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Buy Me Some Peanuts And…Sushi

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Aired 4/5/11

Baseball returns to Petco Park, with the Padres hosting the San Francisco Giants. And to celebrate, we'll salute the foods that make an afternoon in the stands a thing of beauty. From nachos to sushi, there's a lot to eat at Petco, including the tried and true hot dog.

Wienerschnitzel celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.  In this photo, a young boy eats a hot dog in front of the first Der Wienerschnitzel restaurant in the 1960s.  When the restaurant opened its first cart in 1961, hot dogs cost 15 cents.
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Above: Wienerschnitzel celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. In this photo, a young boy eats a hot dog in front of the first Der Wienerschnitzel restaurant in the 1960s. When the restaurant opened its first cart in 1961, hot dogs cost 15 cents.

Hot Dog Calorie Counter

Use the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council's calorie counter to see the calories, fat, protein and sodium in your favorite hot dog.

Lots of San Diegans make opening day at Petco Park into something of a holiday. Like any other Holiday, food becomes an important part of the experience. It just so happens that this year, the Padres' official hot dog is also celebrating. Der Weinerschnitzel is turning 50. Which prompts us to ask - what makes hot dogs and baseball go together so well? Have hot dog tastes changed in the last 50 years?

And since we're talking food and baseball we'll open up the discussion about all concession food available at Petco. What's the best, the worst, the biggest bargain and the weirdest?

Guests

Dennis Tase is President and Chief Operating Officer of Der Wienerschnitzel.

Peter Rowe, is a staff writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune who writes about a wide variety of things including food and beer.

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, you're listening to These Days on KPBS. Lots of San Diegans make opening day at Petco Park into something of a holiday, and like any other holiday, food becomes an important part of the experience. It just so happens that this year, the Padres' official hot dog is also celebrating. Der Wienerschnitzel is turning 50, which prompts us to ask, what makes hotdogs and baseball go so well together? And have hot dog tastes changed in the last 50 years, and since we're talking about food and baseball, we'll open the discuss up about [CHECK AUDIO] and the weird of the -- are my guests, Dennis Tase, is president of Der Wienerschnitzel. Dennis, good morning.

TASE: Good morning, good morning.

CAVANAUGH: And Pete roe is staff writer for the San Diego Union Tribune since 1984. He writes about a wide variety of things, including food and beer. Hi Peter.

ROWE: Hi Maureen, how are you?

CAVANAUGH: I'm quite well. Thanks for joining us. Now, I want to invite our listeners to join this conversation. Tell us what your favorite thing to eat is at Petco Park, would you like to add to or change anything about the park's concession food menu? Give us a call, the number is 1-888-895-5727. That's 1-888-895-KPBS. Dennis, I'm gonna pose the question to you, what does make baseball and hotdogs go so well together?

TASE: Well, hotdogs is all about fun, and where are you gonna have fun but a Paul park? And if you're gonna have fun, let's have hotdogs.

CAVANAUGH: There you go. Now, there's so much, however, has changed about the way we eat in the last 50 years that wiener schnitzel has been with us. Why do you think hotdogs remain so popular?

TASE: Well, again, I think it's one of those staples that it is been around for many, many, many years, and when you associate hotdogs, you associate it with fun, fun times. Like picnics or if you're not at a family outing, at home, you might have a hot dog. So I think it's just remained a foody all like to eat, because it is surrounded by fun times.

CAVANAUGH: Now, as CEO of Wienerschnitzel, you must know a little bit about the history of the hot dog. What can you tell us?

TASE: I can tell you that the hot dog has been around since 5000 BC.

CAVANAUGH: And how do you know that?

TASE: I read that somewhere once. But actually, I think in the mi1860s or so, the hot dog was introduced in the United States. And really in 1904, I believe is when it really started taking off in New York City.

CAVANAUGH: I see and when did Der Wienerschnitzel get into the act?

TASE: We got into the act in 1961, 50 years ago.

CAVANAUGH: And it's a fast food chain, of course.

TASE: Yes.

CAVANAUGH: But it's the only one that really has a hot dog asa a staple.

DEFENDANT: Yes, we're the largest hot dog chain in the world. We sell close to a hundred and 50 million hotdogs every year.

CAVANAUGH: And I'm wonder, how is if.

TASE: [CHECK AUDIO] tasty freeze, of the Padres.

CAVANAUGH: And how ask that work? Does that mean that you officially sponsor the team?

TASE: Yes we do.

CAVANAUGH: I see. Okay. I'm speaking with Dennis Tase, he's president of Der Wienerschnitzel, and my guest is also Peter Rowe, San Diego staff writer for the UT. We're taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. If you'd like to join the conversation. And talk to us about food and drinks at Petco Park. Which are your favorites, which -- how could they add to the selection that they have, or which would you like to just go away? That number once again is 1-888-895-5727. Peter Lowe, what would you consider a must have meal at Petco park?

ROWE: That's great. And I think that Dennis is onto something here. I mean, a lot of us don't eat hotdogs anywhere else except at the ballpark. And there's something about the association of hotdogs with baseball that just seems to be a natural. I really like at Petco, the Sonoran hot dog, which is wrapped in bacon, then covered with pinto beans, tomatoes, onions jalapeno sauce, ketchup, and man as I. It's huge, and it's a great meal. I mean, it sounds maybe a little disgusting, but believe me, it all comes together beautifully.

CAVANAUGH: Sometimes when you do describe ballpark food, it doesn't sound so great. But it really tastes wonderful at the time.

ROWE: You just have to go with it. Close your eyes and go with it.

CAVANAUGH: So this bacon wrapped hot dog is part of what Der Wienerschnitzel has now. Where did that come about?

TASE: Actually, that's one of largest selling hotdogs up in the LA area. The street vendors in LA, it's very popular in Mexican areas as well. We actually have a Sonoran dog in Tucson. It's very popular in the Tucson market. But the bacon wrapped hotdogs, we are the official hot dog place for the bacon wrapped hotdogs, and it is a delicious hot dog.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Peter, ballparks typically serve food, at least some food that's unique to the city they're located in. So what regional specialties are served up at Petco?

ROWE: Well, I think the Sonoran, they're selling that as kind of a San Diego specialty. But this year they've also got a chorizo corn dog, which again plays on our border location here.

CAVANAUGH: Yes.

ROWE: And it's just what it sounds like. They've got a great chorizo sausage which gets battered, and then covered with a smoked tomato alioli. So that's kind of a nice local --

CAVANAUGH: That actually sounds good.

ROWE: Now, I remember years ago.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

ROWE: Mike Rako made a big deal about at the ballpark in San Diego, you could get sushi. And you know, that we were kind of girlie men for preferring sushi to some real, you know, Heman food like, I guess, Philly cheese steak.

CAVANAUGH: And fried cheese on top.

ROWE: There you are. But actually, you request get very nice sushi. There's a place called west winds of it's a sushi restaurant, it's got a great sue view of the park, and they've got very nice sushi and a couple of sushi chefs up there who will fix you anything you want. Also new this year is a caprese salad, which maybe you don't regard as particularly San Diego. But the tomatoes come from Carlsbad, and the mozzarella is homemade, and you know, everything here about that caprese is San Diego.

CAVANAUGH: Now, how much can you expect to spend on food and drenchings at Petco Park, Peter?

ROWE: I think that's a real sore point. Unfortunately, the prices are rather high. And that caprese salad, for instance, is nine bucks. And maybe you would expect to pay that in a restaurant in the gas lamp as well. The and the chorizo hot dog is $9. There is a bargain on the new -- the new list of foods, and that's truffle popcorn, which is, you know, popcorn with parmesan and truffle dust over that. And that's three bucks. Of I think, you know, three bucks for popcorn most movie theatres I think will charge you more.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah. Wasn't there a bargain menu for the past couple years at Petco? Five things for five bucks? Something like that?

ROWE: Well, they had that two years ago, and they discontinued it.

CAVANAUGH: Discontinued it, okay.

ROWE: Last year. It was a terrific deal, and not only was it five for five, but you know, I'm a beer writer, and they would serve 5 or 5 if you got the soda, but if you wanted the beer, it was five for ten. Upon which wasn't a bad deal.

CAVANAUGH: Right, right I'm gonna come back to you to talk a little bit more about beer at Petco Park, but I do want to invite our listeners to join the conversation if they'd like to talk about their favorite menu at the park or their favor way, maybe, to eat a hot dog. You can call us with your questions and are why comments about hot dogs and basic food at 1-888-895-5727. That's 1-888-895-KPBS. 94 Dennis Tase, this is, as I said, the 50th anniversary of Wienerschnitzel hotdogs. How has the recipe changed in the last 50 years?

TASE: It has not changed.

CAVANAUGH: No?

TASE: Nope.

CAVANAUGH: And so that's because you don't want to tamper with perfection?

TASE: That's it, that's it. It's a secret recipe, and we have the recipe for our Chile in our vault thea the corporate office.

CAVANAUGH: Now, is that the most popular kind of hot dog Der Wienerschnitzel serves?

TASE: Yes, out of the hundred and 50 million hotdogs, probably more than half of our hot dogs that we sell are Chile dogs.

CAVANAUGH: And how about just the -- well, for me, coming from the east coast is just the typical hot dog and sauerkraut, is that still really popular?

TASE: Actually, one of my favorites is the Chile cheese dog with mustard and kraut.

CAVANAUGH: How often do you eat hotdogs as president of Wienerschnitzel.

TASE: On average I probably eat five times a week.

CAVANAUGH: Five times a week, hotdogs?

TASE: Yes.

CAVANAUGH: It's funny, Peter, as you said, I think a lot of people probably don't eat a lot of hotdogs until they go to the base ballpark or a barbecue.

ROWE: Yeah, again, I think it's just something that -- it makes the experience, right? You go to the baseball game, and that's one of the things that you want, you want a hot dog. Or you also want peanuts or you want a beer, so --

CAVANAUGH: Right, right U. So there's certain kind of classic foods at the ballpark. Increase will, though, you know, it's all about diversifying the menus, and showing off what the chefs can do at these ballparks. So this year, the food network has made a deal with, I believe eight ballparks to kind of trot out some of the more popular recipes from the food network. So there is a a great steak sandwich, it's called the red white and but, it has rectangle steak ribbons topped with may tag blue cheese and served in which I batta bread.

CAVANAUGH: Wow.

ROWE: It's got something called a sweet peppa due pepper man as I on top. That'll run you 13 bucks. I will let others decide if it's worth it. I will say it's tastef.

CAVANAUGH: So the food network is actually gonna be doing a spotlight on the ballpark menus?

ROWE: Yeah, they have been partnering with a couple of Balboa Parks across the country, including Petco, in kind of showing off -- it's a win-win, I guess, for everyone. Of the Balboa Park gets to bring in some new foods, and the food network gets some exposure.

CAVANAUGH: And do you know when those programs are gonna be on?

ROWE: No, I'm not sure. I'm not sure. All I know is that today, of course, you'll be able to buy that red white and blue steak sandwich at Petco, but I'm not sure when the food network will be broad casting the show.

CAVANAUGH: We'll have to check our local listings. I'm speaking with Peter roe who writes for the San Diego Union Tribune about a wide variety of things, including food and beer, and my other guest is Dennis Tase, he's president of Der Wienerschnitzel. And Der Wienerschnitzel is the sponsor of the official hot dog at Petco Park, and of course we're talking about all this because this is the Padres' season home opener at Petco Park this afternoon. We're taking your calls about ballpark food at 1-888-895-5727. Marie is calling us from Sorrento Valley, good morning, Marie, and welcome to These Days.

NEW SPEAKER: Good morning. Of.

CAVANAUGH: Hugh.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi I'm just calling because in a typical California fashion, I'm a health conscious person, I typically prefer to eat vegetarian so I'm wondering what type of healthy,/vegetarian options are currently available at Petco.

CAVANAUGH: Okay I'm gonna ask Peter if he knowsism that's a great question. I already mentioned the popcorn, I guess that's vegetarian. And would you regard, probably not, fish tacos as vegetarian?

NEW SPEAKER: I'd say pescatarian, but it's on that cusp of healthiness.

ROWE: Okay. All right. Well, there is that. Breakfast at the park, which is a Sunday event that the Padres have been doing for two years now, they do have pastries, they have southwestern style eggs, they've got mimosas, there are quite a few, you know, nonmeat dishes in that particular lineup. I think you really have to kind of work the Balboa Park in order to find these foods that would fit for vegetarians. But of course peanuts, that's a classic. The caprese salad I mentioned. They're also bringing out something called sweet corn fritters this year. So that's something to look for. But over all, I'd have to say that the menu is pretty meat heavy.

CAVANAUGH: Pretty meat heavy. Thank you, Marie. We're talking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Has Wienerschnitzel ventured into the vegetarian realm at all?

TASE: Yes, we did, probably about 15 years ago, we had a veggie hot dog. And it wasn't very popular with our customers.

CAVANAUGH: Ah, ha. Do you think perhaps if you brought it back now with so many more people going vegetarian?

TASE: That's a possibility. But again, you know, the original hot dog is the most popular.

CAVANAUGH: Now, our call are's concern was not just vegetarian, but health, and a lot of people seem to think that hotdogs are not a healthy food. Would you agree with them, Dennis?

TASE: Oh, I would not agree. Hotdogs are very healthy. I mean, like I said, I eat a hot dog a day and I'm in very good shape. For a 64 year-old man. But hotdogs are healthy, it depends on what you eat. And also we hear from the government all the time that if you exercise, you'll be better off anyway. But hotdogs are good for you, it's just as much calories or fat in a hot dog as there are in a Hamburger.

CAVANAUGH: Now, we do have an actual aid for people who intend to go to Petco and have a Wienerschnitzel dog or if they'd like to stay home and have one on their barbecue. The national hotdog and sauce annual council have a hot dog calorie counter. You can go to our website, kpbs.org/These Days, enter in your favorite hotdog with all the fixins' and see how many calories that would be. I would say do that after you go to the ballpark, not before. We're taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. If you'd like to join the conversation. Now, just to expand on this, from time to time, issue the national hot dog and sausage council gives out some advice on hot dog eating etiquette. And let me see if you both agree, Dennis and Peter. They say a regular hot dog, no more than five bites, what do you think?

TASE: I think I can down mine in less than five bites.

CAVANAUGH: Really?

TASE: Yes.

CAVANAUGH: Well, you've got a lot of practice. We've already established that. Peter what do you think?

ROWE: Yeah, I think they're being a little generous. Maybe four. So --

CAVANAUGH: And they say no ketchup on your bun after age 18. I think that's controversial.

ROWE: Personally, I don't like ketchup on my hotdogs, I look mine with mustard and relish. A good relish goes a long way.

TASE: Yes, it does, and I would have to agree. We don't sell many with ketchup.

CAVANAUGH: I see. Okay. And they say very specifically, dress the dog and not the bun. All the condiments on the dog, not on the bun.

TASE: I like to say that our hot dog is a vehicle for condiments. 'Cause it truly is. We have very few people that order hotdogs plain.

CAVANAUGH: Plain. Right.

TASE: They order them with everything they can put on the hot dog.

CAVANAUGH: Well, these are just words of wisdom from the national hot dog and sausage council I'm passing along. Peter, tailgating and sporting events go hand in hand, typically, but Petco is located in the middle of downtown [CHECK AUDIO].

ROWE: I think what a lot of people do before the baseball game, they go to restaurants or bars in the gas lamp because you're right there. Tippoly's, the oldest bar in San Diego, is like a 2 or 3-block walk. People will go there, there's a subway shop around the corner. There are a lot of choices in the gas lamp, both kind of high end and lower, there are a couple of parking lots, of course, across the street from Petco, but you don't see the tailgating scene there that you see before a -- say a Chargers game over at Qualcom.

CAVANAUGH: And is that because of the location?

ROWE: I think it is, I think it is. And it's just too inviting, I think to walk out of that parking lot into the gas lamp, whereas if you're at Qualcom, you know you're either gonna go into the game or you're gonna stay in the parking lot. There's in the anywhere else, really, to go.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Peter, are you familiar with the restrictions of what fans can bring in to the stadium, food and drink wise?

ROWE: I'm always being surprised by that. I remember one year, I had a -- you can bring in actually a lot of things. You can bring in food, you can bring in drink, you couldn't bring in glass or metal containers. But you can bring in, say, water in smaller plastic bottles. They do have a size limitation.

CAVANAUGH: I see. And I would imagine one cannot bring in alcohol?

ROWE: That's correct. You can't bring in alcohol. You have to buy it there. And that has been, I think, a sore point over the years. Petco is kind of notorious when it opened up, they had a $9 we're.

CAVANAUGH: I remember your writing about that, yes.

ROWE: Oh, it was terrible. So -- and they made a big deal with that in twine about getting rid of the $9 beer, and they changed the beer prices. But the beer prices remain higher than you'd expect to find, you know, in a restaurant, for instance. Where they're -- in Ia restaurant, normally, you're looking at power or $5 for a beer, and at Petco, it's gonna cost you more than that.

CAVANAUGH: Now, as you very well know, Peter, San Diego is such a big home of wonderful microbreweries, on the other hand, are any of those on -- you know, can you get them at Petco?

ROWE: I'm not sure because the last few years, they had beers from Oggi's, which is actually, I think, based in San Clementi. Oggi's has a number of small brew pubs in San Diego County. And they were selling their California gold, and I believe their Heffeweizen during the games. But onliy's has been kind of pushed aside in favor of Filipi's. Filipi's being the local Italian place, and a very popular pizza purveyor, locally, so they got rid of [CHECK AUDIO] so I'm not sure if we'll be seeing many of the local beers in the ballpark. In the past, you have been able to find stone, which may be the most -- the best distributed San Diego microbrew. But we'll have to look around.

CAVANAUGH: We'll have to look around. Now, I'm wondering, is there anything that you would advise people just not to eat at the Balboa Park? And I'm not necessarily saying brand names or anything like that. But just, you know, with the long hours and the hot sun, and so forth, is there anything that you just really have found for yourself just really doesn't work?

ROWE: Well, in previous years, Lori Westberg and I would go in during the first week and we'd try and sample everything new. I don't recommend that. It's really kind of a disastrous you assignment by the end of the day. I just, you know -- know what it is you like, and look for it. Increasingly, the Padres are pushing local product, local produce, and I think over all, most Balboa Park food is not very healthy. Is not -- you know, if you were to dine on this day after day, meal after day, it would not be a good idea. Of but the Padres have gone out of their way to have some fresh fruit dishes, to have some salads, and they also have some smoothies which are, you know, kind of good for you, and also might help settle the stomach.

CAVANAUGH: That's very good advice. Now, Dennis Tase, you are here in San Diego today, I would imagine that one of the reasons you're here is to make this opening day at Petco Park.

TASE: Absolutely.

CAVANAUGH: And in what other Fays is Wienerschnitzel celebrating its 50th anniversary?

TASE: Well, we, this month, actually, the $0.79 corn dog is our promotion, and with the corn dog, you get the stick, of course, and after you eat your corn dog, you look at your stick, and you may be an instant winner, up to $10,000, and if you're not, there's a little code on there, where you can go on-line and see what you could win on line as well.

CAVANAUGH: I see. And you can get one of those at the ballpark too.

TASE: No, you can't get our corn dogs at the ballpark. You have to get those at Wienerschnitzel.

CAVANAUGH: I gotcha. Okay. And are you gonna be touring the other stadiums where Wienerschnitzel is the sponsor for the team.

TASE: Oh, absolutely. I love baseball.

CAVANAUGH: All right. As we said, hotdogs and baseball. I want to them gentlemen for speaking with us today. Dennis Tase, thank you.

TASE: Thank you so much.

CAVANAUGH: And Peter Lowe, thank you.

ROWE: It's been a pleasure. Go Pads.

CAVANAUGH: Go Pads. I want everyone to know the San Diego Padres take on the San Francisco Giants at Petco Park today. Game time is 3:35.

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