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. Jalapeño-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

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Late for dat Train, doe.

(Day's Note: Imma let you finish, but first I gotta introduce my partner in crime. Kevi Rae is going to be joining HDN1 to add a little feminine perspective to our little blog. This is her first post. I'm excited. It's about a great breakfast we had in Flagstaff before heading to New Mexico last week. Enjoy!)

I realize calling you out on my first post isn't the best first impression, but if you tell me you have had one of the best breakfast burritos and it isn't from Late for the Train, you're lying*

On our way out of Flagstaff, we stopped at a coffee shop hoping for a quick bite and some liquid crack. Late for the Train is the name, and I’ll be damned if they didn’t impress the hell outta me. 

I’ll start with the coffee. I ordered an iced Americano with a splash of soy (my drink of choice almost always). It was the perfect amount of roast with a slight chocolate finish. Add the splash-o-soy for that slight creamy finish, and I was in love with this place already.  I will say that one downfall I found was that they did not have a cold brew, only an iced drip that I suppose they make every morning. WAH WAH.

 Alright, let’s get down to business. I am hesitant about breakfast burritos for a few reasons. Let me list them for you:

1.     They tend to be soggy/runny/drippy/whatever other wet word sounds unappetizing.

1.1    Usually, the tortilla is too floppy, thus making point 1 even more of a pain.

2.     They use fake stupid eggs that taste like fake stupid eggs.

2.2     This makes my stomach hurt.

3.     Maybe most important to note; I have never had an amazing one.

I ordered the “Veggie Burrito” which included kale, zucchini, squash, red pepper, onion, potato, and vegan ranch. I am a recovering vegan, so I added some bacon to that bitch. It came out in a beautifully wrapped AND PRESSED tortilla that did not drip, leak, tear, or piss me off. With a slight roasted crunch from the press, the char on the outside complimented all the treats on the inside of this baby.  The veggies were lightly sautéed in olive oil and were not slimy or overcooked. The vegan ranch (don’t scoff, it was delicious) added the right amount of zest to the simple vegetables. I am sure this burrito is great as it is, but the bacon really just completed it for me. I was not left wanting more or wanting less.

Day ordered the “Bacon Burrito”. The name alone already hints at a perfect burrito, but let’s get into it. Again, perfectly wrapped and pressed legit tortilla. The guys at LftT actually cooked REAL eggs. Fried with fully cooked yolk, the eggs tasted like eggs and not some microwaved egg patty. The rest of the burrito contained roasted potatoes, grated cheddar cheese, and of course, bacon. Alone, I would say it was a little dry, but they gave us some mild salsa to toss on it that sealed the deal.

Maybe you don’t care much about breakfast burritos… we can still be friends.

Go check out Late for the Train if you ever find yourself in Flagstaff. Hopefully it will change your mind as it did mine.

Late for the Train
22 East Birch Ave., Flagstaff AZ 86001


 (*Maybe not, but just humor me.)

Friday, July 19, 2013

"My favorite thing about Albuquerque is Carlsbad Tavern in Scottsdale"

We hit the 40 to the ABQ and tied one on real quick! The next morning I figured we'd try to soak in some hot dog culture while trying to tame our hangovers. Based on my extensive research, the only place to go was The Dog House.

We rolled up at the tail end of the lunch rush. The place was chaotic. I figure the whole joint could only seat about 30. People were scrambling to order and the lady behind the counter was sweating, getting it done. The Mrs and I studied the menu for a minute and wouldn't you know, two seats opened up at the counter. As soon as we were acknowledged we fired the order; "foot long chili with onions & cheese, Frito pie with everything, large tots plain."

We sat for a couple minutes and let our mouths water watching the butterflied foot longs sizzle on the flat top. When our food was placed in front of us, I could barely contain my excitement. I knew at that very moment, my hangover would be cured.

The foot long was magical. Relatively contained within the bun, sliced in half, it was pretty easy to eat (think sub sandwich). The chili was perfect for a hot dog. Almost creamy texture, no beans, crazy zesty kick. I threw a little bit of yellow mustard on it and went to town. It was my kind of chili dog. Sitting in that cramped restaurant, sweating out the Old Crow, chowing on magical mixed-meat chili dog, sweating more from the calorie intake, I was in heaven.

The Mrs settled on the Frito pie. Spicy chili over corn chips with ground beef, onions, cheese, chopped lettuce and a huge slice of tomato (which I sprinkled with salt and ate solo). You can never go wrong with a Frito pie. Chili and crunchy corn chips always play well together. We threw some of our tots into the mix with it and descended into fried spicy madness.

I don't need to talk too much about the tots. They were great.

I thought I was cured. Boy was I wrong. Cheap whiskey and strong beer the night before combined with the magic of greasy food left me in a rough spot for the rest of the day. I can't say it wasn't worth it. After all, Jesse Pinkman got his gun at the Dog House. Place must be legit, right? I have no regrets. The Dog House fed me the best chili dog I've had in a long time. Who cares if I spent the rest of the day choking down beers from Marble and La Cumbre and trying to get my sea legs back? What's the point of traveling if you don't sample the local hot dog culture?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

North (and east)!

The lady and I hit the road. Two weeks of work was enough for us in the dog days of valley summer. Flagstaff, ginger-beard capital of the country, was our first destination for a couple nights of relaxation in the pines (and rain). Since I'm back off the hot dog wagon, I thought it appropriate to swing on by Primo's Hot Dogs to sample what they had to offer.

The menu at Primo's is a bit convoluted, with sheets of computer paper posted all over the wall and on top of the original printed menu board. The descriptions are all concise and though your eyes must wander to read them all, it isn't that big of a deal. The lady and I decided on four dogs to share. The SauerApple, The Reuben, The Phoenix, and The Flagstaff.

The SauerApple was tasty. Topped with sauerkraut, applesauce, and a dill pickle spear it had a funky fermented sweet pickled taste that worked pretty well, if a bit muddled.

The Reuben Dog was almost my favorite. Sauerkraut, spicy thousand island, and dill pickle. The snap of the dog and pickle made for a great texture. The spicy thousand island had more kick than I was expecting.

The Phoenix Dog left something to be desired. Or maybe it was too much. Topped with melted cheese, pickled jalapeños, sliced tomato, diced onion, bacon bits, Tabasco, and yellow mustard. It was the only jumbo dog of the bunch. It sounds strange, but I couldn't tell where the cheese ended and the mustard began. The jumbo dog was too much for all the toppings. I couldn't get a balanced bite. Every time I tried I looked like this.

Frustrated, overwhelmed, near-breakdown. All because of a hot dog that was too damn big.

Let's move on to the Flagstaff Dog. Hands down, this little puppy was my favorite.  Neon relish, diced onion, pickled jalapeño, celery salt, and ranch dressing. Not over-topped. Musky celery salt, snappy dog, crispy relish, spicy jalapeño, cool ranch. It's a recipe from the blacked-out mind of a drunk hot dog chef. It works. All the flavors work so well together, I left the restaurant craving another. In fact, the whole experience was kind of a blur.

After some ferocious burps, we crossed the street and washed the doggies down with some Oskar Blues G'Knight and Rowan's Creek bourbon at Mia's Lounge. Made for a killer night.

Beer, hot tub, sleep, then a quick blast across the I-40 to the land of enchantment. Do they have hot dogs in the ABQ?

Burritos, green chilies, fireworks, non-AZ beers, teepees, rock music. It's all coming. I've even got a new contributor to introduce. Stay hot dog, y'all.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Our Author's Triumphant Return!

I've returned! It's been two damn years since I've considered this old thing, and I figured today would be a good day to blow the dust off the ol' hot dog blog. This time around I'm going to expand my focus to include many of my interests instead of covering processed meats exclusively. Sure, there will still be plenty of hot dog coverage, but I'd also like to use this blog as a venue to showcase the cocktails I make among other culinary creations and any other interesting things I encounter.

It started today with a random mid-afternoon text message from my friend Mama Bear.

"Cold brew coffee with vodka instead of water. Go!"

That set me to a tinkering in my home bar. After about an hour and a quarter of a bottle of Bak's Bison Grass vodka and some of my ol' lady's delicious cold brew I'd perfected my new favorite day-drinking cocktail.

In a tall (I use a mason jar) glass filled with ice add:
2 oz Bak's (or Sobieski, though it's not as smooth) Bison Grass Vodka
3 oz Cold brew coffee concentrate
2 oz Cold water

In our household we let the brew steep for 24-36 hours. It becomes almost a super-concentrate. Black crack. This time we used a Jamaican Blue blend and it's got great rich, chocolatey flavors that pair well with the orgeat-like nuttiness of the bison grass. With the amount of caffeine in each cocktail, I had quite a good day-off afternoon buzz going by the time I was done experimenting.

So cheers, Mama Bear. I think I've found my new favorite post-workweek pre-party energizer.