Absolutely, my grandpa made the best bacon ever. He would melt a bit of salt pork in a frying pan, slap two-inch pieces of bacon in a single layer — salting it, pressing it flat and flipping it till it was sizzlingly crisp — then put the pieces on a plate lined with paper towel for the fam to grab on the go.
Bacon never tasted so good.
My cousins and I would pluck pieces on the fly as we skirted off to do what kids do: dig for worms, bike to the river, step on frogs with bare feet and marvel at the way the slime oozed up between our toes. (Okay, I only did this last bit once. And it was an accident.)
But bacon has gone all haute cuisine now. It’s no longer just a good lick of salty fat-streaked meat all gristly good. It’s now fancified. Gourmetized. Everything but eroticized.
Remember when Cadbury famously asked women, “Sex or chocolate?” and more than half said chocolate? Sad, I know; you didn’t want me to remind you, did you. But imagine what the “sex or bacon?” survey would yield. Pork powerhouses, take note: PR opportunity waiting to happen. Just don’t count me in; I wouldn’t answer pork.
Speaking of chocolate and bacon, when I posted on Facebook that I was writing this piece, my FB friends went hog-wild — 61 comments, 33 “likes” and two “shares” ensued in short order. There were comments about bacon beer, neighbours mixing bacon fat with mayo and storing it in the fridge for faux BLTs, and yes, bacon and chocolat.
“My 17-year-old daughter works at an organic chocolate shop called Delight [805 Queen Street West in Toronto]. They make bacon bark,” posted Lisa Leyes. “It is so delicious. I bought it at Christmastime and gave it to the men in my life. I called it ‘boy chocolate’ … Picture decadent handmade, organic chocolate with smoky, salty, crunchy bits in it. Yum! I bet that if I put bacon in my bra my husband would come running.” Her husband is one of Canada’s top photographers, Tim Leyes, who shoots such celebrities as queen-of-food-porn Nigella Lawson when she’s in town.
In response to Lisa’s comment, Ken Mayeaux, from Annapolis, MD, wrote: “@Lisa, you might be onto something. One of my dear friends works for Maidenform. I will share your idea with her. LOL.”
To which Lisa replied, “Uh, wait! I only want my husband to want MY bacon. You may confuse him.”
And on it went.
Although bacon-scented lingerie has not yet hit shelves (bless), it really is streaking every facet of food and drink culture — and of course this includes dessert. (More on drinks later.)
A maple bacon doughnut is an utterly delicious gem I came across the other day. Balancing sweet and salty, all soft and gooey-fresh inside a light crust of maple glaze and topped with a crispy wee slice of bacon? Magic. I was at the launch of the Food Network’s latest show World’s Weirdest Restaurants, and I happened to be seated beside Ms Doughnut Baker herself, Ashley Jacot De Boinod — a walking, talking Betty Boop with attitude. Former pastry chef at Buca, Ashley makes these wonders at her new commercial kitchen called Glory Hole Doughnuts in Toronto’s Kensington Market. At this stage, her doughnuts are available only at places such as Burger Bar and Thor Espresso Bar. But stay tuned; she’s scouting retail locations. Krispy Kreme? No match.
Also worth a taste is double-smoked bacon and maple ice cream. Sure, the Fat Duck — that three-Michelin-starred restaurant in the UK known for its avant-garde menu — was the first to famously combine pork and frozen custard with its bacon-and-egg ice cream a few years ago. I’ve tried it; it’s good. The Canadian version is better, though. Dip into some at Lardon restaurant in Toronto. It’s surprising.
On the drink front, bacon-infused vodka has taken hold. A brand of this concoction called Bakon is wildly popular in the United States, and it’s now trickling its way into Canada.
For what, you ask, would you use bacon-infused vodka? Why, bacontinis of course. (Yes, that’s a bacon martini.) Apparently, bacontinis have been hot in New York City, Los Angeles and Las Vegas for some time now. To make one, here’s what you do.
To start, you’ll need either a bottle of Bakon vodka or to make the infusion yourself. To do so, soak strips of cooked bacon in a bottle of vodka, straining off the fat. It’s ready when the vodka is filmy and opaque (yes — it, too, makes me shudder). To make the martini, strain the stuff over ice into a martini glass, garnished with a piece of bacon.
I haven’t brought myself to try one yet, so can’t comment. But if the bacontini sounds appealing to you, here are a few more recipes to ponder, courtesy of Bakon.