March 26, 2012
As a chef, It’s one thing to source high quality ingredients for the kitchen. It’s another thing entirely to see to it personally that the ingredients used are produced exactly as they should be. This type of uber-quality-control has led chef Tony Baker of Montrio Bistro in Monterey to serve up some of the best quality bacon in the area. And what’s more, he’s wrapping it up for your kitchen, too.
Montrio Bistro’s first of three Artisan Series classes schooled 30 patron-pupils on why “Everything is Better with Bacon.”
Along with inspired pairings of pork and ale came education and enlightenment as Baker waxed matter-of-factly in his British timbre on the "mush" that is American bacon and why he decided to get into the pork-smoking business.
“I missed the back bacon from England,” Parker says, “American bacon isn’t really bacon.”
The following vid was shown before the meal. Not the most appetizing piece of media to share before dining, but it got the point across.
It was the lack of quality bacon in the states and his yearning of a little more loin in his BLT that led Baker to a smoking facility in Oakland called Prime Smoked Meats, and it was here that Baker’s Bacon was born.
The three flavors Baker offers (traditional back bacon, applewood smoked and double applewood smoked) are dry cured naturally and land his product in the 6 percent of bacon manufactured in the U.S. that isn’t injected with water. He hopes to source organically-raised, California pigs in the near future.
The bacon-wrapped prawn appetizer was a reinforcement of why Baker takes the meat so seriously, and the Dragonslayer IPA was a perfect complement to the salty-yet-succulent treat.
The first course showcased Baker’s smoky back bacon on soft bruschetta with arugula and pickled green apple. The sweet and tangy julienned apples were a standout and had the Speakeasy Prohibition Ale out of San Francisco singing along nicely with the swine.
The Bistro spinach salad featured plump, chewy bacon pieces, Point Reyes blue cheese and was topped with a sweet vinaigrette dressing. It was a successfully light way to break up the pork-laden dishes, yet keep all eyes on the meaty prize.
This carnivorous carnival of flavor might have been too much meat for some, but not this guy. The “Pork Trio” featured a natural pork tenderloin stuffed with juicy, sweet braised pork and dates all wrapped in a smoky slab of bacon and laid to rest on a bed of puréed parsnips with herb-kissed roasted beets.
The triple-threat pork dish was three-fold pig magic in itself, but the Bacon Brown ale brewed by Uncommon Ales in Santa Cruz made the plate a particularly rousing success. Baker credits a recent stop at Post No Bills—Sand City’s favorite new tap-house—for coming across the atypical ale.
Who says you can’t have bacon for dessert? It was all we diners could do to make room, but once the space was available this candied bacon-topped oatmeal-raisin ice cream sandwich was swiftly devoured. Baker brought a little homeland brew—a St. Peter's Old-Style Porter from Sufolk, England—to bear with this sweet wrap-up. The creamy porter was a decadent play along with the salty-sweet ice cream.
And, so, another year of Montrio Artisan Series classes has begun. Next up is Montrio's master mixologist Anthony Vitacca Celebrating the Cherry on June 16 from 12-2pm. Vitacca will school folks on canning maraschino cherries as he mixes up some cherry-centric cocktails while Chef Baker serves a four-course lunch. And just in time for Turkey Day, Baker's back November 10 from 12-2pm with recipes for some of his favorite side dishes, how to cook the best bird and baking the perfect pie.