Morsels of chocolate-coated bacon, mini cups of maple and bacon-infused beer, bacon cotton candy, and smoked cod and lobster chowder with bacon lardon were just some of the samples. About 1,400 people were drawn to this tasting at the House of Blues last Saturday.
The third annual Boston Bacon and Beer Festival, organized by the event company Eat Boston, proved to be the most explosively popular event on the organization’s calendar. Bacon and beer raised more than $20,000 in a single afternoon for the hunger relief organizations Community Servings and Lovin’ Spoonfuls. Aaron Cohen, at the helm of the three-year-old Eat Boston, dreams up drool-worthy foodie fund-raisers, such as Guacaholics Anonymous, Ice Cream Showdown, and Ginger Explosion, and so far, all have been successful.
“When I have [an idea], it’s the most obvious thing in the world, like, the guacamole one – it’s obvious, right?” Cohen asks. “You put eight restaurants making guacamole in a bar, that’s pretty easy to sell, especially if it’s a fund-raiser for something. . . . You put 28 restaurants making bacon dishes together with 18 local breweries, people are gonna want to go to that.”
After last year’s Bacon and Beer fest at Royale sold 800 tickets in two minutes, Cohen knew he needed to make it bigger. This year, bacon and beer is a full week of festivities, ending this weekend, catering to about 75 percent more people than last year. In addition to the festival at the House of Blues, Cohen planned a bacon and beer karaoke harbor cruise, two beer and bacon-inspired art shows, and a week of related restaurant events.
Since its inception, Eat Boston has raised nearly $100,000 for various causes. The company is not a nonprofit; Cohen says he earns a nominal salary but doesn’t do it to make a living. He works about 35 hours a week on Eat Boston planning, but he has three other part-time jobs, as a marketing consultant for an e-commerce company, as a band manager, and running an art gallery. “I wouldn’t call myself a philanthropist,” Cohen says, “but I have this theory where everybody would volunteer more if it was easier. I have this ability to organize a collective action. It’s pretty neat.”
“Aaron is a Boston treasure in the way he engages the food community in events that support charity,” says David Waters, the CEO of Community Servings, an organization that benefited from Saturday’s event. “He helps us engage a new community through social media.”
Ashley Stanley, the founder and executive director of Lovin’ Spoonfuls, is a childhood friend of Cohen’s and has been working with Eat Boston since she started her organization 2½ years ago. “This event is amazing,” says Stanley. “The fact that it’s a charity event keeps people connected.”
Many attendees say they would have come to the event whether or not it was a fund-raiser. Heidi Schneider of Boston was at Bacon and Beer for the first time, but she has supported Community Servings in the past by buying pies for its Thanksgiving fund-raisers. “I think it’s great they’re doing this,” she says. “Obviously a lot of people want to go to this anyways, but especially because it’s for a great cause.”
Chris Douglass, owner of Tavolo and Ashmont Grill in Dorchester, was one of the festival vendors. He says he was thrilled by the demographic of mostly young, casual people, because that’s the scene he wants at his restaurants. “I’m floored by Aaron’s drawing power,” says the restaurateur. From Tavolo, there was a beer and bacon float made with Blue Hills Brewery porter ice cream and bacon jimmies.
Cohen says part of his desire to organize food-related events stems from his fascination in the detail-oriented craft and creativity of chefs’ work. “It’s interesting to work with people who are hyper-focused in a different direction than I am,” he says. “A chef’s hyper-focus is putting something on a plate and they know exactly what it’s gonna look like, without ever doing it, and maybe never having done it in their lives. I don’t know how they do that.
“I think my hyper-focus would be getting people to talk about the events and figuring out which events are going to create that type of energy.”
Boston Bacon and Beer Festival activities continue through Saturday. Go to www.baconandbeerweek.com.Anna Marden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.