A great day for a Great Hotdog Cookoff

Saturday had everything I ask of summer in the city: tolerable warm weather, cold beer and lots and lots of hot dogs. Bam! Just like that, recipe for a good time.

Along with the beau and a couple of friends, I spent Saturday afternoon in Williamsburg at The Great Hot Dog Cookoff,  stuffing my face full of hot dogs at this annual summertime event benifting the Food Bank for New York City. The cookoff included 24 teams of amateur chefs and 4 professionals (from places like Mile End Deli and Gramercy Tavern) all competing for Best In Show (judge fave) and Top Dog (crowd fave). For the price of admission you got four beers and unlimited hot dog samples from the different teams. I repeat: recipe for a good time, folks. Below, the highlights of a hotdogtastic Saturday in Brooklyn:

The Nick Mangold Over the Line Dog

This was probably my favorite of the many I had. A chili cheese dog of sorts, the “Nick Mangold Over The Line Dog” was a deep-fried (yea, I know) hot dog with spicy, sweet chili and here it comes… mini fried cheese balls that kind of resembled tater tots. A heart attack waiting to happen, but SO good.

Little Bundles of Joy

Re-imagining the traditional hot dog presentation, “Little Bundles of Joy” were like small hot dog empanadas, fried pockets of hot dog, mac and cheese, kimchi and chinese sausage. Double points for tastiness and new form.

Genereal Tso’s Hot Dog

Another tasty dog with interesting presentation was “General Tso’s Hot Dog,” a play on the Chinese restaurant staple, General Tso’s chicken. Battered and deep fried, this little dog was smothered in sweet and spicy sauce and topped with broccoli, sprouts and crunchy chow mein.

Pa-Pa-Ya Summer Roll Hot Dog

Also putting an asian spin on things was the “Pa-Pa-Ya Summer Roll Hot Dog,” which instead of a traditional bun came wrapped in Vietnamese style rice paper and took flavor cues from spring rolls and shrimp and papaya salads. It was light and clean, with zesty, spicy flavors.

The Reuben Dog

“The Reuben Dog” instead, took its inspiration from the Reuben sandwich, with almost all of the same ingredients that make the sandwich a classic: sauerkraut, corned beef, Russian dressing, gooey swiss cheese, and a rye bun. As a Reuben fan, I gave this dog two greasy thumbs up.

The Hot Dogiflette

Finally, when I was at the point of undoing the top button of my shorts while also breaking out into the hot dog sweats, I made room for one more, “The Hot Dogiflette.” Based on the french dish, tartiflette, this dog was served on a toasted baguette and topped with mashed potatos, sauteed onions,  herbs, melted cheese and sour cream. Kind of hard to eat and required a bit of a wait (probably because of all the ingredients that were painstakingly layered on there) but sacrebleu it was good!

While there were some I ate and just didn’t post here, there were still a whole bunch I didn’t try! That means, Hot Dog Cookoff, I’ll see you again in 2013!

Hungry for hot dogs

I may not be a huge fan of this city’s pizza (see “Best pizza on this side of the pond”) but if there’s one quintessential New York food that I’m completely for it’s the hot dog. I love it with sauerkraut and mustard, with just ketchup, with chilli and onions, from street vendors and from sketchy holes in the wall, kosher or not, in summer and winter. But as much as I enjoy a good dog, Flaneur loves them even more. So Friday night we set out for the East Village (once again) with our friend Vanessa to try the wieners at Crif Dogs, which I had heard were among the best in the city.

Crifdog with 'kraut and the Philly Tubesteak

First sign a place is good: it’s packed. And Crif Dogs, when we walked in around 8, was just that, with people crammed around tables cluttered with PBRs and paper plates of hotdogs, fries, and—is that what I think it is? — tater tots.

Feeling good about our soon-to-be dinner we walked up to the menu, which read like a stoner’s fantasyland of crazy combinations, ridiculously high calorie counts and toppings on top of toppings on top of toppings.

There was the “Jon-Jon Deragon,” a Crif dog (handmade, naturally smoked beef and pork) with a schmear of cream cheese, scallions and everything bagel seeds. Or the “Good Morning,” a bacon-wrapped dog smothered with melted cheese and a fried egg. Or the interestingly named “Spicy Redneck,” a house dog, bacon-wrapped, with chilli, cole slaw and jalapeños.

Yikes, this really is a stoner’s heaven, I thought to myself while trying to decide if a fried egg on top of a hot dog would propel the calorie count into the four or five digit count.

In the end, both Vanessa and I opted for a more classic hotdog, which compared to the other ones almost seemed tame, the good ol’ chilli dog: smothered in mustard, onions and secret chilli sauce. We both also added a side of waffle fries for good measure.

Flaneur on the other hand, went for two different hot dogs. First, he took the classic route and got a Crif dog with sauerkraut and mustard, and then, for his second choice he ordered a Crif dog “ casually attired” in cheese and sautéed onions. The name of that one? The Philly Tubesteak. That’s right, my boyfriend ordered a tubesteak. Moving right along…

Lucky for us, a few people cleared out and the three of us squeezed into a table to wait for our dogs. Minutes later the Tubesteak and company arrived.

Only thing better than a good wiener is good chilli to smother it with.

The first thing I noticed was the waffle fries which were a good firmness, not too soggy or too crispy, but just right. And they weren’t too salty either, which I appreciate in a fry. It’s always worrisome when a fry leaves actual grains of salt on your fingertips. Makes you wonder what its doing to your insides, mainly your arteries.

After a few fries, I went for the dog before it could get cold. The bun was soft, which I like. (I’m not a fan of the extra toasted bun, which is how my mom’s hot dog buns always came.) The chilli was a nice deep brown color and not that weird orangey, red chilli color that screams artificial when you bite into it. It packed a good amount of taste made just that much better by the chopped onions underneath. The mustard added the extra spicey zing I like in almost everything that’s not a dessert.

I had a couple bites of Flaneur’s hot dogs and those were pretty good too. Flaneur, who’s eaten his fare share of hot dogs all over Manhattan in the few months he’s been here, seemed to thoroughly enjoy them as he as he wolfed both down in a few gigantic mouthfuls. The Philly Tubesteak in particular seemed like ideal munchies food. I mean really, a hotdog with cheese whiz? That has stoner written all over it. And that’s ok with me.

Crif Dogs won me over just with its tasty, over-the-top franks but to make it even better, it’s also home to a speakeasy style bar, Please Don’t Tell, accessible through an in-house phone booth. We didn’t make it in because apparently it’s not much of a secret and people were lining up just to be given wait times of up to an hour.

So now, you see, I have to go back. And if I’m going, I might as well get another Crif dog or two to hold me over while I wait. Maybe even with a fried egg.