Crif Dog

I don’t really eat out that much, but I was on the internet today reading about hot dogs, and was interested in Crif Dogs for their deep-fried hot dog style. And then upon rereading some of the old blogs on this food party blog, I remembered that one of our favorite bloggers, Doan Buu, had mentioned preferring this place over another hot dog place that he reviewed.

Walking down St. Marks, I never really crave a hot dog, but today, Danny B and I were debating over what to eat for dinner. He was into eating some hummus, but then would not stop talking about hot dogs, and then I said, “Well I’d rather eat Hot Dogs than Hummus!” So we went to Crif Dogs!

We walked in on an early Friday evening, and the place was half empty, double dragon and donkey kong arcade games in the front, old skate videos playing on TV with little kids skating, cute trucker-hatted blond lady manning the counter with pigtail braids, dim lighting, and mainly yuppie couples having quiet little dinners. Danny B and I ordered; he got the “Spicy Redneck” (chili, cheese, jalapenos, coleslaw, hotdog is wrapped in bacon) with a plain dog, and I got the “Chihuahua” with jalapenos. (“chihuahua” has sour cream, avocado, hotdog is wrapped in bacon).

"chihuahua." I was really worried it wasn't going to be spicy, so I added jalapenos. Thank god.

"spicy redneck" and a plain dog; Danny B anticipated the toppings being overloaded enough to spread on another hotdog. He was right.

This was the "small" order of tater tots. They came out piping hot.

Is this picture upside down? I don't care.

The deep-fried aspect of this hot dog was awesome. Nice dry snap on the outside, juicy on the inside. Loved it. The toppings we got felt totally L.A. oki-dog/danger dog style, which are my favorite hot dogs anyway. Danny B and I enjoyed this place a lot, and all in all, this place gets two swift farts from us.

Oh! I forgot to mention there was this totally spooky phone booth in the restaurant that people kept going into and then disappearing. Later I found out it’s a speakeasy.

Anyway, I always think it’s a little weird to out of your way for a hot dog, and if you’re on St. Mark’s and crave a hot dog, this place does rule. If you’re in Greenpoint though, I hear the new 7-eleven that just opened up on Manhattan Ave serves a very good JUMBO DOG!! (Dana Strasser testifies requiring 4 hands and 20 napkins!!)

This is actually a cheeseburger, not a hot dog, but this sums it all up. (Apparently, it's also the awesome album art for a Greenpoint band named "Cheeseburger.")

MEATOPIA 666

There once was a thing called “Meatopia”  (If I was a radio DJ I would be punctuating with air horn blasts the spaces between paragraphs, so imagine one sounding off now if you will.)

Don’t believe the hype. DON”T BELIEVE THE HYPE. I’m speaking for the little guy here. If you read a good thing about this farcical festival of food, you read an untruth.

Mista Bee buzzin with a review of the first annual “Meatopia” a so called food festival.

You’ve never seen a bee, a little flying bee, wait in a line of people to get some food before have ya?  But wait I did in several lines, waiting for a meaty morsel patiently, waiting waiting, and then as each food vendor ran out of food, you read that right, (food vendors out of food?) I was told along with all the people in line waiting “sorry we’re out of food.”

As each of the 30 “Meatopia” food vendors ran out, so on it went each line getting longer, and before a taste of food the vendor would inform the line “sorry all out.”

For two and a half hours I waited and was not fed a scrap. The bullshit of it all was the food was pre-paid for, I’d paid 45$ for 6 tastes. I thought innocently “Meatopia…six tastes…hamburger…hotdog..ribs…pulled pork…lamb…maybe some meat i’d never tried like rabbit?Yumms!  I’d bought a ticket online and I showed up hungry and with 3-4 hours left of this so called Meatopia. I expected to eat, heck I’d spent 45$, anybody living in Cleveland can feed their two kids for a week on that much cash. TRUE.

I’d say there was a hell and I was in it if I wasn’t a bumble bee.

Sad and Hungry, if it was Meatopia I’d witnessed the fall of it.

Final notes, I’d like to say damn Meatopia’s creators, kiss my bee hind now and in the next years to come jerks, and I’d also like to thank  Meatopia for ruining my afternoon. lucky I don’t sting ya.

Arby’s comes to Brooklyn

Late last year, Brooklyn residents noticed some “Arby’s Coming Soon” signs near Smith and Fulton in the Fulton Mall. (not jokes like the very RUDE April Fool’s Day In-n-Out prank from last week that swept NYC and left them crying for tasty burgers)
I must admit I was excited about this even though I don’t really eat fast food except for once in a great while. Well, the time has come and today is the day to try the new Arby’s. It opened in January (I believe) and is apparently very beautiful inside.

Here is a photo I stole from the innerweb of the opening:

I am not here to talk to you about the interior of the place, or the fact that when my Beef-n-Cheddar arrives it will have been en route for 25 minutes before it hits my lips. I’m here to tell you about happiness that can sometimes come in the form of food that is NOT good for you, but makes you feel good nonetheless. As I am writing this, my food is still not here. You are actually witness to my anticipation. Right now I am also starting to think I should’ve gone ahead and ordered that Jamocha shake anyways, even if it would’ve been melty by the time it got back to me: I would love to dip my curly fries in that!  Everyone in the office is excited about this food adventure we are about to embark on, hopefully SOON because it’s been an hour since the girl left dammit! I wonder if I’ll even be able to take a photo of my food before devouring it. Mmmmm….cheddar.

Maybe I should try the bathroom trick! GOOD THINKING! BRB!

Ugh. That only works in the movies.

Let’s dig up some random Arby’s facts as we wait! Here’s an old commercial featuring PacMan:

And the internet diversion worked! The food has arrived!!!!

Look at her. She’s gorgeous. And she was worth the wait.

Thumbs up. Go get one!

Doan goes to Bark.

These are not my dogs nor is this a picture i took. But these are dogs from Bark.

Today I made a trek through the snow globe that has become the northeast to Bark Hot Dogs, a newish(?) semi-upscale hot dog spot in Park Slope.

The interior is nice, modern, sparse, and sort of fancy what with its wood panelling, plain white brick walls, and long communal bar benches, which I always think is a crucial set up when ever hotdogs and burgers are involved. But enough about the interior, I’m here to talk about the dogs, and they were…ok. I got my usual litmus test dogs, chili cheese and sauerkraut with mustard, and a lemon-lime FoxOn Park soda. After a 5 or so minute wait, my order came out on a nice little metal tray lined with butcher paper. The first thing I noticed was that they went for the “just right” approach with the toppings. As opposed to some hot dog places like say, Happy Dog in Cleveland who overload your dog to the point that you need a knife and fork, Bark put just the right amount so that things were spilling out all over the place while you ate or overpowering the fairly slender dog (oddly enough though, my chili cheese dog sort of ended up leaning to one side of the paper tray it sat in and the chili and melted cheese ended up adhering to the tray so I used a knife and fork anyways). The second thing I noticed was that the dogs were longer than the bun and curled up on the sides. The weiners had a nice snap and fairly mellow hot dog flavor, which I think could be attributed to the use of a pork blend as opposed to the heavier somewhat spicier taste of all beef, which I prefer but I’m not complaining either. The cheese was a melted white cheddar and the chili was a beanless meat sauce (yes!) both of which were decent. The kraut dog was pretty straightforward, nothing really notable to mention, but one thing that did stick out to me about both dogs was the bun. They were toasted really nicely and had a nice chewiness to them, a real quality piece of bread.

All in all the meal was pretty good, leaning more towards decent as opposed to awesome, but something that kept ringing in my ear from the second I paid to my walk home was that 2 hot dogs and a soda came out to about $15. A while back there was a small discussion in the comment section here about people paying way too much money for what’s supposed to an everyday man’s meal, and I honestly leaned towards the “sometimes you’ve just gotta pay a little more for a quality product”. But after eating at Bark, and I am no way saying it’s a total rip off or anything, I couldn’t stop thinking about the David Cross bit about eating at Jean Georges and then while eating you realize “WAIT A MINUTE…THIS ISNT WORTH $______!” I mean, I think Crif Dogs makes a more quality product and they’re at least a dollar cheaper across the board. Five Guys, despite being about $12 for a burger, fries, and a drink, fills you up and gives you enough fries to feed a small family.

So there you have it, my all over the place review of Bark Hot Dogs. Pretty good, definitely worth a stop in if you’re in the area, and possibly worth a second visit (they serve breakfast on weekend mornings, as well as burgers and fries which I didn’t try), but nothing really mindblowing.

Dream Doughnut Shop

I met the doughnut shop of my dreams a couple weeks ago in Portland Oregon. It’s called Voodoo Doughnuts.

I went here late night one Wednesday with Chris Duffy to find bums, musicians, Scion reps, teens, all hanging out like a big cloud around the front of the shop.

Inside, it’s decorated like a big weird dougnut shrine, with a bunch of artifacts and fun crap. It’s pretty packed with crap. Also as we were waiting in line, some sort of drunk drama was unfolding before us as some girl waiting in line flirted with some dude who apparently was not her boyfriend, who stormed in seconds later to pull her out of the line. At the time that we went, this Voodoo Doughnut was staffed by very cute and pierced and punky black t-shirted teens.

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The doughnut selection itself is every bratty 12 year old’s dream come true. Doughnuts here are topped with captain crunch, froot loops, cocoa puffs, dubble bubble gum, marshmallows, crispy bacon, etc… They are flavored by sprinkling various flavors of powdered kool-aid and tang and nestea on top, which is totally brilliant by the way. And they are variably shaped like giant penises, huge blunts, playfully tortured voodoo dolls, sloppy chunks, and of course like a doughnut. On their online menu, they definitely had once offered doughnuts glazed in pepto-bismal and nyquil.

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The doughnut I went for that evening was the “GRAPE APE.” The secret ingredient here was definitely a thin layer of powdered grape kool-aid delicately coating the icing on top. This doughnut blew my mind. It tasted exactly how a grape doughnut would taste: sugary, yeasty, grape aftertaste. I’ll be coming back for more.

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Mini DC Trip & NY Spot

My first post. I’m long overdue. You guys have no idea how many cooking/restaurant adventures haven’t made it to this point. Like Ms. Neola I have pictures and unwritten posts galore. Today I’m going with this mini-DC/NewYork trip I went on while my girlfriend was off in Ghana. First I went on a  quick little road trip to our nation’s capital with my good friend Ben (fellow arteest and a co-founder of our semi-fictional high school establishment known as the Fat Boy Club). We only had about two days, and spent much of it walking around the monuments. Then my friend Chris and I went on a trip to NY to visit Thu and Danny B and provide marginal assistance with a Food Party set. Food were had. Good food.

Washington DC.

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The White House.

My boss’s daughter lives in DC, so I went with two suggestions of his. The first was Ben’s Chili Bowl. The second was Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

Ben’s Chili Bowl
After a little research, I learned that Ben’s Chili Bowl is a DC institution, surviving riots, economic blight and gentrification. Visited by presidents, Bill Cosby, and many other celebrities, Ben’s still has much of the same furniture from the 60′s.

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So there is definitely a cool vibe as soon as you walk in. Its crowded, the music is going from 70′s funk to Bob Marley to Motown and the smell makes your stomach implode with hungry juice. There’s a long line that at times will start to poke out of the door, and even though tables are being snatched up as soon as they are vacated, there is a homeless guy dozing off taking up a whole booth by himself, no one kicking him out. This, I guess, is reminiscent of a time from the mid 70′s to mid 80′s when that area was so bad they had one employee and people really just came to hang out. There’s a really interesting history, read more here. Now that whole area is lined with trendy bars and restaurants, and Ben’s is the lone survivor, making it a very hip place for the youths to frequent. Scanning the place you can see homeless (looking) guy, arty girl, churchy black dude, fancy lady, college kid etc. all there for some good food.

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Between the two of us we ordered chili dogs, regular dogs, chili cheese fries, and milkshakes. I love how they split the hot dog and put toppings in there.

Their chili is more of a meaty sauce. Dark with a hint of smoke, it has just the right amount of spice and only a trace amount of beans (I have a tenuous relationship with beans). They put it on everything. Their hot dogs were great and the milkshake was thick and tasty. The shake actually reminded me of one I must have had as a kid because I was having a milkshake flashback (tastes like nostalgia).

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I enjoy food. I’m earnest with it. Ben is goofy. I’m very full.

 

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

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This is actually a chain that exists along most of the East Coast. At that time (months ago), there were no Five Guys in my area, and I am always intrigued by food I can’t get in New England. I also happen to be a burger addict/connoisseur.

So here’s the thing I took away from this one. It’s pretty simple and obvious. With burgers, the only things you need to almost guarantee success are fresh ingredients. After that, you can’t really fudge it up unless you are incompetent or hate the person you’re cooking for. So, although I can say that the bacon cheeseburger was absolutely excellent, I came away understanding that any of us can create a burger this good with the proper things to work with, most specifically fresh beef. This is how one attains that flavor most of us associate with a good burger. I highly recommend Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Another cardinal rule: When there’s only one thing on the menu, you know it has to be good.

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They have a great system and if it weren’t for the line you¹d get your food in less than 10 minutes.

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A messy appearance that belies a purity of taste. A burger is two patties. You have to get a small for one patty. My type of place. Their fries are fried in 100% peanut oil and come seasoned and regular. Get the seasoned – delicious perfection.

I’ve got to give them some style points. Their whole vibe seems centered around a theme of simplicity. Simple red and white décor, simple menu. The menu is burgers, hot dogs, fries, milkshakes, and soda. Cheese and bacon extra, toppings free. They’ve got all the free peanuts you can eat while waiting for your food, and that’s it. Makes life just seem easy.

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Mowing. Not like a lawn. Rhymes with plowing, so like a field, I guess. Note the sweat on my brow. This is serious.

A NY Spot
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The studio in Manhattan. I put that depression in the milk crate.

In NY we helped (or would like to believe we helped) on some preparation for the Cave Duck episode. Then on our way back to Greenpoint we stopped at a Middle Eastern place right by the train station. I’m sorry, I honestly can’t remember the name of the place, as I was blinded by hunger, but most of you New Yorkers may already have a vague idea of where I’m talking about. This place was great. Most people were getting falafel pitas. I got lamb. And was it ever good. There was red cabbage and that delightful yogurty mayonnaise, but the most special thing was the pickles. I can honestly say I’ve never had pickles quite like that before. They were perfect with the grilled flavor of the meat. Next time I’m in NY I absolutely must revisit.

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Here’s a photo of some more mowing. Chris, Thu, and I. Aerial shot by Danny B.

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What a delicious taste combination! Chris’ plate looks great. I can’t remember what he had, but I want to go back in time and steal the pickles off his plate every time I see this. And yes, I am aware of the size discrepancy in these photos.

As far as prices go, I really don’t remember that either, but since I’m poor you can rest assured it was all reasonable.

Until next time! -Vinnie

Philadelphia!

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Did you know there is an enormous, cosmopolitan city, with a rich heritage, dynamic culture, and distinctive character, two hours south of New York? That this city was actually more important than New York and the epicenter of culture in this country once upon a time? And that, as with any proud city, it has it’s own share of unique culinary wonders as well? Well I speak the truth! It’s Philadelphia folks!

I ventured down through the “Garden State” to the “City of Brotherly Love” this weekend to visit Ms. Lauren Gutierrez, who has taken residence there. I was joined by some other CIA chums as well, and we had a grand ole’ time. We saw the sights, spent some time in the woods at a swimming hole, drank copious amounts of alcohol and most importantly, ATE FOOD.

Philadelphia, like many cities, has it’s share of delights and delicacies that hold a special place in the hearts of it’s citizens. Kansas City has barbeque, Chicago has it’s hot dogs and deep dish, and Baltimore has it’s crab cakes, but this city never seemed to let up on new and exciting local fare. So let me share with you some of the more revered items.

First we will start with the Wawa. Wawa is Philadelphia’s “go to” establishment for something quick and something cheap. It is a convenience store, sandwich shop, sometimes gas station, and always a place to find things a Philadelphian would like. Wawa specializes in the “hoagie” sandwich. Some may call this a “sub” or a “grinder”, but in southeastern Pennsylvania you call it a hoagie damnit. When one orders a hoagie at a Wawa there is no need to rattle off your choice of meats, toppings, and bread to a trained “sandwich artist”. They are busy. So they have provided a computer for you to plug in the specifics for yourself. You have plenty of time and the options are there right in front of you, so you can make sure to make the right choices. Do you want a “shorti” or a “classic”? “Lotta mayo” or just “light on the mayo” Take your time.

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We were fortunate to be at a Wawa during a special time of year, the great summer solstice celebration called “Hoagiefest“.

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Once you have ordered your hoagie of choice, it’s time to compliment your main course. Perhaps you would like a Tastykake for dessert? Or maybe just some Peanut Chews?

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Both are local and quite good. Tastykakes come in a variety of flavors and types. I bought a variety, including peach, blueberry, lemon, strawberry, and their famous Butterscoth Krimpets. When we came home drunk and dove into the cakes at 2am, people seemed to like each and every one of them. Great job Tastykake!!

As for the Peanut Chews, it’s peanuts in a chewy dark chocolate and molasses mix. They are quite good.

Need a beverage? Go with the Yuengling.

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I should note that this meal would make your stomach ache, so maybe save the candy for later and just eat an apple or some chips on the side. ;)

So, is Wawa the only place to get local Philly fare? Christ no people! There are plenty of other places!! Ever heard of the Reading Terminal Market?

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This market is an enormous public market on the street level of the old Reading Terminal rail station in Center City Philadelphia. The terminal itself has quite an imposing edifice and ginormous train shed that is now part of the Philly’s convention center. But on the ground floor it is all about food! Hoagies, steaks, fish, meats, cheese, confections, produce, breads – you name it. And plenty of lunch counters and take-out shops for the downtown lunch crowd. Lauren directed me to this ice cream counter called Bassetts for a delicious cone of peach ice cream. She chose the raspberry truffle, and they were both quite good. Bassetts has been around since 1861 apparently, which gives it the distinction of being America’s OLDEST ice cream company! COOL!  Philadelphia’s other famous, slighty younger ice cream mainstay is of course Breyer’s ice cream. But that shit is made by Unilever now, and they are a soap company. So fuck Breyer’s. Bassetts!!

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On our way out we spotted a woman making chocolate covered strawberries and stopped to watch. We then noticed a variety of other chocolate items. Like chocolate noses and chocolate rats!

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And of course, chocolate cheesesteaks!!

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When we were at last all together and everyone had convened at Lauren’s home, Mr. Chris Duffy began to mix together a number of spirits and fruit juices to make a beverage befitting the history and honor of Philadelphia. He had done his research and found a recipe for a punch named Fish House Punch. I will let this equally poorly written wikipedia entry handle this one:

This most venerable of American flowing bowls is held to have been first concocted in 1732 at Philadelphia’s fishing club, the Schuylkill Fishing Company also known as the “Fish House”. The Fish House was an august gentleman’s society devoted to escaping domestic tribulation, but also to cigars, whiskey and the occasional fishing foray upon the Chesapeake or the Restigouche River in Nove Scotia. Another version states that it was created in 1848 by Shippen Willing of Philadelphia, to celebrate the momentous occasion of women being allowed into the premises of the “Fish House” for the first time in order to enliven the annual Christmas Party . It was supposed to be just something to please the ladies’ palate but get them livelier than is their usual wont.

This punch — containing rum, cognac, and peach brandy— is potent, so to bring it down it is normally diluted with cold black tea, a common mixer for this particular punch, or with seltzer water, for a bit of fizz. Some punch bowls may not be big enough to accommodate the large size ice block called for, and though the block is a classic part of this recipe, it can, of course, be simply served in a pitcher over ice cubes.

There is even a verse!

There’s a little place just out of town,
Where, if you go to lunch,
They’ll make you forget your mother-in-law
With a drink called Fish-House Punch.

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The punch was quite tasty with a very tart lemon aftertaste. He put about 15 lemons in it. We all got quite drunk from it. Philadelphia! Will it ever end!?

By now it had become late, and it was time to dine out for dinner. We went to a really great place in Chinatown called “Vietnam“. Yes, like the country. They had quite an extensive food menu and a great cocktail menu as well. We all had our own exotic tropical drinks. I had the Navy Grog.

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I had always seen it on the menu of a Chinese restaurant I went to as a kid and figured “what the hell”. Their Navy Grog was a blend of Rum, Campari, Crème De Cassis, Myers’s Rum, Sour Mix and Fruit Juice.  Actual “Grog” has quite a history apprently, and you can read about it here! It’s not just a music venue folks!

The Navy Grog was quite good.

Some folks had Mai Tai’s and Erika had a beer which she put a cherry into for some reason, but Chris and Jocelyn shared the FLAMING VOLCANO. This restaurant billed the drink as a “Fantastic Drink for Passion Lovers.” and it contained Rum, Vodka, Gin, Brandy, Grenadine, Bacardi 151 and Fruit Juice. And live flames.

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The food was very good as well. I had the crispy duck, and there were a variety of soups and rice dishes eaten. Everyone had a pleasant time.

The next morning we all had to eat again! (ACTUAL fact: In order to sustain life, one must consume food.) Lauren made some delicious scrambled eggs and potatoes. We had a “Box O’ Joe” from Dunkin Donuts, and I fried up another Philly classic: Scrapple.

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Scrapple is “traditionally a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and flour, often buckwheat flour and spices” It is fried in slices in a pan, and served with breakfast in place of sausage or bacon. It is distinctive to the southeast PA region and Maryland, and parts of Virginia. I hail from Cincinnati, and we have a local dish that is similar in composition to Scrapple called Goetta. I think Goetta is quite tasty, but I cannot say the same for Scrapple. I had some at a diner the day before with Lauren and was not really taken with it. It was too mushy, and pasty, and the flavor was lacking on many fronts. I figured, maybe they just didn’t do it right! They cooked it too little! The slice was too thick! I can improve on this! So when we stopped at the ACME grocery store I picked up a package to make myself. I made sure to cut thinner slices this time, and cook it up homemade. Ryan, Lauren and I tried it all over again, and….it still sucked! Scrapple: not that good!

We spent the day at the swimming hole in the woods jumping from high ledges into freezing cold water. Ryan and some teenage boys oversaw the construction of a dam that was meant to plug the constant jet of water flowing down the creek. The project was a mixed success.

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When we got home we were all hungry again. Can you fucking believe that shit? Honestly. We needed something hot, delicious, quick, and PURE PHILADELPHIA. What oh what could we eat?

CHEESESTEAK

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Now, cheesesteaks are famous around the world as a Philadelphia specialty. Most tourists who visit Philly in order to sample this dish head straight down past the Italian Market (which is America’s oldest outdoor market) in South Philly to either Pat’s King of Steaks or Geno’s Steaks. Here they can get a steak slathered with the infamous “whiz“. Like the ubiquitous chili parlor in Cincinnati, or hot dog joint in Chicago, so Philadelphia goes with the steak joints. The town has plenty of lesser known, but locally revered steak places where the tourists and the blazing neon are not there to distract and diminish. Lauren lived just down the street from one such place, and it is called Dalessandros. The first thing you learn in ordering is that they are just called “steaks” by Philadelphians, no need to say “cheese”. Why? Because there are plenty of ways to eat one! Maybe you don’t want cheese! In fact, the idea that the only way to eat a steak is with cheez whiz is total bullshit. It’s just sick sick propaganda from the Pat’s and Geno’s people, whose “rivalry” I liken to a mutual agreement that it’s great business for both parties. Just UNbelievable.

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I had my steak with provolone because it’s actually cheese and it’s better. I had onions, mayo and steak, with hot peppers on the side. Erika had mushrooms. I think Lauren had banana peppers? And nobody had American cheese or “whiz”. They were deliciouso!

Everyone seemed to have a really nice weekend in Philadelphia, and Lauren was a wonderful host. Thanks Lauren! As for local food, there are a few other local specialties I will have to try upon visiting Philadelphia the next time. Frank’s Soda, and Water Ice are two. But fear not Philly, we will meet again.

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