This month’s interview is the result of a pleasant exchange I recently had with Fontina Turner, creator of online food/beer/nerdery nexus Bacon & Legs. In addition to her knack for creating irresistible recipes published with compelling food photography, Fontina’s pop cultural acumen is as fierce as her musings on all things fandom-related and comforting to put into one’s mouth are insightful and funny. This talented blogger (who earns major awesomeness credits for sharing my passionate interest in superheroes, hobbits, TV series Archer, and other things watchable and readable) spoke with me about comfort foods, visiting craft beer breweries, eating on her past and future travels, and a lot more.
Flavorful World: You mention having done some traveling in your time. What are your picks for the top three eating and/or drinking experiences you’ve had on your trips, and where (in what country, city, restaurant/bar establishment, etc.) did you enjoy them?
Fontina Turner: Well, I’m always up for MORE travel! It’s the age-old internal struggle of a curious homebody. As far as ranking the places I have gone… I’d have to say:
- I don’t know if this one counts as travel because I was living there, but there’s no way I can avoid it. Big shoutout to Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia. I know people go there and get cheesesteaks and soft pretzels, and those are wonderful and I love them… but if you want great mussels and Belgian cuisine and a HUGE beer selection, this is where you need to go. It obviously doesn’t need my plug, it’s an institution within itself, but it is an institution for a reason.
- Pain au chocolat from any bakery in Paris. Ever since Parisian croissants, I have become an insufferable snob that turns her nose up to most American dough bricks that try to pass as croissants.
- Just a few weeks ago, I went on a brewery road trip. I hit up 3 breweries in 2 states in 1 day. It was incredible and a total blast. Friday night I headed up to Founder’s in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan because I had tickets to get KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout) Saturday morning. Saturday was insane there, but Friday was relatively chill. My husband and I waited in line for all of about ten minutes and were able to walk to a little corner table with two full glasses of CBS (Canadian Breakfast Stout). I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get one of my “white whales”. The next morning we checked out of our hotel, stood in a very short line to pick up our allotment of KBS. (The line to get in the bar was absolute insanity at this point.) Then we went on our merry way down to Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo for lunch. I got a flight of six amazing beers that I could only get there and split a couple things off their fun unique bar fare-styled menu. After lunch, we headed to Three Floyds Brewing in Munster, Indiana. We did the brewery tour, had dinner (I had the pan seared duck breast and my husband had the ramen with pickled porcinis) and hung out and had some of their awesome beers. We were able to stop by their store and come home with a stupid amount of awesome beer.
FW: What do you feel drives and defines you as a food blogger, and how does that attribute influence your focus regarding courses, ingredients, and regional style in the recipes you create?
FT: The driving force behind my food is making people happy. That shapes everything. You aren’t going to come to my site if you want something healthy. I’m not saying don’t eat healthy, by all means, please don’t die. But when you want a treat, when you want some comfort food, when you want to cook for friends or family… come over here, I have some ideas for you.
That, mixed with growing up on the midwestern meat-and-potato dishes that my mom taught me how to cook and my love for craft beer and all things boozy… it sort of created this monster.
FW: Tell us one pro and one con of the most recent craft beer you tasted for the first time, and to what degree it seems to align with or deviate from craft beer trends of the past few years as you’ve observed them. Does this work more for or against it?
FT: Can I change the question to “for the second time”? I have significant reasons why, you’ll forgive me!
PRO. I’ve dubbed it my “desert island beer” and before a couple weeks ago, it had only been brewed once. Tired Hands Guillemot is a dark saison that the beer gods brewed specifically for my tastes, I swear. When TH released it again, I had to drive back to Philly (7 hours) just to pick up a couple bottles. I tried it. I don’t know what I was expecting. I guess I was expecting that it would have changed some or I wouldn’t remember it that well. It was just like I remembered and it was incredible. I think a “dark and dense saison” hasn’t exactly been at the top of beer trends, but maybe we can drum up some support for these flavor profiles.
CON. I just had Heady Topper for the second time. It’s been over a year since the first time I had it and our palettes change so much that I feel like it was the first time all over again. The thing with beers like Heady is that they are so overly-hyped, there’s no way they can really live up to the expectations in your head. It’s a wonderful beer. Beautiful. Balanced. Exciting, even. But in the end… it’s still just a great beer. Magic beer isn’t a thing and we need to stop telling people it is.
FW: With your having created recipes on “nerd” and pop culture themes from Transformers and TMNT to Breaking Bad and Doctor Who, what yet-unexplored franchises or fandoms can we look forward to seeing recipes based upon at Bacon and Legs in the near future?
FT: All of them? All the fandoms. I love doing pop culture-themed recipes! I have been brainstorming a ton of Star Wars themed recipes in anticipation of The Force Awakens. I’d love to do something for Jurassic World when it comes out. Oh, and did you know there is going to be a Jem and the Holograms movie this year? That would be a blast to do.
FW: In a December 2014 post, you detailed everything that your dream dinner in Belgium would entail. Tell us where in the world (that you have never been) you would venture for an equally thorough dream breakfast, what you would eat and drink, and what appeals most to you about the foods and locale you chose.
FT: Oh man, this is easy for me. Switzerland. I’ve been dreaming about it. My husband was born there and I’d like to make it our next vacation. I think a such a noteworthy dairy country is the perfect place to grab a great breakfast. (Not to mention, the blend of French, German and Italian cultures they have there.) I would love to just have some fresh-as-hell butter, sausages, breads and lots of cheese. Is breakfast fondue a thing? I might have to make that for the blog!
FW: Tell us what has been the most surprising thing about the food scene in the Ohio area to which you relocated, and why.
FT: I relocated to Cleveland (from Philly) about six months ago. I was utterly shocked at how I didn’t have to give up a damn thing. Except cheesesteak egg rolls.
I grew up in Ohio and it was definitely not a food mecca. Somehow, since I left, it has magically transformed into this huge food and beer destination. I’d come here for a trip if I didn’t live here. There’s amazing restaurants with great quality food. Some of the most ridiculous breweries in the entire country are right around the corner from me. I went to the Butcher and the Brewer in downtown Cleveland with friends for Cleveland Restaurant Week. I had a truly inspired beer cocktail and steak tartare that was far better than the stuff I had in France. I’ll take Cleveland food any day (and I get to)!
FW: You’ve honored television’s Bob’s Burgers with a post dedicated to the “Special of the Day” menu regularly featured on the program. Do the same for TV series Archer by creating an appetizer homage dish to character Sterling Archer using ingredients that honor his birthplace of Tangier, northern Morocco. (Extra points for a pun-/catchphrase-based name!)
FT: The Pita Predator: mini pitas, stuffed with lamb sausage, sautéed aubergine and tapenade, topped with a drizzle of saffron-spiced edam sauce.
You know, just don’t let Krieger anywhere near it.
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?
FT: This is a difficult one. I definitely have some finalist names for a cookbook I’m working on, but I haven’t come to any decisions. If it were a memoir though, I think I’d have to go with: Hops and Heartland.
FW: When you aren’t cooking and/or eating delicious foods, how do you most enjoy spending your time?
FT: My other passion is graphic design and typography. I split my time pretty evenly between food and design. When I do have a free minute, I’m usually curled up in my footy pajamas with a comic book or video game. If I’m feeling less anti-social (and I’ve gotten dressed that day), I’m out looking for new craft beers and checking out local bars and restaurants.
*Note to readers: Is your nerd bone thoroughly delighted? Are you not entertained? Since the answer to both queries can only be a resounding “Yes!” if you’re any fun at all, now is an excellent time to follow Fontina’s Bacon & Legs on Twitter and to get friendly with her writings on such sites as Drinking Craft and Hobo Trash Can.