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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ener-G-Foods Tapioca Hot Dog Buns

So, Ener-G-Foods have been around forever. I mean, really. FOREVER. Back when I was but a young'un, I remember traveling to their facilities during a family trip to Seattle. Actually, the only thing I really remember was at the end, they gave me this sort of chocolate sandwich cookie (like a reverse Oreo, only much larger) that was exciting but ultimately not so very good. And therein lies the problem with Ener-G-Foods. Not to get all Cranky Old Man on everyone, but most gluten-free food out today is vastly superior to what I had growing up. I can't emphasize the "vastly" enough. Fortunately, I didn't know any better, really, and most fortunately, I had a kick-ass Mom who was able to work magic with the supplies on-hand. We can all be grateful today that things have come so far from those dark times, and while Ener-G-Foods' line-up has seen some improvements (they were one of the first to bring out gluten-free pretzels, for example), a lot of their stuff is made pretty much the exact same way as it was 20 years ago. And that, finally, brings me around to their Tapioca Hot Dog Buns.

These buns are really the only gluten-free hot dog buns I've seen, ever. They were available from mail order back in the day (as well as now, obviously), and can now be found at your local Whole Foods. They come in packs of four which seems a bit odd, but the eternal numerical battle between hot dogs and their buns is not one which I intend to stray into, here.

There are two ways of preparing these buns (outside of a bun steamer, which I do not have): slit them open and toast them, or wrap them in a wet paper towel and stick them in the microwave for 15-20 seconds. Both are problematic. The consistency of the hot dog buns is such that it is difficult to slice through them enough for the toasting to matter without causing them to split into halves. Thus, you are left with a somewhat glorified hot dog sandwich, which is tricky to eat, especially if you add condiments. If you add condiments, those condiments will soon be added to everything else in the room. The paper towel method works slightly better, giving you a well-steamed bun, though the exterior of the bun gets soggy and a bit flaky. Yes, soggy and flaky at the same time. Problematic!

Once you do manage to prepare them and have placed your hot dog inside them, they're good, but, again, troublesome. The buns do not reduce down in the manner of non-gluten-free hot dog buns, thus, depending on the size of your hot dog, you may have some trouble getting everything in your mouth. (I will not snicker, I will not snicker... I snickered). And the hot dog to bun ratio is crucial. Too little dog, and you will have a lot of not incredibly moist bun to chew through. Too much dog, and you risk everything falling apart spectacularly (see the condiment mention above). As an aside, I discovered that good ol' Whole Foods make a beef hot dog that fits the ratio perfectly, and they even come in packs of four, which is pretty damn perfect.

After all that criticism, I should point out that the buns themselves taste pretty good, so when everything comes into balance, you're in for a good hot dog experience. If something is out of balance, well... you be SOL. The fact that these are the only gluten-free buns out there currently (as far as I know) mean that we are currently without buns for your standard, Oscar Meyer wiener, which is a shame. But who knows, maybe someday someone will up the ante when it comes to gluten-free hot dog buns, and Ener-G-Foods will have to respond. I hope they do so... with relish.

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