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'Let's be Frank' provides grass-fed hot dogs

ASPEN, Colo. — Aspen Ideas Festival attendees had two meals per day — breakfast and lunch — included with their registrations, but the heart-healthy salads served in tents did not seem as popular as the hot dogs served from carts by “Let’s be Frank,” the California-based purveyor of hot dogs made from grass-fed beef that have become a tradition at the festival.

At lunch time, some of the country’s most prominent business and intellectual leaders, lured by onions cooking on the grill, could be seen waiting in the bright sun in long lines to get “dogs gone good.” They were cooked and served from carts by Sue Moore and Larry Bain, self-described “fast-food visionaries” who started their company in 2005 “with the simple goal of changing the world one hot dog at a time.”

Over the years, two of Moore’s favorite customers have been former Secretary of State Colin Powell and singer Barbra Streisand, but she admitted to being annoyed this year by an attendee who was such a strict vegan that he would eat a hot dog bun only if she could guarantee it had never touched the meat, which she declined to do.

Moore and Bain got their start in San Francisco, where they sell their dogs at Giants ballpark and Crissy Field near the Golden Gate bridge. Some Aspen residents who ate their dogs said they were so good they “had” to be at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

Moore has since opened a branch in Los Angeles, where she has a food truck that moves around town cooking and selling dogs and caters movie production sets and movie star parties.

Let’s be Frank dogs, including pork and Italian sausages they did not sell in Aspen, are also available at certain stores in California. They also make a “Devil Sauce” and have a mail order business on their website.

Moore, formerly the “meat forager” at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, said she and Bain, a longtime restaurant professional and member of the San Francisco Sustainable Food Systems team who has consulted with the National Park Service on bringing local, high quality food into the parks, started their business as a way “to nourish both eaters and growers.”

Moore said they wanted to encourage the ranchers in California who still graze cattle on grass, but that it took 18 months of tinkering with third-generation sausage makers to come up a recipe for a dog made from only grass-fed beef, organic spices and lamb casings that give the dogs “a great snap.”

The beef in “dogs gone good” is shoulder clod, chuck roll, plate and shank — the cuts that are used for steak sandwiches and stew meat — but Moore said she has to be ready to take the meat when ranchers are ready to sell their animals for the higher-end cuts. While the beef is grown in California, the pork in the sausages that the company sells in California and by mail comes from Missouri.
“Pigs love corn and need to eat some grain, so our hogs are raised where corn and grain can be grown nearby (i.e., Iowa!),” the company’s website says.

Moore and Bain are advocates of the local and organic movements and use meat that is raised and processed humanely, from animals that are never fed hormones, antibiotics or chemicals. Although the beef dogs are not certified kosher because there is no rancher who raises cattle on grass and sends it to a kosher slaughter house, the website says “We like to say that our dogs are ‘beyond kosher.’”

Mooore and Bain are not purists, however.

“While ‘Let’s be Frank’ supports organic farming, we also consider an important part of our mission to find and support producers who are following the time-honored, careful protocols of traditional farming even when they are not certified organic,” the website says. “The organic certification process has become extremely time-consuming, difficult, and expensive, and consequently is impractical for many smaller farmers and ranchers.”

“Let’s be Frank” products are not yet available on the East Coast except by mail order, but Moore and Bain said they are open to an invitation.