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.)

Not that I am a conspiracy fanatic or anything

But I think the French have been holding out on me. I first posted about trying to make a baguette in November of 2014. So for 10 years I have been trying and failing at it. There were always issues but mostly the crust was too thick. But also all the recipes make 3 loaves and who needs 3 loaves of bread at a time? They do not keep well. So I googled “thin and crispy crust baguette” and learned the secret. A quarter cup of corn starch. Seriously.

At least this batch is as close to perfect as I’ve gotten so far. And as an added bonus, I have discovered that the dough keeps for days in the refrigerator so you can make the baguettes on successive days.

Yes, it is a bit of a bother, the kitchen gets messy but it’s worth it.

I did not make the butter. But it’s Irish so we’re good.

Ghouls or Elves?

This is an old unpublished post.

Some friends dropped off these delightful gifts. It was too late for Hallowe’en and too early for Christmas. Were they evil devil vampires or cruel brownies. Either way they left these with me knowing they were my favorites. I left them in the cupboard for about 28 minutes before I opened the Christmas ones. Come on, I mean, cherry and vanilla? How could I resist that. I didn’t.

Excuse me while I find a length of rope

This showed up in my email feed a few days ago and I immediately started preparing to reopen Edgar’s Calypso. I like to be in on the hot trends.

And then I began to recall all the happy memories. Like the 5 am-in-the-kitchen making what-the-fuck ever. The thieving manager. The surly waiters. The drunk waiters. The high waiters. The having-a-cigarette-the-alley waiters. Drunk people at the bar, people an hour late for their reservation and haughtily expecting to be seated. People complaining . . . about the music, about the curry, about the I-don’t-give-a-shit-what. Ah yes. Such good times.

Spoiler alert. I will not be resurrecting my restaurant. Although I do like the idea of “A Restaurant Resurrection” replete with chocolate bunnies, Peeps and jelly beans sorta thing.

It was pretty though. (sad face emoji) R.I.P.

A fun household hack

My spices are aging. I mean, aren’t we all? But a certain royal mounted food officer of the law complained about, I’m not sure, ginger or mustard. So, finding myself at the Indian store I picked up a bag of each. When I got home I tried to think of a good use for the not insubstantial amount left in the jars. And then I had an inspiration.

The rabbits pretty much use my yard as a smorgasbord. They even ate my chives. I mean, really?? So with a great deal more hope than the situation seemed to deserve I scattered both the mustard and ginger powder all over the lawn where they spend many languid hours indiscriminately leaving little piles of poop hither and yon. I realize this was a long shot and won’t really solve my rabbit problems. It might even create some.

I’ll look out there and see them eating the grass with chopsticks. And then if I were my friend Judy I’d rush out with soy sauce and fortune cookies.