Imagine you have just chomped on a big, juicy bratwurst studded with chocolate chips and coconut. What should your response be?
"I like chocolate, but not in a brat."
"Looks like someone put a Mounds bar inside a hot dog."
All of the above are valid. But if you were a Brooklyn paramedic taping a segment of "Extreme Cuisine," the last choice would make Andrew Goldberg very, very happy.
Goldberg is a producer-director for cable TV Food Network program that celebrates the offbeat of the culinary world. He came to Ohio last week from New York to tape five segments for the show. They included a cheese carver and a "four-acre safari supermarket" in Cincinnati; Dick’s Last Resort, a restaurant in Cleveland’s Flats; and a Lyndhurst house with lavish Easter-egg decorations.
Friday afternoon found Goldberg at the Sausage Shoppe at 4501 Memphis Ave. in Cleveland’s old Brooklyn, where proprietors Carol and Norm Heinle challenged local firefighters to identify the ingredients in a dozen designer bratwursts.
R&D in short time
Extreme Cuisine’s researcher discovered the Sausage Shoppe, which last year took second place in the Innovative Pork category at the national competition of the American Association of Meat Processors. Once accepted for the show, the Heinles had less than a month to develop the new flavors.
Some of the Heinles’ past bratwurst experiments sound like a list from Baskin-Robbins: mint, watermelon, pumpkin, cranberry. On the savory side, they’ve tried flavors like horseradish, jalapeno and sauerkraut, and have produced boozy versions with beer, rum, Jack Daniel’s whiskey and peach schnapps.
For "Extreme Cuisine" they solicited suggestions from customers, then brainstormed at their kitchen table. Asparagus, pesto, and sun-dried tomato versions didn’t survive the first cut. Canned pie cherries with crushed red pepper did. The final list also included bacon-cheddar, sweet ’n’sour, mushroom-onion and honey-garlic.
"Then we discussed which would be better smoked, which would be better fresh," said Carol Heinle. "And whether to leave some spices out of the traditional meat base so the other flavors would come through."
She also came up with the idea of having Brooklyn firefighters, many of whom are regular customers, compete in a taste-off. Could these men in blue recognize the "cherry bomb" brat? Distinguish the pizza from the pepperoni?
On Friday afternoon, accuracy was not Goldberg’s priority. He was more into eliciting colorful commentary. So when the tasters’ early comments ran to the ho-hum ("It’s sweet." "It’s juicy." "It’s got a little kick to it."), Goldberg angled for wisecracks.
"You gotta have more character," said Goldberg, when paramedic Chris Hrach described Mystery Brat No. 3 as "It’s good ... spicy."
"I don’t have much character," retorted Hrach, who played straight man through the tasting, needled by his colleagues Herb Brunkholz, Matthew Churlik, Eddy Coyne and Brady Cribbs. The five sat at picnic tables in the shop’s parking lot as passing motorists gaped from Memphis Ave.
But goaded relentlessly by Goldberg, the firefighters gradually lightened up. Witness the following exchange about the pina colada bratwurst:
Churlik: "It’s got, like, pineapple juice oozing out."
Goldberg: "How does it make you feel?"
Brunkholz: "Warm and tingly inside."
Cribbs (aside): "I’m wondering how a sausage is supposed to make you feel."
Hrach: "It’s got a weird taste and it’s soft inside."
Goldberg: "OK. OK. That’s what I wanna hear."
Choice of words
Later, as the paramedics discussed another entry, Goldberg asked, "Do you find it alienating or pristine?"
"I use a little smaller words," replied Hrach. "Okay, let’s try this," said Goldberg. "If this brat was a woman, who would it be?"
"If this is a woman, it’s like no woman I’ve ever known," cracked Cribbs.
"It’s a car. It’s an animal. What does it remind you of?" Goldberg tried again. "What does it make you think of? What place?"
"It reminds me of a brat that’s been under water too long," Churlik offered.
Seven sausages later, as the paramedics awaited the results, they heard a siren approaching. In unison, all swung around to face Memphis Ave., and as their buddies from the Brooklyn Fire Department sped by, the five pelted the fire engine with brats.
Bailin Broudy is a free-lance writer in Cleveland Heights.
Extreme Cuisine airs on the Food Network at 9 p.m. and midnight Tuesdays, at 9:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. Saturdays and at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Check your cable provider for exact listings. Dates for the Sausage Shoppe segment are not yet available.
Contact the Sausage Shoppe at (216) 351-5213 or on the Internet at:
©2000 THE PLAIN DEALER. Used with permission.
Since April 5th 2000