Another new list item —

* Compete in one of Matt Timm’s food takedowns again – and win.

I first heard of Matt Timms’ takedowns a couple years ago, when I first moved to Brooklyn — I got a membership to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, because I’m just plain addicted to their annual cherry blossom festival, and as such started attending a lot more events; including their annual fall Chili Pepper Festival. Along with the other events on the chili pepper program was a chili cookoff — overseen by a tall lanky guy with wild hair, featuring five people dishing out little Dixie cups of their creations to all comers so we could vote.

I was charmed enough to stick around for when they announced the winners to see what they won — they got a little certificate and bragging rights, basically. The winner had also been in other such cookoffs Matt Timms ran, I learned — Timms wasn’t part of the garden staff, he was someone who just threw chili cookoffs for fun, mainly at Brooklyn bars.

This was pretty intriguing, and I signed up for the mailing list.

And then I learned they were expanding the kinds of cookoffs. First I heard of a cookie bakeoff…then a fondue cookoff…and then, a year ago, I heard about a bacon cookoff.

Something made me sign up to be in it, despite the fact that I had absolutely no idea what I was going to actually make. I wanted something that was fairly unique — something involving candied bacon in some way — but every time I came up with an idea (bacon peanut brittle, bacon candy popcorn) I would go online and learn someone else already had done it. So in the end, I just took a cookie recipe I’ve made before to great success, involving apples, nuts, and a caramel topping, and swapped the nuts out for candied bacon bits and called it a day.

When I showed up, I set up between two other competitors — on my left was a guy who’d made a Sloppy Joe kind of thing involving lots of bacon mixed in with the ground beef, and a sort of cream sauce drizzled on top of each sandwich which had been spiked with bacon salt. To my right was a guy who had cured his own bacon, and told me how he built the smoker in his back yard in Park Slope and smoked it for three days.

I just nodded, impressed, and thought to myself, “well, I’m CLEARLY not going to win.”

But it was wildly fun. The turnout was one of the hugest ones they’d ever had, with about 400 people showing up, including many members of the media. A reporter from Good Morning America was even there with a camera crew, and stopped by my stand for a few seconds to get a shot of herself thrusting one of my cookies at the camera and chirping, “Caramel Apple Bacon Cookies, folks!” while I just smiled knowingly.

They let the media folks hit us up first before letting in the crowds of taste-testers. And then it was a total blur of people shuffling by and picking up a cookie each. Some took a bite right away and nodded thoughtfully, some saved it to eat after the pile of other things already on their plates. In addition to my cookies and the other guys’ meat things, there were bacon truffles, bacon tamales, bacon tacos, bacon cake, bacon lettuce Thai spring rolls…one taster even told me about bacon bourbon ice cream, saying that that ice cream and my cookie would make a killer ice cream sandwich.

In the end, as I guessed, I did not win. But the ice cream won the popular vote (and a local blogger got the recipe for her coverage of the event, so I can make that sandwich).

The Takedowns are becoming a huge thing, now — the winners now get a bit more swag, and — blessedly — also get some help procuring the amount of food they need for their creations. I wanted to try the grits takedown they had recently, but life and time got in the way.

But I think I need to head back and try another time.

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