The best things to eat at Pennsylvania’s annual Bacon Fest
The annual PA Bacon Fest is a two-day fall food festival in Easton, Pennsylvania — Photo courtesy of Meghan Moyer / Discover Lehigh Valley
The Easton Farmers’ Market in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, an autumn leaf peeper destination, dates back to the 1750s and claims to be the oldest continuously operated open-air market in the country.
To keep the crowds coming for 265 years, the market hosts festivals throughout the season, like the Apple Jam, Peach Day, Chile Pepper Day and the Zucchini 500. But eight years ago, when the staff and volunteers were looking for a new type of fall festival to introduce, they skipped the fruits and veggies for something a little more universally craved: bacon.
The first PA Bacon Fest was a four-hour event on market day. It grew to a two-day festival that the organizers say draws about 80,000 attendees and is the year’s biggest fundraiser for the nonprofit Greater Easton Development Partnership, which runs the market and other programs in the small eastern Pennsylvania city. (It’s pay as you go, with a $2 suggested donation at the entrance.)
More than 150 vendors selling all things bacon set up over the two days, this year on Saturday and Sunday, November 2 and 3, to go with cooking demonstrations, hog calling contests, pig races, bacon-eating contests, costume contests (bacon-themed, of course), events geared towards kids and live music across multiple stages.
The Greater Easton Development Partnership runs the Easton Farmers’ Market and organizes the bacon festival — Photo courtesy of Meghan Moyer / Discover Lehigh Valley
Easton, known as the headquarters of the Crayola crayon company, is about a 90-minute drive west from New York City, and 90 minutes north of Philadelphia. No matter where you’re coming from, bacon on breakfast plates, piled on cheeseburgers, tucked into a Bloody Mary cocktail, or even coated in chocolate is easy to find — but have you ever tried salty, fatty bacon wrapped around fluffy cannoli cream, or a bacon and beer pairing?
Bacon and beer
At the PA Bacon Fest’s main tasting event ($20), Easton-based Weyerbacher Brewing will be matching up eight of its craft beers, like Chocolate Pretzel Sunday Morning Stout, with eight different kinds of bacon from Breakaway Farms in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
Bacon mac and cheese
Soak up that beer with bacon-topped mac and cheese. It’s a popular item at the festival, available at Bacon Me Crazy, Bayou, Just Fudge It & The Cheesy Dawg, Kath’s Catering, Cone Appetit and Mary, the Queen of Pork.
Bacon plus banana and peanut butter
Peanut butter, banana, chocolate and bacon get packed into a cone made out of bread at the PA Bacon Fest — Photo courtesy of Cone Appetit / Discover Lehigh Valley
Cone Appetit is also serving its variation on the king of rock ‘n’ roll’s favorite sandwich with the Elvis, a mix of peanut butter, banana and applewood-smoked bacon in a bread cone under a drizzle of chocolate ganache. Or ask for a Fat Elvis at Waffl’d to get a waffle on a stick with bacon, peanut butter and sliced banana.
Bacon burgers and loafs
At Oak, the bacon is mixed into the burger — Photo courtesy of Oak Steakhouse / Discover Lehigh Valley
A bacon burger usually means strips of bacon layered between the buns, but Oak Steakhouse’s Bacon Fest burger is made of half ground beef, half ground bacon. The patty is topped with bacon jam, aioli and crispy onions.
Porters’ Pub & Restaurant has a similar idea with a slightly different execution, blending half ground bacon and half ground beef for a thick meatloaf sandwich.
Bacon-topped pizzas and nachos
Swap out tortilla chips for pork rinds — Photo courtesy of Buck’s BBQ / Discover Lehigh Valley
Pazzo Pizza is piling bacon and pineapple or bacon, chicken and ranch on its pies, while the Little Sicilian is filling its arancini (fried rice balls) with – what else? – bacon.
Or you can double the pork with pork rind “nachos” stacked with pulled pork, bacon, a five-cheese sauce, pickled jalapeños, sour cream and green onions at Bucks BBQ.
Bacon and poutine
The Flying V is serving a few types of poutine at the PA Bacon Fest — Photo courtesy of The Flying V / Discover Lehigh Valley
For poutine smothered in chopped bacon, there’s The Cow & The Curd or the Flying V, which is also doing a Canadian bacon poutine and a barbecue pulled pork version.
Save room for the Texas twinkie — Photo courtesy of Black & Blue / Discover Lehigh Valley
Black & Blue keeps it all-American with its take on a “Texas twinkie:” chorizo wrapped in colby-jack cheese and sweet Italian sausage, latticed in bacon, and then sliced and served on a cheddar biscuit with barbecue sauce.
If twinkie has you thinking dessert, there’s bacon with a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern twist at Billy’s Downtown Diner and Bull & Bear Restaurant, both serving a sweet-salty bacon baklava.
Bite into a salty-sweet cookie sandwich — Photo courtesy of Barry’s Buns / Discover Lehigh Valley
Also on the sweet side, Barry’s Buns sees how many ways it can incorporate bacon with a menu of drinking chocolate topped with candied bacon crumbles, a chocolate-covered bacon parfait, a bourbon bacon cookie sandwich, a maple bacon Liège-style waffle and honey-glazed bacon sticky buns with maple cream cheese icing.
Or don’t bother with the baking: Buttercups Bake Shoppe is on hand with ready-to-eat bacon peanut butter cookie dough.
Sette Luna cooks up a bacon shell for its cannoli — Photo courtesy of Ryan Hulvat / Meris Inc.
Stop by the Sette Luna table for a bacon cannoli that may be even more bacon-y than you’re picturing – rather than cream studded with bits of bacon or a strip laid on top, this is a full-on house-cured crispy bacon shell folded around maple mascarpone and ricotta cream.
If that’s not decadent enough, this year there’s a secret menu with its own code phrase: “hog wild.” Utter the code when you order the cannoli to add sweet bacon icing and spicy bacon bits.
At Two Rivers Brewing Company, if you ask for the peanut butter bacon cheddar burger, you’ll get a half-pound beef burger with cheddar, bacon, peanut butter, pecan praline dust and chili gastrique on brioche – but say “hog wild” and that burger somehow gets stacked even higher, with potato chips and banana rum chutney. Like the rest of the PA Bacon Fest, this one may be more for the “pigging” out set than the “pace yourself” crowd.