The ( hot) dog whisperer
I’ M told by an expat New Yorker friend that the test of a good hotdog is not in the accompanying sauerkraut, the mustard or ketchup, the quality of the bun or, indeed, the flavour of the dog itself.
The test, he says, is that the frankfurter should have a slight toothsome resistance and go ‘‘ snap’’ as you bite into it.
His father had sold hotdogs in the Big Apple for more than 40 years, so I accepted his word as I took off round the city for a dog that went snap. One from the stand in Times Square was about as limp as ‘‘ The US Needs YOU’’ advertisements on the nearby military recruitment office. Which is probably why there was no one queuing up at either.
And ones from outside the Guggenheim, in Union Square and in Central Park didn’t measure up to the snap test either.
So it was back to where I should have started, to the New York Times list of the city’s best of everything – in this case The Cannibal at 113 East 29th where the hotdogs are ‘‘ so deliciously fatty and balanced in flavour, you’ll want another order for dessert’’. It was, but I didn’t, since it still didn’t go snap. So I moved on to Mario Batali and his partners’ amazing Eataly Food Hall extravaganza which opened in the Flatiron district of the city in August 2010.
With some 4600sq m dedicated to fresh meats, salumi, pasta, breads, fish, oils, vegetables, cheeses, vinegars, confectionery, desserts, wines, cooking equipment, books and seemingly everything else on an Italian gourmet’s dolce vita wish list with a cooking school attached and casual eateries in each food section, this place in the Flatiron district is the Las Vegas of food markets.
With such abundance and milling crowds, Eataly seems to have sucked much of the life out of what was once one of NY’s most famous farmers’ markets, the nearby Union Square Green Market, which, mid- winter, was only a shadow of Saturday’s Salamanca.
I’d also been told that since 9/ 11 New Yorkers had mellowed, that they were more polite, more considerate, smiled and greeted one another more and so on. But not at Katz’s Deli, around since 1888, where the pastrami on rye was as expected and the service as good ol’ New York rude as any Woody Allen fan could hope for.
While the long- anticipated monkfish liver pate was disappointingly no longer on the menu at Sugiyama, a choice of delicious oysters from 26 waters around the country in the wonderful Grand Central Station, each with more snap than the hotdogs, a cocktail with Dorothy Parker’s ghost at the sadly remodelled Algonquin and a superb dinner at the acclaimed Gramercy Tavern provided fitting farewells to New York.