Why is bacon practically a pop-culture icon these days? With so many people focused on achieving better health, it's slightly amusing to see the proliferation of bacon-of-the-month clubs, themed wallets and even tattoos. Is bacon worship a quiet rebellion against a culture that increasingly reminds us to analyze the nutritional content and possible toxicity of everything that crosses our lips? Is it because it offers a cheap, hedonistic pleasure in a woeful economy? Or is it — simply — just that good?
Whatever the case, Xpress selflessly risked cholesterol levels to seek out, sample and report on some of the more creative ways that local chefs are paying homage to bacon, and here are the findings, all verifiably porktastic:
Short Street Cakes makes a bacon-apple cupcake that has managed to generate a significant amount of buzz. It's no wonder — how can you go wrong with bacon and apples sautéed in bacon fat, all baked within a cinnamon-pound-cake matrix, then topped with maple-cream-cheese icing and more bacon? Sweet lord.
While some people might find the idea of a bacon cupcake a bit odd, Nathanael Markham of Short Street puts things in perspective. The flavor combination of "pork and apple — savory and sweet all together — has existed throughout culinary history," he notes. "Think of bacon and syrup." Markham asserts that people who aren't vegetarian will "fall in love" with the cupcakes.
"It's the balance between sweet and savory that really makes the marriage of the flavors work," he says. It's worth noting that the bacon cupcakes are sold only on Fridays. It's very likely that that will not change any time soon, Markham adds.
Short Street Cakes is located at 225 Haywood Road in West Asheville. For more information, visit www.shortstreetcakes.com.
Luella's Bar-B-Que is a veritable pig palace. How can you have your pork at this Merrimon Avenue eatery? Let us count the ways.
For starters, Luella's frequently runs a special sandwich called the Pork Royale. Aptly named, this pig-stuffed behemoth features barbecued pork with a Lusty Monk Mustard sauce, a vinegary-sweet slaw, caramelized onions and — of course — bacon.
Continuing on the overindulgence train, what better way to wash that down than with a BLT Bloody Mary? This Luella's creation has a big piece of bacon plunged into its depths and is further garnished with tomatoes, lettuce and a rim of slightly spicy salt, pepper and "secret recipe" brisket rub. It's really not hugely different in flavor from a regular Bloody, but the bacon garnish does impart a bit of smokiness to the mix.
Luella's is located at 501 Merrimon Ave. For more information, visit www.luellasbarbeque.com.
Ultimate Ice Cream and Two Spoons Ice Cream both carry a maple-bacon flavor. Marissa Brooks, the owner of Two Spoons, says that the two recipes are essentially the same. The flavor profile is pretty simple and makes perfect sense — imagine nibbling a slice of bacon dipped into the maple syrup on your breakfast plate, then chasing it with a sip of cream. Low fat it is not, but it's plenty tasty.
Xpress visited the French Broad Chocolate Lounge to sample a scoop and spoke with Eliza Rosbach, who was working behind the counter at the time. As though the ice cream isn't decadent enough on its own, Rosbach says that customers are welcome to have the Lounge whip up a maple-bacon milkshake, or even a float with some of the house-made soda. "You could even," she said somewhat impishly, "put it in a beer float with some Pisgah Porter."
For more information on the Chocolate Lounge (10 S. Lexington Ave.), visit www.frenchbroadchocolates.com. For Ultimate Ice Cream (1070 Tunnel Road), call 296-1234. For Two Spoons Ice Cream (721 Haywood Road), visit www.twospoonsicecream.com.
The Admiral in West Asheville serves a dessert that may just be the crème de la crème of decadence. Chef Elliot Moss makes a bacon pot de crème by incorporating bacon fat from Nueske's applewood-smoked bacon into a custard base, which is then baked in a water bath. The finished product — basically a crème brulée without the brulée — is then garnished with brown sugar, candied bacon, pecans and sea salt. It's just as rich as you might think. According to staffers at the restaurant, the dessert is not always on the menu, but customers frequently call to find out when it will be — and for good reason. It may be a heart attack in a dish, but what a way to go.
The Admiral is located at 400 Haywood Road. For more information, visit www.theadmiralnc.com.
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