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zingermans-bacon-table

I am now a Zingerman’s convert. I resisted for a while (if you’ve been reading this blog, you know I generally avoid agreeing with crowds), but after eating bacon-enhanced food for two hours at today’s Bacon & Brunch with Ari Weinzweig, I’m in with Zingerman’s.

 

The brunch and Ari’s talk on bacon, was co-sponsored by the Ann Arbor Book Festival. In May, Ari will be on a panel with other foodie authors discussing his book, Guide to Better Bacon: Stories of pork bellies, hush puppies, rock’n’roll music and bacon fat mayonnaise.

 

The meal started out with Zingerman’s Bakehouse Bacon-Cheddar Scones and American Fried Bread. The bread was fried in, you guessed it, bacon fat. I have never eaten a more luscious piece of fried bread in my life. (My fiancé noticed a few people at the end looking in the baskets for more bread and snatching an extra piece or two.)

 

We were then treated to South Carolina Gold Rice Grits and Bits Waffle and Hangtown Fry (eggs with bacon and oysters mixed in) with Bacon Hash. The hash was particularly smooth and bursting with flavor. The waffles had crispy bacon bits on top. The bacon fat, which was the base for most of what we ate this morning, absorbs the flavors of the other ingredients and allows them to blossom.

 

zingermans-main-dish

 

Don’t fret, vegetarians. There was a tofu bacon option for you. The kind man sitting next to me let me take a picture of his dish:

 

zingermans-veggy-plate

 

Then we had a bacon tasting. Now, I might not have found a physician in Ann Arbor yet, but I’m sure she wouldn’t have approved of a plate of bacon. Still, this morning was like a bacon holiday, so who was I to resist? Here is the plate that Ari talked us through eating:

 

zingermans-bacon-tasting3 

 

 

I had no idea that there were so many different kinds of bacon. I know that my father likes thicker slices of bacon and I tend to buy the less smoky organic bacon at Trader Joe’s. Ari talked about customers who know about different kinds of cheeses and wines, but have a hard time describing their favorite bacon. He suggested buying a variety of types of bacon and serving them at home to guests. (Is it too late to change our wedding menu to include more bacon?)

 

My favorite was Benton’s. It is the second to the last one on the plate. It originates in eastern Tennessee and is dry cured and smoked over hickory.

 

We ended with Buttermilk Biscuits with Chocolate-Bacon Gravy. My goodness, these were delicious. While I tried to hold back and not finish each plate offered, I wanted to lick this plate clean. The sweet-savory flavors shut off all my other senses so I could focus on the striking taste. It reminded me of the sweet-sour combination of a sea salt caramel, only chocolate was involved.

 

zingermans-dessert

 

Throughout the meal, Ari shared his expertise with bacon. He shared some personal stories along the way. Ari grew up in a Kosher household and remembers eating fairly unremarkable beef bacon as a child. Most of the food that he sells at Zingerman’s is something he discovered, rather than something he grew up with.

 

About bacon’s importance, Ari stressed, “bacon is to North American cooking what olive oil is to Mediterranean food.” According to his research, bacon has been big since the beginning in America. It crosses almost all ethnic and cultural (although not religious) lines. The Europeans brought bacon with them and even influenced the Native American cooking. In the South, he said, you will almost always find a jar of bacon fat by the stove (not refrigerated) and it would be eaten in all seasons.

 

Zingerman’s kindly shared recipes from the upcoming book. I know I can’t wait until the book comes out to read more.

 

Hope to see you at the Ann Arbor Book Festival in May! I’ll be presenting at the Writer’s Conference (Writing Your Family History)  And let me know if you need a brunch date at Zingerman’s. After my fiancé and I fast for a few days, we’ll be ready for more.  

 

Ari and Kathy Robenalt, Executive Director of the Ann Arbor Book Festival

Thanks to the Ann Arbor Chronicle for sharing this article.

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