by Malcolm Jolley with photos by Jamie Drummond
Andrew Hunter describes the food at Buddha Dog as “fast, slow”. He and co-founder Andrew MacKenzie started the first of their gourmet wiener shops in Picton, Ontario five years ago when MacKenzie realised there was no local food to feed his visiting niece and nephew. Figuring a hot dog could be the perfect, accessible example of a local food product the duo worked with locl farmers and abattoirs to create a beefy dog, the local bakery for buns and local produce farmers for the ingredients for the relishes and sauces that were conceived of by local chefs like Michael Potters. Reflecting the totality of their vision, when it came time to name their new venture, they recalled the old joke about what the Buddha said to the hot dog vendor: “I’ll have one with everything.”
Fast forward to 2010 and Buddha Dog has expanded to a location in Collingwood, Ontario where they use local producers in the way they still do in Picton. They also have a store in Toronto’s West End on Roncesvalles: “The street and neighbourhood have a small town feel,” hunter explains, “it felt right – like when we started in Prince Edward County.” While Buddha Dog hot dogs may be accompanied by fresh picked salads in spring and summer, from the fall through winter they switched to seasonal soups (like a heritage beet made by Jamie Kennedy). Another important component of the totality of Hunter and MacKenzie’s vision is the quality of the meat they use. “Our hotdogs are products, not by-products,” MacKenzies matter-of-factly says, explaining they use actual cuts of meat make their frankfurters, where many industrial producers us animal bits not even the most dedicated nose-to-tail eater would consider – or worse.
When MacKenzie and Hunter were first setting up shop in Prince Edward County in 2005 they received the enthusiastic assistance of the region’s Economic Development Officer, Dan Taylor. Taylor, a former Toronto advertising executive, had been lured to the County by the promise of create rural life and even made wine for a while. He helped the Buddha Dog guys find producers and a sympathetic abattoir owner, Ted Anam, who was willing to work with Hunter and MacKenzie for the sake of supporting local producers. Earlier this year Taylor travelled to a food conference in San Francisco where he cam upon the American celebration of International Pig Day. Remembering the inclusion of the heritage breed Tamworth pig into Slow Food Canada’s Ark of Taste (a sort of recognition and protective designation the organization bestows special local foods), Taylor wondered if Ontario couldn’t get into the festivities. What better way to promote the day by getting Hunter and MacKenzie to fashion a gourmet Tamworth hot dog.
On February 25, at their Toronto store with Taylor in attendance, Buddha Dog launched their first ever pig-based hot dog. The 100% Tamworth wieners will be featured for the month of March and particularly on International Pig Day on the 1st. Oink, oink.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, educator, and cheeselover Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution. Malcolm Jolley is the Editor of Good Food Revolution.