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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bacon dinner: the blow by blow

Adventures in dieting while eating pork fat

Posted by Stephanie Barna on Thu, Apr 14, 2011 at 12:18 PM

I ate a lot of pork on Tuesday night. It was strictly for work. Former CP contributor and restaurateur extraordinaire Sarah O'Kelley generously invited me to the Glass Onion's bacon dinner, and I initially turned her down. I'm trying this new thing called not eating out and gorging on multiple courses and drinking goblets of delicious wine and pints of hearty beer. I think it's better known as a diet. Blech. But then I got to reading about Ari Weinzweig, a partner at the Zingerman's empire, who was going to be on hand at this dinner, and I figured I shouldn't pass this up.

Ari's business Zingerman's is not only a deli, mail-order food business, bakery, creamery, et al, but it's also a really cool business model. He's got a quirky take on how to run and structure a business, and it's working very well for him and his company. I was interested to meet this guy. Oh, and he's written the Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon, hence the bacon dinner.

Ari Weinzweig and Sarah OKelley
  • Ari Weinzweig and Sarah O'Kelley

To prepare myself for three courses of bacon, I ate rather austerely for the week leading up to the dinner. I walked the bridge, worked out almost every day, and generally lived like a freaking Mepkin Abbey monk. Not even a sip of wine. For those of you who follow my eating and drinking via this blog and twitter, you know what that must have meant, but my will power was strong. I was feeling like Leo DiCaprio — on top of the world.

In fact, I felt so good about my commitment to clean living that I decided to enjoy every drop of greasy bacon goodness. It's the least I could do for myself after that week of austerity. I ordered a beer with the first course. And followed it with a glass of wine. And it was worth every goddamned calorie, as you will soon see for yourself.

The first course was a tasty little amuse — a fried oyster atop some slaw with a smoky bacon sauce on the side.

oysteramuse.jpg

Next up was a salad — essentially a BLT sans bread. Two smoky slabs of braised Benton's bacon were perched on top of some leafy lettuce and drizzled with a dressing that tasted exactly like the mayo does when you're in the middle of your BLT sandwich — you know, when it gets all mixed up with salt, pepper, and the juice from the fresh tomatoes. They should bottle that: Creamy BLT Dressing (you're welcome, Kraft).

blt.jpg

A beer, all that bacon, and a week of stomach shrinkage meant I was already feeling pretty full. But there were plenty more courses to go. Next came a beautiful dish of fresh clams and shrimp with Virginia pancetta on a pile of creamy Anson Mills grits. You can see the grease glistening on this one.

pancetta.jpg

I tried to be good and leave some grits behind. Wasn't easy.

grits.jpg

At this point, I couldn't imagine eating any more, yet the next course was crispy pork belly on a bed of veggies. I ate it. Luckily, the chefs know what they're doing and kept the portion nice and small. But still, it's essentially a cube of pork fat. Didn't leave a morsel.

belly.jpg


I thought we were done. The menu had three courses. But then out came dessert: a slab of cafe au lait pound cake with a praline bacon crumble on top. We did what any loving parents would do, we split one and got the other to go. You can't make me feel guilty about the childhood obesity epidemic when the sweets are this good.

dessert.jpg

Dinner done, we rolled out to the car and headed to the Music Farm for the Fitz and the Tantrums show, which was going to require some much-needed dancing.

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