Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Regional Dog Fight: Cubs vs White Sox

This wiener wrestling match pits the teams of the Windy City against each other in what would first appear as a mismatch. Think baseball and an image of Wrigley Field is in there somewhere, think hot dog and the Chicago Dog gets top billing. It’s old versus new as the Cubs of Wrigley taken on the south side White Sox from US Cellular Field. That is sort of like putting Andre the Giant in a midget match...or is it? Is there a David and Goliath story in the making?

The White Sox have the Comiskey Dog, which is really a Chicago Style Dog that puts them on par with the Cubbies. The Bopaks frank is not as tasty as the Vienna Beef wiener in Wrigley but close. The Sox also slather on grilled onions and kraut, just like the Cubs. Where the south side gang whips their opponent in the dog department is availability of toppings and cost. If you dress your dog with the condiments at Wrigley, you dog is going to feel somewhat naked. The price differential is huge, $3.75 as US Cellular vs $5.50 at Wrigley.

Then there is the ballpark. I went into this thinking no one could beat out Wrigley Field. I was wrong. Wrigley blows any ballpark away in the ambiance section, but that is like relying on your good looks and personality to get a job as a nuclear physicist. The fans were more exuberant in the Cubs camp as well. What sinks the Cubbies ship is price, I had to pay $32 for general admission ticket in the bleachers. No joke. A GA ticket at US Cellular is $7, and $5 on the day I went. Wrigley is also a good bit less clean, but since it is 100 years old, I cut it a break and only docked it one point. Bottom line is the White Sox ballpark beat the vaunted Wrigley Field by 2.5 points.

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability5GA Ticket Price1
It Factor5Fans5

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability5GA Ticket Price5
It Factor5Fans4

The lesson for all MLB teams here: team, history, ambiance, fan base, etc. do not amount to a hill of beans if I have to take out a second mortgage to see a game and eat a dog at your ballpark. A reasonably priced GA ticket and hot dog would have seen the Cubs edge out the White Sox, but when money is the focus of your operation, it costs you in the long run. White Sox by 4.5 points. The Cubbies should be embarrassed. Harry Carey would not approve.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Regional Dog Fight: Dodgers vs Angels

The last regional dog fight pitted the New York teams against each other for a very close shootout. Today, we move the match to the west coast where the Dodgers and Angels mix it up for the hot dog/baseball experience crown of Los Angeles. It is kind of like the fight in New York, only with better weather.

Unlike New York, both of the LA teams sport older stadiums, but it is the hot dog that gives the Dodgers the overall win. Both ballparks scored 21 while the Dodgers were saved by the Dodger Dog that score 2 points better than its competitor, the Angel Dog. The Dodgers could have blown the Angels away. I personally feel a ballgame in Dodger Stadium’s blue edifice is much more pleasant than its counterpart in Anaheim. The problem is the Dodgers think you should pay for that edge, and pay a lot. The Angles, while by no means cheap, are more reasonable.

The deciding factor was the Dodger Dog’s “It Factor.” While it doesn’t necessarily taste any better than the Angel Dog, it has a reputation so well known that it has been in movies and emulated by other ballparks. Love it or hate it, the Dodger Dog has a gleaming star on the Hot Dog Walk of Fame

Total Dog/Game
GA Ticket Price
It Factor

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability5GA Ticket Price4
It Factor2Fans4

I will say this in the Angels defense, they have the Rally Monkey. And any team that has a monkey is worth seeing.
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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wiener Winner

Everyone loves hot dogs. Well, except those vegetarian freaks, but they make veggie dogs for that so they can join the fun. Speaking of which, did you ever wonder what they do with the plastic shopping bags you take back to the grocery store to recycle? They make veggie dogs with them.

Now that baseball and grilling season is winding down, people ask me how to make their next deal on the grill better. How to serve up a better hot dog. Frankly, the frank makes a huge difference. A good frank will make a great hot dog and a mediocre frank can be carried by a great selection of toppings. A killer combo is a fresh bun, great tasting frank and a good array of toppings to complement the meat.

If you are looking to recreate a great tasting hot dog like you would have at the ballpark you should start with a frank served at the ballparks. Since I tested all of them, here is how your world renowned Hot Dot Explorer ranks the franks you would find at the stadium so you can cook one up at home.

First Place

If you read my blog you know I rave about the all-beef Hebrew National frank. Simply stated, I think it is the best tasting dog you can buy of any nationally available brand. It has the perfect combination of saltiness and flavor. Plus, it is kosher. A little known fact is that most people buy kosher product not for religous reasons, but for the sanitary conditions in which kosher products are made. If you have issues with the meat production ick-factor, kosher helps alleviate that. And it will taste great on the bun.

Runners Up

Nathan’s Famous is a New York staple and they do make a delicious dog. Many of the East Coast teams use Nathan’s franks. They are slightly fatty which causes them to burst with flavor.

Esskay is also a ballpark standard in many cities. While not available in every supermarket, you can’t go wrong by slapping an Esskay frank on your bun.

Regional Favorites

Nolan Ryan served up some heat from the mound in his day. Today he serves up some tasty beef, including an all-beef frank used primarily in the Texas area. If you are in the Longhorn State check out a dog with a Nolan Ryan frank.

Winter’s is a Detroit based meat manufacturer and give the Toledo Mud Hens and Detroit Tigers some serious flavor to their dog lineup. Mainly available in the greater Detroit area, and mainly delicious.

Bonus Video
If you feel uneasy about how hot dogs are made this video will help take the mystery out of the process and put your mind at ease. Sirloin it is not, but still the same cow. It is quite interesting and worth a watch.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

It Ain't Over Yet

It’s that time of year again when worlds collide.

I am from West Virginia, where college football fans are pretty darn adamant about what they will be doing on Saturday afternoon. I have also lived in Texas, where NCAA football is the state obsession. Now I live in Oklahoma where the sport can best be described as a sickness. I love sports as well, but I am not going to schedule my weekend around kickoff times. First pitch maybe.

The problem with college and NFL pre-season football is this….IT IS STILL BASEBALL SEASON! In fact one could argue this is the most interesting time of the hardball season, where pennant races are heating up. Bowl games are still 3 months away. Baseball gets the same treatment in September that Thanksgiving gets in November. People are so overwhelmed by the bombardment of Christmas advertising and hype that Turkey Day is nearly forgotten. Well, respect the Turkey….and respect the horsehide.

I have heard football fans argue that baseball is too long and too boring. Well, it’s not. That is why they call it a thinking person’s game. In fact, the average baseball game is about 10 minutes SHORTER than the average NFL games. AND if you break down the action there are several more minutes of play per 3 hour average game in baseball than football. So don’t give me that too long and too boring crap. Here is a breakdown of NFL action for you:

No to worry though, your intrepid Hot Dog Explorer has a detox plan for you that allows you to enjoy both sports. It’s a 6 step program.
Step 1: Pick either NFL pre-season or NCAA football as your poison of choice for September.
Step 2: On the Saturday or Sunday that you have football free (based on your choice) go to the ballpark (if one is near you) or catch a baseball game on TV.
Step 3: Pick up a pack of Hebrew National franks at your local supermarket.
Step 4: On days you can’t get to a baseball park, grill the HN franks for you and your friends/buds/family. Place on bun with mustard, relish and consume. Extra points if you have the baseball game on the radio WHILE your grill.
Step 5: During the baseball postseason devote 80% of your sports mind to baseball, 20% to football. You can do it.
Step 6: Remember that while hot dogs taste best at the baseball park, they aren’t too bad at the football game either.

And for the love of God, don’t put your Christmas tree up until AFTER December 1. Give the world a break. Lastly, don’t forget that packs of Hebrew National franks make lovely Christmas gifts. Now you know what to get me. Well, that and a pony.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Drum Roll Please...We Have a Wiener

The results are in. After 103 days on the road, exhaustive research and nearly 100 hot dogs I have tabulated the results for your viewing/discussing/cussing/hating/enjoying pleasure. I know many of you will disagree with how it finally shook out. But remember this: I had a system. Sure it was subjective, but all venues/teams had a scorecard and the results are what they are. I am as disappointed as many of you. The Padres, my favorite team, scored very low. And, like many of you, I was shocked to discover how poorly the vaunted venues of Fenway and Wrigley fared.

Many teams were the own worst enemies when it came to landing a good score. Some had great dogs and mediocre stadiums, and for others it was just the opposite. A few could have been contenders but you can't offer a great dog in a terrific ballpark and then price the average fan out. Baseball is a the game of the people, not the elite.

In short, the standings were as surprising to me as to many of you. And there were some subjective variables. A $15 ticket in a small or medium market was judged more harshly than a ticket of the same price in a city known for being over the top expensive. While it wasn't an exact science, there was a method.

Baltimore gets top score as the only team to pull off a perfect rating. The Rays land in the cellar in a catastrophe of a ballpark.

Which park did I:
Enjoy the most? Pittsburgh. A true gem, and the city where I saw my first MLB game. Even the rain couldn't put a damper on PNC Park.
Find most surprising? Target Field in Minneapolis. I really enjoyed that place. Great new venue.
Respect the most? Nationals Park. It is a LEED certified park (Leadership in Environmental Engineering Design). Green is cool.
Couldn't wait to get out of? Oakland. Crappy cookie cutter stadium in a not so great area.
Feel the vibe the most? Fenway....how could you not?
Think should move? Tampa or Oakland. Hello Portland?
Recommend to foreign tourists? Wrigley or Fenway.
Find most isolated? Arizona

Below is the score sheet for OVERALL score. I'll break down the best dog and then ballpark in a later post. The scores below is the combined baseball/hot dog experience, which I was exploring. Enjoy, rejoice, cry or complain.

Disagree? I'll be happy to talk dogs and baseball with you next year at the ballpark of your choosing? I'll even let you buy me a ticket and a beer. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hot Dogs, Cold Water and Iron Men

Lou Gehrig
Lou Gehrig was one of the best players to ever set foot on a baseball diamond. His streak of games without missing a start stood for decades until it was finally surpassed in the 1990s. The man was a machine, indestructible...until he was stricken with ALS.

ALS affects more than 30,000 Americans and is more commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” after one its earliest and most famous victims. Today the Blog About a Dog takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to draw attention to this illness that is so closely associated with one of baseball’s best.  Below is the video of your Hot Dog Explorer taking the challenge. It is customary to call out others to take the challenge as well. In case you don’t have time to watch the video I call out the following to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:

Andie Nelson of Edelman
Stacy Becker, the Special Executive Assistant to the President of Lohr Hot Dog Explorations
Rick Bennett, CIO of T.D. Williamson, Inc.
And any executive of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council

It’s refreshing and exhilarating...trust me.

And please do what you can to help eradicate ALS.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Guest Blog: The Good Dog, Bad Dog, Ugly Dog

I love it when my blog followers contribute. This blog is the first (of I hope many) guest bloggers. Stacy is a dietitian from Tulsa who professionally analyzes her dog selection from ONEOK field, home of the Tulsa Drillers. She channels her inner Clint Eastwood to get the dog off her lawn and into her tummy. Thanks Stacy, from all of us ballpark dog lovers who wanted to (or maybe didn't want to) know what we were letting slide down our gullet.

The Good: According to the USDAsupertracker an average hot dog with bun” provides 250 calories and 9 grams of protein, roughly equivalent to a Power Bar. It also boasts significant amounts of several important vitamins; B-12, Thiamine and Niacin. Take me out to the Ballpark!

The Bad: Our frankfurter friend is shamefully high in fat, notably the saturated, artery clogging kind. Think six slices of bacon; topped with chili and cheese, a greasy dozen. It's also laced with sodium; the equivalent of two Lay's grab bags. Add mustard and relish (which I did) and you have 50% of the daily recommended amount of sodium, in just one dog! Suggested game day meal plan: fruit for breakfast, salad for lunch, water, water and more water...
Stacy's foil-smushed dog

The Ugly: There is nothing pretty about a foiled smashed, grease soaked bun and watery pump relish. In my humble opinion dog should meet bun just seconds prior to service. Relish should be available in a serving dish, nestled between onions and jalapeno friends, flanked by pumps of spicy mustard and hot sauce. Go ahead hot dog world, make my day!