New bacon, beef festivals coming to SLO County

Billy Ruiz of Cowboy Flavor, at back, watches over a barbecue.
Billy Ruiz of Cowboy Flavor, at back, watches over a barbecue.

Bacon and beef are the focus of two new events coming to San Luis Obispo County.

After four years in the Santa Ynez Valley, the popular Bacon and Barrels festival will be at Madonna Inn Meadows on July 16, where 21 chefs will serve up their most creative take on the perennial pork favorite.

To wash it down, there will be a variety of libations that spent at least some time in a barrel, including bacon-inspired cocktails, wine, beer and spirits from around the state, with about a dozen from San Luis Obispo County including Re:Find Distillery and Krobār Craft Distillery.

“We look for small, up-and-coming distilleries, not something you can find at a grocery store,” said Holly Holliday, owner and creative director of Create Promotions, which organizes the event.

With two awards at stake — a People’s Choice and the Jefe De Porko determined by a team of judges — the chefs and mixologists are already hard at work on their creations, said Holliday, noting that Fish Gaucho began curing its own bacon last week. Among the other treats in store artisan marshmallows with bacon, and barrel-roasted coffee, produced by Joebella Coffee Roasters and Niner Wine Estates.

“The chefs really put a lot of time and attention in this,” Holliday said.

VIP tickets, which include a Friday night kick-off dinner and Sunday morning bacon buffet brunch, are sold out, but a small number of tickets remain for the all-inclusive Saturday festival at

And just in time for Bacon and Barrels to leave meat-lovers wanting more, the inaugural Central Coast Beef and Wine Festival will be the following month.

Spotlighting ranches that produce both beef and wine, the Beef and Wine Festival takes place at the Halter Ranch barnyard on Aug. 6.

Wines from Ancient Peaks Winery, B&E Vineyard, Halter Ranch Vineyard, Hearst Ranch Winery, Jack Creek Cellars, Seven Oxen Estate Wines and Vintage Cowboy Winery — all of which also raise cattle — will be paired with Harris Ranch beef dishes cooked up by Los Alamos barbecue master Cowboy Flavor, with an accompanying wine bar so people can experiment with their own combinations.

Representatives from the San Luis Obispo County Cattle Women’s Association, which is hosting the event, will serve up beef preparation and cooking tips along with the dishes.

“We’re aiming for an intimate event where the producers can walk and talk with the guests,” said Lynette Sonne, founder of FARMstead ED, which organizes agriculture education events. “It’s more than dinner — it’s a learning opportunity.”

It’s a charitable one, too. The event is a fundraiser for the CattleWomen’s agricultural scholarships and Must! Charities. Organizers are still seeking sponsorships to maximize the donations. Get tickets at

Sally Buffalo writes about wine, beer and spirits. Reach her at or on Twitter @sallybuffalo.

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