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In the TV food show arena, bacon is the new black.
California chef Todd Fisher, an unapologetic bacon buff, has declared that bacon has moved off the breakfast table and on to the unlikeliest of places: in cocktails, desserts and more traditional entrees like pizza. The growing variety of outrageous bacon creations in restaurants around the country in recent years has landed him in hog heaven.
Now Fisher will get a chance to indulge his love for all things bacon in "The United States of Bacon," a new series on Discovery's Destination America that airs on Sundays and premiered this week. In the show, Fisher travels around the country to visit restaurants where bacon has become a prominent ingredient. Many of the inventions are not for the squeamish: the sight of someone eating a bacon-wrapped pork "wing" made from tenderloin may cause more health-conscious viewers to hyperventilate.
In the show's premiere, Fisher rolls into Milwaukee hangout AJ Bombers and chomps into the Barrie Burger, a local specialty: a chunky peanut butter and bacon cheeseburger. The restaurant also has a Bloody Mary accented with bacon.
"I'm a true baconholic, so this is a dream for me," Fisher said by phone. "I've had this obsessive love for bacon for the past year and a half, smoking my own bacon, curing my own bacon. I've gone from being a true fan of bacon to being obsessive."
Among the stops on his bacon tour are Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta, Detroit and Portland, Ore.
Speaking with a chef's expertise, Fisher said that bacon "cuts through all of the flavor receptors of the palate. It's sour, sweet, stringy, meaty and robust. It's so versatile. There's a real flexibility to it that allows it to traverse all styles of food from dessert to bacon and eggs to crunchy sandwiches."
But what has impressed him most while filming the show is the inventiveness behind some of the bacon-driven creations.
"I had a pizza that had bacon and truffles," he said. "I've publicly said I would never mix those two - each one is a powerful flavor. I had a bacon cheddar apple pie at the Comet Cafe in Milwaukee - that was incredible, with bacon baked into the pie crust and bacon in the apple."
The series was inspired by favorable viewer response to a "United States of Bacon" special last summer that was part of a three-part "United States of Food" special for the network. The bacon installment outperformed the two other parts that focused on burgers and steaks.
Executives for New York City-based Sharp Entertainment, which produced the project for Destination America, said building a show around the love of bacon in a road-show-type setting seemed a sure thing to attract audiences.
"Bacon has become a true phenomenon," said Dan Adler, Sharp's vice president of production. "It just seems to have hit this wave - it's the most special food out there right now. Restaurants seem to be experimenting with bacon more than any other food, and dishes are being created just to sell bacon."
Scott Miller, executive producer for Sharp, added, "We were surprised at the seriousness and dedication behind these bacon dishes. Chef Todd can break everything down from a chef's point of view but still is able to enjoy it like anyone else."
Of course, there are limits. Fisher said there was one concoction from a food truck in Los Angeles for which a handful of cheddar cheese was dropped on a griddle and melted, then topped with bacon, green onions, chipotle, green sauce, then chili, all wrapped in a tortilla.
"That was a bit much," he said. "Some of these meals can cause a heart attack - there is an indulgence. I know how to handle it. I take two or three bites, and that's enough."
"United States of Bacon" airs at 7 and 10 p.m. Sundays on Discovery's Destination America.