Saturday, April 01, 2017

Barkersville HDJ Review - Le Chien est Chaud French Bistro

We have long maintained on this blog that the West Virginia Hot Dog is an art form unto itself, but never before have we found a hot dog joint that embraced the idea more than does Le Chien est Chaud in Barkersville. To call this lovely restaurant a hot dog joint might be seen as a disservice to some, but not to Claude de'Avril, the friendly owner and chef of Le Chien.

"Not at all!" de'Avril said with a chuckle. "When I came to West Virginia I was delighted by the culinary landscape, and what would it be without the West Virginia Hot Dog? We are honored to be called 'hot dog joint'"!

Le Chien est Chuad's signature dish!
With menu items ranging from a hand-cut Delmonico steak to New Orleans Style Bouillabaisse, you might be surprised to find hot dogs on the menu, but there they are right between the Coho Salmon and the Veal Scallopini. Listed as the signature dish, the entree that takes the bistro's name as its own is no ordinary WVHD, but  "two deconstructed West Virginia hot dogs. Delicately grilled frankfurters served with moutarde jaune, onions, chili con-carne and koosla."  Deconstructed dishes are all the rage in fancy big-city restaurants these days, but we were still surprised to find this dish in a small town like Barkersville, even though this little burg has surprised us before with its culinary offerings. We were eager to try it.

While Claude was preparing our dish, we looked around the interior of the restaurant with great interest. A neat display of old photos and newspaper stories from the 1920's illuminated the impact that French immigrants had on Barkersville. According to one of old newspaper clippings, at one time there were so many native Frenchmen on the town council that it almost changed the name of the town to "Poisson," in recognition of the great fishing that could be found in Barker Creek which runs through the middle of town. The native locals, however, though the word was off putting since it was only one "s" removed from a very negative English word. The locals won, evidently.
Culinary artistry!

 After a reasonable wait, our entree arrived and we were simply stunned by its appearance. Certainly this WVHD was far different from any other we had encountered. While the weenies were presented in their entirety, the bun had been carved into bite size pieces and lightly toasted. Small mounds of chili and "koosla" (slaw) were placed nearby on the plate and an artistic stripe of moutarde jaune (yellow mustard) brought color and life to the plate, which was made complete by a beautiful arrangement of delicately sliced onions. After beholding the artistry for a moment we were eager to dig in.

Chili, slaw mustard and onion was our favorite combination
Not wishing to commit a faux pas, we asked Claude how he had intended the dish to be eaten, whether with fingers or knife and fork. He suggested we use utensils, but to vary our bites so different combinations of the ingredients could be tasted. We definitely found the best combination to be a bite of bread, a cut of meat dipped in mustard and dredged through the complex chili and sweet cole slaw. Delightful.

We also took the chef's suggestion for a wine pairing, the 2013 Caymus Vineyards Special Selection Cabernet. The wine's rich, hedonistic core of wild berry, blackberry, plum and currant, with a graceful, elegant mouthfeel and supple, caressing tannins leading to a long, powerful and refined aftertaste was the perfect complement to the entree.
So rich! We couldn't finish the meal!

At $21, these are the most expensive hot dogs we've ever bought, but the dish would have been a bargain at even a higher price point. Deceptively rich and filling, it didn't leave us room for dessert; a shame because the Moon Pie Flambe' sounded so tempting! Perhaps the next trip - and there will definitely be a next trip for this Weenie Wonk.

While we never give an official Weenie Rating to hot dogs that are so non-standard as these, we do give Le Chien est Chuad our highest recommendation as a fine dining restaurant and a great place to dine on special occasions, like April Fools Day.



Monday, March 20, 2017

A partial list of some HDJs that have closed since our last review

The Hot Dog business in West Virginia is tough since most every locally owned restaurant includes some kind of hot dog on its menu. Perhaps this is the reason that a lot of promising HDJs have closed in the last few years. Whatever the reason, we feel it is our duty to report the casualties from time to time. Here is our most recent list of formerly great HDJs that have bitten the dust:


Hog and Dog - Charleston 
Sistah's Rib Shack - Charleston
Sammy's Chili Dogs - St. Albans (now called Bammy's)
J's Grocery - Bluewell
Not Franks Pizza - Shrewsbury (we're not sure if the Montgomery location is still there)
Five Corners Cafe - Charleston
The Blossom Dairy - Charleston
Maggie Moo's Ice Cream- Charleston
The Daily Grind - Charleston
Sister Act Cafe - Charleston
Wild Flour Bakery - Fayetteville

In addition to these that succumbed to the natural pressures of competition, we also lost two well-known HDJs to last June's floodwaters: 

Mumsey's Iron Skillet - Richwood
Dairy Queen - Clendenin

On this first day of spring we can only hope that the newness of the season brings us many more great HDJs to take the place of these fallen heroes.