SIZZLIN' LINKS

I'm not proud of this. But a story I once wrote is cited in the Wikipedia entry for "chocolate-covered bacon."

Wait. What am I saying? Of COURSE I'm proud of this. It might be the proudest achievement of my journalistic career. Heck, I'm just thrilled to live in a world where such a page even exists.

Wikipedia's chocolate-covered bacon page — not to mention entries for bacon ice cream, maple bacon doughnuts, chicken fried bacon and, simply, "bacon mania" — is proof of what we have all known for years: Bacon is more than a meal. It is a lifestyle. A credo. An infatuation. A way of raising your children.

And in the digital age, bacon has become a meme. It is, in fact, the world's most viral food.

Think about it. How many times has someone forwarded you a link to something bacon-related? Remember the bacon bra? The Wife Swap clip where the pouty kid swears, "Bacon is good for me!"? Just last week, someone probably sent you a link to that bacon-ified version of Van Gogh's Starry Night.

People geek out about bacon like no other food. Browse Web stores like Thinkgeek, and you will find such porcine paraphernalia as bacon breath mints, bacon dental floss, bacon wallets, bacon bandages and bacon soap. Bacon-flavored envelopes? Bacon-scented candles? A hand-pained silk bacon scarf for $56.99? ADD TO WISHLIST.

Wine retailer Rocco Loosbrock was there when it all began. A few years ago, he began throwing "Swine & Wine" dinners in Ventura County, Calif., which paired syrahs and cabernets with slices of artisan bacon. The response in the restaurant was instantaneous.

"Suddenly, a little bit of Bubba came out in everybody," he said. "They could smell it cooking, and they wanted it. Usually, you're mailing everybody on your list to get them to come to the wine dinner, and the restaurant's telling people it was sold out. Instant sensation.

"That weekend, I bought baconfreak.com."

Since then, the site, which sells not only gourmet meats but also products ranging from maple bacon coffee to bacon-scented fragrances to a bacon board game, has been featured everywhere from Daily Candy to Maxim.

"If you type 'bacon' into Google, I think we're the No. 1 site now," Loosbrock said. "Or below Wikipedia — which is ridiculous. Who goes there to look up the definition of bacon?"

Another beneficiary of the digital bacon boom: Tampa rapper Jakeem Johnson.

Johnson was cooking breakfast one morning when the Plies song Becky came on Wild 94.1‑FM. Johnson, who goes by the name Big Cheese, decided to write a parody song titled Gimme Dat Bacon:

Bacon kills? You're mistaken! / What kind of drugs are you takin'? / Don't keep it from me, 'cause I'll be yellin' out / I! Want! Baconnnn!

Almost immediately, Gimme Dat Bacon went viral. The video, which features Johnson dancing in front of a package of shrink-wrapped Oscar Mayer, has attracted more than 750,000 YouTube views. It was played on G4's Attack of the Show and Comedy Central's Tosh.0. And it will be the centerpiece of his upcoming album, the phenomenally titled Will Work for Bacon.

"People love pork," Johnson said. "They love bacon. They love sausages. But if I made Gimme Dat Sausage, it wouldn't hit like Gimme Dat Bacon. Bacon was that song. It hit the target. And it hit right on point."

Recently, Denny's hit the Web hard to promote its new "Baconalia" menu, featuring seven bacon-themed dishes, including Bacon Meatloaf, a Maple Bacon Sundae and a BBBLT Sandwich. At dennys.com, you can send virtual bacon greeting cards, learn a dance move called "The Sizzle" and even check out a bacon cam, featuring a shot of sizzling bacon 24 hours a day.

Their strategy is simple: Bacon sells.

Earlier this year, the Cupcake Spot in Tampa was asked to develop a signature cupcake for the 2011 Florida State Fair, something that would generate media buzz. Owner Nicole Longo presented about a dozen unusual ideas, including a kettle corn cupcake, a hot fudge sundae cupcake and a buttermilk bacon maple cupcake.

Guess which one they picked.

"The savory flavor of bacon, mixed with the sweetness, mixed with the maple frosting was just a great combo," said Longo, who continued selling the cupcake in her stores for a couple of weeks after the fair. "I think the natural curiosity about marrying bacon with a sweet dessert brought a lot of people in."

In March, Boca Raton's Funky Buddha Lounge and Brewery brought a limited edition Maple Bacon Coffee Porter to Beerfest 2011, a craft beer festival in Ybor City. Rated an A+ by beeradvocate.com, it was the highlight of the day. As one reviewer put it, "They released it toward the end of the tasting to drunken, festive chants of 'Bacon, bacon, bacon …’ It was beer geek heaven."

But will it stay that way forever? The Internet is a fickle beast. How long can bacon maintain its reign as the most Likeable, Diggable, StumbledUpon food in the universe?

"People were writing articles two years ago: 'It's time for bacon to jump the shark,' " Loosbrock said. "Well, that would have been like selling your home two years before the top of the market. The top just keeps going higher.

"If it were to happen, it would start with the novelty side, because that's stuff you can live without. I don't know that people are going to start living without bacon."

Life without bacon? Perish the thought.

At least it'll live forever on Wikipedia.

Contributing source: TaylorEason.com.

Eight bacon hotspots

in Tampa Bay

The Bricks of Ybor If Elvis Presley lived in Ybor City, this is where he'd eat. His namesake sandwich, The Elvis ($6), is a gooey mix of peanut butter, bacon, banana and honey on white toast. 1327 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City. (813) 247-1785, thebricksybor.com.

Ciro's Speakeasy How's this for a decadent desert: a waffle topped with Newcastle beer-flavored ice cream, chocolate sauce and bits of bacon. 2109 Bayshore Blvd., Tampa; (813) 251-0022.

Dan's Wholesale Donuts The maple bacon doughnut at this far-flung Pasco outpost has attained almost mythical status. It used to be available every Saturday; now, not so much. But they'll still make them by special request. Go on, make the call. 1362 Alt. U.S. 19, Holiday; (727) 945-8660.

Datz In addition to the bar's signature Old Fashioned, which is garnished with candied bacon, the South Tampa deli offers a kosher twist on the snack with its Duck Bacon Carbonara, a pasta dish with cream sauce, arugula, peas and Parmesan. Datz's dinner menu rotates by season, so get it while you still can. 2616 S MacDill Ave.; (813) 831-7000, datzdeli.com.

Don CeSar Beach Resort Speaking of bacon cocktails, swing by the Don CeSar's lobby bar to order a Best Of Both Worlds: house-infused bacon bourbon, crème de cacao and Tito's Handmade Vodka. 3400 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach; (727) 360-1881.

Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe Can't wait for the Florida State Fair to roll around again? Head to Ella's, whose dessert menu features chilled bacon covered in dark chocolate ($5). 5119 N Nebraska Ave., Tampa; (813) 234-1000, ellasfolkartcafe.com.

The Grass Root Purists will cringe, but yes, you can get vegan bacon in Tampa Bay. The Grass Root's VBLT sandwich ($8.50) uses tempeh bacon, and while the consistency isn't the same as actual bacon, if you're desperate for a taste, it'll do in a pinch. 2702 N Florida Ave., Tampa. (813) 221-7668, thegrassrootlife.com.

Royal Brownie Co. The inventory rotates at this tiny brownie bakery, so the Maple Bacon Blondies are never guaranteed in stock. Best to call ahead — or order a dozen for $28. 4 Sixth St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 238-7226, royalbrownieco.com/shop.

Malio's Prime Popcorn? Peanuts? Bah. At Malio's, the bar snack of preference is bacon. Order up a bowl of crispy slices for $5 while you wait for your table, or simply sit and nurse a cocktail. 400 N Ashley Drive, No. 310; (813) 223-7746, maliosprime.com.

SIZZLIN' LINKS 05/19/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 19, 2011 5:53pm]

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...