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January 13, 2013

CAC's (Final) Bacon Review, The Salted Pig

Alas, my regular diet of bacon came to an abrupt end Monday morning in an aseptic room with bright lights and knockout juice. After months of painful attacks, my gall bladder was yanked out, and with it, my ability to gorge on pound after pound of succulent pork belly.

Just before the surgery, the wife surprised me with a trip to what will be your favorite bacon spot in Southern California the entire world. A fitting trip, as it would be my last bacon hurrah.

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I could do a thread on the beer selection alone, but the focus here is on the pig, and there is plenty to discuss. Two things first.

1 This is the best bacon you will ever eat. Period. If you think you've had better, you are wrong. Seriously. Don't bother arguing. Drive/fly/walk to it and tell me otherwise. You'll just end up in total ecstasy, begging to bow before me in thanks, and that gets awkward fast.
2 Unlike your garden variety trash food at the local fair where fry daddies and bacon are used to create gastronomic monstrosities, this is a place where bacon has become high art. Bacon that is the best-on-earth deserves nothing less. Owner Ronaldo Fierro is the Bellini of bacon. I have always felt bacon to be the perfect food with unlimited versatility, and Mr. Fierro has proven this beyond my wildest dreams.

Brace yourselves.

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Bacon Fat Popcorn and Ale Battered Dates

The bacon fat popcorn is as incredible as it sounds. Far from a salty soggy mess it is a airy, savory snack whose only drawback is its exhaustable supply. As my aforementioned viridian organ had already suffered extensive damage, I had to be cautious in my eating, so I was delighted by the lightness of the snack and how far a smattering of bacon fat can go for flavor.
I devoured much of the bowl before the second treat was brought before us, those delectable dates you see in the foreground. Not any old dates, of course- dates deep fired in an ale batter after being stuffed with rich creamed cheese and wrapped in a rust scarf of applewood bacon.
Every layer explodes in a symphony that commands the attention of all the senses, and yes, I mean all of them. You are transported into another plane of existence by the time you bite through the soft fruit, and the sensation of the cheese mixing with the smack of bacon, well, may I suggest you bring an extra pair of pants if you choose to indulge. When you realize you have two more left to enjoy (five if you don't bring the wife), that suggestion becomes a warning.

By the time I had finished my dates and popped corn, the infernal innard began to make its protests, and I was forced to break from my planned plunder of pork. My wife, sensing my sadness in my inability to fully indulge, offered to split this delectable entry:

the Pork Belly Sandwich

The pain rumbling in my ribs stopped that quickly, so she found another item:

The Pig Board (Candied Bacon and Prosciutto)

But the gall bladder, on this day, won. My days of literally consuming pounds of pork in a sitting had already come and gone by this point, and I was gritting my teeth in gastrological pain. After a rest punctuated with ale, we proceeded to finish our trip with a "lighter" dessert, their Pig Sammy:

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Homemade candied bacon ice cream sandwiched between maple cookies.
Now, Mrs. CAC enjoys bacon, but usually on a far more surfaced and moderate level than I. Not with this dish. The want in her eyes as she consumed spoon after spoon excited, then disturbed me. What creation is this before me? Grabbing a spoon of my own, her initial reaction was to block me from eating our "shared" dessert, but I distracted her enough to snag a few spoonfuls.

Bacon ice cream is tricky. You have a salty/sweet item that should be a natural fit for the frozen snack (or at least a more sensible one than pistachio), but so many people botch the process. You often end up with a bizarre amalgamation that is neither sweet nor salty nor savory nor creamy. Just a gross sticky mess. Not so with this, and coupled with the rich cookies, it is required eating here regardless how full you may be on the pork belly I didn't have the pleasure of eating.

Perhaps, in some distant time, I will return to The Salted Pig, sadly only a shell of my former self. I may have the tolerance for a slice of belly, perhaps a date, or their deconstructed bacon. The obnoxious organ that is no longer plaguing me took away my ability to enjoy pig to the degree I had, but it will not rob me of the artery-hardening love I share for man's true best friend. May you all find your way to this incredible place. Bring pants.

The Salted Pig is located at 12th and Main in downtown Riverside, California.

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posted by CAC at 12:30 PM

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