Bacon Unwrapped

Monday, February 11, 2008

Interview with Rocco "Bacon Freak" Loosbrock

Rocco Loosbrock is the man behind Coastal Vineyards' gourmet bacon of the month club. Following is an interview I conducted with him about his bacon club and life as a "bacon freak."

Bacon Unwrapped: What’s the story behind the creation of your Gourmet Bacon Club?

Rocco: Well, it's kind of one of those dumb luck situations that you just stumble onto. I was on a business trip in Kentucky and so I, of course, wanted to go out for some breakfast to experience some of that real "Southern Hospitality." Anyway, I ordered breakfast and when the waitress served it, I immediately noticed that the bacon was absolutely huge, all thick and plump, and sticking way out of the breakfast sandwich that I ordered.

I simply had to comment to the waitress that I had never seen bacon this big anywhere in my travels. Her reply was, "Oh, you’re not from around here, are you? You're one of them City Slickers, aren't you?"

Anyway, she sat down next to me and introduced me to what has now become the love of my life, Country Bacon! I bought some for myself before I left and took it home and started sharing it with friends, relatives and colleagues. Everybody that tried it absolutely "freaked" (thus the name "Bacon Freak" was born) and they all insisted that I go back as soon as possible and get a bunch more.

Bacon Unwrapped: How do you determine which bacons to include in your bacon of the month club?

Rocco: It may sound glorious, but it's all rather simple when you really get down to it. With Bacon Freak, it's all a matter of personal dedication and commitment to quality and above all else, our valued members and customers. This means I actually go through the entire process myself: ordering each gourmet bacon from top, award winning artisan producers and then getting up early on a Saturday, turning on the stove, and cooking and eating.

I have this ritual I go through. I smell each bacon before cooking to determine its "snout," similar to the term "nose" in wine tasting. Then I cook up a couple of pieces of each bacon and decide which ones are truly excellent enough to make the cut and wear the Bacon Freak name and logo. Eating the very best bacon in the whole world, actually, now that I come to think of it, that really is pretty glorious, isn't it?

Bacon Unwrapped: What sets your bacon club apart from bacon clubs offered by other companies?

Rocco: A few things. First off, there's our consistent and total commitment to absolute customer satisfaction. I know that no one's perfect, but on those rare occasions when we do make a mistake, we go above and beyond the normal call of duty to fix it and fix it FAST! Our members and customers appreciate that and I think it's a big part of why they keep coming back again and again.

Second is our amazing variety and selections. Most clubs feature the cheapest pork they can buy in bulk, thinking ONLY about the bottom line minimum investment to reap the maximum bottom line profit. We, on the other hand, do things the good ol' fashioned way. We focus on maintaining our stellar reputation and client relationships by featuring ONLY the very best bacon available.

Lastly, we know people love their bacon. For most "bacon people" it's a proud passion and not a mere preference! At's Bacon Freak, we believe that "Bacon Is Meat Candy" and we do everything in our power to effectively and consistently satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth for the bountiful bliss we call bacon.

Bacon Unwrapped: How do you come up with some of the unique bacon terminology that you use throughout your website? Please share some of these terms and their meanings with us.

Rocco: Well it all starts with the basic philosophy "Baconisim!" Actually my 6 year old son showed me how to have fun with bacon. One day he was helping us pack a shipment and he suddenly came up with the title "King Ba-Cong!" Before you knew it, I was the "Boss Hog," the receptionist was my "Baconista," and the people in shipping were our "Bacon Buddies."

Meanwhile, we were beginning to realize that for so many people out there, bacon is more than just meat, it's a way of life and an attitude. And that way of life has a culture unto itself, distinct from everything else around it in our society. It's a culture of passion and a lot of fun! Over time, we naturally just began to come up with fun names for practically everything that we do here, and the members and customers just love it! Now most people refer to us as the Bacon Is Meat Candy Club!

Bacon Unwrapped: I assume you like eating bacon in many forms, but do you personally have a favorite recipe that involves bacon?

Rocco: Sure, I tend to love the simple things that your average, everyday "guy chef" like me can make, like stuffed chili peppers. You simply stuff them with cream cheese, wrap them in bacon and cook for 20 minutes in the broiler. It's easy, but oh so delicious! Mmmm, I can taste it now, can't you?

Another favorite is Bacon Wrapped Corn On The Cob rubbed with red pepper. And can anyone with a working nose and mouth possibly resist Bacon Wrapped Pork Chops? I for one don't think so! That is why we're now launching our new Bacon Recipe Video Series on our Bacon Freak website, to show folks how to make all sorts of amazingly delicious and very easy to make bacon recipes.

Bacon Unwrapped: And last...when you eat a piece of bacon, which do you prefer - crispy or chewy?

Rocco: Wow that's a tough question. The last time I got this question I put two pieces of bacon in my mouth at the same time, one crispy one chewy. I woke up 48 hours later with no recollection of what had happened, that’s how powerful bacon is.

Thanks to Rocco for taking the time to talk with me. Be sure to check out his website for more information about the Bacon is Meat Candy club, and all of the other products Coastal Vineyards has to offer.

Disclaimer: Coastal Vineyards is currently an advertiser on Bacon Unwrapped, but no remuneration was received for this interview.


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Monday, January 07, 2008

Interview with Dave Lefkow, Co-Founder of Bacon Salt

It has been almost a year since two Bacontrepreneurs named Justin and Dave first introduced Bacon Salt to the world. I recently caught up with Dave to see how things are going and to find out what baconlicious plans the Bacon Salt team has in store for 2008. Following is a transcript of the interview, which covers everything from Bacon Salt's unlikely origin at a Jewish wedding to the possibility of disrupting the space-time continuum with Bacon Salt.

Heather: How did you come up with the idea for Bacon Salt? What did you hope to accomplish when you quit your job to pursue this dream, and have things turned out like you thought or hoped they would?

Dave: Justin came up with the idea for Bacon Salt while at a Jewish military wedding as he espoused the virtues of bacon and a drink called a Mitch Morgan (shot of bourbon and a bacon garnish) to a table full of people that kept kosher. He told me about it a few months later. My immediate response was something that's really just the prevailing wisdom where I'm from: "Everything should taste like bacon." The rest is history.

Heather: Do you have plans to expand the Bacon Salt line anytime in the near future?

Dave: Yes, we're almost finished with a Natural version, which is proving a bit harder than we initially thought but will be ready in 2-3 months. There are also several other flavors in the works that will be delicious. If I told you what they were, I'd have to immediately kill you though.

Heather: Are you planning any big events for Bacon Salt's 1 year anniversary?

Dave: We are throwing a fun party in Seattle in early February, and are inviting all of our bacon-loving friends and partners that didn't tell us we were out of our minds for doing this. Justin and I will be rolling in bacon tuxedos.

Heather: What is the wackiest use of Bacon Salt you've encountered to date?

Dave: Bacon Salt has been used on everything from eggs, grilled meats and vegetables to more unique items like watermelon, chocolate and pineapples (which aren't half bad actually). But hands down the wackiest use of Bacon Salt to date has to be a guy in Seattle who actually snorted it - and, after destroying his nasal cavities, was still able to deadpan "Bacon Goodness" into the camera. That's impressive! The video can be found here:

Heather: Is there one way people use Bacon Salt that seems to be more common than others?

Dave: Scrambled eggs, hash browns, mashed potatoes, grilled meats, fish and pasta are all very popular - but everything really should taste like bacon. I'm still finding new ways to use it that are surprisingly good.

Heather: What is the funniest thing someone has said to you after tasting Bacon Salt?

Dave: "I think I just saw God."

Heather: Comedian Jim Gaffigan once said, "I bet if you put bits of bacon on a strip of bacon, you could travel back in time. It's like a tasty vortex." What do you think would happen if you put Bacon Salt on a strip of bacon?

Dave: This has been referred to as "super bacon" or "bacon on steroids" by chefs we know. We're actually working with a great monthly bacon club called Coastal Vineyards on figuring out the answer to this mystery and developing a "super bacon" product - stay tuned! If we cause a rip in the fabric of space and time in the process, well... our sincere apologies, it was for a good cause.

Heather: I assume you're just as big of a fan of bacon as you are of Bacon Salt? If so, what kind of bacon do you like?

Dave: Absolutely. I love thicker, meatier cuts of bacon. I'm talking bacon so thick that you should feel your arteries clog as you're chewing it.

Heather: Do you find yourself eating Bacon Salt more than actual bacon these days?

Dave: Yes - I have two very young kids and as much as I love to cook, taking the time to cook anything is really a challenge. It's kind of nice to be able to grab a shaker and impart the flavor of bacon on whatever else I might be cooking or warming up without the splattering grease, the mess or the time it takes to make it!

Heather: And last question...on the occasion that you do eat a real piece of bacon, what do you prefer - crispy or chewy?

Dave: It's election season, so I'm going to go right down the middle on this vital issue. I love bacon that is a balanced mix of crunch and chewy - crispy on the outside, yet thick and chewy in the middle, like a mini-bacon steak.

Thanks to Dave for answering my questions. If you want to learn more about Bacon Salt and its many applications, visit the Bacon Salt Blog. And I wish the Bacon Salt team best of luck as they continue to expand their empire in 2008!

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Interview with James Villas, Author of The Bacon Cookbook

James Villas, renowned author of numerous cookbooks and food-related essays (The Glory of Southern Cooking, Stalking the Green Fairy, Between Bites: Memoirs of a Hungry Hedonist) and former Food and Wine Editor of Town & Country Magazine, recently published a book about the Best Meat Ever.

The Bacon Cookbook is an international guide to bacon that includes over 150 recipes for various ways to enjoy the deliciousness of cured pork belly.

In describing the 43 commonly known varieties of bacon that can be found in 13 different countries, Villas highlights those adaptations that might not be as familiar to the average bacon-loving American such as toucinho ("pig belly that is either dry-cured and smoked or air-cured...produced in northern Portugal from pigs fed chestnuts and potatoes"), bauchspeck ("air-cured, birch-smoked pig belly popular in Switzerland and southwestern Austria"), and lop yuk ("pig belly that is either air-cured with soy sauce, brown sugar, and spices for seven to ten days till mellow and very hard, or cured for four days, then smoked about five hours...used for flavoring numerous Chinese dishes").

The Bacon Cookbook also contains recipes for using all of the bacon varieties described in the beginning of the book (and very helpfully makes suggestions for substitutions when you can't get your hands on those bacons that aren't commonly available in the United States). The recipes range from the familiar (Iceberg Wedges with Bacon, Blue Cheese, and Buttermilk Dressing; Quiche Lorraine; Cobb Salad; and The All-American BLT Sandwich) to the more adventurous and exotic (Bacon, Peanut Butter, and Scallion Canapes; Swedish Open-Faced Mussel and Bacon Sandwiches; Chinese Sweet Rice with Black Mushrooms and Bacon; and - again with the peanut butter - Bacon and Peanut Butter Chocolate Truffles).

Fortunately I was able to get Mr. Villas to take a few moments from his busy schedule to answer a few questions for Bacon Unwrapped.

Question: In your book, you include a pretty extensive list of the various kinds of bacon produced around the world. If you had to pick one favorite bacon variety to sit down and eat right now, which one would it be?

James Villas: Probably English back bacon--a nice chunk of lean with a tail of fat--perfect ratio of lean and fat. Only now is English back bacon starting to appear in our better markets.

Question: Bacon and peanut butter…what do you think it is about the marriage of these two foods that is so appealing?

JV: Perhaps the saltiness of the bacon balanced by the slight sweetness of the peanut butter. Also the contrast in textures--crisp bacon and smooth peanut butter. Even children love this combination.

Question: Of all the recipes in your book, is there one that is a particular favorite of yours – something that you could eat regularly and never get tired of?

JV: Impossible to answer, but I could never get tired of eating Cobb salad, any corn and bacon chowder, quiche Lorraine, and spaghetti carbonara with pancetta.

Question: Have you ever been introduced to a dish with bacon in it that you didn’t think you would like, but were pleasantly surprised?

JV: Yes, Portuguese Egg and Bacon Pudding (or "egg sweet"). My friend Jean Anderson told me about it, I cringed, but when I made it, it turned out to be glorious--and so unusual.

Question: When eating a piece of bacon on its own, which do you prefer – crispy or chewy?

JV: Depends. I think it's a crime to overcook any breakfast bacon and prefer mine slightly soft and chewy. But items like lacquered or glazed bacon and Japanese bacon tempura definitely must be crisp. And, generally, I prefer crisp bacon in my salads, and crisp bacon sprinkled on top of soups.

I'd like to thank James Villas for taking the time to answer my questions. And I urge everyone to go out and buy a copy of The Bacon Cookbook and cook something with bacon for dinner!

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