Hot Dog Buns
Our test kitchen is fiercely loyal to our favorite brand of hot dogs (see our related tasting), but hot dog buns fail to inspire the same passion. After all, the bun is just a vehicle for the dog and condiments, right? Is there really any discernable difference between popular brands of bun? We sampled three national brands to find out. Turns out, none of them thrilled tasters, who were instructed to taste the buns alone and also with hot dogs and condiments.
Our favorite received merely average scores. Some tasters liked the bun’s crusty exterior, sturdiness, and nice “yeasty” taste—one taster declared it a “good dog vehicle.” On the other hand, many found the bun dense and lacking in flavor. Almost all tasters thought the bun was too big and bulky, with the wrong bread to dog ratio. Tasters gave mediocre scores to the runner-up, which most found too light, squishy, and doughy. Tasters rejected their “processed” taste but thought the buns stood up to the condiments well. The third fared the worst—almost all tasters were put off by their “gummy” texture and lack of structure—they fell apart easily under the weight of the dog and became soggy quickly when condiments were applied.
Split-top versus Side-Sliced?
Here in New England, we’re accustomed to finding top-sliced hot dog buns at our supermarkets, as opposed to the side-sliced buns available elsewhere in the country. Does the placement of the bun slice really make a difference? It turns out it does. We instructed tasters to fill each type of bun with a hot dog, load it up with their favorite condiments, and eat it. In the top-sliced buns, the bread was evenly distributed on each side of the dog, and it held the hot dog and condiments securely. On the other hand, the side-sliced buns had almost twice the amount of bread on top as on the bottom, making for awkward, unbalanced bites and a risk of condiments leaking out through the cut side of the bun. Our recommendation—look for split-top buns, preferably those made by our winning brand.
Our favorite premium extra-virgin olive oil from a previous tasting, Columela is composed of a blend of intense Picual, mild Hojiblanca, Ocal, and Arbequina olives. This oil took top honors for its fruity flavor and excellent balance. Tasters praised its “big olive aroma, big olive taste” with a “buttery” flavor that is “sweet” and “full,” with a “peppery finish.” One taster said: “It’s very green and fresh—like a squeezed olive.” Another simply wrote: “Fantastic.”
|Spain||$19 for 17 oz|
Tasters noted this oil’s flavor was “much deeper than the other samples,” describing it as “fruity, with a slight peppery finish,” “buttery undertones,” and a “clean, green taste” that was “aromatic, with a good balance.” “It has the flavor that some good EVOOs have,” said one admiring taster.
|Italy||$19.99 for 500 ml ($39.98 per liter)|
Virtually tied for second place, this oil was deemed “round and buttery,” with a “light body” and flavor that was “briny and fruity,” “very fine and smooth,” and “almost herbal,” with “great balance.” “Good olive flavor. I could smell it and taste it,” approved one taster. In a word, “pleasant.”
|Italy||$17.99 for 750 ml ($23.98 per liter)|
|Recommended with Reservations|
A clear step down from the top oils, tasters noted “overall mild” flavor and “very little aroma,” with only a “hint of green olive” and a “hint of spiciness at the end.” In pasta, it was initially “not complex,” but gradually “bloomed in your mouth.” Overall, it was “worthy of a second bite.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$12.49 for 750 ml ($16.65 per liter)|
While some tasters found this oil “sweet” and “buttery” with “medium body” and “slight spice at the end,” others complained that it had “zero olive flavor” and was “so floral it’s almost like eating perfume”; still others noted a “bitter” aftertaste. In pasta, it was “extremely mild” to the point of being “boring.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$10.99 for 750 ml ($14.65 per liter)|
Comments: The best comments tasters could muster were “mild” and “neutral.” Some liked it on pasta (though one called it “Snoozeville”), but complaints were myriad: “metallic,” “soapy,” “briny,” “hints of dirt.” Carped one taster, “I can’t imagine what is in here, but they have a nerve calling it EVOO.”
|Spain||$13.99 for 1 liter|
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