U.S. Open: Chomp on a Hotdog

Hotdogs and sporting events belong together, so when I went to my first U.S. Open tennis match, I knew I’d have to see what the Arthur Ashe Stadium had to offer. Given a delay caused by matches earlier in the day, the Nadal/Gabashvili pairing started late, so I wasn’t able to take my first bite until darkness had descended over Queens.

I left my seat and ambled over to the concession as the players battled into the night to see what a U.S. Open hotdog would taste like, and I found three alternatives I could use to satisfy my hotdog jones. There was an Italian sausage, which would have been too upscale for me if it hadn’t spent what looked like an eternity under the heating lamp. That left traditional hotdogs in two sizes: regular and foot-long. Obviously, I chose the latter … wouldn’t you?

Carefully balancing my cardboard tray – laden with my two foot-longs, water and a beer (Heineken Light, my feeble attempt to make sure there was something healthy on the tray) over to the condiment counter, where I added ketchup and mustard.


%Gallery-101120%Back at my seat, I took my first bite. Simply maneuvering the monstrosity to my mouth took two hands, and I had to be careful to ensure my shirt remained clear of the red and yellow adorning my dogs. As two models of physical fitness sprinted, grunted and heaved under the lights on the court below, I pierced the casing of an American tradition.

I was not disappointed.

The Arthur Ashe Stadium hotdog was exactly as unimpressive as I’d thought it would be. It didn’t quite snap when I bit, and the temperature was only lukewarm, in part my fault because of a detour to the smoking area. The taste wasn’t bad, though. Some stadium dogs can resemble warm bologna too closely, but this one was the real deal. I munched mercilessly and quickly.

While the U.S. Open’s hotdogs don’t compare to those I’ve had in Iceland, Montreal or Antigua, they get the job done when you’re baking in the hot city sun (or if you’re suffering through a sweltering New York night). It’s not the taste that matters when your back is pressed against the hard stadium seats. Rather, it’s the fact that you’re participating in a uniquely American institution that’s important. If you’re among the masses headed to New York for the U.S. Open, be sure to grab a dog –and make it a foot-long!

[Photos by Laurie DePrete]

Disclosure: I was a guest of the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, Andrew Hickey and Laurie DePrete. My opinions of these Queens hotdogs were not influenced in any way by the Caribbean destination.

Half-Time Pizza: What Boston eats for breakfast

The allure of Boston junk food can be almost impossible to resist. For every Radius, Grill 23 and Abe & Louie’s there is a dive of some kind offering drunk grub, fat fare or belt-buster. On my recent trip back to Boston, I hunted out my second favorite breakfast joint in the city: Half-Time Pizza (the top spot goes to Fill-a-Buster on Beacon Hill for creating the greatest bacon, egg and cheese on an English muffin I’ve ever had).

Half-Time is known to anyone who frequents Bruins or Celtics games, being situated on Causeway, right across the street from the TD Center. Great for pizza and beer after a game, Half-Time’s morning prowess should not be overlooked. While you can get what many would call “traditional” breakfast meals at Half-Time, for me, it’s always been about the pizza – even at 7 AM.

I discovered Half-Time back in the days when the internet was new and companies like CMGi were relevant. I used to commute into North Station, stop at the pizza shop for two slices (served folded into a paper bag) and dash off to catch the Orange Line to Sullivan Square. It is quite possibly the most appalling breakfast one can imagine, but I found it to be pure bliss.

Since leaving Boston in 2004, I’ve made Half-Time a mandatory stop on every trip back, schlepping over from a Back Bay hotel just to savor that delicious pizza, with a slightly tangy sauce. The shops in the North End may get all the notoriety, and Santarpio’s in East Boston is a favorite for reason, but Half-Time deserves its place in the Boston pizza pantheon. To this day, I count it among the best breakfast spots in the city.

Gadlinks for Tuesday, 1.19.2010

Yesterday, January 18th was supposedly the most depressing day of the year. Congrats, you made it through. Now here are some more travel tidbits to cheer you up!

More Gadlinks here.

Travel, alcohol consumption up, according to TripAdvisor

We’ve seen travel predictions all over, such as Memorial Day travel will be up with the summer down. Everyone’s weighing in. The latest from TripAdvisor is that little has changed in a year. Actually, this isn’t TripAdvisor‘s opinion so much as that of more than 1,800 of its readers in the United States. More than a quarter of those taking vacations plan to make them last from a week to 10 days, with 21 percent upping the ante to 11 days to two weeks. Nearly 20 percent are going for up to three weeks.

Just over half of TripAdvisor’s respondents (56 percent) are taking the same amount of vacation they did last year, while 7 percent will spend more time on recreation than they did last summer.

At least these 1,800 respondents are still interested in having a good time. Thirty-six percent of them are more likely to down a bit more booze on the road … and 28 percent exercise less, with 25 percent eating more junk food. Ice cream is the favorite food (44 percent), and margaritas are the favorite drink (44 percent).

This is only one way that we change our behavior while traveling. Respondents also connect to the internet less (63 percent), watch less television (56 percent) and return fewer calls and e-mails (52 percent).

The top destination this summer is the beach, with 58 percent of respondents ready to get some sand in their toes. Hogging beach chairs will piss them off, though. Thirty-two percent see this behavior while they travel often – nine percent always.

Still have doubts? Not Michele Perry, senior vice president of global communications for TripAdvisor: “Recession be damned, Americans are preparing to pack up the beach bags and boogie boards en masse this summer.”

Los Angeles Slowing the Fast Food Nation?

Perhaps you’ve noticed that many trends in the U.S. either start in California or New York and then work their way slowly towards the center. Fashion and food come to mind. Once, I wrote an article on fall fashion in Ohio and did a bit of research by talking to designers and buyers to find out what will trickle to the Midwest from the runways in Milan and Paris. Basically, I was told, designers pick up on trends that will sell in New York and California and then from those will see what will sell in Ohio, but often the designs are more subdued versions.

Here’s a trend that might be starting in Los Angeles that I don’t envision getting many Ohions fired up any time soon. In some parts of Los Angeles the number of fast food restaurants has become so alarming that there is a proposed moritorium on new fast food joints in South Central LA . According to those that want to slow down, it’s hard to eat healthy when fast food is almost at every corner. The debate about whether government should regulate food choices is on. There are some that say if the only options in the neighborhood are fast food, then how are people to eat healthier? (see article) Perhaps, it’s not the fast food that is really the problem, it’s the not enough choices.

Of course, not all fast food is exactly the same. My LA fast food favorite is Astroburger where the garden burgers make me feel healthier with each bite. The Zagat Survey, Los Angeles lists four other fast food favorite options. One of them is In-N-Out Burger that has several locations. The hamburgers in this photo by jslander on Flickr are from one of them.