Photo: Erik R. Trinidad
America is obsessed with bacon. No longer is it just a side with eggs or the 'B' in a BLT; bacon and bacon flavoring have managed to find their way into chocolate, into mayonnaise, and even into vodka. As the slogan of America's Pork Checkoff Program says, "Bacon makes it better."
Denny's is no stranger to bacon, having served it up at breakfast for decades with their Grand Slams. However "America's diner," along with support from America's Pork Checkoff Program, has stepped up its bacon offerings with the new, limited-time menu called "Baconalia!: A Celebration of Bacon." The crispy and salted pork product invades Denny's like never before, with items like Bacon Flapjacks, Bacon Meatloaf, and the BBBLT. But the most peculiar and talked about new offering is the new Maple Bacon Sundae. Here's how it rates:
The Claims: Denny's Maple Bacon Sundae starts with a layer of maple-flavored syrup, topped with a layer of vanilla ice cream, topped with a layer of diced hickory-smoked bacon. All of this is topped by an additional set of the same layers.
The Price: $2.99. (Prices may vary at participating locations.)
The Verdict: C-. I should preface this review with the fact that I love bacon; bacon does make things better -- that is, in most cases. Bacon is a very salty thing, and that saltiness should be offset by a contrasting flavor when using it as an ingredient in a recipe -- which it often is. It is particularly tasty when combined with sweet things -- bacon-wrapped dates or bacon chocolate, for example -- and at breakfast, when it optionally comes candied or served with maple syrup.
With that said, with everything Denny's Maple Bacon Sundae has going for it, and as much as I was excited to try this creation, it didn't quite live up to my hyped expectations. Rather than make "a classic ice cream sundae more awesome" (as it says in the menu description), the bacon in this dessert tastes and feels out of place, almost as if the bacon slipped in there by accident, and not on purpose. It's baffled me why this is; it should be more awesome. Perhaps the bacon is too salty to be swirled in the ice cream. Perhaps the contrast between salty and sweet is too great in this case. Or perhaps bacon is good with sweets, but only if that sweet is not a dairy product. Many recipes for bacon ice cream are actually for candied bacon ice cream; maybe the caramelized sugar coating around bacon is necessary to serve as an intermediary between pork and dairy. Denny's may have tried to remedy this issue with the layer of maple syrup, but the ice cream melts so fast that the maple syrup seeps into the ice cream or to the bottom of the glass, away from the bacon. The result is the meat just sitting in the ice cream without being fused with anything substantial enough to cushion the clash between salty and sweet dairy.
Nice try, Denny's. The Maple Bacon Sundae may have fallen short from the expectations of someone living in our bacon-obsessed American culture, but you definitely get an A for effort.