A match made in hog-heaven
For all those who think Food & Wine has gotten a little highfalutin, Dan Philips and his love of bacon to the rescue.Philips’ “Best Bacon Wines” seminar is no baloney – it’s about discovering what different vintages and varietals work best with Philips’ favorite pig product. Forget about snooty sipping and dainty hors d’oeuvres, this seminar includes six wines and plates lined with six strips of bacon.”I could do this every day,” said Peter Kasperski, owner of Cowboy Ciao in Scottsdale, Ariz., and bacon class panelist, after tasting the lot. “Bacon is life – there’s no way around it.”Tasting wine and bacon together may sound a little unorthodox, but in essence, it’s all about flavor, Philips said. Food is always a filter for wine – some things work together, and some combinations are overpowering – and bacon is no different.Is Philips endorsing having a little wine with your morning bacon and eggs? Maybe not, but if you wanted to wake up to bacon and wine he’s happy to recommend a good Cava – sparkling Spanish wine.Philips, the “bacon curator” for the class, is a self-taught whiz by visiting farms, meeting farmers and the people who cure bacon over the last seven years. He’s also owner of Grateful Palate, a website that includes the Bacon of the Month Club.During Friday’s seminar, Philips wore a T-shirt from the club that has an illustrated piece of bacon coming out of the shirt’s pocket – not too surprising for someone who says he eats bacon almost every day and hands out tiny rubber pigs to audience members.”Bacon is a very American experience,” he said, comparing Southern bacon to the blues, Elvis and NASCAR racing. “Bacon to me means freedom.”The room of wine connoisseurs chuckled at Philips’ sheer enthusiasm for pork that has been cured, smoked and fried, but they were soon silenced when presented with plates full of the prized meat.There are Southern and Northern styles of bacon, Philips explained. Southern is typically characterized as smoky and salty. While that may sound like typical bacon, consider that Northern-style bacon is a little more hammy and sweeter with a chewy texture.Bacon from the North has even been described as “creamy” tasting. The meat tastes different when it comes from different parts of the pig – like the jowls versus the shoulder – and when it’s smoked with different woods like hickory, applewood or even corn cobs.”Every farmer’s cure is different – it’s like a thumbprint of the man,” Philips said.Tasters are encouraged to mix and match bacon with six different wines until they find the perfect pair. In Friday’s class, a $35 bottle of RBJ 2001 Theologicum received rave reviews and coupled pleasantly with each strip of bacon.Together, bacons and wines change each other’s flavor, sometimes bringing out surprising fruit flavors, and other times falling flat.”These are beautiful wines, and beautiful bacons, but together, some of them really pop, and some of them are just eh,” said Tory McPhail, head chef at the Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. McPhail munched bacon and swirled, sniffed and sipped the wines, drawing smiling or frowning faces next to various combinations.”Bacon is my favorite food, and wine is my favorite drink, so this is a no-brainer,” said James Wallace, attending the seminar with friends. “Now I just need to find wines that go well with Cheetos.”Best Bacon Wines is offered today from 2 to 2:45 p.m. at the Food & Wine Classic, at the Mountain Chalet.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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