Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chicago-Style Hot Dogs At Congressional Picnic

Chicago Vienna hot dog expert Mike Payne of Byron's is a guest chef at White House...President orders dogs "to go"
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) ensured that the food representing the Midwest was completely authentic at the annual White House Congressional Picnic hosted by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday, which had the theme Taste of The States.

The steamed Chicago Vienna Hot Dog, complete with all the fixings, was the offering from the Obama home town.

The White House contacted Sen. Durbin's office to find out how to get the kind of hot dogs that are preferred in Chicago, and wound up inviting hot dog legend Mike Payne to the White House to guest chef, according to Lynn Sweet of Chicago Sun-Times. Payne, owner of Byron's Hot Dogs, which has two outlets in the Windy City, spent all day Tuesday working with White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford in the kitchen, from 7 Am to almost 10 PM, steaming hundreds of dogs. Payne's wife, Ann, also came to Washington to help (Above: Sen. Durbin, left, with Ann and Mike Payne in the Midwest tent at the picnic)

Sourcing the dogs, and a presidential to-go order...
Since outside supplies cannot be brought in to the White House, before the event, Payne sent Comerford a shopping list in order to make an authentic Chicago hot dog with all the traditional fixings. Comerford found an East Coast Vienna Hot Dog distributor; other items necessary for an authentic Chicago dog included yellow mustard, shredded lettuce, diced onions, sliced cucumbers, green peppers and tomatoes. Plus peppers, celery salt and dill pickles. The only ingredient Comerford could not find was the specific day glow green relish featured at Byron's; she found something close, though, according to Sweet, who is a Chicago native. (Above: President Obama and Mrs. Obama during his welcome remarks at the picnic, which had hundreds of guests, including lawmakers' families and a couple of Cabinet secretaries)

Payne also got to meet President and Mrs. Obama.

"Everybody there was really really nice," Payne said, "Like they were treating us like a guest."

The President and Mrs. Obama and her mom, Marian Robinson, sent in a "to go" order to the South Lawn for four hot dogs. Payne prepared them, and sent them up to the Obama residence inside the White House.

"A little bit of home cooking came all the way to the White House," said Payne.

*More on the Congressional Picnic is here; it featured a 45-foot fire pit dug into the South Lawn, to cook wild- caught Copper River salmon from Alaska, for the offering from the Pacific Northwest region.

Info: Byron's is located on the North Side of Chicago, at 1017 W. Irving Park near Wrigley Field, and at 1701 W. Lawrence.

*Payne/Durbin photo by Lynn Sweet; Obama, state photo via Getty