Anthony Bourdain shared hot dogs with Biker Jim, noshed with Frank Bonanno and ate his words on last night's episode of No Reservations, in which the lanky ex-chef toured America's heartland -- Austin, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; Stanhope, Indiana; Livonia, Michigan; Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota; Columbus, Ohio; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Denver, a city that he visited in 2002 and despised and again in November of last year when he had a one-night stand with Bonanno and Biker Jim.
When Bourdain introduced the Denver segment, he delivered an explanation, followed by an apology of sorts, that summed up his 2002 experience:
I had a checkered, even tortured relationship with Denver before I came this last time. Even though Denver's always been great to me, in 2002 I came through here on my book tour and found myself hungry, wandering around the city center looking for good food. What I saw was not inspiring -- and I said so, repeatedly, frankly insulting the city long after the world had moved on and things had changed.
And then he sat down to dinner with Frank Bonanno, owner-chef of Mizuna, Luca d'Italia, Bones and Osteria Marco, where the two bonded over a trio of foie gras and bread pudding, roasted squab with local Brussels sprouts and a Burgundy black truffle vinaigrette and a cassoulet of baby lamb, sweetbreads, liverwurst sausage, chanterelle mushrooms and blood sausage.
Bourdain bestowed upon Bonanno the title of "big dog in town," backing up his claim with the assertion that "everyone says so." And then the conversation turned to blood sausage, a subject that made Bourdain's eyes light up like a Clark Griswold's Christmas tree. That was cool. What wasn't so cool was Bonanno's mouthy retort, in which he dissed the very same people who have catapulted him to success.
Immediately following Bourdain's pronounced excitement over the mere prospect of blood sausage, Bonanno retorted: "But you know, we can't even list that on the menu. It would kill the dish. We just call it cassoulet and let them enjoy it." Ouch.
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Bourdain ignored the comment, but Biker Jim, who was watching himself on TV with 80 of his friends (Bonanno tweeted that he was tuning in at home) at Marco's Coal-Fired Pizza, didn't. Jim, as you may know, is opening a brick and mortar hot dog spot at 2148 Larimer Street later this fall, and blood sausage will definitely be on his board. "Why the fuck not? We sell a shitload of rattlesnake sausages from our carts, why not blood sausage?" Denver diners, says Jim, "are way more adventurous than some people give them credit for."
When Bourdain was in town, Jim fed him wild boar, rattlesnake, elk and and reindeer sausages gunned with cream cheese and mounted with his signature onions soaked in Coca Cola. Halfway through his second wiener, Bourdain cried, "more!" followed by the pronouncement that he "couldn't stop" and that Jim's sausages blew him away. "Your name came up again and again and again," Bourdain told him. "Thank you for all your good work in making Denver a wonderful place to be."
When I got Jim on the phone late last night, he was euphoric, if not a little embarrassed by the attention. "I'm just the pretty white trash boy who happens to burn a mean hot dog."
Hot dogs that made Bourdain eat his former words: "Believe me, we've got nothing to sneer about in New York anymore."