Monday, January 5, 2015

Astro Doughnuts at the 2015 NHL Winter Classic


Though we have been to many games individually, my brother and I have been to only three Chicago Blackhawks games together. The first was Round 1, Game 5 of the 2010 Playoffs against the Nashville Predators when Patrick Kane's shorthanded tying goal with 13.6 seconds left in regulation "charted [the] course for the Cup." It was my first hockey game and turned me into an instant fan. The second was Round 2, Game 7  of the 2013 Playoffs against the Detroit Red Wings where a denied goal in the third period resulted in a near riot until Brent Seabrook clenched the series in OT. Given that both of the Cup-clenching games in our lifetimes happened during away games, my brother reasons that we probably saw the two biggest games in recent Blackhawks history to have taken place at the Madhouse on Madison, United Center. It is only fitting that our third game together take place elsewhere, and what an event it was: the annual New Year's Day NHL Winter Classic outdoor match-up. In 2015, the game took place in Washington, D.C. at Nationals Park, my second favorite ballpark after Wrigley Field.

The day began early, thanks to my brother's wise insistence that we get there with plenty of time to enjoy the pre-game festivities. We wandered around a fan zone full of giveaways (foam hockey stick hats!) and numerous shoot-the-puck challenges (long, long lines!) while a ska cover band played bouncy tunes (horns!). While the home team Washington Capitals had larger representation among the fans, there was no shortage of Blackhawks jerseys making their way through the crowd--and not just my custom "17 SECONDS" jersey. (Man, watching that video never gets old.)

The only downside of getting there early, I bemoaned, was that we wouldn't be able to try one of the places in D.C.'s burgeoning doughnut and fried chicken scene, the most notable of which seem to be Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken and Golden Brown Delicious. Neither were near Nats Park, anyway, but a glutton can dream. Imagine my whooping delight when my brother discovered an Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken food truck in the fan zone. Bless Quenneville's mustache, it was a Winter Classic miracle!

Looking at the abbreviated menu--a choice of three doughnuts and one sandwich option with multiple sauce choices--we settled on a Crème Brûlée doughnut, a Vanilla Glazed doughnut and two of the sandwiches, mine served with sriracha-mayo, both served on a savory doughnut (read: fried dough with no sweetening glaze). The Crème Brûlée was an obvious winner, featuring burnt sugar coating the top of a stylish square doughnut and a tasty custard filling. (Astro's style and full menu remind me of NYC's fabulous Doughnut Plant, where they also feature square doughnuts with filling, plus Crème Brûlée and PB&J doughnuts.) Speaking with southern-born authority, the fried chicken was excellent, though I wish I'd have spiced up the savory doughnut bun with the Old Bay seasoning they offered. I'd eat at their food again without hesitation and will definitely want to try the other flavors, savory and sweet. And, hopefully, I can try Golden Brown Delicious next time I'm in D.C.

The rest of our Winter Classic experience was incredible, up until the very end when it came crashing down like so many complimentary seat cushions being thrown onto a baseball from the stands. But other than that slight, it was a great third game in my brother and I's run of fantastic Chicago Blackhawks experiences together. Go Hawks!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Freezer Favs: Denali's Bear Claw

Exit, in pursuit of bear.
While this blog is primarily a fan of local scoop shops, it acknowledges that sometimes a person just wants to stay in for the night. That being said, this is one of my Freezer Favorites.

• • •

Pick up any ice cream brand that distributes half gallon sizes and you'll discover they have some variation of Moose Tracks, be it the real thing or a knockoff variation aligning itself with a different quadruped. One can tell the "real thing" by the distinct Moose Tracks logo, which stays the same no matter which company is making it. This logo is trademarked to Denali Flavors ice cream, the Michigander brand that originated the flavor seemingly inspired by the appearance of mud on snow after a certain antlered animal's amblings. The company licenses the Moose Tracks name and ingredients to numerous dairies and labels. The same is true, though to a much lesser extent, of a few other of Denali's flavors, including Caramel Caribou, the first triple caramel ice cream I ever encountered. But one of Denali's flavors is greater than them all. It is in fact my favorite of half gallon flavors, a rare flavor I do not grow impatient with when it lingers longer in my freezer than the typical two-or-three time use pint.

Denali's Bear Claw is a dark chocolate ice cream with a caramel swirl and chocolate covered cashews. As I've said many times before, most chocolate ice cream does not taste like chocolate; it tastes like chocolate ice cream, essentially cocoa powder in cream. This flavor serves its function, but doesn't scratch the chocolate itch we chocolate connoisseurs are known to have. So when one finds an ice cream that defies this expectation, offering a darker, richer flavor, it is worthy of note. Bear Claw is one of these ice cream flavors. And layered in are sticky caramel swirls to add some counterpoint to the dark chocolate melody, punctuated by the percussive texture of the salty-sweet chocolate covered cashews. I really wish this flavor were licensed as widely as Moose Tracks because it deserves a wider audience.

Denali's Bear Claw, I salute you.