Bacon Unwrapped

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Caramelized Bacon at Brick 29

I spent the first 18 years of my life in a sagebrush desert town called Nampa in Southwest Idaho. Like many towns in the West, Nampa has experienced unprecedented growth in the last 15 years. Today, Nampa's population is over 80,000, up from 40,000 residents just a couple decades ago.

While some Western towns have done a good job of bringing their urban cores up to speed as their suburbs have exploded, others have not. Until recently, Downtown Nampa was one of those places that had not kept up even though the city's population had doubled in recent years.

But recently there has been a renewed effort to bring people back to Downtown Nampa. Storefronts are being updated and new businesses are moving in. One such business is a restaurant called Brick 29.

Brick 29 is located in the recently remodeled Masonic Temple. Brick 29 is named after the brick building in which it is located - the lodge's number was 29.

The restaurant focuses on Northwest cuisine using local ingredients. This is particularly interesting because I'm not aware of any other restaurant in Nampa that has ever put such a focus on local ingredients in a high profile way, despite the fact that Nampa is a farming community that produces beef, a variety of fruits and vegetables, and even wine.

When I first heard about Brick 29, I was skeptical given the history of Nampa's restaurant scene (which consisted mostly of delis, diners, chain restaurants, pizza joints, and Mexican restaurants). So I was pleasantly surprised when I entered the restaurant for lunch on a Friday afternoon and found myself in a setting that could have as easily been in downtown DC as much as downtown Nampa.

Chef Dustan Bristol's seasonal menu pays attention to detail. The first detail you encounter is a slice of cucumber that is served in each glass of water. I'm personally not a fan of cucumbers, but actually found it to be quite refreshing on a hot summer day as it was.

After a quick review of the menu, I had my eyes set on the B.L.A.T. (sweet and spicy bacon, local tomatoes, butter leaf lettuce, avocado, and aioli on a toasted baguette), even though there were a lot of other things on the menu that also looked good. But I stayed focused and ordered my B.L.A.T. along with a cup of tomato bisque.

While the description of the B.L.A.T. alone makes it sound intriguing, the sandwich is so delicious that the description really doesn't do it justice. First of all, when they say 'sweet and spicy bacon', what they really mean is bacon that has been caramelized in brown sugar and red pepper flakes. If you saw my post earlier this summer about caramelized bacon, you know I'm a big fan. But the addition of pepper flakes gives the caramelized bacon a spicy kick that can only be described as awesome. Chef Bristol gets the bacon from Tri-City Meats in nearby Meridian.

Another item making an appearance at our table was the ham and havarti sandwich my mom ordered. Black Forest ham, Danish cheese, dill pickles and dijon-aioli stacked on a toasted baguette...as much as I loved the B.L.A.T., this ham sandwich was so good that I may have to order it next time I go to Brick 29 since I was only able to have one bite.

Brick 29 also has a decent wine list that features some of the better local wines. Most people don't know that Southwest Idaho is actually an up-and-coming wine producing region, which makes sense given that the area has long been a fruit producing region thanks to warm summer days and cool nights at about 2500 feet above sea level.

So while I was excited to find a way to write about bacon in my hometown, it's even more exciting to see that progress is finally taking place on the Nampa restaurant scene. If Brick 29 is a sign of things to come, then things are definitely looking good for Downtown Nampa.

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