I usually don’t write about other foods or food companies as this blog is supposed to be all about Choclatique and chocolate. As much as I would like to think it does, the world does not only revolve around Choclatique and chocolate. There are other great American food companies that make really fantastic foods. So this week, let’s take a peek at the center of the plate.
Vienna Beef of Chicago makes American hot dogs and beef products to exacting standards just the way many other American artisans make their American-made foods. I spent a day in Chicago last week with the people at Vienna Beef. If you travel to Chicago often you will know them as the Chicago Dog company. They make the best hot dogs I have ever tasted. So much so, that my first day in Chicago must consist of at least one Chicago Dog—a true Chicago institution. And, it’s got to be a Vienna.
The Chicago-Style hot dog got its start from street cart hot dog vendors during the hard times of the Great Depression. Money was scarce, but business was booming for these entrepreneurs who offered a delicious hot meal on a bun for only a nickel. The famous Chicago Style Hot Dog was born!
For those of you who have been deprived in life and have never partaken of this culinary masterpiece, start with a Vienna Beef hot dog, nestle it in a steamed poppy seed bun and cover it with a wonderful combination of toppings: yellow mustard; bright green (glow-in-the-dark) relish; fresh, chopped onions; juicy red tomato wedges; a kosher-style pickle spear; a couple of spicy sport peppers; and finally, a dash of celery salt. This unique hot dog creation with a “salad on top” and its memorable interplay of hot and cold, crisp and soft, sharp and smooth may very well be America’s original fast food.
I had a chance to take a plant tour and discover many of their “secrets.” Well, not so much secrets, but points of difference from other hot dog makers. First of all they use fresh meat, not frozen boxed beef like most hot dog makers—expensive cuts of brisket (lean and fat)—blended with lean bull meat at pre-determined ratios to give the meat the right mix of meat-to-fat and the right “bite.” The meat is then ground and blended with their 116 year old secret blend of spices which is completely true to the original recipe brought over from Europe years ago. It is then stuffed into a natural casing which gives this hot dog its distinctive, crisp bite.
At the end of the tour I tasted Hot Dogs, Polish Sausages, Fire Dogs and Chili—really great chili. There were also soups, corned beef and pastrami, rare roast beef, salami and kosher-style pickles… oh, and some really great, whole-muscle, smoked turkey slices.
If you’re looking for more great American foods you can find them on the Vienna’s new website and catalogue store, Foods Across America, featuring regional American foods of like-minded manufacturers. Here, on one website, you can find the world’s greatest Chicago “Dawg” kit (I know it supposed to be spelled ‘DOG,” but I just like the way that sounds), the very best key lime pie, hand-crafted root beers and believe it or not, cheesecake on a stick. I bought some of the goodies on the site and found the packaging to be great for shipping and the delivery to be excellent. So I wanted to say some good things to help every one of our readers know that there is something really neat and new that they need to try.
By the way, I did put in a pitch for them to include some Choclatique chocolate… regionally speaking I thought the new Choclatique Napa Valley Wine Chocolates would be a perfect addition to their offerings. So if you decide to go to their site and buy one of their really unique All-American Kits, think about going over to choclatique.com for Authentically American Chocolates.