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Sue Moore found her calling as a "forager" at Chez Panisse, meaning a trained cook who visits various farms to find produce and meat worthy of the kitchens. Meat turned out to be her love, and she and Larry Bain, who had worked in a ballpark steakhouses and had an interesting in promoting healthful food, decided to make nitrate-free hot dogs from grass-fed, organic beef.
They sell them from big carts at ballparks, special events, and now Hollywood openings from two carts in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco, at Crissy Field;
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last summer they came as far as Aspen for the Atlantic Ideas Festival, where the world's great thinkers gladly stood in line for one of their dogs, or bratwurst from heritage pork--not to mention homemade bread-and-butter pickles, sauerkraut, mustard, of course, and a secret hot sauce the pair now sells, along with a very cute (but not too cute) t-shirt I bought and wore around the campus, to the shock of colleagues.
The hot dogs are spicier than the bland standard of my childhood and, I admit, now too: Hebrew National. But I appreciate them, especially for the quality of the meat, and like the brats even better, maybe because of my loyalty switch as a non-kosher adult from beef to pork. Jonathan Gold said it most originally and best, as he unfailingly does, in an LA Weekly roundup last November:
None of this would matter if the hot dogs weren't great, but they are: taut, delicious natural-skin beauties that snap like rim shots when you bite into them, mildly seasoned, tucked into griddled buns and served, if you want them that way, with grilled onions, organic sauerkraut and an occasional mystery condiment that Moore hides under the counter like the secret stash at a comic book store.
And now, for the first time, there are actual premises, off a strip of Chestnut Street in San Francisco that is a latter-day Gourmet Ghetto, near the Marina and Fort Mason and parallel to Lombard, the main route to the Presidio and the Golden Gate bridge. On a several-block stretch between Steiner and Polk Streets there is the new Let's Be Frank, the fancy French pastry shop Miette, famiilar from the Ferry Plaza farmer's market building, and the wonderful Emporio Rulli , which I was proud to see still has a quotation from an article I wrote when it was just one shop, fairly far over the Golden Gate bridge in Marin county:
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"the closest thing in America to a top-flight Italian pastry shop and cafÃ©." I started my visit to the Bay Area last week with an email session at the SFO location of Rulli, a boon to any traveler (in the United terminal; don't miss it). And on my way to the opening party, I encountered an Italian friend on his way from there to Rulli for what he called the only serious espresso in San Francisco (and the Bay Area--he was on his way home to Oakland).
The scene at the tiny shop spilled onto the street, with everyone eating dogs and brats, and getting their mouths and shirtfronts dirty. That included Alice Waters, an early champion of the business, and Moore, who is an unfailingly merry sight and presence; Bain is wry and conspiratorial. Everyone has fun at Let's Be Frank. Now anyone can find it, seven days a week at the same place, rather than waiting to go to a game or an event to find one of the carts. Even the hot sauce is a little less secret: they're selling it by the jar.