New York’s fancy new baseball stadiums may have some stellar (and pricey) new dining options, but there is something to be said for the old-school days of watching a ball game in rickety bleacher seats, with a beer and a hot dog. That’s why I have a soft spot for Boston’s Fenway Park. The Red Sox’s 97-year-old stadium has preserved the best of the old days by making subtle rather than grand enhancements. Case in point: The big F&B shake up this year wasn't a celebrity chef outpost, but simply a new Fenway Frank. The new dog, made by the local, family-run company Kayem, has caused debate in the Boston food world.
I was recently in town for a game and tried it myself, then I asked some of Boston’s chefs and bartenders what they think of the new Fenway Frank and what they’d serve if Fenway ever turned into the next Citifield.
Ken Oringer, chef at Clio and La Verdad Taqueria
“I’ve been to a couple of games, and the new frank is definitely quite an improvement: meatier, tastier. It has a nice snap to it and is well seasoned. It’s a darn good dog, and hot dogs are probably one of my favorite foods.”
Oringer’s awesome taqueria is right across from the ballpark (and wins my vote for best pre- or post-game place to grab a drink and a bite). What would he put on the menu at Fenway? “La Verdad’s cola-marinated carne asada tacos and the chicken milanesa torta, a messy sandwich stuffed with chicken cutlets, refried beans, molasses-chipotles and Oaxacan string cheese.”
Tony Maws, an F&W BNC 2005 and chef at Craigie on Main
“The one game I had tickets to was rained out, so I haven't tried the new dog yet. But if I was cooking at Fenway, I'd serve pork bellies! Talk about ‘batter up’--I'd say it'd be ‘belly up!’”
Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli, mixologist at Craigie on Main
“I went a couple of weeks ago to the game and I ordered one and it was so good I even ordered a second. The old hot dog was smaller. This new one seemed plumper and had the slightest mustard seed taste to it. Overall, I would say improvement--moist and plumper, though I will admit the steamed dogs at the ballpark never compete with those grilled at home.”
Lydia Shire, chef at Scampo
Shire might be the most die-hard hot dog lover I’ve ever met. She got her first taste of the new Fenway Frank while watching the Sox sweep the Yankees this past weekend. The verdict: “Just so you know, I won a hot-dog-eating contest once and outate eight guys. I am the truest fan of all hot dogs. I made a beeline for the dogs when I got to the game and it was quite delicious. I think the Fenway Frank is now a winner. It tasted like an all-beef hot dog -- I happen to love the regular Kayem natural casing dog that has pork in it, because I worship pork. The best thing that happened while I watched the game in the EMC club was when I ordered the hot dog with extra butter on the roll they did it!”
With my Miami plane tickets booked, I knew just who to ask for food and restaurant recommendations. Lourdes Castro, a Miami native, splits her time teaching in Florida and New York. In between writing her first cookbook and creating an alluring spread of Cuban classics like vaca frita (crispy shredded beef), fried, sweet plantains and rice and beans for our May issue, Castro drew up her own Miami version of F&W's Go List:
Puerto Sagua: “Have a Cuban breakfast—two fried eggs, Cuban toast, and café con leche—at Puerto Sagua.” (700 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-673-1115).
Joe’s Take Away: “The famous Joe’s Stone Crab has a Take-Away annex near the beach so you can make a picnic. Some of the food is priced just below the menu and you don’t have the long wait for a table.” (11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 305-673-4611).
David’s Cafe: “Stop for a Cuban coffee at David’s on Lincoln Road. Have a shot of café Cubano (black and sweet) or a cortadito (sweet, with milk). (1654 Meridian Ave., Miami Beach, 305-672-8707).
Epicure Market: “The last Jewish institution on South Beach. Epicure is a specialty food market with very high end products and a great deli counter offering staples like whitefish salad and smoked salmon. The bakery is awesome!” (1656 Alton Rd., Miami Beach, 305-672-1861).
The Frieze Ice Cream Factory: “The Frieze serves amazing house-made ice creams and sorbets. My favorite is the coconut sorbet. Everything is made in that store.” (1626 Michigan Ave., Miami Beach, 305-538-0207).
Las Culebrinas: “I took Harold McGee here for dinner when he was in town. He loved the food and ambience. It’s authentic, filled with Cuban locals. For me, it’s the best Cuban dinner outside my house.” (2890 SW 27th Ave., Coconut Grove, 305-448-4090)
List in hand, I landed in South Beach and promptly planted myself at the Raleigh Hotel’s sprawling Art Deco pool. And that’s where I stayed most of the weekend. I only managed to hit two of Lourdes’s spots—the Frieze, for a superbly tart cup of pink grapefruit sorbet, and David’s Cafe, which I visited six times over three days for many piping hot cortaditos, my new favorite coffee drink. I'm saving the rest of her places for my next trip to Miami, which cannot come soon enough.
My friend Katherine is not a girly beer drinker. A man once bought her a framboise lambic and after one sip of the slightly fizzy, fruity brew she replied quite firmly, “Sir, I like my beer to taste like beer.” So she surprised me this weekend when she ordered a 22-ounce bottle of Pretty Things. Not only was the name girly, but the beer had a whimsical, cartoon-like label that made it extra-girly. We were having dinner at Hungry Mother, the awesome Southern-inspired Cambridge, Massachusetts, restaurant by F&W's Best New Chef 2009 Barry Maiden, whose support of local artisans extends to his well-edited beer list; further questioning revealed that Pretty Things is actually a brand-new craft-beer company based in Cambridge.
A few sips of , proved that Katherine hadn’t gone girly on me after all. It was a supersmooth, intriguingly complex Saison-style brew. And that character on the label (which I thought was an egg with a mustache) is actually a grain of barley drawn by Pretty Things founder and brewer Dann Paquette.
Paquette not only makes a damn good beer, but he is also doing it with a sense of humor. The name Pretty Things, he explained to me, is a bit of a joke. “Beer is made out of grass, barley and hops, which, for the most part, are weeds now in this country—and yeast is a fungus,” says Paquette. “The name reflects the idea of making beautiful things out of basically the stuff you’d find under a rock.” This week he debuts his first seasonal beer, Baby Tree, a strong, dark beer brewed with dried California plums.
Right now Pretty Things is available in liquor stores and restaurants in Massachusetts, but it will soon be making its way in limited batches to Philadelphia, upstate New York and Rhode Island. And bad news for Katherine: some “crazy, fruity beer” is in the works too, according to Paquette.
© Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, Inc.
Pretty Thing’s flagship brew, the Jack D’Or.
© Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, Inc.
Pretty Thing's first seasonal beer, Baby Tree.