Be it loin or liver, pizza or patties, with sweets, sours or spice ~ bacon makes it better!
Sweeping the blogosphere as a hot and hungry-for food, bacon seems to appeal to both carnivores and epicures as comfort food.
It’s the flavor that makes thin ribbons of bacon an iconic food item. Chubby or wispy, tender or crispy, salty or sweet––it’s a deli counter chameleon and its delectability greets you with a smoky bouquet.
“No one ever mistakes the smell of bacon with anything else,” says Timothy Florek, a Neenah resident and bacon devotee. “Our evolved sense of taste will always accept bacon as an ‘improvement’ to the dish.”
And right here in the Fox Cities, restaurants have the menus to prove it.
Wrapped, Stuffed & Crumbled
Re-opening this past May, Johnathan’s Italian Bistro in Appleton has a menu dotted with bacon. For starters, Executive Chef Shawn Covill wraps shrimp with applewood bacon and adds an espresso glaze. “Shrimp by itself doesn’t have much flavor,” says Covill. “The fat in the bacon is where the flavor comes in.”
Crispy bacon is mixed with spring greens, candied pecans, gorgonzola and a creamy balsamic dressing for the popular Bistro Salad. The bacon is used for its texture contrast and to fuse sweet with smoky.
The leading entrée, an eight-ounce stuffed tenderloin, is packed with pancetta and roasted garlic. Pancetta, the Italian version of bacon, is aged in a salt rub and slow cured instead of smoked. “Cooking with the fat in bacon gives any dish the smoky and salty flavor,” Covill says.
Spats Food & Spirits pairs pork with pork in the bacon-wrapped pork tenderloins (two, six ounces each) and tops it with a cranberry pork relish. “Our chef says he can’t live without bacon,” says owner Bill Neubert.
Bacon can also be found in the liver and onions entrée and the “love me tender-loin,” which is stuffed with garlic-sautéed onions, mushrooms and melted mozzarella.
Four sandwiches and wraps bring the bacon, including the timeless BLT. The lunchtime Brittany Burger, topped with BBQ sauce, bacon, mozzarella cheese and an onion ring packs the crunch that is undeniably desired in a classic bacon burger.
Buttered Bun, Burger & Bacon
While on the topic of burgers, it’s no surprise that the bacon burger at Cinder’s Charcoal Grill in Appleton is the majority order.
“First thing at 9am, a big pan of bacon goes in the oven,” says Lynda Vanden Boogart, the Kensington location store manager.
Using thick-sliced, double-smoked bacon, Cinder’s bacon burger receives three slices atop a third-pound patty. “The bacon is fully cooked in the oven first and then thrown on the burger when grilled-to-order,” adds Vanden Boogart. “People come in for the bacon burger.” The Northwoods, Western and Cowboy burgers also promise bacon.
Pork on Pie
Where Italian comfort meets traditional meat, you get pizza with bacon.
Try the La Fiesta pizza at Glass Nickel Pizza Co. in Appleton made with salsa, refried bean sauce, bacon, corn, red onion, red pepper, extra cheddar cheese and your choice of meat.
“Baked beans and bacon–that’s been done before,” says owner Brian Glassel. “You have two old-school, familiar flavors that work well together.”
Eight pizzas on Glass Nickel’s menu include bacon. The Couch Potato pie (shown at left) “just wouldn’t be the same without bacon,” Glassel adds. Mocking a baked potato, bacon accompanies cheese, wedge fries, broccoli and a side of sour cream.
Opening on May 20, the Cardiac Arrest was ordered more than any other pizza on the very first night. It’s the number one order at its Green Bay location.
A meat lover’s favorite, the Cardiac features the classic red sauce, crumbled bacon, ham, pepperoni, sausage and extra cheese. Glassel recommends taking off the pepperoni and doubling up on bacon to maximize the bacon in your bite.
Dressed & Dipped
Executive chef Clint DelMarcelle designed Green Bay’s Tom, Dick and Harry’s (TDH) menu with Wisconsin in mind, and the bacon-beer cheese sauce exemplifies three prideful state products. “Being just a footstep from Lambeau Field, we want [visitors] to come in and try the local flavor of Wisconsin,” explains Mike McNerney, general manager.
The bacon in the sauce is not chunky, instead it’s fine and diced. The dip accompanies the soft pretzel bites appetizer, and is also used on the Chili Cheese Nachos, Drunken Pulled Pork Sandwich, Packerland Pretzel and Beer Cheese Burger and the Sheboygan Bratwurst Pizza.
Mark Doughtery, owner of Mark’s East Side in Appleton, makes batches of bacon dressing using an old family recipe. The sweet and sour dressing mixed with chopped and browned bacon is served warm over crisp lettuce. The smokiness pairs well with greens, says Doughtery. The dressing is also used to make the German potato salad.
Bacon for breakfast is a no-brainer. That’s the thought driving the theory behind Zuppas’ Pancake Cupcake. The Neenah cafe and market has perfected the combo comestible, blending the best of breakfast, dessert and bacon in one cupcake. A pancake-flavored batter is mixed with sautéed pears and topped with a maple buttercream frosting and crumbled bacon.
Downtown Appleton’s Aspen Coffee & Tea (formerly Brewed Awakenings) has been causing a creamy craze for the last four years with its homemade gelato––Italian-style ice cream.
Gelato mastermind Veronika Richardson is toying with the idea of a “fear factor” line of flavors, the first to be maple bacon. “We’ve made maple bacon before,” she says. “The second time we featured it, we sold out.”
The bacon is cooked in-house and blended with milk and sugar resulting in a bacon-laced, vanilla-looking, breakfast-tasting sweet treat.
Mark your calendars because the maple bacon flavor will be featured in August. You won’t have a hard time finding it in the case; it will be embellished with long strips of smoky, salty and seasoned… yes, you guessed it: bacon.
—By Alison Fiebig
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The meat of the matter is, bacon is a business.
Tim Haen is referred to as the “sausage guy” at Haen Meats in Kaukauna. He is in charge of curing and hickory-smoking Haen’s bacon products, which the company has only been producing since 1987. “Bacon has evolved,” he says. “It’s the belly of a pig, the low cut product of the hog. Today, it’s an appealing product found on burgers, with eggs, and other comfort foods.”
As Tim puts it, it’s the little guys like Haen who add flair to stand out. With the continual demand for bacon, Haen not only sells bacon, but bacon-wrapped tenderloin, bacon-wrapped London broils, bacon cheeseburger brats and pork (brat) patties with bacon.
“I’ve been applewood smoked since birth!” says Tanya Nueske, granddaughter of Nueske’s Meats Products founder, Robert “R.C.” Nueske.
Of Wittenberg, WI, Nueske’s Meats is legendary and loved for its applewood smoked flavor, and they’ve remained faithful to the 24-hour smoking process for eight decades.
For Tanya, bacon is her whole life. “It’s everything to me,” she says. “It smells like home, like love.” Having moved into Grandma and Grandpa Nueske’s house when she was one-year-old, it’s no wonder Tanya is bewitched by bacon! The factory was right next door.
“Think of all the things that make America––pork and beans, BLT, bacon and eggs,” she says. “Bacon is America’s guilty pleasure.”
Her bacon pointer: “Adding bacon is a simple way to improve any dish. A little bit can go a long way.”
—By Alison Fiebig