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May 28, 2006

Memorial Day Weekend Hot Dog Throwdown


Eight dogs entered, one dog left in the Washington Post Food section's battle of the frankfurters, whose results appeared in the May 24 Food section.

Here's Stephanie Witt Sedgwick's story about the taste-off.

    Taste Test: The House Brand Wins

    Hot dog lovers tend to be loyalists, with some regions harboring more fanatics than others.

    Don't get residents of Upstate New York started.

    "I can't even discuss my favorite hot dogs with some people without getting into an argument," said Jo Natale, a spokeswoman for Wegmans, the grocery chain based in Rochester.

    Rochester likes its hot dogs short and stout. Syracuse favors long and thin.

    Then there's the battle of the "white hots" (made of pork and veal) versus "the red hots" (pork and beef, with some veal).

    German American family-run manufacturers in the Upstate New York area such as Zweigle's and Hofmann's Sausage Co. helped develop the distinct styles in America; the Hofmann family began making sausage in Syracuse in 1879.

    In the Washington area, both kinds arrived in full force with the opening of the Wegmans supermarkets in Sterling and Fairfax.

    With weekend grilling (and Memorial Day) upon us, we put the hot dogs to the test.

    They are different in texture and flavor from the all-beef variety.

    "All-beef hot dogs get their taste from spices -- especially garlic," said Rusty Flook, Hofmann's owner (and a fifth-generation Hofmann).

    Aside from the all-beef versions, upstate dogs get a flavor boost from pork, which also gives them a softer texture -- especially if some veal is added.

    For the tasting, we were joined by Don Roden, owner of the Organic Butcher in McLean; Wolfgang Buchler, owner of Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe in Arlington; Marty Volk, owner of the Vienna Inn; and Gabrielle Silver, a manager at the inn.

    Charles J. Nackos, 83, of Vienna, who describes himself as the inn's oldest and most loyal customer, joined in.

    The hot dogs were grilled over a charcoal fire.

    All are available at Wegmans; where available, website addresses are listed.

    Unless noted, the hot dogs we tasted were Rochester-style.


The results follow (click the table, booboo, unless you've got X-Man vision).


At the top of this post is a photo of the winner, Wegmans White Bockwurst-Style Hot Dogs with Natural Casing.

Evelyn Spence wrote an evocative story about her youthful hot dog eating summer days in Western New York State; it appeared alongside Ms. Sedgwick's article, and follows.

    Red or White

    Upstate New Yorkers Tend to Relish Their Hometown Favorites

    "Red or white? Red or white?"

    That's the question my father would ask over and over at the barbecues he hosted every summer at the church in western New York where he was the pastor.

    As far back as I can remember, I would ask for white -- hot dogs, that is.

    During my childhood, Dad would invite three or four families to picnic on long wooden tables dragged up from the Sunday school basement.

    "Bring meat to grill and a dish to pass," he instructed.

    Almost everybody brought hot dogs.

    He would lift the grilled (okay, charred) offerings off the charcoal fire -- one family's contribution now indistinguishable from another's.

    Then he would walk up and down along the tables, asking each guest to choose -- a red dog or a white one.

    While the rest of the country roasted traditional red beef hot dogs, Rochester, N.Y., with a significant German community, served up a second option: white and porky.

    They were produced and marketed along the southern rim of Lake Ontario.

    They've been featured in "Real American Food," a 1986 book on regional food by Jane and Michael Stern.

    They are sold hot with mustard at the stadium of the Rochester Red Wings, a Minnesota Twins Class AAA affiliate.

    You can buy hots by the pound packed in dry ice at the Rochester airport.

    And now they're available in Northern Virginia, along the back wall of Wegmans, the grocery chain anchored in western New York.

    One octogenarian family friend says that whites taste the same as reds, but I think her taste buds have worn out. (If she were a drinking woman, she might similarly claim that white wine tastes like red.)

    Compared with reds, white hot dogs aren't smoke-flavored and aren't as sweet or spicy.

    Instead, they seem richer, deeper, closer to the earth.

    Compared with bratwurst, white hot dogs are smooth on the tongue and mild in taste.

    In the dairy section of the Fairfax Wegmans I found two brands: the house brand and Zweigle's, a Rochester family-owned company that boasts of "quality since 1880."

    Both companies market precooked white hots wrapped in "natural" sausage casing and a gentler "skinless" variety, which is the one I prefer.

    The first four ingredients for both brands are "pork, water, beef, veal."

    Wegmans whites are labeled "bockwurst style" and there's a dumpling quality to their texture.

    The Zweigle's hots, parenthetically called "cooked sausage," are firmer and have a peppery kick.

    I favor Wegmans.

    My neighbor votes for Zweigle's.

    If you want a sampler, Wegmans offers a pound package containing four reds and four (skinless) whites.

    The deli department sells something called a "snappy" that looks like a white hot dog.

    Well, they might be in the ballpark, but they don't score with my nostalgic memory.

    Maybe it's because they're made in Syracuse.

    As the cooking directions suggest, New York natives generally grill or pan-fry their hot dogs and serve them up in buns, slathered with ketchup and mustard.

    But white hots are as versatile as reds and can be baked into beans, wrapped in biscuit blankets, topped with sauerkraut, boiled in beer, even drizzled with maple syrup.


The two websites in the Taste Test table where you can order some of these great dogs:

hofmannsausage.com and newyorkstyledeli.com.

May 28, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ever so slowly, the Indianapolis 500 becomes more compelling


Today's running of the race features split-screen technology that lets me watch the race M.O.S. (mit out sound, as they say in Hollywood) during commercials.

A big step forward.

And since I always mute the sound during commercials anyway, it's all good and even better.

There's also a ton of on-board information being shown via telemetry onscreen, stuff like an individual car's MPH, RPM, throttle, steering and G-force.

We're on lap 121 of 200 as I type these words at 3:01 p.m.: air temperature in Indianapolis is a record 96°F and temperature down on the track is over 120° according to the announcers.

I don't want to think about the temperature inside the racing suits and helmets of the drivers.

But I will say that my internal debate about whether or not to bag my puny 30-minute run today because it's over 90° outside is over — I mean, I get to wear T-shirt and shorts, for crying out loud.

As soon as the race is over and winner drinks from his/her (Danica Patrick's running sixth at the moment) bottle of milk and says, "I'm going to Disney World!," I'm outa here and out onto the road.

But I digress.

Putting lipstick cameras behind the heads of the race car drivers was a major leap in the right direction.

The next step is a much bigger one but it will be absolutely mega: namely, letting the viewer at home put on a completely enclosed helmet or pair of sound-enabled goggles, pay $50 or $100 or whatever the market will bear, and be connected directly to sensors and cameras in the driver's helmet (your choice of driver, of course) and actually watch and hear the race just as the driver's seeing it.

I'd pay a lot to do that and I guarantee you there are plenty of people like me around the world.

A ton of money to the company that brings immersive videogame technology to the real world.

That's a mashup to conjure with.

Today they're offering something called "IRL Racecast."

For $9.95 you get to watch the race on your computer screen from the point of view of your favorite driver's lipstick camera, etc.

Closer... but not close enough.


May 28, 2006 at 03:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A dim bulb goes on in my head


It happened yesterday.

I was reading a story in the Washington Post Business section about how the U.S. Postal Service has just begun letting companies create their own branded stamps for first-class mail.

This builds on last year's debut of PhotoStamps, which lets individuals put pictures of themselves or whomever/whatever they want on stamps that can be used as regular postage.

The Post story by Caroline E. Mayer noted that "...advertising was barred from stamps until earlier this year when Congress overturned a 19th-century law barring commercial images on stamps."

Here's my idea: I'm gonna order a bunch of bookofjoe stamps™ just like the one up top.

Now you say, big whoop: anyone can do that.

But not anyone can do what comes next, to wit: have me inscribe and sign each numbered, limited-edition stamp for the person who orders it.

Not to worry about having enough room: I'll use one of those pens I featured back on August 30 of last year whose points are so fine you can write words on a grain of rice.

Can you imagine what a low number stamp will be worth on eBay in 50 years?

Good — 'cause when I did the number didn't exactly make me sit up and take notice.

But hey, we're not about hating here.

Anyway, I figure I'll price the first 50 at $1,000 apiece — that oughta separate the cattle from the hats.

Wait a minute, that's not right....

Never mind.

If the initial printing sells out I may even be able to quit my day job — such as it is.


May 28, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's most technical shish kebab skewer


Why use something simple when you can overengineer it into technical Tower of Babel complexity?

From the engineers out back in the Kuhn Rikon skunk works comes this remarkable device.

From the website:

    Kuhn Rikon Spring-Loaded Skewer

    Flat design won't roll around and the sturdy shaft holds food securely.

    Skewer's handle mechanism locks into place during cooking and then clicks forward to push the food off.



    18" long.


After due consideration I believe I'll pass on these as they appear to be an open invitation for an ER visit to remove an impacted, perfectly-grilled pearl onion from one of my eye sockets.

Those whose general aptitude is above TechnoDolt™ level, on the other hand, might find these skewers a most useful addition to their batterie de cuisine.


Two for $19.99.

May 28, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Found: Artifacts from the future — by Joanna Pearlstein


On the final page of each issue of Wired magazine is the "Found" feature.

In general I find it not worth more than a glance but the one above, from the latest (June) issue, rewards close scrutiny.

Here, let me help you:


[via Joanna Pearlstein and Wired]

May 28, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Anna Rognvaldsdottir — bookofjoe's Iceland correspondent — on SportZjam submersible wireless headphones


Her email report came in this past Tuesday, May 23 at 10:25:54 p.m. ET.

It follows.

    Hi Joe!

    I just ordered this gadget and it's brilliant -- well, let's just say I have high hopes that it's brilliant.

    I really like to swim but 300 metres is about tops for me -- max 500 m.

    By that time I'm really bored.

    I know I could swim about 10 times more laps if I had some music (or radio) to listen to.

    Because swimming is so effortless.


    There are several small waterproof mp3 players (and radios) on the market but they all have serious design flaws.

    Like, they've got these puny earpieces that get dislodged from your ears practically the moment you get into the water and start swimming.

    Or they require you to wear a massive neoprene armband (to house the player) with wires and whatnot.

    So you look like you're having your blood pressure taken.

    Or are partaking in some scientific experiment.

    Or you've got to wear this outlandish headgear (the player-type that conducts sounds through the bones in your head rather than relying on earpieces), which are the type of waterproof mp3 players that appear to be most popular on amazon.

    I bought one of those contraptions and gave up on it.

    You simply go mad if you continually have to put up with bad sound quality or uneven radio signals, and moreover have to adjust your googles or your various straps or gear or earpieces every lap -- because nothing ever seems to stay in place.

    So I have high hopes for this gadget.

    It's like a walkie-talkie, basically.

    It consists of a transmitter and receiver


    (and earpieces that look like they'll stay in place even if you are swimming).

    So you simply bring your CD or iPod or radio -- or whatever -- to the poolside or seaside.

    The transmitter will transmit the signal to you while you are swimming.

    You don't have to carry the player on your person.

    This gadget was developed by a swimming instructor.

    The original idea was that swimming instructors or coaches could communicate with swimmers without having to scream their heads off from poolside.

    I checked and the only reviews I've seen are positive.

    So I'm hopeful.

    The price is pretty steep though: $98.

    Cheers, Anna


The SportZjam website has lots more.

$107 (including shipping).

May 28, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

'You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows': Why the cellphone telcos are dead companies walking — squared


They are clueless.

While everyone's on YouTube and MySpace enjoying video and music for free anytime, anywhere, from any platform, the telcos continue to spend millions of ad dollars a day on ridiculousness like full-page newspaper ads trumpeting their "anytime minutes," "buckets of minutes," "no roaming charges," "no huge overages," "now night calling starts at 7 p.m.," "Fair & Flexible™ Plan," "Unlimited Sprint Mobile to Mobile Calling," "Two-year subscriber agreement" and whatnot.

Hey, guys: heard of VOIP?

'Cause it's currently eating your lunch and already getting hungry again and starting to sniff out dinner.

Then there's Catherine Zeta-Jones, still the star of T-Mobile's ad campaign even though she's been over since the 20th century.


Be glad — very glad — the brains behind these companies aren't making important life decisions for you.

May 28, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Paris Hilton Sport Pet Stroller


It comes in Paris Pink (is that a real color yet? If not, it will be — wait and see...) and Blue.

From the website:

    Let your "indoor" pet enjoy the outdoors too

    Take him for a stroll in this "Sport" Pet Stroller

    Clad in water-resistant fabric and open-air netting, this "sport" pet stroller will turn heads as you enjoy an outing with your cat, older dog, or smaller dog who has to work hard to keep up with you.

    Removable 22" x 12" x 14"-tall carrier folds for travel and storage.

    Stroller features:

    • Rear safety brake

    • Independently turning, 4-1⁄2" plastic front wheels

    • Washable 1⁄2"-thick padding

    • 11-1⁄2" x 12" "privacy parlor"

    • Rear pockets

    For pets up to 25 lbs.

    Measures 37-1⁄2" tall from ground to handle.


"Privacy parlor" — I'm loving it.



May 28, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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