A great day for a Great Hotdog Cookoff

Saturday had everything I ask of summer in the city: tolerable warm weather, cold beer and lots and lots of hot dogs. Bam! Just like that, recipe for a good time.

Along with the beau and a couple of friends, I spent Saturday afternoon in Williamsburg at The Great Hot Dog Cookoff,  stuffing my face full of hot dogs at this annual summertime event benifting the Food Bank for New York City. The cookoff included 24 teams of amateur chefs and 4 professionals (from places like Mile End Deli and Gramercy Tavern) all competing for Best In Show (judge fave) and Top Dog (crowd fave). For the price of admission you got four beers and unlimited hot dog samples from the different teams. I repeat: recipe for a good time, folks. Below, the highlights of a hotdogtastic Saturday in Brooklyn:

The Nick Mangold Over the Line Dog

This was probably my favorite of the many I had. A chili cheese dog of sorts, the “Nick Mangold Over The Line Dog” was a deep-fried (yea, I know) hot dog with spicy, sweet chili and here it comes… mini fried cheese balls that kind of resembled tater tots. A heart attack waiting to happen, but SO good.

Little Bundles of Joy

Re-imagining the traditional hot dog presentation, “Little Bundles of Joy” were like small hot dog empanadas, fried pockets of hot dog, mac and cheese, kimchi and chinese sausage. Double points for tastiness and new form.

Genereal Tso’s Hot Dog

Another tasty dog with interesting presentation was “General Tso’s Hot Dog,” a play on the Chinese restaurant staple, General Tso’s chicken. Battered and deep fried, this little dog was smothered in sweet and spicy sauce and topped with broccoli, sprouts and crunchy chow mein.

Pa-Pa-Ya Summer Roll Hot Dog

Also putting an asian spin on things was the “Pa-Pa-Ya Summer Roll Hot Dog,” which instead of a traditional bun came wrapped in Vietnamese style rice paper and took flavor cues from spring rolls and shrimp and papaya salads. It was light and clean, with zesty, spicy flavors.

The Reuben Dog

“The Reuben Dog” instead, took its inspiration from the Reuben sandwich, with almost all of the same ingredients that make the sandwich a classic: sauerkraut, corned beef, Russian dressing, gooey swiss cheese, and a rye bun. As a Reuben fan, I gave this dog two greasy thumbs up.

The Hot Dogiflette

Finally, when I was at the point of undoing the top button of my shorts while also breaking out into the hot dog sweats, I made room for one more, “The Hot Dogiflette.” Based on the french dish, tartiflette, this dog was served on a toasted baguette and topped with mashed potatos, sauteed onions,  herbs, melted cheese and sour cream. Kind of hard to eat and required a bit of a wait (probably because of all the ingredients that were painstakingly layered on there) but sacrebleu it was good!

While there were some I ate and just didn’t post here, there were still a whole bunch I didn’t try! That means, Hot Dog Cookoff, I’ll see you again in 2013!

Bargain brunching in Boston

Everything in New York, from the tiny apartment I live in, to the subway rides I take, to the groceries I occasionally try to stock my mini-fridge with, is exorbitantly expensive. But believe it or not, there’s actually something good about that, and it’s that almost everywhere I go outside of the city, everything seems outrageously cheap to me.

But I realize that it’s not that everything is super cheap, but just that everything in New York is so  ridiculously overpriced. But still, it’s nice to think I’m getting a deal. And sometimes, like during a recent brunch in Boston, things really are that cheap and I really am getting a deal.

Sweet plantain empanadas with cinammon cream cheese

Masa, a southwest style restaurant in Boston’s South End, would have been great even with New York prices, but with a Saturday brunch special for $8.95?? Including an appetizer/small plate and an entree aaaand coffee or tea? God, that just makes my mouth water.

And it wasn’t some Denny’s Grand Slam kind of deal either. No cold, rubbery eggs or greasy little sausage links. This was good food. Food that in New York would’ve cost at least double.

From the small plates/starters I went with the sweet plantain empanada with Mexican cinammon cream cheese, a delicious combination of two things I love. The doughy shell was full of sweet, caramelized plantains, just like the kind I grew up eating with almost every meal, and the sweet, soft cream cheese was the perfect touch to make a good thing better.

Santa Fe Style Eggs Benedict

The entree, a turn to savory after the dessert-like starter, was also delicious. I had a hard time choosing between all the amazing sounding menu items, but finally went with the Santa Fe style eggs Benedict, which came on top of soft, fluffy biscuits, buttery chunks of avocado, home fries and green chile hollandaise.

I love getting out of the city and eating in new places, and even more than that, I like being reminded that doing it doesn’t always have to be ridiculously expensive.

The Hispanic version of a Hot Pocket

Pocket of deliciousness

Growing up in Miami in a half Hispanic family, I ate a lot of empanadas. My mom made them, her friends made them and gave them to us, we bought them at bakeries where they only spoke Spanish. The warm pastry pockets were always around, always stuffed with something different from beef to cheese to veggies.

When I lived in Italy, where empanadas are non existent, one of the students at the school I worked for made some and brought a plate by my office.

Empanadas, it seems, are destined to always be in my life. (As it turns out, I even tried my hand at making them and lo and behold, they weren’t bad, bringing the total of things I can successfully make in the kitchen up to about four.) Continue reading