Originally the preferred breakfast partner for scrambled eggs, crispy, salty bacon has overtaken the culinary world in the past decade, popping up in everything from ice cream to doughnuts to drinks.
Luckily for pork producers, the trend continues to grow in popularity among consumers who are eager to try unusual, but delectable, dishes with bacon. The Oklahoma Pork Council, or okPORK, fed off that popularity and created the Bacon and Bourbon Dinner seven years ago to generate revenue supporting public advocacy efforts reaching beyond their regular methods, says Roy Lee Lindsey, executive director of okPORK. It also helps promote Oklahoma pork to consumers and shows its versatility.
“Our first Bacon and Bourbon Dinner was in 2011, and we’ll have our seventh dinner on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, at Vast in Oklahoma City,” he says. “We’ve built a new audience that is interested in a fun activity, and it’s successfully generated revenue for us. We sell a limited number of tickets and have sold out the last two years. It’s become a ‘must-attend’ event.”
Lindsey says that the council partners with talented chefs from across Oklahoma City to cook for the dinner. Chefs come up with ideas of what they want to serve, but must follow two rules: every dish must contain bacon, and every course must be paired with different bourbon.
“We’ve done six of these dinners and have had 30 different dishes – including six different desserts that all featured bacon,” Lindsey says. “If that doesn’t showcase pork’s versatility, I don’t know what does.”
A Fine Feast
He goes on to share some of his favorite dishes from the past few years, including crispy pigs ears, gorgonzola-crusted fried bacon rings, sweet potato clam chowder with bacon and a BLTE salad – bacon, lettuce, tomato and egg.
To choose the chefs, Lindsey says they look for participants who will be willing to have fun with the challenge, while still embracing the rules.
“One of the great things about these dinners has been our repeat customers,” he says. “We have a significant number of guests who have attended every one of the Bacon and Bourbon Dinners, and each year, we get a new guest or two to join the crew of faithful attendees.”
In addition to the Bacon and Bourbon Dinners, okPORK plans to host annual Pork and Cork and Swine and Stein Dinners, pairing pork with wine and beer, respectively.
While Bacon and Bourbon has greatly helped okPORK raise money for public policy efforts, the organization also participates in charity events, raising money for local civic organizations and nonprofits in Oklahoma.
One such effort was building a giant pig out of canned foods, which was donated to the Regional Food Bank.
“We still provide support annually to the Food Bank’s Pork for Packs program to put pork protein sticks in backpacks to send home with hungry kids each week,” Lindsey says.
The council has also partnered with local 4-H and FFA chapters, Downtown OKC and the Oklahoma Blood Institute – one of their longest-running partnerships – on their annual Pignic blood drive.
“Everyone who donates blood in the days leading up to Memorial Day weekend gets a pulled pork sandwich for being a donor,” Lindsey says. “We believe we have an ethical responsibility to support our communities and partnering with these different organizations helps us demonstrate that commitment.”