Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Casey Eats Her First Burger In 17 Years

I made her wait.

When my wife started to experiment with meat about 2 months ago she tried chicken, steak, pork tenderloin, some sliced ham, and even chorizo in Mexico. There are many burger options in NYC but I asked her to wait until we were in Santa Fe for Christmas to eat her first burger in 17 years. I wanted her first to be a Bobcat Bite green chile cheeseburger.

It's not that the Bobcat makes my favorite burger (I don't play favorites) but it is such a perfect specimen that I wanted her to start near the top. The Bobcat burger is made from naturally raised beef that John Eckre grinds and patties himself every morning. The green chile is perfect and the bun white 'n squishy. I was looking for a home run.

John and I discussed, hands on chins at the grill, how to prepare a burger for this monumental moment. We both agreed that medium-rare would scare her off (with all that juice and pink) so we settled on just north of medium.

After her first bite (pictured above) she announced to the entire restaurant, "Oh my god...what's not to love?" Someone in the restaurant asked, "Did you think your husband was just making this stuff up??"

Think of the burger experiences that await her...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bobcat Bite Book Signing A Success

It would have been enough to head out to the Bobcat for their revered green chile cheeseburger but the day after Christmas I was there to sign books. We chose to be there the 26th knowing that the crowd would be robust, and it was. By the time Collected Works set up the table of books for sale, the front patio was filled with hungry, waiting patrons. Clearly they were there for the burgers, not really for me. Regardless, I met and spoke to very passionate burger lovers from all over the country and most were happy to see their favorite spots listed in the book. Reporters were there from 3 papers including the Santa Fe New Mexican who wrote this nice piece the following day.

After talking and signing for over 2 hours I finally placed my order for the GCCB, pictured, my 2nd at the Bobcat in two days. The first was consumed next to my wife on Christmas Eve, her first burger in 17 years...(check back tomorrow for the full story).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Book Signing at the Bobcat Bite

If you find yourself in or near Santa Fe, NM around Christmas, come on down to the Bobcat Bite for one of the best burgers in America and a signed copy of my book. I'll be there from 11AM to 2PM on December 26th signing books and talking about burgers to anyone that will listen. Local independent booksellers Collected Works will be there to sell books and both John & Bonnie Eckre will be hard at work flipping and serving green chile cheeseburgers. I can hardly wait for my first real GCCB in over a year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shake Shack's Miracle Griddle

I attended a party (hosted by burger brother Josh Ozersky) at the new Upper West Side Shake Shack last night, drank excellent shakes and ate predictably great burgers. When the party was winding down, I convinced manager Mark Rosati to introduce me to the Shack's new griddle, the wondrous Keating MiraClean. It is a griddle that has no equal. A conventional steel-top griddle, cranked up to 400-plus degrees, disperses ample amounts of heat into the kitchen. The crazy MiraClean griddle disperses almost no heat. The heat is on the surface only, proven by this photo of Mark's hand dangerously close to the 400 degree surface (he actually held his hand there for well over a minute while I futzed with the camera). The aluminum surface looks great too. Mark told me, "At the end of the night, when we clean the griddle, you can see yourself in it." 

I also discovered one of the secrets of the Shack Burger (other than lots of salt, great beef, and a potato roll) - the scraper. The griddleperson uses a commercial griddle scraper to flip the burgers instead of a standard spatula. The scraper allows them, in one movement, to scrape up the burger and all of its griddle crunch off the surface. It does such a great job that you can see the reflection of the scraper in the MiraClean during the flip.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Governor of Ohio Likes Hamburgers

I recently received a nice email from the new owner of Miamisburg's Hamburger Wagon, Jack Sperry, thanking me for including the Wagon in my book. He also told me that on a recent visit to the area, the Ohio gov Ted Strickland stopped by for a bag of the wagon's famous deep-fried sliders. Jack knew the gov was coming so he had an apron made in his honor (see above, center). He told me he also handed him a copy of Hamburger America (documented in this article). I'm glad Stickland now has a copy of the book (thanks Jack) because between Miamisburg and the governor's mansion there are at least 3 more great burger joints to visit! Ohio is definitely a burger-proud state.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Hamburger Identity Problem at Citicorp Center

Last week we took the kids into Manhattan to see the Rock Center Tree, the store windows on 5th Ave, and the famous enormo train layout at the Citigroup Center. In the multi-level, 3 scale, 750 sq ft layout, I was happy to see more than one drive-in burger joint displayed (there were in fact 4 diners I think, including a version of Arnold's from Happy Days). But the most curious building I saw was the scale version of a White Castle, or was it White Tower? It has been well documented that White Castle spent a large chunk of its income in the 1930s suing any 'White' imitators out of business (somewhat rightfully so). But it was the successful White Tower that seemed to hold on to the White Castle-esque persona well into the 1970s thanks to a forced royalty agreement. If you look closely at the photo above (click on it for a better view) you'll notice that the designers had a hard time choosing which 'White' would own the building...

And why is everyone walking around with large white bags on their shoulders? 

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Charlie Beinlich's for Research

It's a tough job but someone has to do it. As I embark on a new mission to add 50 burger joints to my book I'm listening to all of the suggestions I have received since the book came out. If the burger spot meets the criteria (a fresh-ground burger on menu for over 20 years for starters) I'm off and running. I love this part of the process.

Charlie Beinlich's in Northbrook, IL, just a short 25 minute drive from the Chicago loop, had been suggested to me by over 5 different friends and family in the Chicago area after the book came out. Fortunately, it fit all of the criteria nicely. Expert local burger taster Jay and his wife Alexis joined me on the trip north, skipping their usual lunch at Hot Doug's for a burger they had not tasted yet.

The burger is great and the place even better. It has the feel of a dark, mens hunting and fishing lodge complete with stuffed fish mounted in well-lit display cases. The burgers are cooked on a flattop griddle and served on white squishy buns by waiters in uniform aprons. The service was snappy and we were fed and out the door inside of 20 minutes. The turnover is quick and that's a good thing because by 11:45am, only 15 minutes after opening, the place was packed. Again, I'll save the details for the book, but do need to mention the curious sign just above the 'No Credit Cards' sign by the front door (see below). Jay pointed out, "What if you came in with muddy boots and a tank top?" My guess, you'd be banned for life.