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Vermillion's Ribs, Rods & Rock 'n Roll wouldn't be possible without the four main food groups of a barbecue competition: chicken, pork, ribs and brisket.

What became apparent at this year's celebration in Vermillion is that vendors came prepared to allow the public to sample new taste sensations not all related to barbecue.

Like, for example, chocolate-covered bacon and chocolate-covered jalapeno peppers offered by The Roadhouse, a Vermillion restaurant.

There were deep-fried Oreo cookies for sale, along with popcorn, roasted sweet corn, onion blossoms, spiral spuds, burgers and French fries, strawberry smoothies, lemonade and chocolate-dipped frozen cheesecake.

Jere Chapman of The Roadhouse said he first heard approximately two years ago that someone was serving chocolate-covered bacon at the Minnesota State Fair.

"It sounded so unique, and over the past couple years, I've seen it once in a while on programs shown by the Food Network. We decided on Tuesday (Sept. 8), with this festival coming up, to start experimenting on how to do this."

It took several tries by The Roadhouse staff to get their chocolate-covered bacon just right.

"The first time, the chocolate was too thick," Jere said. "The second time, the chocolate was too thin. The third time was the charm; it worked out perfectly. And after we figured out how to do the chocolate-covered bacon, Ben Severson at The Cherry Street Grille said, 'Jere, how about doing some chocolate-covered jalapenos?' And I said, 'Okay, experiment with it,' and he tried it that afternoon, and he's the one who came up with the chocolate-covered jalapenos."

He believes the chocolate-covered bacon was appealing to people because of the unique combination of sweet and salty tastes.

"It's just a natural thing. We've been selling them all afternoon," Jere said Saturday afternoon. "We're probably going to go through 400 to 500 slices of bacon, and probably 100 jalapenos."

The jalapenos were sliced and half, and portions of the peppers that provides their heat removed.

"We felt most people didn't want it that hot, but some people complained that it wasn't hot enough," he said. "We've sold out of the jalapenos. All (Friday) night, the Cherry Street Grille was busy making bacon and jalapenos. It takes us about an hour from start to finish to get the chocolate melted and get the bacon cooked off. And then you have to set the chocolate."

Jon Robertson of the Cherry Street Grille was busy at the restaurant Saturday, making more chocolate-covered bacon and jalapenos to meet the demand for the special treat.

Nearly everyone who stopped to purchase the chocolate-covered treats had never tried the unique combination of sweet and salty, or sweet and spicy tastes.

"I would say that close to a 100 percent of the people who try them like them," Jere said. "The people who take a bite of it in front of us, and that's at least half of those who purchase them, say they are surprised at how good it is. And people come back to get more.

"It takes about two or three bites to really figure out what these are like," he added. "The first bite is almost pure chocolate. And then when you get into it, about the second or third bite, you start getting into the bacon."

The chocolate-covered treats were created at the Cherry Street Grille last week mainly because of convenience. Jere said the sweet bacon and jalapenos likely will show up on The Roadhouse menu soon.

"We'll likely start offering these there in the very near future," he said. "Why wouldn't we? It's unique … just think, you've got bacon and you've got chocolate. How can it not be good? We've had a lot of fun with this. We have people bee-lining up here to get a piece of chocolate-covered bacon, so we almost have to give this a try at The Roadhouse."

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