Barely Yellowstone

I wish I could blame this one on some sort of substance abuse. Alas, no. Not on my part or the bears’.

It all really started with the pet psychic (and how many times has THAT been true in my life!). I’ve been traveling a lot lately. A LOT. I’ve been out of town at least one week a month for the past year. It’s been great fun. Maui. Belize (twice). Mongolia. In fact, I was in Wyoming for three weeks, came home for five days, then went to Mongolia for three weeks. Fun for me. The dogs, however, were not amused.

The pet psychic told me Johnnie ChowBoy has been acting up because I’d been gone too much. She told me he wanted to go on my next vacation. I tried to picture him in Mongolia, chasing the yaks. Not gonna happen, I told him. Continue reading

Roamin’ in Wyoming

The Jackson Hole Writers Conference is held every year before the 4th of July weekend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This is about the most beautiful place you can be in the summer. Both Teton Park and Yellowstone are minutes away, the bison graze at the side of the road, and the town of Jackson is small but friendly. There’s good barbecue at Bubba’s and you can sit on a saddle at The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. There’s a parade on the 4th. And the Jaycees put on one of (if not the) largest private fireworks shows in the country.

One year the Jaycees set fire to the hotel we were staying in, during their fireworks safety training program. They apologized (which I guess would be the correct etiquette here). They said we shouldn’t worry during the actual fireworks, because they’d have Jaycees running up and down the mountain with big bags of water on their backs, watching out for sparks. Maybe they should have had a few at the hotel. At the SAFETY training program. The hotel manager said he had no idea they would have anything flammable on the premises. (Did I mention that it was the FIREWORKS safety program?) Continue reading

A Girl and Her Grill

I read an interview with Chris Schlesinger, the owner of East Coast Grill in Boston. He has an infectious enthusiasm for cooking with fire, so I bought his two books (co-written with John Willoughby) called, “License to Grill,” and “The Thrill of the Grill.” I liked what I read. He writes about the long tradition of fire-based cooking, the chemical reasons grilled food tastes so good, and the health benefits. But he forgot the most important thing about grilling–I really like to play with fire. I was convinced.

Let me say, in retrospect, Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend may not be the best time to go shopping for a grill. Barbecues Galore on Pico was packed, you couldn’t even get in the parking lot, but the staff there was friendly and very helpful. They asked me what I wanted and suggested a nice gas grill–just hit the switch and it’s ready to go, plus the grill level is adjustable. But I agreed with Mr. Schlesinger, that the relative convenience just didn’t outweigh the joy of cooking with real fire from real wood. Plus his theory that you could create different heat levels around the grill area by moving the charcoal around made a lot of sense to me. I’m a California gal, grilling is practically my destiny. I turned up my nose at those oh-so-easy, any-fool-can-use-’em appliances.. Not for me. I picked out the biggest, fire-engine-red Weber they had. And all the accessories. And a bunch of charcoal. Continue reading

Hot Diggity!

It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. It started out simply. I was on my way down Sepulveda Boulevard near Palms, when I first saw Hot Diggity Dogs. Sure, they specialize in hot dogs, and very fine hot dogs they are. But there was more. Much more.

A while back they started serving barbecue. You may remember that I enjoy a little barbecue now and then. So I was anxious to investigate. Let me just say right now that the barbecue beef sandwich is tasty but a little sloppy. In fact, it’s almost impossible to eat while speeding down the freeway driving with one hand and hoping the Jaguar’s steering doesn’t fall out again. If you would rather not arrive at your destination covered with barbecue sauce, and most days I would not, pull over for this one. The beef ribs are good, too. However, the baby back ribs are a life-changing experience.
I started to drop by once a week. Okay, twice. It’s not really near anywhere I usually go, but it didn’t matter. I’d find a reason to be in that part of town. I always ordered the same thing–half slab of ribs, no fries, side of potato salad. (The fries are good, but they put them under the ribs and they get all soggy from the sauce. Never mind, the folks at Hot Diggity Dogs are culinary geniuses, not packaging specialists. Besides, the potato salad is worth a taste anyway.) Since I’m the only one that orders that way, they started to notice.

It started small, an extra friendly greeting and a smile (the folks at Hot Diggity Dogs are extremely professional and gracious by nature). A “hello, nice to see you again.” Then a few extra ribs. Not getting charged for the side. One day I pulled away to discover they had given me a double order without charging for it. Clearly, it was time for a thank you. So I found out the manager’s name (Mr. Cornelius Bailey) and wrote a letter thanking him and his staff for the excellent job they do.

Now things got serious. When I picked up my order, they’d tell me “Mr. Bailey says hello!” Sometimes the kitchen staff would write nice notes on my styrofoam container. One day I came by on my way home from a difficult trip, and I got a double order with “Special Customer” on the styrofoam. So I had to do something.

Miss Hennessy is known in Basset circles for her modeling abilities (Basset Rescue of Southern California has a complete line of her greeting cards for sale–buy a few and support a wonderful cause!). All it took was a paper hat, four plain hot dogs, and my digital camera. And, of course, a celebrity endorsement.

You can see this photo just inside the front door of Hot Diggity Dogs. I get greeted by name now as soon as I start ordering. I still get extra food and personal greetings on the styrofoam now and then. Then I sent them a card and a tin of popcorn for Christmas. The next time I was there, I noticed they forgot to give me a knife–very unusual lapse of detail for HDD. Then I found out it’s because they are now cutting my ribs for me. Either this is a whole new level of service for favored customers, or they are no longer willing to trust me with sharp implements. Too close to call. Run, don’t walk–Hot Diggity Dogs.

Hot Diggity Dogs
3470 Sepulveda Boulevard
West Los Angeles, California 90034
Call for hours. They’re closed Sunday. They deserve the day off.

Oh, no! R.I,P. Hot Diggity Dogs. One day I went by and…they were gone. It’s now a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Like Los Angeles needs another coffee place. We can only hope Mr. Bailey and his dedicated staff are well and planning to open another wonderful restaurant somewhere near us, very soon.

Copyright 2000-2002 by Janine Smith. Not to be reproduced or distributed without permission

Gimme the Potatoes and No One Gets Hurt

I can quit any time I want to. Really.

Okay, I admit I made a little scene at the grocery store. It certainly wasn’t my first embarrassing moment at Gelson’s. It wasn’t even my first grocery-related trauma of the day.

Several months ago Ralph’s ran out of Frosty Paws. Frosty Paws is a non-dairy ice-cream-like frozen treat for dogs. It comes in the little white plastic cups with the cardboard top you pull off. It’s supposed to be like ice cream, but the dogs react more like it’s doggie heroin–one taste and they’re hooked. We had exhausted all the local Ralphs’ supplies, and they said they were going to reorder but they never did. By the way, my assistant, Paula, really enjoys having to ask the clerk if they have Frosty Paws, then spend ten minutes explaining…. We were down to the last two in the freezer. The weather was getting warmer. It was time to step up the search. Continue reading