Bacon or tofu? Thursday night throwdown lets eaters decide which is more delicious

FresnoJune 24, 2013 

It's the question of our time: Bacon or tofu?

OK, clearly it's not that serious a question, but it's fun to think about. And fun is exactly what the Fresno Grizzlies plan on having at the Bacon vs. Tofu Throwdown at Thursday's game.

Fresnobeehive.com, the Bee's entertainment blog, has partnered with the Grizzlies to bring you an evening of gluttony and kookiness. In the spirit of the Taco Truck Throwdowns of years past, we have two food trucks going head-to-head, pitting bacon and tofu against each other. Benaddiction will serve bacon dishes and Eat Street Bistro will serve tofu dishes.

We've got all kinds of bacon vs. tofu sideshows going on that night, too (more on that in a minute).

So why have a bacon vs. tofu throwdown?

Bacon is so popular right now that the Grizzlies originally thought about a bacon festival. But those have been done before, and the Grizzlies wanted to do something different, says Sam Hansen, the Grizzlies creative marketing manager.

"We thought it would be more interesting to broaden it and pit the two yin and yangs against each other," he says.

Hansen hints at what almost seems like a culture war.

"You've got your Tower District, your more tofu-driven crowd and you've got your more Clovis, rodeo, bacon-driven crowd," he says.

And with most of the bacon and tofu served that night made in the Valley, the event has turned into a celebration of local food.

Fresno-based ice pop maker Ooh de Lolli will be selling her maple bacon brittle popsicles, along with the chocolate peanut butter pops with their secret tofu base.

There will even be a pancake eating contest for the top five bacon and tofu lovers in Fresno. Batter Up Pancakes will challenge them to eat a giant pancake containing four cups of bacon — or a pancake made with tofu (sorry, it's not vegan).

To participate, make a video proving why you're one of the city's top bacon or tofu lovers and post it on Instagram (yes, they do video now) with the hashtags #teambacon or #teamtofu and #Instagrizz_fg. The winners of the bacon pancake contest get two tickets to a Giants game and will be the first to get a retro limited edition Grizzlies hat being released next month. Winners of the tofu pancake contest get a free yoga class and indie-rock CD.

Even if gorging on pancakes isn't your thing, the hope is that fans will join in the frivolity and try out the food. The crowd can vote by ballot for tofu or bacon, and a panel of judges — including me — will hold its own vote.

There will be lots of tweeting that night, with fans encouraged to tweet their vote for #teambacon or #teamtofu. The Grizzlies even have a special package that gets you a ticket to the game and a T-shirt featuring a bacon mascot or a little mustachioed tofu cube. The package costs $15 or $20 depending upon the seat.

But let's get back to the bacon.

The bacon team captain is James Caples of Benaddiction. The guy has bacon in his logo. He'll make his "heartbreaker" sandwich with bacon, ham, pulled pork, fried egg, barbecue sauce and hollandaise sauce. He'll also serve his fat-bottomed grilled cheese sandwich with bacon, along with an eggs Benedict and bacon sandwich, and a BLT.

Benaddiction's bacon is made here in the Valley, but from a super-secret source Caples won't reveal.

"Bacon is the America of meats," he says. "It makes everything better."

It's so popular, it's showed up in everything from vodka to Chapstick. And boy, people are passionate about it. Local food blogger Dave Scheidt of The Cured Ham ranted about how ridiculous the search for chefs willing to cook tofu was.

"Cooking tofu and being paraded around Grizzlies stadium is akin to a naked, public flogging for a parking ticket," he said in his most recent blog at TheCuredHam.com.

Woah. Those are fighting words.

Getting ready to do battle in the tofu corner are the folks from Eat Street Bistro. They're still finalizing what they'll make, with three chefs coming up with something scrumptious.

But they're pretty sure a deep-fried tofu "chicken" drumstick is going to be part of it. They'll serve the drumstick with a waffle. The waffle is made, in part, from okara — a byproduct of the tofu-making process that is made up of mostly the soybean hull. I tried a muffin made from okara recently and it was surprisingly good and chewy.

The Eat Street chefs will use tofu from Tofuji, a company in Chinatown that makes tofu and sells it locally.

"Anybody can do bacon. You can put bacon on a flip flop and it would taste good," Eat Street owner Marc Barton says.

But Barton's experimentation with tofu has produced some impressive results.

"I think we're going to win this," he says. "I was kinda skeptical before, but we've got a couple of neat ideas."

As trendy as bacon is, tofu has developed a little bit of alternative coolness of its own. Justin Timberlake even dressed up as a singing, dancing cube of tofu for a recent Saturday Night Live skit.

Before you say, "Tofu doesn't have a pig's chance in a bacon factory of winning," consider this: Hansen, of the Grizzlies, says that vegans and vegetarians have been much more organized and resourceful about getting the word out so far.

It might be more of a battle than you think.

Before I start a war here, it's worth noting that bacon lovers and tofu lovers can peacefully co-exist. Eat Street Bistro wants to make sure of that. They'll also be selling their bacon mac and cheese with tofu Thursday night.

If you go

What: The bacon vs. tofu throwdown with the Grizzlies

When: Game starts at 7:05 p.m. Thursday

Where: Chukchansi Park

Cost: Tickets start at $8, packages that include tickets and a bacon or tofu-themed T-shirt cost $15 or $20, depending on the seat

The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6431, bclough@fresnobee.com or @BethanyClough on Twitter. Read her blog on fresnobeehive.com.

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