We’re ending 2014 with an interview with Ayngelina Brogan of famed food & travel website Bacon Is Magic. A well-traveled eater of the first order, Ayngelina has created a blog that takes visitors along on her expeditions, enriching us all for the journey. She recently talked with me on a variety of topics including what goes into creating a menu for a pop-up restaurant and which of all her destinations has offered up the most memorable cuisine.
Flavorful World: You’ve traveled extensively, eating in locations throughout the world. To what city and country do you next intend to travel? What would you choose for your first meal upon arriving? What would you choose for your last meal before departing?
Ayngelina Brogan: January 1st we are actually flying out to Italy for a 3 week charcuterie pilgrimage. We’ll land in Rome and stay a night or two and I suspect the first thing we’ll try is a quick snack – pizza, before we move onto many meals. If I have my way the last thing I will eat is burrata. Sure you can get it in Canada but it’s so much more expensive.
FW: You and Chef Rouge recently opened a pop-up restaurant called Loka Snacks with the long-term goal of opening a 20-seat establishment called Loka. Tell us about your menu creation process for the pop-up, and why a 20-seat restaurant is ideal for the long-term.
AB: I’m really in a support staff role with Loka Snacks. Dave has been cooking for 20 years and is an accomplished Chef so the menu development is all his creativity. He’s inspired by local, seasonal food and highlighting its beauty in a very simple way. Dave loves to cook and unlike many chefs he cooks at home all the time. He’s constantly inspired and it’s really a creative outlet for him. In Toronto there is a shortage of this passion. There aren’t enough cooks to fill all the kitchens in the city. Dave wants to get back to working with only a few people who really care about food and a 20 seat restaurant allows him to do that.
FW: You describe the food of Finland as the biggest surprise of any country you’ve visited, and have written on some of the more memorable dishes you enjoyed there. What aspect of the food surprised you the most and why?
AB: Finnish food wasn’t so surprising as I did expect it to be similar to Canada with wild game and reindeer and cured fish. But Finland as a country really surprised me. I lean towards Latin-based countries so I love Latin America and in Europe I’ve visited Italy and Spain multiple times. I didn’t expect to like Finland so much but the people were amazing and the country was beautiful.
FW: What three attributes best characterize your cooking style?
AB: No one really cares about my cooking style because few people see it. But for Dave and Loka Snacks I’d say: local, honest and approachable.
FW: On your blog you state that you aren’t much of a dessert person. Of those desserts that you’ve liked, what aspect of them made them enjoyable? In what locale(s) have you found the most to enjoy?
AB: So, Dave has challenged me on this proclamation because he has seen me eat many desserts. I’d say I’m not really into pastries but I do like cheesecake and lots of desserts in Italy. Also Dave makes the best panna cotta so perhaps the locale is home.
FW: You were less than impressed with the food in Argentina. Which among all the destinations you’ve visited stands out as offering the most impressive cuisine overall, and what made it so? In which destination did you enjoy the single best dish you’ve ever eaten and what made it so?
AB: It’s like you’re asking me how to pick my favourite child! I’d say my top 3 food destinations are Italy, Peru and Mexico. All countries that have diverse cuisine and the food varies from town to town. But most people don’t realize that and only think tacos for Mexico, ceviche in Peru, or pasta in Italy. One of my favourite food memories is taking the train from Bangkok to the Cambodian border and a woman was selling rice with an egg on top and packet of sauce. I have no idea what was in that sauce and I’ve asked so many people but that was one of my favourite meals. The flavour was incredible and it was so simple.
FW: Your blog name celebrates bacon’s magical nature. Tell us about your favorite recipe utilizing bacon as one of three or more ingredients.
AB: Without a doubt it’s our Pig Mack. We make our own pancetta and use it along with housemade sauce, lettuce and a sesame bun. It is killer.
FW: Excluding the name of any of your pre-existing blogs, websites, or print/online personas, tell us what name you would give to your memoir about your culinary exploits?
AB: “I Left for Mexico and Ate My Way Around the World.” Is that too long? Maybe “The Girl Who ate the World”?
FW: When you aren’t cooking and/or eating delicious foods and traveling to exotic locales, how do you most enjoy spending your time?
AB: Food is work for Dave and I but it’s also a passion and such a big part of our lives that if we aren’t “working” we are out eating in someone else’s restaurant or cooking at home.
I really love learning to shoot video and it’s going to be a focus of mine in 2015 as we’ll try to post a video a week on our YouTube channel. So I guess learning video is work but also it’s something I love to do.
*Note to Readers: Bacon Is Magic feeds my wanderlust a steady diet of up-close and in-depth views of not just the food but the culture and off-the-beaten-path corners of locales the world over. Follow Ayngelina’s travels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.