Tube Steak Boogie
Up until about 1:45 last Saturday afternoon I could’ve told you that I will always eat a hot dog or any type of wiener or sausage nestled in a bun. I have consumed hot dogs from the 7-11 and enjoyed them, okay? And up until about 1:45 last Saturday afternoon I’d had a pretty good five decades-long graze at the tube steak table because, well, it’s not easy to botch a hot dog.
August’s glorious glut of one of my favourite foods began earlier this month in Kensington, Prince Edward Island. A little beyond the town’s sole set of traffic lights along the highway to Summerside is a seasonal, roadside dairy bar called Frosty Treat Est. 1973). Ann ordered a cone of vanilla soft ice cream dipped in chocolate and covered with crushed nuts. I had an exquisite whistle dog, the one I’d been aching for since the one I’d had there last summer. Both bun and wiener were grilled to perfection, the orange cheese gooey just so and the bacon freshly fried. Sitting at a picnic table munching a whistle dog on the sunny side of life in PEI was nothing short of sublime.
Upon our return to Edmonton we made the first of our three visits to the annual Fringe theatre festival. We had time to kill before a lunch hour performance and so wandered over to the Fat Franks food truck (Gourmet fun in a bun… since 1995!). We ordered two jumbo dogs on whole wheat buns. The beer mustard had a nice kick and a mellow after-burn which did not overpower the crunchy brine of the sauerkraut and sliced dill pickles.
The next day we drove out to Costco. We didn’t really need anything aside from cat litter and coffee, however we had two coupons for a free hot dog and soda which were due to expire. My companion and I opted for Polish sausages. Ann waited in line while I hunted unsuccessfully for a clean, unoccupied table. We enjoyed our meal by a garbage can and the woefully inadequate condiment area which featured mere yellow mustard, sweet green relish and ketchup. As Dirty Harry growled to one of his doomed partners in one of the films: ‘Nobody puts ketchup on a hot dog.’ It was no small gift to belch and then inhale clouds of Polish sausage gas for the balance of the afternoon.
Because there’s generally just the two of us at home and because Costco only sells goods in grotesquely large amounts, we went to our local grocer the next day. The specials were good last week. Buy one package of Schneiders All Beef Wieners and get the second one free; we love buy one, get one (BOGO) deals and this one was prime, I’m talking about The official hot dog of the Toronto Blue Jays here, their logo is on the packaging and everything! Because we were going to meet friends early on in the evening in the Fringe beer tent, I opened a package of wieners and fired up the barbecue. ‘When did they starting putting just 10 in a package?’ I wondered. We enjoyed the major league taste on lightly toasted buns garnished with whole grain mustard, dill relish, sauerkraut and kosher dill pickle slices.
So far, so good. Alas, the trouble with appetite is that too much isn’t enough until suddenly, for whatever reason, it is. We met our mutual Waterloo about 1:45 last Saturday afternoon near the corner of 109th Street and 87th Avenue. On previous excursions I’d been intrigued by a new joint called IT’ DOG and although I couldn’t account for the stray apostrophe, I hoped that it might measure up to the haute cuisine of PEI’s Frosty Treat or at least Fat Franks.
We’d walked the tram tracks tracing a gently meandering bluff overlooking the North Saskatchewan River from a Fringe performance in a jazz club in Old Strathcona into the heart of the university district, Garneau. We were hungry and we had about 25 minutes to grab a bite before our next show. A trendy café with palatable food was too densely lined up and there was nobody next door in IT’ DOG. No warning sirens sounded because a couple of Edmonton police constables followed us into the store for their lunches. ‘Let’s change it up,’ I said to Ann, ‘let’s have bratwurst.’
‘Two brats, please.’ ‘Bread is extra.’ ‘No, brats. Two bratwurst, please. In buns.’ ‘Okay, but bread is extra.’ ‘Whatever.’ ‘My second day.’ ‘That’s nice.’
We sat down in a booth to await our order. On the wall behind Ann distracting Korean pop music videos played on a flat screen television. Pre-teen girls acting like strippers made me squirm; I felt like a composite perv, someone named, I don’t know, maybe Jared Duggar? Our bratwursts were served in incredibly fresh pretzel style buns even as this particular sandwich rage has faded into last year. The condiment selection was better than Costco’s. Our main worry was a simple question: Was it possible to undercook what we dearly hoped and prayed was precooked pork sausage?