I was a vegetarian for six years. During that time, I never stopped missing meat and tried every plant-based meat alternative known to man — from veggie burgers and tofu to tempeh and the Impossible Burger. In the early months of 2018, I gave up. I missed eating meat, and decided to dive back into my omnivorous tendencies. I still wanted to consume as responsibly and intentionally as I could, so I replaced meat with alternatives sometimes to achieve some sort of balance.
One thing I never really got into were hot dogs. I ate a funky hot dog once when I was 11 years old, hurled, and never ate another one, even after I quit vegetarianism. So when I was offered an opportunity to try a plant-based alternative to a hot dog, I was excited. Maybe, finally, I too could participate in the summer tradition of accompanying my ice-cold beer with a juicy, grilled dog, smothered in mustard.
Enter the Carrot Dog, a plant-based alternative that offers the experience of a real hot dog, but healthier. It made sense because while processed meats carry different levels of chemicals, hot dogs and sausages are among the most feared culprits. So, the popular vegan eatery By Chloe partnered with New York City's Harry & Ida's (a restaurant well-versed in seasoning and flavoring meats to savory perfection) to deliver the dog.
When they sent it over, I wasn't sure what to expect. It’s marketed, at $6.50, as "a whole, hand-picked carrot that has been cured and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and oregano, smoked over local oak and maple, aged, and then grilled." Opening the bag, I was surprised to see that the carrot dog did indeed look like a large, juicy beef hot dog.
Then I dug in.
Even though I was warned that it was a carrot, and not any sort of carrot-based processed meat alternative, I was still shocked that when I bit into the dog, it was like biting into … a large, cooked carrot. And despite the seasoning and smoking, the carrot was still super carrot-y.
I was essentially biting into a carrot sandwich – something, in all my years as a vegetarian, that I’d ever conceived of. At this point, I decided to put mustard on the orange imposter, hoping that it would help me distance myself from the fact that I was munching on a whole carrot like some sort of children's book bunny rabbit.
It took about 15 minutes to eat the carrot dog (these guys are slightly more laborious to eat than regular dogs) and then conclude that I didn't need to bring hot dog shaped foods back into my life. The carrot dog itself was tasty, but as I looked at my carrot smothered in mustard and encased in a bun, I experienced a bit of an existential crisis. Why exactly was I eating a carrot like this? Why not just cut it up, and eat in manageable bites?
That being said, if you are a vegan or vegetarian who truly desires the experience of diversifying your diet, this is a great option. The carrot itself is flavorful, and it really does look like a hot dog — kudos to the veggie artists behind this thing for the spot-on aesthetic. But, if you're just someone who’s looking to shift toward a more balanced diet with less red meat in it, maybe just go raw as a side to your turkey dog.