I’ve been lucky enough to eat some pretty incredible breakfast foods all across the midwest — and they all had one pretty major thing in common. Read the rest of this gem…
Destinations: Cleveland, Port Clinton, Kalamazoo, Chicago, Kenosha, Sparta, Menomonie
I’m back home safe and sound. Did you miss me? I missed you. Read the rest of this gem…
So the truth?
I get a little depressed around Christmas.
So. Even though I didn’t get to tell you about the most wonderfully delicious hot dog ever on Tuesday because I was distracted with 2 flat tires (no, not Fat Tires — flat tires. big difference.) and ended up turning hot dogs into a philosophical discussion on life, the post still spurred some interesting and impassioned hot dog comments.
I hope you didn’t lose steam, because this is the actual hot dog post. I kind of love it when you comment, because it validates my existence or something. And I look forward to reading every single one of them.
I love me a good hot dog.
Don’t get me wrong — it’s a rare occasion that you’d ever find one of those pink, plasticy, compressed impersonators that squeak when you bite into them sitting inside of my fridge. I’ll eat those, yes, but that’s not a proper hot dog. I’m talking about big, brown, juicy beef franks with real meat grease and manly grill marks.
See what I mean?
The best dog I ever ate purely for the meat taste factor was actually at a Five Guys restaurant. Yep, a fast food joint. Once I moved mentally past the oddity of a hot dog split lengthwise down the middle, the thing was gone in 3 bites flat. It was insanely good, to the point where it probably didn’t need a single topping.
The great thing about hot dogs is that your options are really limitless when it comes to dressing it up. It just never occurred to me how limitless until my brother took us to Happy Dog in Cleveland.
When he parked outside of the dark, corner bar, I was thinking, Great! Pre-dinner drinks!
I definitely wasn’t thinking, Great! Dinner!
Until, that is, I saw the menu.
I’m sorry once again for the blur. It was pretty dark in there, and all I had was my cell phone camera.
For someone who’s terrified of making decisions, this menu was daunting, to say the least. The first part was easy — I just had to choose between a veggie dog and a real dog. Um… do they even know me? (No, but they probably should.)
I checked the circle for the real dog and moved on.
So many things to try!
What’s Brazilian chimichurri? And would it taste good with Oaxacan red chile and chocolate mole, topped with Polish ‘cwikla?
And is it socially acceptable to order a hot dog chopped with Korean kim chee, Greek feta cheese, and Marcella’s grape jelly and chile sauce?
Are we allowed to mix ethnicities, or is this a segregated hot dog joint?
Is this going to end up with me mixing a bunch of things I like but they don’t actually taste good together?
What’s more, if I don’t know what these things taste like alone, how am I going to know if they’re good together?!
Then, just when I started to break into a cold sweat, the server told me they had a suggestion menu.
Among the suggested options were:
“Childhood Favorite”: ketchup, traditional yellow mustard, chopped onions, Spaghetti O’s, and nacho cheese.
“(no title)”: Bertman’s Original Ballpark mustard, killer steak sauce, bourbon baked beans, habanero pickled red onions, and Frito corn chips.
Justin ended up choosing the “Happy Dog Favorite” with Cajun mayonnaise – Remoulade, bacon spiked southern style beans, smoked Gouda cheese, and a sunny-side-up fried egg. Or maybe it was the one with chipotle hollandaise, cheddar cheese, Nueske bacon, and a sunny-side-up-fried egg? I can’t remember. But it definitely had an egg. And I’m pretty sure he ordered Gouda.
I ended up getting a bit fancy, choosing a title-less suggested combination of bacon-balsamic marmalade, pineapple-ginger chutney, caramelized onions, and French brie cheese.
And then I died.
And then I came back to life so I could finish the dog and name it “Sweet ‘n Savory a la Bacon with a ‘Stache.” I’m not sure why. It just works.
And then I died again.
I still have dreams about it.
My only complaint is that the bun wasn’t fantastic. In fact, I had to finish the dog with a fork and knife, which is like… hot dog defamation, but what’s a girl to do when her brie is jumping ship?
Happy Dog really should invest in some sturdier buns, or even toast them to ensure they can handle the smorgasbord of deliciousness that gets piled on top, making even happier dogs.
After all, you can’t build a skyscraper on a soggy wetland. Otherwise you get… I don’t know… The Leaning Tower of Pisa?
On the back of the menu is a simple choice of sides: tater tots or french fries, followed by a not-so-simple choice of dipping sauces and toppings. I especially enjoyed the saffron aioli and the raspberry crunch mustard.
Just not together.
Pair your custom dog and tots with a Stella Artois (for me) or your beverage of choice, and the result is one happy dog.
Thanks, brother. You know me so well.
Despite the fact that everyone around me is popping out bellies and babies like we’ve reached some kind of colossal Lemming-like tipping point of a giant cliff and after the first person stepped off, everyone else just followed right along because they had to — because jumping off of cliffs is the thing to do, didn’tcha know, and somehow I’m stuck standing at the precipice, staring down into the abyss, thinking it looks kind of interesting down there in the clouds and I’ve always enjoyed a free-fall, but do I really want to fall that long at that fast?
So despite the fact that all of that is happening, I’m happy because there are still people in my life who are in the we’re-getting-married-so-let’s-have-a-kick-ass-wedding stage.
That doesn’t mean I’m happy because I’m a girly girl who loves planting my bony butt on a rock-hard pew and crying through an hour-long pomp and circumstance of nuptials. And it’s certainly not because I’m a girly girl who loves donning a fancy dress, sparkling jewelry, and enough hairspray to fuel a rocket launch to the moon.
It’s because I’m a girly girl who appreciates a fully stocked open bar for an evening, champagne toasts, line dancing with strangers, and a vast assortment of “special occasion” food: from little trays of bacon-wrapped hors d’oeuvres and plates of fruit and cheese, to a buffet or sit-down dinner of various stuffed chicken, pasta, and steak, to a veritable smorgasbord of meal-ending sweets in the form of wedding cake, pastries, and an actual bar full of candy. Just take a bag and fill it up! Seriously? Does it get better than that?
Oh, it does. Because at this particular wedding, the thoughtful bride — or, probably more accurately the thoughtful bride’s father — provided baskets of flip-flops in the ladies’ restroom for when our footsies got sore after all of that dancing.
And after several champagne toasts, complimentary Cabernet, and a vodka sprite with a twist of lime, wearing those bright-pink flip-flops felt like walking on a cloud.
It mattered not that the flops clashed horribly with my royal blue dress (which is way darker than it looks in the on-line picture). In fact, I’m pretty sure hot pink and royal blue is the next up-and-coming color trend.
(This is the part where you hate me because I don’t have a single picture of myself in the dress. Not one. Though I’ll keep an eye out for any wedding photos that happen to crop up with me in them.)
Anyway. The whole thing got me thinking about weddings, and how silly it seems to spend all that dough for just one evening to impress people, and how no one really would’ve cared if there weren’t any flip-flops or extra pastries or bacon-wrapped delicacies or free booze, because a bring-your-own-beer barbecue in the back yard would have done just as well to celebrate the joining of two lives among family and friends.
The groom, whom I’ve known since my freshman year of college, chose his father as his Best Man. His heartwarming toast was followed by that of the bride’s father — the guy responsible for keeping 200+ people swimming in booze, food, and flip-flops for the evening.
And he said something.
He said, “We all know that every little girl* grows up dreaming about her wedding day — about the dress she’ll wear, what kind of cake she’ll have, and what kind of footwear she’ll provide in the ladies’ restroom.” (Just kidding. He didn’t say that last part.)
*I did not grow up dreaming about my wedding day. I for sure thought I’d elope. If I even got married at all.
Then he said, “What we don’t know is that every girl’s father dreams of her wedding day, too. Except it’s more like nightmares.”
[Insert uproarious laughter from the crowd.]
“But then,” he said, “you look out across your friends and family, all smiling and here for your girl. And you look at her and see how beautiful she is — ”
And that’s where he lost it.
His voice cracked.
The tears came. Not just from him, but from every. single. woman in the room.
He finished with something about love and how his love for his daughter makes the fact that he’ll be living off of nothing but Ramen noodles for the next 3 years entirely worth it. (Just kidding. He didn’t say that last part.)
But I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant.
And you know, even though my first choice for a wedding would have included about 8 people barefoot on a beach in Fiji, it doesn’t really matter. The bride was happy. The groom was happy. Their parents were ecstatic. And when the champagne buzz wears off and they have a mountain of bills and beautiful photographs to show for it, Real Life will start and at least they’ll have started it off exactly the way they wanted.
And, for a rainy day, they’ll have the gift I bought them.
Tucked inside a cooler hand-picked from their registry is a bottle of good champagne and a 6-pack of Natural Light.
On the card,
One for remembering the past,
One for celebrating the future,
And one for keeping it all cool.
It’s a metaphor.
I’m pretty sure that’s about all the eloquence I can muster this morning. Lemme try again.
Yep, that’s it.
I kind of feel like I just got home from a whirlwind weekend trip to Cleveland, OH, whose biting winds and rains gusting off Lake Erie tried their damndest to blow me right back to North Carolina the entire time we were there.
Prepared was I not for winter to hit me after a mere 9 hour drive through picturesque North Carolina and West Virginia mountains, and it was probably somewhere along that invisible border between barbecue and banjos that I realized the most obvious item to pack — aside from the dress I planned on wearing to my friend Collin’s wedding — was still tucked safely inside my not-often-opened coat closet all the way back home.
Because it’s a coat.
A coat I forgot to bring.
And apparently I’m not the brightest crayon in the box.
Although I’d like to think of myself as more naively optimistic — like, if I think hard enough that it’s going to stay summer forever, it just might happen.
Either that, or we’ll get magical orders from the military to move to Hawaii.
So. Despite the fact that I had no coat, we didn’t let that stop us from having a fantastic time at the wedding and exploring Cleveland in all its glory.
Especially thanks to this guy:
Remember my brother?
If I’m lucky, I get to see him every few years or so. And this year, I’m very lucky.
Not only because we got to hang with my brother, but because he humored our need to brave the weather to see a famous movie house, eat the fanciest hot dog I’ve ever eaten, and sample nearly every flavor of martini under the sun.
Those posts are coming, I promise.
But for right now, I need to finish my coffee and stand under a steaming shower for about 45 minutes in order to prepare myself for venturing off to work. Because I’m pretty sure I have to thaw before I can once again become a functioning member of non-vacationing society.
And that’s a major bummer.
(Not thawing — that will be nice. But becoming a functioning member of non-vacationing society? Total buzz kill.)