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Tokyo Bike Takes Manhattan

16 Oct

As a wedding present to my wife I bought her a bike. In part it was because I wanted to have a cycle partner for those days when nothing is better than exploring a city by bike, but also because I knew she coveted the Blue Gray Bisou Tokyo Bike more than any other.

We followed the signs from home that led us onto the narrow Brooklyn Bridge bike path and into the city heading towards the Hudson River where there is a picturesque path which travels up the west side of  Manhattan. From here it is a tranquil ride to anywhere from the West Village all the way up to Columbia University and beyond.

We however, had a lunch date in mind so crossed into the Village to check out the Spotted Pig. Long waits abound in the evening but we only had to wait 10 minutes for our spot looking directly into the tiny kitchen at lunch. I knew before I arrived that I had to try the much blogged about burger but Angela struggled to choose between the battered pollock and thrice cooked chips and the pumpkin salad. For some reason she picked the salad….

Lunch turned out to be delicious, the unadorned burger was juicy and flavourful (I opted to leave off the Roquefort cheese), the salad was apparently good and we enjoyed the devilled eggs and a not quite chocolate nemesis cake. (having worked at River Cafe I had hoped the chef, April Bloomfield had ‘borrowed’ the recipe). The service was the best I have experienced in a long time and reminded me how good a waiter can be. It was personable without being in your face and absent until needed, just the right balance.

We left very satisfied and with nothing pressing we entered the West Village and mooched for a good couple of hours. There are an almost unlimited number of nice stores, cafes and restaurants in this neighbourhood and should you become bored with them you are close to the Highline or The Hudson River Greenway, both are a great way to walk off lunch.

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The Jim 2

19 Feb

All of my early New York eating adventures were inspired by a list and that list was supplied by Jim.

He was a regular at my last place of work and everyday he would come in for his coffee and a quick chat. Sometimes football related, (somehow he and his son Adam had become Wigan fans, I am not sure how that happens to a Canadian and a New Yorker but it did), but mainly we would discuss food. It often centered around where he had eaten the night before or various spots that I should try on my travels. On one such occasion whilst still doing the long distance thing between NY and LDN he gave me a list of  places to eat at and a link to a very handy food map that Adam had created.

From this point on I was never lacking in places to go and in many ways it was that original list which inspired this blog and certainly my own Eating Maps on the home page. Last week I got an email to say he was in town so it seemed fitting that if I was going to break my 3 week burger fast it should be with him.

Jim suggested Bill’s which was not my favourite burger from last time round, and I suggested Burger and Barrel. I won. I was interested to see just how good this burger was having decided that after my all time favourite, The Little Owl, this was the best I had tried in the previous 3 months.

As a burger on its own it did not disappoint. The patty is so juicy and their sauce so tasty that it really stands up on its own without the need for condiments. The burger was cooked to medium rare perfection. The fries are ok, crisp, but I imagine as it comes with 2 onion rings that they fry them in the same oil which does nothing for the flavour of the potato.

That aside this is definitely a top burger and one I would return to again and again. They also have plenty of wine by the glass, beers on tap and Adam had a mean looking spiked Caramel and Bourbon milkshake.

So in honour of Jim and his list I dedicate this post…….

Boulud and Brawn

28 Jan

It seems very little has changed while I was away. I left for London just over 3 weeks ago after a very heavy snow fall and have arrived back in NY just in time to catch another one.

In the meantime I had the chance to sample some of London’s top eating and see what I had been missing.

Even if it was in an American’s restaurant it is good to know you can still get a good burger in London. This was my second visit to Daniel Boulud’s UK outpost and as with the first it was the stand out service that made me smile. The food was excellent on both occasions, and I loved being able to see the action in the beautiful kitchen, but the warmth of the staff with just the right level of attentiveness was what really made both visits so enjoyable. A special thanks to the waitress who noticed us busily fighting over the last of the chocolate sauce that accompanied our dessert, and glided over with a fresh pot for us to devour.

Next up was Brawn. Owned by the Wine importer Les Caves Des Pyrene, this is their second restaurant following on from the success of Terroirs in Covent Garden.

The menu treads along similar lines based upon smaller sharing plates rather than starters and mains. We greedily set about the menu and began in the delicate negotiations always involved in this style of eating.  There are plenty of reassuring name checks including the newish E5 Bakery based in London Fields and the unbelievably good Valenti Olive oil they use (available at Melrose and Morgan) After some tooing and froing consensus was reached.

We happily cleaned all the plates that came our way, but I at least was left feeling a little underwhelmed. Everything was good, but nothing was great. The pork rilette was bland and all I could really taste was an excess of fat. A solid chunk of cod was let down by a limp rather than crispy skin and while the mussels with leek, bacon and cider were good they were nothing to get too excited about. Prawns dressed in chilli and gremolata were pleasing, and the spatchcock quail with pomegranate another  step up. All this reminded me that whilst I always enjoyed the food at Terroirs, it was the charcuterie that stood out above all the other dishes.

We all agreed the desserts to be the highlight, which again I found strange as it was always the other way around at Terroirs. A delicious, light vanilla pannacotta was accompanied by blood oranges although lacking in the stated Campari, and the chocolate mousse was devoured in moments.

It was a good meal and I would certainly not run the other way if offered the opportunity to go back, but it lacked any real standout dishes. The service was in stark contrast to Bar Boulud, not bad, just accidental. I feel myself wavering between finding fault where there is none, and not wishing to swoon over simply good fare. The truth is that you would be very happy to stumble across this place but not so excited if you had to make too much effort.

The Standard and The High Line

8 Dec

After the previous nights misstep at Schiller’s I decided it should be straight back into the firing line with another untried restaurant. We were all feeling a little delicate from the previous nights cocktails so there was some added pressure involved in getting the right venue.

The Standard is a smart new hotel in Chelsea’s Meatpacking district, an area of the city I find a little off-putting. There are lots of good places to eat, good food stores (Chelsea Market), all the designer shops one could hope for and some pretty full on night clubs and bars. The problem is it feels as if everyone is trying just a little too hard to be the coolest on the block.

As with many areas that undergo gentrification the change began with some pretty extreme activities. As the meat industry slowly departed from the area the fringe began to take over. Drug dealers, prostitutes and the mafia were the main residents of the 1980’s. An underground club scene grew (if you are really interested see the wiki link at the bottom of the post) out of the areas illicit past as a playground for anyone looking for gay s&m bars or trans-sexual prostitutes. Inevitably the fringe scene slowly expanded to include hipsters, fashion crowds and eventually entrepreneurs. Unlike the earlier gentrification of Soho the artists were nowhere to be found and instead of a slow change high-end restaurants and fashion brands leapt in to take advantage of the cheap rent and gritty scene. Hence today the meatpacking district is home to high fashion, restaurants and nightclubs and all that is associated.

Back to the Standard, we arrived around 12.30pm and were offered a seat in the bar while our table was prepared. The restaurant is split into two sections, one a light and airy cafe space on the street and the other a more plush and sedate area at the back. There did not seem to be any difference menu wise, just pot luck as to where you got sat. Luckily for us we bagged a table outback in the corner banquette all soft and comfortable with leather furnishings. I would definitely recommend specifying this much more pleasant space.

The menu was the perfect tonic to a hung over Sunday, covering all the angles. There were straight up breakfast choices, eggs, french toast waffles or heartier fare with pasta dishes, salads, and mains. My first thought was how I could have comfortably spent all day going from brunch to tea and then onto dinner without wanting to move. We all started with juice having already had the caffeine hit from Pedlar. It was not an easy decision but I chose the burger. The others opted for eggs, with one a hit and the other a miss. My sisters scrambled eggs were as I have often found in NY, overcooked, too numerous (2-4eggs worth) and accompanied by cold toast and home fries (sautéed potatoes). Angela on the other hand had some very good poached eggs served with olive oil, sourdough bread and spinach. The burger was a La Freida blend so tasty as one would expect from the master mince man. It was let down a little by the bun which could not hold up to the patties juicyness, and slightly over crisped bacon, otherwise pretty good with great fries and a delicious pickle.

We ended the meal with some delicious french toast, maple syrup and strawberry compote.

Our waiter was great and helped us avoid the “just not good waffles”, he did not seem to mind that we took our time and showed no desire to leave even when we were clearly done and answered all my annoying questions including about the hotel bar on the roof which I am told has stunning views of the city.

I can only claim a return to form. In truth the food was nothing extraordinary, and had we been sat upfront in the cafe area it would have been a very different experience, but we weren’t and it ended up being the perfect brunch and a great way to forget about the previous nights mishaps.

The High Line

The Meatpacking district is also home to the High Line which is the reason we were in this neighbourhood. Here are some pictures from July 09, as it was too cold to start snapping. It’s a great spot to see the city from a different perspective and I would recommend a visit.

Wikipedia link BDSM

Burgers Part 2

24 Nov

Little Owl Bacon Cheeseburger

This is my favourite burger in all NYC.  It’s difficult to say that it is the best as there are so many that I have not tried, but undoubtedly if I had to choose the last burger I was ever going to eat this would be the one. I believe with burgers you can pretty much discount the setting, whereas the experience of most meals will depend to certain extent upon the company, the location or the service, a burger stands apart, it can be enjoyed in the least salubrious circumstances and still be elevated to a thing of beauty. Hence it is hardly worth mentioning that The Little Owl is a fantastic restaurant, serving seasonal American cuisine. It has a short but appealing menu and the only criticism you can level against the place is that it is so tiny you are often sharing conversations with neighbours either intentionally or not.

Burger and Barrel Cheeseburger

The Little Owl burger is of the pile of these latest entrants, however notable mention must go to Burger and Barrel (see above) for a very good burger. I am not sure what came over me when I ate there but I did something very rare, that is, I neglected to add some of Heinz’s favourite. The burger did not suffer for it. Its natural juiceness combined with their ‘special sauce’ made it work all on its own.

5 Napkin Bacon Cheeseburger

This was a giant burger (10 oz), very juicy but lacking slightly in flavour, it was let down by very poor fries. 5 Napkin has been on my list for a very longtime, and although a good burger I felt a little underwhelmed…..

5 Guys Fries....this was a small portion!

The 5 Guys experience was another let down. Having read that this was the East coast equivalent of the famous IN n OUT BURGER from LA I had high hopes. The burger was ok, but as you can see not much to look at. The patties fell apart far too easily and never having been a fan of the double burger due to its flimsy nature this held true. As a kid I would always order 2 or sometimes even 3 hamburgers over the big mac. The 5 Guys burger was also more expensive than Shake Shack and not as good. Where they do score serious points are with their fries. definitely the best fast food fries I have ever had, and good enough to put plenty of ‘proper’ restaurants to shame.

In conclusion, thus far Little Owl comes out on top, Shake Shack is ahead in the fast food rankings and Burger and Barrel gets special mention for its ability to thrive without ketchup.

Click here for a link to some burger porn….enjoy.

And if you are not desperate for a meat fix after having read all this then there is something wrong!

AND ONE LAST THING>>>>>>>>>>>

The doughnut burger, vanilla glaze bun filmed with tres leche and blackout cake doughnut....All courtesy of the Doughnut Plant.

And in case you thought I was bad, this was just a joke, but check this out.

BURGERS (Part1)

27 Oct

This is going to be one of several posts on Burgers, my one true love. (actually i’d say the same about pizza too so look out for a guide to that too.)

The cheddar and bacon from Dumont, a giant amongst burgers.

Dumont Burger

Shake Shack

Bills Burger Bar