What's better than cased meat? Explore Sausages and Hot Dogs in their many forms, including chorizo, American hot dogs, and artisanal sausages.
Photo by Burger King / Facebook

Photo by Burger King / Facebook

As both a fast-food blogger and consumer, one of the things I’ve never been able to figure out is why the major players never made a deep dive into hot dogs. The way I see it, there are two types of people in this world: Those who eat hot dogs and those who don’t. If you eat hot dogs, you probably eat fast food. It’s that simple. Hot dog lovers tend not to worry about things like preservatives and nitrates and quality of meat. “Hot dogs” and “fast food” are essentially interchangeable.

Despite this obvious correlation, major chains like McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr., and Wendy’s never offered hot dogs, except maybe for a limited time here and there. It’s not like Americans aren’t eating hot dogs — in 2014, U.S. consumers spent more than $2.5 billion on hot dogs from supermarkets — so why isn’t fast food cashing in? (more…)

Posted by on February 15th, 2016

Assorted Salumi. All photos by Marla Gulley Roncaglia

Assorted Salumi. All photos by Marla Gulley Roncaglia

Necessity is the mother of invention, and so the tradition of salting, smoking and air drying was borne from the necessity of conserving meat for long periods of time after the slaughter of animals raised for food. Cured meats, or salumi in Italian, is the general name for this type of meat preservation and has been a staple of the Italian diet for well over two thousand years. Most people are familiar with the spicy salami of southern Italy that Americans know as pepperoni, and the prosciutto crudo of Parma, fondly called Parma ham in the States, but those are merely an introduction. There are countless variations developed and perfected through the ages; the vast amount beyond these two most familiar cured meat specialties are well worth searching out and exploring what the salumeria, or Italian delicatessen, has on offer. (more…)

Posted by on June 13th, 2013

Photo by The Vibary of Buffalo Grove

Photo by The Vibary of Buffalo Grove

With the Cubs back for another season, I thought it would be a good time to review my favorite hot dogs. While I haven’t written about everywhere on this list individually, I’ve been eating hot dogs for as long as my dad could sneak me food behind my mom’s back, and I definitely remember my favorites. It’s also worth mentioning that there are a ton of hot dogs in this city and only so many arteries to go around. With that in mind, these are my ten favorites. (more…)

Posted by on April 23rd, 2013

Chef Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats

Ryan Farr is a chef’s chef whose early passion for flavorful food once inspired a job as a dishwasher when he was in his early teens. Fast forward to the present: Chef Farr’s ascension through the restaurant ranks ended on a high note, as (former) executive chef at Fifth Floor in San Francisco, where he helped earn a coveted Michelin star. He’s been called a lot of things during the course of his culinary career—namely, a hot butcher, sausage maker, chef-turned-butcher—but all of these descriptors pale in comparison to what just might be the most apt nickname ever: the meat whisperer.

In early 2009, Chef Farr founded 4505 Meats with his wife, Cesalee. Although it may have originally been best known for its bacon-studded hot dogs and chicharrones (aka deep-fried pork skins, aka “puffy pork cloud magic”), like so many chef-backed ventures, 4505 Meats is being eclipsed by its founder. So if you want a piece of the chef, get in line. Chef Farr showcases his “whole animal” perspective with regularly scheduled butchery classes and popular, periodic parties held around town where he breaks down and roasts whole pigs on site. If you want the meat without the mess, 4505 also offers monthly CSAs in the form of meat coolers, featuring freshly butchered, locally sourced meat—recent boxes included milk fed lamb and pastured pork. 4505 Meats works with local farm favorites from Dirty Girl and Fulton Valley to Napa Valley Lamb Company.

Find 4505 Meats at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market every Thursday and Saturday until  2 p.m., and get updates via Facebook, Twitter and the 4505 Meats blog, which Chef Farr promises will have more updates soon.

(more…)

Posted by on March 11th, 2011

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

If you love Spanish food, then you know an ingredient heavily used in Spanish cooking is the chorizo.  The Spanish chorizo is generally cured, sometimes smoked and can be eaten sliced with cheese or sliced and cooked in a variety of dishes.  As with the Taco Bell and McDonald’s posting, it’s fun to go behind the scenes and in this case, we’re going to take a look at how the Spanish chorizo is manufactured in a small plant in Harbor City, California.

For those of you living in the LA area, a trip to La Espanola, one of only four Spanish cured meat producers in the United States should definitely be on your to do list. La Espanola is an unassuming white building on a small side street in Harbor City in the South Bay part of LA County. To some who may hesitate because of the drive, let me tell you, it’s more than worth it.  First, let’s learn a little more background. In 1982, La Espanola Meats was founded by Juana Gimeno Farone, a native from Spain and her husband, Frank Faraone. When the couple relocated to California, Juana was disappointed that the availability of Spanish cured meats was extremely limited to almost nonexistent. After a lot of effort, she managed to find a Spanish food purveyor in Harbor City. After the current owners decided to retire, Juana and her husband bought all the remaining inventory and decided to start their own company.

27 years later, La Espanola wears many hats. Not only do they import, distribute and sell, both retail and wholesale, Spanish foods, they also manufacture Spanish-style sausages and cured meats using traditional Spanish recipes. Along with cured meats, other products that La Espanola imports from Spain to re-sell here include olive oil, olives, canned foods, candy, paella pans and more. As for their plant, it has the approval of the US Department of Agriculture and has state-of-the-art equipment, including mixers, multiple curing rooms and ovens.

On the day of the our La Espanola visit, many in the group arrived early to check out the retail store and as luck would have it, the store was sampling quite a few of their products including cheeses, cured meats, white anchovies and olives. I have to say it was difficult to display restraint. The quality of the product really was evident in how good everything tasted. I enjoyed the spicing of the cured meats and I could have eaten two plates of the white anchovies.

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola
Tour and Lunch at La Espanola
Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Walking around the small store was like a treasure hunt. It was just amazing the variety of products they had for sale. The various meats, sausages and cheeses were a definite draw, but so were the wines and the olive oils. Also on the shelves, I found sardines, quince, both an asparagus mousse and piquillo pepper mousse and so much more.

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Soon, it was time for the tour and it was led by Alex Motamedi, a family member and it started outside where he first told us La Espanola’s history and we also got a chance to take a peek at the Paella that was going to served later in the afternoon.

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

After the talk, we put on our oh-so-fashionable hair nets and were walked into the inner sanctum of their plant. As an importer of cured meats from Spain, those meats arrive whole, are cut into larger pieces, sliced, put into a plastic wrap, vacuum sealed and are ready for sale.

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

The star attraction was really the sausages. First, Alex pointed out the various machines that go into the sausage making process from the grinder, the scale, the mixer and finally the sausage casing machine

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Then we took a peek into sausage nirvana where row after row of sausages hung. The temperature, humidity and airflow in these curing rooms are carefully monitored. For a moment, we just stood there in awe. It was hard not to want to run in, grab a few sausages (some of which were actually taller than my 5’1″ height) and make a run for it. It was a beautiful sight of meaty-goodness.

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Once the sausages have finished their curing process, they are taken out of the vaults to be cleaned and packaged. An interesting thing that Alex mentioned was regarding the white mold on the surface of the sausages. During this curing process, white mold grows on the outside while the moisture evaporates as the sausage dries; hence, you get a dry sausage. There’s apparently nothing wrong with the mold and while La Espanola generally cleans it off before packaging the sausage, they do get requests for the mold to be kept on for those customers who want to ensure the sausage was actually cured on location.

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

It was definitely a fun and informative tour and I always love going behind the scenes of a food factory because it makes you so much more appreciative of the work that goes into what lands on your plate. After the tour, we walked over to the covered patio for lunch which started with a tapas plate of cured meats, cheeses and olives.

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Soon it was paella time and it arrived in a large platter right in the middle of our table. This was definitely an epic serving of rice, sausages, mussels, shrimp and chicken. I wasn’t even sure if we’d finish it, but I have to say we made a pretty good dent and along with espresso and Spanish cookies to end the meal, it was definitely an enjoyable afternoon spent at La Espanola.

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

Tour and Lunch at La Espanola

A couple things I should mention in regards to the tour and the lunch. This was a private tour I had set up with Alex and at the time, he had mentioned that they were going to start limiting the number of factory tours. So if you want a private tour, he’s the person to contact, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll say yes.

As for the paella, it’s only available during the weekend and you need to make advance reservations for it. They only make enough paella for the number of reservations that come in. Even if you can’t do the tour or try their paella, La Espanola is really the place to go for Spanish cured meats and imported foods, so I definitely encourage you to check it out and hopefully, you’ve also learned a little more about the tasty Spanish chorizo sausage.

Click here to see all the photos!

If you’re in the LA area, be sure to drop by La Espanola below:

La Espanola Meats
25020 Doble Ave
Harbor City, CA 90710-3155
(310) 539-0455
www.laespanolameats.com

For other Spanish restaurant options, look below:

Café Iberico
739 N LaSalle Blvd
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 573-1510

Casa Mono
52 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003
(212) 253-2773

Costa Brava
1653 Garnet Ave
San Diego, CA 92109
(858) 273-1218

Las Ventas
700 Harrison Ave
Boston, MA 02228
(617) 266-0905

Si Tapas and Spanish Cuisine
2207 Allen St
Dallas, TX 75204
(214) 720-0324

Posted by on December 9th, 2009

hdAre you a hot dog lover?  Do you enjoy those delicious franks cradled in a soft bun and topped with a variety of ingredients?  Perhaps, a little mustard and onions will do you.  Maybe, you’re a ketchup lover.  Then there are those times when nothing can make you happy except some chili, cheese and onions.

If you’re a Chicago hot dog lover, it’s all about the mustard, relish, dill pickle, a slice of tomato, onions and peppers.  In Los Angeles, people will actually hunt for bacon wrapped hot dogs with a squeeze of mayonaise sometimes sold by local street vendors.  But none of these hot dogs have anything on the Colombian Hot Dog.  So what is a Colombian hog dog you may ask?

Simply, it’s a Hebrew National hot dog tucked with ham and mozzarella cheese into a bun with raw onion, crushed pineapple, sprinkled with crushed potato chips and finished off with a three-squeeze-bottle pattern of catsup, mustard and mayonnaise. You’re either cringing or entranced right about now. Suffice to say that it’s almost impossible to eat this Latin American dog without smearing condiments all over your mouth, chin and possibly up all in your nose, too.

When you  first see it, you’ll be in awe because you’re not going to have any idea of where to start. You might even consider asking for a knife and fork, but come on.  Just gut it out! Half the enjoyment is the messiness.  One safe strategy that might work is to take a bite out of the top part of the hot dog, leaving a lower ledge of hot dog and bread. Then bite the lower part of the hot dog and just repeat. So what would a hot dog with all these interesting ingredients taste like? With each bite, you will taste sour, salty and sweet with both creamy, firm and crisp textures. If you’re able to find a restaurant that sells this hot dog, you’ll be in for quite an experience.

If you’d like to check out this hot dog for yourself, look below for some options!

Los Chuzos Y Algo Mas
6414 Roosevelt Ave
Queens, NY 11377
(718) 476-2017

MAO Colombian Fast Food
8438 SW 40th St
Miami, FL 33231
(305) 551-0506

Tutti Frutti
950 E Colorado Blvd, #105
Pasadena, CA 91106
(626) 793-3662

Posted by on September 8th, 2009

3375202152_69b5b2a111For me, hot dogs and summer go hand-in-hand.  Also called frankfurters, frank, weenie, wienie, wiener, dog, and red hot, the hot dog is basically a fully cooked sausage that consists of a combination of beef and pork or all beef, which is cured, smoked, and cooked and than placed in a bun. So now that the summer season is here, I present to you 10 Things to Know About Hot Dogs.

An Oldie But a Goodie: Sausage is one of the oldest forms of processed food and was actually mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, which is an ancient Greek tale of adventure and heroism.

Would You Like Champagne With Your Hot Dog?: President Franklin Roosevelt served King George VI of England hot dogs & beer during a White House visit in 1939. Mrs. Jimmy Carter served hot dogs at a White House picnic in 1977. Queen Elizabeth II served hot dogs at a royal banquet held for the American Bar Association.

Let’s Be Frank: When shopping for hot dogs, you should know that franks contain 100% meat while frankfurters, hot dogs and weiners can be up to 15% filler.

Forget About Cheese: A little known fact about Mickey Mouse is that his first words were “Hot dogs!” He spoke them in the 1929 short flick titled “The Karnival Kid”.

Size Does Matter: As a 1996 stunt, Sara Lee made the world’s largest dog, specifically a 2,000-foot wiener.

Moon Food: Hot dogs were actually among the first foods that were eaten on the moon.  A meal for Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin Jr when they went on their Apollo 11 space flight in 1969, consisted of hot dogs, bacon, canned peaches and sugar cookies.

A Hot Dog By Any Other Name: Hot Dogs got their name at The Polo Grounds in New York City in 1901. Vendors sold hot dogs from hot water tanks, shouting, “They’re red hot! Get your Dachshund sausages while they are red hot!” Cartoonist Tad Dorgan sketched the vendors but unsure of how to spell dachshund, he simply wrote “Hot Dog!” and that is how the name was given.

Mustard Cuts the Mustard: Mustard is the most popular topping with 87% of hot dog eaters using it, although children favor ketchup.

6 is the Magic Number: The average hot dog, including the bun, is consumed in 6 bites.

The City of Hot Dogs: Los Angeles is the hot-dog capital of the U.S. with Angelinos eating an average of 36.6 million pounds of hot dogs a year.

Posted by on June 26th, 2009

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