First Annual Hot Dog Safari …South!
I am constantly amazed by the love people have for hot dogs. No matter where you are, who you’re with or how hungry you might be…a hot dog is always a welcome treat. Since being associated with this blog my eyes have been opened to not just the love, but the passion some folks have for encased meats. This weekend I had the opportunity to experience a truly unique celebration of RGD’s while surrounded by family and friends at the K Family’s Inaugural Hot Dog Safari….South! As some may know, each year the Andelman Brothers (of Phantom Gourmet fame) organize an event that brings together HDJ representatives from all over so that the public may sample their wares without traveling all over creation (as many of our bloggers here at THDIA do!). Located at Suffolk Downs in Boston, The Hot Dog Safari is like a Dog Mecca and has become a favorite summertime event for members of the K Family. Unable to attend due to scheduling issues, the family rose to the occasion. Instead of moping around, pining for the smell of grey water and mustard, they organized their own safari and decided to feature 3 brands of cylindrical ecstasy for all to sample. Backed by every accoutrement known to human kind, this was no ordinary pool party (though the water was divine and even featured an actual swimming dog). Meaty chili, sautéed onions, multiple mustards, ketchup and catsup (not messing around here), cheese, sauerkraut, relish, pickles…hungry yet? Pretty sure there were some other foods on the table but I wasn’t going to deviate from my mission of measuring up the quality of the three brands represented, Ball Park, Kayem and the ever-famous Nathan’s.
Let me start by saying, these people love hot dogs. Ages 16 months to 80 years young, this crowd ate multiple pounds of each brand all day. Pounds. Just when I thought we were winding down with stretchy pants and Tums, another foil pan of tube meats was presented on the folding table. At one point the sky turned a very scary shade then opened up dropping 2 inches of much needed rain in less than an hour. Hot Dog senses tingling, the K Family migrated all fixings indoors just in time to escape the very first drops. There were hot dog string lights, hot dog salt and pepper shakers, acoustical dog condiment carriers and I’m pretty sure among the vast Pez collection, a hot dog dispenser. My daughter ate her first bites of dog and had to be restrained from consuming too much for fear her nitrate count would set her diaper a glow. I met one friend of the family who actually didn’t like hot dogs but even she fixed a bun with everything but the dog just to join the festivities. A few attendees were caught stuffing multiple dogs down in a faux contest in honor of the recent Nathans Eating Contest (see previous blog submission) but after around 8 or 9 decided that this was not for the novice and refrained from going over the edge where gluttony meets disgusting.
So here’s the breakdown. The dogs were cooked via gas grill and served up simultaneously, creating a giddy moment when faced with choices for assemblage. In my effort to be fair and balanced I decided to fix one of each dog exactly the same so not to mask texture, flavor and overall effect of the dog itself. Let it be known that my palate is not as discriminating as my young blogger colleague, Boy, who prefers a straight up dog with ketchup. I require a tad more decoration in my bun so – in order- I went for mustard in bun, dog, ketchup and a couple spoons of onion. That’s it. Starting left to right, the Ball Park Frank was a satisfying flavorful package with a nice combo of meats (pork and beef) which upped the saltiness just enough. It’s plump after grilling and has that signature splitting that signifies doneness. Next up was the Kayem, a kosher product that has always seemed to me to be the poor mans version of a Deutchmaker. Its natural casing made for a superb snap in each bite. I would have left these on the grill slightly longer in order to evoke the juiciness within but they were scored enough to bring out its mild flavor. More dog than bun, texture won over taste on this one. Lastly, the Nathan’s an all beef dog with heritage and reputation, my least favorite of the lot. It’s a short dog that turns grey if left sitting out too long. Flavor-wise it did not possess the richness of the other two and had such a meek presence when biting in that I caught myself thinking that chili could make this better. Nathans has marketed a dog that appeals to millions and is the cornerstone of Coney Island so please understand, I have absolute respect but if forced to choose I can honestly say it was the least flavorful and tertiary out of the options presented.
Overall, this was one of those perfect afternoons where I had to look around and giggle about how fortunate I was to be granted the gifts in front of me. Family and friends gathered on a beautiful day (it cleared up) to celebrate the quintessential American food and all that comes with it. Every corner of the country has its own claim to some sort of RGD culture, representing every manner of presentation. After my initial sampling I managed to return to the table to broaden my experience of the artistry in every masterpiece assembled. On this particular Saturday, Braintree, Massachusetts was the center of the hot dog universe and I was full.