chef and caterer from Asheville, a food blogger whose blog “Just a Little Organic” is a lifestyle blog, and the owner of a lunch only restaurant in a small North Carolina town , all of whom were present at Baconfest.
What did we make? It was a wide range of foods, some unexpected and some less so. There was a garlic beef and bacon meatball with queso sauce, mac and cheese topped with a lattice of bacon, bite-sized tomato and bacon tarts, bacon cheesecake with smoked bacon, Budge (bacon fudge) and my little cupcakes. And that was just at the Ingles booth! I made a quick tour around the grounds at one point. I saw BBQ, oysters grilling, more cupcakes, pizza, candied bacon, bacon and stout, beer without bacon, people dressed as bacon, bacon tee shirts and so much more. Take a look at this website for some great pictures of the action .
And of course there was entertainment too. Caleb Johnson was the 13th winner of American Idol, he’s from Asheville and he was here to perform. Once again, being honest, his music (hard rock) is not really my style and all that I really know about him is that he memorably referred to the mayor of Asheville as a “babe” (again, did not endear him to me!) but he is good and the crowd seemed very happy with him. (Showing my age, I know!).
It was a really nice event–although our food ran out fast. I know I served all of my cupcakes in just over an hour and most of the rest of the food at the booth was gone shortly thereafter. But it seemed like there was still a lot of other food and drink available and no one was complaining so I guess it was all good.
If you like bacon and you like Asheville, keep an eye out for next year’s festival. It’s a good one.
And here now, my recipe for candied bacon:
12 slices thick cut bacon chopped
1/4 brown sugar
Cook the chopped bacon in a skillet until brown and crispy.
Drain the fat and stir in the brown sugar.
Stir while cooking until the sugar has melted and coated the bacon.
Remove the bacon to a cookie tray lined with parchment paper and let cool.
Break up the bacon bits if necessary and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Will last a week or more in the fridge.
Not only is this wonderful as a topping on my cupcakes but it is also good to sprinkle over french toast, add to oatmeal or even as an ice cream topping!