Tuesday, September 18, 2012

RECON: National Cheeseburger Day (2 of 2)

Santa Monica, CA

Today, seven of my best coworkers and I jaywalked across the street to The Counter to celebrate National Cheeseburger Day like proper Americans. The Counter employees were unaware of the religious holiday, but we brought them up to speed. We painstakingly poured over our menu options, debating toppings and sauces, then we began to eat our way through two plates of The Counter's "fifty-fifty" sweet potato and regular fries. Now, lets get down to business:

The HillBilly opted for a Burger Bowl with feta, hard boiled egg, black olives, roasted corn and black bean salsa with balsamic dressing.  This healthy Greek and Mexican mix was well received, although a fried egg might have improved the combo.  The HillBilly had this to say about his burger, "My burger got up and danced before we partied. It was that good." Comment open to interpretation.

L-Swizzle chose a Burger Bowl as well, but kicked up the heat a few degrees. She went with onion, roasted corn salsa, sprouts, tomatoes, avocado and jalapeño jack with habanero salsa. The habanero salsa on this mexicali bowl was delish, and really brought the ingredients together to work as a flavor team. Yes, 'flavor team' is a new phrase. I am also working on spreading the slang term for avocados: 'cado, if you'd like to be a trendsetter in your group of friends...

Ace-Dawg went gourmet with her Burger Bowl and then surprised us all and brought the funk at the very end: a turkey patty, with spinach, sprouts, avocado and fried egg plus: Hot. Wing. Sauce. Ace-Dawg is one of our pickier eaters, so this was a really unexpected combination in my book, but she said its definitely the way to go.

Bran-the-Man did it up right on a burg bun with pepperoncinis, tomatoes, spinach, bacon and sautéed onions topped off with sweet BBQ sauce. However, he said the pepperoncinis were sliced thin and got lost under the meat. Bran-the-Man also encountered a common burg consumption problem: disappearing bottom bun. Not surprisingly, the disappearance of bun is a problem that affects 1 in 4 burger eaters. Because everyone's mouth is shaped differently (and because a lot of us did not wear our retainers like the orthodontist wanted) we bite our burgs with a slight underbite or overbite, causing unbalanced bun-loss in the process. I have personally found that the best way to combat this travesty is to flip the burger and take every 3rd bite with the top bun facing the plate. (This technique also works for Subway sandwiches and Sausage Egg McMuffins.)

The Missus rallied and got her burg on a wheat bun. She built the most beautiful burger at the table: gruyere, fried onion strings, mixed greens, and tomato with a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. While the vinaigrette was ordered to cut the salty-ness of the gruyere and onion strings, it didn't make it to her burg due to the mess factor. In fact, she had to remove a few onion strings just to pick up the burger, but the flavor combination was tasty. In the future, she might sacrifice texture for eatability, which are really two much bigger debates about 1) the crunch factor and 2) whether or not its morally wrong to eat your burg with a fork and knife. 

Trandall-the-Vandal made a Burger Bowl that packed a punch, with horseradish cheddar, jalapeños, hard-boiled egg, black olives, sautéed onions & mushrooms, and chipotle aioli.  Shockingly, this combo wasn't too hot for the Vandal (I would have died!)  AND he wins Best Photo of the lunch.

Seth-Sizzle opted for a burger bowl with swiss cheese, roasted peppers, cucumber and  dijon balsamic. This mediterranean flavor profile was both pleasing to the eye and the stomach; a light, clean, satisfying combination.

AND you know I got my burger on the bun. I wanted something rich and luxurious, so I opted for blue cheese, avocado, bacon  and garlic aioli. I added pickles at the last minute just so I'd have a little acidity. The combination was fantastic. The crunch of the bacon with the creaminess of the blue cheese and avocado was perfect for me. The burger itself was a little overcooked; the flavor of the meat wasn't totally able to come through. In hindsight, it was almost a Cobb salad burger, something I'll have to consider for the future...

Nat'l Cheeseburger Day (Post 1 of 2)

Santa Monica, California

Get hungry loyal burg fans!  It's National Cheeseburger Day.  A select group of burger samplers and I will be hitting up The Counter ('cause it's right across the street from our office) to properly celebrate this holiday and of course I'll document it right here for you.  

 Also coming this month in Burger Recon: The Misfit

Stay tuned... 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Cathedral City (Palm Springs)

At the tale end of our Palm Springs getaway the Canadian and I went to FrickleBurger, the ultimate in German burger fare. Let me start by saying, when you walk in you are jovially greeted by the owner/cashier/server, Mike, who's voice sounds just like Eric Stonestreet's on Modern Family (seriously close your eyes and listen to him while he speaks to the other customers!) Mike takes you through the menu, kindly learns your names, and makes sure you have all the burger accessories necessary -malt vinegar, ketchup, home made blue cheese dressing- for maximum FrickleBurger enjoyment.

The Canadian opted for the most popular item, The Big Kenny, which consists of Bratwurst, sautéed onions, sauerkraut, chopped bacon, and bleu cheese. It was beautiful. The bratwurst literally melts in your mouth. You remember pixie sticks? How they just dissolve on your tongue? That's how good this bratwurst is. Then consider the fact that this delicate bratwurst is on top of a perfectly cooked burger with all the toppings. Because the blue cheese dressing is the creamy element that cuts the savory flavor profile, ask for extra so you can pile it on! I can see why its a customer favorite.

I chose the Country Comfort which comes with melted cheddar, BBQ sauce, red onion, tomato, shredded iceberg, and an onion ring. Usually I steer clear of BBQ sauce on a burger because I find it overwhelming, but this was just the right amount and it didn't overtake the other ingredients. The red onions are clutch on this burger because they're the main crunchy element. Next time I might add chopped bacon to it!  The one complaint with both burgers is the bun; the burgers themselves are already heavy (you can see the awesome stack of goodies in those pictures!) and the buns are super dense, adding unnecessary weight.

Fries were delicious, thick-cut the way the Canadian prefers, with awesome tater tots mixed in! Tater Tots! Mike brings them out personally in a brown bag to absorb grease, evenly salt and retain heat, and then he pours them into the basket at the table.  Fries are of course served with the home made blue cheese dressing, which finds a nice balance between creamy-ness and pungent blue cheese flavor. Mike also offers up malt vinegar, which is delish on fries if you haven't experienced it yet!

Certain sodas on the fountain machine were on the fritz, so Mike offered up bottled soda to patrons.  He checked on us partway though the meal and even refilled my diet coke for me. FrickleBurger is an oasis in the desert with a great family heritage and hearty fare to satisfy your hunger. There is also a build-your-own option which might be borderline dangerous for foodies like me who's eyes are always bigger than their stomachs!

Monday, June 4, 2012


West LA

Last weekend the Canadian and I went to Plan Check, and it was so awesome, that we went back this weekend with the 2 people who told us about it in the first place, Pete and Victoria. (Special shout-out!) As you can read on Plan Check's website, the name comes from their proximity to the Building and Safety Department in Little Osaka.  Head Chef Ernesto Uchimura, previously an executive chef at Umami, has outdone himself, so I'm going to dive straight in. 

For cocktails, I had the Ronin which I loved, the Canadian had the Bento Box and Victoria opted for an Old Fashion with their housemade moonshine.  I'd recommend sticking with their specialty cocktails. They also have a beer and wine menu, with several good options.

Appetizers are so-so; the goat cheese was delish, the duck breast ham was a disappointment. The best starter is actually a side dish: the Stuffed Mushroom. And, I hate mushrooms, so that's really saying something. The boys loved the spicy cucumber with sriracha.

Now lets talk about the stars of the show, all served on toasted buns, and nearly impossible to pick up. The Chef's Favorite has bacon two ways, cheese two ways and a fried egg. It's gooey, crunchy and full of flavor. I could not pick it up to save my life. This burger is for breakfast lovers. 

The Pastrami Nosh is amazing. A huge chunk of pastrami, tossed on a flat top and crisped up, then spiced with a kimchi mustard, served with the bun inside out and a fried egg on top, its a beautiful interpretation of the traditional deli sandwich. 

Then there's the Bleuprint, with a strong, but not overpowering, bleu cheese and salty "pig candy" aka thick cut bacon, and the flavors mix perfectly. Chef Uchimura uses a unique blend of slightly untraditional ingredients to develop the traditional flavor some patrons will be seeking.

The last burger we had was the PCB, or Plan Check Burger. This was a creamier burger, the americanized dashi cheese and schmaltz onions create a rich, smooth flavor, and it gives you a chance to try the much-talked-about ketchup leather.

We had both sweet potato fries and regular, equally delicious, but the kimchi ketchup didn't really do it for us, I recommend asking for the salt & pepper mayo when you order the fries.  

And their famous dessert, the cruller donuts, taste like they waved a magic wand and turned churros into donuts. Served with cream and fresh fruit, its worth eating, even though you're already stuffed! I apologize for the lack of photo, I may have had too many Ronins...

So fellow burger lovers, go to Plan Check and taste the latest stash of gourmet burgs LA has to offer.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


West Los Angeles, CA

After two horrible missteps at Cafe 50's and Patrick's Roadhouse (never again!) the Canuck and I ventured over to Hamburger Habit, which claims to be the best hamburger in LA. Seriously, there are signs all over the mini mall its in, touting the radios station that crowned them. The cashier who handled our order was sassy and quick with the wit, but his accent threw me off to the point that he might have considered me retarded. The vibe of the place was kind of a run down old school diner. They had a lot of coke memorabilia, a bar height counter running around the edge of the restaurant, and shiny red bar stools cemented evenly into the floor. The other patrons were young dudes who looked like they belonged in Half Baked.

The Canuck ordered The Works, which has chili, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickles.  I ordered The Big Scene which has dressing, lettuce, tomato and pickles. (The burger titles and their ingredients just didn't match.)  I ended up adding cheese - which the guy called cheddar, but it was American - and adding bacon and grilled onions. I would also like to say that paying more than a dollar for add-ons at a dive-y restaurant pisses me off. Bacon and avocados aren't that expensive. He wrote the orders on egg-crate plates and passed them over to the grill. Then we ordered chili cheese fries, a diet coke and a chocolate shake.  Spoiler Alert! The shake was the best part of the meal.

I couldn't find the bacon in my burger, stupidly, I thought oh, it must be in there somewhere, but no, so I got shafted right off the bat. And without texture, its not a great burger. The patty had a nice char, and grilled onions are always delicious, but it just got all gooey. I am going to admit something here and confess that I've had Del Taco chili cheese fries on more than one occasion, and the chili cheese fries at Habit had all the same flavors. And to top off all the (insert wah-wah sound effect here) elements of the meal, the diet coke was caffeine free. Where I come from, that just ain't right.

BUT the chocolate shake was absolutely delicious. It was thick, and had a dash of chocolate syrup on top and it made me happy on the inside.

Hunger pangs satisfied, but not wowed.  For $22, you might as well go wild at In N Out.