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On Saturday, I helped to judge the Golden Rasher Awards at Baconfest again (lunch time shift only*). Unlike last year, when there were categories that rewarded both creativity and deliciousness, my fellow judges and I were simply arbiting the Most Creative Use of Bacon. This presented a dilemma in that some of the entries, while audacious in their employment of cured pork belly, were not necessarily things I'd choose to eat more than once. Would I go back for seconds on Inovasi's quick-cured and braised belly, Anson Mills farro verde, Argyle St. spice, and wild ramp salsa? Hell yes. In fact, Big Jones jefe Paul Fehribach's take on biscuits and gravy—house cured slab bacon deep fried in lard, with heirloom bennecake and bacon fat biscuits, Sea Island red pea gravy, and piccalilli—deserved its own award.
But in terms of sheer gumption, Louisa Chu, Steve Dolinsky, David Hammond, and myself had no choice but to crown a winner in Red Butter Catering's bacon-Thai chile gulab jamun with bacon pistachio brittle if only for the provocative union of pork to an Indian sweet with Arabic roots.
Never heard of Red Butter? Owner Monica Sharma wasn't a professional chef until she
won was a finalist in Baconfest's amateur cook-off last year with Tandoori Bacon Nachos, a triumph that launched her East Indian-influenced catering company. Watch out for that one.