article

09.23.11

Lights, Camera, Cocktails

Fueled by an inextinguishable love for Brad Pitt, we ventured beyond just cocktails this week. Off to Oakland for a "Moneyball"-themed twist on the shandy, Southeast Louisiana for a "Moneyball"-styled gourmet popcorn, and into the heart of Hollywood for a "Moneyball"-influenced hot dog.

Popcorn! Peanuts! Xanax!

Maybe only those first two items are usually sold at baseball games, but after seeing this gal get hit with a foul ball at a Houston Astros game last year, it’s no surprise one might want something to assuage feelings of anxiety before returning to the stadium as a spectator. But if we want to join the masses who will likely head out to catch Moneyball when it hits theaters this weekend, we’ll have to conquer our various and sundry fears, because Brad Pitt’s still so damn handsome at 47 that it scares us a little.

In Moneyball, the movie adaptation of Michael Lewis’s 2003 book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, Brad Pitt shows us how a cash-strapped baseball manager creates a spectacular team with limited means. So, keeping with the theme of trying new things, we’ll go beyond the usual cocktail-inspired-by-cinema concept this week, and use the story at the core of the movie to create twists on a few edible classics.

Hoping to fuse the traditional snacks sold at baseball games with the concept of making something one of a kind using easy-to-source ingredients, we found the husband and wife team of Richard and Lesley Capdebosq, who run the family-owned and operated Popcorn Bistro in Covington, La.

As any purveyor of popcorn can tell you, cooking and selling mass quantities of popped corn kernels and keeping them fresh is no easy feat. Heck, we can’t even microwave a bag of Orville Redenbacher without scorching the contents into a malodorous mess. Try keeping 153 different flavors of gourmet popcorn fresh—and cooking those batches with a labor-intensive proprietary flavor-infusion process and all-natural ingredients. And then try raising four little boys on top of that. That’s some serious snack-food heroism, in our books.

The walls of Richard and Lesley’s store are lined with buckets of popped, flavored corn, available in every traditional and wild flavor one could dream of, from the more familiar options of White Cheddar, Parmesan & Garlic, and White Chocolate Pretzel to daring varieties that include Oreo Cheesecake, Watermelon, and Blueberry Muffin. Also apparently popular with Louisianan locals are New Orleans–inspired flavors like Bananas Foster, King Cake, and—forgive us for being Northeastern-born sissies—the slightly-scary-sounding Boiled Crawfish.

Before you make the pilgrimage to New Orleans to peruse the Popcorn Bistro on your own, or browse their site to figure out which flavors best suit the communal palate of your home or office, you can try the recipe at the end of this article, created by the Capdebosqs.

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Moving westward! In Los Angeles, a city where gourmet burger joints are as ubiquitous as over-Botoxed foreheads, it’s been entertaining to watch the hot-dog scene slowly blossom. New contenders are threatening Pink’s longstanding monopoly as the hot-dog place of L.A. We’re not entirely sure why Pink’s always has a line of tourists eager to cram chili-covered hot dogs into their hungry heads, but we are always delighted to see a little competition shake things up. Thus we were thrilled when the New York–based Papaya King opened its first West Coast location in Hollywood in late May. After all, we don’t recall Julia Child calling Pink’s “one of the best hot dogs in New York” or Martha Stewart describing Pink’s as one of her “guilty pleasures.” (If it wasn’t obvious, both gals used these phrases to describe Papaya King’s dogs.)

Apparently we weren’t completely in the loop about just how popular hot dogs are. The signs inside Papaya King Hollywood told us that “New York City residents spend $100 million on frankfurters at the grocery store each year” and that “Americans consume 20 billion frankfurters each year.”

With no disrespect intended to the frankfurter industry, our overly imaginative minds find those numbers sort of mildly alarming. That means that with just the number of hot dogs Americans annually consume on their own, almost every person in the world could stand with one hot dog in each hand and one lodged in their mouth. It’s clear frank consumption is practically a national pastime.

Having not yet made the sojourn to Papaya King Hollywood since it opened, we went with the hopes we could pay homage to Moneyball by making an easy-to-assemble hot dog with an extraordinary taste. Once there, manager Gabe Renes put a sweet spin on Papaya King’s newest specialty dog, The Green Hot, a classic frank with a peppery, spicy topping. We ate ours at a speed that might make hot dog–eating champs like Joey Chestnut or Takeru Kobayashi blush, but from what we could taste, it was like a postgame fireworks show taking place over our tongues. And we mean that in the best, most delicious, unexpected way possible: a lot of crunching of peppers, squirting of pineapple juices, and licking of fingers. Overall, very glamorous. The recipe is included below, and watch Renes’s play by play below.

Video screenshot

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Finally, to find something to wash down these Moneyball-themed munchables, we went to Flora Restaurant and Bar in Oakland, the city where the Moneyball story is based.

Since beer is often almost even easier to find in baseball stadiums than bottled water, Flora’s bar manager Christ Aivaliotis decided to do a variation on the traditional shandy or shandygaff.

“Typically, a shandy is beer mixed with either 7UP, ginger ale, or lemonade, and, frankly, I think it's a delicious cocktail when made any of these ways,” he explains. “Here at Flora, we make fresh squeezed lemonade every day, so I thought I should incorporate that. I was also toying with the idea of a team of misfits that come together despite their seeming incongruity. Beer is served at a ballpark, it's cheap, and I wanted to mix it with a bunch of stuff that seems counterintuitive but gives a satisfying payoff.”

Shandyball
Created by Christ Aivaliotis of Flora

5 oz. beer (Aivaliotis used Ayinger Jahrhundert German lager but recommends any lager or pilsner available, including Budweiser, Banquet Coors, or Miller High Life)
3 oz. fresh lemonade*
½ oz. ginger syrup**
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 lemon wheel

Fill a large pilsner glass a little over half full with beer. Top with fresh lemonade and add the splash of ginger syrup. Finish with Angostura bitters and garnish with a lemon wheel.

*Lemonade should be made using one part fresh lemon juice, one part simple syrup, and two parts water. Use a thicker simple syrup made with one part water and one part sugar.

**To make the ginger syrup, add chopped fresh ginger in equal measure of simple syrup into a blender and puree until smooth. Fine-strain the mix through a cheesecloth or chinois strainer.

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The Home Run Reward
Created by Richard and Lesley Capdebosq of Popcorn Bistro

Since you’re likely not equipped with a kitchen as technologically advanced as theirs, the bistro’s husband-wife team have come up with this home kitchen–friendly recipe honoring the release of Moneyball, inspired by a baseball stadium’s staples of peanuts and Cracker Jack®—with a bit of chocolate thrown in for good measure. Heed the instructions carefully and we think you’ll find this gourmet popcorn is a treat for your taste buds that’s comparable to one of those bat-splitting home runs.

1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
½ cup corn syrup
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 quarts popped popcorn
1 cup marshmallows
1 cup peanuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Place popcorn into large bowl and add peanuts if desired. In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil without stirring for four minutes. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. Pour a thin stream over popcorn, stirring to coat. Place in two large baking dishes and bake in preheated oven, stirring every 15 minutes for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Add marshmallows on top.

Melt four Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars in the microwave for four minutes on 50% power. Depending on the wattage of the microwave, chocolate may melt at different rates. If additional heating is necessary, do so in 20-second intervals, stirring in between until melted.

Use a spoon to drizzle the melted chocolate onto the popcorn and marshmallows in a side-to-side motion.

Allow the chocolate to cool. Break into pieces and enjoy!

For a shortcut, put two boxes of Cracker Jack ® or four cups of caramel corn of choice into a baking pan and place ¼ cup of marshmallows on top.

Put two Hershey Milk Chocolate bars into a bowl and microwave for two minutes on 50% power. Proceed with the rest of instructions as indicated in the earlier recipe.

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Too Hot, Green ‘n Sweet to Stay in Left Field
Created by Gabe Renes of Papaya King

5 small slices grilled onion
5 small slices red pepper
6-10 slices jalapeno pepper
5-6 small-size chunks of pineapple
Cholula Hot Sauce

Grill bun on aluminum foil–covered grill. Insert frankfurter into the open toasted bun. Add sautéed onions with chopped red peppers. Add jalapeno slices and pineapple and drizzle Cholula on top.