I attended Cook Out NYC courtesy of a press pass from Food Karma Projects and was also asked by Jimmy Carbone, owner of Jimmy’s No. 43 to be one of the judges for the hot dog and burger topping competitions. Knowing from past events the amazing combinations that the guest chefs pull together for these gatherings, I was more that happy to lend my tastebuds to this effort. My tour of the food stations was organized around getting to every competitor’s table to give each dish a try.
Sabrett’s Hot & Spicy Hot Dogs Toppings Competition
Local manufacturer Sabrett’s (they have a production facility in the Bronx) has introduced a new Hot & Spicy Beef Frankfurter to their line up, which features red pepper and jalapeno mixed into the hot dog meat. These had a great kick to them and were a terrific platform for competing chefs to show of their expertise at creating complementary toppings. I also felt that for some of the participants, the extra seasoning provided a bit of a challenge, compared to what they might have been used to working with in the regular version of this product.
Event sponsor Sabrett’s brought out the traditional toppings to showcase their Hot & Spicy hotdogs, loading them up with Sauerkraut and Classic Onion Sauce. While I loved the trademark snap of the casing when I bit into the meat, I was less won over by the balance between the hot dog and the balance with the sauerkraut and onions. It felt as though the sweet-and-sour profile of the toppings clashed with the fiery seasonings.
Greenwich Village-based Lucky 777 Chili entered another classic flavor combination – hot dogs and chili – into the competition. Using a slight variation on the theme with their Turkey Chili, they created a super-meaty, loaded Chili Dog. I enjoyed it, although it was a bit too heavy of a dish to really dig into with yesterday’s steamy weather. I saw several folks walking away with separate cups of their hearty chili to enjoy on its own.
Using Sixpoint Brewery‘s products (also a sponsor of Cook Out NYC), My Friend’s Mustard has united mustard and beer to create some unique and dynamic condiments that deserve a place in everyone’s refrigerators. Their Hotdog with Tomatillo-Radish Slaw & Agave-Sixpoint IPA Mustard worked harmoniously together with some heat, a bit of sweet, a slight tanginess, and a nice pop from the mustard seeds.
The vibrant colors of the Piquant Celery Slaw and Currant topping for this hotdog made a dramatic visual presentation for this entry. The cool, crunchy slaw and sweet currants were a favorite of several of the judges, and it seems the event participants. A few other folks I ran into, as well as myself, weren’t completely won over by it. I found that the toppings were overwhelmed by and got lost in the spiciness of the meat.
A favorite of the judges and my personal #1 pick for the hotdog consumption portion of the day were these Vietnamese-inspired, almost Banh Mi-like creations, by Rich Pinto Catering. The cool, creamy, spicy mayo and crispy pickled vegetables (carrots, cucumber, dill, Thai basil) provided the perfect balance of flavors, heat, and freshness for the seasoned meat.
Burger Toppings Competition
Using meat from Fossil Farms, Alobar dished up a Wild Boar Burger with a savory herb salsa. The boar was very tender, but several of the folks I talked to (and several fellow judges) felt that it lacked a punch of seasoning that they would have liked to see and that it was a bit bland overall. “I wanted tusks,” commented one person. “I wanted it to do more, maybe gore me a little bit,” was the reaction of another.
Before I even had a chance to try this burger entry, I could smell the perfume of the truffle oil that was used in these Kobe Burgers with Truffle Aioli and see quite a few folks really enjoying eating it. A sturdy bun held this perfectly-cooked, medium rare burger dressed with a pungent mayonnaise and a sliver of cheese. The pickle and tomato cut through the richness to pull it all together.
Several entrants into the competition took the non-traditional route for burgers, like the Salmon Burger with Kimchi and an Asian Relish in this photo. I saw people coming back for seconds on these and with one bite I understood why. This dish took salmon from the water to the land, bringing out its meaty heart. The tart, sour, hot toppings worked really well together to make this a completely unified dish.
Unfortunately, I was not able to get a sample of the Lamb Burger with Goats Cheese and Red Onion Marmalade which was the entry for Zio. The photo above is the other dish that they were giving out yesterday, a grilled Pork Belly with Figs. These seemed to fly off of the table the minute they were set down.
With a grass-fed burger, perfectly cooked to a tender medium-rare, dressed with just a bit of pepperjack cheese and a squeeze of ketchup, the Classic Burger by High Point Farms came in as the clear winner in this category. This was a great example of top-quality, locally-sourced meat that needed little dressing up at all to make a delicious dish.
As competition announcer Mike Edison of the Mike & Judy Show on Heritage Radio Network clarified when he gave out this award, there was no fixing involved. The judges were nearly unanimous in giving the overall, non-hotdog, non-burger Best in Show nod to the Sirloin with Chimichurri Sauce put together by the team at Jimmy’s No. 43. This is one of my favorite nibbles that I’ve eaten at the food events that Jimmy’s has put together. The richness of the thinly-sliced, tender grilled meat pairs nicely with fresh, herbally, slightly-acidic sauce. A thin, crunchy bread round soaks up all the extra juices making it a great treat at the end of every bite.
The Second Annual Kimchipalooza took place towards the end of the afternoon on Saturday, with a fearless group of contestants battling for iron-clad stomach and spice-tolerance supremacy. Kheedim Oh, the founder of Mama O’s Premium Kimchee, gathered up the group to test their kimchi-eating prowess.
Each contestant was given three jars of the super-spicy version of Mama O’s Premium Kimchee, made with the fiery ghost pepper (which Kheedim says he can only handle while wearing gloves the heat it gives off is so intense). They had three minutes to see how much they could consume. One competitor left the stage after about 30 seconds.
With 2 1/3 jars of the super-spicy kimchi finished in three minutes, Graham “G-Man” won the day’s contest. “My face is on fire right now,” he said after he’d been declared the victor, beaming as he held his trophy.
Cook Out NYC continues today, too, with more chefs, lots of other grilled meat dishes, hot sauce tastings, drinks, and music. Check out some of my other favorite things to eat at this event, like the Kimchi Taco from Bar Bruno or the Skirt Steak with Vinegary Slaw and Jalapeno Relish from John Brown Smokehouse (winners of the 2012 Brisket King of NYC).
To cool down and treat yourself, why not pick up one of the ice cream sandwiches from Melt Bakery or the shaved ice concoctions from Wooly’s Ice (note that these items are for separate purchase at the event).
Thank you to Food Karma Projects and Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43 for providing me with a press pass to attend this event and for inviting me to be one of the hot dog and burger toppings judges. Thanks so much to all the volunteers and vendors as well for toughing it out under sweltering conditions yesterday to keep us all well-fed and hydrated. All opinions in this article (unless otherwise stated) are mine and my responsibility alone.