Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Year of the Dog

Man, time flies when you are having fun. In case you have forgotten, after two summers of driving at least 19,000 miles to have a hot dog at each of the 30 MLB ballparks, I took last summer off and watched A LOT of games on MBLTV (which is totally worth the price by the way). I designed a hot dog for each team/stadium that somehow depicted their personality. Sometimes it was a player that inspired me, sometimes the team name or their location. I would then eat that hot dog while watching them on MLBTV (did I mention it is well worth the price?). I called it the Virtual Baseball Tour, or VBT for short.

I intended to be finished by the end of the regular season. But like some writers get writer's block, hot dog creators can also get wiener block. I moved the deadline to the end of post season play, then the new year, and then to the start of the 2017 season. And I am proud and embarrassed to say that, after moving the deadline several times, I/we have finished our VBT. A hot dog creation and a beer pairing for the same are in the archives of this blog. All you have to do is scroll backwards. Here is a reminder of the dog delicacies in case you have forgotten (in the order they were posted):

Pittsburgh Pirates-The Willie Stargell
Toronto Blue Jay-The Pizza Dog
San Francisco Giants-The Golden Gate Dog
Chicago White Sox-The Zloty Dog
St Louis Cardinals-The Hill Dog
Detroit Tigers-The Delhi Dog
Los Angeles Dodgers-The Vin Scully
Oakland A's-The BART Dog
Chicago Cubs-The Underdog
Colorado Rockies-The Mile High Dog
Arizona Diamondbacks-The Snotty Sonoran
San Diego Padres-The Poor Man's Surf and Turf
Tampa Bay Rays-The Cool Ray Dog
Minnesota Twins-The Double Dog Dare Dog
Cincinnati Reds-The Breakfast of Champions Dog
Cleveland Indians-The Ricky Vaughn
Milwaukee Brewers-The Beer Brat Dog
Miami Marlins-The Big Fish Dog
New York Mets-The Big Apple
Baltimore Orioles-The Sponge Bob
Seattle Mariners-The Sushi Dog
Boston Red Sox-The Green Monster
Los Angeles Angels-All Dogs Go to Heaven
Washington Nationals-The Politician
Houston Astros-The Apollo 13
Philadelphia Phillies-The Balboa Dog
Kansas City Royals-The Meat Bomb
New York Yankees-The Fugetaboutit
Atlanta Braves-The Dixie Dog
Texas Rangers-The Nolan Ryan

I had a lot of fun creating these dogs, I hope you tried at least a few. If not, the recipes live forever in cyberspace on this blog.

That makes two trips to all 30 MLB ballparks in two consecutive summers, not to mention a TON of minor league stadiums. Then the summer of the VBT. What's next? I will continue to update you on hot dog happenings in and around all of baseball. There is always new and crazy dog coming out. And I have a serious backlog of Hot Dog Hotspots to get out to you. I am also planning an April minor league road trip mainly in the Carolinas and surrounding area. If you live near a ballpark in the southeast, drop me a line and maybe we can catch some action at the diamond together. Or you can introduce me to the best hot dog in your town. Oh, and I will be catching some Grapefruit League spring training games in Florida in late March.

But as of first pitch for the regular season I will be a broken man. It's a really cool thing to say that you have caught a game at EVERY major league ballpark. But when the 2017 season opens, I will have only been to 29 of 30. The Atlanta Braves are setting up shop in new digs called Sun Trust Park this season. I have one chance to catch a game there on my road trip: April 19. But with it being a new ballpark and early in the season, it will be tough to get a ticket without having to sell a kidney. But hey, I have two kidneys and only really need one, so it's possible. Atlanta Braves, if you are listening, do a brother a solid and sell me a ticket for under $30. I am not picky about seat location.

So here's to a great 2017 season. There's new grass on the field and baseball has never been better. But it is ALWAYS better when watched with a dog in your hand.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

VBT Globe Life Park: The Nolan Ryan

If you watched baseball in the late 1960's, all of the 70s, 80s and much of the 90s you know who Nolan Ryan is. He holds the MLB record for career strikeouts and pitched an incredible SEVEN, that's right SEVEN, no hitters. He was in the top few of the dominate pitchers in FOUR decades of baseball. His weapon of choice? A blazing fastball which, according to some calculations, is the fastest ever thrown. He was also an anomaly, having a career that lasted so long. He also dished out one of the best thumpings ever caught on video as he pummeled Chicago White Sox player Robin Ventura when he charged the mound Nolan was standing on.

A Texas native, he is also a beef rancher. Along with his many baseball executive duties, he also sells high quality beef. Know what he does with those high quality beef trimmings left over from the process? He makes high quality, all-beef HOT DOGS. That's right, Nolan Ryan is in the hot dog business. It just keeps getting better with this guy.

While he played for several teams, Nolan is best remembered for his stint with the Texas Rangers, and as a Texan I am naming the hot dog for the Rangers after him. Drum roll as we prepare to describe The Nolan Ryan.

If you are a baseball fan you know that fastballs are known as heaters. As in “bring me the heat.” It was Ryan's signature pitch and why the Nolan Ryan dog is all about the heat. It is simple....and hot.

Take a bun of your choice and put in, if possible, a Nolan Ryan all-beef frank. This is probably the only time I won't recommend a Hebrew National as my first choice. But Nolan Ryan franks are very regional, usually only available in the greater Texas area. So if you can't get one, use a Hebrew National. Then put in some red chili sauce, hot sauce of your choice, and top with jalapenos and onions. Bite in and enjoy the heat that is symbolic of Nolan Ryan's flame throwing arm.

Beer pairing: Arlington is deep in the heart of Texas, so I have chosen Shiner Beer. The beer of Texas. It is cheap, crisp and goes well with any hot food. Normally, I'd say grab a six pack, but with this hot dog's temperature, pick up a case. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

VBT Turner Field/Sun Trust Park: The Dixie Dog

Time for the dog that does dual purpose. When I came up with the idea of creating a hot dog for every ballpark, the Atlanta Braves were playing at Turner Field. Now that ancient stadium has been abandoned by the Braves. It was all of 17 years old (as a baseball venue). Now the Braves are moving into ultramodern new digs called Sun Trust Park. While no one loves new ballparks more than I, I also believe in retiring them when they are no longer viable. Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston are both over one hundred years young for comparison.

But it's still the Braves, and you know where Atlanta is? In the deep south, that's where. Sometimes called Dixie. In Dixie everything tasted good if it's fried. And they love their barbecue as well. Toss in some potato salad and you have yourself a delicious down home southern meal. That's why it's all on the Dixie Dog.

Start with a large bun; you're going to need it. Grill the bun, put in a Hebrew National all-beef frank, put a few strips of fried chicken on top of that, douse in BBQ sauce, cover with potato salad and then sprinkle on as much fried okra as your bun will allow. It's everything Dixie loves on a plate, but on a bun. Extra credit if you can find a copy of Hee Haw on VHS to watch while eating. And don't blame me if your speech has a drawl after eating.

Beer pairing: None other than Dixie Beer of course. It's a good cheap beer available throughout the south. It used to be brewed in New Orleans, but the brewery took a real beating (and flooding) during Hurricane Katrina. It plans to reopen someday, and buying a few six packs of Dixie will help that day come sooner. At present, it is contract brewed at other locations. But nothing will make your meal feel more south of the Mason-Dixon Line than washing this dog down with a Dixie. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

VBT Yankee Stadium: The Fugetaboutit

Ahhh, the New York Yankees. A team you either love or hate. In fact, one of my favorite teams is whoever plays the Yankees. Not a fan. Not a fan of Yankee Stadium either. It looks a lot like old Yankee Stadium, of which I was also not a fan. Hate the New York weather, it's either too hot or too cold, and the crowds are horrendous. So what do I like about New York? The food. New York City is like the epicenter of an international food explosion. You can get ANY type of food at ANY hour of the day. If food it your thing, New York is for you.

You know what else New York is famous for? The strong accent and slang of its residents. You hear a New Yorker in a bar in Hong Kong and you immediately place the speaker as a visitor from the Big Apple. Food and accent is what makes the hot dog for Yankee Stadium. Allow me to introduce The Fugetaboutit. It combines one of New York's most memorable catch phrases (say “forget about it” as one long word after you have had twelve beers and you get the picture), with the knish, an iconic eastern European snack that has made a new home in NYC.

A knish is a dough pastry stuffed with any combination of sauerkraut, ground beef, mashed potatoes, and diced grilled onions. To make one, get the best sub roll you can find, slightly grill it on a skillet and then slap in a Hebrew National all-beef frank. Top the frank with mashed potatoes, sprinkle on ground beef, some grilled onions, a row of kraut and then add a meandering stream of spicy brown mustard. The knish tastes delish, and it's all on a hot dog. Unlike the Yankees, this dog is a winner and you don't have to brave the subway to enjoy one at home. And if you think you can give me any grief over dissing the Yankees....fugetaboutit.

Beer pairing: Try a Saranac Adirondack Lager if you can get your hands on one. It is brewed upstate in Utica but embodies the freshness of the Adirondack mountains and washes down a knish on a bun like no other.