Bacon Week 2: It Begins

Bacon Week Logo

You know what time it is? That’s right, it’s bacon time. I can tell, because I’m wearing a bacon watch. I showered this morning with bacon soap. I just mixed some pork belly with salt and brown sugar, in pursuit of some more homemade bacon.

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But I have a larger agenda for this year’s Bacon Week (some people will tell you bacon needs just one day of celebration, but they’re wrong). This year, I’d like to address something that’s bothered me for some time. Bacon as a food item has so much energy behind it. There are Facebook groups dedicated to it. Blogs. Books. T-shirts. No other food has inspired such devotion, or such great number of tchotchkes. As someone at the largest bacon tchotchke retailer once told me, when asked why bacon is so inspiring, “It’s a multisensory food. It’s got smell, texture, sound and taste rolled up into one.”

And yet, bacon in most of our lives remains commodity. My neighborhood grocer carries just a few kinds, all variants on corporate bacon, anonymous, industrially-raised pigs, processed and packaged with low price as the primary goal. Meanwhile, the store carries more than 20 different types of honey, but you don’t see blogs being written about bee secretion. Wendy’s, maker of the infamous “Baconator,” uses pre-cooked, microwave-warmed bacon for its signature sandwich. Bacos™ are vegan. Let me repeat that for you. Bacos™ are VEGAN.

Something is wrong, and my goal this week is two-fold: celebrate our favorite food, but also to expose the brighter side of pork, the small batch producer who cares as much (or more) for his animals and flavor as he does his bottom line. I’d like to call your attention to altruistic bacon. It exists, it’s tasty, and it’s worth seeking out. I hope you’ll stay tuned.

Working at the Workers Bar in Astoria

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The evening was closer to “It’s time to go” than “we just got here” when Eryn leaned into to me and said “I figured it out…. The goal of this place is to keep you from leaving.” Granted, that’s probably true for any bar that wants to turn a profit, but what sets Mary Todd’s Workers Bar & Grill in Astoria apart is, they do a damn good job of doing it.

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Situated under the bridge on Marine Drive, the decor is classic dive bar, pictures of various vintages celebrating the hard work and people that made Astoria, as well as plenty of photos of the regulars having a great time.

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So what exactly lured us here? You didn’t have to talk to too many people in town to find out about the giant serving of prime rib available for a very reasonable price (I think it was $15). Dave ordered an equally large chicken fried steak that checked in around $10 (cardiologist not included).

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Since this is a beer-related blog, I suppose I should mention the beer selection… (moving on)

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Back in the day when I frequented the 35’er in Old Town Pasadena, I would occasionally enjoy a girly, summer drink, a raspberry lemonade consisting of Stoli Raspberry, a splash of sweet and sour and 7-up. At Mary Todd’s I think I discovered my girly summer drink’s older sister who joined a biker gang and rode up and down the west coast for 20 years before settling in Astoria, and her name is the Yucca. The Yucca is fresh squeezed lemon, some simple syrup and vodka, lots of vodka, served in a canning jar filled with ice, sealed with a lid and then shaken profusely inside a towel for maximum frozen drink effect. It’s delicious and refreshing and a monster the next morning.

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So, what really sets the Workers Bar apart from so many other dive bars?  The people, starting with Mary Todd herself who came by our table, introduced herself and shared a couple minutes with us talking about her life and her bar.  It’s a great story and she’s a great host.  Also, she’s been known to dance on top of the tables from time to time. I think everyone gets swept up into the cordiality of the place, by the end of the night, we’ve abandoned our table, we’re meeting other people, people are buying rounds and shots for us, dancing, etc.

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Dave nicely summed up the bar “good people, hard lives, hearty meals, drink accordingly.

A quick shout out to the Cannery Pier Hotel as well.  In addition to the incredible accommodations, the hotel wants you to be safe when enjoying Astoria’s libations.  They have a vintage Buick that will take you anywhere in town and, even better, will come pick you up when you’re done.  In fact, if you get a ride from a DD like we did, they ask that you call the hotel because the driver won’t go home until all the people he’s taken out somewhere are returned to the hotel.  Bravo CPH!

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Fatty Melt

Oh, my poor gut. The things I subject it to: Hamdogs, Turduckens, and Food Stadiums, oh my.

Today I reached a new low after sampling Portland’s newest food fad, the Fatty Melt, aka the “YouCANHasCheeseburger.” Quite simply, it’s your basic 100% Black Angus cheeseburger, complete with lettuce, tomato, onions, ketchup and mustard. Only, instead of buns, substitute two grilled cheese sandwiches. One for the top bun, one for the bottom. I don’t even want to think about how many calories that is.

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The sandwich is available downtown at BrunchBox for the value- and calorie-heavy price of just $5. Breaking it down to its individual components, you’re looking at two one-dollar grilled cheese sandwiches straddling a three-dollar burger (take that, Carl’s Jr.). That’s enough to feed a very small family amply, or to put one “knowledge worker” on the fast train to Type II Diabetes.

Fatty Melt

Of course, the calories only count if they are actually tasty. And in this case, they are. The crispness of the fried Texas Toast complements the crunch of the lettuce nicely, and the oozy cheese in each of the sandwiches meet the softened cheese atop the chewy beef patty in the tastiest triumvirate since the Dahm Triplets. It’s easy for food spectacles (or “Meat Stunts,” as we like to call them) to eschew good taste in pursuit of extremity, but this is one tasty sandwich, and I really don’t feel that gross. Not nearly as gross as I felt after I took on the Baconator.

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Q&A with Bacontrepreneur Scott Kveton

Recently, BS Brewing had a chance to sit down with internet bacon peddler Scott Kveton, to discuss his new business venture, bacn.com. Read on for ideas on starting your own web business in just 3 weeks with some friends, a garage full of freezers and a passion for salt pork. Or just to drool at the meat porn.

BS Brewing: You’re known for your work with the Open ID project, and seem to have had much success in the web industry. How did you decide to become a bacon mogul?

Scott Kveton: I’ve always been a big lover of bacon. Once Twitter and Facebook started to take off, friends would forward me bacon links which I’d retweet/post which of course perpetuated the whole thing. Next thing I know I’m surfing the web and come across the BS Brewing “Makin’ Bacon” post and the rest is kind of history. I started a website called “BaconGeek.com” and then about 3 months later Bacn.com. When we said we were going to sell bacon on the Internet we basically went from idea to store front in matter of 3 weeks. It all kind of happened really fast.

BS: Bacn.com is a great url … I’m surprised it was still available. Did you just get lucky, or did you have to buy it on the secondary market? Have you tried to secure bacon.com as well?

SK: My partners (@mtrichardson and @jasonglaspey) and I thought it would be cool to have a “Web 2.0” on-line bacon store. The first rule of Web 2.0 is to drop some kind of vowel. We chose the “o”. Turns out the domain was available and Jason’s wife Holly had a great idea on the branding side of it. We looked into the bacon.com domain name but let’s just say this: that’s one expensive vowel.

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BS: There’s already a mail-order bacon site out there – what made you decide to get in the business?

SK: There’s quite a few stores out there already but we thought there was still quite a bit of interesting things we could do in the space. One thing about buying bacon on the Internet is you don’t really know what you’re getting. So we try to augment the product pages with pictures and videos as well as good descriptions of the bacon people are thinking about buying. That and our “Bac’n of the Month Club” where we just make sure people can just click a big ole’ “give me awesome bacon” button and have it appear every month. That’s really starting to pickup steam.

BS: In assembling your product list, I’m sure you’ve sampled quite a few. What’s your favorite bacon?

SK: I gotta go with “Scott Ham’s Bacon.”

This is serious bacon and not for the faint-of-heart. Its cured and has a strong, strong smoky smell to it; you can smell the box it ships in when the postman put its on the doorstep. The flavor is out of this
world. Salty, savory and just plain good. This is the perfect bacon to mix into an omelet or salad as you don’t lose the flavor of the bacon.

BS: Have you tried a bacon that wasn’t worthy of being sold on bacn.com?

SK: Absolutely. There is a lot of crappy bacon out there. That was one of the reasons we started the site. Somebody Twittered me and said “You have to try this bacon … drop everything and spend the $40 for 2 package to get this to your house.” Being a total lemming, I did just that. When it arrived a few days later I had this Pavlovian response to taking the package from the mail person. It was akin to something I
would imagine Home Simpson doing. Unfortunately, when I cooked it up, it was awful. It was then that I realized that not everybody knows what good bacon is. After a few months of research, it became clear
that not all good bacon is known. Bacn.com is all about helping us spread the word about the best bacon out there.

(I’ll refrain from sharing the name of the product; suffice it to say we don’t carry it).

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BS: You have some great bacon clothing on the site now. Do you design the t-shirts yourself?

SK: We’ve designed a few of the t-shirts but we’ve found that other people are way better at it. Instead of trying to be the wittiest bacon people out there, we instead opt for licensing shirts and designs from other people and offering them on the site. They win, we win and most importantly; people are wearing more bacon shirts than ever.

BS: You were a judge in Bacon Camp in San Francisco. What other bacon honors have you received?

SK: Most likely to die before 40. I kid, I kid.

BS: What was the best bacon dish you tried at Bacon Camp? The worst?

SK: Hands down the best was the Bacone … deep fried cone of bacon filled with cheese scrambled eggs covered with country gravy and topped with a fresh biscuit. Umm. OMG. Good.

Worst? That’s easy, the “bacon brownies” that were inspired (I kid you not) by somebody looking at one of their #2’s in the toilet. “That looks like a bacon brownie!” Let’s just say the judges scored it poorly.

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BS: The bacon meme grows stronger every day … What’s the weirdest bacon-related thing you’ve ever seen on the internet or otherwise?

SK: Wow. That’s a toughy. Needless to say, I have to go with the “bacon egg” that was at BaconCamp SF. These guys came out of nowhere and created this crazy ass egg with raw bacon. The process was astounding and everyone was amazed with this thing. Very cool.

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BS: Why do you think bacon has achieved such notoriety/infamy? What has it got that ham/prosciutto/jerky doesn’t?

SK: Bacon is the only thing that people put on something else to make it taste better. Ham, proscuitto and all the others are good but there’s just something about the greasy, smoky, salty flavor of bacon that makes everything better.

BS: Ever tried making your own bacon?

SK: Inspired by none other than the BS Brewing blog, I’ve made my own bacon a few times and I love it. I bought a little cheapy water smoker on Craigslist for $20, got the belly at Gartner’s and the rest is history. I love making bacon and am looking forward to doing so a bunch more this summer. I smell a collaboration coming on … :-)

BS: What’s next for bacn.com? Any new products we should be watching for?

SK: We’ve got a whole bunch of new products about to hit as well as a few interesting “other” bacon related things. We’re going to be launching our own brand of bacon as well in the coming weeks so keep an eye out for that.