Sunday, February 22, 2015

February 22, 2015: Shocking - Bacon Thrower Gone Missing and Bacon at The Blue

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with more bacon news, a bacon crime update, and dining at The Blue with bacon from guess where?

BACON STILL ON THE UPSWING. Good article from the Washington Post on the trends in bacon and why restaurants are putting it back on the menu. Of course, we've all seen the new Little Caesar's bacon wrapped pizza. A cool idea but I'm not sure I'll try it.  The article has some interesting observations, including that fact that while many pundits have been saying that the bacon craze is over, the facts point in the opposite direction.  Here's a chart from the article showing bacon purchases still on the rise.  Good thing the porcine virus has been solved and we have more supply in the market!

BACON CRIME UPDATE The woman against whom charges have been dropped last week has gone missing!!

According to her family, Lindsay McNamara was last seen in the company of an unknown woman outside a PF Changs in Natick, MA. Article here.  Charges were dropped on Wednesday, for the assault of a police officer.  She threw bacon and sausage at him!  The judge said that since there were no 'damages', there was no crime.  I didn't think damages were required in an assault case...I must've missed that in my criminal law classes.  She said "God told me to feed the pigs!" when asked why she did it.  Maybe God was telling her to feed the actual piggies, not the police.  Huffington Post did a great job with the report too: here.  Her family says she was going through a tough time... I guess so!

WE ARE SPENDING THE WEEKEND IN BOCA at the Boca Raton Resort & Club.  Many thanks to Ed Marino whose lovely wife Michela helped us get reservations at the resort and for dinner. I've been really spoiled lately; a few weeks ago at The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin, and incredible dinners at Trattoria Stefano in Sheboygan and The Immigrant Room at Kohler; and this week at the Resort in Boca.  Dinner was at  The Blue, on the 27th floor of the tower, the tallest building in Boca with great views of the area.  I had the red snapper, but of course needed to get whatever bacon dish they had on the menu.

They have a great brussels sprouts side dish with bacon, and they also made up some root vegetables with the same bacon. The bacon in these dishes was cut into tiny, succulent cubes.  Guess where they source their bacon?  Nueske's in Wisconsin, about which I've written many times.  Go to the Nueske's website and order some now! Stunningly great bacon.

Thanks to Roberto (the very gracious, dapper and friendly manager), Trevor (our server), Rachael and all the staff for a wonderful evening.  We were celebrating my mother-in-law's birthday and they did a great job.

Here's a short blurb from their website about what's served at The Blue.  We had three types of oysters; simply amazing.

Innovative New American Cuisine in Boca Raton

The menu changes frequently, depending on local, seasonal offerings. THE BLUE uses the freshest and most succulent ingredients while placing emphasis on sustainable and organic foods from local farmers and local waters, complimenting offerings like the Maine lobster, which arrives daily, fresh from its source. Don’t miss the unforgettable Claw Bar, serving the freshest treats the ocean has to offer including Lobster Claws, U-12 Shrimp, Stone Crab, Pacific and Atlantic Oysters, and King Crab Legs.
CUTTING IT SHORTER THIS WEEK since I'm traveling.  See you next Sunday!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

February 15, 2015: At Kohler American Club; Finished Home-Cured, Home-Smoked Bacon; and Crime Update!

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues, with visit to Kohler, Wisconsin and The American Club; and after a 10-day cure, I smoked, and then cooked homemade bacon.

WE WERE AT THE AMERICAN CLUB last weekend, as a pre-Valentine's Day get-away. Highly recommended, wonderful place.  We're going to increase our frequency from one time a year to two.

On Saturday, after a day of hiking in the state park with snow shoes, we had dinner at The Immigrant, an absolutely wonderful restaurant at The American Club. Starter: a bacon-vermouth infused mousse of salmon with shrimp.  Simply awesome; pic below.

We had a fantastic brunch in the Wisconsin room before leaving.  Get a load of the featured martini!  Unfortunately, I wasn't drinking that morning, or I certainly would've imbibed.


Remember that woman who threw bacon at the police?  I wrote about her a couple of posts ago.  Well it turns out that the judge has DROPPED CHARGES!  Are you kidding?  The judge says that the police couldn't prove that there were any damages!  Since when, if you've perpetrated an assault, that you have to have damages?  And what about the consumers who were deprived of that bacon that the woman WASTED?  I think there are several victims here.  Boo.

ON TO THIS WEEK'S BACON: MY OWN!  Ok, I didn't raise and slaughter the pig myself, but I did procure the pork belly from a high quality farm through Inovasi (about which I wrote last week).  I took you through my curing process, and now the more fun part: the smoking, the cooking, and the tasting!

After dinner at Inovasi a week ago Tuesday (burger night), Adam provided me with the 12.2 pound pork belly, as I wrote about last week.

Realizing that raw pork, unlike wine or bad news, does not improve with age, I immediately started curing it.

After ten days, on Friday, I pulled the pork from the bag and rinsed it thoroughly, then patted it dry with paper towels.  You have to rinse the cure off completely, or the bacon will be way too salty.  I saved the skin (upper right) for another recipe; it's in the freezer.

I prepared my Ugly Drum Smoker and got the temp up to 225 degrees.  My UDS is made from parts procured from Big Poppa as well as the top from a $40 Walmart grill.  Turns out that you can't buy a Weber top separately.  No matter; all this is well documented; just scroll back through to about October 2014 and you'll see how I built it.  It's a real beauty.  Everything I've smoked in it has turned out perfectly.

Placed the bacon on the grill surface with the probe; shooting for 150 degrees internal temperature. Applewood was used for the smoking wood; it was soaked in water for over an hour first.  Produced a wonderful white smoke.   No trouble keeping temp as it was about 12 degrees outside.

Here's what it looked like at the end of smoking, and then some shots of the bacon sliced.  I had to cut it into a few pieces to fit it in the smoker, all 12.2 pounds of it: 

Finally, a three-way of the bacon as it cooked.  Final result:  I cooked up 1 pound 1/2 ounce of the porcine goodness.  It weighed in at 9.8 ounced fully cooked and rendered only about 5ml of fat.  I may have been too aggressive in cutting the belly skin off, and taken a little too much fat away; no matter; the bacon was just more meaty than most.

I give myself a zero on crispness.  Because I don't (yet) have a slicer, the slices were uneven and often too thick.  If I could've cut them thinner I may have been able to get some crispness.  As far as chewiness, it's probably a 4 out of 5.  As for succulence, very low.  But the flavor: wow.  I give myself 4 out of 5.  Very smoky, very bacon-y, nice.  

I've shared samples with some of Jack's friends; the feedback has all been positive.  One of the boys said "why can't all bacon taste like this?"  

See you next week!

Friday, February 6, 2015

February 8, 2015: Pork Belly from Inovasi, Bacon Prices Dropping, and NH Bacon Lottery Scratch 'N Sniff!

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with a full pork belly from Inovasi in Lake Bluff, and some bacon news!

AND OF COURSE SOME BACON CRIME.  Looks like a few kids set up camp in someone's house when they were away.  What were they doing?  Cooking bacon!!  Article here.

"The homeowner's mother said when she came to check on the house she knew something was wrong right when she opened the door, smelling something familiar coming from the oven."

PRICES DROPPING - FINALLY! News reports from around the country all say that bacon supply is increasing! Great news; the piggie population is recovering from the porcine virus. Good summary article here from the Huffington Post.

ZAGAT CALLS THE "BACON CRAZE" OVER! A good summary of the 2015 Zagat National Dining Trend Survey can be found here; summary table about bacon and kale below.

Nonsense. Last weekend featured the largest bacon 'fest' in the country, in Des Moines, Iowa. I wanted to go but it didn't work out this year. When confronted with Zagat's mis-call, he said:

"Who are these people?" asked CJ Rhein, who traveled to the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival in Des Moines with her husband and eight friends from Minneapolis. "Are you kidding me – have you looked around here?" an indignant Rhein continued." 

"Indignant", indeed! There are no indications that the bacon craze is abating; in fact, there's data pointing in the other direction.  Nick Schweitzer is the head of breakfast meats at Hormel (and I'll be reaching out to him with some Field Agent info) and he says that Hormel continues to introduce new products.  Other manufacturers say similar things.  Boo, Zagat!

PORK BELLY FROM INOVASI! As regular readers know, we often go to Inovasi restaurant in Lake Bluff, IL, especially for their burger night - Tuesday.  This week, I picked up my 12.2 pound pork belly and started the cure process.

Adam, the M'aitre d, was kind enough to order me one from the Wisconsin farm from which they source their meats.  And the lovely Amber served us at the well-stocked bar.  Between short samples of Bittermens bitters and my other adult beverage, we talked bacon and family stuff.  I'll most definitely be ordering some of these bitters to give unique flavors to our drinks at home.  Great burgers at Inovasi!!

ON TO THE PORK BELLY!  Pictures and short commentary below.  The curing will take about 10 days, and I'll smoke this bacon up next weekend! Looking forward to it.
Here's the slab out of the package, as I cut it in half to cure in a baggie.

Close-up shot of the cure I made.  Since the belly was 12.2 pounds, I had to approximate.  

It was somewhat difficult to get evenly spread, but that's why you rotate the bag daily, which I'll be doing for 10 days.  I did this on Tuesday night, Inovasi burger night, so I'll be ready to smoke next weekend.

NEW HAMPSHIRE SCRATCH 'N SNIFF BACON SCENTED LOTTERY TICKETS went on sale last week, and my good friend Bob Wickham sent me ten of them.  True to the advertising, they do smell like bacon!  Although slightly burned bacon... I didn't win anything.  Thanks, Bob!

See you next week, when I will talk about the home-made bacon!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

February 1, 2015: More Bacon Crime & Sean Hofherr's Bacon for the Super Bowl!

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with, believe it or not, more bacon crime.  Plus, I finally went off program; had some great bacon from Hofherrs!


ANOTHER DASTARDLY CRIME was committed with bacon last year, and the perpetrator has just been sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison.  A Portland woman, annoyed by her ex-boyfriend whom she let into the house and who was sleeping on the couch, poured a vat of hot bacon grease on him.  The result was serious – 2nd and 3rd degree burns, including skin grafts.

Her attorney, Brian Schmonsees, said that she took a plea deal because she was worried about being found guilty of a higher crime and a stronger sentence.  Brian (who I had to look up because I thought the original story was a scam – it’s not) said “I’m not particularly happy about it.  It’s going to put a good woman in prison.”  He said she was in a “disassociative state” when she did it.  Huh?  Good summary article and video here.  I wonder what happened to the bacon itself?  And why was she cooking it at 3am?


I visited Hofherr's on Friday to get 2" thick veal shanks for our Saturday night dinner party.  The dinner was excellent, and the shanks top-of-the-line.  You can't go wrong with meat from Sean Hofherr.  While there, Emily reminded me that she read my previous review a few months ago, and that they head a fresh batch of bacon.  I promptly ordered a pound and a half, medium sliced.  

Upon opening, a faint traditional scent water up to my nostrils.  After a month, bacon-free, this was a bacon aphrodisiac.  I let the bacon come to room temperature and placed it on the cold cooking surface (a best practice, as you would know if you're a regular reader).  Cooked it up on medium low, and it was totally nonstick.  This is noteworthy and unprecedented, in my experience. Beautiful slices, classic appearance. It weighed 1.55 lbs, post cooking, 7.3 ounces, producing fully 250ml of rendered fat.

Terrific taste.  Although I cooked it slowly, it was very crispy - just how I like it.  Debbie, however, thought it was too crispy, and my friend Eric would say it was ruined.  Flavor -4/5, crispness, 5/5, succulence 1/5 (almost no fatty succulent parts - unusual).  Overall, excellent classic bacon.  

Enjoy the Super Bowl!  Put some bacon on those nachos!  Next week:  by colleague Bob Wickham will be sending me some scratch-n-snif bacon lottery tickets from New Hampshire!