While cleaning up at work one day, I picked up a flyer for Camp Bacon, a weekend event that, apparently, Zingerman's (Ann Arbor's own food aristocracy) has put on every year since I moved to Ann Arbor and that I had never heard of before. Probably because the focus is pig bacon, which I rarely eat.
That actually disappointed me a little. A bacon festival should be about bacon in all its forms! I've eaten bacon from three different animals in my life - pigs, turkeys, and cows - and the only samples offered were from the pig. At the nearby Sparrow Meat Market, located inside the Kerrytown Shops building, I found something labeled as duck bacon. This I need to try!
Anyway, back to Camp Bacon. A number of my friends are apart of this current bacon craze (it ranks up there with the weird mustache craze), so I took the flyer and spread the word. Miraculously, my boyfriend Greg and I both had that Sunday off, so we decided to head down to the Ann Arbor Farmers Market and check it out. Also on Sundays, the Market plays host to the Ann Arbor Artisans Market, and the Kerrytown Shops are always fun.
The Bacon Street Fair took up maybe a third of the market space, the rest being the artisan market, so there was a variety of things to look at. San Street, a regular at Mark's Carts, was also there serving lunch. Of course, the main attraction, though, was the bacon. Almost every table offered some kind of bacon sample. I was a trooper and tried a few different samples, but only one and a tiny bit made it into my stomach (the others I spit back out). The chocolate fudge made from pork fat was possibly the worst, though I have to concede the woman at the table's suggestion that it could be melted down and used as a glaze, or, if you're into that kind of thing, melting it over an ice cream sundae. Salty-sweet and so on. Greg bought a pound for a few dollars and we took it to Game Night where it received mixed reviews.
After getting some coffee from Sweetwaters, Greg and I headed back toward Main Street to investigate why it was closed off and what all the tents were. It turned out to be an event that I have attended before (Taste of Ann Arbor 2011) and one I feel I should have known about: Taste of Ann Arbor. "Taste of" anything is probably my favorite event in any city ever. Taste of Ann Arbor is especially helpful to me because it lets me inexpensively try all the mostly fancy restaurants located around me every day at work, and note which ones would be worth investigating later. After Taste of Ann Arbor 2011, Conor O'Neill's became one of my favorite downtown destinations.
Greg and I agreed that our first try, the Jamaican Jerk Pit, is definitely worth going to later for a full meal. The jerk chicken was so tender and delicious, I could have eaten a whole chicken's worth. Looking over the menu, the prices are more than reasonable, and you can order online. AND they deliver for free, which is exciting for me because I tend to order out at least once a week at one of my two jobs.
We also eagerly tried samples from Lena, which replaced Parthenon on the corner of Liberty and Main. Since most of their offerings were pork-based, we got a yapingacho and split it. Yapingacho is described on the Lena menu as "cheese-stuffed griddled potato cakes with annatto oil, avocado, peanut sauce and chorizo." It was all right. A little bland. I'd still like to have a meal there sometime, preferably without pork.
Partway through our perusal of the booths, I realized that the last time I was at Taste of Ann Arbor with my then roommate Kimmy, we'd made a terrific discovery! A tall, thin guy sporting a full werewolf's mask and playing the violin. Yes, that was our first encounter with the Violin Monster, and, I believe, one of his first appearances. (Kimmy actually ended up becoming friends with him for a while.) And I found him again, this time in much fancier attire as befitting a monster of his fine community standing. (Last time he was wearing cut-offs. This time he had on a vest.)
I wish I had been aware of this year's Taste of Ann Arbor in advance, but I am glad that I was still able to attend and try out some new restaurants. This reminds me of Ann Arbor's Restaurant Week, which occurs twice a year, and, after a quick Bing search to verify, is happening next week! I'll have to keep an eye out for posters downtown since the website seems a bit out of date. This means more culinary adventures for me. Yay!