Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Burger Challenge Continues

The hamburger is distinctly and uniquely American.  We all make them at home, we grab them from a window and eat them at 80 mph, we order them in bars, restaurants, at cookouts, birthday parties, even fine dining restaurants have gotten in on the action.  It seems to be the one food we Americans can't live without.  Proof?  Even the vegetarians still wants burgers, thus the invention of the veggie, or veggie-substance, burger.  

The funny thing is that in the burger restaurant world, there is this constant, on-going battle to be the best burger on the planet.  After 44 years on Earth, years of watching Guy Fieri travel the country, experimenting with a gazillion types of burger at home, I've come to the conclusion that WE WILL NEVER CROWN A WINNER. It's just that simple.  For the most part, all burgers are good.  Now, some have their time and place.  For instance, I'd never find myself craving a fast food burger, but if I'm traveling through Beavistown with nothing else in sight, all of a sudden, the Golden Arches seem to have just earned a Michelin star.  As far as real restaurants go, I've decided to quit trying to determine who has the best because there's another factor at play here:  the cook.  One day it may be the best hamburger you've had all year, then next time, someone else is manning the grill, and it's just a whole different burger.  From now one, I keep a list of where my favorite burgers reside, but I won't even make myself crazy by trying to name one as the king-daddy burger master.

Many of you are aware of the new restaurant called Burger Tavern 77 on Devine Street. It's located in the old Yo Burrito building.  This past weekend, I met Neil and the Vivver there for lunch.  We had yet to make it over there, so this was our maiden voyage.  Their menu can be viewed here. One thing to note, that section on the right that says "Build your Burger" isn't attached to the menus that you are given in the restaurant.  Turns out they are in a little rack on the table, but our server didn't point that out.  Neil was pretty disappointed to realize what they were after we ordered, because he would have preferred to go this route.  That would be a good thing for the servers to be in the habit of mentioning.  One other note about the menus.  They were beat up, bent and dirty.  If a 6 year old points that out, your menus need help, people.

Okay, on to the food.  I ordered "the Charleston." I asked for it to be cooked medium-rare and explained to the waitress that I like it just on the "medium side of medium-rare."  She nodded her understanding and told me that they tend to cook on the rare side, so if she put it in as medium, it would be pink and juicy inside.  Well, I guess someone else was in the kitchen that day, because this was one friggin' well done hamburger.  You can tell just by looking at the picture of it.  

But, I will admit that it was still a flavorful burger.  The pimento cheese was pretty tasty and melded well with the good quality bacon they use.  I chose the fries which were presented in a cup lined with a newsprint look paper.  Very cute and they were well cooked.

Neil ordered "The Bleu" and added jalapenos (of course!).  His was also overcooked, but he still enjoyed it.  

For his side, he ordered the tomato/cucumber salad.  Sometimes I think he orders the most bizarre side dish possible.  It's like he worries about all the other weird sides sitting around in the kitchen, little fingers crossed, saying "pick me, pick me!" and he has to help them out.  I mean, a tomato/cucumber salad isn't a bad thing, but with a hamburger?  I just don't get it.

As I was trying to come up with an appetizer or sharing scenario for the Vivver (note that there is no children's menu here), the waitress then let me know that they do indeed have a kids menu, but it's not printed anywhere.  One question:  WHY? Apparently, you have to be "in the know" or hope that your server will casually mention this to you, or you will never know.  So, the little one got a child's plate of 2 burger sliders (I hate this term, but that's a whole other story) and fries.  She was pleased and ate them both.

The burgers were good, although I hope next time we go we can get them cooked the way we want them.  But, there was one major complaint that we had.  In fact, I'm surprised that Neil didn't want to pack up our plates and take them home.  FLIES.  Tons of flies.  There were so many flies buzzing around this place, we might as well have been sitting out in the park trying to eat our lunch.  For Pete's sake, invest in one of those fans that you install at the front door to blow all that air OUT  as people enter, then these vile creatures can't invade your restaurant.  And, the 1" crack under your back door could have something to do with it too.  Seriously, this is a problem that this restaurant must fix.  If I decide to start at $10 to build my own burger, I'm going to be royally pi$%ed off if I have to shoo flies off it the whole time, like I did the other day.  Or, as Neil said, we can only go there in the winter.  

Burger Tavern 77 on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Pizza Joint

Many of you know that I am a Realtor(r).
Today, I had the home inspector, heating & air inspector and the termite inspector all lined up to check out a super cool house I just sold in Forest Hills.  As I got the house open for them, I realized that I was so hungry I felt woozy.  Guess those bing cherries from this morning were rapidly waning.  So, I got them started and then fled the scene in search of some quick sustenance.  Just about 2 blocks down Forest Drive was The Pizza Joint.

I've been here before but I don't go often.  Not for any particular reason, but I'm just not over there all that much.  The waitress presented me with a menu and a lunch specials menu.  I love a restaurant that actually has know, like a good deal, not just something that's not normally on the menu.  I perused the list and decided on a simple, yet tried & true selection...a slice and a salad for a mere $5.25.  That's a helluva price!

Forgot to mention it came with a garlic knot
I ordered my slice with pepperoni and black olives (I paid the extra $.60 for the 2nd ingredient).  The salad usually comes dressed with roma tomatoes, onion, bell peppers, mozzarella and mushrooms.  I requested no mushroom or onion.  I know this is going to sound stupid, but it's become a big deal to me.  So often when I ask for them to hold an ingredient, I end up being disappointed to find it's there anyway.  But, my salad arrived just as ordered.  And, it was a really nice, big salad too.  A balanced mixture of romaine and iceberg.  You know, I'm sick of iceberg getting kicked around so much.  There is most definitely a time and place for iceberg.  Some salads need the volume boost that it provides, the crunch that no other lettuce possesses and let's face it, an iceberg wedge wouldn't be a wedge at all without the 'berg.

The slice was about the size of my head.  I think this is a funny pizza place phenomenon...the slice.  Seems like it would be a slice from a regular large pizza, but it never is.  It's essentially a medium pizza made into a triangle shape.  

Mama Mia! That's a big ol' slice
If you are in a pizza place that offers slices, think about it carefully.  You may end up with more pizza for a lower price than if you ordered a whole one to split with friends.  The pizza was good, but I would have to be honest and say it's not my favorite.  The sauce has a subtle sweetness to it; subtle yes, but still sweet nonetheless.  And, I can't believe I'm about to say this but here goes.  I think my slice was actually TOO CHEESY.  <<audible gasp>>  Is that even possible?  How can pizza have too much cheese, that ooey gooey mozz that we all love?  But, it's true friends.  It was just too cheesy.  There's simply no other way to say it. 

The Pizza Joint makes good pizza though.  Please don't misunderstand me.  The sweetness of the sauce just isn't my most favorite, but from reading others' reviews, some people find that very appealing.  As I've written before, pizza is like art.  When that dough hits the pan, it's a blank canvas for the culinary artist in us all!  This place has a cool, casual atmosphere and I was interested to note that their Happy Hour begins at 2:00.  Hmmmm     ;-0

The Pizza Joint on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Casey's of Blythewood

Last weekend Neil and I met Michael Smith, owner of Casey's BBQHe was at Senate's End in the market giving samples of his rubs via grilled chicken skewered with rosemary springs and veggie chips with his smoked sea salt.  We began talking and Neil brought up this blog.  So, next thing I know, Michael was so generous as to give me a bottle of his Original BBQ Rub, Steak Stuff and Smoked Sea Salt.  He asked that we try them at home and blog about it.  I was so excited and flattered! 

Made right up the road in Blythewood

Rubbed down and ready for cookin'
Tonight I decided to try the Original on a turkey tenderloin.  I rinsed the turkey and patted it dry with paper towels.  Then, I liberally rubbed the chili mixture on both sides of the meat. I seared each side in my grill pan then transferred the pan to a 350 degree oven until done.  I let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing.  We served this with baked french onion rice and collards.

Who says turkey can't play with the big bbq boys?

 Verdict?  We were very pleased with the result.  Casey's mix is a balanced blend of spices, herbs and smoke that adds warm flavor without overpowering the meat.  It also sports some subtle spice that is a nice undertone.  (The Vivver thought it was too spicy, but to give her credit, she pointed out to me "It might not be spicy to you, but it is to a 6 year old!")  That kid always manages to make a good argument!  Back to the BBQ rub...I can't wait to try this on burgers and of course, on a steak.  I really like the flavors that Mr. Smith has concocted and will gladly use this seasoning. 

Casey's is a local business out of Blythewood, SC.  As we all know, supporting local businesses is vitally important, now more than ever.  If you're a fan of grilling or making your own barbeque, check out Casey's.  If you don't see a retailer near you, I'm sure you can contact Michael Smith directly and he'll find a way to get some rub to ya!



Monday, August 6, 2012

Hot Diggity Dog

It's not an every day or even an every month occasion, but who doesn't love a good hot dog?  And I mean, a GOOD hot dog.  That's the key.  When I was a kid, my mom would only buy Oscar Mayer because they were all beef.  All of the giant packages of hot dogs in the store that were either tan or red never made it across the threshold of our house.  (It was always funny, and never got old, to sneak a big pack of red dogs in the grocery basket for mom to discover at the checkout.  &%#dammit girls!) 

Now that I have a child, I've become even pickier about hot dogs. I fell in love with Sabrett's at a hot dog cart a few years ago.  Then I actually paid attention to the commercial for Hebrew National and thought, hmmm, I like what I'm hearing.  So, I tried those and fell in love with them too.  Just recently, I finally had a Nathan's at a friend's house and, well, I think you know what I'm about to say.  So, a good quality hot dog is a must or this whole thing is an exercise in futility.  

Next, how you cook it.  We could debate this all day long.  I recently saw a post about cooking dogs in the crockpot and the comment was "tastes just like they were cooked on a roller."  Ok, is it just me?  That doesn't sell me. Rollers just remind me of those mystery meat dogs slowly riding the convenience store ferris wheel.  Boiling?  Some love it, but I don't think that's the best method either.  At least not by itself. I've always been a fan of grilling them.  And I mean grilling them.  A little char is a must and if they wrinkle a little after they come off the fire, even better! My husband boils them first then grills them for me and they are fantastic.  My friend's Eugenie's husband Mike is also a master dog griller.

Toppings.  This is the biggest area of variation on the planet. Or, close to it.  Everyone has their preference here and that's perfectly ok.  Here's mine:  mustard inside the bottom of bun, followed by some Frank's hot sauce, then the dog, a sprinking of onion, then more mustard, more hot sauce and finished with CHILI.  If you ask me, a hot dog without chili is just a waste of time.  Why bother?  The only other thing I like to add occasionally is sauerkraut but I never leave off the chili.

Which brings me to the subject of this post.  I know, finally.

It's all about chili.  Hot dog chili is not the same as a big bowl of chili.  Two completely different animals altogether.  But making it from scratch can be a challenge.  I once followed a Tyler Florence "ultimate" recipe and it was the most awful, sweet, ketchupy sauce on the planet.  I've fiddled around with this chili issue, read tons of recipes and finally have concocted what I think is the best chili the world has ever known.  And, I'm going to share it with you.

I had 3 big ol' grilled cheeseburgers that were left over from our cookout.  I put them in my food processor to get the meat finely chopped.  This is key!  Then, I put all this together:
    • 1/3 cup water
    • about 12 oz tomato sauce
    • 1/2 cup ketchup
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
    I mixed this all together on the stove and added the grilled ground beef.  I let it get to a boil, stirring frequently, then turned it down and let it simmer about 10  minutes.  

OMG! Neil and I both think what really made this a stand-out was the fact that I used the already grilled burgers rather than starting with raw meat.  The grilled flavor was pronounced and just gave the chili that "je ne sais quois." Now I told you already that having hot dogs isn't a frequent occurrence around here.  But what's even more infrequent is having more than one.  This stuff was so great, I ate 2 Nathan's dogs, dressed as described above, last night. 

And I don't care who knows it. 


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