At long last, the report from Leslieville’s Bacon Fest! A couple of weeks back, I was asked to be a judge at the Leslieville Farmers’ Market Bacon Fest, a competition in which some Leslieville area restaurants tried to outdo each other by cooking dishes made with bacon. I was only too happy to oblige, and despite having partied pretty hard the night before at Pete Forde’s birthday bash, managed to make my way to Jonathan Ashbridge Park to take my place in the judging panel.
I arrived to see a buzzing market and several local chefs hard at work preparing bacon dishes not just for the competition, but for the general public as well. Word had gotten out that this particular instance of the Leslieville Farmers’ Market would feature bacon heavily, so a good-sized crowd came that day. I’d been in the park only a couple minutes before the judging began, giving me just enough time to see what the folks from This Little Pig were up to…
…and wow, did it look good. Look at that delicious swine flesh sizzle!
The first dish we got to try was Wheelbarrow Farm’s “Piggyback brioche”. It featured a very tasty bun, some nice fresh greens, barbecue sauce, and bacon, ham and pulled pork, all culled from their very own pig. It was a delicious start, even if the bacon got a little bit lost in all that porky goodness.
This was followed by an entry created by Mr. Spinners and Waffle Bar. It was a bacon-filled waffle with a fried egg on top which was then had cheese melted on top of that, finished off with crumbled bacon. It was the most “breakfasty” of the entries and so popular that it’s being added to their regular menu.
Next up, Le Papillon on the Park’s stunning buckwheat crepe filled with bacon, cheese, apple chunks and apple syrup, with mixed berries on the side and dusted with powdered sugar.
It was a wonderful mix of salty, sweet, savoury, fruity and meaty. Even a couple of weeks later, I can still remember every delicious taste and texture of that crepe. “I would kill for this,” I told the other judges, and none of them disagreed.
The next competitor was bacon purveyor This Little Pig, who had the simplest bacon-based dish in the competition: a very nice slice of hardwood-smoked bacon with tomato and basil on a nicely-toasted crostini.
It was straight to the point, and the point was bacon. This was the dish in which the theme ingredient stood out the most, and their use of really, really, really nice bacon helped.
Glas’ entry was a bacon canederli — that’s the Italian name for the central European bread dumplings that the Germans call knödel. This was more like a bread pudding than a dumpling, but that’s hardly a complaint. Made with good bread, a creamy sauce, shaved cheese and boar bacon, this was delicious and could’ve been either an appetizer or a dessert.
The last competitor was Ying Ying Gourmet Soy Foods, who had a non-pork entry with their bacon tofu. They’re a little hesitant to call it “bacon tofu”, as it’s a smoked tofu whose flavour just happens to be very reminiscent of bacon. Wrapped around a grilled mushroom and held together with a toothpick, it makes a great vegetarian/vegan-friendly hors d’oeuvre.
Once we’d sampled the competitors’ dishes, it was time to deliberate. The dishes were all so tasty that picking three winners was difficult. In the end, we had to resort to nitpicking and asking questions such as “did the dish do a good job of showcasing bacon, or did bacon just happen to be one of the ingredients?”
After some back-and-forth, we came to a decision. It was time to hand out the golden spatulas to the winners.
Here’s organizer Emma introducing me to the crowd. It was my job to hand the golden spatula and ribbons to the third place winner:
The third place winner was This Little Pig for their bacon crostini. Of all the dishes, it was the simplest and put bacon in the spotlight. Here are some shots with me and the winning chef, Conrad Reimer:
In second place were Mr. Spinner and Waffle Bar, for their bacon/egg/cheese/bacon waffle, a delightful breakfast treat that has recently been added to their menu. Claiming the prize were chefs Jan Vandenbroeck & Melvin Laidlow:
And the first prize winner was Le Papillon on the Park for their stunning bacon/apple crepe. The proud chef posing in the photos is Lukas Vyhal.
My congratulations to the winners and thanks to all the participants for cooking such delicious food!
For more on Bacon Fest and the winners, see this post on the Leslieville Farmers’ Market’s blog.