Monday, July 6, 2015

West Virginia Black Bears: WV Dog

Disclaimer: I am a native of West Virginia. So, naturally, when I heard that the Morgantown area was getting a class A short-season team in the NY-Penn league I made sure it was on my list of ballparks to hit this summer.

With only 2,500 seats, Monongalia County Ballpark offers up some great baseball in cozy quarters. Don’t let the stadium’s diminutive size fool you, it has everything you would expect from a minor league venue, along with a spectacular appalachian valley view from the parking lot. And hot dogs? If you read my blog regularly you will know that a few years back the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council held a sort of bracket playoff system in honor of college basketball’s March Madness tournament. Only their bracketed system pitted regional hot dogs from around the nation against each other. The champion? The West Virginia hot dog of course. And that is the specialty dog the WV Black Bears offer to fans that trod up to their hilltop abode to catch some action on the diamond.

Appeal-I love it when team’s have regionally inspired hot dogs. The WV hot dog is famous and lures the locals to the concession stand. If you were not aware, it would make you curious as to what it is all about. 5

Ingredients-WV has a distinctive and delicious hot dog chili and that is included on this dog. Along with coleslaw and spicy mustard. The Farmdale brand frank is not my favorite, but it holds its own. 4

Uniqueness-very similar to the Carolina Dog. It’s the great tasting chili that sets the WV Dog apart from others. 4

Monstrosity Factor-lots on this dog, but you will need to eat two to fill you up. 3

Value-at $6 it is not a bad bargain considering the ingredients. On par with other minor league offerings of its size. 4

Overall Taste-I did mention that the WV hot dog won a national contest yes? 5
A solid 25 of 30 for an overall score means getting a dog at Monongalia County Ballpark is a treat not to be missed when in the Mountain State. Now that West Virginia has not one, but two minor league baseball teams. Perhaps now regular folks will realize that we are actually a state and not part of Virginia. It’s like we have our own governor and everything. I get that a lot when traveling when I tell people I am from WV. They remark about how they have relatives in Richmond or Norfolk, oblivious to the fact that we separated from Virginia in 1865. I just smile, nod and remind myself that out hot dogs kicked their ass in a national contest.

Boston Red Sox: Monster Dog

The age-old rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees is well known. Although, typically it involves the game of baseball. It seems it also carries over into the hot dog realm; as in who has the most measly specialty hot dog.

These teams are powerhouses in market size, history and fanbase. One would think it would be a no-brainer that at least one of the teams would offer up a specialty dog worthy of calling either Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park home. Red Sox fans will tell you, and rightly so, that if you want a good hot dog eat one on the street near Fenway before going into the park. If some guy pushing a hot dog cart can figure out how to make a great hot dog why can’t the multi-billion dollar Red Sox franchise?  The Sox have a specialty dog called the “Monster Dog.” It gets its name from the Big Green Monster. For you baseball rubes that is the very tall green wall in left field. The dog is basically a large Kayem frank on a regular bun. Yawn.

Appeal-linking the Big Green Monster to the hot dog name was clever. But like many of the Red Sox batters this year, it doesn’t live up to the hype. 3

Ingredients-the saving grace of this dog is that it is served on a normal, toasted bun and not that strange, soggy New England style bun that every hot dog lover hates. The only condiment readily available is mustard. The rest of the paltry selection is in those damn packets. 2

Uniqueness-see picture. I met the monster, and it didn’t frighten me. 2

Monstrosity Factor-sure, the frank is bigger than the regular Fenway Frank, but the rest of Major League Baseball (except maybe the Yankees) and most of Minor League Baseball is laughing. 2

Value-shockingly, I did not have to sell a kidney to purchase this dog. But it was no bargain either. 3.5

Overall Taste-it was actually pretty good at first. But after half
of it I got tired of meat and bun with only mustard to top it off. 3
Fenway. What a great ballpark. But the Fenway Frank, and its “monster” variant is a huge fail. It did win a prize though...last place in the specialty hot dog standings.

While they fail in the dog world, the Red Sox did excel in one thing: customer service. A nice young man at the fan services booth near gate D helped me hunt down the Monster Dog and took me on top of the Green Monster to ensure I got the right one. Give that guy a raise. Just don’t give him a Fenway Frank. Boston….call me. We can fix this.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

New York Yankees: Nathan's Hot Dog

Yankee stadium. It’s hallowed ground. At least it sits on the hallowed ground that used to be Old Yankee Stadium. It is in the city that never sleeps, the big apple, home to ten million people from all over the globe. You would think a city with such a culturally diverse influence and storied franchise like the Yankees would have an awesome specialty dog worthy of representing the team. Not so. It’s like walking into Baskin-Robbins and finding out they only have two flavors.

Nathan’s is the dog that made New York famous. Or perhaps it was the other way around. In any case, the Yankees have bet their reputation on selling Nathan’s Famous hot dogs in two varieties: regular and large. Pretty mundane for a team with such an opportunity to offer the world of baseball an awesome specialty dog. I ended up with the jumbo version.

Appeal-hey! It’s a hot dog….and just a hot dog. Meh. 2.5

Ingredients-at least they use a decent brand frank. Other toppings include kraut and some sort of onions in red sauce. Bun barely held together. 3.5

Uniqueness-hey! It’s a hot dog. 1.5

Monstrosity Factor-you will need at least two. 2

Value-at over $7 it is not particular bargain. 3

Overall Taste-this is the only category the dog does well. It tasted pretty darn good. The tomatoey onions add something. 4
Do you like irony? The Yankees won the game I attended which gave them sole possession of first place in their division. Their hot dog, with an overall score of 16.5, lands them dead last in the MLB specialty hot dog standings. The Bronx Bombers have...bombed. Perhaps rehiring George Costanza can infuse some creativity into their hot dog lineup.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Hudson Valley Renegades: Half-Smoke Dog

Did you ever want to take a road trip across the United States? That is what the Hudson Valley Renegades offered fans on a Wednesday night at Dutchess Stadium. The NY-Penn League team had a “Great American Road Trip” night in which the between inning sideline games and food offerings paid tribute to popular destinations in the USA. Fans followed along on a map displayed on the scoreboard and food specialties were offered while the fans were still “visiting” that locale. Crab cakes were available while fans were “in” Baltimore.

On the hot dog front the Renegades have a “Be Your Own Chef” stand and offer a different specialty dog during each homestand. During my visit the Renegades were honoring Washington DC as we close in on the Fourth of July. DC is famous for their half-smoke and that is what you could use as the foundation for your own creation. I put mine on a pretzel bun, added onions, kraut, chili, red peppers, mustard and commenced munching.

Appeal-the idea of designing your own dog ensures you get what you want. And anyone that has ever tried a half-smoke likes it. The stand was a bit difficult to find. 4

Ingredients-quality ingredients, using a Sabrett’s half-smoke frank. The pretzel bun was good, but I have had softer. 4

Uniqueness-half-smokes are not new, in fact they are quite popular in DC. Making it the dog of the homestand for Independence Day was a great idea. And with a build your own you can design it the way you want. 4
Monstrosity Factor-a nice size dog, and I wasn’t hungry the rest of the game, but I also had no problem demolishing it. 3.5

Value-for a large dog with a half-smoke on a pretzel bun $6.50 it is a good deal. 5

Overall Taste-pretty tasty. While the Sabretts frank is good, it isn’t my favorite; but I like the fact it is a regionally recognized product. Decent pretzel bun and a generous amount of good-tasting toppings. 4.5
An overall score of 25 is a solid showing for a short-season class A ballclub. It is not an easy task to toss out a specialty offering in a modest ballpark where space for preparing concessions is limited. The Renegades do a good job of giving fans’ tummies something to look forward to when they get to the stadium.

Camino Walker Linda
It was also a special night for me as I got to take my friend Linda to the game. Linda and I met while walking the 500-mile Camino de Santiago in Spain a few years ago. She graciously allows me to stay with her when I go to the Yankees games and take the train that drops you off right in front of Yankee Stadium. I even got her to eat a hot dog.

So how did the Renegades do on the field? Did I mention they have a great hot dog?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Lehigh Valley IronPigs: Hog Dog

Some days you eat the dog, some days the dog eats you. I knew I was going to go toe-to-toe with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs two-foot long meat monster a week ago. Being no fool (at least in matters of processed meat), I called in reinforcements. I met my aunt Tressa and Uncle Bob at Coca Cola park to assist me in ridding the planet of this meat menace (at least one of them).

The Hog Dog is a 24-inch Alpine frank covered in chili, beer cheese sauce, bacon and fried onion straws served on a french roll the length of a Cadillac. The sheer size of it requires that it comes in its own special box. It’s big. This thing is so huge it should have its own TV show. And the thing is damn delicious. Results: one disappeared, oversized dog and three stuffed fans.

Uncle Bob and Aunt Tressa: Monster Killers
Appeal-this thing has a reputation, but the IronPigs need to do better in promoting it. Hog Dog doesn’t cut it. A monster like that needs a monster name. How about Hogzilla? 4.5

Ingredients-the above mentioned toppings are all tasty and plentiful. Eat it as it is served. No additional topping required. 5

Uniqueness-the sheer size of it makes if somewhat unique, especially in the minor leagues. 5

Monstrosity Factor-off the scale. 5

Value-scary at $25, but it comes sliced for 5 fans. Do the math. $5 for a loaded dog is a good deal. Pepto Bismol costs extra. 5

Overall Taste-downright delicious. With a dog of that magnitude, a team would be tempted to skimp on quality. No so in Coca Cola Park. 5
Eating this dog is an event in itself and the overall score of 29.5, which is nearly perfect, reflects the unique ballpark experience it entails. For a dog that could feed ⅓ of the population of Guatemala (or me and two of my relatives), it deserves the notoriety that it gets. Just change the name.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Trenton Thunder: Thunder Dog

As your pontificator of process meat it is my sworn duty to educate you. Lesson: pork roll. It’s a pork based processed meat that is extremely popular in a region that encompasses parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Think pork bologna...only tastier. How much do the denizens of New Jersey dig the pork roll? Trenton hosts an annual Pork Roll Festival. I am booking my next vacation now.

Two years ago, during the off-season concessions captain Chris Champion and his lieutenant Bryan Rock were retooling the menu and wanted to come up with a signature dog for the Trenton Thunder that would give fans something to rave about. After sleepless nights and hours of tapping into the NSA database, the Thunder Dog was born. Chris, who has over twenty years of ballpark concessions experience under his belt (he started selling popcorn in the very park where he co-invented the Thunder Dog) wanted to give the ballpark’s newest offering a local flavor. So the star of the Thunder Dog show is a Black Bear all-beef frank wrapped in….pork roll. And cheese of course.

Appeal-anything named Thunder conjures up images of greatness, and any double-meat dog is worth trying. 5

Ingredients-lots, including onions, pepper, cheese, meat, potatoes, meat and more meat. All this served on a soft and fresh hoagie roll. 5

Uniqueness-none other like it in baseball. I always dig adding a local flair to the dogs. 5

Monstrosity Factor-a huge dog, loaded with deliciousness. I got it down. But it was the only thing I ate that night. 4.5

Value-I paid $8 for a regular hot dog last year at Busch Stadium. The same amount of cash at Arm & Hammer Park gets you a meal in a bun. 5

Overall Taste-pretty damn good. I liked the Black Bear frank, it was the first time I had encountered it, but not as much as a few others. Toss in a Hebrew National frank for top score. 4.5
Bryan Rock & Chris Champion
An awesome score of 29. The irony? This AA team’s dog puts both the Mets and Phillies dogs to shame. Philadelphia and New York can take a lesson from their minor league neighbors and give the fans a slugger like the Thunder Dog instead of a pinch hitter. And given the current state of affairs, the Thunder could probably take the Phillies to task on the diamond as well. Speaking of dogs, the team doesn’t have a bat boy the first inning, it has a bat dog. A golden retriever that collects the bats. Really cool.

Arm & Hammer Park is a great baseball destination if in the area. It is situated in a park-like shore of the Delaware River. All seats are the same price and you won’t find a friendlier staff and front office in baseball. Just come hungry.

Monday, June 29, 2015

New York Mets: Pastrami Dog

You would think that in the Big Apple they would do things in a big way. But despite several laps around the main concourse at Citi Field and numerous inquires, the largest and most outrageous dog I could find at the Met’s ballpark was the Pastrami Dog. A Nathan’s hot dog topped with a hearty portion of pastrami, brown mustard and a pickle spear.

I know what you are thinking, pastrami and a hot dog on a bun at the same time? It sounds like an artery hardening experience only to be undertaken under the supervision of a cardiologist. After procuring one, I found a place near one of the ballpark’s Automated External Defibrillator (AED), took six Lipitor tablets and commenced to munching. Verdict: after awaking from emergency triple bypass surgery, the ambulance drivers tell me I was mumbling something about it being delicious.

Appeal-I love double-meat dogs. And I love pastrami. 5

Ingredients-one bite was kind of fatty, but otherwise top notch toppings, but it could have used at least one other topping. 4.5

Uniqueness-I like the idea of a deli-themed hot dog. 5

Monstrosity Factor-another hot dog that is just regular-sized but topped with out of the ordinary toppings. If you want to run with the big dogs, you have to be a big dog. 2

Value-In New York City most everything is expensive. Not so with the Pastrami Dog. At $7.25 it is a ballpark steal. 5

Overall Taste-really tasty, but could have used a bit of spice. 4.5
With a score of 26 the Mets get sent to the middle of the standings, which is better than they can hope for on the playing field if they continue their downward slide. I do like the fact that you can get to the park from the far flung reaches of anywhere remotely close to New York City by a combination of trains or subway. Plus, this was my first ever attendance of a resumption of a rain suspended game. The regular game was preceded by the game from the previous day and took back up in the 6th inning. And then lasted until the 13th inning. Lots of baseball, followed by a postgame concert by the Steve Miller Band. That’s a log of entertainment, just not a lot of hot dog.