March 15, 2006

A fine wine for fine weenies

Cru isn’t the sort of place where you expect to see people eating hot dogs. The serene, white-tablecloth restaurant in NY’s Greenwich Village boasts one of the greatest wine lists in the U.S., with a cellar of some 60,000 bottles and a two-volume wine list. Chef Shea Gallante, formerly of Bouley, has developed a reputation for his array of crudo, small portions of delicately seasoned raw fish, as well as intricate arrangements of seasonal food.

But one Friday night, manager and chief sommelier Robert Bohr did indeed begin doling out hot dogs. That seemed pretty funny to my friend and me until we caught a whiff. These weren’t your pale pink wieners that had been languishing in warm water on some New York street corner. Nor were they the much-better dogs seen glistening on the rotisseries at Papaya King. These were golden brown, bacon-wrapped, deep-fried hot dogs.

We were the last guests in the restaurant, and Bohr must have felt guilty, noting our greedy glances, because he offered us one, explaining that he orders them in for the staff from Crif Dogs, a hot dog restaurant across town, after particularly busy Friday nights. Some chefs would be incensed that their staff was ordering out, but chef Shea Gallante himself was out of the kitchen like a shot when he heard that the Crif dogs arrived.

Bohr pulled out a Rhône red from a vintage he hadn’t tasted in a while, and, as a gesture of thanks for the hot dog, we shared the 1969 grüner veltliner we’d bought in an insane fit of grandiosity brought on by the wine’s relatively cheap price and a recent promotion. As chef and staff sat around and talked about the hot dogs, the night, and the wines, it no longer seemed so weird to be eating hot dogs in a fancy restaurant and drinking exceptional wines. All these people were there because they are obsessed with great cuisine, which is something price can’t define. And great food is complemented by great wine. Hot dogs included.

This article first appeared in the Denver Post.

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