By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — An Upper West Side restaurant is serving bacon fit for kings.
Chef Bill Telepan at Telepan restaurant is serving a six-course tasting dinner this week built entirely around mangalitsa pigs, a breed known for meat so delicious that the royal Hapsburg family wouldn't allow anyone else to eat it, the legend goes.
What's so special about this pork?
"It's the fat," said Telepan. "There's something beautiful about this fat."
On Tuesday as he prepped for dinner, Telepan showed off a photo of a slice of mangalitsa loin. The dark pink meat was nestled in a cloud of creamy white fat a good one-and-half-inches wide.
"You can actually touch it raw and it sort of moisturizes your hands," Telepan gushed. The fat is smooth and liquidy when hot, and never gets tough, he said.
All that fat makes for meat that's packed with flavor, Telepan said, a welcome switch from years past, when low-fat diets were all the rage and pork was bred to be lean. Less fat might have been better for waist lines, but it created bland meat, Telepan said.
Now farmers and chefs alike are embracing fat again, and diners are seeing the succulent results on menus like Telepan's.
For his week of mangalitsa dinners, Telepan ordered up three whole pigs from Mosefund Mangalitsa farm in Branchwood, N.J. Tipping the scales between 220 and 250 pounds, each pig cost between $1,300 and $1,500.
Mangalitsa pigs were bred in Europe as a cross between wild boar and lard pigs that produced a uniquely rich and meaty flavor, said Mosefund Farm manager Michael Clampffer.
"The carcass has lot of fat and marbling, but also rich dark meat from the boar," Clampffer said. "You get the best of both worlds. Fat equals flavor, and you get a meat that’s rich and red in color."
While pork is advertised as the other white meat, mangalitsa meat is red.
"We like to call it the other red meat," Clampffer said.
He said encourages chefs to use every bit of the pig, from snout to tail.
Telepan's menu follows that concept. The pig is prepared in 13 different forms, from "crispy bittys" (skin) to black pudding sausage (blood).
Items on Telepan's mangalitsa menu include bratwurst, pork belly confit, a donut with "lardo" (Italian cured fat) filling, and roasted pork with roasted skin sauce, among other porky delights.
The dinner is $75 per person and $135 with alcohol pairings — one of which is made with "bacon-washed" bourbon. Telepan, at 72 West 69th St., is serving the mangalitsa dinner through Thursday night.