Monday, July 23, 2007

Let The Games Begin: Where Is The Top Dog?

It's NYC vs. LA in the War of the Wiener

Before the complaints begin, yes, I know, it is entirely possible that the best hot dog in America doesn't exist in LA or NYC.... could it be the Varsity in Atlanta? or perhaps Gold Coast Dogs in Chicago?.... dare I say a Lucky Dog cart in the French Quarter?

Well for the sake of a massive case of indigestion and incremental yet substantial weight gain, I'll keep this initial battle between the two cities I know best... NYC and LA.



Grey's Papaya: The old, cheap stand by is the self proclaimed king of street eats

Nathan's Famous: The dog that started it all

Katz's Deli: The famous village deli can make a mean deli style dog


Pink's: The reigning champ is having it's share of problems

Skooby's: Coming hard and fast to take the top spot

The Weiner Factory: Is LA's Top Dog in the Valley?


Stop #1 on this, the battle of the wiener, was Skooby's... the hot little stand on Hollywood Blvd in Los Angeles.

The Place
Don't expect much. Skooby's is a smallish, cramped space on a somewhat scary stretch of Hollywood Blvd. There is one lonely table within (a horrific experience if the place is packed) and a counter and 2 tables outside. It is somewhat clean, and organized which is a good thing, as when these guys get busy the place can look as if a bomb went off inside. Generally speaking, they do a fantastic job of getting you served in short fashion... with hot food.

The Bun
Extra points here. These are more than Hot Dog buns, they are homemade rolls that are grilled to perfection, warm and toasty. Genius.

The Wiener
A classic, meaty, snapskin dog. It is mild in flavor, and although I like mine with a bit more spice, it was still way better than 90% of the lifeless, bland dogs you'll usually find out there.

The Deal
Skooby's has a belief, which I concur... the best Hot Dog is often one you make yourself... I mean, only you know exactly how much mustard you like... so, basic dogs at Skooby's come plain, so you can dress them with the basics, found on the counter... plain and spicy mustard, onions, relish, kraut, hot sauces, etc....

Other dogs include a chili cheese dog with Guinness Chili and a garlic dog... but skip the extra dogs, you won't need them. The fries here are the deal. They are homemade from a box of real potatoes in plain view, and fried to crispy perfection, served with an addictive garlic aioli... (think Zankou sauce, but creamy and made for fries). Oh yea, the make delicious fresh squeezed lemonade as well. Look out Pinks.


Killer stuff. Great work on the details have vaulted Skooby's to the top of the LA heap in many peoples minds. This will certainly be a high contender to win my TOP DOG award. Pink's get ready... the bar has been set high!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mario's LA "Osteria Mozza"... It's All That

And You Think Babbo and Lupa are Good......

Hi There Foodies!

Well, I guess another apology is in order. It's been ages since I have updated this blog, and I am guessing that many of you have moved on. But for those of you who find themselves looking for straight talk, I've wrapped my globe trotting assignment, and I'm back and raring to go.

The bad news for you New Yorkers is that this installment of Fork NY is about a restaurant you may not be able to get to easily... Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton's new Osteria Mozza, on the corner of Highland and Melrose in sunny Los Angeles.

Let's talk about food.

For those of you who haven't heard about the Batali-Silverton partnership, it is one made in heaven. The duo opened Pizzeria Mozza nearly 6 months ago, to much fanfare. Expectedly, the joint quickly became a favorite.. and was crowned King of LA pizza.

But make no bones about it, it's the Osteria that foodies have been waiting for, and last Friday the doors to heaven opened.

Lucky for me, a swung a reservation this week, a feat that most have been unable to accomplish. With most reservations taking a month or more, I luckily landed what I now believe to be a cancellation, and boy am I happy I did.

When you enter the space, you can't help but notice that 1. It's a handsome space (even if it is facing a gas station and a Jiffy Lube), and 2. There is a mozzarella bar smack dab in the middle of the room.

The menu is basically divided into Antipasti, Mozzarella, Primi, Secondi and Contorni.

As a group of 4 we ordered 2 antipasti and 2 mozzarella dishes, and devoured all four plates in about 3 minutes. The Gnocco Fritto with affetati misti was wonderful... mixed sliced ham and salume with lightly fried square pillows of dough, but the grilled octopus stole the show. The marinated, smoky octopus was incredibly tender, and surprisingly addictive.

As for mozzarella, we couldn't help but order the burrata with asparagus, walnuts and brown butter... as well as the bufala with pesto. Both were winners.

As we moved towards primi selections, I reverted back to my Lupa ways. At Lupa, I often don't order a secondi... I order another primi (love the pasta). Since I firmly believe that Mario's strong suit is pasta, I get my fill... and this meal was no different. I guess this makes some sense, as 2 others at the table also ordered a second pasta.

Let's talk pasta.

There are no huge suprises here for the Batali crowd... you have the signature pork infused dishes here and there, but as usual, the simple dishes like the Linguine cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) is out of this world. The orrechiette with sausage and swiss chard was hearty and fragrant, the Goat Cheese Ravioli near perfect... and the large fresh riccota and egg raviolo (one massive ravioli) with browned butter was nearly an out of body experience.

Wonder why we ordered more?

There was also tortellini, an agnolotti with butter, an amazing looking gnocchi, a classic spaghetti with clams and panceta... and a perfectly cooked garganelli with a light bolognese. This is pasta heaven, and Mario's hand is present in the perfectly cooked pasta, always on the al dente side of firmness.

The other dishes looked incredible.. a pink snapper, an orata filet, a grilled salmon, grilled quail, grilled lamb, grilled beef (so they like the grill I am guessing) as well as slower prepared Beef Brasato and a Guinea Fowl with liver panceta sauce the waiter nearly forced us to order (we opted for the pasta). One of the diners in our party did order a wonderful pork "arista" with fennel and onions... and took it home as we had warned... to much food.

Side dishes looked spectacular, and included roasted potatoes, long cooked broccoli, marinated peppers, yellow wax beans, cipolline, spinach and broccoli rabe.

Deserts also looked amazing, but feeling mighty full, we passed....

So yes, the place is fab, and yes the food is great... but don't worry Mario fans, he and Nancy are all about the details. Our drinks were carried from the bar, the cheese dishes were carefully crafted and the orrechiette topped with fresh, crispy bread crumbs for an added texture that made the dish. It's all there.

So make the rezo, or walk in early early. You'll have a killer meal. The days of those who love terrific regional italian food missing out are over. I love many LA italian spots, but mark my words.... the king has arrived.