I’ve always been a meat-lover. Growing up, my daddy hunted and I remember us eating what he had shot, from duck breasts to dove “poppers” to venison sausage (my personal favorite). Game has been the name of the, well, game for as long as I can remember.
I cannot say the same for bacon. Like most girls, I’ve toyed with different diets in my day, and one that stuck for a long time was the swearing off of bacon. I proclaimed I did not like it, did not want to eat it or even touch it—I convinced myself of this for a long time. Not that I had an issue with the concept (‘vegetarianism’ has never been part of my personal vocabulary), I just refused it. That is until I moved to Italy and began to eat and breathe pork, from prosciutto to speck to pancetta. Italian brought bacon hurtling back into my diet, and I’ve never looked back.
A meal that has stood out recently in my mind is based on the notion of bacon, but on a grander scale. I had the pleasure of dining in the bar room at Aureole near Times Square in New York City. I work near the place, had read multiple reviews, and finally decided I needed to try it for myself. I could wax poetic about the beauty of the restaurant space and the competence of the waitstaff (the sommelier let me try several tastes of wine until I found one that was perfect for me—and this was over lunch), but I am really focused on one aspect of my meal: the Pork Belly Sliders.
In layman’s terms, pork belly is just a hefty cut of bacon. A beautiful, thick, fatty, exquisitely juicy cut of bacon. Executive Chef Charlie Palmer, owner of several New York City restaurants, calls his style of cuisine “Progressive American,” and in America, bacon is literally from the belly of the pig (not true elsewhere in the world, since bacon can be cut from multiple sections). Although Chef’s menu elegantly opens to reveal first the ‘bar snacks,’ then the appetizers and entrees, I never moved beyond the first element of the menu that caught my eye. Pork Belly.
The belly was served in the style of pastrami sliders, replete with cole slaw, russian dressing, and raclette cheese, served on the tiniest little brioche, and topped with a few slivers of toasted sea salt. Three glorious squares of pork belly were each encased in this delicate take on a delicatessen favorite. Each bite was distinct, highlighting the fat of the belly, the crunch of the salt, the ooze of the slaw and dressing, the softness of a slightly soggy bun. And although it sounds decadent, the size of each portion was little more than bite size. I was so satisfied I even refused the dessert menu. This might just be my new diet…