From breakfast eggs’ sidekick to hot culinary trend, bacon’s lure leaves diners salivating for more.

Men are perennial carnivores. And there’s one luscious meaty morsel that attracts the male species like no other. Enter bacon-an unabashedly American, unapologetic man-food that has quickly exploded onto the dining scene in many facets. From fast-food chains that can’t keep up with the demand for double bacon cheeseburgers-to upscale restaurants that utilize bacon as an art form to create sizzling hot commodities, such as bacon-wrapped steaks and chic bacon-infused desserts-it’s the old sweet and savory marriage of flavors that seem to work so well.


So, what’s the secret to this all-star ingredient? According to chef Lee Anne Wong, who trained at The French Culinary Institute and appeared as a contestant on the first season of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” Cooking Channel’s hit series “Unique Eats” and “Food Crawl with Lee Anne Wong,” Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” and more, it’s all summed up into one word: patience.

“Bacon needs some low, slow time to properly crisp and brown, whether you are cooking it in a pan, on a griddle or in the oven. It’s not about the size of your bacon, it’s how you use it,” she explains.

Most recently, Wong expanded her repertoire and joined forces with Kevin Hanney, owner of 12th Avenue Grill and Salt Bar & Kitchen, to open Koko Head Cafe, an island-style brunch house. The 12th Avenue restaurant presents its guests with an impressive menu comprised of reinvented lunch classics with traditional and contemporary island twists and Asian fusion.

“The food reflects my personality-lots of textures, big flavors and colors, with a ton of salty, sweet, smoky mashups and, of course, plenty of pork fat,” Wong says.

Chef Wong is definitely on to something-there’s nothing that beats the aroma of smoky strips sizzling in a pan. Passionate about bacon mania, Wong and Hanney have added a plethora of bacon-infused must-haves. Start off your morning right with Kimchi Bacon Cheddar Scones served with house-made crème fraîche, or go big with Cornflake French Toast with Billionaire’s Bacon (Koko Head Café’s house-made candied bacon) accented with creamy black pepper maple and frosted flake gelato. Who said a milkshake isn’t a breakfast of champions?

As far as Wong is concerned, The Morning Milkshake is spot on, as vanilla gelato is blended with Maker’s Mark bourbon, milk and honey-vanilla maple, glorified with bits of granola and Billionaire’s Bacon. Elvis fans will clamor for Elvis’ Revenge just for the name alone. Placed atop a griddled sweet bun is a layer of peanut butter, crispy golden chunks of tempura-fried bananas and strips of Billionaire’s Bacon drizzled with local honey and a dash of toasted coconut.

Righteous foodies have been enjoying “Everything And Then” some (literally) at EAT Honolulu, a catering business and cafe (open Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m.) situated within Na Lama Kukui (formerly known as Gentry Pacific Design Center on North Nimitz Highway). Since opening its doors to the public in July 2008, EAT Honolulu carves a niche for itself when it comes to comfort food with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients and elite craftsmanship. Chef David Passanisi is a culinary genius who previously worked as a private chef. So, it comes as no surprise that EAT Honolulu celebrates bacon with edible creations that defy imagination. HI Chocolate-dipped Specialty-cut Sugar Spice Bacon is a mainstay at this boutique-style eatery. Co-owner Jocelyn Leigh recommends customers place their orders at least 48 hours in advance for this good stuff. EAT Honolulu’s Mac ‘n Cheese means pulling out the stops for organic pasta smothered in a zesty house-made cheese sauce accented with sugar spice bacon bits laced with white truffle oil.

“The sky’s the limit. We’ve even paired our sugar spice chopped bacon with Brussels and roasted potatoes,” Leigh says. “Customers also love an off-the-menu item that’s available upon request. ‘The Contradiction’ consists of a homemade veggie patty, topped with bacon strips, Hawaiian lettuce, tomatoes and onion, along with red wine ketchup nestled between homemade sesame buns.”

If you’re disciplined with your workouts, cut yourself some slack, ditch the diets and endure days of self-denial to indulge in Real a Gastropub’s Thick-Cut Applewood Smoked Bacon baked in brown sugar, caramelized and topped off with a hint of garlic powder. And Real’s decadent Bacon Cheesecake definitely makes the cut, featuring a graham cracker crust composed of coco powder, bacon fat and sugar. As for the cheesecake itself, it’s bombarded with homemade bacon bits bathed in maple glaze accompanied by a piece of chocolate-covered bacon.

However, there are some who believe that bacon deserves more respect than just being perceived as a “novelty ingredient.” In this case, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse is the answer. Famous for its superb steaks, this fine dining establishment on the third level of Waikiki’s Royal Hawaiian Center, Building C, forgoes the bells and whistles and keeps it simple with Sizzling Canadian Bacon-all prepared extra thick.

“It’s our most popular appetizer, and our bacon is cooked in the same 1,600-degree broiler as our steaks, to seal in the juices and create a perfectly seared piece of bacon that just melts in your mouth,” says executive chef Diego Pacuruco, noting that dishes including Wolfgang’s Salad, BLT and French Toast showcase this meaty morsel as well.

“Interestingly, Canadian bacon is known as ‘American Bacon’ in other parts of the world,” chef explains. “The meat is lean, slightly sweet and juicy.”

So, if you’re in the mood for some smoky, crispy bacon goodness, get right into the meat of it all. Bacon boasts with sensational flavor, lively texture and makes itself known with its sizzling hot versatility and oh, so sweet, smoky savoriness. Welcome to the bacon revolution.

BACON MAKES IT BETTER

Bacon gets even bolder and more eccentric with these unusual concoctions:

Photos courtesy vosgeschocolate.com and Empire Mayo co.

Vosges’ Milk-Chocolate Bacon Bar (www. vosgeschocolate.com): Sulfite-free and gluten-free hickory smoked bacon is baked in small batches before it’s hand-chopped into fine nibbles. Alderwood smoked salt exudes a campfire aroma that perfectly offsets the sweetness of the chocolate. For a twist on a good thing, try Vosges’ new Cinnamon Bacon Bar.

Empire Mayonnaise Co. Bacon Mayo (www. empiremayo.com): Handmade in New York City, Bacon Mayo takes your typical condiment and transforms it into “Baconnaise.” Use as you would bacon, on sandwiches, burgers, salads, fries, etc. Empire Mayo relies on heritage pork bacon-applewood smoked, antibiotic-free, vegetarian-fed and family-farm raised.

Bacon Olive Oil (www.uncrate.com): Add a bit of smoky depth to fried or sautéed foods with Bacon Olive Oil. While this EVOO is sans bacon, it is bacon-flavored (and vegan) and does the job when you want to cook with bacon flair minus meat.