The 6th Annual Great Hot Dog Cookoff in Brooklyn 2011
Once again, dear readers, we explore the deep recesses of the human mind. Minds that combine ingredients to test the limits of stomach elasticity. Minds and bodies that endure the scorching heat of the city streets to sample the refined recipes of contemporary street food. So, yes dear friends, we once again ride that wave for the tastebuds that is the 6th Annual Great Hot Dog Cookoff in Brooklyn NY.
This year I was joined by my budding hot dog friend Hans, the Luke Skywalker to my Obi Wan Kenobi, the Neo to my Morpheus, the Danny Laruso to my Mr. Miyagi. I prepared him for this excursion into gut expansion, and taught the lessons to help him navigate past the point of no return: 1.) we are going to feel ill by the end, so have fun. 2)don’t get seconds from anyone if you intend on trying all the selections.
First, some brief info on the cookoff. 21 competitors create ways to serve a hot dog, some in a bun, and others in a different containment unit. Last year, a competitor used a cucumber as the ‘bun.’ Since they are serving about 500 people, each full hot dog is cut into smaller sections, usually thirds. The cookoff was held once again in the street outside of Kelso Beer Company, where they served up a pilsner and a lager. Several sponsors also work with the cookoff which, this year, included SoCo Creamery and P & H Soda Co., which both had stands giving out samples. Rather than just being a cookoff for gluttony’s sake, this has actually been a great fundraiser for various non-profits in NYC. This year the cookoff was working to raise funds for Food Bank for NYC.
And now, onto the dogs. This year, hot dogs were donated by Applegate Farms, a company that has organic and natural meat products. Grand HD Pubah Mike and his wife Sam introduced us to Applegate meats, which do not contain nitrates, nitrites, hormones, and preservatives. I’ve actually started using their cold cuts pretty regularly now. Mike recently reviewed some ‘healthy’ options for hot dogs, and tested out Applegate. During the cookoff, I noticed Mike’s observation that the dogs get wrinkly upon grilling, probably due to the lower fat content. But I thought it was a good mildly spiced dog to serve as the foundation for some great and adventurous recipes.
The Sour Pour was the first dog of the day. This consisted of spicy home brew mustard, home fermented pickles, topped with cheese on a home baked half sour brioche bun. This was one of Hans’s favorite dogs of the day, and had some great obviously sour ingredients.
This had one of the more unusual combinations of the day. When I tell people about it, they usually cringe, and look at me as if I’ve broken one of the ten commandments. That’s because this dog was served with mole poblano ketchup, something that looks chopped (not sure what that is), and a rice crispy treat as the bun. I actually liked the combination of flavors, but the textural combination of soft hot dog on harder, chewy krispy treat was a bit off. The other issue I have against this dog is that the ketchup was served at a molten lava-hot temperature and burned off a portion of the middle of my top lip. I still have the scab 5 days later. I’ve also been whining about it for 5 days.
The Conquistadog was on Portuguese sweet bread toasted with saffron butter, topped with cherry and port wine reduction, and a manchego sliver pierced by a sword. Great choice of bun! And the sword capably held the hard cheese to the dog.
Yes, that’s the actual name, I didn’t come up with that. This dog pleasantly surprised me, and I would’ve tried another sample but I had to follow my rule of no seconds. This was a ‘hot steamy’ dog with leeks and cheese wrapped in a crepe, topped with andalouse sauce and crunchy potato pieces. To me, the crepe wins the contest for thin containment unit over the tortilla.
This was one of the more unique recipes of the day in that the dog was embedded in a mini corn muffin infused with shredded jack cheese and topped with a chipotle honey glaze. I gotta give these guys respect for taking the dog outside of the box, but personally, I’m not a fan of muffins. I thought this was tasty though. Plus, chef Adrian Ashby gets my vote for best salesman of the day. His persuasive talents definitely reeled people in.
This was my personal favorite of the day and got my vote for crowd favorite. And while it did not earn a crowd favorite trophy, it did win 3rd place by the judges. The dog is garnished with crisp fried garlic and ginger, spring onion, cilantro, pickled daikon, crushed peanuts and spicy hoisin sauce on a toasted wheat bun. The dogs were also marinated overnight in char siu, a Chinese bbq marinade, and it is also the word for roast bbq pork. What my camera didn’t pick up is that the marinade turned the dogs a bright reddish-purple color, probably a bit more purple-ish than a red hot. As I figured out from last year’s cookoff, I’m a sucker for non-meat toppings, as I find it more refreshing and gives the full meat spotlight to the dog. Plus, I really liked the presentation of various colors and textures. Hans also noted that the dog had a lot of spicy Thai-like heat, and we were informed that there was some sriracha sauce in the mixture. Sous-chef George Janin was very nice and receptive to sharing information about their dog.
Congrats to Adam Nalewajek and Carolyn Gamanos for bringing home the gold for crowd favorite. This dog was served on cornbread with chili, roasted tomatillos, and cheddar. A great combo of soul/southwest hot doggery!
I was very interested in this team’s entry because I really liked their Diamond Jim entry from last year’s cookoff. The dog was comprised of a spicy, cheesy frito pie as the topping. These guys have the added extra weapon of chef Rose Sol’s very own Smokin’ Hot Sauce. Check out her website for hot sauce!
For the second year in a row, chef David Estorino brings home a 1st place award. Last year his Godfather-themed Luca Brasi basil-pesto spaghetti dog won the crowd’s heart, and this year, his Jaws-themed dog won over the judges. He and sous chef Danielle Caputo Estorino created a recipe so simple, it seems like one of those ‘why didn’t I think of that” ideas. A Nathan’s dog split down the middle, covered with lobster roll meat, on a split-top New England style bun, with a wedge of lemon on the side. The lobster was very tasty, and the combination worked really well, especially with a little lemon squeezed on top. For me, the lobster was so good, I thought it overshadowed the hot dog, but the judges were convinced. Congratulations!
I thought that the Seoul Thriller was another very visually appealing dog. This beef dog is topped with pork belly, stir fried kimchi, daikon, scallion salad, and chili pepper sauce. To me, you can’t really go wrong with east Asain bbq flavors. It was so good, it got the 2nd place crowd favorite!
The next dog I ate was the Frank Seoul-Natra, another very good Korean style sampler. I apparently did not get a photo of this, though, so if anyone did take a picture I would love to post it! I remember being wowed by the combination of ingredients: pork belly, apple chutney, and hollandaise on a toasted Brie bun. The sweetness of the apples and the mild Brie mixed with the meats were a welcome surprise. And I usually don’t like brie. Great dog!
A simple idea for a breakfast hot dog. It’s served up with bacon and maple syrup on french toast. I personally love syrup on salty meats, so this was great for me.
One of my other favorite dogs of the day, the idea behind this is combining everything great about snacks at baseball games all in one sandwich. This dog is served up with homemade whiskey caramel peanuts, relish, and yellow mustard on a pretzel bun from Sigmund Pretzelshop. This was the second dog of the day to have peanuts as a topping, and I think its a beautiful combination that should become a more regular topping. Check out the Brooklynauts blog to see what the preparation is like to compete in the cookoff, as well as their other food adventures! These guys were also having fun serving up Pickleback shots, which is actually surprisingly good despite most people thinking its gross. Its a shot of whiskey chased with pickle juice. Now wait, just try it first, you’ll see. I enjoyed mine but since it was about 102 degrees that day, the jack daniels was actually hot. A quick shooter of that, a quick blast of pickle juice, and we were off to our next dog.
Chef Nick Suarez won the 2009 cookoff and came back again strong this year. He also apparently beat Bobby Flay on an episode of Throwdown. During this cookoff, his entry, along with sous chef Craig Shilowich, was a short rib chili-cheese dog with fried jalapenos, homemade pickles, slaw and special sauce on a potato bun. It’s like a business class upgrade for your chili dog.
The chef also prepared a refreshing beverage to wash down the chili cheese jalapeno pickle dog. A shooter consisting of juiced watermelon, honeydew, lime and mint. I helped myself to 3 or 4 of these. At this point, Hans and I ate 14 entries. We started slowing down and felt the gut stretching, sending signals to the brain saying that this would be a good time to stop. We knew we were past the point of no return and had to keep going, but it was going to be painful.
Chefs Tailgate Joe Maino and Sal Coluccio continue to serve up a quality dog, earning second place by the judges for the second year in a row! These guys continue with their homage to the NY Jets with a dog dedicated to tight end Dustin Keller. It’s a Sabrett natural casing frank with homemade chili, creamy blue cheese slaw, and a panko crusted onion ring. These guys do tailgaiting right, and represented with a full-on beer pong table.
Hans and I were definitely struggling at this point. Only 5 more to go, but that last leg is a killer. Hans ran the NYC marathon last year so he understood the mentality needed for this feat. We soldiered on to the Frat Boy Dog which was grilled over beer-soaked hardwood, and topped with what I believe was spray cheese, potato chips, pretzels, and pickled jalapenos on a white bread bun. At this point in the game, I was only doing one bite of these last 5 or 6 dogs, but I really enjoyed this. The spray cheese and jalapenos made it taste like nachos on a hot dog. The chips and pretzels also added some nice crunch. I should add that last year, these guys made their own Hawaiian style bread, which was really killer.
This was a great dog on a couple of different levels, which helped it earn 3rd place in the crowd vote. The dog was topped with pork shoulder that had some kind of mixture with coffee grounds, red chile spices from New Mexico, corn salsa, chile paste and sweetened up with honey, all on a corn tortilla. The smokey, sweet, and bitter tastes worked really well together, and the spices provided the right amount of heat. What also drew in Hans was the story of the spices coming directly from chef Marcos Salazar’s uncle’s chile farm in New Mexico. That type of family lineage struck right into Hans’s social worker heart, and was his favorite hot dog background story of the day.
This fat dog was crammed with bbq pulled pork, homemade spicy relish, and fritos! Great stuff, but my mindset at this point was more about counting down the dogs until the end. Disorientation is beginning to set in. I grabbed my water bottle to rehydrate and kept going.
Oh dear god, this thing is too big to be my 19th hot dog. But chef Laena McCarthy made my favorite dog in last year’s competition, so I was looking forward to this. This is an example of what mad genius can bring to a hot dog: caramelized onion cream cheese, beer jelly, spicy bacon relish, and pimenton dusted fritos. I remember Hans eating it and saying something like “I shouldn’t have done that.” I interpreted that as maybe the ingredients not working together, but he really liked it. The comment was more about reaching his breaking point.
Another great selection with lots of toppings. The dogs were coated in a smokey spice blend and wrapped in a tortilla with black beans, avocado, lime, spicy salsa, pickled onions, and crunchy tortilla bits. Great taco toppings working perfectly on the dog.
Capping off our day was the Soul Slider, bringing the South onto a hot dog. This was topped with bacon-infused baked beans, Carolina-style bbq pulled pork, collard greens, and a homemade pickle. I mean, really, you can’t go wrong with pulled pork, beans, and greens. A great dog to end on.
We reached the finish line. Glory and triumph are funny things. They are supposed to feel good. That’s what sports movies have taught me. But now that I think about it, champions go through pain to reach the end. And we felt terrible. This is around the time that Ali showed up to hang out with us. This is what she saw when she found us.
The day was a rousing success, and again, concluded with a dance party. Apparently, no one can resist Naughty by Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray.” Not even a crowd of people that were chowing on hot dogs all day. Many thanks again to Kara Masi and the other organizers for a great event. Looking forward to another great event next year!