Mike Brown is reinventing the hot dog. Again.
Since opening Capitol Dawg four years ago, he has created 29 styles of wurst (and two luscious pastrami sandwiches), named mostly with local references in mind. The River Dawg, the Tower Dawg, the Mayor Johnson/Kings Dog, like that. Each gets its identity from various mixes of toppings, available in a dizzying variety.
Now Brown is set to take away the Guinness World Records' World's Most Expensive Hot Dog title from DougieDogs in Vancouver, which took it from Serendipity in New York.
DougieDogs' Dragon Dog (after the Year of the Dragon) is a foot-long bratwurst injected with century-old $2,000-a-bottle Louis XIII cognac, and topped with lobster, Kobe-style beef cooked in truffle and olive oils, and a proprietary "picante sauce." It sells for $100. The Haute Dog at Serendipity costs $69.
Brown's California Capitol City Dawg will be priced at $145.49, a seemingly ridiculous sum until you hear the list of ingredients and learn that a third of its sales will benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children.
"I'm doing this for the challenge and to bring the record back into the United States from Canada," Brown said, sitting on the Capitol Dawg patio last Friday. "I don't feel (the Dragon Dog) is an honest hot dog, at least by American standards. It's a bratwurst, for one thing. And why would anyone waste precious vintage cognac on that?"
The California Capitol City Dawg is still in the fine-tuning stage, but here's the list of current and likely ingredients so far, beginning with the "Quest for Cheese":
In his research into exotic cheeses for the ultra-dog, Brown came across a reference to a strong-tasting one made from moose milk, available only in Sweden. Soon, he and pal Brian Wheat, bass player for the Sacramento band Tesla, found themselves being greeted by the husband and wife who run the small moose dairy farm in an area of Sweden north of the Arctic Circle.
"The farm turns out only 400 pounds of cheese a year, which is used primarily in premium restaurants in Sweden," Brown said. "It's the only mass-produced cheese of its kind in the world. I bought seven pounds of it for over $200 a pound.
"Our trip was an adventure," he said. "How many people are going to travel 7,000 miles and actually meet the moose that made the milk that made the cheese? We walked out in 2 feet of snow to pet her."
The hot dog: Brown brought his dog-designing expertise to the project and fashioned an all-beef frank in a pork casing ("Which they use in Chicago"). It's 18 inches long and weighs three-quarters of a pound. "It's custom-made for us by Red Hot Chicago. We'll grill it in the fat from the bacon," he said.
The bun: Old Soul is customizing a roll to handle the giant dog and mound of toppings. "We'll spread the bun with Italian white truffle butter and toast it on the grill."
The bacon: It's sourced from a small farm in New Hampshire. "It's marinated in maple syrup and double-smoked over both apple and cherry woods," he said. "It's so good you'll want to move to New Hampshire."
Toppings: Pommerey Dijon mustard, garlic-herb mayonnaise, caramelized sautéed shallots, mixed baby greens, chopped tomato, dried cranberries, ground peppercorns and fruity balsamic vinaigrette. So far.
But really, who's going to fork over the bucks for the ultra-dog?
"I think a lot of people will buy it, just based on the novelty and curiosity factors," he said. "It's such a big sandwich that you can share it with your friends, and share the cost."
The final flourish: An adjudicator representing Guinness World Records will fly to town from New York to act as the official observer at Capital Dawg on the afternoon of May 31.
"The California Capitol City Dawg must be listed on our menu board to qualify for the title," Brown said. "A customer then must order and pay for one at the cash register to make it official. The adjudicator will then confirm that the process has been completed, and will immediately issue the certificate of record for the World's Most Expensive Hot Dog."
Brown is a sincere guy who has been passionate about the authenticity and quality of his products since Day One. He sources wurst and buns from a dozen companies in various cities, including San Francisco and Chicago. Toppings are supplied by small purveyors in the United States and abroad.
This latest venture isn't just a stunt, though Brown understands the values of marketing and publicity.
"I want my customers to be appreciative of our efforts and proud of the record coming to Sacramento," he said. "Nothing against Canada, but I look at the U.S. as hot dog territory, and the record belongs here. Why not at Capitol Dawg as much as any other restaurant in the country? It's a fitting place."
Capitol Dawg is at 1226 20th St., Sacramento; (916) 444-1226, www.capitoldawg.com.