The Internet is full of evil lying people. Not everywhere, of course. Just on those sites who raise your hopes, then dash them down, removing any hope of happiness for the rest of your life. That’s right. Dunkin’ Donuts, I’m talking to you.

It really started at the supermarket. I’ve mentioned before Gelson’s policy of featuring an item, making me fall in love with it, then immediately discontinuing it. This time it was Ridder cheese. It’s a great cheese with a slightly nutty flavor, soft but not quite spreadable. On crackers, with a glass of wine–lovely. I didn’t panic when Gelson’s discontinued it–after all, I’ve been down this road before. Searched all the big stores in LA. At Ralph’s I asked if they carried it. After much consultation, the answer was no. Except there were four packages on the shelf. I’m no fool, I took all four. Life was good. Continue reading

Drying Out in the Desert

It’s not often I get on a health kick. But now and then, I get a little burst of enthusiasm. I recently took a look at my life and decided to try and improve my nutrition. No, I won’t be giving up mashed potatoes. Or donuts, if I could find any decent ones. I decided to go right the for the big one, the one they said I couldn’t do. I decided to give up Diet Coke.
Not that it would be easy. I know where every fast food restaurant in Los Angeles is, and how much the biggest Diet Coke costs, including tax. Your Super Quencher will be $1.61 at Jack in the Box. Extra-large (ask for “the 44-oz.”) is the same at Carl’s Jr., except occasionally they bump the price back to $1.50 for some reason. Don’t bother with McDonald’s unless it’s summer–the rest of the time they only have large, not extra large. I have been known to choose my cars based largely on the quality and quantity of the cup holders available. Sorry, new Volvo convertible–you won’t be coming home with me. In other words, I like my Diet Coke. Continue reading

Fruitcake Lies

After a friend confided that she loves fruitcake, I decided to make Martha Stewart’s fruitcake for her for Christmas. I like a daunting task or two around the holidays. And I’ve had success with Martha before–one year I made her caramels from scratch. I’d never made candy before and I was renting a house with an ill-equipped kitchen. But, except for a dicey moment when the basset raced past while I was juggling a big tray of hot candy, everything went just fine. I was ready to move on to fruitcake.

Let me just say this: Martha Stewart is a big fat liar. Oh, sure, in person she’s probably very blonde and charming and offers you fabulous appetizers on linen napkins made from flax she grew herself. But her cookbook? Don’t trust it as far as you can throw it. (No, I don’t know exactly how far that is. But I’m sure Martha can tell you, to the smallest fraction of an inch. Or in metric.) 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