Great New York State Hot Dogs: Zweigle's Red & Whites

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[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

As an animal lover who lives a few hours upstate of New York city and regularly sticks her hand into whatever it is large animal vets-in-training stick their hands into up there, my sister seems to have an unhealthy addiction to hot dogs.

It manifests itself in late-night emails and text messages asking me if I've tried Hofman's Snappies from Syracuse ("Snappies" are Hofman's term for Michigan-style Coneys, which are named after, but not related to Coney Island style hot dogs), or those Glaziers used to make Michigans, the chili-topped treats from Plattsburgh, New York, that have nothing to do with either the state they are named after or the state they are served in, and actually bear much more resemblance to Texas Weiners, which, of course, are not from Texas, but from New Jersey.

Hot Dog history is not for the fainthearted.

The upside of all of these emails is that aside from exchanging cooking tips for free veterinary advice, my sister also supplies me with a steady supply of regional hot dog styles, of which New York has got a ton, many not available to me here in the city. The most recent care package was a picnic pack of Zweigle's Red & Whites. This time, she backed a winner.

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Made with a thin natural casing and stuffed to the brim, the dogs inevitably burst as you grill them, no matter how gentle you are with the heat, earning them the nickname of "Popopens." With many sausages, this would be bad news, causing them to spill out fat and juices onto the grill. But with a well-emulsified, properly made hot dog, it's not so much of an issue. In a good natural casing hot dog, the casing is more about adding snap and texture to each bite than keeping in juices.

The dogs are made in Rochester, so aren't a true North Country dog like Glaziers, which may explain why they taste a bit more like the traditional New York Kosher franks I grew up on, though with a much milder spice level and a softer texture. Of the two varieties, I preferred the reds, which have a saltier, slightly spicier aroma. Both are thick, well-textured, and very snappy.

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My sister says she likes the whites, explaining that "there are so many regular hot dogs out there. But there aren't that many white ones (I have only seen three varieties - Hofmann, Hartmann, and Zweigles... and [the Zweigles] are way better than Hofmann."

She may have a point.

What about you? I know you all must have strong opinions on regional hot dogs. Have you tried Zweigle's? Do you have a favorite white dog?

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