Ah, bacon. Savory, delicious bacon. Not only is it one of our favorite foodstuffs in the free world, but you can do just about anything with it, not the least of which is designing a makeshift bra. But above all else, it's the one thing that steadfastly makes us too stubborn to make the inconceivable leap to vegetarianism. Straight from the pig's snout, five bacon dishes in Denver (and one a few miles up the road) that make us squeal like a hog in heat.
Bacon flight at the Berkshire 7352 East 29th Avenue
Rarely, if ever, does one scrap of bacon fulfill our pigheaded obsession, which is why we love the flight of four at the Berkshire. The porkorific plate of garlic, cinnamon-chipotle, curried and balsamic bacon strips, served with bacon-bolstering accompaniments, can be yours for $12. We even professed our fondness for the Berk's fatty pig parts last year, when it made Westword's 100 favorite dishes list.
Fresh bacon at Rioja 1431 Larimer Street
Jennifer Jasinski's menu changes with the seasons, but her fresh bacon starter -- cardamon-spiced Kurobuta pork belly straddling a Madras curry-scented fresh garbanzo bean puree -- has managed to retain its rightful place on the menu, presumably because if Jasinski removed it, the whole of Larimer Square would be overrun with protesters snorting in revolt. The recipe, should you want to spend the two days it takes to make it at home, is included in The Perfect Bite, Jasinski's beautiful new cookbook.
Chocolate-covered bacon at Lewis Sweet Shop 208 East Park Avenue, Empire
While Lewis Sweet Shop is actually about 42 miles west of Denver in Empire, it's worth the gas mileage for dozens of reasons -- the candy deviled-eggs, for one -- but the showy bacon strips, crisp, crinkled and dipped in dark chocolate -- and a steal at $1.27 each -- are specimens of hyper-rich frivolity that make us whimper in lust.
Il Mondo Vecchio's Pork pancetta piatto 1174 South Cherokee Street
We love just about everything from Il Mondo Vecchio, Mark DeNittis's shrine to swine that pimps everything from pepperoni to duck prosciutto, but the pancetta -- oh god, the pancetta -- liberally cured with Utah sea salt, crushed bay leaves, anise and fennel and aged for 35 days -- is sensational on pizza, tossed in a Carbonara sauce, or eaten on its own, because, you know, there's no such thing as too much salty, meaty pancetta. You can buy it online, or at the Il Mondo Vecchio plant, for $17.99 a pound.
Fig n' pig flatbread from Encore 2550 East Colfax Avenue
We know people who stalk Paul Reilly, the chef of Encore, for no other reason than to coerce him into staying open 24/7 just so they can get their fig n' pig flatbread fix at 2 a.m. If you stay away from the ambrosial combination of smoky pigs and sweet figs for too long, withdrawal starts to set in, which is why we keep skulking back in for more. The pizza, properly charred, surfaced with a fig spread and dotted with crumbles of Gorgonzola, is liberally sheeted with thin slices of salt-licked prosciutto and forested with bright arugula leaves, the combination of which would make a hog go wild. $14.
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Bacon popcorn from Interstate Kitchen + Bar 901 West Tenth Avenue
Interstate turns out one of the best happy hour menus in Denver, in part because it includes stove top popcorn, the kernels of which are popped in bacon fat. Exec chef Andre Lobato crowns the generous mound of popcorn with copious crumbles of bacon and spicy peanuts. And, really, what's better than that, especially when it's only three bucks? "Ever since free bar food went the way of the dodo bird -- about the same time that people forgot that a martini was a gin drink -- we felt we had to do more than just offer straight popcorn if we were gonna charge any amount of money for it," says Lobato. We'd happily pay double.