June 14, 2014

US excursion 2014: waiting for the Do(u)g

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Day 2 in Chicago, and I'm skipping breakfast.  I rolled out of bed, cleaned myself up, and hopped into a taxi to my first destination this morning: Hot Doug's.

Hot Doug's is one of Chicago's most famous food destinations.  Doug Sohn is famous for his gourmet hot dogs, and famously defied Chicago's ban on foie gras by continuing to sell his foie gras dogs.  Of course, the ban has since been repealed, to the delight of diners like myself.  Anyway, Doug announced last month that he was closing the place in October, so of course it means that I'd have to hit this place during this trip.  And today would be the only time I could fit it in.

I got off my cab around 9:50 a.m., about 40 minutes before the place opens at 10:30 a.m.  As I walked towards the back of the line that had already formed outside, I counted at least 60 people in front of me.  Fook mi... I guess I'm in for a long wait.

I've said numerous times that I don't line up for food - certainly nothing that requires more than a 15-minute wait - and it's true that there are very few things in this world that I would be willing to line up for.  But this was different.  These were supposed to be some of the best encased meats around, and he was closing.  So I dutifully stood in line and waited... until the doors opened the people started moving in... and waited... until I walked through the door... and stood in the line to the counter...

While I stood in line and waited, one of the staff would come out periodically and let us know approximate wait times at various positions in the line.  On the way back into the restaurant, he said something about having lost a few people this year, and warned that if we were feeling dizzy in the heat or just plain feeling fat, we should call it quits and go home.  Life is more precious than spending hours waiting in line, because after all, "It's only a hot dog!"  Everyone ignores him.

All in all, it took me a little more than 2 hours to get up to the counter and come face to face with Doug himself.  I placed my order, got myself a drink, and found a seat at the counter next to the window.  A couple of minutes later, my dogs arrived.

Foie gras and Sauternes duck sausage with truffle aioli, foie gras mousse and fleur de sel - the signature sausage.  I forgot to ask for toppings, so I was getting it "as is".  The duck sausage itself was very, very good.  In fact, I don't remember having a better, tastier sausage other than the ones where my friends made it themselves.  I think the Sauternes definitely gave the duck meat more depth in terms of flavors, like the way Mei Kuei Lu (玫瑰露) adds a little something to Cantonese sausages.

The foie gras mousse was OK, and the truffle aioli was nice, although the fleur de sel meant that a couple of mouthfuls were suddenly a little saltier.  Overall this was a success, and I can understand why this is one of the best sellers.

Bacon and cheddar smoked elk sausage with smoky bacon sauce and white cheddar cheese curds - I picked this because I've never had elk before.  Well, I couldn't really tell what was special about elk, because the rosemary and other herbs and spices in the sausage probably overpowered any distinctive flavors.  Having said that, this was still pretty good thanks to the smoky bacon and the pile of cheddar on top.

Handcut duck fries - I knew I wouldn't be able to finish a whole order, but it would be a shame to come all the way and not try them.  They were pretty tasty for sure.

I took away the remainder of the fries plus an extra foie gras dog.  Mo' Unni was arriving later today, and I hope she'll like it.

I made my way back into town, hopped on to the L and went around the loop, and went shopping on the Magnificent Mile.  No, I wasn't shopping for myself, but I had three separate missions for friends.  Unfortunately, I came up empty on the first two... since they were apparently incredibly hard to find.

Thankfully, I managed to hit the Vosges Haut Chocolate boutique and grab what my friend wanted.  Of course, if I make the effort to track down a local chocolatier, I might as well pick up a few more things for myself and other friends.  Well... I came away with a pretty nice haul.

But now it was time to go back to the hotel... Dinner at Alinea awaits!

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