Bacon, blues and expanding bellies at the Food Network NYC Festival

One mere whiff of the air after stepping onto the third floor of The Standard New York made the theme of the evening’s festivities instantly obvious: bacon – and lots of it, the porkalicious smell seemingly pouring out of the hotel’s tiny High Line Room.

Presented by Thrillist and hosted by chef Tyler Florence (who actually did not have a dish on offer), the Bacon & the Blues event was the very first on a packed agenda at the 2009 Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival. To the tune of The Crooners, guests assembled in a packed room to gorge on all things bacon and pork. Here’s a complete roundup of all the dishes, in alphabetical order:

Bacon and Black Truffle Potato Gratin with Teleggio Cheese
Chef: Christopher Lee
Restaurant: Aureole
Potato gratin with cheese is a familiar dish, but Lee brought this to another level with his use of bacon and black truffles. The result was a mixture of strong individual ingredients culminating in a fine dish that tasted better with each forkful.

Bacon Wrapped Quail Dog with Smoked Mustard Sauce
Chef: Brian Bistrong
Restaurant: Braeburn
At first glance, the bacon dog looked like a typical bacon dog. A bite into the succulent meat proved otherwise – it was actually bacon-wrapped quail! The combination of salt, tender meat and smoked mustard upgraded this bacon dog into gourmet territory.

Balsamic Braised Nueskee Bacon Slab Garnished With Fried Oysters Over Bitter Greens
Chef: Brian Murphy
Restaurant: The Mott
Hands down, the finest dish of the evening, with a juicy thick slab of bacon and lightly battered, tender fried oysters. Despite her expanding waistline, this scribe couldn’t help but down…three portions.

Chocolate Covered Bacon…and doughnuts with bacon bits sprinkled on top
Chef: Elizabeth Katz
Restaurant: 675 Bar
Chocolate and bacon isn’t a new pairing – Roni Sue’s at Essex Market sells it, and Vosges has integrated bacon bits into one of its chocolate bars – but Katz knew to dip her bacon strips into just enough chocolate so that one salty ingredient didn’t overpower its sweeter companion. The doughnuts were delightful: soft cake with hazelnut frosting topped with bacon bits that were snapped up in a hurry.

48-Hour BBQ, Berkshire Duroc Pork Butt Sliders, served with Candied Bacon and Homemade Pickles
Chef: Jacqueline Lombard
Restaurant: Gansevoort 69
Perhaps spoiled by a recent road trip through Tennessee and Texas that featured some great BBQ joints, the pork in these sliders was above-average, at best. The candied bacon served as a surprisingly tasty garnish, enhancing the pork rather than piling more meat upon meat.

Hazelnut Crusted Smoked Pork Belly
Chef: Jeremy Strubel
Restaurant: The Libertine
The weakest dish of the evening. The hazelnut crust didn’t really coat the smoked pork very well, and the two ingredients combined with a sweet yellow sauce resulted in a rather odd mixture of flavors and ingredients.

Additional photos