I always knew that bacon had magical, mysterious powers. I could feel it every time I sunk my teeth into that salty, fatty strip of heaven that a force beyond our knowledge was altering the universe.
Plus, it's a scientific fact. Look it up.
I guess it comes as no surprise, then, that the first food event I attended in San Francisco was the "Bacon Takedown," held at the Thirsty Bear merely three weeks after my arrival. Fifteen chefs and one not-so-secret ingredient combined to be what I'd imagine heaven to be like.
Yet of all the porky goodness I experienced, there were two that stood out snout and ears above the rest. The first was an ice cream sundae with bacon salted caramel and a piece of signature "Bacon Crack" from Kai Kronfeld of NoshThis. This was a no-fail dessert - the sweet/salty combo charged ahead and the contrasting flavors toyed in my mouth back and forth as the cold ice cream played with the warm sauce.
The second took me by surprise. It was so unassuming, so...normal. Normal looking, that is. Chef Trace Williams' Bourbon Bacon Jam stole my heart. Holy wow - even a year removed I can still taste how sweet and jammy it was thanks to the caramelized onions, but with a huge bite of bourbon (I believe she said that she used one bottle per batch) and crispy little bits of bacon nudged into the otherwise smooth spread. I was so taken with it that, after the competition was over, Chef Trace packed me up a to-go container of what I still contend to be the best jam I've ever experienced.
Fast forward a few months after we had kept in touch intermittently via Twitter, and I receive a random message from @FarmThrowDown asking me if I'd like to be a judge at this upcoming food competition. On the one hand, I was on cloud nine. Trying to make it "big" in the food world, I was ecstatic that someone thought enough of my incessant tweets and limited knowledge to invite me to participate in such an activity!
On the other hand, I've seen enough Nigerian-prince-held-hostage scams to last me a lifetime.
Against my better judgment, perhaps, I wrote back for some clarification only to find out that it was Chef Trace herself, who was the lead behind organizing this event. She explained that it was a fundraiser called, "Throw Down on the Farm," a food competition to benefit Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution in the East Bay. A phenomenal foundation with a mission that, according to Oliver, "...aims to inspire people to reconnect with food. It's all about raising awareness and individual responsibility, resuscitating dying food culture around the world and, ultimately, keeping cooking skills alive."
So, after finding out the legitimacy of the event, I dove right in. Chef Trace welcomed me with open arms and invited me into her circle. Through the force of Twitter, I was introduced to chefs and co-judges alike. DMs, RTs, MTs...we have managed to form our own little community over the past few months just through social media. Between food jokes and puns, pictures, and excitement over the event itself, we have managed to "talk" at least a few times a week - sometimes multiple times a day. As the Throw Down neared, butterflies fluttered around inside of my stomach and Tweets flew into my feed showing the chefs had landed safely in San Francisco (after a few delays) and began to materialize.
Remember, we had still never met in person.
Finally, the day I had been waiting for arrived, and I timidly approached the site with first-day-of-school jitters. It was akin to finally meeting that girl you've been talking to on OK Cupid for a month: you know a ton about her, you're really into her, but you psych yourself out so much that questions keep rolling through your head.
Would they like me in person? Will they recognize me? Do we even have any more to talk about? Just how awkward is this going to be?
Truth be told, it was everything for which I could have hoped - though this was the second time I was told that I looked taller in my Twitter picture. Firm handshakes, big hugs, and lots of smiles and laughter started us off, and it only got better from there. When I offered my prep-services, most declined. However, they did have one request - beer. And so, with a beer in hand, I got to put faces (real, actual, human faces), to these pixelated icons and Twitter handles:
(There were a few other chefs at the competition, but this was the core that encompassed the Twitterverse we had created)
There is one piece of information of which I was unaware until that day: none of these chefs had ever met either. What's more, this whole event was created around social media. Chef Trace reached out to everyone via Twitter, and created this event that had finally come to fruition.
I feel so lucky to know these people, and as strange as it may sound, I truly believe we will stay in touch from across the country. Making friends on the internet apparently doesn't always have to be creepy and dangerous.
You'll have to wait until tomorrow to read about the dishes and the event itself. But rest assured, you won't be disappointed.
Chef Trace - I owe you all the gratitude in the world, and I am forever in your debt. Please know that I will gladly lend you my hands and the little culinary experience I have any time you're ever in need. I can not tell you how much I am looking forward to tomorrow's fantastic event.
Please visit Chef Trace's website if you are ever in need of some of the most quality catering you can find in the Bay Area.