Dec
02

Second Wednesday Tastings at INK: Bacon Edition

by

I have dreamt of bacon.

Just soak in that declaration for a minute. Because while that sentence could very well serve as the working title of my memoirs, it’s also an unabashedly true statement in my life.

Yes, bacon. That salty, slightly crisp, crackling strip of heaven! Whose visions haunt me even now with their lotus charm.

So you can imagine my luck (nay, ecstasy) when I got the chance to attend one of INK Eats & Drinks’ Second Wednesday tastings. They offer a monthly tasting of different types of beverages, like martinis, margaritas, gimlets, beers and wine. Only for the first time, the late-night hot spot threw a food pairing in the mix: bacon.

And just like that, my dreams came true.

What followed was a tender waltz through five small, bacon-themed courses that paired each plate with an inventive drink also infused with the cured meat. Sad you missed it? You’re in luck!

INK will hold an encore Bacon Tasting at its sister restaurant, House Kitchen & Bar, on January 31 from 6-8 p.m. Why am I telling you this so far in advance? Because spots fill up incredibly fast. The menu will be similar in nature, but more suited to House’s culinary talents (and include bacon beer!).

For reservations, call (916) 498-9924 or email houseoncapitol@gmail.com.

And so, without further ado, a photographic journey documenting my trip down the Highway to Hog Heaven. With a designated driver, of course.

First Course
BLT Cocktail: Bacon-infused vodka with muddled grape tomatoes, served up with a baby romaine garnish
Food: Baby romaine salad with blue cheese crumbles and black pepper vinaigrette

What looks like a simple Bloody Mary in stilettos tasted much lighter than you’d expect, considering the opacity of the mix. The drink really picked up the fresh, almost sweet flavor of the grape tomatoes with a light, smoky finish thanks to the bacon-infused vodka. The salad greens and bits of blue cheese helped round things off, though I probably would’ve thrown in a dash of salt, for good measure.

Second Course
The Butcher: Jerky-soaked Bacardi Anejo with pineapple, honey syrup and finished with a flamed orange
Food: Bacon parmesan spread with chives on crostini

Hands down my favorite drink of the night. And because I know you’re probably wondering what a flamed orange is, here’s the sitch: an orange slice was heated with a lighter against the rind for a few seconds, then turned over and squeezed against the flame, causing a spark as citrus oils and vapors ignited and distributed over the top of the liquid. This creates a savory, but surprisingly sweet and tropical quality. Almost Caribbean! Fruitiness made a nice contrast to the thick, savory taste of the crostini spread.

Third Course
Meat & Potato Martini: Ultimat vodka martini with hints of savory flavors
Food: Chicken-fried bacon and mashed red potatoes with gravy

Not my favorite drink of the night, but an intriguing concoction nonetheless. It was memorably different. Even my scribbled notes say something to the effect of “Thanksgiving in a glass” and “alcoholic gravy, but in a good way!” So while the drink was a tad overwhelming for some, I can say that the consistency was light enough to allow my taste buds sip after curious sip. Those “savory flavors” were an interesting mélange of house-made au jus, bitters, Worcestershire sauce and a touch of half-and-half for creaminess. Inventive, sure. But a bit heavy when paired with the ambrosial chicken-fried bacon and mashed potatoes. I mean, look at that bacon. I kind of lost my mind when it was placed in front of me, all crisp and lightly fried. Resting on a down-like bed of expertly whipped red potatoes, this was by far my favorite dish of the night.

Fourth Course
Babe and Blackberry: Bacon-infused Bulleit Rye Whiskey with blackberries, honey syrup and orange bitters
Food: Goat cheese-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon

It was a great first date—and second and third. In fact, it was the pairing itself that really made this course my favorite of the night. The sweetness of the date, the sharpness of the cheese, all wrapped in a taught little Snuggie made of bacon. I would have been the awkward guy at the bar stuffing these morsels into his coat pockets to enjoy later. But these were small plates. INK was smart to pair this explosion of flavor with the light Babe & Blackberry, whose soft fruit melody was due to the Knott’s blackberry purée and interesting use of Ocean Spray blueberry juice. Not a stellar drink on its own. But when paired with the dates, haltingly harmonious.

Fifth Course
Bacon Apple Martini: Apple and bacon-infused Bushmills Whiskey with maple syrup and egg white
Food: Bacon Chocolate Cheesecake

This drink! You can imagine I was quite chatty at this point, so I quizzed the bartender on how one would go about infusing whiskey with both apples and bacon. You start by soaking the apple slices and bacon in the whiskey for three to four days. Then you remove the apples, purée, and add to the drink mix (basically, whiskey applesauce). The bacon is removed as well, while the infusion is then cut in half using the original Bushmills Whiskey to lessen the flavor kick. The result? Something equal parts subtle and complex, tart, kicky, yet smoothed to perfection via the frothiness of the egg white. It also helps to pair this little number with a few creamy bites of chocolate cheesecake dusted with—you guessed it—candied bacon.

The Verdict
All in all, a fun couple of hours and a great way to try a classic ingredient in five unique and inventive ways. The portions were small, so plan on grabbing a bite afterwards to fill you up. When making reservations, request a spot at the bar so you can witness the mixologists lining up each drink. INK’s marketing and promotions manager, Jocelyn McGregor, is super friendly and happy to answer questions about the inspiration behind each concoction.

The only downside? These word-of-mouth monthly tastings fill up fast! So be sure to call well in advance to book your spots. Here are a few upcoming tastings at both House Kitchen & Bar and INK Eats & Drinks:

House Kitchen & Bar (Last Tuesday of each month)
December 27: Champagne Tasting
January 31: Bacon Tasting

INK Eats & Drinks (Second Wednesday of each month)
December 14: Holiday Tasting (new twists on traditional drinks, plus goodies like egg nog and hot-buttered rum)
January 11: Beer Tasting

Cost : $30 in advance, $35 at the door, $25 if you sign up at a current tasting.

INK Eats & Drinks
2730 N St.
Sacramento, CA 95816
(916) 456-2800

House Kitchen & Bar
555 Capitol Mall
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 498-9924

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