Hot Dog Party 1.0
I lament the fact that Halifax has no hot dog culture. It seems like every American city has its own signature hot dog, but here in Nova Scotia we rely on the familiar ketchup and mustard. Montreal has a hot dog culture; they have the “steamie”. Vancouver is now famous for the Asian fusion dog. Even Calgary has a local favourite in Tubby Dog. Halifax recently went wild over hamburgers, and I certainly joined the party. But I kept thinking about our hot dog neglect. If Halifax did have its own signature hot dog, what would it be like? I decided to brainstorm ideas for a “Halifax-style” hot dog, and to host a “hot dog party” as the perfect venue for experimental hot dog love.
I provided the dogs and buns, while my invitees were responsible for coming up with their own signature styles. My friends Emily and Sean hosted the party for me, and I must say they were wonderful hosts, and I am sure we left their kitchen a hotdogocolypse!
We used a grill pan, since the rain averted us from the barbecue.
We used Larsen “Classic Taste” weiners, which are a Maritime tradition, as well as Uncle Ben’s buns – known for wafting their aroma down Quinpool Road. Buns from 24 Carrot Bakery also showed up. Each contributor dressed 3 hot dogs, which were sliced and split between the 10 of us.
First up were Emily’s fish ‘n’ chip dogs. These were battered and breaded with panko, served with a side of tartar sauce and lemon. These were quite a success, as the crunchy breading, tangy lemon, and classic hot dog flavour integrated surprisingly well!
My pal MGyver is never one to do things half-assed or to settle for the unoriginal. His nickname is MGyver, after all. He wrapped up his hot dogs with carrot, peppers, and avocado in a sheet of nori seaweed before grilling them, and topping them off with a wasabi ketchup-sauce of his own creation. I know it sounds weird, but these were really impressive hot dogs. I thought the carrot would be obnoxious, or that the nori would be chewy, but everything worked out perfectly. He is also the only hot dog artist daring enough to incorporate ketchup!
Sean (to whom I owe thanks for the photos) made a poutine dog. He opted for baguette instead of the provided buns, and topped his weiners with delicious home-made gravy, dreamy caramelized onions, cheese curds, and hashbrown potatoes. I’ve always wanted to see a poutine dog in action, and it was nearly as epic as I thought it would be.
I had recently received some Chicago Sport Peppers in the mail, so I was very excited to make some Chicago dogs for the party. A sport pepper is a small green pickled hot pepper, which I can only compare to a pepperoncini. I also possessed some Chicago-style relish from my last visit to the windy city. An authentic Chicago dog would involve a Vienna brand all-beef weiner and a steamed poppyseed bun, so let’s just say this is the Halifax adaptation. In true Chicago style, these babies were topped with diced onions, ballpark yellow mustard, neon green Chicago relish, dill pickle spears, tomato wedges, sport peppers, celery salt and ABSOLUTELY NO KETCHUP.
Thea almost cheated by choosing such good toppings! Maple bacon, avocado and applewood smoked cheddar – come on! How can this not be delicious!?
Pictured above with Thea’s dogs are Brie’s vegetarian contributions. She also cheated by combining 3 of my favourite foods, though I would never had thought to invite them all to the same party: creamy goats cheese, avocado and fresh pineapple. They even tasted good with a veggie dog playing the supportive role.
Lee’s hot dogs featured sauerkraut, Dijon mustard and gherkins, though I caught him piling his own hot dog with every condiment on the counter. Here is the disturbing proof:
Brianna incorporated her favourite stand-by toppings of bacon, fried onions and shredded mozza. However, her usual preference is to make spider dogs over an open fire – which Emily’s kitchen unfortunately lacked.
So I finally got around to experimenting with a “Halifax-style” hot dog. The consensus was that I should spread the bun with garlic butter and bake it with mozzarella cheese to symbolize garlic fingers. Then I topped the dogs with diced deep-fried pepperoni and donair sauce. Is this too cliché? Either way, we decided these dogs were missing something so we crumbled some potato chips on top. That was an improvement, but I’m still not satisfied. The “Halifax-style” dog is admittedly a work in progress, and I am open to feedback and suggestions.
After the party I went into a hot dog coma, but it was totally worth it! I would definitely do this again, and I hope this concept inspires some hot dog love. It would be interesting to see the emergence of a hot dog culture in Halifax, despite the naysayers who think “mechanically separated” animals are an abomination. I’d better not catch you eating chicken McNuggets! Larsen and Ben’s are certainly classic Maritime products, but I am also interested in experimenting with artisanal producers to keep in spirit with the local movement.
As for a local hot dog eating experience, the Dawgfather is legend and the Food Wolf is currently serving up fantastic Asian fusion dogs. What other notable hot dogs are haunting the fringes of Halifax food fanaticism? What do you think a “Halifax-style” hot dog should look like?