(Mind out of gutter, please. Sometimes a hot dog is just a hot dog.)
Backtrack: while in Denver last Friday, Lia corralled a diverse group of us to hunt down a "gourmet" hot dog place for lunch. When we arrived, if arrived is indeed the appropriate word to describe a street corner, I realized "hot dog place" meant "hot dog cart" and asked myself this: why on earth would a former New Yorker (i.e. me) need to buy a hot dog off the street in Colorado?
Well, because of this:
When was the last time you had a hot dog made of buffalo, elk, reindeer, or wild boar?
You see my point.
Will I say that with that first bite of reindeer the angels crooned, draped me in gauzy cloth, and led me into their heavenly kingdom? Um, no. I mean, it was a hot dog. A tasty hot dog, for sure, especially with the grilled onions and cream cheese, but it was still a hot dog.
What was most unusual, it turns out, weren't the dogs, but the man. And so, for your reading pleasure, I offer you the second in my series of 5 Second Rule interviews. Who needs an interview with Tom Colicchio or Thomas Keller when you can get an interview with Biker Jim?
[The following interview, believe it or not, has been edited for space.]
Cheryl: Is your first name Biker and your last name Jim? And had your parents always wanted to name their son after a motor vehicle?
Biker Jim: By the way, 5 second rule is a great name for anything food-related. Lets you write quick and dirty when you want to... Kind of the same reason why I named my business Biker Jim's. No one expects a very elevated level of decorum. Although you do get good service from that guy in the shorts and T-shirt. Oh yeah, that and the fact that I love to ride motorcycles. So no, my parents didn't put an adjective in front of my name. But like I said, I can get away with a whole bunch by not naming it "White Glove Gourmet Dogs".
Cheryl: Did you grow up eating elk, reindeer, and wild boar? Why couldn't you have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich like everyone else?
Biker Jim: I was an Air Force brat, so I grew up in a lot of places. We ended up in Alaska when I was 12 and that's where we stuck. My brother still lives there. Me? I moved here to go to school 22 years ago. And, yes, I've eaten my fair share of elk and moose and bear and reindeer. I've also eaten my fair share of crap on a cracker. My mom was kind of a lousy cook. But, she did belong to the "Cookbook of the Month" club for like 30 years. And although I don't think she ever read them, I did.
I remember using a Vincent Price cookbook to woo high school girls with dinners of oyster-stuffed NY steaks, and wilted spinach salads, and grand marnier souffles. Love to cook. Love to eat. You may have read on my website that I was a repo man. I'm not sure but I was probably the only guy stealing cars in Denver with a subscription to Bon Appetit and the last 3 editions of The Joy of Cooking on my shelf.
Cheryl: Describe your typical customer. I'm guessing you don't get a lot of fashion models or, for that matter, vegetarians.
Biker Jim: My typical customer is in fact a fashion model/vegetarian. Oh wait, no, that's not right. More like a guy working in an office close by... I do serve everyone from junkies to mayors. Cops and bank robbers. Teachers and students. Cats and dogs. And, yes, a few fashion models. Whenever anyone asks if I have anything vegetarian I tell them, "Yes, reindeers are vegetarian."
Cheryl: Why on earth do you put cream cheese on your hot dogs? It's not like you serve them on bagels.
Biker Jim: The cream cheese idea is a Seattle thing. Or at least that's the rumor I've heard. I bought my first cart from a guy in Boise. He got that cream cheese caulking gun from a guy in Seattle. When I got the cart from him, I inherited it. I'd never heard of putting cream cheese on a dog before, and yet somehow it is fantastic. I think cream cheese is made for the elk jalapeno cheddar dog. My wife summed it up when she said, "Cream Cheese and jalapenos go together like helpless women and railroad tracks." Of course when she says things like that I feel I should sleep with one eye open.
Cheryl: And what's this about cheesecake?
Biker Jim: I've been baking cheesecakes forever. Love to make them. Love to eat them. ... When I first started hot dogging it I would sell cheesecake by the slice off the cart. Okay, mind you these were not just your run of the mill cheesecakes... We got into making some really fun ones, like ginger snap cheesecakes. Or brownie bottom brownie top white chocolate cheesecakes. Or Limoncello with a sour orange swirl. Or Creme de Menthe. Or Baileys. ... Cheesecakes are now a special order type thing. Right now we have a bunch of Tuaca spiced apple cakes that we supply to the Appaloosa Grill here in Denver.
Cheryl: Visitors to Denver can find you when, and where?
Biker Jim: I am pretty easy to find. We're on the 16th Street Mall by the big Clocktower. 16th and Arapahoe streets to be exact. We show up at about 10am, and it takes most of an hour to get set up and get that first pan of caramelized onions going. Our winter hours are until 3pm. Oh yeah, that's Monday thru Friday. We stay later when it warms up more. And maybe weekends again this summer.
Cheryl: Any other information you'd like to share with 5 Second Rule readers?
Biker Jim: Hmmm....what else should people know? I'm a Scorpio...
For more information, if you could possibly need more information, visit Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs.
N.B. I'm now, God help us all, on Twitter @sternmanrule; plus, 5 Second Rule has migrated to a Facebook group here. Become a fan if you'd like updates when new posts go live. And if you'd like to pay me a big, fat compliment.