Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Across the Burger Spectrum

Before getting to the good stuff, I'm going to tell you about a bad burger I ate recently. In my zeal to try all the burgers in Midtown East, I had my first really awful burger from a Greek diner called Townhouse-something-or-other in the East 30's (I really don't even care about this place enough to look up the real name).

Seeing that the only two options for cheese were cheddar or feta should have been my first red flag, but I rolled with it and decided for feta. It was a Greek diner so it seemed right (and I've never liked cheddar on burgers). When the burger arrived at my apartment in little over 30 minutes, I immediately noticed the soggy, grease flavored fries and all around sad appearance.

The burger itself was an overly charred, preformed patty with a melted spitball of feta placed between the limp bun and soggy, browning lettuce and tomatoes. Yet, having spent twelve bucks, this was my dinner whether I liked it or not. I picked off the rabbit food and went for the burger. All I tasted was charred beef and salty feta... maybe not the worst burger but absolutely not something I would spend money on again.

I got through about three quarters of the burger before deciding I'd had enough. I started to feel slightly sick to my stomach almost immediately (although it could have been psychosomatic). A fruit cup also came with the burger and I stupidly figured it would be palatable (and healthy). I had four pieces of bland, wet fruit before seeing a crushed mosquito chilling on a grape. A second wave of disgust hit me, and my stomach felt even worse. At this point, I was determined to not let this burger pass through my system, so I decided to do the unthinkable.

I've never actually "made" myself throw up. Admittedly while lying in bed, curled up a fetal position and clutching my stomach after a long night of drinking-- I've given up the struggle and dragged myself into the bathroom. But sticking-fingers-into-throat to make myself throw up-- never.

Hell, I'm an adventurous guy who is willing to try new things, so I might as well make the attempt. A few tentative pokes activated my gag reflex, but nothing happened besides some weak spit. Now I was pissed. If a college Freshman girl can do this, surely I can make it happen? I jammed two fingers into the back of my throat, sending a shock of pain down to my Adam's apple, but now all that came out was acidic stomach juice. I tried in vain a few more times, but my stomach only got angrier and  my throat throbbed harder. I finally gave up, collapsing onto my couch with an overwhelming feeling of failure.

So now that I've disgusted everyone with my tale of burger and personal failure (and if you're still reading), let me describe a far better burger experience last week on a return trip to The Breslin. My first meal was a letdown, but I had not tried the burger, one of the most popular options on the menu.

Please play the video now for the full sensory experience for the duration of this post.

I didn't want to deal with a waitress, so I grabbed a New York Times off the rack and took a seat at an aggressively awkward stool at the dark wood bar to the tunes of The Stranglers "Peaches," which most people will recognize from the movie Sexy Beast (They also played The Who, which I enjoyed immensely). It was hot outside and I was craving a beer, but the the beers on tap, while they looked good, were overly expensive. Instead, I ordered a bottle of Blue Point Toasted Lager to go with my burger (this also happens to be one of my favorite beers anywhere).

Served on a cutting board with a juice moat to wick away excess moisture, the burger and fries were an imposing order. The lamb burger is flanked by a slightly sour ciabatta with a few rings of red onions and a block of feta cheese (see, there is a reason I told the first story about my crappy feta burger). On the side is a cumin mayo that tasted like it had a hint of curry added. The mayo made the burger, especially with the patty a little on the tepid side and slightly underseared (though it was flavorful and musty, like good lamb). The "thrice fried" fries were extra crispy and salty, and had been battered (beaten, not like beer-battered) with deep cuts to add even more crunch. Like everything else, these were even more delicious when dipped in the cumin mayo.

For pictures, check out Nick Solares' review at Serious Eats.

Later in the week, still craving burgers, I rolled through Union Square Greenmarket and picked up some grass fed ground beef (80/20) from Grazin' Acres out of Ghent, NY.

Made according to my usual method, I picked up some sesame seeded rolls, caramelized some onions and I was ready to roll.

Slightly overcooked (this is a no-no depending who you ask, but using this method it's difficult to get a medium rare burger, let alone medium), but with a terrific sear and deep beefy flavor that is so often lacking in typical ground chuck, this was an excellent burger. No condiments were necessary besides Kraft American cheese and caramelized onions. However, my quest for homemade burger perfection continues, as does my search for delicious burgers in Midtown (even though I'm moving at the end of the month).

The Breslin
16 West 29th (between 6th and Broadway)

Breslin Bar & Dining Room on Urbanspoon

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