A few years ago, R.W. Apple reported in the New York Times about Nueske’s bacon, from Wisconsin. The article is long relegated to the Times Select ghetto, but here’s a tidbit:
I don’t want to go whole hog here, but Nueske’s struck me as the beluga of bacon, the Rolls-Royce of rashers. It makes a memorable B.L.T., one of the supreme inventions of American short-order cookery, and its crunchiness provides an ideal counterpoint to the richness of calf’s liver or shad roe. It was invented, or might have been, for breakfast bacon and eggs, which my wife, Betsey, allows me (and herself) a morning or two a month.
I was sold. I went to the Nueske web site and ordered two pounds of bacon. With shipping, this was almost $30. Apple was right, of course–it was the best bacon I’ve ever had, even though it’s astonishingly smoky.
Laurie and I ate a few slices ourselves, and then we had some out-of-town friends staying with us and served the rest of the Nueske’s with biscuits for breakfast. “Like this bacon?” I asked. “We bought it on the Internet!”
I get the “you are not normal” look from people all the time, but that one had unusual intensity.
We got the Nueske’s catalog for years after that, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to pay $30 for two pounds of bacon again. The only other time we tasted Nueske’s between about 2000 and 2003 was when we were in New York and had lunch at Artisanal restaurant, where Laurie ordered the grilled cheese sandwich. It’s made with Balthazar bread, Montgomery cheddar, granny smith apples, and strips of Nueske’s. If you’re in New York, please go have one of these now so I can eat it vicariously.
Other than that, we reminisced about the flavor of Nueske’s, which, to be honest, is smoky enough to linger on the palate for months. I would often declare that if they sold Nueske’s in Seattle, it would become our house bacon, and I would allow myself to eat it a lot more than a morning or two a month.
Flash forward to today. Larry’s Market in Queen Anne, a ten minute bus ride from my house, has been selling Nueske’s for over two years. I think I’ve bought it three times.
It turns out my relationship with Nueske’s is like Seth and Summer’s relationship on The OC. It’s two versions of the classic tale of gawky-and-Jewish seeks fleshy-and-delicious. Part of the thrill of Nueske’s was its unattainability. When I stood up on that coffee cart and declared my undying love for Nueske’s porky goodness, I didn’t realize I was actually going to get it.
Still, like Rachel Bilson, Nueske’s is just as good and smoky as ever. Last week Larry’s had a great sale on Parmigiano-Reggiono ($9/lb for well-cut chunks), and while I was standing at the checkout with my hunk of cheese, I realized, “Hey, Nueske’s.” So I went and grabbed some, and we had it for breakfast yesterday. It was Iris’s first Nueske experience, and she loved it. Next week I’ll probably go back to some cheap and tawdry bacon, but the memory of Nueske’s will smolder in my heart forever.