Monday, 12 March 2012

#BlogEATblog at Vibe Bar with Big Apple Hot Dogs

As you've undoubtedly heard all about London's famous Big Apple Hot Dogs and their equally famous purveyor Abiye Cole, I'll keep the intro short.  Abiye has been selling a variety of naturally-encased torpedos of meaty bliss for a little over a year and a half now, and he has gained a well-deserved substantial following.  

To accompany his new Sunday pitch at the Vibe Bar on Brick Lane, he came up with an idea: invite food-obsessives of all backgrounds to make a topping for these ethereal dogs.  Thus #blogEATblog was born.  I was fortunate enough to grab a slot on Sunday, March 11 alongside Rosie (@_RosieT), Chris (@chrisgreen) and Paul (@PaulLomax).

Based on the reports of the previous weekend's 1-2 punch of cold and wet, we were incredibly fortunate to have the polar opposite in terms of weather, with temperatures hovering above 15 and the late winter sun shining brightly, unencumbered by any typical thick grey cloud.  We brushed away the cobwebs with a beer or two whilst the hot dog cooking began in earnest.  By 1pm, it was time to sample and serve.

Pictured below are the four entries (clockwise from top left): My bourbon-bacon marmalade with crispy fried leeks, Rosie's chilli & cheese, Chris's which he artfully tweeted as a "relish of onions, red & green chillis, gherkins, damson sauce & 10yr old Ardbeg scotch" topped with crispy bacon bits and Paul's poutine (cheese curds, gravy and crushed crackers).  

The chilli was made with minced beef and had a sweetish edge to it that the salty cheese balanced out very well.  The damson relish was also quite sweet with a nice hint of acidity from the gherkins, and yet again it had a perfect counterbalance in the form of Jebus's greatest creation, bacon.  And finally, Paul had declared that his untested poutine would either be "really fucking good or really fucking bad."  Ladies and gents, it fell firmly in the former category.  [Edited: Thanks to Paul for pointing out my idiotic error!] The cheese curds had a flavour reminiscent of mozzarella, with a firm consistency and a lovely salty finish.  Add some gravy and crunchy cracker bits, and you've got yourself a damn fine topping that worked very well with the Big Frank I tasted it on.

So yes, in all honesty, I really enjoyed them all.  Including mine, if I do humbly say so myself.  I had done a small test batch a couple of weeks ago and managed to test a little in situ at the Old Street stand; so I knew that it wasn't too rotten a combo.  The leeks were a last-minute addition for a bit of texture, but damn if they weren't a touch moreish on their own.  I thought if even one person enjoyed it, then I'd consider it a success....and I think there were in fact two.

I managed to pull myself away about 6 hours later, having enjoyed an absolutely fantastic afternoon.  So many thanks go to Abiye for thinking it up and organising the whole thing, and to my fellow contestants as well as everyone who came down for a dog, a drink and a bit of discourse.  I can highly recommend it as an ideal Sunday afternoon, although any time you are able to get one of those dogs you should seize the opportunity.  

Bourbon-bacon marmalade
(I made 4x this recipe, and it was a massive amount - probably 2.5 litres worth).

1 lb smoked streaky bacon, chopped into 3/4" pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
¼ cup bourbon (I'm partial to Jack, but if you can go higher end then by all means)
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 cup brewed coffee

hot sauce of choice
fresh ground black pepper

1. Fry the bacon in small batches until it's crisp (don't overdo it).  Drain the pieces on a plate or tray lined with paper towel.
2. Using the same pan/pot, fry the onion and garlic in the rendered bacon fat over medium heat until the onion becomes translucent.  
3. Add the bacon, onion and garlic together in a heavy bottomed pot (Le Creuset is ideal) with all of the remaining ingredients bar the hot sauce and pepper.  If you've been using the same pot from the beginning, get rid of any excess bacon fat first.
4. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to low, keeping it at a steady gentle simmer.
5. Continue to simmer for 2-2½ hours, giving it a good stir every 20 minutes or so.  If it starts to dry out too much, add a splash of water.  If it's too wet, simmer it a bit longer.
6. Let it sit off of the heat for a little while, and then transfer the contents to a food processor with the standard blade fitted.
7. Give it a few short pulses to standardise the consistency, but don't overdo it - this should be a bit chunky, not smooth.
8. Add some hot sauce (I used a touch of The Ribman's HF) and lots of black pepper.  Taste.  Taste again.  Taste a 3rd time on a dog with the leeks.

Crispy Fried Leeks

Leeks - use the white and pale green parts only
plain flour

1. Cut the leeks into 2-inch sections, then halve them lengthwise.  Cut the sections into thin strips.
2. Put the strips in a colander and rinse them well under hot water (this takes a bit of the harshness of the flavour away).
3. Dry them well, either with paper towels or in a salad spinner.
4. Add the spices to the flour, mix it up with a fork and toss the leeks in the mixture.  
5. Shake off any excess flour and deep (or shallow) fry the leeks in 180°C vegetable oil for about 3-4 minutes until they reach a deep brown colour.
6. Remove them from the oil to a plate/tray lined with paper towels, season well with salt, and then commence stuffing them uncontrollably into your mouth.

Big Apple Hot Dogs
239 Old Street
London EC1V 9EY (map)

T: 07989 387 441
Tues - Fri: 12-6pm

Sun @ Vibe Bar: 12ish onwards
91 Brick Lane
London E1 6QL (map)
T: 020 7247 3479

Also usually 1 day/week at Eat St., King's Cross

edit: added a better description of Chris's relish from his own words instead of my inadequate ones.


  1. I really hope you meant "former" not "latter" re my untested Poutine! :-)

    (I didn't spot that on the first read)

  2. I can't believe I missed that! Edited with my humble apologies for the slip ;)

  3. Your topping was amazing - I never knew that deep fried Leeks could taste so damned good... was snacking on them like mad!

    Jools (Lady Velo) x

    1. So glad you liked them! It was actually the first time I had made them, and they might just be my go-to party snack from now on....

      Loved the Cycle Style pics btw; they were ace ;)