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Happy National Hot Dog Month!

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Who doesn't love hot dogs? *Frankly,* that would be un-American!

As the Fourth of July approaches, I can’t stop thinking about hot dogs — possibly because the annual Nathan’s pig out is this Saturday.

My love affair with the link is nothing new. I even run a Flickr group dedicated to world-wide weenies of all shapes and sizes: Hot Dog.

It seems that I am not alone in my obsession.

Way back in the 70’s, Mettja C. Roate wrote a cookbook devoting half its pages to tube steaks. has a forum on hot dogs, sausages and brautwursts (you have to register to access the lively discussion). Hot Dog Chicago Style has a searchable database of restaurants located across the country. In addition, the opinionated has a Hot Dog Page listing close to a hundred different joints located across this great hot dog loving nation. (Oh, and did I mention The Frankfurter Chronicles?)

I have a list of my own old favorites and “dying to try” establishments:

Before dining at any of these or any other fine dawg-serving establishments, I suggest a study of Hot Dog Etiquettte. (Unless, of course, you’re heading to the white trash trailer, ahem, restaurant, Hillbilly Hot Dogs:

Just as in the great depression of the 1930s, reds hots are, well, red hot! So far I haven’t seen a “Depression Sandwich” offered on menus (hot dog & fries for a nickle — or four cents if that was all you had — as served at Fluky’s in Chicago).

Today we have “designer dogs” and restaurants serving “Lobster Dogs.” We even have recipes for lobster corn dogs with truffled hollandaise sauce, with, perhaps, an order of duck fat fries on the side…

With all the money the weenie industry is making, I think I should join the ranks of the honorable hot dog cart vendor. The cost of running a profitable weenie stand may be high, but I would be doing something I loved. I could even prepare for my new career by simply changing degree programs. Goodbye SUNY-Empire, hello Hot Dog U: The Harvard of Encased Meats!


A Dozen Dishes I Crave

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Gorgonzola Stuffed Medjool Dates

Gorgonzola Stuffed Medjool Dates

Inspired by Michael Bauer’s thoughts about “dishes I’ve remembered long after my reviews have been published,” here are the top 12 dishes I still crave, also in no particular order.

  1. Pollo Molcajete — spicy chicken in red sauce served with nopales, crunchy deep-fried pork rinds and grilled fresh white cheese at Casa De Las Sirenas in Mexico City.
  2. Tom Douglass’ salty-sweet, seriously tasty Fennel Salad with Orange and Hazelnuts at Seattle’s Serious Pie.
  3. The chewy, earthy Gorgonzola Stuffed Medjool Dates served at intimate Bar Tartine in San Francisco’s Mission District.
  4. Alaskan Halibut (pricey, but worth it for the heavenly fresh taste as well as the jewel box-like presentation) by Chef Laurent Manrique at Aqua.
  5. Bi-Rite Creamery’s mouth-watering Salted Caramel ice cream.
  6. A favorite childhood treat — old-fashioned French Dip Sandwiches (with hot, house-made Dijon-style mustard) at Phillipe the Original in L.A.
  7. Divinely rich, savory-sweet Pere al Gorgonzola salad at Tigelleria in cute little Campbell, California.
  8. The absolutely addicting Pecan Bars — oozing sugary fresh, sweet cream butter — at Kenny & Zukes in Portland.
  9. Super simple Yunnan-style Roasted Leeks dusted with hot red pepper powder at Beijing’s Food in Novel.
  10. Luscious Crabmeat Sardou with artichoke bottoms and creamed spinach as served at historic Galatoire’s Restaurant in New Orleans.
  11. Butter soft Hot Salt-Beef brushed with lip tingling hot mustard on a chewy beigel (bagel) fresh from the oven at Beigel Bake on Brick Lane in London’s notorious East End.
  12. Delfina’s intense Grilled Calamari with Warm White Bean Salad — the squid’s smokey flavor pairs perfectly with creamy white beans.

The Fine Modern Art of Food

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Warholesque Art at Humphry Slocombe

Warholesque Art at Humphry Slocombe

While touring San Francisco’s Mission District, I spotted this funny Warholesque painting at the new Humphry Slocombe ice cream shop. (I ordered a scoop of their intensely caffinated Blue Bottle Vietnamese Iced Coffee, and skipped the foie gras flavor…)

Andy Warhol was far from the only modern artist known to feature food in his work — California painter Wayne Thiebaud is lauded for his still lifes of pies and cakes. Photographer Liz Wolfe has an equally artistic recipe for food bliss: colorful, candy-coated set ups.

The summer of 2009’s most infamous food-art installation is in England where street artist Banksy has taken over the Bristol Museum. Banksy’s show features pink-frosted donuts, tubes of bologna, demented cooks, excrement filled ice cream cones, and a giant vanilla soft serve melting on the top of an ice cream van.

What Banksy’s cooked up may not whet everyone’s appetite. It does prove, however, that just about anyone can be a modern artist. Why not try your own hand at food art in the home kitchen?

Better yet, get out of the house and join in the fun at a Jell-O mold competition or French fry sculpting contest! (Don’t miss the video!)

UPDATE: Thanks to Rebecca for showing me this additional item on SFGate — Freeman Makes Artistic Desserts at SFMoma.

Goodbye Roach Coach, Hello VendrTV!

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Nuevo Mexico, Portland

Nighttime in Downtown Portland, Oregon

Gone are the days when break time begins with shouts of “here comes the roach coach!”

Today, the phenomenon of mobile canteens — serving upscale cuisine — is as hot as a habanero pepper.

At VendrTV you can watch podcasts devoted to “curbside cuisine,” and there’s even a yearly awards ceremony for New York City’s best street food: The Vendys.

In Seattle, mobile Skillet Street Food renders bacon with spices and onion to make the bacon jam topping their burgers and “grilled cheese sammys.”

In Portland, this lunch wagon-friendly city has entire parking lots devoted to old vans and trailers kitted out with tiny kitchens dispensing everything from Peruvian rice plates to Czech dumplings.

In San Francisco, the Mission District’s beloved mobile taco trucks have been rolling along for years. However, police and health department officials are now cracking down on other food vendors who attempt to operate without the proper permits. (Discover where these pirate food vendors will be serving zuchini-mozzarella quiche and Crème Brulee by following their Twitter posts.)

In Los Angeles, sadly, taco truck vendors are battling officials over increasingly tight parking restrictions. Things have gotten so heated that a taco truck was fire bombed and the equipment of a woman selling bacon wrapped hot dogs was trashed.

You can show your support for L.A.’s mobile food vendors by visiting Save Our Taco Trucks and buying a T-shirt bearing the manifesto: Carne Asada is Not a Crime!

UPDATE: Listen to a Pirate Cat Radio interview with San Francisco street food vendors at: (Warning: you’ll have to listen to some “colorful” language and music before the interview gets going… )

Mad About Food

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Halloween Restaurant in Brussels, Belgium

Halloween Restaurant in Brussels, Belgium

I’ve been cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs since I was a tyke, but these days I’m mad about donuts.

If this was a perfect world, my new neighborhood donut shop would be Top Pot Hand Forged Doughnuts. The Seattle-based shop’s chocolate old-fashioned is the stuff of dreams!

In my imperfect world, I’ll have to settle for Psycho Donuts — a new shop in Campbell, California. Not only is this one-of-a-kind shop doing crazy business, they’re driving some of my humorless neighbors crazy.  (Psycho’s blog has a well crafted response to the local lunatics, and there’s a nice video short of the interior and product at

The donuts at Psycho are good (although a bit on the sugary side for my taste), but the shop’s concept is right up my alley.

I’m also a big fan of the late-great Halloween Restaurant in Brussels which featured spooky decor on the goth side.  I’m afraid my protesting neighbors would have been just as upset by Halloween’s decorative severed heads and steaming pots of bloody meat.

I’ll keep quiet about my fondness for Halloween when neighbors bring their kiddies ’round to trick-or-treat next October.

And I certainly won’t tell them about a new place I’d love to visit: New Zealand’s Murder Burger:

UPDATE: Psycho Donut Debate Scheduled!


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FoodBuzzing My Burger

FoodBuzzing My Burger

Foodbuzz is currently featuring my New Mexican Green Chile Cheeseburger recipe (and photo) on their home page.

If you’ve never had one of these Southwestern-style burgers, you are missing out on one of America’s greatest taste treats.

My version gussies things up with bacon and avocado, however, even the most basic fast food version is memorable (visit Blake’s Lotaburger locations throughout New Mexico).

I tried these burgers for the first time when I was driving Route 66 and I’ve been looking for information about their origin ever since. None of my books on American regional cooking cover the topic.

If you know anything about the history of green chili (or chile) burgers, please pass your knowledge along — and if you haven’t tasted one, get cooking!

Written by Kate Blood

June 8, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Summertime Food Festivals to Dream About…

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Betty Perry - Maine's First Broiler Queen

Betty Perry - Maine's First Broiler Queen

The International Horseradish Festival takes place this weekend in the “Horseradish Capital of the World”: Collinsville, Illinois.

I sure would love to attend the Midwestern festival’s Root Toss, but I’m stuck in California…

My family has a history (or perhaps I should say a herstory) of attending summertime food festivals. Way back in 1949,  mom Betty was crowned as Maine’s first broiler queen.

Maybe I can swing visits to one or two of California’s upcoming food festivals:

Written by Kate Blood

June 4, 2009 at 12:37 pm