NYC offers a plethora of cultural cuisine. You can find food from nearly every country. We continue the theme of this culinary achievement by having street fairs, parades and festivals. Festivals allow patrons to immerse themselves into the world of the food. This Spring, NYC will host not one, but two festivals celebrating the most exquisite food ever created, bacon...and neither event is in Manhattan!
On April 25, Citi Field will again host the Bacon Beer Classic. I attended last year's event and I can attest that it was a whole lot of fun. Those interested can read my coverage of last year's event here.
On Saturday May 16 and Sunday May 17, 2015, The Old Pfizer Factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn NY will host the first of what hopes to be annual Great Big Bacon Picnic. The event is the brainchild of brother duo Craig and Lon Taylor. In case the concept of another bacon festival didn’t cause you to buy tickets already; the brothers were kind of enough to answer a few questions.
1. Bacon has certainly become a popular food. It's been used in beer, desserts, candy and has greatly improved vegetables. How do you respond to critics that claim that bacon has been played out?
CT: Lol, ok - well, when bacon stops tasting so friggin' delicious, I'll start to worry about that.
LT: Some critics tend to be negative and try to poke holes in everybody’s positive energy. The trend is about high quality, sustainably raised animals that yield amazing bacon and flavor. We’ve been in touch with a dozen bacon producers and farms over the past six months and they are all short on supply because of the high demand. Any naysayers might be vegetarians.
2. April 25th will begin the 2nd annual Bacon Beer Classic which will be held at Citi Field in Flushing NY. While I’m certain two bacon festivals can exist peacefully; Can you elaborate as to how the Great Big Bacon Picnic differs from the Bacon Beer Classic?
CT: We went to this event last year, and it didn't stop us from moving forward with these plans. We have a totally different concept than those guys. Ours is focused on gourmet, craft, artisanal, local... it is also waaaay more focused on BACON. If you look at our list of participants, it really hits home the difference in the two festivals. The unlimited bacon and the chefs producing it are the stars of our show. The amazing craft breweries and distilleries, many of them right in our backyard, are the cherry on top.
LT: I attended The B&B Classic last year and it was mostly about the beer. They did a nice job of having a solid variety of beverages. We are more about a gourmet experience with an amazing line up of chefs and restaurants who appeal to our attendees. Oh, and we have fantastic craft brewers and distillers as well – many from the NYC area.
3. How did you go about selecting the food and drink vendors for the festival? What was the necessary criteria?
CT: Whatever you're doing, you've got to have a passion driving your actions. We believe we have assembled the most passionate group of participants in the Tri-State area. Whether it's Bacon or Bourbon, these people are Artists.
LT: Our ideal NY area restaurants have excellent ratings on Yelp or Zagat, have some sort of bacon dish on their menu and have a chef or owner that is passionate about being creative. With beverages we enlisted the help of Dave Herman, a team member who’s an expert in craft beers and has amazing relationships with folks in the spirits industry. Dave aimed to keep it local and help promote brewers and distillers who are really aiming for a distinct product.
4. I understand that 10% of the net proceeds will be donated to various charities such as City Harvest. Has charity work always been an element of your work and if so, to what extent?
CT: I've been fortunate enough to have long standing involvement in amazing charities such as The Craig D. Tifford Foundation and the Fat Friday Foundation - I think it's important to make a contribution to society as a whole in whatever you choose to spend your time doing. Many people may see this event as pure gluttony. I will submit that it's extremely refined hedonism. But when there's a tangible effect - feeding those in our community through City Harvest or supporting local, sustainable, organic farming through our support of the Slow Food movement - we can also affect change. Enjoying yourself, in this case, is also a means to advance our society.
LT: It’s hard to imagine that people who might be our neighbors would be having trouble putting food on the table in a city with so much wealth. It is a fact however and we are proud to support City Harvest’s efforts to help those who are struggling. Donating 10% of our net proceeds is the right way to run this business and reminds our team and attendees how fortunate we are to enjoy great food.
5. What is your experience in the world of cooking and/ or bacon preparation? What ignited this love affair with the delectable pork product?
CT: I began burning myself with popping bacon grease at a very, very young age - maybe 4 or 5 - and never stopped. Getting to attend college in the south simply heightened my awareness of how many different ways to use this amazing product, and it's grease!! And as a voracious adventurer in the culinary world of NYC (and especially Brooklyn these days), I've been privileged to explore the amazing varieties that are available, from the numerous pork belly dishes that are everywhere it seems, to the rare use of Guanciale (jowl bacon). Bottom line, if it's bacon, it's bound to be friggin' delicious - period. Did I mention it's friggin' delicious?
LT: I only cook bacon a few times a year so we turn to our team member Bryan Futerman – head chef at Nick & Toni’s – for all the cooking expertise. I like when world class chefs cook up their bacon enhanced dishes and I can just eat and enjoy.
6. Considering that this is the first Great Big Bacon Picnic, have you already begun thinking about next year’s event? Was there anything that you wanted to include in this year’s event that was left out for some reason such as time or lack of funding that we could expect in 2016?
CT: Hells yeah, thinking about how much easier it's going to be it's going to be next year, lol - I'm sure they'll be some new wrinkles, but I feel like we are going to come very close to fulfilling our vision this year. I really wanted the Great Big Bacon Bar to happen - yes, a bar with just bacon - and it's happening. Although I wanted to put a giant oak or maple tree in the outside space for that picnic feel, but that didn't seem practical just yet.
LT: At this point we are totally focused on our event in May. We are including everything we could think of to create an amazing experience for our patrons – VIP areas, menu variety, beverage choices, a “bacon bar” featuring bacon samples, picnic tables and our unique indoor / outdoor setup. No expense has been spared for this and we are also making sure all of the restaurants & beverage companies have a great time so we created a “chef’s lounge” for them to grab a drink and schmooze with colleagues.
7. How has the workload been split between you two? Is this event the unified dream or have compromises been made along the way?
CT: Due to our vastly different past professional experiences, our skill sets could not be more different, so it's been really easy to split the workload. Lon handles most of the tech, website, app, corporate stuff. I'm more of the production, entertainment, promotion guy. We consult on just about everything. And since he's in Chicago and I'm here, it's really facilitated a much closer relationship. It's really been nice spending more time with him, even if it is stressful time, it's good to share it with family.
LT: No compromises have been made when it comes to creating an immersive, fun and safe environment for all. We are both working 16 hours a day to make this event the best upscale food festival in Brooklyn.
8. The event will be held at The Old Pfizer Factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn NY. How was this venue decided upon and what are the pros and cons that attendees can expect?
CT: We really wanted someplace that had outside space, but doing it entirely outside is a huge risk. The Old Pfizer Factory allows us to have both, as we'll have over 70,000 square feet split fairly evenly between the inside and outside. It is a monster of a facility, with pipes hanging all over the place - feels a little like going into Willy Wonka's place. But we're going to add some stuff inside and outside to make it picnic-y... grass, blankets, picnic tables, etc. What's also cool about the space is that most chefs know where it is and what's going on there, since so many of the current tenants are pursuing culinary endeavors.
LT: Holding the event at the Old Pfizer Factory was part luck and part timing. A deal with another location was delayed for 2 months and we had to look for alternatives. The team who manages the building has been great to work with and loves the idea of promoting our type of event in Brooklyn.
9. Are there any foods that you can’t picture bacon being incorporated into?
CT: I just literally tried for a good 40-50 seconds, and couldn't think of one - LOL - it's really amazing.
LT: Great question and I keep learning of more items being prepared with bacon like beer, ice cream, salt and chocolate bars. I don’t know if bacon flavored Vitamin Water would be all that tasty but who knows.
10. Finally, what is your favorite way to enjoy bacon?
CT: Medium rare, with some pancakes, waffles, or french toast and the maple syrup is dripping all over it.
LT: Thick cut and crispy with a little bit of maple syrup works perfectly for me.
The Great Big Bacon Picnic will be held at The Old Pfizer Factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn NY on Saturday May 16 and Sunday May 17, 2015.
Session dates/times include:
• Saturday Afternoon 12:00pm – 2:30pm with VIP access from 11:00am
• Saturday Night 6:30pm – 9:00pm with VIP access from 5:30pm
• Sunday Afternoon 12:00pm – 2:30pm with VIP access from 11:00am