Dispatch from the Bacon and Bourbon Expo
The expo on the second floor of the Astor Center seems to shimmer in the cold night air (click to enlarge).
Online it was a billed almost like a class, but it felt more like a trade show once I'd arrived at the Bacon and Bourbon Expo early Thursday evening. On the main floor, whiskey exhibitors offered tastes of two or three distinguished distilled spirits, and fanciers who'd paid $45 a ticket stood around in little knots swirling the liquid criticallly in their mouths. Sausages that looked like Slim Jims, cubes of cheddar cheese, and snatches of bread provided sole sustenance.
Pouring another round of 23-year-old rye whiskey
At a signal from a disembodied voice overhead, attendees filed into an amphitheater, then stood along the walls, or sat in comfy swivel chairs that ran along curving counters in tiers. Between pairs of seats were installed bar sinks with goose-neck spigots, and each seat also had knee-height dispensers providing paper towels and facial tissues. It was like the meeting hall of a governing council on a distant planet.
Josh reads his poem.
Editor of The Feedbag, bon vivant, and meat expert Josh Ozersky (known familiarly to his friends as "Mr. Cutlets") held forth to a rapt audience on the merits of various smoking techniques and raw materials in the production of bacon. But first, he read a poem about bacon that he wrote in perfect heroic couplets, to the crowd's ringing applause:
Bacon, King of Meats: The food all men desire
Perfumed by the aromas of the slowly smoldering fires
We gather in your honor, with bourbon or with beer
Two hundred souls collected for the thing they hold most dear
May your meat be bathed in smoke of one thousand fragrant logs
Created from the belly of obese and happy hogs
Redolent of hickory, with a cure as sweet as sin
You go places gastronomical, no sausage has ever been
All hail the mighty bacon! Whose scent inspires longing
Whose taste sets hearts afire and empty stomachs gnawing
Most precious of necessities, most beloved of all treats
From China to Peru, the undisputed King of Meats.
The couplets struck me as midway between Robert Burns and Evelyn Waugh, as I thoughtfully chewed a piece of boar bacon. Ozersky went on to prescribe the correct way to cook bacon (in an oven for 15 minutes), painted a thumbnail history of bacon, passed around samples of bacon, and eventually turned the floor over to Scott Smith from R.U.B., who demonstrated how to make bacon, trimming and rubbing a belly with salt, sugar, and black pepper. Thick slices of Smith's bacon were then distributed, right after being fried in hot lard. It was one of the evening's highlights.
Which slice should I pick?
Whiskeys included: Bernheim Original Wheat Whiskey, 90 proof Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon Vintage 1999, Hudson Single Malt, Hudson Baby Bourbon, Hudson Four Grain Bourbon, Hudson Manhattan Rye, Hudson New York Corn Whiskey, Parker's Heritage 2nd Edition, 27 year Old Rittenhouse Rye 100 proof, Rittenhouse Very Rare 23 Year Old 100 proof Rye, Wild Turkey. Wild Turkey?