Arts

Inaugural pork-themed fest draws bacon fans from all over the Capital

Photo: Allegra Morgado

Bacon tacos, bacon pizza, bacon doughnuts, bacon poutine, bacon peanut butter and jelly sandwiches… is your mouth watering yet?

Festival attendees’ definitely were as they attended the inaugural Baconpalooza Sept. 12 at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum.

Despite the sweater weather and rain, the outdoor festival attracted thousands of bacon lovers, who were like kids in a candy shop.

Cooking demonstrations were hosted by top Canadian chefs, including Lynn Crawford and Michael Blackie. Renowned food vendors such as Meatings BBQ Catering, OCCO Kitchen and The Works served up bacon-centric treats from special menus made just for the festival. Meatings bacon-filled menu featured a bacon donut with whiskey maple syrup, and a grilled peanut butter and jam sandwich stuffed with maple bacon.

Festival-goers browsed the Meat Market’s bacon-inspired wares, explored museum exhibitions, met farm animals and enjoyed live entertainment from Ottawa-based performers MonkeyJunk and Drew Nelson.

University of Ottawa alumna, Kristen Abraham, was the project manager for Baconpalooza. Abraham graduated from the U of O in 2004 with a BA in Communications, and now works as an event coordinator at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum.

“I think Baconpalooza went really well,” she said. “We didn’t really know what to expect, as it was the first event of its kind at the museum.”

“Normally, our target audience is small children and families. With Baconpalooza, we were trying to target a new audience. We wanted to bring in more adults, and we want to do more events that are centered around food and drink. This is just the beginning.”

The roasting of a 70 lb. pig, the festival’s first cooking demonstration, was led by chefs Michael Blackie and Mike McKenzie.

Blackie is best known for hosting Chef Off!, a Food Network show that aired in 2010, and for co-founding NeXT, a Stittsville restaurant that offers casual dining, events, catering and take-out.

McKenzie, who is one of Canada’s top artisanal food producers, has won many culinary awards and co-owns Seed to Sausage, an artisanal cured meat and gourmet food shop in Ottawa.

“We’re not making health food here today,” declared McKenzie, as he injected a suckling pig with apple juice concentrate, salt, sugar and ample amounts of beer.

After their demonstration, Blackie and McKenzie distributed samples of their dish: roast pig featuring Mexican spices, kale, corn, barbecue sauce and balsamic vinegar-soaked watermelon, to hundreds of hungry and inspired onlookers. Unsurprisingly, it was a hit.

Lynn Crawford, celebrated cookbook author and star of the popular Food Network Canada Show Pitchin’ In, was also among the chefs who showed off their bacon cooking prowess at Saturday’s event.

Crawford whipped up a pear upside-down cake covered in bacon caramel sauce. “To be truly Canadian, you have to eat twenty-six strips of bacon a day,” she said.

Die-hard bacon fans weren’t the only ones to attend Baconpalooza. Animal rights activists also showed up to the festival, protesting the consumption of pork.

Abraham said she was fine with having the protesters attend the event; “They weren’t disruptive to our event, and everyone has the right to their own opinion,” she said.

Despite the activists and the rainy weather, the first Baconpalooza went off without a hitch. Abraham believes that the success of this festival will show promise for many more adult-focused food and drink festivals in Ottawa, such as cheese or local craft beer, in the future.