August 04, 2011

Burger Mania

Hello.  My name is Claire and I'm a recovering vegetarian.  

I stopped eating red meat at age 16, and didn't touch the stuff for another 16 years.  One day, I ate a piece of filet mignon.  And then it was all over.  

The reason I stopped eating meat was because I just stopped wanting to.  My family went out for a steak dinner, and I remember finding the food on my plate completely unappealing.  I cut out fish and chicken too, and looking back I can tell you that my food choices over the next few years weren't the greatest.  Once I got to University and started studying nutrition, I experimented with beans and lentils and more vegetable than I even knew existed.  I didn't miss meat at all.

Over the next decade,  I added and deleted various animal products more often than I bought new shoes.  I tried being a vegan, but missed the parmesan cheese on my pasta.  I stopped eating eggs, but missed all those delicious baked goods.  I just didn't have the discipline to skip out on brownies and chocolate chip cookies.  I re-introduced chicken and fish into my diet, but red meat was absent for the full 16 years.

Since the filet mignon love at first bite incident, I have been very cautious about eating red meat.  Or should I say very cautious about eating cuts other than filet mignon.  If that sounds pretentious and snobby, I apologize, but when you start with the best its hard to be satisfied with anything less.  My cousin and I have been eating our way through the top steak houses in Las Vegas, and that was enough to satisfy my new apetite for meat.

Until I started craving burgers.  It started with just a bite or two of someone else's burger, but then turned into a desire to order my own.  I can count the number of burgers I've eaten in the last year on one (ok, two) hands but I have a feeling the rate will increase.

The first was at Le Garage in Sausalito.  

The waiter promised me that this burger, Kobe beef with grilled onions, marbier cheese and aioli on ciabatta, would be the best I've ever had.  Seeing as this was the first one I ordered for myself in two decades, he had a pretty good chance of being right.   

Then came Hubert Keller's Burger Bar

First in Vegas...

...and then again in San Francisco

They had a drink special on Caipirnhas that I couldn't pass up.  

I ordered the Kobe Burger, topped with grilled onions, sauteed mushrooms and avocado.  Delicious, but slippery.  So slippery that with every bite, the toppings would escape through the back.  My inexperience with burgers has left me not knowing the ideal relationship between the toppings and the bun.  

Served on the side, a black Perigord truffle sauce was not only a great addition to the burger, but a perfect dip for the fries.  

I love the presentation of the fries, in individual little fryer baskets. 

 As good as the main dish burgers are, the burger desserts are even better.  Made from a donut filled with cheesecake and fruit slices, these are the perfect completion to the burger experience.  

The alcoholic milkshake, with mint chocolate chip ice cream, mint liquor, whipped cream and an oreo did the job pretty well too.

For the those control freaks out there who want complete power over the creation of their burger, The Counter is the place for you.

You can dine in...

or take out.

And everything is custom made.  Even the drinks!

The topping selection is very impressive, from fried eggs, to dried cranberries, and every sauce imaginable (I was torn between the tzatziki and peanut sauce).  This menu is sure to please the most selective of people, while stressing out those of us that just can't decide... I was guilty of the latter.  

Having clearly not learned, I ordered my burger with grilled onions and sauteed mushrooms. I left off the avocado, thinking maybe that was the culprit.  Nope.  Still slippery. 
Delicious? Yes.  But slippery just the same.  

They offer "fifty-fifty"side dishes.  We chose the skinny fries and onion strings.  

And finally, what kind of Californian would I be if I didn't mention In-N-Out burger?  In-N-Out is a crowd favorite, especially to those who don't live in a state lucky enough to have one.  The lines are always out the door, and it is a must-stop for many tourists.  If you don't know about them, I suggest you follow the link and educate yourself about a cult classic.  

Their menu is simple.  Hamburgers, cheeseburgers and fries.  At least that is all that is posted on the menu board.  There is a "secret" menu, which is not so secret anymore, that includes some variations on the burgers including the 4x4 and animal style.  Being a purist, I stuck to the simple hamburger with a side of fries.

 The fries are all freshly made, and you can watch them slice potatoes in the back and toss them straight into the oil as you wait for your burger.  And trust me, you will have to wait. But I promise it is worth it.

Hello.  My name is Claire and I'm a recovering vegetarian.

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