Friday, May 29, 2015

May 31, 2015: Another Bacon Crime Wave! A Cool T-Shirt, and Lou's Garrett Valley Bacon

MY LIFE WITH BACON CONTINUES THIS WEEK with some Bacon on Travel, some Bacon Crime, and a cook of Lou's Garrett Valley bacon.

BACON IN THE NEWS - This week, the bacon crime blotter is full of fun:

"A Madison man whose last name is Bacon, ironically, was arrested for assaulting another person during a dispute over food... Even more ironically, the dispute was over sausage. ...Officer Lisa Esposito responded to a Main Street residence for a reported dispute in progress... When Esposito arrived, she found Thomas Bacon, 19, had allegedly assaulted another person inside the house over eating a piece of sausage, Cirella said. Because of the sausage, Bacon was charged with simple assault and given a municipal court date. The alleged victim’s identity was not released. No medical attention was needed."


"The Cabell County Sheriff's Office responded to Nelson's Meat Market ... Monday. Deputies said an employee that lived in an apartment above the business was asked by Kauffer, who was recently fired from the meat market, for the keys to the shop. Deputies said the victim refused when the two suspects entered the business...the victim followed the suspects and he was punched, kicked and bitten by Kauffer. Deputies said Kauffer pointed a rifle -- used to kill the animals butchered at the market -- at the victim, who was on the floor. Deputies said the victim talked him out of shooting him. Deputies said the suspects fled with the rifle and four cases of bacon valued at $480."
"A Facebook tip led to the arrest of the suspect in a failed robbery attempt at a Route 6A convenience store. According to Sandwich police, officers responded to the Express Mart at 127 Route 6A around 3 p.m. on Thursday where the store clerk told police a woman had entered the store and brandishing a knife, demanded that the cash draw be emptied. The woman fled the store without any cash or merchandise. Police issued a description of the female subject and posted photos on their Facebook page. 
According to a police release Friday, a tip on their Facebook page led detectives to 27-year-old Amanda E. Bacon of Liberty Street in Sandwich.  Bacon was placed under arrest and detectives reportedly recovered evidence of the crime at the Liberty Street home where Bacon was staying. The knife used during the failed robbery attempt was located a short distance from the home, police said. Bacon was transported to the Sandwich Police Station where she was booked and charged with armed assault with intent to rob. Bacon is being held at the Barnstable County House of Correction on $1,000 cash bail until her arraignment in Barnstable District Court on Monday."
In case you didn't know, the Town of Sandwich is the oldest town on Cape Cod.


Close up below; kind of neat. Good gift for a Beatles fan!

ADVENTURES IN BACON - a few weeks ago, my NEPS business travel took me to Greenwich, CT, for the Document Strategy Fourm conference. I'm just getting around to posting about it now.

Staying at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich, the former home of the Conde Nast magazine empire, I had some really great bacon.

Unfortunately, I don't recall from whence the bacon originated! I believe the staff said it was from some upstate NY farm, but I can't be sure. In any event, the Hyatt was an outstanding experience, as was the Forum.


This was some very good bacon. I grabbed some at the local supermarket for our dinner party; the bacon was ultimately used in salad. It crisped up really great, had superb bacon flavor and was a big hit in the kale salad. It produced a LOT of bacon fat, which I had to remove using a baster and my Pit Mitt.

I also flattened some of the slices as they were curling a bit.

Overall, 3's across the board. Recommended.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

May 24, 2015: Memorial Day: The Armed Forces Ball; Bacon prices continue to drop, Rustic House in Chicago

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with an Armed Forces Ball, a birthday dinner at the Rustic House, some travel bacon.

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND Let's not forget what this weekend is actually all about: our fallen heroes. These are people who raised their hands to defend our country, "put on the cloth of our nation" and paid the ultimate price for us. Thanks to them, we enjoy freedom today.

I had the pleasure of attending the Armed Forces Ball at Chicago's Union League Club last night. What a tremendous event. The Keynote Speaker was Vice-Admiral Robin Bruan, Chief of Navy Reserve, and she gave a wonderful speech. The American Ukrainian Youth Association Choir sang military melodies and brought many in the audience to tears. (Sample of their performances here.) What a wonderful evening. Thank you to our hosts, the Faulks, and our friend Bob; in the picture below with us (on the left):

WE HAD A BIRTHDAY DINNER for my elder son Sam, who turned 24 on 5/20, at the Rustic House in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago. All I can say is 'wow'. Follow them on Twitter at @RusticHouseChi, on Facebook and of course, you can click the image below to go to their home page. Note: I receive no money from any of my recommendations in my blog, EVER.

Great service from Michael, with his professionalism, quick ascerbic wit, and astonishingly good food. We were quite surprised.

I ordered the pork chop, and, of course, bacon. They delivered the bacon in a mug. It was very flat (they cook it between two cookie sheets to ensure minimal curling) and also candied with maple syrup. A little over the top on the sugar, but the bacon is from Nueske's, which, as my readers know, is my top-rated bacon of all time.

We started with the octopus appetizer; no pic but an outstanding dish. A photo of our main courses is below; sorry for the quality of the photo. THIS is fine dining:

Clockwise from the bottom: my pork chop, Jack's roasted lamb, Debbie's collarbone-in swordfish steak (wow again!) and Sam's lamb. According to Michael, the restaurant pretty much snaps up all of these cuts of swordfish steak in the Chicagoland area; only two of these cuts are available per swordfish (one on each side of the fish, obviously). This cut definitely has a better taste than your typical swordfish steak. Michael suggests that you call to reserve yours on Saturday evenings, as they typically run out by 8pm.

I can tell you that the pork chop was more tender than any I've had out. It was thick - about three-and-a-half inches. At home, I use a sous vide to prepare my chop, followed by searing on a cast iron skillet. At the Rustic House, they use a rotisserie to slow-cook the chop, followed by a quick flip on the grill. It produced a very similar result. I tasted the other dishes as well, and they were spectacular. A highly recommended restaurant, and I can see why its been rated so highly.

Oh, and when you visit, make sure you have room on your credit card too.


Top story right now is that bacon prices continue to fall, with current levels at 25% less than last year at this time, according to US Department of Agriculture data. Signs are that it will continue to drop. Naturally, this is due to increased supply. Demand, at the same time, continues to rise; you're seeing bacon everywhere! It's about time everyone jumped on the bandwagon. Here's a great article from Time Magazine (hmmmm... when was the last time you saw the words "great article" and "Time Magazine" in the same sentence?) The reverse correlation is interesting.

And a quite entertaining video from Epic Meal Time about bacon inside bacon wrapped in burger wrapped in bacon wrapped in onion rings wrapped in bacon. Turn your volume DOWN if you start the video. Click embedded video below:

Monday, May 18, 2015

May 17, 2015: Hofherr's bacon, The Northshore Baconfest at Wagner Farms, and more Bacon Crime!

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with another taste of Sean Hofherr's bacon, and a ton of bacon treats at the North Shore Baconfest at Wagner Farms in Glenview,IL.

CHANGING THINGS UP, I thought I'd show you the great bacon from Hofherr's Meats in Northbrook, IL first thing. I've purchased much meat from this great purveyor, not the least of which is their bacon. I had an unbelievable crown roast of beef for the holidays, and multiple pork shoulders for pulled pork (about which I've written before). This bacon was outstanding; high marks across the board.

THE NORTH SHORE BACON FEST HELD AT WAGNER FARMS was a blast. So much bacon, so little time. We enjoyed the evening with our friends, the Oakleys, and I think everyone's favorite was the grilled cheese and crawfish bisque from Bluegrass Restaurant in Highland Park, IL. A few pictures follow, some of which are similar to last year:

The bourbon candied bacon (above) was simply irresistable.

Another huge hit were these bacon-smoked Castelvetrano olives. Really unbelievable. They smoked these olives in a rack above the bacon, which was actively smoking. Not stuffed with anything, they were delicious. I think an improvement might be to stuff them with a small bit of gouda...

After tasting these great bacon treats from Pinstripes, we had an after-baconfest afterparty at Pinstripes (the restaurant). Sitting outside was like being at a resort; great conversation, weather and fun!

Looking forward to an even better event at Wagner Farm next spring (if that's even possible)!

BACON IN THE NEWS: Yes, there's more crime involving bacon. Seems a young lady was caught stealing bacon. With bacon prices coming down, why would you do this? Mindy, Mindy, Mindy, what would Mork think?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

May 10, 2015: Rooster's Bacon (Charlottte) plus Braised Belly; a Krispy Kremem bacon-covered Hot Dog!

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week with the previously mentioned Rooster Restaruant (Charlotte, NC) pork belly prepared two ways, and some interesting Krispy Kreme news.

BACON IN THE NEWS - all I have this week that's newsworthy is the announcement about the new Krispy Kreme hot dog. This is a creation with the Wilmington Blue Rocks, a minor league baseball team. Sorry, this is the only picture I could get... cropped on the right. I don't think I would eat this:

WCNC TV, an NBC affiliate announces: Krispy Kreme coming out with hot dog, bacon-covered doughnut
"WILMINGTON, DE -- Minor League Baseball teams sometimes have to get creative in efforts to fill their seats. It means wacky give-aways, interesting food, and over-the-top mascots.
The Wilmington Blue Rocks are depending on that creativity to name their newest delicacy... and we use the word "delicacy" loosely.
The hot dog is served in a Krisy Kreme doughnut bun and topped with bacon and raspberry jam. While the team offers no details on calories, here's our estimation:
Hot dog: 151 calories, 13 grams of fat
Krispy Kreme donut (the actual bun is likely larger): 190 calories, 11 grams of fat
1 T bacon: 44 calories, 3.3 grams fat
1 T Raspberry Jelly: 51 calories, 1 grams fat.
A conservative estimate puts the yet-to-be-named food at 436 calories and 28 grams of fat. Not bad compared to the five-pound Fifth Third Burger at the stadium in Grand Rapids or the Big Mother Funnel Burger with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Initial reaction seems to be two sticky thumbs up.
Now, the team has to decide what to name the donut dog. They're holding a naming contest online."

THIS WEEK'S BACON is indeed from the Rooster restaurant in uptown Charlotte, North Carolina. This is the awesome farm-to-table restaruant I visited recently on a business trip, with a very nice menu of savory delights. Above is a chunk of the bacon as I sliced it. Nice color and aroma!

I did fry up the bacon after hand-slicing it. Nearly cut my finger doing it! One of these days I'll have to invest in an electric slicer... maybe for my upcoming birthday?

This bacon had a most unusual aroma. Kind of like how I might imagine Rocky Balboa's sweat, if I were to actually imagine it. Below you'll see the three-way shot, and a little teaser.

I fried up some of the remaining Rooster's restaurant bacon on the griddle, and with a nice hunk of pork bellyleft over, decided to use this recipe for braised pork belly with tofu. Prep was pretty easy except for the hot sauce, which took a little bit of time. The first step was to crisply fry the cubes of belly, fat side down, in oil. Those are some pretty looking cubes. The assistant chef at Roosters told me that the bacon was brined for a week in Sriracha sauce, and then smoked. I actually then took the bacon, put it in a vacuum sealed bag, and cooked it for two hours Sous Vide style, to ensure cooking thoroughly. So this bacon has been cooked three times, minimum.

Next, I sauteed the onions for ten minutes, and added the sauce, which I prepared in the small food processor. The aromas were incredible. Here is the dollop of hot sauce on top of the onions:

Then, the recipe says to 'nestle' the cubes among the onions and cover with water; bring to a boil and then simmer for 90 minutes. An appropriate use of the word 'nestle'.  Finally, add cubed tofu and basil, and cook for another 30. This was really tender and flavorful belly!

The bacon version of the same belly was ok but not outstanding. Didn't crisp up as much as I like, but the flavor was 'interesting' - somewhat chemical tasting - hard to identify exactly, but those flavors were not evident in the braised version.

I actually did a 'cook-ahead', preparing two additional bacons and had folks try each one. Reviews of these in future weeks.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

May 3, 2015: More Bacon Crime; Bacon in Charlotte; Maple Flavored S&S

MY LIFE WITH BACON CONTINUES THIS WEEK with some Bacon on Travel, some Bacon Crime, and an evaluation of Stop & Shop's "Maple Flavored"

WILL THE BACON CRIME WAVE NEVER END? This week, a duo were arrested for stealing bacon and other meats from a grocery store.

I think they are in for some serious hard time. Isn't $300 and above considered Grand Larceny?

A line from the report reads "Deputies found ribeye steaks, ground beef, bacon, pork ribs and a gallon of bleach in the car..."  I'm one of those people who tries to guess what people are going to make for dinner based on what they have on the belt at the check-out aisle. Clearly these people are carnivors and were planning on a meat-heavy meal. But what recipe calls for bleach??

ADVENTURES IN BACON - this week, my NEPS business travel took me to the CSWeek annual conference with the Utility industry, in Charlotte, NC.

For the first evening, my friends at Inlet treated me to a great meal at Farenheit, which is a very hip restaurant in Charlotte, steps away from the Convention Center. The menu, viewable here, is excellent.

Of course, we ordered and rapidly consumed the pork belly dish, "NC Shrimp Potsickers" which has "Crisp Heritage Farms Pork Belly, Mango Mustard" as ingredients. When I asked, "where does the bacon come from," which is my most commonly asked restaurant question, all they could tell me was "Heritage Farms".  The dish was quite good.

I told the waiter (who broke a water glass within 10 seconds of initially approaching the table) that Heritage Farms is a pretty common name - surely he could find a little more detail. But noooooo, all he could tell me was that the bacon came from there. So today, I did a quick search, and sure enough, here's Heritage Farms North Carolina:

My friends at Inlet treated me to another great meal on the penultimate night of the conference, this time at a really cool place called Roosters, on College Street in Charlotte. This is a true farm-to-table restaurant. They treated us to a nice plate of bacon:

Naturally, even though we had a Vegan among us, I again inquired about the pork products. Our Vegan friend, Nicole, loves animals but didn't mind those around her acting like true omnivores. The assistant chef, Alfred (?) was a great fellow, and took me back to the kitchen, where lardons were hanging, and bacon was stored for their various dishes.

I asked for and gratefully received a hunk of belly that had been in a brine for a few days, then smoked. Buddy and farmer Paul ("Green Acres") Rokos wanted me to take a picture of it with his hand resting on the belly...

The pork belly received "special treatment" by the TSA. The TSA guy who worked on it dutifully logged this exception into his special form... "PORK BELLY" he wrote in large capital letters. Thankfully he didn't open the shrink wrapped package. It went through the X-Ray and hand inspection unscathed.

Upon arrival home, I immediately stuck it a sous vide water bath for a couple of hours to make sure it was fully cooked.  Next week, I'll cook some up and share the results.

THIS WEEK'S BACON is Stop & Shop's "Maple Flavored" (picture above). Like most people, I do get nervous about "flavored" on the package, and sure enough, the ingredients list "maple flavoring"... looking that up on the FDA website, the 'flavoring' contains molasses and a few other normal-looking things, but I still don't trust it.

The bacon stuck together (of course, I had it in the freezer for about two months before cooking), but I've seen this before. It was awfully stringy and kinky.

Weighed in at the advertised 16 ounces. The flavor was strongly maple, but it tasted a bit like the way I remember pop tarts tasting, but without the cinnamon.

In fact it was as overpowering as an over-cologned waiter. Unwelcome. I don't recommend it. I'll share one picture during the early cooking process...