As fundraisers go, this one is golden — not to mention totally tubular and 100 per cent beef.
The owner of Smoke’n Bob’s Hotdogs plans to raise money for Riverview Health Centre by selling the poshest dog this city has ever seen — a $100 Wagyu beef smokie topped with truffle oil, an aged balsamic reduction and coated with melted gold leaf.
"Who does a smokie for $100 in Winnipeg?" Darren Yewchyn said, laughing. "It’s pretty daring to sell a $100 smokie in Winnipeg. This is the ultimate hotdog. Each customer will get a hand-designed certificate of authenticity."
Yewchyn said his four mobile food carts will be parked in front of the iconic office tower at 201 Portage Ave. on Thursday, Aug. 22, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to sell 200 of the specially made Gold Leaf Wagyu Beef Smokies for $100 each, with $75 from each posh dog going to support Riverview.
The $100 golden smokies came about because Winnipeg’s renowned hotdog purveyor wanted a novel way to celebrate three decades of grilling and selling dogs near the intersection of Portage Avenue and Fort Street.
"We’re approaching 30 years in business and I was brainstorming ideas and one of my customers said, ‘You should do a $100 golden smokie’ and — BOOM! — I knew that was the idea," he said.
"About four or five years ago in Calgary, somebody pulled it off. The guy sold out of them on the first day. He’d planned to sell them for four days."
He was referring to a food truck that sold out of its $100 Dragon Dogs in a single day at the 2015 Calgary Stampede. Calgary’s posh dogs were infused with Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac and topped with Kobe beef, lobster and truffles.
But Yewchyn, 53, who spent two years as a receiver with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and helped the home side win the Grey Cup in 1988, said Winnipeg’s specially made golden smokies won’t take a back seat to any dog in the world.
"Winnipeg Old Country Sausage Ltd. is producing the smokie from Wagyu beef," the former football star gushed. "It’s fabulous! It literally melts in your mouth. The flavour is beautiful.
"It’s the highest-grade beef you can buy in Canada. It’s produced the same way Kobe beef is produced in Japan, but you can buy Wagyu beef in Canada."
Each of these $100 charitable dogs will be drizzled with truffle oil and an 18-year-old balsamic reduction, and topped with real gold leaf imported from a specialized cake maker in the United States, then presented to the customer with a side of potato salad, a cold beverage and a certificate of merit.
"It’s edible gold leaf ordered from the U.S.," Yewchyn noted. "It’s not a flavour of any kind; it’s just because it’s a cool thing to do. It will melt on the smokie. They’re a very delicate, fine sheet of gold leaf. We put it right on top of the smokie as a final touch."
The real final flourish on the gourmet dog, however, will be a spear of garlic-flavoured asparagus. Of course, no posh dog is complete without a pillowy-soft bun on which to rest, which will come from Gunn’s Bakery.
Yewchyn said he wants to sell his upscale gold-covered weenies in support of Riverview Health Centre because the community hospital is the gold standard when it comes to palliative care, geriatric rehabilitation and brain injury and stroke rehab.
“I can’t wait for Aug. 22. All of our carts will be at 201 Portage Ave. and gold balloons will be buzzing around everywhere. I always hear the best things about Riverview. It’s like a home away from home. If you’re in trauma care, they just completely take care of you." — Darren Yewchyn
"I can’t wait for Aug. 22," he chirped. "All of our carts will be at 201 Portage Ave. and gold balloons will be buzzing around everywhere. I always hear the best things about Riverview. It’s like a home away from home. If you’re in trauma care, they just completely take care of you.
"My friend Bob Sokalski was board chairman for Riverview (Health Centre Foundation) and he is very proud of Riverview. He came to mind, so I thought we’ll select Riverview as the place to donate the proceeds to. I told Bob about the golden smokie and he just lit up.
"I’m 100 per cent confident this will go over big time. We’ve had good feedback from our customers. They know it’s going to support a great cause."
Yewchyn, who took over the mobile-cart business 11 years ago when his uncle retired, expects a similar response to what happened five years ago when they celebrated Smoke’n Bob’s 25th anniversary.
"We gave away 1,000 hotdogs," he recalled. "We had to close down early. There were 1,000 hotdogs given away by 1:15 in the afternoon. Winnipeggers love hotdogs, and free food."
Sheldon Mindell, executive director of Riverview Health Centre Foundation, said the $100 hotdogs will be unique in Winnipeg, just like the health centre, "the first personal care home to encourage dogs as visitors."
"Riverview is tucked away at the end of Morley Avenue doing what it has been doing for the past 108 years," Mindell noted. "Smoke’n Bob’s has been out front on Portage Avenue doing what it’s been doing for the past 30 years — it seems like a marriage made in heaven! Who needs steak when you can have Wagyu beef hotdogs smothered in gold?"
And a little mustard probably wouldn’t hurt, either.
Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.