The saying “Everything tastes better with bacon” was put to the test as Hammerheads Restaurant was ultimately crowned the “Bacon King” for the second consecutive year. The 2012 Bacon Ball hosted by the Louisville Visual Art Association promised a “mixed media culinary delight night of booty shakin’, art making bacon ball extravaganza” and they spent the evening gettin' piggy with it.
Held at the Louisville Water Tower, Friday, April 27th, I was welcomed at the entrance by a large pink swine and quickly realized any childhood favor of Porky Pig would need to be briefly tabled, literally. Thirteen restaurants in all competed for two coveted titles; nine restaurants created bacon-filled dinner dishes for the crown of Bacon King and four others competed for the Sweet Bacon Award by creating bacon inspired desserts.
Arriving early I wandered through the tent where chefs were putting on the last minute touches of the dinner-inspired dishes, artists were setting up booths and laying out supplies, and I could hear the band out back wrapping up their final sound check. It was a sensory overload of yummy anticipation for all my senses.
Inside the Water Tower art was on full display from the CFAC (Children’s Fine Art Classes) program wherein the LVAA provides scholarships for children based upon talent and not just family income. Within an exterior room I located the four restaurants competing for the Sweet Bacon award and was immediately drawn in by the bacon doughnuts by Nord's Bakery – a wonderful bacon flavored pancake pastry with a slice of cooked bacon draped across the top (I had two).
At the table to their right there was Chef Madeleine Dee of “No Place Like Home” who is the Executive Chef/Owner of her own in-home personal chef service. She served me her take on homemade bacon candy as she explained that at her company she does the shopping, cooking, cleaning and storage of dinners for busy families in their own homes as well as offers personal cooking classes and catering. The Comfy Cow was there to help cleanse the pallet in between the other dessert offerings from Cake Flour, who served up a bacon root beer ganache' cream puff and the eventual winner of the dessert competition, Cellar Door Chocolates with their chocolate-bacon flavored fudge squares.
The main hall was set up with even more cooks preparing their offerings of different types of sides including beans and slaw among the items available for the silent auction which was a product of LVAA’s “10 Days of Bacon” competition which concluded with the Ball.
Along with a drink (and needing a shot of insulin) I headed outside for a breath of fresh air and began a conversation with the ladies of Uptown Art Uncorked. They were setting up ceramic tiles with paint supplies for the guests who were allowed to create their own individual souvenir-masterpiece. Kelly, who proclaimed herself as being one of ‘very artsy people’ was kind enough to create me a tile with a little pink piggie as I continued to soak in the swine-a-rama-aromas tempting me from the main tent. Uptown Art Uncorked is a business located on Bardstown Road which provides professional painting classes in a relaxed group setting and based upon their logo adorned with a wine glass, I assumed the creativity and inspiration is assisted with the enjoyment of every uncorked bottle.
Allowing time for my tile to dry I wandered past the Johnny Berry & the Outliers who provided the musical stimulation and into the main event where the crowd had arrived. There was a mixed bag of Millionaire’s Row Derby outfits along with the bohemian-style of Bardstown Road standing in lines for any and all things bacon.
Beginning my dinner with where I had started, Ryan Rodgers Chef/Owner of the soon-to-be-opened Feast BBQ who offered a bar-b-que pork/chicken sandwich topped with a bacon slaw. We discussed the intricacies of the remodel of the historical building they are planning to open in New Albany and the difficulties with not only opening a new restaurant, but doing it within the confines of a building that is included on the National Historic Register.
Among other contestants vying for the Bacon King crown, were Whole Foods of New Albany with a bacon mousse on a spoon, The Silver Dollar, and Proof on Main. Personal highlights for myself included the pickled pork tongue on pretzel toast presented by Eiderdown of Germantown, the magnificent “Hot Pig” which was The Blind Pig’s extremely well done take on the traditional Hot Brown sandwich and the winner of the longest line award, Zanzabar, where Chef Chip Hartley offered up the 50/50 burger which included bacon, beef, Chips Fighting Cock BBQ, tobacco onions and served on a Nord’s Bakery bun. Ultimately the votes were cast and the 2012 Bacon King crown was awarded for the second year to Chef’s Adam Burress and Chase Mucerino of Hammerheads who wowed the crowd with their pork belly French toast.
Roughly 800 people (who would not be running in the Derby Festival mini/marathon the following morning) attended this year’s Bacon Ball. Along with the take-aways of delicious if not simply interesting foods, wonderful local live music, and bottomless drinks; the evening provided instruction on how to paint a pig properly on small tile, advice like ‘never fry bacon naked’ and observations such as ‘baby that ain’t grease, that’s juice!’.
A magnificent bovine-swine-bourbon-and-wine time was had by all, but ultimately the real winners Friday evening were the children who benefit with all proceeds going to OPEN DOORS, the 80 year-old CFAC program and of course the JCPS Art Fund for teachers in the Jefferson County Public School system who are regularly expected to provide art classes with a provided budget of approximately $150-$300 per year.
Upcoming Louisville Visual Art Association events include:
- The Fourth Annual Buy Local First Fair May 20, 2012 at the Louisville Water Tower: The Buy Local First Fair, a celebration of locally owned/operated boutiques/shops, galleries, restaurants, breweries and much more. There will be farmers market booths, local art, handmade treasures, a variety of delicious food, live music, a "Top Chef" competition, a kids area, craft beer and raffle.
- Dinner(re)Works An exhibit with accompanying events that LVAA put on for 20 years and is being brought back after a two year hiatus. The Louisville Visual Art Association (LVAA), in partnership with The Hite Art Institute Cressman Center for Visual Arts on East Main Street in exciting downtown Louisville is proud to sponsor DINNER(re)WORKS 2012 – a five-week exhibition of handmade ceramic dinnerware created by 16 acclaimed artists from throughout North America.
(Photo Courtesy: Louisville Visual Art Association/Hope Helton)