Pigs Take Flight at Eola in Dupont
Until Sunday, I never thought I'd see the words "bacon" and "flight" together in one sentence. But just spotting the "bacon flight" on Eola's brunch menu made me laugh out loud, partly out of pure ticklish delight and partly from the cholesterol-laden absurdity of the term. I knew, of course, that resistance was futile. I would be eating the bacon flight that afternoon.
Chef Daniel Singhofen offers strips from three different breeds for $12, which sounds like larceny until you fix your eyes on the bacon. This pork belly trio looks nothing like the rendered, shriveled strips that you pull from the steam table at a hotel buffet. This bacon has heft. This bacon looks like split logs on a plate.
However, one bite of Singhofen's house-cured and house-smoked bacon, and you realize how deceptive those appearances are. Each length of meltingly tender pork belly boasts a crispy edge, but its pleasures are mostly derived from the interplay of smoke, salt, and rendered fat. My initial taste of the Tamworth bacon produced a reaction not unlike when I first tried roasted bone marrow sprinkled with sea salt: The pleasure is so deep and primal you're not sure whether to thank the chef proper or just shriek like a monkey.
The fat melts on your tongue like softened butter, its richness a source of both pleasure and pain. The latter is all psychic; your brain simply cannot process how to stuff more of Singhofen's bacon into your maw without a Lipitor prescription. You'll get over that fear soon enough.
Part of the reason Singhofen offers the bacon flight is to showcase the differences between breeds. He cures the bellies in Kosher salt, curing salt, and light brown sugar before cold-smoking the meat for 24 hours with a mix of apple and cherry wood. Following the smoke-perfuming process, the chef vacuum seals the bellies and sous vides them for 12 hours, which explains their nearly liquid texture. Typically, Singhofen says, "a cut that thick that's not confited would be unpalatable."
Singhofen is correct in that each breed has its own flavor, though I'm somewhat loath to offer much analysis based on one tasting in which my palate was routinely interrupted by the sugary house-made doughnuts (see picture below) that I used to counteract the salty bite of the bacon. Generally speaking, I found the Tamworth (from Cedarbrook Farm) bacon takes the cure and smoke well, delivering this salty wallop of buttery pork. The Tamworth-Ossabaw (from EcoFriendly Foods) struck me as sweeter than its two plate mates, while whatever I thought about the Farmer's Cross (also EcoFriendly) is now lost in a fog of pork fat.
My only disappointment about the bacon flight came a day later when I e-mailed Singhofen. He told me that even though his bacon revue has been popular, there's still not enough traffic to his Sunday brunch to support the flight on a weekly basis. He's now serving it once a month. He suggested that diners check Eola's Facebook and Twitter pages for exact dates.
Eola, 2020 P St. NW, (202) 466-4441