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Happy Dog, Cleveland, OH

2 Aug

While staying in Cleveland in July, we were sitting in our hotel room watching Food Network (because we’re a bunch of lardo’s) when a commercial came on for “Best Thing I Ever Ate.” We were about to turn off the tv and walk out the door, when Michael Symon came on and said the best thing he ever ate was a hot dog from Happy Dog in Cleveland. Sean and I immediately looked at each other as a plan quickly formed in our brains.

We have lots of ideas. Not a lot of "good" ideas, though.

We have lots of ideas. Not a lot of “good” ideas, though.

The space is very divey. You can tell this is more of a place to go at night (they have a stage setup for live music), so it looked kind of empty in the daylight. When you sit down, there are long, thin sheets of paper with all the toppings and sauces you can get on your hot dog. Their housemade quarter pound hot dog costs $5, but you get unlimited toppings, so I think that totally makes up for it. When you flip the paper over, you have a choice between fries and tater tots, and the list of all the toppings you can get on those. Basically it was my dream restaurant.

So. Many. Delicious. Choices.

So. Many. Delicious. Choices.

I was a little overwhelmed at first, because there are so many choices. I ended up ordering my hot dog with pimento mac and cheese (of course), bleu cheese coleslaw, caramelized onions, bacon, and roasted garlic aioli. I was a little worried that it was going to be too many flavors for one hot dog, but the chef managed to balance the distribution of everything really well. I loved it.

There's macaroni and cheese on my hot dog. Did I mention that this is my dream restaurant??

There’s macaroni and cheese on my hot dog. Did I mention that this is my dream restaurant??

I stayed pretty basic with my tater tots (because you know I love me some tater tots) and just got them with nacho cheese sauce and bacon.

Sorry for the poor quality. I was trying to eat and take pictures at the same time.

Sorry for the poor quality. I was trying to eat and take pictures at the same time.

Ben was brave and ordered the Michael Symon “Best Thing I Ever Ate” dog which has alien relish, chunky peanut butter, and sriracha hot sauce. As weird as it sounds, it was actually delicious. The peanut butter was not sweet at all, so it really complemented the other flavors of the dog.

Ben is slightly better at eating and taking pictures at the same time.

Ben is slightly better at eating and taking pictures at the same time.

Ben, longing for his homeland, also got the “poutine” fries, which are fries topped with bacon, feta cheese, and beef gravy. Though it wasn’t authentic Canadian poutine, it was still pretty darn good, so no complaints here.

I could eat like 3 of those right now.

I could eat like 3 of those right now.

Sean built his own dog and topped it with bourbon baked beens, pimento mac and cheese, and bacon spiked southern style greens. It was very much a southern hot dog. The bite I had was delish. He also got fries, but kept them pretty basic with cheese and bacon.

Bourbon baked beans are my friend.

I promise there’s a hot dog under all that macaroni

Christine got a very Christine hot dog, topped with cucumbers, caramelized onions, and brazilian chimichurri.

Christine is kind of strange. But I love her anyway. Or maybe because of that. I'm not sure.

Christine is kind of strange. But I love her anyway. Or maybe because of that. I’m not sure.

The one thing I thought was kind of weird was that instead of putting the sauces onto your hot dog, they brought them all out at once on a tray, so you can put it on yourself depending on how much you want. So we ended up getting 4 people’s worth of sauces brought out at once, without any idea which sauce belonged to which person (especially since we all had short term memory loss and forgot which sauces we all ordered once they took our papers away).

Saucepacalypse!

Saucepacalypse!

They also have a ton of beers on tap, including a few that they brew in-house. We got a pint of the chocolate peanut butter cup porter, and it was really yummy.

Mac and cheese hot dogs?Peanut butter cup beer? This place is heaven.

Mac and cheese hot dogs?Peanut butter cup beer? This place is heaven.

All in all I really enjoyed this place and would totally go back again next time I’m in Cleveland. Thanks for the recommendation, Mr. Symon!

I definitely left happy.

I definitely left happy.

Happy Dog
5801 Detroit Ave
Cleveland, OH 44102
(216) 651-9474

Happy Dog on Urbanspoon

fcupid13 at Mellow Mushroom

22 Feb

Every year on Valentine’s day, Mellow Mushroom in downtown Charleston hosts an fcupid party for singles or “those awesome couples who would rather party down than dine in an over-priced and stuffy restaurant.” I went my senior year with Ross and Lily and basically just ate pizza and talked about how Valentine’s day is stupid. This year, however, they incorporated the Walking Dead and held a contest via Twitter and Instagram to use the Dead Yourself app and #fcupid13 for a chance to win a bar tab. Which I won, because I’m awesome.

I make a pretty hot Zombie

I make a pretty hot Zombie

When Laura and I got to the party, the whole upstairs area was transformed into this zombie party complete with ice luge, zombie piñata (which looked way too much like a clown for my comfort), fake bugs everywhere (which I didn’t realize were fake at first and scared the crap out of me), a live funk-rock-hip-hop band, a zombie face painter, and pictures of people who Deaded Themselves on Twitter and Instagram all over the walls. It felt like I was at a haunted Halloween party, which was great.

Zombeeeez

Zombeeeez

Even though we left before the piñata because A. it was late and we have to be up early to work for The Man and B. we forgot there was a piñata–it was still really fun and I’ll definitely be going next year! Check out the album for more pictures!

“Give Maple A Shot” Crown Royal Maple Finished Whisky Tasting Event

1 Feb

DISCLAIMER: I got free alcohol at this media event that I was invited to. Also, most of the pictures in this post are from external sources because iPhoto hates me and refuses to open and download my pictures.

HEY EVERYBODY, LOOK AT ME I'M IMPORTANT!

How does one get the title “Master of Whisky?” Sydney Gallimore, Master of Whisky, esq.

A couple weeks ago, someone from a marketing agency found my blog and decided I was important enough to be invited to a “special media event” at Social Restaurant + Wine Bar for the new Crown Royal Maple Finished Whisky. I saw the words “Free” and “Whisky” and was totally sold (and then I did a little happy dance that some stranger thought my blog was good enough to warrant “media” invitations).

Look at me, I AM SO PHOTOGENIC, YOU GUYS

Look at me, I AM SO PHOTOGENIC, YOU GUYS (photo from Carolina Nightlife)

I was a bit weirded out by the idea of maple whisky (and also, I really think it should be “whiskey”), but actually it’s delicious. Not too sweet, not overly maple-tasting. It was actually really, really yummy…although the smell was a bit overwhelming… as Tommy said “It smells like instant oatmeal in here.” I’m not a huge whisky person in general, but this is something I’d definitely buy again.

Laura and I getting harassed by paparazzi (and by that I mean, I asked Bennett to take our picture)

Laura and I getting harassed by paparazzi (and by that I mean I asked Bennett to take our picture)

The event was in 2 parts. I only stayed for the first part, which was the free drinks part. They offered 2 different cocktails, an old-fashioned and something called “The Manitoba,” which is what I got and it was delicious and sweet and fruity and delicious (yes. two deliciouses). The boys preferred the old-fashioned because it was “less frou-frou” and more manly. You could also get it on the rocks, which I’m sure was delicious, but I was too chicken to try.

Drink Menu

I’ll try to recreate the manitoba at my house, but I doubt it’ll be as delicious.

There was also a mixology competition that was open to everyone brave enough to enter. I unfortunately had to leave before this happened (also before they brought the food out, which is the real tragedy), but Tommy and Bennett stayed and tried their hand at being master mixologists. They lost, but hey, we can’t all be winners like me. The grand prize was a maple body guitar (heh heh, maple wood. Maple whisky. GET IT?!) which I’m sure Benjamin would’ve been totally geeking out over had he been there (or maybe not.. I know nothing about guitars).

Look at that skill. Dudeman is a pro.

Look at that skill. Dudeman is a pro. (photo courtesy of Taylor Strategy)

Either way, it was a really fun event, the whisky is delicious, and people should invite me to more things that are free. Check out the album for more sweet pictures!

Charleston Mac Off

16 Nov

If you know nothing else about me, you know I love macaroni and cheese. Seriously. I would give you my kidney for a quality bowl of mac and cheese. My favorite mac and cheese IN THE WORLD was made and served by the special education class at Greenville High School every Wednesday and you had to get there early before they sold out. I’ve spent most of my adult life trying (and failing) to find a bowl of mac and cheese that measured up. Enter the Charleston Mac Off… a macaroni and cheese festival/competition where you get to sample mac and cheese from some of the best restaurants in Charleston. Imagine my delight.

In case you have a bad imagination.

Ben and I bought the VIP package, which included admission and 25 tickets a person. The website said they were going to have 25 different restaurants, but they only ended up having 22, so we had some extra tickets. After we visited about half of the restaurants, we both started getting full and instead of getting a sample each, we started splitting the samples, so we ended up with a bunch more extra tickets. Luckily, they had drink vendors there, so I could drown my sorrows about all these extra tickets. My favorite drink was the Firefly Arnold Palmer, which was dangerously delicious (yay for not being DD!). In the future, I probably would have only gotten one VIP package and just bought general admission for Ben, as I think this would have been a more cost-effective option (plus you can buy more sample tickets as needed once you were actually there).

Ah, yes. I can see that I am in the right place. Photo from Tag Your Pix

Here are the restaurants we sampled: The Roost, Graze, Coleman Public House, Duke’s, Magnolia’s, Castaways, The Tomato Shed, Crave, Angel Oak Restaurant, Sesame, Poogan’s Porch, Cherrywood BBQ & Alehouse, J Paulz, B Gourmet Catering, Smoky Oak, New Moon Pizzeria, Mad River, The Shelter, possibly more, but I can’t remember….Of all of the restaurants there, I’d say Graze, Crave, and Coleman Public House were the best.

Plus, check out that sunset!

Graze was definitely my favorite of the night. Their “Southern Supper” white cheddar mac and cheese with pulled pork and collard greens was outstanding, and it really stood out in the sea of cheesy noodles that was the Mac Off. Although many of the restaurants were doing some kind of pork-related mac and cheese (bacon, ham, pulled pork, etc), Graze was definitely the best. No contest. I obviously wasn’t the only person who thought they were outstanding, as they won the Critic’s Choice Best Mac and Cheese. When Groupon offered a dinner deal at Graze a couple days after the Mac Off, I didn’t hesitate to purchase it so I could taste that delicious mac and cheese again. I’ll let you know how the rest of their menu measures up in a future post!

Also, that was the size of all of the “samples.” Also known as a “full meal” in most parts of the world.

Coleman Public House was serving up smoked gouda mac and cheese with pecan-smoked bacon and white truffle oil. I’m usually hesitant about things with truffle oil because the flavor can be so overpowering, but this mac and cheese was awesome. All of the flavors really complemented each other, and I loved that it was super creamy. They also used those twirly cavatappi noodles, which I love. I know they didn’t win anything at the Mac Off, but they were voted “Best Coma-Inducing Skillet of Cheesy Goodness” on the City Paper’s Best of Charleston 2012 list.

(It’s the one on the left and it is straight up deloicious)

Crave’s Aged Cheddar Mac and Cheese, topped with parmesan cheese, was definitely the creamiest of the entire event. It also had the cheesiest flavors and I think this was the best traditional mac and cheese I’ve had at any restaurant in Charleston. They also won the People’s Choice Best Tasting Mac and Cheese award for the third year in a row this year, so I think it’s safe to say that they know what they’re doing. I was also really impressed that they were actually cooking their mac and cheese on-site, instead of bringing it already cooked like most of the others.

I forgot to take a picture, so I stole this one from Crave’s Facebook page. This was not the size of the sample. But almost.

There were a couple restaurants whose mac and cheese was so bad that I’ll never eat there. At the top of this list was Angel Oak Restaurant, and The Roost. Angel Oak’s tasted like it had peanut butter in it for some reason, which was strange. The Roost’s macaroni was really dried out, so that wasn’t good (especially since this was the first one I tried that night). All of the other restaurants there ranged from “Good” to “Okay,” and basically weren’t worth mentioning, in my opinion. The only other restaurant to get some kind of honor was the Tomato Shed for “Best Use of a Local Ingredient” in their “Shrimp Club Mac & Cheese” (local shrimp, tomatoes, dill, goat cheese, bacon, and something called “bloomy-rind cheese”). I thought it was ok, but was a little too fishy tasting for my liking. J Paulz was there with their truffled mac and cheese, which is really good, but I’d had it before so it wasn’t really that exciting.

The problem here is that there was a lot of macaroni, and not a lot of cheese. Except for the crispy, dried out cheese they put on top.

The most creative mac and cheese was the Mac and Cheese cupcake from B Gourmet Catering. It was a mini-muffin sized cupcake made with cheddar and breadcrumbs and topped with a pimento cheese “frosting,” and sprinkled with bacon. I thought it was good, albeit a little too greasy.

He really should look into modeling.

They also had some pretty cool entertainment, a DJ, followed by a live band, bull riding, and a cornhole contest and “fire hula-hooper” (no actual fire that I saw). They also had one of those new VW Bugs there that they may have been raffling off, but I was too focused on eating Mac & Cheese to pay attention.

For those of you who might not be able to tell, that hula hoop is not actually on fire. Photo from Tag Your Pix

Next time I’ll probably bring my own chairs (seating was hard to come by as the night went on), and make a whole night of it. It was way better at the Mount Pleasant Park than when they held it at the bus shed downtown, so I hope they hold it there again. Overall I’d say this was the best food event I’ve ever attended and you can bet I’ll be there next year!

The Feast Of Saint Anthony, Boston, MA

12 Sep

So a few weeks back, I went to Boston with my mom to help move Naomi into her dorm at Emerson. At first, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size and scope of the city and pretty much decided that I’d never be able to handle living in a city that big. After a few days of exploring the city and subway system, however, I pretty much owned the city.

Soon it’ll be a crown atop my head instead of dollar store sunglasses.

We picked a great time to go, as the North End of Boston (aka where to find all the delicious, authentic italian food in Boston) was holding the The Feast of Saint Anthony. There was a huge religious aspect of it–mass, prayers, devotions, singing, hanging aprons made of dollar bills around a statue’s neck–you know, the usual Catholic stuff.

“Everyday I’m hustlin” -St. Anthony

I was drawn to the Feast not for the religious aspect, (shocker) but for the numerous food stands offering delicious italian fare. Below is a list what we feasted on at the festival.

_______________________________

Arancini (rice balls)

What. Were you not expecting to receive a ball of rice the size of a small pumpkin?

We got one from an un-named vendor at the Thacher Street entrance of the feast. It was about the size of a softball, maybe a little bigger. They were making them homemade right at the feast, so I know we were getting fresh, delicious, homemade food, nothing pre-frozen or manufactured. You could get them stuffed with either spinach and cheese or meat and peas, and topped with gravy (aka marinara sauce). We split a meat-and-peas-stuffed rice ball between the 4 of us, and still had some leftover. It was amazing. The gravy was clearly homemade and better than any red sauce I’ve ever gotten anywhere in the south. My mom kept saying that it tasted like her grandmother’s spaghetti sauce, and then she got this far away look in her eyes.

A galaxy far, far away kind of look

_______________________________

Gnocchi

om nom nom

I don’t even know how to describe the consistency of the gnocchi that we got at the fair, but I loved it. It wasn’t quite firm, but it wasn’t soft either. I think it was made with ricotta, but it’s hard to say. All I know is we pretty much inhaled it.

No, not *that* kind of inhale.

Real Italian Meatballs

BALLS OF MEAT ARE MY FAVORITE

This is where Tina and I got into a bit of a tiff. I thought the meatball we got at the feast (which was about the size of a baseball) was the best I’ve ever eaten. She claims hers are the best and got all offended when I suggested otherwise. Some people just can’t take criticism.

Did it just get chilly in here, or is that just me?

“Get Dirty Early” Carolina Dirt Fair Kickoff at Grow Food Carolina

28 Apr

So this is a bit different. I’ll have to create a whole new category on my blog for fairs and festivals. Friday night I had the pleasure of attending the “Get Dirty Early” kickoff party for the Carolina Dirt Fair hosted by Growfood Carolina on Morrison Drive in Downtown Charleston. It was a really great event, and I thank Growfood Carolina for hosting it, and Adrian Barry for inviting me to go.

You had me at "tomato"

So, I forked over my $15 dollars and had one of the cheapest, most delicious, gourmet meals I’ve ever had in one of the coolest, LEED certified warehouses I’ve ever been to…. although I’m not really sure what a LEED-certified warehouse looks like, so this could have been the *only* LEED-certified warehouse I’ve ever been to. But that’s beside the point.

Stare in wonderment and awe at the LEEDiness of this warehouse. Also half of Adrian's face.

They also had this really nifty ice sculpture one display. I think it really added to the LEED atmosphere.

I wonder how much it would cost to have an ice sculpture in my apartment at all times.

My first stop after my arrival was at the Cannonborough Soda Company tent, where I sampled the Lemon Mint Soda, spiked with some vodka. It was delicious. It was even delicious without the vodka (although I quite enjoyed the adult version). I really liked that it was lemony without being tart… it was sweet and the mint tasted like they’d just pulled it fresh out of someone’s garden. It was cool and refreshing, and perfectly bubbly. I could drink one of those on the daily (with vodka, please).

They also had Strawberry Jalapeno, but I'd only had one Adult Lemon Mint soda, so I wasn't feeling brave yet.

I realize that this was also a networking event, but we all know I could give two craps about networking–I was there for the food. I was polite and feigned interest while people talked and politicked at me… but in my head, I was scoping out where and what I was going to eat next. Of course my first food stop was at the Husk table (I have an obsession, I know). They were offering a strawberry soup with sweet peppers and blue crab with local greens and a Southern-style edamame, which I forgot to read/ask what it actually consisted of (since I was preoccupied with eating and pretending to be interested in what my friends were saying to me), so I’ll just say what I think it was: kind of like young sugar snap peas or soy beans (which I guess would make more sense) in what tasted like caramelized onions and bacon or some kind of pork grease (which would also make sense–it is Husk we’re talking about here). I really liked both of them, but I have to say that the strawberry soup felt to me like it was missing something. It couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be savory or sweet and so it just came out as kind of confusing. I still enjoyed it, I just don’t think I’ll be running to Husk asking them to make it for me anytime soon. As for the southern edamame…. it tasted like it was cooked in bacon grease, so of course I loved it. I think all vegetables should be cooked in bacon grease.
–Sidenote: If anyone from Husk is reading this, please let me know what it actually is, and I’ll correct this asap.

Ooooh. I should've paired this with that Strawberry Jalapeno soda. Maybe that would've helped.

After Husk, I moved on to the 17 North Roadside Kitchens table, where they were serving some delicious looking pulled pork tacos. It was topped with some cabbage, slivered radish, and a green tomato salsa that looked almost like a pesto, but tasted amazingly different. The guys at the booth were really personable and funny and although we didn’t really chat about anything of note, I felt really at home talking to these guys. It makes me think that 17 North would be a really fun place to hang out. Not to mention that taco was friggin’ delicious. It was so simple, nothing crazy fancy to it, but it was so flavorful. It was definitely the tastiest thing I ate the entire night. I’ll be heading to 17 North sometime soon to review their offerings, you can count on that.

After that I stopped by a table that was advertising Carolina Gold Rice (which is delicious, btw). I think it might have been Anson Mills, but I failed to notice anything but the food that was laid out on their table. I was told it was a wasabi squash in a cream sauce over carolina gold rice. It kind of looked like a creamy ratatouille, and I wasn’t too thrilled about it. Squash isn’t really my favorite thing. But it was actually really flavorful and delicious. I would say that it was probably my favorite dish, after the pork tacos. I would love to make that at home on a regular basis. It looks pretty simple and easy to do, I bet I could do it.

Adding wasabi to squash is good, because then it doesn't taste so much like squash.

Following the squash, I stopped at the table for Carter’s Kitchen, Robert Carter’s new restaurant in I’On in Mount Pleasant. It looked like he had students or graduates from the Culinary Institute working at his table, which I thought was really cool. I like it when chefs give students the opportunity to work with them on events and stuff and see what it’s like. My friend Will works with Robert Carter (or “Bob” as he refers to him), and he seems to really like it. But, I digress. This table was serving bruschetta topped with bacon, pesto, and a fried oyster served alongside a spring onion soup. The bruschetta was delicious, even though oysters aren’t my favorite thing. I liked the breading and the different spices/seasonings they added to the oyster, and it really complemented the flavor of the bacon and pesto. The soup was served cold, which I was not a fan of. I don’t think any soup that has onion as the main ingredient should be served cold. So I wasn’t the hugest fan of that, but the bruschetta was good.

"A" for Effort, though, Bob!

My final stop was at the EVO artisan bakery table. I’m so excited for them to open up this bakery. I’ve never been to EVO, but I’ve heard great things. And the only thing I love more than pizza is bread, so I’m all about a new delicious bakery, especially since Rococo let me down so much with their bread offerings. They were offering pieces of delicious buttered bread as well as buttered bread topped with honey, roast beef, and pickled cucumber, all locally sourced. It was amazing. Some of the best bread I’ve eaten in a while. I loved the roast beef and the pickled cucumber, which is impressive, because I don’t usually like roast beef. But this was delicious. Everything was perfect. This is probably tied with the pork taco as being my favorite thing for the evening. I just really liked that it was simple, I wasn’t overwhelmed by ingredients or adjectives in the description. It was just really, really good.

Also, tattoos.

Also, they had a station setup outside where they were pouring Palmetto beers, educating people about recycling, and a string band was playing some crunchy grooves. Everyone was having a really good time.

Although, no one seemed to be getting dirty. I was a little disappointed at the false advertising.

Basically it was a lot of fun, it was for a great cause, and it was possibly the best $15 dollars I’ve ever spent. Even if I had to pretend to care when other people talked to me about their various issues (seriously lady, sorry your son didn’t get his diploma because he didn’t take one of the classes he needed. I’m not a parent, and I graduated from the honors college in 4 years. How do you expect me to relate to your problems). But, in all seriousness, other than that one conversation I had a really great time and I really enjoyed talking to everyone. I really want to get some of that sweet Growfood Carolina swag. I love their logo.

I also want them to come paint that in my room.

Growfood Carolina
990 Morrison Drive
Charleston, SC  29403
sarac@growfoodcarolina.com

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