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Hot Dog Buns and Miller's Dogs

"What is YOUR problem with hot dog buns?" That's how my brother greeted me, using that uniquely half-derisive and half-bemused tone of voice that siblings reserve to taunt each other. A some-time lurker, he'd read my hot dog bun rant. Here's the thread -

http://chowhound.com/topics/show/4660... .

Since the Fourth of July celebration is upon us and we have most of the summer ahead, I thought it might be helpful to post about the hot dogs and buns served for a Memorial Day weinie roast. Using a tip from the boards, the night before I picked up natural casing Miller's franks and smoked beef dogs, http://www.millerhotdogs.com/millersp... , at Smart & Final on Clement St. in San Francisco. The 2.5 lb. packages of the natural casing products at this store are not in the same section as the skinless Miller dogs and other hot dog brands, so if you don't see them, ask. When I noticed the racks of hot dog buns in the store, I realized I'd forgotten to pick up some buns from Downtown Bakery in Healdburg. I couldn't bring myself to buy balloon bread and decided to call Acme in the morning.

Memorial Day morning, I checked with Acme in Ferry Plaza and found out that they're down to the last eight hot dog buns already. I tried to reserve them but learned that phone orders were not permitted. I'd need to shop somewhere else for more anyway, and turned to an older thread about hamburger buns for some guidance -

http://chowhound.com/topics/show/29970

My next plan of attack was Whole Foods (mentioned in the thread above) on California St. in San Francisco. There I found the Whole Foods house brand for a white bun, and also Alvarado Street Bakery sprouted wheat and Rudi's Organic whole wheat. All three are free of transfats, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial preservatives. The package weight was nearly identical across the brands with the Whole Foods buns having the largest dimensions and the Alvarado Street, the smallest. We toasted the buns on the grill while grilling the dogs.

The Whole Foods bun had the wholesome taste of real ingredients and wasn't mucked up with too much sweetness. Tender and with more air incorporated in it than the wheat buns, it will appeal to those who prefer a lighter and more neutral-tasting bun with their dog. Even though light in texture, it still had good integrity and didn't compact down to nothingness when you bite into it or get water-logged and fall apart from the juiciness of the condiments. The largest sized bun of the three, I found it too large and cavernous for the skinny and long franks and better proportioned with the larger diameter Miller's smoked beef sausages. With more capacity for holding fillings and condiments, it would be a good choice for making chili dogs.

The Alvarado Street sprouted wheat bun was the smallest sized with the densest texture in relation to weight. It had the most character and flavor of the three, that is, it's good bread in its own right with a coarse, moist crumb and nutty/yeasty taste. The smaller size made it the best proportioned for the skinny franks. Also, it had the least apparent sweetness and matched well with the slightly sweeter spicing of the franks versus the smoked sausages. It won my personal taste test, but it might be somewhat too assertive and firm to the bite for traditionalists.

Rudi's Organic did a good job too. These were relatively tender and light with mild wheat flavor. This bun had the most sweetness of the three, and would probably be out of balance if you use ketchup, sweet pickle relish or other sweet condiments on hot dogs. I considered it the compromise bun, combining qualities of the other two, if you wanted to serve just one type of bun. Yet, I would rather have the Whole Foods or the Alvarado Street for what each does best than the Rudi's.

After the cook-out, I had the leftover buns on my kitchen table for nearly a week (freezer and refrigerator too full!). The Alvarado Street was the first to sprout mold. Other than that, all three kept quite well and didn't turn hard. They perked up nicely with toasting. In fact, the Whole Foods buns ended up at a wine tasting. We sliced and toasted them, and they were fine as neutral palate cleansers.

Comparing these three to other local brands, I'd say that I prefer the Whole Foods bun to Lafayette's The Cake Box (also sold at Andronico's) for a white bun. The Cake Box bun is moister and feels a little gummy in texture. I don't recall Acme's. The bun from Downtown Bakery continues to be a favorite for its more yeasty, and fuller-flavored white bread with good tooth style. Also worth mentioning is Lombardi's French Bakery in Petaluma which makes an excellent hamburger bun though I don't know if it bakes hot dog buns as well.

Happy Fourth to all, and please nominate your favorites!

Bay Area Hot Dog discussions -
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

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  1. Picky, picky, picky, see my question on GT> http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

    And while we are at it, your input appreciated here> http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

    1. That is so helpful to me thanks. Great research.

      Of course, any discussion of buns that are available beyond the SF area should be on the General Board. For your conveniance I started a topic for you. This is where the General Board is located and a topic started on this subject.

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

      I'm joking, Melanie ... your post, of course, is one of those mixed topics where some local buns are compared to widely available buns in addition to mentioning local sources for the buns. Alvardo Street is the only one that I know is sold outside the Bay Area. I bought them when I lived in San Diego.

      The above link is just for anyone who might want to discuss national brands.

      I might just try to make the extra effort to go to Whole Foods tonight rather than Raley's. Great timing, thanks again.

      Moto was talking about using cibatta and mentioned something about a cibatta being good for three or four dogs. That got me thinking that a skinny baquette might just be perfect for a hot dog. They are small in diameter, can be cut the length of the frank and are sturdy. I am SO unhappy with the test Sarah Lee buns I bought that crumble when separated.

      I might get a Cheeseboard or Acme baguette later this week and see how it works with my remaining Nathan's dogs.

      About those Miller dogs ... or any dog ... do beef franks ever have casings or is it only pork? For my test dog, I used Nathan's large beef franks. Nancy Berry mentioned a while ago that she couldn't find any Nathan's franks with casings in the Bay Area.

      The plain Miller franks clearly said 'skinless'. The beef franks said nothing about a casing, but were skinless. I had to buy a frank anyway, so I figured I'd see if Raley's might be a source for a Nathan's frank without casing. Sorry, Nancy.

      Anyway, I think Millers is just local otherwise I can edit this and repost on the general board. I passed on the Miller franks but I do want to try them. I remember you mentioned that the franks with the casings were available. I don't want to buy big bags of hot dogs though. Does anyone know if Millers sells franks with casings in small packages? Or maybe in a meat counter at some store? Would there ever be a beef Miller with casing or only regular?

      *** Edited about fifteen minutes later with a few questions restated, but nothing earth shattering. If you read the original,no need to re-read.

      15 Replies
      1. re: rworange

        Alvarado Street is made locally in Sonoma County and distributed widely. Rudi's Organic is made somewhere else and distributed at local Whole Foods and elsewhere. I'll be interested in hearing about your baguette trials, but without having done it myself, I think I'd find a good baguette, such as Acme, to have too crispy/chewy a crust.

        You are quite confuzzled about Miller's dogs and might want to use the link to the website I provided to understand the outlets, product line and pack size straight from the source. All Miller's products are 100% beef except for the casing material. Miller's used to be made in Oakland, but the plant has moved over the hill to the Central Valley.

        As noted above, I bought two kinds of Miller's dogs WITH natural casings. Both are all made of all beef and then stuffed in a pork or sheep casing. The type of casing is indicated clearly on the package label. A Cajun sausage with natural casing is also produced. The natural casing dogs are only in 2.5 pound packages. You can check old threads for butcher shops that have sold them individually. Personally, I have not seen the natural casing Miller products anywhere else. Miller's also makes skinless dogs, which are available as well at Smart & Final in San Francisco and many other outlets.

        The grillmasters who hosted the wienie roast in their backyard were impressed with the Miller's natural casing products. They noticed that they're less salty and more meaty tasting than other hot dog brands. This is more apparent when they're grilled than boiled, and grilling really shows them best. Miller's tends to taste a bit washed-out when they're boiled due to lower salting. Between the two, I liked the smoked beef frank for the larger diameter and the more assertive spicing (more garlic, paprika?). They're called "smoked", but it's quite a subtle note as is the spicing. They also seem a little less sweet, and the casing makes a satisfying "pop", whereas the casing on the skinny franks was kind of tough/chewy when not charred well.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Thanks, I'll look through the links for the names of butcher shops. If I had more time I'd try to get one of those large packs for the picnic tommorrow, but it isn't going to happen. I've been on the lookout for those Millers franks with casings since you mentioned it long ago while I was doing an East Bay hot dog rant about Millers.

          1. re: rworange

            There's a Smart & Final in San Pablo. Might be worth a call to see if it stocks the natural casing dogs.

            http://www.smartandfinal.com/location...

            Oh, and the store I went to isn't actually on Clement but on 7th Ave.

            I don't like to buy large packs either, but hot dogs do keep for months.

            1. re: rworange

              Has anyone tried the hot dogs from Sonoma Sausage? We had some many many years ago and they were excellent, think they had natural casing.

              1. re: rworange

                Here's an old post that mentions Del Monte Meats in Oakland as a source.

                http://chowhound.com/topics/show/20556

              2. re: Melanie Wong

                Miller's Old Fashioned Beef Hot Dogs w/ natural casings (2.5 lb pkgs) are available at the Raley's/Nob Hill stores by me (sitting next to their anemic Miller's Regular Hot Dogs & Miller's Colosals). I also have seen them at some Safeways.

                I wish they were still in Oakland - stupid gentrification of Oakland's wholesale area. Miller's used to smoke killer ham and bacon, but no more since the move.

                1. re: b2g

                  Thanks for the Miller's sightings. I feel the same way about the move out of Oakland.

                  And, a reminder to all who have changed handles with the new site software. Please let us know and sign in on the Site Talk thread,

                  http://chowhound.com/topics/show/305394

                  1. re: b2g

                    The Safeway (San Pablo Ave & McDonald) near my house in Richmond has the Miller Old Fashioned Beef Hot Dogs w/natural casings but not the Smoked Beef Hot Dogs with natural casings. Will have to check out the Smart & Final that's in San Pablo. I'm holding out for the smoked ones.... : ~ )

                    1. re: gordon wing

                      Are they the large packages Gordon? That's pretty close to me ... and don't forget to pick up a Brazillian fruit drink an that new place just behind Angelo's right near that safeway.

                      1. re: gordon wing

                        I don't think I've had the pleasure of tasting the Miller's smoked beef hot dogs unless you and Melanie are referring to the Miller's smoked beef sausages - aka mild links (Miller's used to make a really good beef hot link; but I think with the move to Modesto or wherever over the Altamont, they've stopped production). My grandfather was a butcher in Oakland and he would only allow us to eat Miller products (as he used to walk through the various meat plants/factories).

                        1. re: gordon wing

                          b2g, I'm loving this info from you!

                          There is a Cajun sausage in natural casing still produced, is that the hot link you're referring to? I saw them at Smart & Final that shopping trip.

                          1. re: gordon wing

                            I just checked out Miller's website - maybe we should all put in a gigantic order - hmmm.
                            The cajun sausage isn't the same as the beef hot link with natural casing (it's listed below the skinless beef hot links - that's just wrong to have a skinless hotlink or hotdog for that matter! - on the wholesale list).

                            And in case anyone's terribly worried about her/his locally made hot dog, don't worry too much; my grandfather was most concerned that we didn't eat the Coast brand hotdogs and sausages (but they have been out of business for at least a decade).

                            I noticed that Miller's still makes their bolonga (which I love, maybe more childhood nostalgia) - Boar's Head being the only other brand of beef bologna that I like.

                            If we could just convince Miller to smoke bacon and ham again.

                            Oh, last thing; looks like Safeway has the Natural Casing Beef Frankfurters on sale this week.

                            1. re: gordon wing

                              stopped by the Smart & Final in San Pablo this morning - boy, they are stocked up with Miller's products. I got a package of the smoked beef sausages - mild - with hog casing. they also had the beef frankfurter with casing, the cajun sausage, garlic sausage, colossal, and the mini weiners - might be leaving one out. you get the idea .... lots. most of them are 2 - 2.5 lb packages. a little discount on some with the S&F card.

                        2. re: rworange

                          I remembered all this discussion about the availability of natural casing beef franks and thought I'd chime in with the fact that Saag's makes a natural (sheep) casing beef frank. I just bought them the other day at the new Farmer Joe's (in Oakland's Dimond district). They're fairly expensive (six in a 15-oz package for $5.99), but they're quite good, with a distinct smokiness (package says "hickory smoked") and a teensy bit of heat.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Sounds good, as I'd expect from Saag. Thanks!

                        3. I'm also a fan of the Alvarado Street buns. I like their flavor and texture, and their lack of sweetness allows for lots of flexibility in condiments without clahes. Unfortunately, I'm more of a burger eater than a dog eater, and their burger buns are really too small in diameter.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                            Glad someone else has noticed the difference in sweetness.

                          2. Nothing has tasted as good to me as the buns used by Rosamunde. I finally asked where they came from, and it's Bay Breads.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Joan Kureczka

                              Those are a larger size bun, but very good to know! I'll have to keep any eye out for those at the various Bay Bread outlets, or perhaps it's a custom-bake item for Rosamunde.

                            2. Thank you for such a well researched report, I think I've seen the brands you mention in Sacramento and will definitely do some hunting this weekend. It was sort of funny when I first read your post because I was under the weather and I had no apetite, despite feeling blech, I had an odd craving for a dog after reading your post.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                I hadn't intended to do "research", just trying to not compromise too much when I couldn't get my favorite. Ironically, I didn't have any hot dogs or soft buns on the Fourth.

                              2. just had one of the Miller's Smoked Beef Sausage (Mild) on a Orowheat potato bun. the bun was just slightly too big but the savory, juicy dog was up to the task. A nice combination.
                                liked having the bite from the casing. I pan fried them....here's a pic:

                                http://i43.photobucket.com/albums/e36...

                                5 Replies
                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                    yes, I'm glad that I still have 11 more of them in the fridge. definitely one of the better dogs I've had in a long while. thanks for the tip

                                    1. re: gordon wing

                                      Has anyone done a comparison of beef/ natural casing franks from Saags vs. Millers vs. Boars head...(please don't ask me to do it...I'm only one person in my household...and that would definitely be a waste of food)...anyone...please?

                                      1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                        ... but you have all that catsup ... what better way to use it than in a hot dog taste test?

                                        1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                          What can I tell you...former New Yorkers NEVER use ketchup on a frank ONLY mustard.....please don't get us started on mustard comparisons....can you imagine!!!