Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Raging Controversies Of Our Times


I played hooky yesterday.

I realized that I had a bunch of unused sick days, so Adam, who is already on summer vacation, came home with me from his Father's Day ball game Sunday, and we hung out.

Monday morning, I made my sick call ("cough, cough") and I fed him his favorite breakfast of Lox, white rice and french-cut green beans.

Afterward, we played a game of of Risk, and headed out to his favorite restaurant, Hot Doug's, just a few blocks away from our home. The picture at the top is of Adam with Doug Sohn, the owner.

Doug and his restaurant were in the news recently: the city of Chicago passed a ban on foie gras, and fined Doug $250 for serving it.

Hot Doug's is no ordinary hot dog joint. Sure, you can get a regular dog for a very reasonable price, which is what Adam prefers. But yesterday, I got the "Dave Kingman," a spicy Sante Fe chicken sausage, with everything (no bun-- I have celiac disease). Doug is a graduate of Kendall College, a highly-regarded local culinary school. He mixes gourmet cooking with his dogs-- for instance, a couple of days a week, he serves french fries cooked in duck fat. There was an alligator sausage on the specials menu yesterday.

Doug's "encased meat emporium" as he dubs it, was originally located near Roscoe and Western, about a half mile from where it is now. A few years ago, there was a fire within the building his business was located in, which closed him up for nearly a year. He was was smart enough to have "loss of business" insurance, and between that and the regular insurance, he could have walked away and worked for someone else. Instead, he opened up shop in a newer, less established location. And it worked. If you go by on the hottest day in the summer or the coldest day in the winter, people are literally lined up out the door to purchase their lunch there.

The city did not appreciate that he reopened his business, providing jobs and tax revenue for Chicago. They fined him $250 for his foie gras infraction-- and made Chicago the laughingstock of the world. Even our Mayor Daley publicly denounced the law and the decision-- he pointed out that there are far bigger problems in Chicago that the city council should be tackling.

As Adam and I talked to Doug yesterday-- Adam making his usual offer to buy Doug's restaurant-- I pointed out to Sohn that the New York Times had covered the story. Doug added that the International Herald Tribune had covered it, and told us, chuckling, that the city inspector who'd been made to go and cite Doug for the violation (Doug has the citation framed) had pointed out that Doug had gotten far more than $250 worth of publicity out of it.

Doug was quick to add, however, that this had not been his intent-- "Being a smartass was my intent. The publicity was an extra."

11 comments:

anandamide said...

bravo to doug. a credit to smartasses everywhere.

that hookey thing sounds great, i see a coughing phone call in my own future.

Big Orange said...

mmmm... There 'ent nuthin' fine-ah than feeding an entire CITY enuff rope to the point it hangs itself.

MMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!! $250 is prolly cheap at the price for such tastiness.

GETkristiLOVE said...

Geeze, you had me all excited there for a moment - I thought you said you played hockey.

Oh well, I'll still continue to read.

SamuraiFrog said...

Classic! I HAVE to go and eat there in the near future.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You didn't try the alligator sausage?

Princess Banter said...

"Being a smartass was my intent. The publicity was an extra." -- hahaha this is ace! I will steal this and one day say it to my boss :P

vikkitikkitavi said...

Duck fat is not the same as foie gras. Was the inspector just stupid, or what?

BTW, the process of preparing a duck to be foie gras is nasty nasty business. Good on Chicago for banning it. Some people also laughed when West Hollywood (which is its own city separate from LA) banned declawing pets. But in my opinion it's a tad arrogant to dismiss as frivolous any law that address the significant suffering of animals.

'Bubbles' said...

I didn't know about the dark side of foie gras. Interesting education here at JY's blog!!

It seems to me that there may be a fish or two bigger for our 'public servants' to fry, yes?

I tend to be a little more sympathetic to human health concerns than the comfort of ducks and geese, so I'm thinking the humans that are charged with protecting human health when eating at these establishments should prioritize their efforts toward humans. But hey, what do I know?

vikkitikkitavi said...

BTW, if anyone would like to see what it takes to make foie gras, feel free to check it out:
http://www.goveg.com/feat/foie/

I completely understand that banning foie gras might not be the most pressing issue of our time, but if you can do a simple thing to help get rid of a bad thing, I honestly don't see how anyone can ridicule or belittle that.

lulu said...

I love Dougs. I picked it as one of my top five restaurants when that tage was bouncing around...

Johnny Yen said...

Anandamide-
You have my blessing with the hookey thing.

Big Orange-
As a fellow educator, I'm sure you appreciate the finer points of bureaucrats looking to justify their existence.

Kristi-
I used to play a lot of hockey. Does that count?

Samurai-
The place is incredible. One thing I do miss from the old place though is that there was a lot more Cubs memorabilia in the old one.

Barbara-
I was tempted. I've had alligator jerky-- I'm not squeamish about trying new foods. I'll probably try it in the future.

Princess Banter--
It was a great line, wasn't it?

Vikki-
It wasn't the duck fat they had a problem with-- he's done that for years with no problem. It was the foie gras ban that irked people-- even people like me who are inclined to agree with it (I haven't eaten veal in decades for the same reason-- the cruelty in producing it).

I think that what irritated people was not just the fact that there are far more pressing issues-- my friend Mark, for instance, was murdered in front of his home, about three blocks from Doug's place, by some of the gang-bangers who brazenly run the streets. I think it was the fact that it was pushed through by Burt Natarus, the alderman of the richest part of the city-- his ward included the Gold Coast and part of Lincoln Park. He also tried to impose bans on skate-boarders and horse and buggies. He's looked at, city-wide, as a gadfly. I think, then, that the foie gras thing was the last straw for even people in his ward-- he was voted out in the last election.

Doug didn't even serve foie gras before the ban-- I think he was just incensed that the city would put this as a priority.

Regarding the de-clawing thing-- a pet-lover sold me on that one-- that it's as if you cut the last joint of our fingers off. Ouch! Yet, most cat lovers I know have done it. Both of our cats have their claws-- I have the scars to show for it.

Anon. Blogger--
Yeah, I got the impression that even the inspector was disgusted with having to enforce it.

I've dealt with restaurant health inspectors for, literally, decades, and have found the process nearly as maddening as yours with the pool thing. Inspectors change, and a new one will come in with completely arbitarary changes. It becomes comical.