Plenty of Friday nights have been pizza nights – after all, I am a native born heathen…and we are even fortunate enough to have a great pizza take & bake source nearby, and they also have a lovely outdoor, wood-fired pizza oven for eating there. But this week’s temptation involved bacon, Lyon, chocolate and cherries. What’s not to like?

Every year I give up cured meats and some other temptations (chocolate, cheese, etc) for about 40 days (sometimes longer depending on how Greek Easter lines up with Western calendars). I am very up-front with everyone about this – it is NOT a religious thing, although it may have started 25 or 30 years ago as a wager with a recovering Catholic friend. Clearly, only a heathen would wager on Lent…

Initially, that meant giving up veal, bacon, cured meats. Veal has remained off-the-palate with a handful of exceptions, for nearly 30 years. Bacon and other cured meats come back on, especially when I am able to try really outstanding examples, but it isn’t a regular item in our diet. Cheese, well I have to say that after 40 days without cheese, I definitely do not bring it back in force, and chocolate has a more subdued presence in my life.

In the past 15-20 years, I noticed that returning from stays in the UK, I felt a need to abstain for a while after regular access to lovely Wensleydale, lush Stiltons, and glorious real bacon. The rather normal after-hols detox.

So I try to treat meat, and especially cured meats, as a special occasion. Some folks call bacon a gateway meat, and I do believe that it is the only way I can get some people to try brussels sprouts. I try to know as much as I can about the source and make informed choices. There are good substitutes for weekend brunch and I regularly choose to have Morningstar Farms vegetable patties or links on hand (plus they are easy on my stomach and reasonably virtuous in moderation). Some friends even have added them to stuffing although I haven’t yet tried it.

One place where there just is no substitute for real bacon or even better, a chunky pancetta, is in a Salade Lyonaise. I have drooled over the memory of our first one, the first night we arrived in Lyon. The combination of egg just running into dressed frisée with lardons and croutons, a glass of wine, and followed with my first quenelles. On foot in Vieux Lyon, we had just checked in to our hotel, Le Royal, which is the hotel school of the Institut Paul Bocuse. The open pantry breakfast there is worthy of an entire separate post, another time. A food and wine lovers itinerary ensued.

The closest thing to that salad experience locally has been a terrific version served by
Cin-Cin in Los Gatos, with a crispy poached egg (which is something I can’t quite do at home). Since Cin-Cin no longer does lunch, I tend to not go so often, but I am very fond of their version.

Mark Bittman came to my rescue this past week with his posting of a Salade Lyonnaise. It was definitely worthy of a nice bottle of wine, and made for a simple but slightly sinful Friday evening dinner. Dessert? Fresh cherries rinsed, and served alongside some lovely locally made sea salt and smoked almond chocolate from Snake & butterfly. What a lovely end to a tough week.

Snug at home, with all the culinary comforts of good travel & meals, with my very tolerant mate.