Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Santa Monica, CA

The Canuck and I continued our burger feast at Library Alehouse on Main. I wanted the tuna tartare as an entree, so I chose to have a slider appetizer with Niman Ranch beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, Tillamook cheddar and their Alehouse thousand island. The onion was diced, which I thought was odd, and I got the slice of tomato that has the little circle where the stem grows which I didn't approve of, however these are aesthetic issues, not taste issues. The slider was satisfying and I would order it again, especially with the amazing Apricot Wheat beer I was drinking from Lost Coast. I do appreciate when a restaurant shreds its lettuce, and the thousand island was a good addition.

The Canuck went all out and had the Blue N Bacon burger with Kobe, double bacon, stilton blue and caramelized onions. Fries too of course and they were natural cut with solid flavor, a perfect compliment to our beers.

The bacon was excellent, and the stilton and caramelized onions were a great flavor combination. That's a side of dijon, which almost had to fight the stilton for flavor power. Sadly, the Canuck ordered this burg medium and it came out well done. Now, I don't know how that chef was raised, but in my world, overcooking kobe beef is a big no-no. Regardless, the flavor was satisfying- better than the Umami Port and Stilton burger? No, but maybe it was just an off day for that chef. There are many other burgers on the menu and you can build your own, so I will come back and give the place another try.


Santa Monica, CA

Last Friday the Canuck and I returned to Hillstone for an impromptu fancy feast. We started with the spicy tuna roll from their mini-sushi menu and it was fantastic. Then the Canuck ordered a martini, so of course I had to have one too.  (I hate being left out.)  After our sushi, our martinis were probably half-consumed and are lovely waitress brought out fresh chilled glasses to pour our martinis into to keep them chilled. It was glorious.

The Canuck opted for the Hawaiian Ribeye, and I honeybadgered him into getting the baked potato so we could trade tastes of sides.  I chose the California Burger, for two reasons: 1) it sounded great and 2) the regular Hillstone burger seemed similar to the R+D burger. Both restaurants are owned by the Hillstone group, so I wanted to make sure I was trying something new. I opted for fries. Obviously.

The burg is fresh ground, with jack cheese, avocado, arugula and red onions. It was very classically flavored to me.  A nice balance of creamy avocado and cheese with the salt of the meat and tang of the onion. I asked for mayo with my fries, and they were golden and crispy. The Hawaiian ribeye had great flavor and was properly cooked.  The Canuck was in steak heaven. The baked potato was also good, though I felt the flavors could have had a little more punch.  It came out with all the fixin's but they didn't blend the way I anticipated.  I recommend the restaurant both on its own, and for the burger.  There's just something about high quality ingredients that can make classic seem gourmet.

Mini-Recon: CAFE BLEU

San Diego, CA

For mother's day brunch we went to Cafe Bleu in Mission Hills.  I ordered a croque madam which is basically ham and cheese with a sunny side up egg, and it was delicious and very unhealthy.  My father and step mom chose the Bleu Burger.  

This juicy burg is made with kobe beef, Point Reyes Bleu Cheese, pickled onions and fresh tomatos.  The cheese made the burger.  Bleu cheese is obviously a strong cheese so anytime you put it on something it will stand out, and the pickled onions tempered it slightly, but it was still strong and fantastic.  They even brought out their bleu cheese dressing for our fries. Yum!

Mini- Recon: THE PEARL

San Diego, CA

For my Dad's birthday my step mom and I planned a surprise dinner at The Pearl, a recently restored 1960's motel in Point Loma.  The atmosphere is fantastic and we dined right by the pool while Goldfinger was projected on a large screen above the pool.  We tried some lavender cocktails, which were a little sweet for my taste, then settled into some red wine.  Most of us ordered the braised short ribs, but my brother was true to his upbringing and opted for the burger.  

With Meyer Ranch Chuck, Smoked Gouda and carmelized onions, (which he picked off and I happily ate with my short ribs) the burger was solid.  Classic with a few gourmet tweaks, the butter toasted bun brought it home. Not the best burger ever, but a safe choice.  Fries were delicious!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Recon: UMAMI Fred Segal

Santa Monica, CA

My dad popped into town last week, the day Obama arrived, so not the best planning our parts, but Santa Monica was magically unaffected.  We went to Umami at Fred Segal.  It was time for the Truffle Burger.  As you know I have been to Umami several times and always ordered a different burger, but the Truffle Burg has been on the list for a while.  We opted to start with the Tempura Onion Rings and the Roasted Garlic Aioli.  They were solid, but nothing outta the park.  Umami ketchup has actually grown on me, it has a more savory taste than Heinz, which is too sweet for my taste.

The truffle burg is served with a truffle cheese and a truffle glaze.  All Umami burgs are cooked medium-rare unless you request otherwise.  Its very simple, and very rich.  It tastes delicious, but by the end I was a little overwhelmed, because it's so rich. You really have to be prepared for it, but if you like truffles, you're golden.

My dad opted for the Manly Burger, which consists of beer-cheddar cheese, smoked-salt onion strings and bacon lardons. There are definitely unique flavors in this burger, something I couldn't quite put my finger on.  My dad was convinced that the taste of 'umami' would be similar to miso, but in the end he he decided, "It's a unique flavor that you just can't quite define." I am in agreement!

I went back just a week later with the Canuck and ordered the Port and Stilton burger, which has the onions caramelized in port and Stilton cheese, I think it's my favorite.  The Canuck chose the SoCal Burger with butter lettuce, slow-roasted tomato, house spread, house-made american cheese, and caramelized onions.  We also got the skinny fries. Of the fries, I think the truffle fries, that they only serve on 'special' are my favorite.  Next time I'll see if they can make the Greenbird burg, but with meat... not turkey...