2 Hours, 40 Bacons, Several Stomach Aches
I'm looking at The Grateful Palate's Field Guide to Bacon (part of the GP's Gift Hand Book for 2008 that my friend Dan Philips produces annually) and I'm getting hungry. Which is hugely ironic because two months ago, when I was part of the tasting that anchors the field guide, I never wanted to see another piece of bacon again. That tasting included New York's superstar restaurateur Danny Meyer (Gramercy Tavern, 11 Madison), superstar chef David Chang (Momofuku Noodle Bar, Ssam Bar), Angela Hwang, of Meyer's Hudson Yards, who also has a very cool bacon tattoo, and me. Our mission: To taste 40 bacons. The time limit: We all had to be on our respective ways in less than two hours.
The tasting took place at Ssam Bar (9 a.m. seemed like a good time to eat bacon, but I guess there's no good time to taste 40 bacons). The Ssam chefs heroically cooked up infinite amounts of bacon (and just as importantly, kept track of which bacon came from which producer). We had our favorites: Chang called Vande Rose Farms Hickory Smoked bacon from Des Moines, Iowa, "One of the best bacons ever," and Meyer gave it 4 oinks (the highest rating). Of Burgers Smokehouse Original Sugar Cured Country bacon, Chang said: "My favorite, Burgers crushes it," and Meyer added: "America's best everyday bacon—for breakfast, BLT or beer." Somewhere around bacon #20, Chang called for bread as a palate cleanser, while Meyer with a laugh requested spitting cups, like those at a wine tasting. At bacon #30, palate fatigue set in. But no one left the table until bacon #40 had been consumed and we were reasonably sure we'd broken some kind of a world record. Me, I had five different kinds of stomach ache and no taste for bacon for a month, but I was extremely proud. And, as Grub Street pointed out, the tasting earned Meyer and Chang no less a title than Bacon Ranger in this year's GP field guide.