Log In / Join Now

Well-Dressed Dogs and California Pinot Noir for Labor Day

Sausage-dressing tips from Hot Doug's, a fresh salad and 12 recently rated reds for summer's last hurrah

Laurie Woolever
Posted: August 23, 2013

Labor Day is nearly here, and although it's a traditional time to honor the achievements of American workers and reflect on our nation's labor history, you need not work hard in the kitchen to create a memorable holiday weekend spread for friends and family. Some thoughtful shopping, a clean grill and a bit of chopping and whisking are all that's required, especially when the main event comes in the form of a sausage or frankfurter.

Mustard, ketchup and pickle relish are fine, but what if you want to finish those grilled meats with something a little more interesting? We consulted Doug Sohn, owner and operator of Hot Doug's, in Chicago, and we've collected a few simple recipes based on his suggestions, along with directions for a multi-textured salad that makes the most of late-summer produce.

"One of the best things about hot dogs and sausages is that they're really adaptable to a variety of condiments. And most often, these condiments and sauces are easily fixed with ingredients that are readily available or are probably in your pantry or refrigerator," says Sohn, who recently published Hot Doug's: The Book (Agate Midway 2013), with co-author Kate DeVivo.

The book is a heartfelt and hilarious look at how Sohn made the transition from hot dog–loving book editor to the proprietor of a sausage stand, with customers who happily wait in line for up to two hours for a bite. A generous collaborative spirit pervades the text, which features essays, poems, photographs and drawings contributed by friends, family, supporters and even a few rabid fans who had Hot Doug's logo tattooed, earning them free dogs for life.

The store is BYOB, and while many guests bring beer or simple quaffing wines, chef Homaro Cantu, who contributed a blurb to the book, recalls, "I remember my first visit to [Hot Doug's] clearly. The table next to me brought in a $200 bottle of Bordeaux to go with their foie gras hot dog."

On the subject on condiments, Sohn continues, "I like to combine mustard or mayonnaise with all sorts of flavors. One of my favorites is a simple aioli with chipotles and cilantro. If you're grilling Italian sausages, make the aioli with a classic basil pesto instead of the chipotles and cilantro.

"Garlic, especially roasted garlic, is a perfect complement to sausage. A combination of dijon mustard and mayonnaise (what the kids call "dijonnaise") is a great base for a sauce. Add horseradish, or pickled jalapeños and Tabasco, or fresh herbs, or toasted cumin, or smoked paprika and garlic, or... You get the idea." Sohn, it should be noted, will close Hot Doug's for Labor Day, as befits a business owner in a city with a proud labor tradition.

While beer is paired well and often with sausages and casual summer weekends, this Labor Day we'll be reaching for California Pinot Noirs, whose medium body and characteristic spice and smoke notes make them a worthy match for highly seasoned fatty meats cooked over an open flame. See our list of recently rated California Pinot Noirs, get your shopping done early and take it easy this Labor Day.

Basic Mayonnaise

• 2 egg yolks
• 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
• 2 tablespoons kosher salt
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 1 cup canola oil

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine the egg yolk, mustard and salt, and puree. With the motor still running, slowly drizzle in both oils, continuing to blend until the mixture is emulsified. There should be no visible oil pools or puddles. If, while processing, the mixture becomes too thick, use a little cold water to thin it out, then continue with the oil. This can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. Makes about 2 cups.

Chipotle and Cilantro Aioli

All aioli recipes adapted from Doug Sohn

• 1 cup basic mayonnaise (recipe above) or prepared mayonnaise
• 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
• 2 canned chipotle chiles, finely chopped, plus 1 tablespoon of the adobo canning sauce
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk together all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until about 20 minutes before ready to serve. Store leftovers in refrigerator for up to 2 days. Makes about 1 cup.

Garlic and Pesto Aioli

• 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
• 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
• 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
• 2 cups basil leaves
• 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• Salt to taste
• 1 cup basic mayonnaise (recipe above) or prepared mayonnaise

In the bowl of a food processor, add the garlic, pine nuts, cheese and basil and process, slowly drizzling in the olive oil, until combined. Season with salt to taste, then whisk in the mayonnaise and season to taste. Cover and refrigerate until about 20 minutes before ready to serve. Store leftovers in refrigerator for up to 2 days. Makes about 1 cup.

Roasted Garlic Aioli

• 2 heads garlic, outer skin removed, top 1/4 inch of bulb trimmed to reveal individual cloves
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 cup basic mayonnaise (recipe above) or prepared mayonnaise
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Toss the garlic heads in the olive oil, wrap in foil and roast in the oven for about 35 minutes, until cloves are soft and browned. Once cool enough to handle, pop individual cloves out of skins.

2. In a blender or the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic and mayonnaise and puree until smooth. Season with salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate until about 20 minutes before ready to serve. Store leftovers in refrigerator for up to 2 days. Makes about 1 cup.

Late Summer Salad

• 2 large or 4 small eggplants, stems removed, cut into 1-inch cubes
• 2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
• 4 large ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
• 3 cucumbers, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
• 2 tablespoons best-quality red wine vinegar
• 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
• 2 leeks, whites only, finely chopped
• 1 large or 2 small green bell peppers, cored and coarsely chopped
• 1/4 cup finely chopped herbs (parsley, basil, thyme, oregano or a combination)
• Freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 1 small head lettuce, cored and finely chopped

1. In a large bowl, combine the eggplant and 2 tablespoons of salt. Toss well by hand to evenly distribute the salt. Transfer the eggplant cubes to a sheet pan lined with paper towels and arrange in a single layer (you may need to use two pans). Cover the eggplant cubes with another layer of paper towels and let sit 30 minutes.

2. While the eggplant sits, combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, vinegar and 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, toss well to combine, and set aside in refrigerator.

3. In a large skillet with a lid, heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and stir regularly for 1 minute. Add the eggplant and peppers and stir well to coat evenly with oil. Cook about five minutes, until vegetables are beginning to brown. Add the herbs and a splash of water (just less than 1/4 cup), cover and cook over high heat for another 5 minutes. Eggplant should be cooked through but not mushy. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. When ready to serve, toss together the cooked eggplant and peppers, marinated tomatoes, cucumbers and chopped lettuce. Transfer to a bowl and serve. Store leftovers in refrigerator for up to 1 week. Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.


Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More wines can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

MEIOMI Pinot Noir Monterey-Santa Barbara-Sonoma Counties 2011 Score: 92 | $22
Dark and rich, showing toasty mocha oak flavors, with a beam of wild berry, raspberry, cola, vanilla and spice. Long on the finish. Drink now through 2020. 92,000 cases made. —J.L.

FESS PARKER Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills 2010 Score: 90 | $30
Tightly wound, with taut dark berry, raspberry, fresh earth, cedar and cola flavors. Gaining depth and persistence, this is long on the finish. Drink now through 2019. 8,123 cases made. —J.L.

ROTH Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2011 Score: 89 | $28
Fragrant and easy-drinking, offering subtle raspberry, black cherry, anise and spice notes that gain depth and traction, ending with a touch of black licorice. Drink now through 2019. 3,185 cases made. —J.L.

BYRON Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County 2011 Score: 88 | $20
A classy Pinot for the price, rich and gutsy, with intense plum and raspberry fruit and firm tannins. Drink now through 2020. 14,000 cases made. —J.L.

LULI Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2011 Score: 88 | $20
An ultrarich, broad-shouldered Pinot, with dense, extracted flavors that embrace cherry, blackberry, pepper and spice, flirting with Syrah-like expressions. Drink now through 2017. 3,800 cases made. —J.L.

ROBERT MONDAVI Pinot Noir Carneros 2011 Score: 88 | $26
This firm and vibrant red exhibits a loamy earth edge to the dried berry and currant notes. Shows a cedary, smoky oak flavor on the finish. Drink now through 2018. 12,376 cases made. —J.L.

DE LOACH Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2011 Score: 87 | $24
Fresh and snappy, displaying moderate weight and depth, with zesty strawberry and watermelon flavors, followed by a light finish. Drink now through 2016. 12,000 cases made. —J.L.

LA FOLLETTE Pinot Noir North Coast 2011 Score: 87 | $20
Offering appealing, up-front fruitiness, with savory berry, mint and bay leaf notes. Tails off on the simple-tasting finish. Drink now through 2016. 6,818 cases made. —J.L.

PALI WINE CO. Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Riviera 2011 Score: 87 | $21
A mix of ripe, juicy, elegant cherry and raspberry notes, with a touch of anise and acidity that remains bright and lively. Drink now through 2019. 7,740 cases made. —J.L.

BUENA VISTA Pinot Noir Sonoma County 2010 Score: 86 | $15
Appealing, with firm cherry, plum and wild berry flavors that show plenty of spice and herb notes. Smooth finish. Drink now. 8,000 cases made. —M.W.

FRANCIS COPPOLA DIAMOND COLLECTION Pinot Noir Monterey County Silver Label 2011 Score: 86 | $18
Appealing, with juicy, plush ripe berry and plum flavors, showing spice and herb details set on a smooth, easy-drinking texture. Drink now through 2018. 43,091 cases made. —M.W.

MATTHEW FRITZ Pinot Noir North Coast 2011 Score: 86 | $15
A light style, pleasantly balanced, with simple watermelon and cherry fruit accented by subtle highlights. Drink now. 7,000 cases made. —J.L.

Alan Gavalya
Hampton VA USA —  August 24, 2013 10:24am ET
My wife is a contributor to Hot Doug's: The Book having written the story of our celebratory trip to Chicago for fine dining on our anniversary. We were invited and attending the book signing party (held in a brewery) last month. Great times.
Laurie Woolever
New York, NY —  August 26, 2013 1:17pm ET
Alan - The new book is such a fun read, both for Doug's story and for all of the contributed voices. I'm glad that your neighbors at Blackbird convinced you to add Hot Doug's to your list of Chicago dining destinations.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.