The Cooking Chronicles: O Sol’ Meatos Hot Dogs

Otto Van Bismarck is credited with the famous quote, “Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.” With the trend towards preservative- and filler-free sausages made using natural ingredients and transparent methods, however, some processed meats don’t necessarily have that same negative connotation any longer.

With the number of small producers that are thriving because of the demand for tasty, artisan sausages (Irvings Farm Fresh comes to mind), it was only a matter of time before hot dogs – the other near blasphemous processed meat, were treated with the same respect.

Spring Creek Ranch does make artisan ‘dogs with natural casings, though at this point, they are only sold at the Monster Burger outlet at the Northlands Expo Centre (Kirstin Kotelko said that a wider commercial release may be in the cards). O Sol’ Meatos, a small producer out of Kitscoty, Alberta, on the other hand, does offer artisan hot dogs for at-home consumption. We bought a package of four through the Good Food Box recently to give them a try.

O Sol' Meatos

O Sol’ Meatos hot dogs

There weren’t any cooking instructions on the package, and being without a barbecue (which would have been our preferred preparation method), we decided steaming them in a sauté pan with some water would be our best bet.

Even during cooking, we could tell these weren’t regular hot dogs. They were pungent in the best way possible – we couldn’t think of a better word to describe it than “beefy”. We steamed them for just over five minutes, but in hindsight, should have inserted a meat thermometer to keep a close eye on the temperature, as they didn’t need to be cooked that long. Talking to Brian and Rhonda at the Culina Muttart launch, they said our suggestion of including instructions was a reasonable one – given the lean meat encased in the hot dog, overcooking them would be an easy mistake to make.

We ate the hot dogs in German buns from Bee Bell Bakery (they worked well enough, but if anyone has any suggestions of good hot dog buns, please do share!). The casings were crisp, like those normally associated with breakfast sausage, and the meat directly around the casing was pink, as one would normally expect. The centre, however, was brown, and had the consistency of sausage meat, dense and unyielding, with a deep, smoky flavour.

Brian and Rhonda explained that nitrates (added as a preservative) lend the pink hue to commercial hot dogs. Their product is nitrate-free, except for the naturally occurring nitrates in smoke, which clarified why only the circumference of the hot dog was pink.

O Sol' Meatos

Hot dog!

On the side we served a very simple red cabbage salad with lemon and black pepper, a Molly Wizenberg recipe. We loved the crunch, and it was a great seasonal replacement for the more common green salad (the small cabbage we bought from August Organics made six generous servings of this salad).

O Sol' Meatos

Red cabbage slaw

We just bought another package of the O Sol’ Meatos hot dogs this week. I’m sure when cooked right, they will be even better!

Culina at the Muttart Conservatory

When the Muttart Conservatory finally reopened after over a year of renovations in June 2009, there were high hopes the revamped Ela Euro Cafe, located at the front of the facility (and thus could be accessed without paying an entrance fee), would help draw residents and others to the evergreen oasis. Given its prime Cloverdale location, and really, the fact that it is the only food establishment in the immediate area, Ela Euro should have been a slam dunk.

While the space was bright and functional – a bank of windows and a large enclosed patio – the food couldn’t have been much of a draw. I can’t say we stopped by all that often, but on two instances we were at the Muttart, the cafe was empty.

Before: Ela Euro

As a result, the City’s new partnership with one of Edmonton’s most recognized and upstanding local chains was probably a most welcome one. Culina Muttart, the restaurant’s third outpost, opened on December 2, 2010 in the Ela Euro space. In addition to offering their comforting fare (that highlights some of the area’s best producers), the staff will also be utilizing the Muttart’s greenhouse space to grow herbs and greens for the restaurant.

Culina at the Muttart

After: Culina Muttart

On Monday night, Mack and I attended the launch of Culina Muttart. After the full-on tasting at ZINC’s fall menu launch, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. It turned out instead of a sit-down event, the evening was an informal one, set up reception style, which suited the casual cafe space perfectly.

Culina at the Muttart

Culina Muttart

It reminded me very much of the Meet the Locals Festival at Planet Organic – producers set up at tables along the periphery of the room, offering samples of their wares. Brad Lazarenko, Director and Executive Chef of Culina, said that the producers represented a range of relationship lengths – from Spring Creek Ranch, who they have sourced from for over five years, to EnSante, a brand new supplier.

Spring Creek Ranch

Kirstin Kotelko of Spring Creek Ranch slices up some beef

Meeting and chatting with the producers was a great way to really get a sense of the philosophy behind Culina’s food (which was probably the purpose of the evening), but it probably wasn’t the best way to find out what to expect at Culina Muttart, in terms of the menu and plating of dishes.

Yellowhead Brewery

Leon Hunter of Yellowhead Brewery

That said, there was one dish served, a salad featuring quinoa, Sylvan Star gouda and a Mighty Trio Organics dressing (made specifically for Culina) that is actually on the menu. The salad had great texture, and at the very least, made me feel less guilty for the meat and cheese consumption to follow.

Culina

Salad with Mighty Trio Organics dressing

Shayne and Vicky Horn of Tangled Ridge Ranch, a lamb producer, were new to us (we loved the title on Shayne’s business card that read, “Flock Master”). The slices of lamb they served us were incredibly tender and moist – I hope that same preparation ends up on the Culina menu (Tangled Ridge currently only sells whole carcasses).

Tangle Ridge Ranch

Shayne and Vicky of Tangled Ridge Ranch

Speaking of sheep, we also had our fill of sheep’s cheese (and air dried charcuterie) from Brian and Rhonda Headon, of The Cheesiry and O Sol’Meatos. Mack especially liked the cardamom salami.

The Cheesiry

Samples from The Cheesiry

The Cheesiry

Brian and Rhonda of The Cheesiry and O Sol’Meatos

Shame on us that this event was the first time we ever tried any of The Jam Lady’s products. Though we know they are a veritable City Market favourite, we always passed Donna by because we do really like the August Organics jam we always have on hand. After trying a few of her preserves and mustards however (the curried mustard is like nothing I’ve ever tasted), I know we will be loading up on a few jars very soon (her products are also available at Culina Muttart).

The Jam Lady

Bohdan and Donna Borody, aka “The Jam Man” and The Jam Lady

Guests were also invited to tour the pyramids, with interpreters pointing out the edible plants in each biome. We chose to tour the temperate pyramid, and while we learned a few things (Mack and I had no idea that seasons were induced in each biome – hence, spring in the temperate world), we were really hoping for a peek inside the greenhouse space to be used by Culina.

Feature Pyramid

The feature pyramid – all decked out for Valentine’s Day

Though the restaurant is currently only open for lunch on weekdays and brunch on weekends (during the Muttart’s operating hours), staff are working to possibly extend the restaurant’s hours into the evening, which would be particularly handy once the days are longer. Stay tuned!

Thanks again to Kiri and the rest of the Muttart staff for organizing this event – it was great opportunity to meet with some of the producers and taste some of the products that will be featured by Culina Muttart (a few other food bloggers have written about the event also: check out recaps by Liane, Twyla, Chris and Brittany).

Culina Muttart Conservatory Cafe
9626 – 96A Street
(780) 466-1181
Weekdays 10am-5pm; weekends & holidays 11am-5pm