I couldn’t resist bringing Dare to Pair back to NYC when I visited last month, and what better excuse to indulge on wine and bacon then vacation?
Sadly, the venerable tasting panel discovered that most bacon flavored snacks don’t actually taste like bacon, instead seeming either overly salty or smokey. Regardless, we ate and drank our way through a small hog’s worth of bacon and bacon products. Read on for the results.
The Food: Oscar Mayer “Hardwood Smoked” Bacon
The Fit: White Rioja
The Flop: Soave
There’s something beyond the Oscar Mayer song that makes this bacon scream of childhood,and sneaking bacon at every possible opportunity. Thanks to the GMO boom of the early 2000s, each piece crinkles exactly the same and melts in your mouth, while visions of pancakes dance in your head. With richly fruity, un-oaked Martinez 2013 White Rioja, the combination of youth and glorious adulthood was fantastic, but with more mineral-driven whites like Soave from northern Italy, the mix was dismal and bitter…like love handles.
The Food: Cabot Smoky Bacon Cheddar
The Fit: Montepulciano
The Flop: Riesling
Fructus Rosso Conero, a bright and fruity red from the Montepulciano grape, brought out the smokiness of Cabot’s latest cheese infusion. Though the cheddar wasn’t bacon-heavy, we really enjoyed it, but wouldn’t recommend pairing it with fruity whites like Riesling or Gewurztraminer, which just tasted weird. The panel agrees, this cheese belongs on grilled cheese, with extra bacon naturally.
The Food: Mo’s Bar Bacon Milk Chocolate
The Fit: Cider
The Flop: Almost everything
Despite a $6 price tag for a small bar, this chocolate was the biggest disappointment of our night. Overly sweet, the bacon was just tasted like crunchy salt–in fact some party goers couldn’t even tell it was bacon. With sweet pear cider from Normandy, the chocolate made for a nice dessert, but with most dry wines the mix was oppressive.
The Food: Duck Bacon
The Fit: Riesling
The Flop: Carmenere
Duck “bacon,” as it turns out, is like turkey bacon–reformed hunks of duck breast made to look like bacon strips. It was really rich and tasty, but overall more like Canadian Bacon (ahem, HAM) than bacon. With bright, refreshing Leitz Out Riesling from Germany, the pairing was delicious and neither too salty nor too sweet. With a heavy red like Carmenere, we couldn’t taste any duck nuances, so we’d stick to whites with duck “bacon” in the future.
The Food: Kettle Brand Maple Bacon Potato Chips
The Fit: Provence Whites
The Flop: Chardonnay
These chips are just BBQ chips with extra cinnamon sugar. Don’t get me wrong, we ate the whole bag, and the crisp citrusy Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Blanc was an excellent match–wiping the grease from our palates so we could go in for more. The panel also agreed these chips would be great with traditional BBQ pairing wines like Tempranillo or California Zinfandel. Oaky Chardonnays were disappointing here, since they were neither refreshing nor a fruity complement to the sweet chips.
The Food: Lay’s Bacon Macaroni and Cheese Potato Chips
The Fit: Alcohol
The Flop: Cabernet Sauvignon
Think Smartfood popcorn dust meets chips, and you’ve got the basic flavor profile for Lay’s latest consumer-inspired flavor. Cabernet Sauvignon overwhelmed the mild white flavor of these chips, but we discovered lighter reds and all the whites on the table went relatively well–which tells you just how neutral and un-bacon centric these chips are.
Overheard: “Wine makes these bad chips so much better.”
The Food: Bacon Cheddar Dip
The Fit: Riesling
The Flop: Tempranillo
Combine shredded cheddar, a pound of bacon, and cream cheese until it’s nice and bubbly, and then bake it topped with bread crumbs until you’d rather scald the tastebuds off of your tongue than be tempted by the smell of Heaven for another second. This combination of saturated fat, guilt, and AWESOME disappeared before it even cooled off, thanks in no small part to Leitz Out Riesling, a super refreshing and high acid Riesling that kept this decadent appetizer from feeling too heavy on our palates. Rich reds like Tempranillo overwhelmed the flavors here, bringing out only the saltiness of the bacon, so stick with whites if you’re looking for bacon-cheese bliss.
Overheard: “Can we weave a bacon chip for the bacon dip? Or a bacon cup?”
The Food: Bacon Jerky
The Fit: Carmenere
The Flop: Rosé
Bacon jerky is to bacon what prosciutto is to ham: salt-cured, flavor-packed goodness. Even without the nostalgia inherent in Oscar Mayer, this jerky stole the show, especially with a silky, robust Carmenere. Here, the Carmenere matched the smokiness of the jerky for a feel-good mouthful. Sadly, our “refreshing” rosé was anything but that here instead leaving a bitter aftertaste.
Overheard: “This jerky reminds me of camping. We need a wine like camping.”