August 02, 2009

WTF Is Right With Wisconisn?

Can you say chocolate covered bacon on a stick at the State Fair? I knew you could.

The Machine Shed looks and feels like a shrine to the Midwest farmer, and the homage extends to the gift shop, where one corner of merchandise is all about bacon. In the inventory are bacon-flavored toothpicks, mints, gumballs and lollipops (dubbed “man bait”). They surround “bacon 24/7” T-shirts, bandages that look like bacon strips, bacon-scented air fresheners, wallets and lunchboxes with bacon patterns.

Still with me?

The Machine Shed loves bacon, so why wouldn’t Aaron include it in food-on-a-stick experiments? For one week, co-workers were taste testers for his inventive combinations.

“My belly just kind of aches when I think about that week,” says Erin Zylka, the dining room manager. Restaurant guests also sampled the finalists.

At the end, the chef had two winners.

One: fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on a stick. They will be dipped into pancake batter (“I add a little Sprite, to lighten it up,” Aaron says), then dunked into hot oil. “Like a jelly doughnut,” he explains, and $3 each.

Two: chocolate-covered bacon on a stick, served frozen, two strips for $3. The combo, although unprecedented at the Wisconsin State Fair, has shown up elsewhere. Aaron tried a dozen bacon-chocolate matches before deciding on milk chocolate over hardwood-smoked, honey-cured bacon.

“A ganache chocolate was too bitter,” he explains. “The real key is adding a little bit of sea salt to the chocolate at the end.”

“I love chocolate, and I love bacon, but I just can’t come to peace with bringing the two together,” admits Erin. I figured it would be the same with me, until taking my first nibble.

The tug between sugar and salt was attractive. No sign of greasiness. No chewiness. No brittleness, despite the freezing.

So another novelty is born, and 20,000 stick-impaled slices of chocolate-drenched bacon will make their way to West Allis this month.




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