Monday, September 9, 2013

Burgers, Bacon, and Art. OH MY!

Let me take you away to a place (once again, located in Flagstaff, AZ) called DIABLO BURGER.

Diablo Burger is located in a little square in downtown Flagstaff. Immediately upon walking up, you find yourself staring at a very bizarre mural painted by local artist Joe Sorren:

     Day sitting at our table waiting to get down on some meat.

For your (my) pleasure, I am going to post a little more of his work. BECAUSE I LOVE IT.

Once you enter D.B., the cashier greets you and offers you a minute to look over the menu. This venue is extremely small inside with 4 community tables and a narrow path to the outside patio. It gets a little claustrophobic in there when it is busy so it’s best to have an idea of what you want before entering.

Diablo offers 9 stylized burgers as well as the option to create your own. (I should preface with the fact that I have had at least 3 of these bad boys, and I will one day eat my way through this menu.) Of course they offer a salad, a grilled cheese, and a veggie burger. The prices seem a little high, but once you read their mission statement, you learn that they are an “all local foods-based burger joint”, meaning all the delicious shit they use comes from within 250 miles. The cows get weekly massages, whiskey sours by the pool, the whole 9 yards*, and it is obvious in the flavor of every item I have had here.

Then it was time for Day and I to order. On a whim, I ordered “The Netzky”.

Before I go any further, I would like to share a haiku I wrote:

I am not vegetarian:
But when I do,
I add bacon.

I promise you I am not a vegetarian. I really, truly, totally love meat.

“The Netzky” is Diablo’s veggie burger made from local eggs, veggies, and heirloom legumes and just so happens to be wheat/dairy free. Sounds dry and boring, right? WRONG, but we will get back to that.

“The Netzky” is served with 2 toppings of your choice, a pickle, tomato, lettuce and some of the best damn frites I have had. I asked the kind fellow at the register to please throw some Swiss cheese, hatch chile mayo, grilled onions and of course, BACON. I got excited and went over my 2 toppings, but they weren’t mad at me. In addition, I asked for it to be served on their gluten-free bun because it made me feel better about myself.

We snatched a community table all to ourselves on the outside patio where there are only 5 communal tables in addition to the inside seating. We waited about 7-10 minutes before the lovely food runner brought us our meal, and made sure we had everything we needed before leaving us to our own devices.  The presentation is always beautiful (as beautiful as a burger can be, I suppose) with a db brand charred on every bun, lest you forget where you are.

I took my first bite; second, third, before I realized that I was kind of obsessed with the veggie patty. It was not dry, it was not boring, and it did not fall apart all over the place.  It was a medley of delicious vegetables and seasonings blended together and smashed into patty form while keeping the consistency of a real burger patty, lightly charred on either side and still somehow moist on the inside. The hatch chile mayo added the perfect amount of zest, complimenting the tanginess of the grilled onions. The gluten-free bun was one of the best I have ever tried. I suspect it is made with cornmeal, but did not crumble in my hands like every other glutard bread.

This “burger” might be able to turn just about anyone vegetarian, but I couldn’t have that, so now lets get to the bacon. Bacon in general just tastes good. This bacon tasted better than good. Fat in the right places, not too crispy, not too chewy, and possibly made out of a pig that had just finished a spa day down the street. It tasted like a happy pig. They weaved the 4 pieces before cooking it, so not once did I have to put it back on my sandwich. Nothing could have been done to make this veggie burg any better.

Oh, the frites. You can’t stop eating them even if the button on your pants is about to pop off. Always crispy and never a floppy one in the bunch. These puppies are tossed in fennel and rosemary that give them a character I have never experienced with any french fry. It’s almost like roasted potatoes at Thanksgiving, but all the time, and I approve.

I was able to eat my whole sandwich, most of my fries, and still not feel like I needed to lie down afterward. I am going to assume this has to do with the integrity of their ingredients? Yeah, let’s go with that.

Overall, I LOVE this place. The employees are always genuine and helpful, never once have I felt unwelcome. The food exceeds beyond most places I have eaten in Phoenix. My one complaint being the space restriction inside, and on days that I don’t feel like socializing with strangers, I wish they had smaller, non-communal tables. It can be embarrassing eating a burger 2 times the size of your mouth in front of someone you don’t know. Or maybe you’re into that.

Go to Diablo Burger in Flagstaff, eat it, and then come give me a high five.

120 N Leroux St
FlagstaffAZ 86001
(928) 774-3274

P.S.- They just opened one in Tucson.

312 E Congress St
TucsonAZ 85701
(520) 882-2007

(*This is a fabrication I made to make the cows seem like pimps.)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

Extracurricular Activity

Being a bartender has many upsides. I'd have to say that number one is probably money, with number two being the social aspect. But one of my favorite things about my job is the experimenting. I love when customers give me creative license. It's fun to make their beer selections for them, but I have even more fun playing with booze. After a good weekend behind the bar, sometimes I carry the inspiration home with me. After work yesterday, I stopped at my favorite bottle shop and spent some hefty coin on various spirits, bitters, and liqueurs. We had a few friends over and I made a total mess of the kitchen playing with cocktail recipes.

I was able to nail down two really solid drinks.

The first (pictured left) is sort of a gin fizz/whiskey sour hybrid:
      .75oz High West Silver OMG Pure Rye Whiskey
      1.5oz Hendrick's Gin
      1/2 Orange, Squeezed
      .25oz Grapefruit Juice
      1tsp Simple Syrup
      1 Egg White
      1 dash Bittercube Jamaican #2 Bitters
      1 dash Bittercube Bolivar Bitters

Combine ingredients in a shaker and shake it vigorously. Strain and serve up in a chilled cocktail or coupe glass.

This sucker has great pungent earthy tones on the nose, but cleans them out with bright citrus flavors. Egg white lays an impossibly light foam on top. The High West OMG is the most complex white whiskey I've ever had. It plays well with citrus and the herbal flavors of gin.

The second (right) started with a post here. I kind of used that recipe as a jumping off point.

     1.5oz Bak's Bison Grass Vodka
     .25oz Stirrings Ginger Liqueur
     .25oz Sweet Vermouth
     1 dash Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters
     1 dash Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters
     1oz Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate

Combine ingredients in a shaker and stir. Strain it over ice in a rocks glass.

This has to be one of the best dessert cocktails I've ever had. Bold cocoa and spice flavors and a super dry finish that cleans out any of the sweetness. Bison Grass vodka is still new and exciting to me. The almond works great with big flavors, playing second fiddle on the palate and adding great aroma. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Words About (Four) Wheels

(Day's note: Part of the rejuvenation of this blog was to include an expansion of subject material. I know it's usually all about the hot dogs, but I'd like a chance to expand my focus and include more of what I love. Feel free to leave a comment and tell me how you feel about the new subject material.)

The motoring hobby is a dwindling bunch and it’s always reassuring to meet someone new that shares that four wheeled passion. I met my friend Sam though Kevi. She introduced us not long after the start of our relationship and used our mutual enthusiasm for driving as jumpstart. In the few years I’ve known him, he has jumped head first into the sport of drifting, documenting his progress along the way.

I certainly never “got” drifting. I mean, sure, I’ve slid my car around multiple loop on-ramps, spun it in parking lots, and played with throttle steer before, but the sport itself never made sense to me. This is one of the many reasons I’m grateful for Sam’s friendship. Going out to see him on amateur nights and watching his videos has opened my mind a little bit. The focus of his films gives a great look at the personalities in the sport all the while providing full throttle slide porn that makes it so spectator friendly.

Last week, Sam came over for a drink and showed us his latest video. He’s really been honing his craft and it’s a pleasure to be along for the ride. So it’s beyond those eye-rolls the lady throws at us while we’re swapping stories over a beer late at night. It’s inspiring to see someone pursuing such an expensive hobby with limited resources and zero abandon. Our split in taste (I wouldn’t really give much of a second glance to his bugeye WRX, nor would he swoon over my S197 Mustang GT) hasn’t prohibited us from bonding over a similar interest. We share an affinity for the internal combustion engine. The fact that we both want to go fast and even, sometimes, sideways inspires me to do more with my hobby.

It’s somewhat rare to find like-minded individuals the older I get. A lot of people don’t think it’s “cool” or “sustainable” to be into the hobby. Every time I fire up the 4.6 in a parking garage, or nail a heel-toe rev match on a mountain road, I don’t really care about how “cool” or “sustainable” I’m being. It’s ingrained. I take it very personally when someone tells me “nice car”. Just the same as I give my boss a hard time when he brags about the mileage he wrings out of his Prius on his daily commute.

My car has been the source of much inspiration for me. Just like the time I spent cleaning it today inspired me to write this, running out second gear in the twisties tends to fire up my creative brain. I hope I’ll have a venue to engage that impulse here.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Carnivore's Guilty Pleasure

(Image via Four Legs Good)

We're out of eggs at the HDN1 homestead. After a late one at work last night and a deep snooze into the early afternoon, I wasn't really feeling the cereal today. The lady and I decided it was finally time to go visit my friends Liam & Emily at their latest venture, Bragg's Factory Diner. Now that they have expanded their hours, we figured it would be perfect to grab some brunch in the mid-afternoon and hopefully see the two of them.

Though the subject matter of this blog is mostly meat-related, I've been known to visit Green on occasion and indulge in some of their mock-fast-food-but-actually-junk-food without a bit of shame. I've noticed that a lot of the time, some of their strange not-meats do even more of a number on my stomach than if I had just gone to McDonalds or Popeye's for the "real" deal. I used to call myself "stomach of steel", but recently, I've had to take more care with what I eat if I'm going to be able to walk around the rest of the day. 

This leads me to be somewhat apprehensive when approaching a dining situation featuring the word "vegan". A lot of the processed oils, soy and other fillers wreak havoc on my digestive system and leave me craving raw meat. After perusing the menu at Bragg's, I was pleased to see that they approach vegetarian and vegan eating with the "whole food" outlook. Using vegetables as a substitute for meats as opposed to attempting to recreate them always results in a happier stomach.

We settled at a table in the small corner building and ordered a couple iced toddys. The brew was delicious and smooth, if a little watery for my taste (I'm a high-octane coffee kind of guy). I ordered the Frank Lloyd Bite and the lady picked the Beet On The Brat Burger. After a few minutes, my two old friends brought out the food, we had a quick chat, and it was time to dig in.

My plate included two pancakes, hash browns, eggplant "bacon", and one biscuit with poblano gravy. It was plenty of food for the price ($10) and not one item was less than excellent. I'm very particular when it comes to both pancakes and hash browns. The pancakes at Bragg's were stellar. Not too bready but with enough mealy texture to feel substantial backed by a delicately sweet flavor. The potatoes had the crisp top and oily bottom that could saturate and defeat even the worst hangover.

The eggplant bacon was a pleasant surprise. Good savory taste with a bit of eggplant flavor to balance all the syrup from the pancakes. The texture was probably my favorite part. Almost like just-on-the-chewy-side-of-crispy thick-cut pig bacon. 

The biscuit was a hearty corn number, smothered in a poblano gravy that lacked every bit of the starchy white gravy flavor I despise. I could've stood it to be a bit more spicy, but I'm certainly not complaining.

Kevi's burger put on a clinic as far as vegan burgers go. The beet patty had a great savory flavor on its own, and the flavor of the beets played delicately against the crunchy texture and light kick of the corn relish. I was only able to snag a few bites while she was looking away, but it definitely blew any other vegan burger I've ever had out of the water.

From a service standpoint, it can be difficult to accommodate restrictive diets. I have struggled with this at my own place of work and with friends when dining out. The concept of a place like Bragg's is very specific but also inclusive. They serve eggs and dairy, but their bacon substitute (while it certainly isn't bacon) is damn finer than any mock-sausage or "facon" I've been served in the past. It has the feel and food of a neighborhood diner without the meat. I am certainly more comfortable here compared to a place plastered with smug environmentalist propaganda and lackadaisical elitism permeating the attitude of the staff.

I'm pleased with my friends for all their efforts in opening Bragg's. I expect nothing less than all the effort and passion that is evident in the quality of food and service they provide. They are both doing their part in growing the food culture in Downtown Phoenix. I can't wait to make it back to see them again and try more of their veggie diner eats. Just don't tell the hot dogs I've been cheating on them.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Somewhat Late National Hot Dog Day Celebration!

 (image via reddit)

Last Tuesday was national hot dog day. Though there is a national something for just about every day of the year and I tend not to take these things too seriously For obvious reasons I knew I had to do something in this case.

Fortunately, Short Leash Hot Dogs, one of my favorite local food trucks, opened a brick and mortar restaurant on that very day. Sit...Stay promised to offer all of the favorites from their truck's menu in addition to some of the best of their Friday night Sit...Stay pop-up like concept.

The lady and I headed to downtown phoenix to grab a coffee and a spot in what we figured would be a line before they opened. After almost thirty minutes of waiting in the hot sun, they opened the doors. We headed in with about 40 people behind us. The space was great. A huge improvement over Tediberto's (the vegan-fast-mexican-food hipster cave abomination that preceded it). Tons of natural light, sleek design, great smells. It was a little warm (I was sweating like Bubbles in a Baltimore summer). I'm sure they would've done something about that if they could've. But who cares, anyway? It was hot dog time.

The service was lightning fast and friendly. They had a pretty solid selection of draught, canned, and bottled beer along with keg wine by the glass. Since I was driving, I opted for one of the many artisanal sodas they offered by the bottle. We fired our appetizer order right out of the gate. Less than ten minutes later, we had two baskets of deep fried goodness placed in front of us.

The scotch eggs were magical. panko-crispy sausage on the outside and just-on-the-soft-side-of-hard boiled eggs on the inside. The spicy-sweet mustard they came with wasn't even necessary. The corn dog bites were phenomenal. JalapeƱo-Cheddar wieners with a golden batter that had the texture of a hush puppy beneath the crisp exterior. Corn Dog Heaven, I tell you.

Our entrees took a little bit longer to come out, as everyone in the restaurant had ordered by then. Though it wasn't any problem to us, the staff were very apologetic and took the time to check on us periodically. 

When the goods arrived, a tear was brought to my eye.

Once upon a time, I went to Shady's when the Short Leash truck was there. I tried their special, the Sunny. It was the best hot dog I had ever eaten. I could barely contain my excitement when I saw it was present on the Sit...Stay menu. The Sunny is a transcendental piece of cased meat. It extends beyond a poultry (chicken) sausage on flatbread and leaps with gusto into the realm of exquisite food pairing. Grilled peaches and prosciutto cover the ever-winning sweet and salty base. Goat cheese adds texture and coolness that tempers the cloying sweetness of the honey and the spicy zing of arugula & black pepper. The sausage snaps and lets its smoke and salt provide a backbone for the whole piece. In my opinion, there is no finer dog than the Sunny dog.

The Bear was something else entirely. People had told me about this one. "Day, you gotta try the Bear form Short Leash. Crackerjacks, man, it's crazy." We opted for the spicy beer dog and let them top it with their signature peanut butter, smoked gouda, bacon, barbecue sauce, and crackerjacks. Sweet, salty, spicy, smokey. I was expecting a muddled mess, but it worked. The creamy peanut flavor and crunchy popcorn took center stage while the barbecue and gouda played the chorus. I could eat this dog for breakfast every day of the week and not miss cereal or eggs one bit.

Our final item was the Fried Green Tomato Stack "Salad". All I really need to say is that these guys know how to use a deep fryer. Firm slices of green tomato are battered and fried to the perfect texture. Roasted corn, bacon, avocado, and bleu cheese dressing top it off. It's really not much of a salad. Unless your idea of a salad contains more calories than a McDouble. They had some healthier options, but that wasn't why we were there. It managed to taste fresh despite it's obvious excess of oils. When I say it was my least favorite item of those we tried, it's like saying I Oscar Mayer is my least favorite brand of bacon. It's still bacon.

I can't wait to make my way back to Sit...Stay. The business Brad & Kat have built started in a trailer and has grown to one of my favorite hot dog destinations anywhere. They remain friendly and humble. Honest people, just trying to bring tasty hot dogs to the citizens of Phoenix. I've opened a restaurant before. I know how hectic and scrambled and chaotic it can be. I'm sure they felt that way but, from my seat, the place seemed to be running smoothly. That speaks volumes about their professionalism and passion for what they do. I'm glad I've been able to watch the Short Leash family grow for all these years. I look forward to being able to visit them in the same place (almost) any day of the week.

110 E. Roosevelt St.
Phoenix, AZ

(Day's Note: Kevi has her own review of the Sit...Stay opening day coming soon. Think of this as part one of two.)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Shiftmeal, Halfway To A Eulogy

As you may or may not know, I spend a lot of my time behind this bar at Boulders on Broadway. A few years ago the bossman set me to the task of creating a couple of hot dogs to throw on a summer specials menu. After some seriously delicious research and experimentation I came up with two recipes to accompany the now infamous "Hung Over Man's Best Friend" breakfast dog. One of the creations, while tasty, didn't sell too well and was eventually removed from the menu. The other, however, has garnered much praise and adoration from our loyal customers.

We named it the Bombay Street Dog.

Inspired by one of my mother's recipes from my childhood, we started with two Hoffy Beef Franks, butterflied and grilled. Spread scratch-made mango chutney on toasted naan bread, topped with shredded lettuce and drizzled with Sriracha sauce and the BSD was born.

On Saturday night, before our two-hour service bar slogfest that most call trivia, I fired a ticket to the kitchen so I could wolf one down while the joint was still pretty slow. About ten minutes later the ugly monster of a wiener was delivered to my station. When I say ugly, I mean ugly. The naan was slightly over-toasted and no care was taken with the application of Sriracha. It looked like someone sliced off their fingertip and sprayed blood all over the damn thing. Except the blood was actually delicious hot pepper sauce.

Aesthetics aside, It was enjoyable. The way the franks are sliced allows even meat distribution within the confines of the flat (and, hopefully, usually soft) bread. The lettuce adds a little cool, a little crunch to temper the big flavors of spicy (easy with the rooster, there Lorenzo), sweet and funky chutney, and savory dog.

It was good, but it wasn't as good as the first time I tried it. The original recipe included some fantastic lime pickle that we made in house. The cool, citrus snap was nowhere to be found. Turns out we axed the lime pickle after a dip in wiener sales. Economics, or something.

If I'm being honest, I knew I was going to be underwhelmed. It didn't really matter. A hot dog is a hot dog and sometimes you just need caloric intake. My gut was rumbling and I needed energy to sling Angry Orchards (gross), Unicorn Tears (gross), and Jolly Rancher shots (really gross) to trivia patrons (plus more than 130 different craft brews, some fine bourbons, and a handful of creative specialty cocktails).

Shiftmeal is a beautiful thing. Sometimes it's a bag of Dorito's, half a Twix bar and a Red Bull (for vitamins) because you're busy. Sometimes it's a ginger orange chicken breast with roasted broccoli, baby carrots, and walnuts because the chef was bored.  Sometimes it's just cold bacon and green olives because, well, cold bacon and green olives. And sometimes it's a once-mighty multi-cultural hot dog creation that lost its mojo somewhere along the way because you write a blog about hot dogs and you're trying to recapture that magic.

I swear I'm not bitter.

If you happen upon my fine establishment, give the Bombay Street Dog a whirl. It's still a favorite of many patrons. I'd call it the Repo Man of hot dogs. A cult classic that maybe isn't as spectacularly weird as the first time, but has more going for it than just pure nostalgia. Also, feel free to mention to the staff that it needs some lime pickle. Maybe we can make a difference together.

Boulders on Broadway
530 W. Broadway Rd.
Tempe, AZ 85282