“Squeeze the Pig” was the rallying cry for a night of bacon and poetry on behalf of the Helping Hands Against Violence organization.
About 80 people of all ages attended the event at Springhouse Cellar, sampling dishes made from bacon and witnessing a bacon-eating contest, all to raise funds and awareness for the Hood River-based program that provides shelter, a hot line, counseling, and other support services for abused women and their children.
Five Poets of the Porcine stood and read their original works, each required to squeeze a plastic yellow pig before orating. Bob Camillucci of Hood River won for his “Haiku on Bacon,” and received a bouquet of “roses” fashioned from rolled-up — what else — bacon slices. (See related photo in Neighbors, page B7.)
In the Gorge’s first Aporkalypse Now, attendees sampled bacon-forward dishes made by five area chefs, vying for the Judges’ Award and People’s Choice awards for best dish based on taste, appearance and creativity.
“What’s not to love about bacon? So we decided to start one here,” said Helping Hands board member Sharla Weber, who is also The Dalles Rotary president.
“I went to a Rotary event and learned how a Rotary group from Alaska had done the same kind of thing,” Weber said
Judges’ Choice went to Apple Valley BBQ of Parkdale, for its bacon and beef sliders, and the People’s Choice winner was White Buffalo Wine Bar, for its cream-cheese-filled, bacon-wrapped jalapenos, coated in raw sugar and smoked for two hours. Also competing were Double Mountain Brewery and Tap Room, Stonehedge Restaurant, and The Station Cafe of Trout Lake.
Lee and Roger Montavon donated, as prizes for best bacon dish dishes, a whole hog (cut and wrapped by Mountain Meat Service of Mt. Hood). The Montavons raise hogs and feed them blueberries from their own bushes at their Parkdale farm. One half of the hog went to the Judges’ Choice winner and the other to the People’s Choice winner. Lee has just stepped down as Helping Hands director, succeeded by Stephanie Irving, who was introduced at the event.
Irving said, “We want it to become really a Gorge-wide event, because Helping Hands is Gorge-wide and a lot of people don’t know that. This is a really good way to bring the two sides of the river together — bacon. We can make it a cross-river event and have a lot of fun.”
Attendees tasted dishes from all five chefs, and a cadre of celebrity judges cast the deciding votes.
Mike Caldwell of Stonehedge Restaurant prepared pepper bacon with potato dumplings, baked in Fontina cheese.
Cherie Van Laar of The Station Cafe presented chocolate bacon cake made with a cup of espresso, and jalapenos topped with bacon.
(Van Laar has owned Heavenly Ground and gas station for 11 years, and took ownership of the cafe three years ago. “Now it’s all one business, cafe, gas station and espresso shop,” she said.)
Double Mountain Brewery and Tap Room’s Rory Johnson and Josh Blanchette brought bacon mushroom goat cheese puff pastry, garnished with green onions and peppers, and truffle shuffle pizza, with bacon.
“Mushrooms and goat cheese is the best way to go with bacon,” Johnson said.
Leila Coe and Genevieve Coe, mother and daughter team from Apple Valley (whose logo features a flying pig), said their miniature hamburger buns were cooked with bacon fat, and placed around 50-50 patties of beef and bacon, and topped with bacon Boursin cheese, and red onion bacon jam with peach habanero pepper jelly. Each slider was topped with a tiny triangular bacon flag.
The first Aporkalypse Now Glutton Award went to Nick Alvarado, a friend of the family of the Montavons. Nick ate more bacon in one minute than four other contestants.
“Keep it clean and keep it down,” Weber said before the contestants, clad in commemorative “Porkin’ Out” shirts, dug in.
But the night was about more than, well, pigging out.
“(Helping Hands Against Violence) did a presentation a couple of years ago and it floored me,” Caldwell said. “It was a real wake-up call, just the severity of what goes on in a town you think of as Nirvana. And to have my little world shattered by that, that day, I’ll do anything to help these guys out.
“People who have the gift to deal with this kind of stuff, if I can do the silly stuff I do and help the people who do the real heavy lifting, then I think we’re doing the right thing.”