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Fabbrica; Fizzy Wine and Free Parking

There are many reasons to choose a restaurant.    In most cases, I have an extravagant formula that combines a number of factors including who I’m with, what’s trending, what my friends or websites suggest, how much I want to eat and whether or not booze will be involved.  Others are less calculating. I’ve had guests who have requested vegetarian, clean and/or gluten free food. I have one who avoids garlic and onions  and pork can be a sore spot. One of my most recent requests was simple:a place uptown with easy parking. Oddly, this proved to be a daunting task.  I could hope for the best and  try a place along Bayview or Yonge but parking availability is so random.  Knowing my guest liked Italian food, Fabricca immediately came to mind.  Located in the shops on Don Mills plaza, this member of Mark McEwan empire offers complimentary valet parking in addition to a parkade only a short distance away.

The spacious restaurant is complete with an outdoor patio, a full bar and a dining area with a view of an open kitchen which includes a wood fired pizza oven.  Despite the pseudo-casual atmosphere,  Fabbrica has all the components of a fine dining experience.  The waitstaff are classically trained and a nicely dressed expediter quarterbacks the kitchen team, ensuring that a salad is neither under- or overdressed or that a parsley leaf is not out of place.  I felt a bit like I was on an episode of Top Chef Canada for a second.

Picking a wine is always a bone of contention for me, especially when a table’s worth of palates are on the line.  I wouldn’t classify myself as a connoisseur but I can tell the difference between a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon so I could get by in a pinch.  However, I’m not the guy to go to as a spokesperson when it comes to the dreaded taste test.  Sure, I can speak in front of a room of 200 people but having to take the inaugural sip of pinot gris in front of a half dozen people is a daunting task.  That said, I have never seen a bottle sent back.  In fact, I was thinking it was more of a formality.  Not tonight though.  We order a bottle of Conundrum from California.  My guest took the honours and had a sip.  A perplexed look was followed by a second sip and an exclamation that the wine was fizzy. The waiter carried it away and returned shortly with a fresh bottle and an agreement that his call on the wine was correct. In the end, the conundrum was a great choice.

On this night I was in the mood for a salad and pasta.  I started with the misticanza salad consisting of  seasonal lettuce, fennel, celery, herbs and house dressing ($11).  It was delicious in it’s simplicity.  The dressing was refreshing and a perfect compliment to the fresh ingredients in the salad.

Salad

Misticanza Salad $11

For the main I ordered the fettuccine with sweet peas, artichoke, pancetta, and crotonese ($20).  The pasta was nicely cooked but the dish was too oily and the artichoke pieces were rather large and took away from the taste of the rest of the dish.

Pasta

Fettuccine (Partially eaten) $20

For dessert I couldn’t resist the rice pudding  with arborio rice, strawberry rhubarb compote and aged balsamic ($11).  Oddly enough, I’m not a rice fan but put it in a pudding and I’m a happy camper. In fact, it would likely be one of the five foods I would choose as a desert island choice.   The rice maintained its firmness among the creamy base.  The compote was hidden in the bottom but once accessible added a nice tartness to the sweet pudding. I thought the addition of the balsamic was brilliant and something I will do when I make rice pudding at home.

Rice Pudding $11

Rice Pudding $11

 

My Take 

Fabbrica is set up to appeal to the masses.  It has a bit of the old school Italian eatery mixed with a modern day spin, so it wasn’t  surprising to see an array of patrons filling the tables.  There was a delightful older couple who may have been celebrating an anniversary, a large table of businessmen laughing incessantly at their own jokes, a table of younger mothers (one of which began breastfeeding her child which raised a few eyebrows among the traditionalists) and even a suave young guy hoping to get to third base by treating his date to dinner including the sundae designed for two.   Then again, maybe the other patrons looked at our table as the pretentious one which actually had the nerve to send back a bottle of wine because it was fizzy. In the end, the Fabbrica experience was pretty decent although I was a little disappointed given Mark “Mercurial” McEwan’s high standards on Top Chef Canada.  The salad and dessert  were fresh and vibrant although the oily pasta was average at best. In the end, I think there are better options in the city for fine Italian fare but if the thought of parallel parking on a busy downtown street or dishing out $20 to jam into a makeshift lot makes you cringe then this may be your place.  Plus, you can mingle with “the haves” and get that Coach bag, Solomon jacket or go to across the way to McEwan for that expensive olive oil you always wanted.

Fabbrica on Urbanspoon

Burger Bar: McMillan and Wife Villains, Fleur de Lys Sauce and Drops of Jupiter in my head

San Francisco is known for a number of things including:

1. TV- It has been the setting for a number of TV shows, past and present.  Notable shows have included Full House, Hotel, Party of Five, and Dharma and Greg.

2. Music- Some of the more notable bands in American History hail from the San Francisco area.  Classic rock bands like the Grateful Dead, the Steve Miller Band, Santana and Jefferson Airplane, modern day rockers Third Eye Blind Train and even one hit wonders 4 Non Blondes began in the Bay  area.

3. Food- Everything from bakeries to renowned food trucks  to some of the most famous restaurants in the country reside in San Francisco.

That said, I realized that after 5 days in San Francisco that I hadn’t had a burger yet.  Like any other city with any sort of food scene, there were numerous choices. After a quick scope of burger research in the Bay area, it only made sense to go to the Burger Bar.  Not only was it across the street from my hotel, it was the creation of Hubert Keller, one of the most respected chefs in the US.  According to his website, Chef Keller was the first great chef to give burgers the haute cuisine treatment, from freshly ground, hand-shaped burgers to a menu of innovative toppings in a hip, casual setting.  Sounded good to me.

The hip, casual setting started with a 6 floor ride  up the Macy’s elevator. We got to hang out with a portly businessman who was obviously heading to the place I was and a couple of old ladies who got off at the 4th floor to hunt down some red tag sales.  The elevator opened to reveal a bright,open restaurant with bar and table seating.  We quickly ordered a beer from a reasonable selection of draught and examined the menu.  The burgers ranged from $10-$60, the latter being a Remixed Rossini Burger which was kobe beef stuffed with short rib topped with lobster tail and shaved black truffles and truffle sauce on an onion bun (doesn’t quite flow as well as the Big Mac song but I’m sure Train could sing a song about it in the style of “50 Sides to put on a Burger”..funny thing is there are exactly 50 sides available at the Burger Bar).  I went middle of the road and order the peppercorn burger for $17.25.  In particular I was interested in the famous Fleur de Lys peppercorn cream sauce.  I also liked the option of skinny vs fat fries…..I  like the fatties when it comes to fries and these didn’t disappoint.  The burger hit the mark. The well seasoned patty wasn’t overwhelmed with pointless toppings.  Even the famous sauce was served on the side so as to not  disrupt the precious patty.

 

Peppercorn Burger with Fat Fries $17.25

Peppercorn Burger with Fat Fries $17.25

My Take

I have plenty experience with San Francisco television and music set in San Francisco. I grew up in the mid-eighties wanting a new drug while I didn’t stop believing and felt sorry for my sister for having to endure Sara by Jefferson Starship.  I scratched my head wondering how Jessie from full house scored Rebecca Romijn, saw the Olsen twins before they were tramps, witnessed the fact that Thomas Gibson actually had the ability to crack a smile  and tried to figure out why people thought Jenna Elfman was funny.

 I can now go to bed knowing I have experienced my share of San Francisco’s trinity of Americana; television, music and food. Not only did I have a burger, I had it with the same sauce served at the iconic and now historic Fleur de Lys.  Hubert Keller seemed the perfect guy to provide it (not only is he a renowned chef but he looks like a villain from McMillan and Wife).It was an expensive but delicious taste of the Bay area. I must say I also enjoyed the steak fries which are as difficult to find as a “Sister Christian” 45.  I’m glad I left though because a few more Keller burgers and I’d probably end up with a unplanned visit to Trapper John MD and “Drops of Jupiter” in my head for the next six months.

Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

SPQR (Senātus Populusque Rōmānus): King Herod Prices And Pasta as Bloody as the Assassination of Caesar

SPQR had me fooled.  Given it was awarded a Michelin star for fine Italian food, I expected a stuffy, polite, quaint restaurant filled with overdressed waitstaff who pour wine with one hand behind their back. My first suspicion that I was wrong is when I walked past it a few nights before on my way from State Bird Provisions to Altier Crenn. From the outside, the vibe seemed more hipster than a classic Italian joint with the presence of surprisingly pounding, quaky rhythms as opposed to uncle Vito playing the violin table side.

I emailed quite a bit in advance to see if I could secure a table of 6 for a group I was with at a conference.  They told me such as table was not available but when I got on open table I was able to secure two tables of 4 at the same time.  It seemed odd to me…sorta pretentious;quite risible in fact.   On the day of, I was a real nuisance and called to see if we could combine of two tables of 4 into one table of 5 due to a few last minute cancellations.  They hesitantly accommodated us but once I walked in, I understood the issue. The restaurant is not designed for large groups. Small tables are crammed into every square foot of the smallish dining area.  When seated, one of us ended up stuck in a  swelling, protruding, quillon-resembling seat which blocked the path of everybody walking by.

The menu changes frequently but usually focuses on a decent array of appetizers, a number of pasta dishes and a few mains. There is no doubt the pasta is the cornerstone of the menu given the fact there are usually a dozen or so smart, piquant, quirky rations available at any given time.  I started with the octopus garnished with kale sprouts, panissa (a lemon chick pea cake) and a vibrant puree laced with pistachio.  Chick peas and octopus work so well together and the panissa was a creative and enjoyable way to marry the flavours .  The octopus was tender and the subtle use of lemon accented everything well.

Octopus $20

Octopus, kale sprout, panissa, chickpea, pistachio and preserved lemon $20

Although I didn’t opt for the pasta, members of my dining party did and I had the opportunity to try a few bites of each.  The bucatini “straw and hay”, california blue cheese, linden walnut, kale and sage brown butter ($26) was a delightful interpretation of this popular combination.  Whole walnuts and sage leaves  along with large pieces  of kale made it a visually appealing dish which was able to balance the intensity of the rich cheese sauce.

Buc

Bucatini “straw and hay”, california blue cheese, linden walnut, kale and sage brown butter ($26)

Another tablemate chose the famed and in the eyes of some, risky blutnudlen which sounds more horrific than the assassination of  Julius Caesar.  This popular dish mixes blood pasta with blood sausage ragu and pig’s foot breadcrumbs ($25).  I must admit it was a novelty to try but beyond a few bites  a sanguine pasta queming  ravenous hipsters is not my cup of tea.  It was rich and flavourful and reminded me why, as a pseudo-Catholic,  my consumption of blood tends to stop at transubstantiation.  I couldn’t imagine finishing the whole plate.

Blood

Blutnudlen $25

Instead of pasta, I opted for the Guinea hen “rosticceria style”, wild rice porridge, roasted strawberry, turnip and pink pepper ($36).  The presentation was a pleasant mess. The delcious hen was almost hidden among the colours of the Italian flag.  The  texture was somewhat reminiscent of a good shawarma. The meat was crispy but held in its moisture.  The wild rice porridge was vibrant and the strawberries sweetened the pot.  The sulphur of the turnip rounded the plate out.

Guinea Hen $36

Guinea Hen “rosticceria style”, wild rice porridge, roasted strawberry, turnip and pink pepper ($36)

 

We decided on a family style approach to dessert and ordered a trio which included 1. fried blueberry pie, butterscotch, lemon curd and burnt sugar gelato, 2. hibiscus bombolini, cherry vanilla, cherry bark vanilla and fior di latte gelato and 3. peanut and milk chocolate pudding , malt and chocolate gelato.  The consensus at the table was that the bombolini was the best followed by the pudding and the fried blueberry pie (all $14).  The blueberry pie was the one I was most excited about but there were too many flavours and the butterscotch didn’t really fit.  The pudding was boring looking and tasted almost the same.  It was very predictable which was kind of odd given the dishes which led up to dessert.

 

Blueberry pie $14

Fried blueberry pie, butterscotch, lemon curd and burnt sugar gelato $14

Hibiscus Bombolini $14

Hibiscus bombolini, cherry vanilla, cherry bark vanilla and fior di latte gelato $14

Peanut Dessert $14

Peanut and milk chocolate pudding , malt and chocolate gelato $14

My Take

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to  critique SPQR, not to praise it.
The dishes that men eat lives after them;
The good is oft inferred with their Michelin star;
So let it be with SPQR. The noble bloggers
Hath told you the menu was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a hipster’s demand,
And graciously  hath SPQR answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Accarrino and the rest–
For SPQR is an honourable place;
So are they all, all honourable chefs–
Come I to speak in Fareeatales.

SPQR is a perfect fit for Fillmore Street in San Francisco.  It ignores the traditional concepts of fine Italian dining by presenting beautiful dishes but throws away the spacious room filled with white linen in favour of a labyrinth of small table scattered throughout a broom closet. The service was characteristic of the latter with the staff dressed in black as opposed to a shirt and tie.   The food was delicious and deserves the accolades it has received over the years.  That said, I have to agree with many that say the food is somewhat pricey; quasi-ridiculous in fact.  Perhaps Herod had a role in charging  $25 for pasta and $14 for dessert. Despite this, the place is always jam packed so it doesn’t seem to deter the masses.  In the end, when I polled my guests to see if they majority enjoyed the experience they agreed that it was stupendously polished;quorum reached.

SPQR on Urbanspoon

 

 

A #Zomato Lesson at Portland Variety

I don’t get twitter.  I mean I understand the general premise (most of my tweets are simply links to my blog posts or a picture of a half empty beer that I might think would be cool to post in a drunken stupor) but I can’t get my mind around hashtags. First of all, it’s a pound sign.  I’ve never been asked to enter a hashtag after entering my PIN or a password  during a phone call.  Second, I don’t know which hashtags are correct or incorrect.  Perhaps the strategy is to simply guess in hopes that somebody else has the same thought process as you.  Maybe there’s  a secret directory I could access at #hashtags or that it’s a matter of practice makes perfect. Let’s give it a try.

I recently agreed to meet a staff member of #Zomato, a new foodie site set to launch in Canada in the coming weeks.  Legend has it Zomato started in India by an entrepreneur who was tired of not having access to the most #currentmenus at local restaurants. Since then, it has evolved to a information/social network designed specifically for #foodies .  The staff work vigilantly with local eateries to ensure that the information is up to date and accurate.  Sites like #urbanspoon and #yelp rely on the customer who often can’t tell time, have a odd definition of the phrase average noise and assumes a place has take out if they see styrofoam containers stacked in the #openkitchen. You can also form networks and bloggers can link their #nonsensicalrants  directly to the site.

I figured#portlandvariety would be an ideal place to meet for a coffee.  Located at the esteemed corner of #KingandPortland, Portland Variety is following the lead of places like #barbuca by opening all day.  During the day, it is a haven for #coffee and #pastries and transforms into #smallplates as the day goes on.  The front of the place has high marble-topped  tables and glass cases displaying cookies, pastries and other #sweettreats. The back of the house has  some yellow bench seating #againstthewall (wait….I have a feeling  this hashtag would solicit comments that have nothing to do with comfortable seating) and tables scattered throughout the open space. There is also a large bar which promises #libations once the party starts around 5 pm.

After a brief introduction to #zomatogirl, I ordered a decaf #amerciano and a shrimp salad sandwich. The coffee was made quickly but they had to verify that the sandwich was still possible before ringing me in.  After getting the #thumbsup, we had a seat in the back.   I wasn’t sure if they would bring the sandwich out or if I had to head back to the front to pick it up.  After I waited #whatseemedlikeaneternity, I walked up to inquiry.  I was able to witness the final assembly and watched it sit on the counter for a bit before I finally #waveddown a staff member to get it.

The americano #hitthespot and the sandwich was decent as well.  In particular, the croissant was #lacedwithbutter, resulting in a flaky and  moist #breadstuff (I’m convinced I can make up words with hashtags).  The delicate texture of the well prepared shrimp were not dulled  by the sweet dressing.

Shrimp salad on a crossiant

Shrimp salad on a crossiant

 

Shortly after the meeting, she posted a picture of her sandwich to twitter, copied me and included the hashtags #inmytummy and #sandwich me!. I have no idea where she got these hash tags from but I almost wanted to ask if she just made them up.   I mean…why not #betweenthebread or #lunchplate? I’m still confused.

My Take

Although I can’t comment on the #dinnerrush, Portland Variety is a comfortable place to grab a pastry and a coffee, both of which are much better in quality than what you might get at #overratedcoffee jaggernaut.  I can’t confirm the wifi situation, but yelp tells me they dont…so #whatashame.  I would easily sit here for an hour and get some computer work done as opposed to the cramped quarters of #seattlesfavourite.

I plan to come back for #whatsfordinner sometime soon.  In the meantime, Portland Variety will be #topofmind for a #daytimepitstop, especially if I can confirm they  have or decide to get a wifi connection for customers. Ironically, this is one of those places that doesn’t post their menu on their website which is #annoying.  Maybe Zomato will help.

Portland Variety Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

 

Yank Sing: A Tale of Sheldon, Cam and the Bites of the Long, Rectangular Table

Dim Sum is always an adventure.  In many ways it’s a sitcom at a table, especially when you have a big crowd.  It is the perfect time for an alpha personality to take full control of a situation while one or two wheat belly people stare curmudgeonly at all the food they can’t eat.  The combination of white starches and deep-fried morsels with the odd taboo food thrown in makes for a true social experiment.

Yank Sing is one of San Francisco’s most recognizable Dim Sum palaces.  With two locations (I went to the Stevenson one), it is often quoted as not being the best Dim Sum in town but certainly is among the most popular.

The Cast:

I booked a table of 10 with the following demographics:

2 Asians- only one of which knew what they were doing.  The other is essentially whiter than I am.

1 Shameless Glutton (that would be me)

3 Nurses whose conversation about past clinic experiences was far more awkward than anything which came along on the trolley

2 Pseudo Gluttons who fold to peer pressure like a bad suit but look much better than one doing it.

2 “I don’t eat simple starches but don’t want anybody to know and plus I’m only here for business anyway” people

1 “I’ll be there after my other lunch” followed by “Sorry I didn’t make it man..my other lunch went late” colleague (thus the reason I booked a table for 10 and not 11. Plus, I think zeros are luckier than ones in the Chinese culture).

The Plot

It’s quite simple.  The cart comes by and a conversation in Chinese ensues.  The three nurses are too busy having a discussion about emergency room wounds or the biggest boil they have ever seen  to notice.  I sound like Dave Hester yelling “Yeeeeeeep!” every time I’m offered anything from a dumpling to a bun stuffed with some type of protein.  The two wheat bellies stare at the vegetables hoping they make the cut while the pseudo gluttons secretly wish the weirdest thing on the tray doesn’t. In the end, there was an array of fare which came to the table. Their famous Shanghai soup dumplings which burst with subtle salt goodness. The potstickers were a tender and classic interpretation of this classic. The deep fried Phoenix tailed shrimp reminded me of why pseudo-Chinese food is permanently ingrained in the grease-loving palates of North Americans.  The beans were quickly consumed by token herbivores.  There were other tasty morsels passed around the table; some of which seemed to get a bit camera shy during the communal feast.

Various Yank Sing Offerings

Various Yank Sing Offerings

Another signature was the Peking duck served with a stuffable bun and some hoisin sauce. Once assembled, it was a pleasant few bites and scoring a couple of them was not a huge feat given the dynamics at the table.

Yank Sing Peking Duck

Yank Sing Peking Duck

My Take

Group dinners are usually sitcoms and this one was no exception. I’ll admit that there may be a few exaggerations about the dynamics but it makes for a good story.  As for Yank Sing itself, I was a little surprised about how safe the offerings were. I’ve been for Dim Sum in Montreal and Toronto and the choices there are a lot more diverse and even a little risky.  This place isn’t cheap either. The bill for the table was $370 which was a little steep for what we got.  In the end, Yank Sing is like a tourist attraction; overpriced, a little overrated but fun nonetheless, especially when you go with a cast of characters that’s a cross between the Big Bang Theory and Modern Family.

Yank Sing on Urbanspoon

 

Rockin’ the Casbah at Aziza

I took a long cab ride into the Richmond district of San Francisco to have dinner at the Michelin star rated Aziza. It has an unassuming storefront  and after you open the curtain inside the front door and enter the restaurant, you are transformed into a Moroccan casbah with a variety of tables and booths scattered throughout. I was there with a large group and they were kind enough to wave the need for a set menu since it was later and night and the kitchen could accommodate.  Another thing I was impressed with was the huge cocktail list.  Almost two dozen libations were on the menu, each highlighting a fruit, vegetable or herb. It was more difficult choosing my drink that it was my meal.  Throughout the night I had three;  grapefruit (absinthe, peychaud’s, bourbon), thyme (thyme, cayenne, dry vermouth, blanco tequila) and celery (sage, agave nectar, gin).  I can’t say I had a favorite but they were all among some of the better drinks I’ve had this year.  They were frightfully addictive and beautifully represented their respective eponym. My colleague ordered the concord grape (concord grape, elderflower, peat smoke, laphroaig scotch). I had a sip and it was memorable, complex and aggressive version of the equally assertive grape.

Unlike other places (including most Michelin star restaurants), the menu is not written in hieroglyphics, Gaelic or some other language that gives food critics erections.  I will admit, my ego makes me a little reluctant to ask for clarification around a dish or try and pronounce something which would make my transient menu dyslexia apparent.  Instead, Aziza uses terms like olive, short rib, beet and sturgeon to describe their dishes.  Having said this, there is no compromise on the creativity of their fare.  Take the amuse bouche for example.  A trio of dip including hummus, yogurt-dill and piquillo almond were served with flatbread.  The dish managed to hit the mouth with some authentic Moroccan flavours while teasing  the tongue with hints of Greece and Spain.

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche- Hummus, Yogurt Dill and Paquillo Almond

For an appetizer, I ordered a dish which was simply called cucumber. It had all the components of deconstructed deviled egg.  A soft yolked fried duck egg was served with was cucumber two ways; charred and carpaccio style. Spring onions and   vadouvan (similar to masala) mustard completed the dish. I must say this is the first time I’ve had charred cucumber and I was surprisingly impressed.  As a whole,the dish was a punchy interpretation of the picnic favorite and at $14, I thought it might have been the coveted golden egg.

Cucumber $14

Cucumber $14

I was pleased to see that the market fish of the evening was John Dory (not to be mistaken with John Tory who may be the man who will finally oust the large and in charge, arrogant, homophobic  and obnoxious Rob Ford from the Mayor’s office in October).  It’s not the prettiest fish, but it sure is tasty and there are  many suggestions of the origin of its name.  My favorite is a possible reference to the novel “An Antarctic Mystery” by Jules Verne.  “The legendary etymology of this piscatorial designation is Janitore, the ‘door-keeper,’ in allusion to St. Peter, who brought a fish said to be of that species, to Jesus at his command.” (St. Peter is said to be keeper of the gates of Heaven, in Spanish it is known as “gallo” hence “door-keeper”.) So while I was able to feast on a fish rooted in religion, it came with all the sacred symbols of food-a-ism…artichokes, ramps, favas, fiddleheads and raspberries. The tithe was a pricey $29.    The fish was delicate and moist and keep the overwhelming earthiness of the condiments at bay.  The raspberries added some sweet and sour bite and some ruby red colour to the plate.

Market Fish $29

Market Fish $29

One of the reasons I chose Aziza was the reputation of multiple James Beard pastry chef nominee Melissa Chou. I chose the Vanilla Semifreddo with apricot sorbet, matcha and almond ($10). The crust was like buttery toffee crack.  Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the dish was delicious but that crust will stay in my lingual memory for some time to come.

Semifreddo $10

Semifreddo $10

 

I ended the meal with a delicious spot of mint tea.  Let me point out this was not a stagnant tea bag floating around a warm pot of water. It was a hot, steaming pot of real mint tea which went nicely with dark chocolates served at the end of the meal.

A real cup of mint tea

A real cup of mint tea $5

 

After Dinner Chocolates

Mignardise- Dark Chocolate

 

My Take

Moroccan food is a little mysterious. The flavours are a bit African, a bit middle eastern and a bit European. Most of my experience with this type of food has come from a recipe book and my red Le Creuset  tagine, so I was excited to experience it in Michelin star style. Although I can’t verify the authenticity of the use of fiddlehead ferns or ramps in Northwest Africa,  the dishes were diverse and delicious.  The cocktails were creative and nectarous. There was an irony in eating a fish which is also named after one of Jesus’ disciples in a restaurant whose country of inspiration  is 99% Muslim.    As for dessert, it definitely rocked the casbah.  Much like the 1982 song by the Clash with the same name which calmed Middle-Eastern tension  (at least according to the video), I think the crust on the semifreddo alone could extend the ceasefire in the Gaza war.  Ok, maybe that’s a stretch, but I’m just a believer that a good meal can fix anything.

 

 

 

Aziza on Urbanspoon

DDD: Showdogs, Show dogs and Why I’m Boycotting Wendy’s

Like most people,  I can get easily irritated.  Right now, I’m boycotting Wendy’s because of the ridiculous commercials which spoof  70’s and 80’s tunes while skinny Wendy (aka Red) dresses up like thw singers and makes out with a pretzel bun. When I posted this on facebook, one of my good friends asked me why I would go to Wendy’s anyway. Good point.

 

Another thing that bugs me are dog shows.  Before I go on, I’m not claiming for a second that my complete annoyance by things like this are normal.  I think it’s like a phobia;  I have a physical reaction to these types of things.  The thought of an arena filled with people who pay to watch others dress up like turn of the century debutantes and walk dogs among fake grass turns my stomach.  They give the dogs  ridiculous names like Roundtown Mercedes of Maryscot (aka: “Sadie”) and make the audience watch as their pooches get dental exams, enemas and other invasive medical procedures. Personally, I’d rather watch a dog chase his tail or stick his nose up another’s ass in a thirty second youtube clip while sitting in my underwear.

Showdogs in San Francisco couldn’t be further from the Westminster Kennel dog show.  Suits and ties are replaced by piercings, jeans and tees.  Fake grass is replaced with, based on my observations of the some of the staff and clientele, real grass that just might happen to be rolled into a small white paper. Canine conversations are no longer about four-legged friends but about the rest of America’s obesssion…the hotdog.  It is estimated that Amercians eat 20 billion hot dogs a year.  It is also estimated that there are about 83 million owned dogs in the USA.  What isn’t known is how many of the 20 billion hot dogs are eaten by the 83 million dogs in a given year.  That said, it makes perfect sense to focus a restaurant on the beloved frank.

The menu at Showdogs is simple.  In addition to a small breakfast menu, there are a number of renditions of the American favorite as well as a few classic American sandwiches like the burger and fried chicken.  In addition, there are all the words foodies wanna see in a menu including organic, house made,hand dipped and special sauce.  My trigger words include “sharp cheddar” and “chili” so I had to try the chili cheese dog ($10).  I asked the guy behind the counter what should complement the dog and without hesitation he recommended the onion rings for $5. Along with it, there is a good selection of local brews which, when you drink enough, can almost make a dog show tolerable.  In particular , the  Hell or High Watermelon from the 21st Amendment brewery was memorable ( I later drank a six-pack with my uncle in Pennsylvania).  The food was equally as memorable.  I mean, a hot dog and onion rings has boundries regarding creative licence but it still has to be tasty.  The think and crunchy onion rings were among the best I’ve had especially when eaten with any of the house made sauces available.

Chili Cheese Dog ($10), onion rings ($5) and a Happy hour $4 pint

Chili Cheese Dog ($10), onion rings ($5) and a Happy hour $4 pint

 

My Take

My mom used to boil hot dogs until they split, throw them on a bun and yes, they tasted like lips and assholes.  Since then, the hot dog has evolved beyond the ball diamond and street corner cart and  have become the focal point of many menus across North America. In fact, a hot dog by Dougie Dog in Vancouver is served topped with Kobe beef and Lobster and soaked in 100 year old Louis XIII cognac has just attained the Guinness nod for the world’s most expensive hot dog with an estimated value of $2300.

World's Most Expensive Hot Dog $2300

World’s Most Expensive Hot Dog $2300

 

Showdogs has embraced the dog and elevated it to a decent meal.  The vibe, service and experience was the complete package in this establishment that definitely qualifies as a dive. S0 while skinny Wendy is making out with a pretzel bun while singing an Eric Carmen ballad and people jam into Madison Square Garden wearing  their Sunday best to watch dogs walk their owners,  I’d  rather grab a pint, listen to Pearl Jam in the background and eat a dog instead of watching them.

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