Trendwatch: What's hot right now

Remember when bacon was just the loyal companion to your morning eggs? Nowadays, you’re likely to find those chewy bits smeared into ice cream, studding chocolate chip cookies, rendered into salad dressings – even infused into vodka. So it was only a matter of time until this most savored cut of swine found its way into chefs’ favorite DIY condiment. Lending flavors both savory and sweet, bacon jam is adding a layer of meaty complexity to dishes all over town.

Overlook Farm’s Tim Grandinetti first discovered bacon jam when he saw Atlanta’s Kevin Gillespie (the self-deemed “King of Pork”) use a candied version on season six of Top Chef. Soon, Grandinetti was putting his own riff on the Southern condiment to serve at Bon Appétit’s Vegas Uncork’d event in early May. The result – a complex mix of salty and sweet – was a runaway success. Upon returning to Overlook, Grandinetti paired what he called “the best candied bacon you’ve ever had” with his grilled Kobe flank steak, serving it warm over the thinly sliced meat.

At The Tavern Kitchen & Bar in Valley Park, chef Justin Haifley uses a jam made of bacon, onions and spices on his spectacular Tavern Burger – a unique blend of chuck roll, brisket and sirloin. Topped with a slice of sharp Irish Cheddar, the savory jam pushes this too-rich-to-be-true burger into truly extraordinary territory. Over at The Block in Webster Groves, chef-owner Marc Del Pietro cooks salty chunks of bacon with molasses and brown sugar until it thickens and then finishes it with robust coffee. He spreads the end product on thick slices of grilled bread.

Last year, Nick Floulis, a St. Louis native and owner of Pushback Winery in Napa, Calif., began putting his Sauvignon Blanc in kegs. Wine on tap was a “green” trend that had been burgeoning on the East Coast thanks to its low shipping cost and waste elimination. He started with 100 kegs; he sold them all in the first day. This runaway success gave Floulis and Tom Halaska, general manager of Sasha’s On Shaw and a longtime friend of Floulis, an idea: bring keg wine to St. Louis.

But it’s not that easy. First, there’s the question of whether sitting around changes the character of the wine. “That’s part of the reason to have it in the keg,” explained Halaska. “It literally goes from tank to keg, sitting in stainless steel the same way it was sitting in those tanks. There’s no oxidation and no UV penetration; this is wine in its purest form.” An ongoing concern for Nick Guzman, who plans to sell keg wine at his salad and wrap eatery, Green Bean, when it opens this month, is the quantity. With each keg holding about 27 bottles of wine, he must sell it before the keg’s three-month lifespan runs out.

Finally, there’s the task of refuting drinkers’ preconceived notions about wine not from a bottle. “That’s the hardest thing to relay to the consumer,” explained Halaska. “This isn’t a joke; it’s not some crappy wine that we are paying a penny on the ounce [for]. This is premium wine.”

Look for Floulis’ 2010 Aiden Chardonnay on tap as early as this month at Sasha’s On Shaw and at Green Bean in the Central West End.