Sacramento Bee photo by Paul Kitagaki, Jr.
About 60 well-wishing hot dog fans and friends - and two local televsion stations - showed up this afternoon at Capitol Dawg not for lunch but from curiosity, eager to witness hot dog history being made.
The Sacramento heat didn't stop the good-natured group from crowding the patio and kitchen of the popular Midtown restaurant to watch Guinness World Records adjudicator Michael Empric bestow the official title of "World's Most Expensive Hot Dog" on owner Mike Brown's California Capitol City Dawg. The three-pound sandwich sells for $145.49. A third of the proceeds from sales will benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Shortly before the grand moment, Empric explained that the Guinness World Records organization required him to see first-hand "two key points" at Capitol Dawg in order to grant the title.
"We have firm, established guidelines we must stand behind to uphold our integrity," he said. "(In this instance) the hot dog has to be a regularly listed menu item (it is), and an actual transaction needs to take place (it did)."
Then, in an aside, Empric added, "Mike gets it. He knows it's all about the customer, not the hype. Anyone can create an expensive hot dog, but I think he really wants (the ultra-dog) to be delicious, an achievement you can't put a title on. Having the title for the most expensive hot dog doesn't do you any good if nobody wants to eat it."
Standing in the crowd waiting for the ultra-dog to emerge from the kitchen was Alan Anderson, director of development for Shriners Hospitals for Children.
"To be thought of in this way and made the recipient makes us feel wonderful," he said. "It's in the spirit of what makes Shriners great - the people in the community."
Shortly after Brian Wheat, bass player for the Sacramento band Tesla, bought the first ultra-dog (a dozen more are on order), Empric conducted the official certificate presentation.
"I'm very excited to announce that with the price of $145.49, we have a new Guinness world record," he told the hooting, applauding crowd.
Then came a surprise presentation from Robert Abelon, representing state Assemblyman Richard Pan of the Fifth Assembly District. In conjunction with Daniel Conway of the California Restaurant Association, they handed Brown a framed Assembly resolution in recognition of Capitol Dawg's achievement.
A little later, an emotional Brown said, "I'm proud of the accomplishment, but more proud of serving the community and raising money for the Shriners. It's a light-hearted situation, and yet... Let's say it makes light of dark times."
Brown created the California Capitol City Dawg "for the challenge and to bring the record back into the United States from Canada." He was referring to DougieDogs in Vancouver, which until today held the title for its $100 Dragon Dog. That creation is a foot-long bratwurst injected with century-old $2,000-a-bottle Louis XIII cognac, and topped with lobster, Kobe-style beef cooked in truffle and olive oils, and a proprietary picante sauce.
To capture the title, Brown unleashed his ultra-dog after weeks of mixing and matching ingredients and conducting numerous tastings. He even traveled to a remote moose dairy farm in Sweden to buy moose cheese as a topping, paying more than $200 a pound for the rare commodity, which is not exported.
So, just what does $145.49 buy, dog-wise?
The hot dog: An 18-inch, three-quarter-pound all-beef frank in a pork casing, custom-made by Red Hot Chicago sausage-maker. It's grilled in the fat from the bacon.
The bun: A 15-inch herbs-and-olive-oil focaccia roll custom-made by boutique coffee-maker/bakery Old Soul of Sacramento. It's smeared with Italian white truffle butter and toasted on the grill.
The bacon: Sourced from a small farm in New Hampshire, it's marinated in maple syrup and double-smoked over apple and cherry woods.
Toppings: The moose cheese, plus Pommery whole-grain mustard from Meaux, France, garlic-herb mayonnaise, caramelized sauteed shallots, mixed baby greens, chopped tomato, dried sweetened cranberries, ground peppercorns and fruity balsamic vinaigrette from the Chef's Olive Mix store in Old Sacramento.
"It's such a big sandwich that you can split the cost and share it with your friends," Brown said.
As for the dog's taste and texture, lunch pal Donn Reiners and I gave it two thumbs up. No single ingredient overwhelmed the others. Somehow, the flavors merged into a single harmony.
P.S.: While the ultra-dog was still a work in progress, "Hot Dog Mike" Juiliano, who owns a hot dog cart in Little Rock, Ark., took the spotlight on May 11 for his TheOneDog. It's a quarter-pound all-beef frank topped with lobster, saffron aioli and gold dust on a potato bun, priced at $1,501. He sold four gold-dogs, kept $1 from each sale, and donated the rest to a charity that assists the homeless.
For now, at least, it appears that Juiliano's dog poses no threat to Brown's new title.
"I didn't do it to set the Guinness record," Juiliano said on the phone recently. "I did it for fun and because I thought my fans would appreciate it. The charity I did it for got a big kick out of it, so I'm going on the local hero thing, versus the world record thing. I'm cool with it."
Capitol Dawg is at 1226 20th St., Sacramento; (916) 444-1226, www.capitoldawg.com.