Pork belly spending

Double H. Farm's Richard Bean

Politicians have never been more eager not to pork barrel, and I’ve recently found myself wondering where all that bacon is going.

To our plates, apparently.

This little piggy went to Manhattan for a gastronomic adventure, following a scent trail of reviews by my favorite food writers for Gourmet, the Village Voice, and the New Yorker, among others, and noticed a trend real fast.

Pork belly appeared beside sweetbreads at Bar Blanc and in the b©chamel sauce on my gourmet grilled cheese at Resto (plus bacon strips). Pancetta was in the mix of my lamb shoulder and farro at Blue Hill and Sushi Bar Hagi’s spaghetti with ketchup. Even Claudia Roden garnished gazpacho with bacon.

So is Charlottesville in on this? Mas Tapas and The Upstairs come to mind as our beacons of high-end bacon, so I asked their chefs about pork trends.

“Trends?” Tomas Rahal replied to my e-mail. “Well I'd definitely say the trend is back towards traditional, heirloom and sustainably raised animals.” Best news I’ve heard lately, in my humble opinion. Tomas explained that local Double H Farms and others are going back to the way farmers used to raise livestock [not without some difficulty], effecting marbling and full flavor that the industrialized pig lacks. And he suggests there’s a trend among chefs, too. He writes, “The new (old) pork is more rich and flavorful and chefs move away from exotic sauces and let you taste the meat again, like they do in Espana.”

I caught chef Jason Burke at The Upstairs this weekend, at the end of dinner service–literally. Jason took my order at 9:58pm, on his birthday. Talk about devotion. After having him explain to me how he makes his sweetbreads so tender, I asked about pork. “It’s cheap,” he replied. And we agreed that it’s really good. (He also tipped me off to the arrival of new autumn dishes soon!)

Last night, as I prepared Spaghetti Carbonara, finding myself taking an extra large portion of Benton’s Smoky Mountain Hickory Bacon for good measure (and that stuff is the best), I realized pork supply might just be equaling demand, especially for this eater.

That’s just good economic policy.