Bacon with dessert?
Chefs nationwide are pairing up sweets with a surprising savory.
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"My mom made, or tried to make, French toast and bacon. She would try her best in exposing us to different things," says Ms. Tong. "She would bust out the Wonder Bread and soak it in eggs, and it wasn't right but we as kids appreciated it."Skip to next paragraph
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Tong later attended culinary school and turned her nostalgia for those flavors into a sophisticated yet homey Banana Bread Pudding With Bacon Brittle. She cubes bread and soaks it in frangipanie almond cream and bakes it until it's toasty. To make the bacon brittle, she renders bacon until it is crisp, chops it, and folds it into hot sugar syrup, just like making peanut brittle. The bread pudding is covered with fresh banana slices and anointed with vanilla rum ice cream, maple bacon sauce, and her bacon brittle.
How have Tong's customers reacted?
"I got a couple of marriage proposals; [they were] just kidding," says Tong. "Sometimes you just want breakfast for dinner."
Tai Kim was already experimenting with exotic ice creams flavored with saffron, Grape-Nuts, or rose water at Scoops, his trendy Los Angeles shop off Melrose Avenue, when he decided to try his hand at bacon ice cream.
"A friend of mine went to a restaurant [where] they have bacon pancakes and bacon caramel syrup. And then she says [to me], 'You should make a bacon ice cream,' " Mr. Kim says. His repertoire now includes Chocolate-Bacon, Bacon-Caramel, and a Bacon Peanut Butter-Banana ice cream, an ode to a few of Elvis Presley's favorite things.
His classically made ice creams have just a hint of bacon's smoky flavor; Kim infuses the cream with fat left over from cooking up a batch of smoked bacon. He says that adding meat to the ice cream would make it soggy, so he gives the bacon away to friends.
As beloved as bacon is, pork desserts probably wouldn't go over very well at ordinary restaurants, says Brian Wansink, author of the book "Mindless Eating." It's the novelty of seeing it on a high-end dessert menu that's seductive.
"The restaurants that use bacon on their menus are not Edna's Diner," says Dr. Wansink. "The foodies there say, 'You know, I've had normal bacon, but there must be something about this that's very different.' They're playing toward a crowd that is there because they're foodies."
Of course, breakfast for dessert isn't for everybody.
"I would definitely sample it, but I wouldn't buy it," Ricardo Miyares, an entrepreneur from Miami, decided after tasting the Bacon Maple cupcake at More in Chicago. "The maple frosting ... I'm not crazy about it."
But on the patio outside, as his five friends shared chocolate and Red Velvet cupcakes, Zack Smith sat thoughtfully eating his Bacon Maple.
"I'm the type of person that finds the most interesting menu items," says Mr. Smith, who is pursuing a master's degree in marketing at Northwestern University. "I'm really enjoying the savory and sweet combination."
Mr. Van Kley, the sous chef of Le Pigeon, says he was dubious when his boss Gabriel Rucker dreamed up Honey-Apricot Cornbread Pudding with bacon as they wrote a menu before the 2006 opening of the indie restaurant on Portland's east side. "When he first told me about it, I thought he was out of his mind," says Van Kley. "[But] our dessert works just like breakfast does. It really is simply like a good breakfast: sweet and salty."
Le Pigeon's patrons are so devoted to the Honey-Apricot Cornbread Pudding – served with a generous scoop of maple ice cream – that it's earned a permanent place on the dessert menu along with their profiteroles with foie gras ice cream.
"Actually we will not remove it from the menu," says Van Kley. "We've accepted the fact that we can't. It's a destination dessert. We've had people in our restaurant from New York specifically to eat this dessert."