Posts Tagged ‘food’

Pleb Summer: Hot Dogs

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for trips to the beach house, a cross-country road trip, or travel to exotic vacation destinations.

But for those of us who can’t spare the time or the money to make a getaway, it’s PlebSummer! We’re posting this summer about summer for the rest of us.

A key element of enjoying Pleb Summer is the consumption of copious amounts of hot dogs. And while it may not be a good idea to think about what your hot dog is made of, we thought it might be interesting to learn about the history of this piece of Americana.

“Hot dogs are proof God loves us and wants us to be happy” -No One

The sausage has existed for hundreds of years with Gaius, the cook for Emperor Nero, often being given the credit of creating the first. From there, the history of the hot dog (like most foods) becomes tricky to pin down. The sausage moved across Europe, and both Frankfurt and Vienna in Germany claim to be home to the “frankfurter” and “wiener” respectively. But seeing as a hot dog is nothing without the bun, the birth of this delicious treat does not really occur until the 1860s in New York City, where German immigrants sold hot dogs on milk rolls with sauerkraut (yum).

One of the earliest peddlers of the hot dog proper was Charles Feltman, who sold franks from a stand in Coney Island, Brooklyn. By the turn of the century, Charles had upgraded the stand to a full-blown restaurant – Feltman’s German Gardens – a complex serving beer and food that ran down West 10th Street, from Surf Avenue to the beach. While the focus switched to seafood, Feltman kept seven grills open serving hot dogs for 10 cents a pop. The story goes that it was while working one of these grills that a young Nathan Handwerker started saving his money to open his own establishment. In 1916 he leased a space on Surf Avenue, and started selling hot dogs for 5 cents. His plan to undersell the competition worked, and today Nathan’s Famous is a recognized brand nationwide. You can grab a Nathan’s dog in Coney Island, in numerous food courts, or from your local grocery store -but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who has heard of Feltman’s.

By the Great Depression, the hot dog was enjoyed across the nation. In 1939 Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt served them to King George VI as part of a picnic lunch at Hyde Park (they were supposedly well received). Today we eat them all summer long – at ball games, backyard barbecues, beach concerts, or just around the dinner table.

However, we don’t all eat them the same way. In Chicago, dogs are placed on a poppy-seed bun and topped with tomato, pickle, peppers, onion, relish, and mustard. In the Midwest they have the “Coney dog” which is topped with chili, cheese, and onion. Arizona is home to the Sonoran dog, which is wrapped in bacon and topped with pinto beans, mayo, chopped tomatoes, onions and jalapeños. The good people of Seattle eat dogs covered in cream cheese, grilled onions, jalapeños, and cabbage. And, for our money, you can’t go wrong with a traditional New York City hot dog – served from a cart, boiled in suspicious water, and topped with saucy, sweet red onions.

So make sure the next time you and a friend are “grabbing some dog” as the kids call it, you tell them all about the history of the hot dog – they’ll thank you for it.

Pleb Summer: Ice Cream Trucks

Thursday, July 20th, 2017

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for trips to the beach house, a cross-country road trip, or travel to exotic vacation destinations.

But for those of us who can’t spare the time or the money to make a getaway, it’s PlebSummer! We’re posting this summer about summer for the rest of us.

Whether echoing down crowded city streets or quiet suburban hamlets, looped music over a loudspeaker evokes a response as strong as anything Pavlov could have imagined and it can only mean one thing:

The ice cream truck is here. One of summer’s most happy pleasures.

Ice cream vendors actually date back to the 19th century. Back in the old days, a “penny lick” got you a small portion of ice cream on a dish which you would lick clean. The dish would then be dipped in a bucket of water and used to serve the next customer. This lack of concern for basic hygiene, plus a general lack of refrigeration, meant that while enjoying an ice cream treat, you’d be risking diphtheria, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, and many other life-threatening diseases.

Luckily hygiene improved, and in the mid-20th century, Harry Burt, the founder of Good Humor, started selling his Good Humor bar out of a truck. In 1965, Mister Softee was founded, and ice cream trucks have been here to stay ever since.

And that music! You can read an interesting history of the ice cream truck jingle here.

And if you like your ice cream truck history more on the fictional side, we highly recommend “Comfort and Joy,” Bill Forsythe’s movie about the Glasgow ice cream truck wars.


The Taco Salad

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

National Salad Month is a time for reflection as well as for celebrating. A month designated by a venerable professional association – the Association for Dressings and Sauces – reminds us that the corporate and the cultural have been deeply fused for a longer time than we may realize.

Take the Taco Salad. Truly, an American innovation worth celebrating. Sure, it may be disparaged by more discerning palates, but the taco salad is a Tex-Mex classic, right up there with nachos, chimichangas, and chili con carne. Who can resist the two kinds of crunchiness – crisp icebox lettuce, and crunchy fried tortillas? And come on, you have to love a food that allows you to eat the bowl it comes in.

But the story behind the taco salad is a bit different than those others. It’s a story of collusion between two American greats: the Walt Disney Company and Frito-Lay.

Elmer Doolin, the founder of Frito-Lay, known for Fritos as well as other delicious snacks, petitioned Disney to allow Frito-Lay to open their very own “Mexican” restaurant at Disneyland. Casa de Fritos opened in August 1955, just down the way from Aunt Jemima’s Pancake House. Casa de Fritos specialized in basic Mexican-style dishes, each served with a bag of Fritos. And if you wanted more Fritos, there was an animatronic vending machine on the way out.

Besides inventing the Dorito (by frying their stale tortillas rather than throwing them away), Casa de Fritos invented the venerable taco salad.

As you can see, at the top of this menu is “taco in a ‘tacup’,” which was in fact, a tiny taco salad – ground beef, beans, sour cream, and cheese, served in a hard “taco cup” made out of a frito shell.

As word spread, the taco in a “tacup” was copied by other restaurants and grew in size into the taco salad. By the 1960s, taco salad was appearing in recipe books.

And as its fame spread, so did its mystique. To this very day, this American classic brings a fiesta wherever it goes.

So three cheers for the manufactured-yet-beloved taco salad and to the corporate powers which made it possible!

Everyone loves taco salads!


Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

We wouldn’t be responsibly celebrating National Salad Month if we didn’t dedicate at least one post to salad dressing. After all, National Salad Month is promoted by the Association for Dressings and Sauces.

Today’s post is about two dressings which frustratingly are often considered interchangeable: Russian and Thousand Island.

Which is which???

“They look the same,” you may say. “They’re made from the same general ingredients,” you might also say. “They do pretty much taste the same,” you may also also say.

Well then, you would be wrong.

Let’s start with Russian dressing. Russian dressing is more of a sauce than a dressing. You really don’t want it on your salad. You want it on a sandwich. It’s too thick and just plain wrong for a salad.

Russian dressing, like Thousand Island, begins with a ketchup and mayonnaise base, but unlike Thousand Island, it contains horseradish along with spices, sometimes pimentos and chives.

Not only are people misinformed about Russian vs Thousand Island, and what exactly it is, its very name is a misnomer. Russian dressing? Not even Russian.

Thousand Island dressing is mostly used for salads, although it can sometimes be considered a condiment. It is mayonnaise based, with just a touch of ketchup, and also relies on pickle relish and a hard boiled egg for its distinct thick and sweet taste, opposed to the more tart, vinegary taste of Russian dressing.

Named after the Thousand Islands region on the upper St. Lawrence River between the U.S. and Canada, the exact origin of this dressing is up for debate, but it was likely invented in the early 20th century, around the same time as Russian dressing.

Thousand Island dressing is usually reserved for salads, although sometimes it is used as a “special sauce” on sandwiches at diners. In-N-Out Burger’s “spread” is in fact Thousand Island dressing.

So before you consider these two dressings to be interchangeable, think again. But now that you know the difference, don’t get boastful about it. No one likes a salad know-it-all.

Candle Salad

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

May is National Salad Month and we at the Guild are celebrating salads all month long!

One of the more disturbing salads we’ve come across is Candle Salad, one of those dishes from mid-20th century American cookbooks that leaves you wondering about the mental state of housewives of the era.

It was Sigmund Freud’s birthday on May 6th, so we thought it was fit to celebrate the day with a Candle Salad. Of course being 21st century Americans, we had to document it.

So here’s how you make a Candle Salad.

The ingredients. Lettuce is optional. We chose not to take the option.

Always wash your hands before making a salad. Salad is food too!

Open the can of pineapple slices.

When the tab rips off the can before you can open it, use a can opener.

When the can opener is too dull to fully open the can, use a knife.

Just be careful not to cut the pineapple slices with the knife.

Place a pineapple slice in the center of a plate. You could also use multiple slices – just make sure to stack them.

Peel a banana.

Slice the banana. You really want a not-too-large slice (one banana can certainly make two salads) but we wanted ours to be as long as possible for maximum effect.

Place your banana firmly on the pineapple ring. Whipped cream or cottage cheese can also be used to adhere it in place, but we’re purists.

Apply whipped cream (to mimic candle wax)

Apply a cherry (for the flame)

Et voilà!


Finally, document it for Instagram.

A repast worthy of Freud!

Happy National Salad Month!

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Since 1992, May has been designated as National Salad Month by the Association for Dressings and Sauces.

So we’ve decided to join the bandwagon and celebrate the wonderful world of salads all May long!

Green salads! Fruit salads! Meat salads! Dessert salads! The wonders of salad extend to every eating opportunity.

(and in honor of the Association for Dressings and Sauces, don’t forget the dressing)

To get the month rolling, here are some lovely salads. Feel free to list your favorite kind of salad in the comments.

Chef salad

Fruit salad

Macaroni salad

Wedge salad

Bean salad

Tuna salad

Greek salad

Potato salad

Caesar salad

Taco salad

Mesclun salad




Waldorf salad

Napoleovember: A Signature Drink

Friday, November 14th, 2014

We’re celebrating Napoleon this month on the PhLog, and given the runaway success of our first signature cocktail (now available in bars and at cocktail parties around the world), we thought we should create a signature drink for Napoleovember. After a night of tinkering, we came up with not one, but two cocktails honoring the great Frenchman.

Our mixing team included our old friends Miriam Leuchter and Mark Sorré, and our new friends Dan Richards and Honi Werner. Guild members Jay Stern and Meg Sweeney Lawless were there to observe, taste, and document the event.

Dan and Honi came prepared, with both a concept and ingredients. Their drink, delicious and pretty much perfect out of the gate, was the NAPOLEONIC COMPLEX. Miriam had a few ideas and a wide range of ingredients to draw from for another drink, and after a bit of tinkering (and with advice and commentary from the group), we ended up with the RUSSIAN WINTER.

Below are recipes and rationales behind the two drinks.



1 dollop muddled cherry preserves
1 oz vodka

This drink is inspired by several parts of Napoleon’s life. The cherry preserves refer to his home island of Corsica, where they grow in abundance (mulberries also grow there, so mulberry preserves are a suitable alternate if you don’t like cherries), and using preserves rather then fresh cherries refers to the art of canning, which was invented to feed Napoleon’s armies. The vodka is naturally a reference to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, and the champagne is a final French touch. Napoleon also happened to like champagne.

First, place a dollop of cherry preserves into a champagne flute.


Then add about one ounce of vodka. We used a peach vodka, but a plain vodka would also suffice.


Stir the vodka / preserves combo to muddle the preserves.


Then fill to the top with champagne. Dan and Honi used Gruet – a sparking wine from an old French family. But other champagnes will of course suffice.


This is a refreshing and refined drink.


Notice how the cherry preserves make the bubbles especially active.




3 parts Russian vodka
1 part cassis liqueur
1 shake bitters
splash of cognac
an abundant quantity of crushed ice

It took some tinkering to come up with this recipe. It commemorates Napoleon’s failed invasion of Russia, so we used Vodka as the base. Cassis, a French liqueur, makes the whole thing look like a bloody mess (much French blood was spilled in the invasion of Russia), the bitters cut the sweetness (the Russian winter was certainly a bitter experience for Napoleon), and the splash of cognac, while adding a nice fragrance to the drink, refers to the cognac Napoleon rationed to his artillery units. Lastly, abundant crushed ice makes the drink chilly in a way that only a Russian Winter can be.

First, measure out the vodka.

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Add enough cassis to make it all nice and bloody.

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Add a shake of bitters. A little is all you’ll need.


Add a splash of cognac. We used Rémy Martin cognac, which Napoleon drank. He liked cognac. You could also use Rémy Martin’s Napoléon cognac if you feel like spending a little more.


Serve in a tumbler filled to the brim with crushed ice.


Raise a toast to Napoleon (and the Russians)!

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We accompanied our beverages with French cheese, and two dishes Mark Sorré, our chef of the evening, called “savory Napoleons”: loaves of thin pastry dough, one filled with salmon, crème fraîche sour cream, dill, and capers, the other with mushrooms and truffled goat cheese.


But you can enjoy these beverages with all sorts of food. Their balance of acidic and sweet makes them a perfect aperitif or after dinner drink, so they pair well with both savory and sweet.

[Photos by Dan Richards, with a few additional images by Jay Stern. Hand modeling by Miriam Leuchter.]

Anglo-Saxon Summer: A Signature Libation

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Summer is a nice time of year for a signature cocktail, and since we’re writing about the Anglo-Saxons on the PhLog, we thought it would be nice to pay homage to our favorite Germanic peoples to occupy what is now known as Great Britain with a special cocktail.

We reached out to UPG consulting bon vivant Miriam Leuchter and mixologist Rush Kress to assist us in making an Anglo-Saxon-inspired drink.

Miriam and Rush’s tasting committee included the tasteful Helen Kim, the astute Adam Rosenberg, and the discerning L.M. Sorré. UPGistas Jay Stern and M. Sweeney Lawless joined for a secondary tasting and to deliver the UPG seal of approval. (Photos below are from the secondary tasting.)

Creating a Flavor Profile

To source potential drink ingredients, we looked at what we know about the Anglo-Saxon diet. Their food was simply seasoned with the kind of herbs and spices they could grow themselves. Mint, thyme, dill, fennel, hyssop, rosemary, sage, garlic, chives… that kind of thing. We wanted something to capture an earthy green herbal flavor to reflect these Anglo-Saxon seasonings. (Jay’s suggestion — using a few drops of the blood of your enemies — was determined to be impractical.)

We also wanted a slightly sweet component to this drink (after all, it is a summer cocktail) such as honey or a berry that could be found in England during the Anglo-Saxon era.

Choosing an Alcohol

The Anglo-Saxons drank a lot of alcohol, mostly in the form of ale and honey wine (a.k.a. “mead”). Because we didn’t want an ale-based beverage, and honey wine isn’t the best mixer or always easy to find, we decided to use a modern alcohol as a base.

The first drink the team attempted used various combinations of Elderberry liqueur and gin. This combination proved unpalatable without lemon. Lemon would have been a rarity in the Anglo-Saxon diet; in fact, it’s highly unlikely that most Anglo-Saxons ever saw a lemon, let alone tasted one.

The decision was then to try a whisky. Though whisky was not an Anglo-Saxon beverage, it is certainly enjoyed by their descendants so it seemed to be not too big of a stretch. Fortunately for us, it turns out that honey whisky is now a “thing,” so Rush and Miriam took that idea and ran with it.

We now present UPG’s great new summer cocktail:

Anglo-Saxon the Beach


2 oz. honey rye whisky*
2 oz. hard apple cider
2 drops celery bitters
splash of club soda
handful of fresh chives, chopped
one sprig of fresh thyme
plenty of ice

*If you can’t find whisky that’s already infused with honey, make a simple syrup using honey and add 1 tbsp. to 2 oz. of regular rye.

The ingredients.

The ingredients.

NOTE ON THE WHISKY: The first tasting team used Catskill Provisions New York Honey, which is a honey-flavored rye whiskey. For the secondary tasting, we opted in favor of something more readily available at your local liquor store, and went for Honey Jack Daniels. Honey Jack is technically classified as a honey liqueur, and it makes for a lighter cocktail that has a more dramatic chive-y taste. You may want to use one or two fewer sprigs of chives with honey liquor. A honey whisky, either store bought or homemade with honey simple syrup and rye, will have a deeper and more robust taste. We found both options to be delicious.


1. In a tall glass or cocktail shaker, muddle the chives with whisky.

Miriam hand picked chives from her back yard, much as an Anglo-Saxon might have done. We used four chives.


Russ rolled the chives up into a tight ball and then chopped them, to maximize their muddling powers.


Smush those chives!


He used a spoon to muddle them, but you can use any blunt object. The Anglo-Saxons loved blunt objects.

We then added the whisky and stirred and mashed for a bit.


Pouring in the whisky.


Mashing it all up.

2. Add cider and two drops of celery bitters, and stir well.

We used a nice dry cider — dry goes a little better with chives — but a sweeter cider would work if you prefer a sweeter drink.


Be careful with those celery bitters. Two drops will do it.


3. Strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice.


4. Top off with a splash of club soda (not low sodium) and give it a quick stir.


5. Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme.


6. Syntu!


Upon her first sip, UPGista M. Sweeney Lawless deemed the beverage “odd and good.” The chive-whiskey mix with the crispness of the cider and soda certainly makes for a refreshing, earthy beverage.

Enjoy it it with your own band of warriors.

This drink pairs perfectly with a sharp cheddar, Stilton, or other strong English cheese.


Margarine! Margarine! Margarine!

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

On July 15, 1869, the French chemist Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès made a patent application for his delectable concoction of beef tallow, skimmed milk, sulfate of soda, margaric acid, and water – and thus was born our love/hate relationship with margarine.

Napoleon III had offered a prize for a cheap butter substitute and Mège-Mouriès won with his invention of “oleomargarine.” (Margaric acid was discovered by fellow Frenchman and chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul, who named the pearly substance “acide margarique” after the Greek word for pearl: margarites).

No sooner was patent No. 86,480 issued than its owner attempted to capitalize on it; however, Mège-Mouriès found his invention a hard sell. Though butter was hard to come by in France (thanks to the Industrial Revolution’s migrations and the oil shortages of the Napoleonic Wars), people weren’t exactly lining up for the Mège-Mouriès gloop, so he sold it to Jurgens, a Dutch concern.

Since margarine in its unnatural natural state was white, the Dutch company hit on the idea of dyeing it yellow to resemble butter. Though this appealed to consumers, it did not impress the powerful dairy interests in, well, every country where margarine was ever introduced. Margarine has been banned, taxed, protested, and spawned thousands of pieces of legislation concerning its ingredients. Did we say margarine has been made with whale oil? Margarine has been made with whale oil. Everyone, all together: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Blubber.

Yes, it’s odd that a genuine Frenchman in the land of culinary excellence was responsible for the invention of margarine, but rest assured that compared to the rest of us, France has never manufactured or eaten much of the stuff.

As for Mège-Mouriès, he died broke and in obscurity in 1880.

The Dutch company that originally bought his patent went on to become part of Unilever, manufacturer of that great-great-grandchild of oleomargarine: something called “spread.”

Month of H8: H8ers Gotta Eat

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

June is a big month in the life of Henry VIII. He was born on June 28th, his first wedding was on June 11, and he divorced his fourth wife on June 24th. In his honor we’re publishing blog posts inspired by his life and times.

When you first think of Henry VIII, you undoubtedly think of his many wives. The next thing you think about is his voracious appetite.

In Henry’s day, much of what we consider to be healthy food – vegetables and multi-grain bread for example – were considered to be peasant food. Royalty ate meat, mostly game. And a royal feast would include meat items that seem completely foreign to a modern diner, such as baked lampreys, grilled beaver tails, roasted swan, and beef lungs, to name just a few.

Water was considered to be unhealthy, so alcohol such as ale and sweetened, watery wine were the beverages of choice. A gallon of wine a day was pretty standard for your average Tudor.

Here’s a fascinating clip of historian Dr. Lucy Worsley recreating Henry’s weekly shopping. You’ll be amazed he made it to the age of 55.