"" What's She Eating Now?: A (Burger) Affair to Remember

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A (Burger) Affair to Remember

New Yorkers have always been prone to crazes when it comes to food. Their whimsicality and the speed with which they move from one in-vogue thing to the next has only been amplified by the one-two punch of food-blog proliferation and Twitter. "Discoveries" no longer need to be made (they're brought to your desktop), and feedback on where to get the best version of the item du jour is alarmingly fast, saving the food masses all the time associated with trial and error.

One day everyone is eating ramen. After starting with the top shops courtesy of others' online recommendations, that box is checked and its time for the next big rage, banh mi. And of late, New Yorkers have embarked on a leap from a recent burger obsession to love affair with pizza. But I am not quite ready to jump on the Big Apple's new bandwagon this time. Our summer has been criminally short this year and to me trading barbecues for the warm glow of brick ovens only hastens our tumble into fall. So I fought the power the only way I knew how; I said, "In your face Duane Reade and your premature Halloween candy display. It's still summer and we're going to have a showdown. A burger showdown."

The Burger Dating Game
The burger battle to win the hearts (and stomachs) of 12 diners took place last night at my place with three contestants: a Pat La Frieda short rib blend, a Pat La Frieda brisket blend, and what one diner dubbed "the magic blend" from a Hudson Valley butcher. All were well received but the competition really came down to the two La Frieda contenders. To be fair, the Hudson Valley burgers came last, which after a lot of other food was a tough slot to bat from to say nothing of the number of beers the grill master had by that point, compromising said individual's ability to discern a perfect medium rare. So perhaps not a fair fight, but such is life.

After the initial round of tasting the sides developed: those in favor of the short rib standing firm against those who preferred the brisket. The brisket fans argued for their burgers'
buttery flavor and consistently decadent bites. The short rib fans countered that their burgers may not have been as rich throughout, but were peppered with flavor bursts that made them more intriguing. A collective hmmm. Plates shifted around. More bites were taken.

Even with identical seasoning, the burgers were much more different than any of us had anticipated but at the same time difficult to choose between. I imagine it's like determining which of your kids is more successful, the Nobel laureate or the Olympic champion. They were that good, and that dissimilar. So which one triumphed? The answer is, it depends. Upon biting into the brisket, eyes momentarily closed. Exclamations of "Oh my god" followed. The best way I can think to describe it is that the brisket burger makes you feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. All of a sudden worthy of expensive clothes and jewelry. Seduced in a very unexpected way. Wanting more. Wanting it all to yourself. The short rib was another experience all together. It's like being a fairly straight arrow who is having a fling with a hard-living, motorcycle-riding, pierced, tattooed adventure seeker. It's a thrill. You know it will end but you'll lap up every ounce of excitement it brings you while it lasts.

In my sprier days perhaps the short rib may have been my choice. The short rib is fun. Impetuous. Spunky. Sassy. All the things you want to evoke when you're young. All the things you want to be with. But now I am in a different phase of my life and a fleeting kick is not what I am after. It's not enough. I want something more meaningful. More grand. I want the fairytale. I want the brisket.

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