Monthly Archives: August 2013
We are in a daze, and not in a good way. The San Jose Bacon Festival of America (a strange moniker; pick one or the other, city or country) was the opposite of everything we had hoped for – and we set the bar low. Music? It was good, but too loud and the stages too close together so the sounds clashed. Seating? Upturned plastic buckets. Bacon? Either unimaginative or sold out. We are beyond astonished that the participating vendors could not keep stock of the most important ingredient of the day. Supposedly 10,000 guests were expected and around 20,000 descended, so foresight was not employed by the event organizers, Moveable Feast. Each menu item among all the trucks was capped out at $5, but we did the math and Moveable Feast made out very well for themselves, taking in around $180,000 from entry ticket sales. The often heard buzz going through the crowd was loaded with heated disappointment because this was nothing more than an over-hyped food truck event.
Entertainment was lacking, considering this was supposed to be a festival. A “train” for kids to ride around, a few bouncy houses, blaring stages, and a mechanical bull aren’t enough to keep families happy in the face of lines pushing an hour.
Even beverages were limited. If the food trucks ran out of their specialty beverages, you could try your luck with beer. We’re both over 21 but we weren’t carded or given a bracelet for ID, so hopefully some training occurs before the next event Moveable Feast does that offers alcohol. There were originally three beers available for $5 each, but the most palatable of the three sold out fast. Go figure.
Of the 40+minute lines we waited through, two of them successfully led us to baconized food. What a waste to inch up to multiple food truck windows, only to discover that they were out of bacon. At least Madd Mex had bacon, applewood smoked center cut to be precise, and was creative with it. We enjoyed the pupusa with soft masa and melted cheese. Bacon was laid on top as well as folded into the pupusa, giving it a nice salty smokiness that was well complemented by the gooey cheese. The side of cabbage slaw was fresh and had a surprising tomato sauce that gave it an unexpected acidity.
Sweet and succulent, Madd Mex’s frog legs were the highlight of the night. If there was anyone tonight for whom it was their first time trying frog legs, this was a prime example. The texture is like fish but meatier, and it was so easy to suck off the bones. The legs were honey glazed, giving them a delicate sweetness that was enhanced by a touch of lemon zest. They sat on a bed of sticky rice with green onions, adding another layer of natural sweet flavor. A strip of bacon with no greater incorporation was a bit of a cop out, but the tasty frog legs wowed us on their own.
From among 28 food vendors, Eat On Monday was the only other food truck, let alone vendor, that had clever bacon items on the menu and hadn’t run out by the time we got to the window. This crepe roll wasn’t quite a crepe, but rather a tortilla cooked with an egg; regardless, some thought was behind the design. With organic real maple syrup, the glazed applewood smoked bacon was flavorful. Add some cheddar and zingy baby arugula, and you’ve got an interesting little snack item.
Part of the huge draw was that the Bacon Festival was associated with and practically attached to Night Market, San Jose’s Saturday night tent gathering that runs through the summer. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything at all related to bacon at the Night Market besides a bacon croissant – sorry, but a croissant with bacon was too simple for us to waste our time, money, and caloric intake. August could make some bacon earrings with baking clay, so why didn’t any of the local vendors think of that? She wanted to go home with some kind of prize, and while Sweet Dragon Baking Co. had a tent in the Night Market, they ran out of their bacon brittle. Thankfully we had already snagged some of the last bags being sold at Eat On Monday. The Smokin’ Hot Bacon was a little too hot for August, but the Maple Bacon Peanut was a sweet way to sulk on the ride home.
We still can’t believe that we paid $10 per person and $7 for parking, just to gain access to food trucks that we could otherwise find at Off The Grid or on their own street corners. Moveable Feast found a way to trick us all into coming to their event, when all it was in the end was a bunch of food trucks serving cheap items, with and without bacon. Where was the actual bacon celebration? After such a let down, we may have to throw another bacon dinner party for our readers, family, and friends that truly honors this versatile cut of meat.
(Always drink responsibly. Seek help when alcohol affects your life and the lives of those around you. For readers of a legal drinking age.)
After enjoying banana cupcakes, something that I never thought I would enjoy because bananas are my second least favorite fruit, I felt emboldened to try a beer that’s brewed and flavored with my absolute least favorite fruit, coconut. The name Stone is on the label but not in the biggest font, for this IPA was the brainchild of Robert Masterson and Ryan Reschan (“R&R”). They were the winners of the 2013 American Homebrewers Association homebrewing contest. Paul Sangster and Guy Shobe from Rip Current, and Mitch Steel of Stone, have worked with Robert and Ryan to make their concoction available to the public for a very limited time. At 7.75% ABV and 90 IBU, the hops and headiness let you know there is no mistake that this is an IPA. I love bitterness in beer, particularly IPAs, but before sipping I was worried that the coconut would turn me off. To be honest… I couldn’t taste any coconut. Zach the supertaster took a sip, and confirmed that there really isn’t a coconut flavor. He would know as a supertaster, and I definitely notice it when present because I dislike it so vehemently. If you pick this up and you’re really looking forward to a tropical coconut experience, you will be disappointed; but if you love a good IPA, this hits the spot.
We live in a divided house. Zach likes bananas, and August does not. The sight of a very ripe banana makes August turn on her heels, but Zach promised that he could make something with them that she’d love. Granted, he let three bananas sit out just to get them to the right ripeness, but if you have bananas laying around that are almost to the point of no return, try this recipe. Banana bread is fairly standard, so appease the sweet tooth in your house with these crave-able cupcakes.
Makes 36 cupcakes
• For the cake:
3 cups of cake flour
2 1/4 cups of vanilla’d sugar (sugar that has been stored with a vanilla bean)
1 1/2 cups of buttermilk
1 1/2 cups of very ripe, mashed bananas
3/4 cup of butter
2 tbs. of vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. of baking soda
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line 3 cupcake tins with paper cupcake cups and spray with non-stick spray. Sift together the cake flour and baking soda.
Combine the butter, sugar, and vanilla extract with a paddle attachment in a KitchenAid stand mixer. Cream the butter for 2 minutes on speed 3, stop the machine, scrape down the sides, turn the machine back on to speed 4, and add 1 egg at a time with about 10 seconds in between. Once the mixture is light and fluffy, turn off the machine and alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk. You have to turn the machine off when you add the flour or else powder will fly everywhere, but you can leave it running for the buttermilk. The whole thing is that you cannot add all the flour nor all the buttermilk at once, hence alternating.
When the buttermilk and flour are fully combined, add the mashed bananas. Mix on low and only until evenly dispersed, not excessively – you’re not making bread. With an ice cream scoop for ease of portioning, fill each paper cup 2/3 full. Bake for 20-22 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
• For the frosting (double the recipe if you really like frosting):
1 1/2 cups of super fine vanilla’d sugar
8 oz. of cream cheese at room temperature
4 oz. of softened butter
2 tsp. of vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients in a KitchenAid mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix for about 3 minutes until well combined. Transfer to a piping bag with a star tip and decorate the cupcakes once they’ve cooled.
• For the banana brûlée:
2 bananas, sliced in 1/4″-thick coins
2 tbs. of vanilla’d sugar
Lay the banana slices on a heat-proof surface, like a cookie sheet. Sprinkle the sugar over the tops, and with a kitchen-safe blow torch, gently melt the sugar to caramelize it. Make sure they’re cool before laying atop the cream cheese frosting.