ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - Get ready for bacon like you've never eaten, drunk or worn it before.
Bacon milkshakes. Chocolate-covered bacon shaped like roses. Bacon-flavored toothpaste, dental floss and lip balm. Bacon bourbon, margaritas, beer and vodka. Bacon ice cream sundaes. A BLT sandwich with a full pound of bacon.
They're all on the menu this week as one Atlantic City casino stretches the bounds of good taste and cardiovascular health with Bacon Week. The festival at the Tropicana Casino and Resort gives new meaning to the term "pigging out."
The idea of a bacon festival is not as far-fetched as it might sound. Americans eat about 1.5 billion pounds of bacon a year, according to the National Pork Board. And the website bacontoday.com counted nearly 30 bacon festivals around the country from late April through December 2013, many of whose tickets sold out in minutes.
"Bacon is like heaven," said Nadina Fornia, of Egg Harbor Township. "If you're going to die, die with bacon on your lips and a BLT in each hand."
She was drawn to the casino Monday by the promise of bacon in far-out forms, including milkshakes and beer (not in the same glass, thankfully.) She also heard about the bacon-infused vodka.
"That is my quest today," she said.
Fornia tried a bacon bloody Mary mixed with a smoky bacon beer. Despite the overwhelming salty taste and the small strip of bacon floating in the glass, it tasted mostly like sharp tomato juice, she said.
Nearby were chocolate covered pretzels with crumbled bacon bits; chocolate-drizzled potato chips with bacon, two kinds of pasta dishes with bacon, bacon cupcakes, and bacon wrapped around a fake green stem to form roses, which were then dipped in chocolate.
"The first taste is chocolatey, then it's all bacon," said Melissa Ehrke, of Egg Harbor Township. "I was a little surprised I liked it, 'cause I was afraid to try it. It's that whole sweet and salty thing."
While bacon-flavored grooming items are sold at festivals around the nation, they were encountering some skepticism at the Tropicana this week.
"There are people that are just crazy for bacon," said Denise McGrath, of Neptune City. "But bacon toothpaste or floss? I'm not that crazy."
James Sanders, of New York City, was in heaven trying as many free samples of bacon-flavored items as he could get his hands on.
"I love me some bacon!" he exclaimed between bites of ... something. "I don't even know what this is, but it's got bacon in it. And it's good!"
Sanders said eating bacon is a multilayered experience.
"You keep chewing it and chewing it, and the flavor comes out the more you chew on it," he said. "And then you get to the fat and that floods into your mouth. I just love it."
Carrie Jorgenson and her husband, Mike, were downing the bacon bloody Mary beer concoctions, while channeling celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.
"I love pork. All things pork," she said. "That's what Emeril used to say, that pork fat rules, and it does."
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC