It's hard to remember a time when bacon was just a side order at breakfast.
Over the past couple of years, the salty strips have found their way into everything from popcorn and liquor to cupcakes and ice cream. It almost feels like you can't leave the house without running into the temptation of a bacon-infused, bacon-sprinkled or bacon-wrapped something or other.
And the bacon frenzy hasn't stopped at a compulsory inclusion in even the most unexpected food and beverage items. No, this foodie trend has secured a spot as the star of celebratory events around the nation, including West Michigan's own Bacon and Beer Festival, which made its debut in Grand Rapids last November.
But what's with all the hoopla? What is it about bacon that's got us lusting after it in every conceivable variation?
For starters, it's a small guilty pleasure that always feels justifiable. And then there's its tantalizing smell that brings to mind Saturday mornings of our childhoods and beloved neighborhood diners. And, best of all, when bacon surprises us—say, in the folds of a fluffy pancake or blended into a thick milkshake—we're delighted at how the right amount of savory sass pairs pretty darn well with just about anything.
Hey, there's nothing wrong with serving up bacon the traditional way, on a plate next to eggs and toast. Sometimes, simple is good. But when you're craving a bit of bacon novelty and your taste buds are feeling adventurous, check out the following treats—all found in West Michigan.
At Vineyards Gourmet (3251 Friday Rd., Coloma), you'll find no shortage of sweet indulgences, from brittle and fudge to chocolate-covered fruits and nuts. There are plenty of tempting treats featuring bacon, too. You can opt for the "basic" Milk Chocolate-Covered Bacon—a smoky strip hand-dipped in gooey goodness—or experience new depths of intriguing flavor with the jalapeno, red pepper or black pepper sprinkled strips (also chocolate-covered). If you're not sure what to expect, just ask co-owner Brenda Fulton. Her standard reply: "They're weird, but good!"
A recent update to the brunch menu at Electric Cheetah (1015 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids) has blessed customers with the Darryl "Chocolate Thunder" Dawkins Cakes—chocolate chip pancakes complemented by all kinds of mouth-watering ingredients. Take of bite and enjoy bits of candied bacon, caramelized bananas, peanut butter whipped cream, salted peanuts and real maple syrup.
Zarzuela (301 E. Michigan Ave., Marshall) offers an array of authentic Spanish-Mediterranean fare, including one appetizer that will wow your mouth: the Datiles Rellenos de Queso con Tocino. Translation: amazingly tasty bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese. This kind of cuisine may be made for sharing, but it's perfectly acceptable to scarf down these little delights on your own.
Intrepid sushi lovers, brace yourselves: Maru Sushi & Grill (927 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids) has got a dish that will knock your socks off. The Sexy Bacon is stuffed with hickory smoked bacon, cucumber, asparagus, crab and tempura crunch, then wrapped in soy paper, drizzled with fantasy sauce, creamy garlic sauce,and eel sauce and topped with shredded nori. Now that's a roll with gusto.
As if a thick, juicy steak weren't enough to satisfy on its own, Marros Italian Restaurant (147 Water St., Saugatuck) has upped the ante with the Braciole. Bacon is rolled and stuffed into this cut of meat, along with parsley, Romano cheese and garlic. Once everything's been slow cooked for five hours in marinara sauce, it's all yours to enjoy along with forkfuls of pasta.
There's no shortage of bacon on the menu at Stella's Lounge (53 Commerce Ave., Grand Rapids). Choose from the Stuffed Tots (bacon and cheddar on the inside, jalapeno-blue cheese sauce on the outside), Bacon Fat Popcorn (trust us) and Cheddar Jalapeno Poppers (perfect for bacon-ranch dipping). Or just go crazy and sample all three.
Beer and bacon go hand in hand, so it's no surprise that Brewery Vivant (925 Cherry St., Grand Rapids) gratifies its patrons with plenty of porker pub fare. We suggest The Burger, which sounds deceptively simple, but goes above and beyond. This patty is topped with bacon marmalade, lettuce, tomato and onion. Extras include pecan smoked bacon, white Wisconsin cheddar, crumbled bleu cheese, and gruyere.
Brush off convention and add some bacon to your dessert at Grand Rapids Brewing Company (1 Ionia Ave., Grand Rapids). Try three scoops of Love's malted vanilla ice cream rolled in bacon brittle for a really unique treat.