Thursday, February 11, 2010

Let the Hot Dog Wars Commence...

I've spent a season with the Phoenix, Coyotes running a concern in the Comerica Bank Club. It's not a bad little gig. I get to put out some fun food, I have a great view of the ice, and there are some other perks too.


But, one of the things that I've realized in my time there, is that there brews a burning question in the hearts of sports fans: the quest for the perfect hot dog.

For the record: I'm the wee fella with the beard, and the good looking one is my assistant, Heather. She's a good kid, and not a bad cook in her own right. She's also about fifty brazillion feet tall, while I'm a staggering 5'6" which means that we make an entertaining couple while working.

Now then, to the meat of things. We are in the desert. Working for the Coyotes, and thus working for Gretzky, it means that I've got Canuckitstani fans coming in, still questioning the sanity of taking the Winnipeg Jets, rebranding and moving them to Phoenix. And not without some ire. We are an odd duck as a franchise. Hockey, in the desert. Not exactly the first thing you think of when you think Phoenix. And given the travesty that was the original stadium, there is some serious questioning of the wisdom to bring the franchise so far and away--mind you, that Winnipeg, while decrying losing their team, it's hard to refute the fiscal wisdom of moving the team from a market that couldn't support it, and the "expansion" aspect of moving the team to the South West has given an appreciation of the sport to a lot of new folks, and the transplants who make up the Phoenix market, a LOT of them are from all across the country. Chicago. Detroit. Boston. New York. LA. Even an odd duck Canuckistani.

The one thing that we can count on out here, consistently, are strong opinions--not just on Gretzky's coaching, the value of our goalie, the youth of the team, their spotty performance, or what the heck the coaching staff is trying to accomplish--and when they run out of steam to kvetch about the team, they still have plenty left to go on about our food. On ice cream. Pizza. Chili. The whole South Western cuisine aspect that dominates the market, and the near fisticuffs that you can see with talking BBQ out this way is a wonder to behold. Makes my wee Southren heart glad to see that kind of passion about food.

But, the question that draws the MOST passion, is always that perfect hot dog.

Hot dogs mean a lot of things. Red Hots. Snappers. Coneys. Sonoran. Dodger Dogs. Fairfield
"splits." The Washington "half smoke." Cheese dogs. Frankfurters. Boiled. Grilled. The Jersey Mutant Potato Dog. Natural casing. Hebrew National. Vienna Beef. Nathan's. Wieners. Dawgs. Seattle Dogs. Tubby Dogs from the land up North. Tijuana "Danger" Dogs. Panchas. Perros Caliente. Jochos. Kraut Dogs. Kubies.

You got a major city, you've got a variation on the dog. Variations on the dog itself. From White brats to Red Hots. All beef Vienna franks. Hebrew Nationals. Spicy sausage. Let's not even get into the variations on bread and toppings...

Chili--and all the variations thereof. Relish--from that odd concoction of sweet pickles to my favorite giardiniera. For the record, the Glendale Arena makes our own giardiniera, and it's a blend of cherry peppers, sports peppers, lightly pickled cauliflower, carrot, celery, garlic, onion, red and green peppers, and healthy lashings of banana peppers to boot, with an apple cider vinegar base to go with the pickling spice. We chop all that down, and let it sit for a good couple of weeks to get it perfectly balanced, and it's hot, tangy, and makes those who grew up with Italian delis weep with joy. And those who grew up in Chicago likewise do a jig of happiness. Then you get into cheeses, condiments--to ketchup or not? Mayonnaise or mustard? What kind of mustard even? Yellow or spicy brown? To kraut or not to kraut? Onions, fresh or caramelized? Mushrooms at all? "Sauce" can mean marinara, with meat or without. Chili with meat or without. You can get into fisticuffs just on the subtleties of the "sauce" alone, and onions can bring profanities from little tiny grannies with blue hair and vocabularies that make sailors blush. The question of cole slaw or deep frying means all the world in Virginia.

Which begs the question: What's your perfect dog?
Local market arena fare? That hole in the wall joint or cart that rolls by?

In Western Mass, we used to wait every season for the Hot Dog Lady--very basic Red Hots with relish, giardinera, onions, mustard, ketchup, and a meat heavy chili, and basic cheddar. The real draw was less the dogs, than the Hot Dog Lady herself, who beat the Western Mass heat by peddling her dogs in bikini top and short shorts, and even in her deep 40s, girl looked good. And she attributed it to living well, and loving what she did for a living. And as a chef, I can't exactly argue against it.

Now then, for introducing the topic, I do offer up the Chili Dog that I do at the arena. A Vienna Beef Frankwurst--8ozs of natural casing goodness, my beef and bean chili, cheddar, scallion, and if it was perfect, I suggest a slather of giardinara, because I love the stuff.

But, your results may vary...

But, what IS your favorite dog?

 Originally posted on Sat Apr 25, 2009 at 17:52:50 PM EDT at The Motley Moose

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