Bringing Home the Baconnalia in D.C.

Yes, bringing home the bacon to my mouth was the impetus for a buddy and I making a 24 hour jaunt to a commercially-zoned  Truman Show-like shopping destination in the D.C. Metro area. The National Harbor is a two billion dollar behemoth of retails shops and restaurants south of D.C. See the map below:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/18/AR2009051803201.html?sid=ST2008041902202

Disney is in the town? Figures. Cuz, I am not sure if I can call it a town, for it seems to have no soul. Disney, like the Truman Show, is impeccably imaged.  I only learned of the Disney plans until after I returned home but it made sense. It is small world after all, because if it is going to give the impression of being perfect, it had better be miniature as a cover for its architects’ to project a glimmering and ultimately unreal world. The destination seems crafted to suck as much money out of the tourists’ pockets and purses as it can who are wowed by the bright lights and faux commercial chic. Sorry, give me the grit of Reading Terminal Market in Philly any day.

It is like Vegas without the gambling and sleaze but it still is all mirrors and glass and lacking in substance.  It is an odd and difficult drive to the National Harbor. My buddy, a professional photographer, knows the 95 Beltway roads well and a good thing too…our GPS Systems literally had no maps or directions to the destination, leading further to its mirage vibe. We had come to the locale for the Capital Bacon & Beer Bash with the bacon being various culinary emanations of all things bacon and the beer being shipped in from the microbrewery Heavy Seas.

Heavy Seas came to the event loaded with a vast array of their brews. One wonders how they can brew so many different type of beers like a brewery COSTCO without losing some eye on what main brews are going to be their flagships. To the credit of Heavy Seas, the beer is very good and sometimes even great. My favorite of the evening was the Christmassy Yule Tide, a Belgian Tripel. Tis the season for Belgians. The nights are cold and frightnen, but the beer is so inviting.

It look me a while to find this brew because of all of the other varieties around. Strangely, the only other brewery there was Heinecken, a truly average brew, overpriced, and also lacking any soul. I typically avoid events like this “all you can and eat” expensive affairs because I fight the desire to get my money’s worth without over-indulging. Buffets of beers are not generally a good idea.

Any honest person reading this blog knows that I a always advise moderation and going to a $ 55 Bacconnalian event puts the conviction to the test. I passed due to a very mindful alternation of beer and H2O, with a continuous grazing of bacon infused dishes. It could have been worse, my buddy got rooked for $ 75 since the price was hiked as the event got closer.

The bacon dishes were decidedly below average. Unlike the beer that passed muster with flying colors, the bacon dishes really were less than commendable. I gravitated to the bacon ketchup-sauced chicken wings that were like General Tsaos chicken. A truly amalgamated sino-american dish, pleasing to the American palate of sugar and grease.

Not exactly fine dining but finger licking good…

The vendors were set-up like a food court and the cuisine was food court quality. This dish below was a crazy and gnarled mess of bacon called FOOD OF THE GODS. It made me wonder if there was some dyslexia going on and whether the should have been called FOOD OF THE DOGS?

It came across as a HoJo’s breakfast buffet bacon in terms of taste. I am sorry to be so dismissive but for a high cost event billed as both “Bacon and Beer” the bacon should have been much better. There was another table of bacon that tasted as it it had been drenched in propane, lit on fire, charred, and then served up. With all of the burnt bacon, it tasted as if we were eating petrol-blackened swine.

I dubbed my pal the “King of Cupcakes” due to his voracious consumption of a bacon oil infused chocolate cupcake topped with peanut butter icing. At the end of the night, the proprietor autographed her sign and wrote a salutation to the Cupcake King. He said he  has a sweet tooth…needs to to be the plural “teeth” based on how many he took down.

Speaking of swine, the lowlight of the evening was the sawing (it had been promoted as “slicing”) of a whole pig by the chef where audience members were given 5 lb. huge slabs of pork to take home. That is, all of the pig but the head of the beast which sat on the cutting board for thirty minutes peering out on the throngs of party-goers, back-beated by a deejay and videos, and whose ultimate resting place is still unknown. I sensed that the oinkers’ head could wind up as part of a prank. It was all very Lord of the Flyish. Some lanky black dude upon hearing of the decapitated pig’s head, dropped and pivoted like on the low post in basketball, turned away and uttered, “I don’t need to see that.”

With all of nitrates being eaten, as noted previously, I made quite sure to quaff close to a gallon of water over the evening, to offset dehydration. It did result in me getting up hourly overnight to visit the loo but I woke up at 6:30 in great shape. The night could have gotten imbalanced based on the frat school vibe, abundant beer, oily grub, and a young crowd looking to leave work behind and party. Yet, it was all good fun, albeit greasy. We navigated the choppy waters without capsizing and hotel room was only a couple of blocks away. We stayed at the Residence Inn, a clean and well-run hotel at a half-price rate scored on Priceline. Hoping for a view of the Potomac River, we were chagrined to find our 7th floor hotel room overlooking a nearly vacant parking garage. Pretty sure that was a payback for being a Priceliner…

The National Harbor venture appears to be not living up to expectations because barren parking garages show that the builders of this enterprise envisioned a flowing river of tourists and not a trickling creek of out-of-towners on the eve of the Christmas season, already wise to the scheme and the scam. If I want to go to an overpriced mall, I will just head to King of Prussia. Localities looking to cash in on the tourist dollars had better be too-notch. And, if New York City and the National Mall are about the same distance away, give me the Big Apple rather than some shiny fake apple, all wax and no fruit. Even New York is inflated, but at least it has heart and an attitude.

I guess I was envisioning a more connoisseur type of event and it wound up being part post-college and pre-marriage crowd, and part older folks like us who wanted a tour of fine tour of bacon and beer.

After we departed the event, which concluded ten minutes early on the orders of the portly manager, we headed out into the cool night air. This was the last cache of brews buried as it were on the ocean floor:

It seemed cheeky to call it a night early because the event was billed as 5-9, but it was probably for the best. All of the other beer stations had run dry and a small party of revelers remained at the end on the final stand. The bartender was great…he had a exuberant personality. The staff in general were friendly and welcoming.

After leaving, we wound up at some pretentious Chinese Pan-Asian Fusion joint whose meals were inflated to high society 1% costs, with my buddy and I being hat-wearing occupiers and interlopers. The staff looked at us somewhat askance but seated us because the place was hardly even a quarter full. Hard times. I was quite surprised to find a ten dollar entree of a Korean Soup bowl among the higher-priced fair. It was a seafood and spicy stew. Absolutely delightful and a wonderfully zesty and tasty conclusion to the evening. The restaurant, with a fifty foot Buddha, really won me over in the end. The bowl was beatific and zen-like. A perfect antidote of the the oil-laden bacon dishes.

Mentioning antidotes, when I came home this morning, we left D.C. in a hurry to beat the traffic, I drank a quart of raw greens:

The smell of bacon remained on our clothes on the trip home. All in all a good time. Could have been better, but it was a blast being with a buddy, getting real in a place in need of some reality…

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