The 10-cent Nedick’s hot dog (Nedick’s, now shuttered, was a New York City based fast food chain predating Mickey Dee). The Sabrett’s hot water dog with its odd tomato and onion sauce. The Chicago hot dog replete with “sport” peppers, celery salt, pickles and other greenery. The Bronx kosher deli dog with hot mustard and sauerkraut. The estimable doggie sold in the Costco food court. All of these have provided HG with varying degrees of pleasure. But, HG’s favorite canine can only be found in the small state of Rhode Island. Yes, Rhody is of modest size but it specializes in big, highly idiosyncratic flavors. And, for sheer oddity (as well as a strange, hard-to-pin-down savoriness) the “New York System Hot Wiener” (accompanied by a cold Coffee Milk) stands out and makes HG bark with delight. Permit HG to do a scholarly exegesis on the proletarian pup: The wiener used in a NY System is either the skinless product, the Little Rhody or the Saugy which has a natural English sheep casing (giving it a characteristic snap). Alone, or in a roll, these small sized dogs are certainly good but nothing to write an HG posting about. But, then comes the sauce. Ah, the sauce. The French say cheese is milk’s leap into immortality (When the French get things right, they get them really right). And, the spicy meat sauce that smothers the Hot Wiener makes the tube steak leap into nosh immortality. Created by Greek immigrants in the early 1920s (or somewhere around there) the meat sauce is truly the flavor of the old world (Europe, Middle East) meeting (or meating!) the new. There are hints of Italian Ragu and Greek Mousaka. Bits of Texas chili. Smidgens of Middle Eastern kefta (possibly due to tiny infusions of cinnamon, cumin and possibly all spice). The faintest evocation of Portuguese stews. But, why try to analyze it. Like a kiss from a beautiful woman, just enjoy it and don’t intellectualize. One would think that the sauce could stand alone, No. Rhode Islanders further enhance the Hot Wiener with mustard, chopped onion and celery salt. So, what do you drink with his extravaganza? Just as HG believes the only appropriate drink to guzzle with a New York hot pastrami sandwich is the “Jewish Champagne” that is Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Tonic, Rhodys opt for Coffee Milk. This beverage is made with two tablespoons of locally made Autocrat Coffee Syrup mixed with icy milk. Stirred well. Simple. Perfect. HG believes the Rhode Island fondness for coffee milk is somehow linked to the Rhode Island fondness for coffee and donuts at Dunkin’ Donuts. Rhodys are the nation’s largest per capita consumers of donuts (the Providence sports and entertainment center is the Dunkin’ Donuts Arena known to all followers of Providence and Rhode Island University basketball teams as “the Dunk).
Given all of this yummy history, HG’s heart picked up a beat today when he opened a package from the Family R.: Gifted Daughter Lesley, Profesore/Dottore Massimo, Glorious Granddaughters Arianna and Sofia. The little bundle contained a package of Olneyville N.Y. System, R.I.’s Best Hot Wieners, Hot Wiener Sauce Spice Mix (since 1946) plus a bottle of Autocrat, enough to make many glasses of Coffee Milk “The Official State Drink of Rhode Island.” The enclosed card read: “A taste of Rhode Island for Hungry Gerald.” HG has a kind and thoughtful family. HG will sample these good RI things while listening to Blossom Dearie sing: “Rhode Island Is Famous For You.”