As the Los Angeles Times recently phrased it, “In the TV food-show arena, bacon is the new black.”
And California celebrity chef Todd Fisher has been one of the key players responsible for helping move bacon off the breakfast table and onto all sorts of culinary destinations: pizza, entrées, sandwiches, even cocktails and desserts.
Fisher got to indulge his love for all things bacon on a new television series on the Discovery Channel’s Destination America called “The United States of Bacon.” You gotta love that title, right?
The show, which airs Sundays on the Discovery Channel, features Fisher’s travels around the country to visit restaurants where bacon has become a prominent part of some crazy culinary creation. As the LA Times story reviewing the show noted, “Many of the inventions are not for the squeamish: the sight of someone eating a bacon-wrapped pork ‘wing’ made from tenderloin may cause more health-conscious viewers to hyperventilate.”
Hey, LA Times: A bacon-wrapped pork hors d’oeuvre could cause hyperventilation? C’mon, get a grip on gastronomic reality.
“I’m a true baconholic, so this is a dream for me," Fisher said. “I’ve had this obsessive love for bacon for the past year and a half—smoking my own bacon, curing my own bacon. I’ve gone from being a true fan of bacon to being obsessive.”
A wild and savory guy
I have seen several episodes of the Unites States of Bacon, and although it’s edited in predictable, over-the-top “celeb-chef” mode, it’s fast-paced, enjoyable and certainly introduces viewers to some culinary creations not available at your local neighborhood Applebee’s.
In the show’s premiere episode last January, Fisher traveled to Milwaukee to visit the AJ Bombers restaurant and sample the joint’s specialty—the Barrie Burger, a local specialty that features chunky peanut butter topping a bacon cheeseburger. The restaurant also serves Bloody Marys garnished with bacon strips, which when you think about it, seems pretty logical—the “B” and the “T” of a BLT brought together in the form of a nutritious beverage.
Other featured concoctions include:
- The Turbacon Sandwich from Philadelphia, which is described as “piled high with enough turkey, bacon, cranberry-apple spread, brown gravy and crispy potato pancakes to set a defibrillator on fire.”
- The Jack Back Sammie, an LA specialty, which is basically a pepper steak smothered in bacon.
- A Bacon-Cheddar Apple Pie at Milwaukee’s Comet Cafe—bacon baked into a pie crust, plus bacon added to the apples (no doubt served with deep-fried Cheese Curds).
- A Cajun-stuffed whole chicken wrapped in pit-smoked bacon, from New Orleans, naturally.
- The Bacon-Turtle Burger (see photo), which is touted as a burger combines hot dogs, ground beef, melted cheese and bacon all in one—“a combination of multiple meats for the super-zealous carnivore.”
- Chicken-Fried Bacon from Texas, which, as its name implies, consists of bacon strips dredged in batter and deep fried, served as an appetizer with cream gravy or sausage gravy for dipping. Unfortunately, it does not come in a low-cal version.
Within mainstream foodservice, bacon has become a “condiment” of choice for salads and sandwiches, partly because the last two decades have seen meat and poultry become so lean and low-fat that much of the flavor and mouthfeel is lost. Bacons is the perfect replacement for both.
Specifically, as Fisher notes on his website (www.cheftoddfisher.com), bacon “cuts through all of the flavor receptors of the palate. It’s sour, sweet, stringy, meaty and robust and versatile. That’s why [it] can traverse all styles of food, from dessert to bacon and eggs to crunchy sandwiches.”
The executive in charge of selling the show agreed.
“Bacon has become a true phenomenon,” said Dan Adler, vice president of production for New York City-based Sharp Entertainment, which produced the project for discovery’s Destination America. “It just seems to have hit this wave—it’s the most special food out there right now.”
Fisher, who also starred in companion series the United States of Steak and the United States of Burgers (which both premiered last summer), has partnered with the Bacon Freaks (www.baconfreask.com ) to offer a whole variety of “gift bundles’ for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations, July 4th, Thanksgiving (of course!) and Christmas.
Not to mention the most important meat-related holiday of all:
Super Bowl Sunday.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.