With Major League Baseball opting to hold its season sans fans, the warm fuzzy feelings associated with America's pastime are missing from many a baseball fan's roster. No seventh inning stretch, no taking anybody out to the ball game or mingling in a crowd with peanuts and Crackerjacks. No husky dudes with enormous personalities marching up and down the stadium walkways peddling ice cold beer and hot dogs. And in the especially gripping absence of the iconic beer and dog duo, what is one to do?
Happy hour at Element: Steak. Seafood. Pasta is one option. Though the restaurant's full name drives Microsoft Word crazy when used in a sentence and its ambiance does not quite capture the energy of a jubilant crowd, Chef Nils Tarantik has managed to sneak an item into Element's happy hour menu that, like many of his creations, elevates the simple into the sublime. "I'm almost tired of saying it," he jokes, "but my whole thing here is simple elegance." The American Wagyu Hotdog ($7.50) is Tarantik's homage to the hot dog varieties found all over the Northeast, especially the Jersey-style (typically deep fried and topped with sautéed onions, bell peppers and sometimes potatoes).
Tarantik scores the Snake River Farms hot dog before deep frying it, which helps accentuate the snap of the casing when it's bitten into. Of course, one hardly needs a sensible reason to deep fry anything anyway. The dog is nestled into a buttered Hawaiian hot dog roll, then topped with a three pepper and onion relish. As a side, Tarantik went with a tasty slaw whose "mystery" ingredient ought not surprise anyone aware of his Swedish roots (dill). Again, without a packed stadium bustling beneath a cloudless blue sky, a completely faithful recreation of the baseball game vibe is hard to approximate.
But food is about impressions, and with eyes closed and a cold beer (in this case, Oberon wheat ale), one can almost hear the crack of wood on leather.