And even more redemption

Not one to take rejection (if I can call it that) lying down, my cracker friend who’d suggested Crave as the best burger in town, was just not having it when I wrote that it was good but not great. So I went for a second time. And this time on my cracker friend’s dime. (Some folks will go to great lengths to prove a point.)

And it was a lot better, in fact it was a really good burger. After conferring with the Mr, I came to the conclusion that the buns we’d had the first time were not toasted as they were this second time. That seemingly small detail made a huge difference. If it had had au poivre sauce on it I’d declare it the best burger in town. Sadly, it did not.

I suppose I will have to take MCF to Elsa’s for a conclusive comparison.

Recipe stealing, er, appropriating

At a recent dinner we were served some amazing crostini featuring a whipped cream cheese and tomato topping. It was truly delicious (recipe here). Ina Garten. Whipped feta with lemon topped with lightly marinated tomatoes and basil.

I found the recipe online and unapologetically stole it but made it into a salad so it was not completely evident that I’d done that. It, too, was delicious. You’re supposed to top the marinated tomatoes with pine nuts but my husband has an allergy to them (and I’m not wild about them TBH) so I used pecans. the salad was a hit. I crammed the last 2 bits of romaine into my mouth when I was cleaning up.

Sucked into another Insta lie

I watched these guys make these cheese and pickle things which, OK, right smack up my alley.

Of course when I tried doing it exactly the way the Instagram guys did it. This was what happened. I ate it (with a freaking spoon) because I’ll eat anything—except anchovies—but I did not like it all that much.

I’m moving

More on that later once I have stopped hyperventilating, gotten the GooGone® off of my face, elbows and earlobes, and gotten rid of about 40% of my “things.” But because my house is on the market—also, more on this later—and everything needs to look as if no one ever lived, much less breathed in the damn place. So I needed to buy some premade food items. To be honest, I really miss cooking but sometimes you just gotta do.

I sashayed my way over to Trader Joe’s. Everyone raves about their food.

Lemon herb macaroni salad. “Add a squeeze of lemon for brightness” Oh, wait you mean sourness? This was awful. Sour with a capital OU.

Tomato feta soup. Oh Sweet Mother of God, NO. This was vile. I’d sooner eat off-brand tomato sauce out of the can.

Cacio e Pepe gnocchi. I was skeptical about it. But it was delicious. Yes, please. Like I’d-serve-this-to-guests good.

Whatever the green stuff in the “lemon herb macaroni salad” was was completely and utterly lost to me. But perhaps it was because I was making that sour pucker face the whole time I was eating it.

Tomato feta soup. Just loathsome. The taste of it was so empty I was afraid I’d fall into it and be adrift in flavorlessness forever. Pro tip: You want great tomato soup? Heat up tomato juice, add a dash of Worcestershire sauce and swirl in a TB of cold butter. You can thank me later.

Sure I added a splash of Franks to the cacio e pepe but it was truly delicious on its own.

These were not from Trader Joes. But Jeni (not a fan of the spelling here) apparently makes great ice cream, or so I am told. I opted for the dairy free, being all vegan and whatnot. You know me, I’m saving the planet one pint of dairy free ice cream at a time.

The chocolate tasted good but the texture was way off. It had more in common with styrofoam but without the pleasant mouth feel. The Lemon bar was surprisingly good. Like really good. I didn’t really like the chunks of what I suppose was the “bar” aspect of the flavor. But on the whole I’d eat this anytime. Of course, I’ll eat anything. Except anchovies.

Redemption

Somehow and for no real reason I’ve been on a burger jag. Even though I’d been disappointed by recent trips to Elsa’s I felt compelled to choose it when I was asked, by the Chocolatesommelier, out for a birthday dinner. I mean, I couldn’t just abandon it after all these years together.

Most of the drinking hours of my youth were spent there guzzling wine and packing my face with their superb nachos, delicious chicken wings and the burger of my dreams, the au poivre. I couldn’t just give up on it because of one bad bun, some skimping on sauce, and the loss of my favorite waffle fries. I mean, in the end, good enough fries are good enough.

The meal did not disappoint. The nachos were fantastic, the burger was plenty sloppy with sauce (and I could get it in my mouth) and the fries were good (enough).

A burger I can get in my mouth

So, Gordon Ramsay, a jackass whose attraction I cannot, for the life of me, understand—on the other hand there are many other things, people, places, and ideas whose attractions I cannot understand (let me know if you need the list)—made this TikTok viral hamburger. Apparently every one is going bananas about it.

This is definitely not a cheeseburger I want to have to endure. A sunny side up egg? No. The biggest issue though is that it will not fit in my mouth. And I don’t want to have to wrestle it in. Sandwiches, including hamburgers which are, after all sandwiches, need to fit into your mouth. That’s the whole point of them.

So what did I do the next time I went out to eat? I ordered a hamburger. And guess what it wouldn’t do. I had to eat it with a knife and fork. The fries were good though.

The Burger Pantheon

A certain cracker I know told me about a place on Oakland in the vicinity of our new house (more on that some other time) called Crave, which she said made the best hamburger she’d ever had. My nephew who lives in that same area enthusiastically concurred.

I am not sure if he or she had ever had a burger au poivre at Elsa’s but that one particular hamburger alone exists, in my mind, at the very pinnacle of burgerdom. Granted I seem to remember my food in a way that not that many other people do which may be a curse rather than a blessing. Just now in recalling some early food memories mushrooms in spaghetti sauce at the Dougherty’s house in Mauston when I was about 4 came to mind. I was not, at that point, a fan. Also, around that age I threw an entire loaf of bread out of the window of our third floor kitchen window in the barracks at St John’s Military Academy because I did not like the smell of the toasted bread, I’d toasted about half the loaf before I decided the bread was the problem. My mother freaked the hell out. I explained that the pigeons would eat it. Too bad she’d slept so late. She only had 3 kids under 4 at that point, she couldn’t have been all that tired. I’ve digressed.

There are many hamburgers in the burger pantheon. To wit: Late’s in Manitowoc, a Kiltie Twosome in Oconomowoc, Big Macs (sorry, it’s a once a year indulgence, but, yes), the burgers at Major Goolsby’s (named by Sports Illustrated as the #1 sports bar in America and on which I based the burgers in my restaurant), the Marc’s Big Boy, may it rest in peace, and a Kopp’s cheeseburger (full disclosure, Kopp’s owns Elsa’s but they are utterly and completely different food experiences).

To my deep regret Elsa’s started using a different, crappy bun and stopped serving them with their awesome waffle fries. That last one I ate had only the merest suggestion of that mysterious au poivre sauce and then only on one side of the burger. So I’ve begun searching for a new star to live at the top of the pantheon, a living king, as it were. So we ordered out from Crave while baby sitting for my 2 grand nieces and nephew. (also digressing, there is a word, coined in 1951, for gender neutral or combined nieces and nephews; “niblings” which is sort of cute but I cannot bring myself to use it).

It was good, really good but, no, not getting the crown. Plus you can’t really eat there, well, you can but it’s like eating a gas station and not a convenience store gas station, an actual gas station. Plus, waste. OMG. Granted the containers are cardboard so that’s sort of good but it goes into landfill. Good fries though.

Then we went to Kopp’s. I have not been there in decades. We ate in the car in a rainstorm giving me teenage dining vibes. Unfortunately it did not live up to my memory of it. I don’t think it was substantially different from what I’d had all those years ago, it was just, well, a lot of water under that bridge. I chalk it up to my immaturity at the time or, you know, the ol’ memory going. Good fries tho.

Risotto without the incessant stirring

Certain self-appointed keepers of the authenticity of various foodstuffs will squawk at my calling this risotto but if you do the math this one wins.

I had a half of a boat load of leftover dry-ish rice.

Fried some sliced mushrooms and shallots in butter, added the rice and a coupla 3 TBS of butter, some white wine and a half a cup of something cheesy, Parmesan-ish, in this case I used Pecorino Romano. Five minutes, tops. A tiny bit of stirring. OMG. It was so so good.

It’s dietetic but who cares

As soon as I’m reading some recipe that refers to itself as “light” I turn the page. “Great for watching your weight!” No thanks. “Heart healthy” Blah blah blah. “Skinny taste” Whatever that’s supposed to mean, to me, means no taste.

These meatballs however are perfect for anyone on a diet who wants food that tastes like maybe it’s a sin to eat. (If the diet gods are watching and counting your calories for you) These are nothing but mushrooms ground up in a processor, sautéed to get rid of liquid, and then mixed with ground chicken. Here I used a little onion, garlic, basil and oregano, plus 2 eggs. Voila. I’ve made them before with soy sauce and green onions to a resounding choir of Please sir may I have some more?

Of course the addition of pasta makes them ineligible for inclusion in a diet recipe.

The perfect lunch

The Chocolate Sommelier (website here) stopped by to drop off some food, I mean, it’s not like I’m wandering around my house thinking I’m gonna starve to death. But she knows it is one of my fave meals. Potatoes, sauerkraut and pork shoulder, just that simple.

OMG it was so good. (If short on potatoes, but who’s complaining.)