What Makes a Great Hamburger? Naked Good Burgers: Bareburger of NY

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When Mark Twain said, “Sacred cows make the best hamburger,” he probably had no idea that a lot of meat-lovers, culinary cool cats, and organic farmers would take him on his word. The meat that is going into the modern American patty has been undergoing a radical transformation of culinary and ethical dimensions.

Terrific burgers aren’t found only in local diners and favorite greasy spoons anymore.Today they stand as the acid test of any good bistro. Even the infamous Julia Child was a burger fiend. When she passed through the Upper Valley a decade ago, her meal of choice at our local Norwich Inn restaurant was a burger and a beer. I should have been paying attention, Julia.

Until this winter, I hadn’t eaten hamburgers for years. Whenever I got hamburger hankerings, the sandwich just never delivered. Between the charred and chewy grilled burgers I was eating at summer gatherings, the handful of horrible on-the-road fast food versions, and the hockey pucks that my old George Forman grill produced, I was off burgers. Bad timing and a maturing palate, I told myself. Frankly, I couldn’t seem to cook one right, and I couldn’t find one that satisfied, either. I was turned off to the classic American meat sandwich.

At restaurants, my dining companions often remark, “…and they have a good burger here, too.”  Translation: “You can always get the burger if none of the other stuff appeals to you at this very cool eatery.”  Right. I was never willing to stoop to the burger option, that selection lurking at the bottom of the menu food chain. Ordering a hamburger just never seemed like the right choice when dining out.  Plus burgers came with fries, cheese, and other fattening temptations. Nope.  Burgers were off my radar– until a recent dining adventure in New York.

While there is no ham in hamburger, there seems to be every other kind of meat in burgers these days. The all beef patty isn’t just for lunch anymore, and it isn’t all beef.  And if you don’t believe me, stop by one of a dozen New York area burger bistros called Bareburger, the brainstorm of the Brooklyn-based Euripedes  Pelekanos.  Now a decade old, Bareburger has garnered raves from Zagat and Michelin.  With a wide selection of meat choices to build your custom six ounce burger (beef, lamb, elk, bison, ostrich, wild boar, turkey, chicken), Bareburger lets hamburger lovers go wild.  But it’s meat with a difference. All the meats at Bareburger are locally sourced, humanely raised, and are of the highest quality available.  Simple and pure, this naked goodness comes free of hormones, chemicals, and gluten, too. The result is a burger that is high in flavor and, well, “earth friendly” in its production.

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And that goes for all the other produce served there, too, as well as the restaurant decor. Built with sustainable, recycled or reclaimed materials, Bareburger’s interior design has a brown paper bag feel about it with wall art consisting of woven sticks and rough stones. The bear cave theme is present along with a Portland-West Coast vibe. Entering the bear’s lair, I enjoyed the best piped-in music at a restaurant in years. Something about eating a hamburger to the likes of Hendrix, Joplin, Neil Young, Zep, the Stones, and Dylan was just right.  I felt like Goldilocks.

Navigating the Bareburger menu is fun. You get to construct a burger by starting with the protein selection. For the bun, there are both flour-based and gluten-free options such as wheat, buttery brioche, multi-grain, rice, tapioca, and even a lettuce-wrap. Then it’s on to choices of crazy good pickles, over fourteen different sauces, and slaws that add crunch, a spicy bite, and a cooling finish to your burger. The french fries are handcrafted and crispy. For a lighter bite, choose sliders. Kids get a menu, too– the “cubby” in your family can choose burgers named after five different cuddly bears. Yup. Bareburger can be a bit of a family hangout. But it’s no Chuck E. Cheese or MacDonald’s. When I ate at the Forest Hills branch, it was kid-free, but we were there well after 8:00 pm and the wine and beer crowd was in the groove.

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I went for the elk burger classic on a brioche bun topped with slaw and fries on the side. I have been a fan of elk meat for a while now, having cooked elk tenderloin and smoked my own elk jerky on a handmade pinewood smoker (like northeastern woodland paleo-Indians). I am mad for elk, and the meat I used was wild game brought back to me from Montana.  But an elk burger was a new option. Every bit as delicious, the farm-raised Bareburger patty, seasoned with just salt and pepper, was amazing. The burgers have none of the charcoal-y sear on the outside, but even cooked to a medium level remain intensely juicy and flavorful. The price for a burger starts around $9.00 with game meat adding a buck or so, and toppings can add another $3.00-$5.00 dollars.  Sides run $5.00-$7.00, but are large enough to share.

Health Note: Wild game as well as farm-raised elk both contain a mixture of fats that are actually healthy for you, and while higher in cholesterol, elk is overall lower in the unhealthy fat than beef.
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If you are hanging Paleo these days, Bareburger is a great option. And non-meat eaters, don’t fret. Vegetarian selections abound, including black bean, portobello, or veggie burgers as well as plenty of wholesome dishes and creative salads featuring locally sourced produce.  Great smoothies, and an ample beer and wine selection are available.

The cheap, fast-food burger is a thing of the past. Whether you like to eat America’s wild beasts that have been farm raised with kindness, or wish to support the locavore movement, you’ll find that Bareburger offers something to satisfy every healthy diet. It’s the place where meat-eaters and vegans alike can commune and chow down in good conscience.     –MELorden

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Pasha Restaurant Review

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Here is the second of four NYC restaurant reviews featuring spots where OTK dined during a recent excursion outtathekitchen.

 PASHA

Turkish Cuisine

70 W 71st St, New York 10023

(Btwn Columbus Ave & CPW)

 (212) 579-8751 

Enter Pasha and step into a sultan’s ante-room. The bar, an elliptical oasis surrounded by deep-cushioned easy chairs upholstered with geometric designs, is bathed in a golden saffron light.  Paprika red walls, warm and energizing, quickly conquered the chill of the damp Manhattan night and put my taste buds in overdrive. I was eager to indulge in Turkish cuisine inside this carpeted lair from the Ottoman empire.100_2905

The dining room was a cozy square with a comfy, surrounding wall bench. Small tables with candles skirted the room.  Above was a ceiling of sky lights and beams which reflected the snowflakes falling out of the city sky, and leaning against each pillar was the waitstaff, impeccably attired and at the ready.  Immediately, two gentlemen presented themselves at our table with water, bread, an olive-y herbed dipping oil, menus, and a richly accented explanation of the specials.

Pasha’s menu was very manageable and reminiscent of Greek, Arabic, and Mediterranean fare. They also offer a lunch and a brunch, and I made a mental note of that. My sister and I shared two appetizers: a zucchini pancake which was a frittata of baked egg and shredded zucchini and herbs, and the Zeytinyagli Enginar ,fresh artichoke hearts braised in lemon juice and olive oil with garden peas, potatoes, and carrots. These Mediterranean flavors atop tangy and lemony vegetables along with the herb-infused oil for the rich ekmer bread were great openers– just the right combination for a first bite of  Turkish cuisine.

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Sitting room in the bar at Pasha

In my entree, a Hunkar Begendi, cubes of baby lamb cooked in tomato sauce with rosemary and oregano were served over a charcoal roasted eggplant puree.The charcoal flavor of the eggplant was deep and earthy, and I enjoyed it spread over the rich flatbread. The tomato sauce was sweet and light with well-developed flavor sof sumac and cumin; the lamb cubes just melted in my mouth. This herbaceous stew of tender meat and vegetables cooked over coals brought me to a world of very ancient flavors.  My sister’s entree was Sebzeli Guvec, a vegetarian combination of green beans, eggplant, zucchini, okra and celery root baked with tomatoes in an earthenware casserole. It was served with a tender rice. The okra was perfect, not gummy or overcooked, and the vegetables made for a great mix of texture, sweetness, and color in a light sauce. Portions were plentiful, too.

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        Welcome to Pasha

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Braised Artichoke Heart in Lemon and Oil with Carrots, Peas, and Fresh Dill 

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Stew of Cubed Lamb with Charcoal Roasted Eggplant Pureé  

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Okra, Zucchini, Greenbeans and Celery Root Braised in Tomato Sauce

Everything on the dessert menu struck my fancy.  I have a hard time turning down pastries featuring walnuts, pistachios, phyllo dough, honey, fruit, and cream combinations. There are also several options of sherbet and ice cream. We opted for the rice pudding and a Turkish coffee– both tiptop.

Service was outstanding, probably because we were there at an early hour, so our extremely polite servers were happy to accommodate our whims and to chitchat.  The action eventually picked up, and Pasha was soon humming with diners, clearly fans of the establishment and local neighborhood folk– no touristy feel here. If you love the traditional kebabs, pilafs, kofte, and stuffed grape leaves, you can find these at Pasha, too.  (For an excellent Turkish dish you can cook at home, click RECIPE .)

Pasha is not fancy, but just exotic enough to be a great combination of fun and fantasy.  Food is comforting as is the warm setting. It was a quiet dining experience, something I had missed in the city restaurants of late. My sister and I were able to have a great visit over special food on our magic carpet ride.

Going outtathekitchen in NYC

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It was fun to step outtathekitchen and into some new eating establishments during my latest visit to NYC.

While the food was quite enjoyable, the company trumped the cuisine in most cases.  

Check out the following accessible restaurants…

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I looked forward to dining out with my friends who were in town for Westminster at a  touristy and mutually convenient Italian restaurant on the west side in mid-town  Manhattan.  Trattoria Dell’Artesomehow manages to attract diners with an enormous plaster nose in the window facing Seventh Avenue.  Eeewww. The art inside the restaurant isn’t any better– gigantic sculptures of lips and enormous canvases with facial, torso, and limb closeups, awkwardly sketched in red pastel a la Da Vinci. Yeah. The meal, though only slightly above average, was a worthy adventure, for the most part.

When entering Trattoria Dell’Arte, be prepared.  You will be overwhelmed with smarmy, over-dressed hosts and hostesses.  I had three– the maitre d’, the floor drone, and the hatcheck girl.  They got the name wrong in the reservation,which caused momentary confusion, but  I was seated promptly at a table for two to await my two friends. Huh? I adjoined the neighboring table together with mine since the host who seated me did not do so.

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Our waiter was a lively, stand up comedic type, hyping each dish as his “absolute favorite.”  His loud and zealous rap was appreciated since the joint was jumping with the pre-theater crowd.  We could hardly hear ourselves think.

For starters, we assembled a build-your-own antipasto plate of a few vegetables, meat, and a seafood. Very nice. I had already scoped out some of the antipasto choices when I arrived  in the front of the house, and I briefly contemplated just going for the antipasto bar for my main meal, but I was just too hungry.

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For entreés, two of us ordered the Fennel Sausage Pasta with curly gramigna pasta, tomato, and pecorino cheese. The pasta, a kind of half-cavatappi (corkscrew) was freshly made on the premises. This artisanal sausage featured a nicely balanced rosemary and garlic flavor which combined well with the sweet fennel notes in the light marinara sauce. The pasta was cooked a bit beyond al dente, but not at all mushy. Another dining partner ordered a chicken parmesan– a flattened boneless and skinless leg, breaded, lightly fried and topped with excellent parmesan cheese.  Not pretty to look at as it resembled something that had been run over by a truck, complete with protruding leg bone– but the meat was moist, the breading crunchy, and it was neither greasy nor over-sauced. Everybody was happy with their main dish, sharing generously with each other.  The wine lubricated the fun.

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                    Fennel Sausage Pasta with Grimagna and Pecorino Cheese

During the meal, our colorful waiter kept marching by with various over-sized desserts. He started to push the cannoli as his hands-down favorite dessert that he always ordered as it was the best he ever ate. Dessert was definitely on our radar after all that salesmanship, and we went for the chocolate mousse, tiramisu, and lemon tart.  However, he brought a cannoli instead by mistake. When we asked him to exchange it, he generously suggested that we keep it and he would bring the third dessert right along. It never arrived.  So we dug into the cannoli and not reluctantly since we thought we had just scored a bonus dessert. Then we understood why he must have dumped it on our table.  It was truly inedible–  the shells were tasteless pizelle with the consistency of wet paper, the ricotta inside had turned and seemed totally devoid of sugar or marscapone, and the blueberry slop on the side was incongruous and tart on the tongue.  Bleah.  They must have been out of the tiramisu. The chocolate mousse was excellent, and the lemon tart got a B-, but the foul cream on the side was over-whipped nearing the consistency and taste of butter.  Very disappointing.

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Two Desserts to Avoid at Trattoria Dell’Arte: Soggy Cannoli and Lemon Tart with Side of  Whipped Cream 

Overall, the allegria  and raucous guffaws from the large tables around us made the dining experience a somewhat wild ride, but it was more fun than annoying.  Prices were a little high (Menu Trattoria Dell’Arte) and not unexpected; the quality of the fare was below par. I still can’t decide if the service was good or not. Everyone was plenty attentive, but I can’t help but wonder if a little benign neglect would have been preferable.

There is lots to chose from on the  menu, but I would recommend going for an informal lunch and trying the antipasto bar with some excellent bread, cheese, and wine.photo

NYC Restaurant Reviews

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Today you can check out the first of OTK’s four restaurant reviews from Outtathekitchen’s recent visit to New York City.  

Find out if OTK recommends eating at these spots in the Big Apple– or not.  

Go to On The Road with OTK and click to read today’s review on Trattoria Dell’Arte

YGEH_LogoDev_June07b_FINAL1Trattoria Dell’Arte                                                                                            

900 7th Ave  New York, NY 10106

Pasha Turkish Restaurant   

70 W 71st St  (between W Central Park & Columbus Ave)        

Crispo  Restaurant

 240 W 14th Street    

Bareburger 

71-49 Austin St 

(Forest Hills, Queens)