Saturday, July 11, 2009

Event Food Poll Final Results

The ‘event’ food poll closed with a flurry of voting near the end that put ball game dogs ahead of gyros by a single vote. The two together compromised slightly over seventy five percent of total votes. When I posted this poll I was thinking about which food is made better by the event part of the equation, and I think those voting understood that by how they voting. Ribs at the cook-off aren’t really all that much better than you can get at a variety of restaurants around town. Meatballs at The Feast are good and all, but a letdown after walking 3 miles to get there and forking out 8 bucks for them. Popcorn at the movies is such a classic combination I would have guessed it to have garnered more votes, but in reality fresh popcorn at home is so much better tasting. Even the stuff out of the microwave, don’t even get started with the idea of fresh butter or parmesan cheese.

The gyro has a relatively short history. The earliest interpretation arrived with a cook from Constantinople who landed in Greece during the 1950’s, with the first gyro shops showing up some 20 years later. The gyro’s origin can be traced back to the Turkish doner kebab, which originated in Bursa in the 19th century. The international gyro can be described as meat, tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce served on a pita. In the United States gyros are almost always served using a processed meat combining beef and lamb. The introduction of the gyro to the US occurred through Chicago in 1968. Since then the iconic spinning cone of gyro meat has spread coast to coast. Recently, pre-cut loafs of gyro meat have started to become popular as no special equipment is needed to cook them. All the while the classic tzatziki sauce of cucumber and yogurt has stayed the same.

In my opinion freshness is what makes a good gyro. The tomato and onion need to be crisp. The meat should have a sear, but not dried out. The tzatziki should be thick, and well seasoned. I’ve become a big fan of the gyro at The Mars Bar in Lakewood. From what I can see they slice warmed meat off the cone then sear it on a flat top to get really nice carmalization, and cut to order tomato and onion. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Unfortunately this kind of care can’t be given to the hundreds of gyros made at any Greek festival, which is why it perplexed me the adoration for the Greek festival gyro.

The idea of putting a sausage between bread and eating it must have came only seconds after the first sausage and loaf of bread where in the same room. Let’s just assume that happened a long long time ago. Fast forward to 1870, on Coney Island where a German immigrant began selling small sausages served on a sliced roll from his small shop, not long after that in 1893 a businessman named Chris von der Ahe, owned the St. Louis Browns, a brewery, and sausage shop introducing the trinity of sport concessions for years to come.

There are only two instances where I, and most people think to themselves, “Wow, lets get a hot dog.” They are while at a cook out, and at a baseball game. While freshness was important for the gyro, a hot dog can take a beating and keep delivering. If you are into the ball game, the dog comes to you. I remember when the vendors carried around small boxes filled with water and hot dogs and put them on the bread just before handing it to you. These days hot dogs come pre-wrapped, but seem to hold up rather well considering. A regional difference in the topping of hot dogs varies enormously. Luckily, in Cleveland we keep it rather simple, start with a hot dog, top it with stadium mustard, and raw onions, that’s it.

The connection between the hot dog and a baseball game has a 115 year history. A hot dog is a weird bland sausage on soft bland bread, unless you are at a ball game, then it’s something special, something you can’t do without. People take pride in their dogs, from their stadiums, just like their teams. Besides, shopping for hot dogs is a crap shoot; you have to match the number of dogs to the number of buns, not to mention you have to buy 8 of them at one time. Now that’s a commitment.

All the little facts and dates came from Wikipedia.

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