At one time or another, every carnivore has been overcome by a passionate, verging-on-indecent love for cured and smoked pork bits. Unsurprisingly, in the United States this love is celebrated to its extreme. The land of the free and the home of the brave is also home to bacon-flavoured deodorants, air fresheners, lip balms, chewing gum and condoms.
As much as we love bacon, we prefer not to take it in to the bed or bathroom, but that’s not to say we don’t endorse creative approaches to using it as actual food. From popular ’70s dinner-party mainstay “devils on horseback” (blue cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped, dates) to Heston Blumenthal’s Nitro-Scrambled Egg and Bacon Ice Cream, bacon has proven its versatility well beyond breakfast.
Even in the free-wheeling, wrap-fruit-with-it 1970s, it would have been outrageous to see bacon on a dessert menu or cocktail list. Now, it’s commonplace. Which is fortunate, because bacon really does make everything better. And while there really isn’t necessarily a “bad” way to eat bacon, it’s a shame for it to be relegated to the sidelines. It should be a star.
With that in mind, we’ve scoured the city for the finest examples of bacon use: dishes that are not only interesting, but also appropriately recognise bacon’s rightful status as the prince of meats.
Where bacon is the star
Yes, it is fabulous as a side with eggs, and in bread with avocado, lettuce and tomato. There’s certainly no shortage of cafes that will provide you with basic bacon service, and we take our hat off to them. But why choose basic when you could head to newly opened Mammoth for its smoked bacon and mushroom dashi broth, or its egg-and-bacon popcorn? Or to Pope Joan for its eponymous sandwich, which uses The Melbourne Pantry bacon (one of the best)? The Gem in Collingwood does a ridiculous mac’n’cheese with bacon crumb, and Stagger Lee’s and La Luna Bistro both do bacon croquettes – the former as a side with its Stack & Billy burger, the latter on a bed of bacon mayonnaise and bacon jam (triple points). At Temple Brewing Company in East Brunswick, an order of fat, hand-cut chips is radically improved with a pot of bacon aioli.
Where bacon is a drink
The sweet, smoky, meatiness of bacon lends itself surprisingly well to alcoholic drinks. Beer and brown liquors, such as bourbon, have a smokiness of their own which pairs beautifully, and vodka is neutral enough to be a perfect vehicle. Try the Bacon On Bacon boilermaker at Fitzroy’s Kodiak Club, a shot of house-made bacon bourbon with 3 Ravens Dark Smoke Ale, or The Harek at Boilermaker House, also made with house-made smoked bacon bourbon (and served in a horn). Follow up the next morning with Sweetwater Inn’s “Kevin Bloody Bacon”, a Bloody Mary made with bacon, beetroot and green-chilli-infused vodka.
Where bacon is dessert
Homer Simpson was on the money: “Move over, eggs. Bacon just got a new best friend – fudge.” However crazy the first execution of a sweet bacon dessert may have seemed, the volume of reincarnations since is evidence that this combination works. Gelato Messina, N2 Gelato, Doughboys Doughnuts, Shortstop Donuts, Lune Croissantarie and Beatrix all use bacon in their sweets, generally alongside some combination of whiskey, maple, chocolate, peanut or banana. Ike’s Rack Shack does a Maple & Bacon Glazed Cornbread Doughnut, Bluebonnet Barbecue does a Bacon and Smoked Maple Ice Cream Sandwich. Archie’s All Day takes it up a notch with its sweet breakfast of grilled French toast, sweet-potato custard, smoked-maple cream, sweet-potato jam, spiced pecans and candied bacon. Life’s too short not to order the bacon dessert.
When bacon is for baking
As always, Heston Blumenthal knows what’s up. He shares a recipe for banana and bacon cookies in his Heston at Home cookbook, where he adds chopped, cooked, streaky bacon to the dough before baking. But bacon fat can also be used as a substitute for butter or lard in waffles, pancakes, caramels and so on. If you want to give it a spin at home, try popping popcorn in bacon fat, then pour any remaining fat over the top and sprinkling with some chopped, cooked bacon pieces, maybe some extra melted butter and sprinkling of brown sugar.
When it comes to bacon, the possibilities are endless.