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July 9, 2010

Bacon is the New Black

Bacon is no longer just a side to your morning eggs. It is turning up in gourmet dishes and cocktails in many restaurants all over the nation and DC restaurants are no exception.

According to a study by Mintel, the number of restaurant menu items containing bacon has spiked 25% in the last five years.  No longer simply wrapped around scallops as an appetizer, bacon is dipped in chocolate, garnishing drinks and even blended into gelato. 

At Founding Farmers in downtown DC, there are a total of seven items on the menu showcasing this salty, smoky meat. Their Bacon Lollis appetizer, in which they candy Nueske’s bacon with a cinnamon and brown sugar glaze, is their star. The lolli doubles as a garnish in their Bone 12 cocktail made with Knob Creek bourbon, fresh lime juice and Tobasco. Plenty of people are ordering these smoked meat concoctions.  The restaurant goes through 50 pounds of bacon a week just to make enough lollis for the bar to garnish every Bone 12 they mix.  Their sister restaurant, Farmers & Fishers in Georgetown, also offers a bacon lollipop appetizer, but this one is dipped in chocolate. “It’s a nice flavor to start with and is an easy thing to eat and drink,” says Jennifer Motruk Loy, their Director of Marketing.

The ultimate homage to pork would have to be the “I Love Bacon” cooking class at Lia’s in Chevy Chase. For $55 a person, Chef Geoff Tracy or Chef Peter Russo instructs students on four courses including a soup, salad, entrĂ©e with side and a dessert that all include bacon. The class even teaches you how to make your own bacon, should you be so inclined.

It’s not just DC that is experiencing the boost in bacon. In Scottsdale, Arizona there is a restaurant devoted to pork, appropriately named Bacon. Vosges Haut Chocolat based in Chicago with boutiques in New York and Las Vegas makes a chocolate bar with bacon as the main ingredient. It is called the Mo’s Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar which has applewood smoked bacon, alder wood smoked salt and milk chocolate.  Lou, a wine bar in Los Angeles, has an item on their menu called Pig Candy, which is bacon with spices and brown sugar frozen to have the texture of brittle or toffee.  If you don’t want to go out, you can create one of 150 dishes from The Bacon Cookbook by James Villas.  There are also websites such as that offer everything one could ever want to know about this salty pork.  It even has stories of people proposing marriage with bacon!

Could this obsession with bacon be causing a toll on our health?  In short, yes. Medical News Today reported on a study published by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine that frequent consumption of cured meats could lead to increased odds of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This is due to the nitrates added to cured meats. They are “thought to generate reactive nitrogen species in the body—molecules that cause structural damage to lung tissue, in a similar way to emphysema.” The study found this risk to be greater for those eating cured meats at least 14 times a month. COPD is just one thing to consider, however. At the Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology & Prevention and Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism Joint Conference this year, the American Heart Association states that eating processed meats is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. However, if you are consuming cured meats you made yourself or that don’t contain nitrates, these risks are not as significant.

Despite these health risks, people are still flocking to consume bacon dishes and drinks, as evidenced by the recent upswing in bacon-based menu items at popular restaurants. The cookbooks, classes and websites devoted to the meat are evidence that sometimes bacon just makes things better.


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