Thursday, December 30, 2010

Great Burgers on Route 82 in Colorado

What a difference a few months can make. The last time I was snowboarding in Aspen, only 8 months ago, the hamburger options were grim. It seemed as though no one between Glenwood Springs and Aspen really gave a crap about burgers. Then Edible Aspen magazine ran a piece on a tiny burger joint in Carbondale named Fatbelly Burgers and burger awareness in the valley was suddenly realized. The joint, which has no seating and a flattop griddle in view, serves simple 1/4 pound 'fast food' style burgers in the spirit of In-N-Out and Shake Shack. To me it is hamburger nirvana - no frills, no bullshit, great burgers.

I returned this year to find that not only is Fatbelly going strong, owner Shane Vetter has opened a second location even closer to Aspen in downtown Basalt. The Basalt location (named Fatbelly Eats) has an expanded menu that includes a handful of new signature burgers, a grilled Ahi plate, even salads. Most notable however is the long bar and bartender as you walk in on the right. The incredible beer selection trumps the wine and that's fine with me. Shane told me, "We are building a stage for live music back there." All of this fueled by burger money. Tasty, greasy, burger money. I was in awe of Shane's hamburger achievements over just one short year.

I arrived in Aspen to discover that the bleak burgerscape of this upscale ski town had given birth to a new burger concept, right at the base of Ajax. CP Burger, only open since October, is excellent. How excellent? I ate a burger there with my brother-in-law, left, then circled back 20 mins later for another.

CP Burger has taken a unique approach to dealing with the apres ski rush. I was shocked when my burger appeared in about 60 seconds, just about the time it would take to bun, load, and wrap a burger. Were the patties pre-cooked? The fresh-beef burgers at CP Burger are cooked on a flattop then transferred to a CVap to stay warm. Are you skeptical? Well don't be. Someone calling the orders explained to me that the CVap suspends the temperature of the patty for up to a half hour keeping the burger moist. It seemed to work because the burger was still very moist and tasty. I had a burger with blue cheese, bacon, and sauteed onions and 20 mins later had another. CP also serves my favorite Shiner Bock in cans, gotta love it. They've also taken a page out of the Bobby Flay playbook and are offering milkshakes spiked with booze, an idea worth drinking.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ken Lassen Has Died

I just found out from a friend in Connecticut that Ken Lassen, the grandson of the man that arguably invented the hamburger at Louis' Lunch, has passed away. You can read about it here. He starred in my 2005 film Hamburger America and will be sorely missed. Ken not only ran one of the most historically significant restaurants in America, he perpetuated the hamburger dream that his grandfather started over 110 years ago.

Fortunately, the future of Louis' is safe thanks to the dedication and hard work of Ken's sons Ken Jr. and Jeff Lassen.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Back to Bobcat

We descended upon the tiny 22 seat Bobcat Bite this week with 11 people in tow. Not recommended unless you know when to arrive. The Bobcat normally opens at 11am and I somehow persuaded everyone to leave for a burger at 10:30 in the morning (they must trust me). We filled the counter and a table and there was no wait. Though by the time we left (45mins later) there were at least 30 people waiting patiently for their green chile cheeseburger fix. I'm sure the crowds grew as lunchtime progressed.

Wife Casey, the former vegetarian, ordered hers medium and devoured the thing in minutes. Bite for bite, she matched my usually unmatchable speed then exclaimed that she had just had an out-of-body experience. She did look dazed and told me, "That was amazing, better than I remembered." The burgers, now served on buns far superior to the original seeded white squishies, are always amazing and the new buns have enhanced the Bobcat burger experience tenfold. The burger that was off-the-charts has reached a new high. As we were leaving John Eckre was on the phone with his baker and told me, "We may run out today," and rolled his eyes. Check the holiday hours before you go.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Louisiana Smash

I love it when I come across a really satisfying burger. Smashburger, now with locations everywhere, creates pretty satisfying burgers. And even though they are a franchised chain I seek them out when I travel.

I found myself in Shreveport, Louisiana last week and had trouble finding a good local burger. I polled a few locals and came up with nothing (someone suggested the 'amazing burger at the Hilton'(?) and quickly realized that I was on my own). I did see that one of the local casinos had a place called 8oz. Burger but I did not try it. My sights were set on Smashburger. 

Someone in Shreveport did suggest that I try the 'Louisiana Smashburger' and that's when I discovered that Smashburger is apparently working on regional spins to their burgers. The Louisiana Smash is topped with a kick-ass remoulade sauce which is basically a spicy mayo with paprika and Creole mustard. The combination of the smashed patty, perfectly toasted bun and the remoulade was pretty amazing. I'm looking forward to Smashburger's Brooklyn spin when they open in my part of the world in the new year.

Sorry the photo above is not more pro. The snap of the Louisiana Smashburger was from my crappy cellphone camera because I honestly couldn't wait to take a bite. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Made Possible Launches Today

A super-cool online mag geared toward dudes called Made Possible launched today. My good friend and visual genius Mac Premo made the short film about me making a hamburger that is part of the website's launch and is aptly positioned in their 'health' section. I have a feeling I'll be contributing more to the site in the near future...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Miss Ann Mellows

The NY Times spent some time down in Atlanta recently at Ann's Snack Bar to write a nice piece and produce a video. After watching, all I could think is how Miss Ann has really mellowed over the years. The Ann that I first met back in 2006 during research for the first book was pretty feisty (and threw me out of the restaurant just for wanting to write about her). Maybe I can go back now. I'd like one more Ghetto Burger before the place closes or changes hands.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New Hamburger America is Available for Presale

I have not even seen the second pass from the designer and Hamburger America 2 is already available on Amazon. The presale has begun but the book will not be available until May 2011. The 'old' book is still selling but the new adds 52 more burger joints to the list (2 of the joints from the original Hamburger America have closed since that version of the book came out, The Yankee Doodle and Tookies. RIP.)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hamburger Holiday Gift Ideas 2010

It's that time of the year again, time to show your friends and family how much you love burgers. Here are a few of my latest faves that will most certainly make great gifts this holiday season.

One of my favorite hats is back on the list. This one sold out before Christmas last year so get yours now!

Do I need one of these? Not really. Do I want one? Most definitely.

Really big. This FREE poster from the American Angus Association is almost 4 feet tall. I still can't figure out where to put mine. It's beautiful.

A great pan that I use daily. Requires two hands to lift, but man this thing cooks. Great for smashburgers.

This is the one you need and it is no flimsy flipper. Totally rigid for the perfect smash every time. And at $2.90 each you should own a bunch.

The first version of my book is about to become an out-of-print classic! Makes a great gift.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Beef Change at Schnipper's

I stopped into one of my newish favorites, Schnipper's, recently for a quickie and noticed right away that something had changed about the burger. My default order there is the signature colossus, the Hickory Bacon Blue, which is just fantastic. Chase it with a killer shake and your day is set. I found out after my visit from one of the Schnipper brothers that they have made the switch to Pat LaFrieda ground beef. It's pretty obvious. How do Pat and Mark keep up with all of these new clients?

Also it has been rumored that Schnipper's is planning on opening another restaurant, this one on Madison Park just steps from the original Shake Shack. I wonder if the brothers Schnipper were getting back at them for opening a new Shack just 3 blocks from their flagship store...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Paula Deen Made Me Cry

She made me cry tears of joy. This mashup has been on YouTube for a while now but good friend P2 Mike recently sent this note: "Hi Mr. Motz. Have you seen this? Paula Dean, dear god." Even if you've already seen the clip you need to watch it again. Don't worry, it's not the clip where her pants fall off during a live demo.