The sun has already set, but the overwhelming scent of bacon continues to waft down the hallways of the fifth floor of 220 W. 98th St., just east of Broadway. It can only mean one thing: Pork Fest! is back.
This celebration of all things porcine and edible is courtesy of Josie Proulx, 39, whose annual bacon-and-then-some bacchanalia has drawn an international coterie of well-wishers and empty stomachs (including this reporter, a neighbor) for the past eight years. As Proulx is fond of saying, “Pork Fest! is all pork, all night long.”
Before Pork Fest! became an institution, it was merely an unusual housewarming party for Proulx and her roommate, Carolyn Leung.
“The only thing that differentiates one party from another is the theme,” Proulx said, “so we thought about our favorite foods, and since most of them involve pork, Pork Fest! was born.”
Despite not having a background in the culinary arts, Proulx is in charge of the cooking (and is writing a cookbook), and Leung handles decorating the apartment in all sorts of pig paraphernalia. Over the years, the open-invite party has drawn people from as far as Australia and England, and as close as down the hall, with an average gathering involving more than 100 guests and 60 pounds of pork—close to a $1,000 investment.
The roommates met when times were flush and Proulx had a good temp job at Citibank, where Leung was already working. Since being laid off, they have both been out of work for months, and so Pork Fest! also became a casualty of the bearish economy.
But to say goodbye to their Upper West Side apartment, with its Subzero fridge and large kitchen perfect for feast-making, the duo celebrated the biggest Pork Fest! in history Nov. 14.
“This year was even more about the food, and we tried to bring back any favorites—a greatest-hits list, if you will,” Proulx said.
The spread was as varied as it was gluttonous, and read like a cardiologist’s nightmare: BBQ pulled pork, spareribs, sausage balls, prosciutto and gruyere puffed pastry pinwheels, pork pie, (“a Canadian dish from my grandmother involving pie crusts and ground, seasoned, highly-spiced pork”), an 18-pound Carando ham (“because that is the best ham”), ham- and horseradish-stuffed eggs, ragu with pork meatballs and chicken cooked in gravy, pigs in a blanket, kielbasa and sauerkraut and desserts made with lard. In a feat of mystery, one dish is always made with Spam, but partygoers must guess which one it is. There were also several different types of bacon to choose from.
“The first year, I made 10 pounds of bacon and it was gone within an hour. This year I made 30 pounds,” Proulx said.
In true Pork Fest! fashion, almost all was gone soon after the party started.
At the moment, the future of Pork Fest! remains uncertain. Both Proulx and Leung are still on the hunt for jobs, and will hopefully find a new home for their annual feast as well.
“There are certain things I cannot change, but we are going to look back and be excited that we were able to do this,” Proulx said, remaining characteristically upbeat. “Our next apartment will carry on the tradition. If there is outdoor space, maybe we can even roast an entire pig.”
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