Monday, October 27, 2008

To life...

Gratuitous shout-out and Happy 18th Anniversary to M & J, charter and long-distance subscribers to my blog, from Oklahoma. They knew me when I was just "Critical" or "Palate". Here's to you...and Rocky Top!


On Air

I'll be back on The Jordan Rich Show on WBZ1030 AM on November 8 from midnight to 3:30 a.m. We'll be talking burgers and BBQ.

Tune in, or listen to us live on the internet.

Peace, love and burgers...


The Pasty...All American Treat...or Trick?

I don’t like pastys…what guy does? Guys don’t go out to joints for the pastys…

Oops, wrong kind of “pasty”.

Continuing on my personal quest for the Mount Everest of burgers, like Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, I dined at “British Beer Company” in Framingham, the latest location for the local chain.

I was thinking to myself that I’d like to have a burger, but perhaps, I should try something different. Then I saw this on the menu: “THE ALL AMERICAN PASTY-a grilled burger, cheddar cheese, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions and our traditional English steak sauce. Served with French fries and coleslaw.” I figured, it was pretty much a burger I’d eat, except stuffed inside piecrust and served calzone-style. Close enough for this food quest, so I thought.

There’s not much to say about this thing, or this place-not sure what to make of it. The pasty certainly wasn’t as described-it wasn’t so much a burger as it was ground meat stuffed inside this pastry, and not much of it, at that. I am also not a fan of steak sauce, and it was already mixed in. Not the flavor profile I was looking for or expected, and given the amount of dough, I fell into a food coma the rest of the day.

I guess I wouldn’t bad mouth BBC too much-they could clarify the item so you don’t expect a burger when in reality it’s just small pieces of ground beef, and I just should have stuck to my own plan. I’ll give it a second try sometime, but not rushing back.

There was a moment, this past weekend, bringing me close to burger nirvana or “bur-vana”. This past Saturday, after much time away, I succumbed to the siren song of burgers sizzling on a grill and fries and onion rings in all their greasy goodness in a fry-o-lator …a bunch us of caravanned into Cambridge to “Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage.”

I imagine this caravan was similar to the one the Jews had leaving Egypt…including a voice-over from Cecil B. DeMille. “In world of oppression…where people survive on unleavened bread and unleavened bread alone, there exists an oasis of sublime ground meat, that people will wander 40 years just to taste its essence...there is no joy without meat, and there is only joy at…Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage.”

As their website says: Mr Bartley´s Gourmet Burgers, 7 ounces of choice beef, ground fresh daily. A Boston landmark since 1960.

Need I say any more? These pictures are just a hint of the gluttonous glory that awaits you and the firm of Gall, Bladder, Pancreas & Liver, which will be working to help process this meal. Hold on, my phone is ringing…it must be my pharmacist calling with my Lipitor prescription. Thankfully, it’s not Flomax or Cialis….

Only Mrs. Palate has enough self-control and got this good looking salad.

Bartley’s gets a meaty thumbs up. I do think the pictures say it all. But be forewarned…it’s very noisy, very crowded, you may have to wait outside for a while, and…and wait for it…no bathrooms! But, “… 7 ounces of choice beef, ground fresh daily…” Joyous.

You’ve been great. Enjoy the Sugar Hill Gang…

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Call the plumber...

Apparently, Brad Sciullo of Uniontown, PA really enjoys a hamburger; he is the first person to ever eat the “Beer Barrel Belly Bruiser”, a 15-pound burger with toppings and a bun that weighed more than 20 pounds, from Denny's Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield, PA.

The burger included a bun, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, onions, mild banana peppers and a cup each of mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and relish.

I know, you’re thinking the same thing: Why would anyone put relish on a burger?

Burger Quest 2008

FWIW, I heard this slogan tonight: “Fill up with a foot long at Subway…” oh, that’s so ripe…

A few weeks ago, on “How I Met Your Mother”, there was an episode entirely dedicated to the quest for the perfect burger in New York City. Frankly, I couldn’t care less about the burgers in New York, but the show had a number of funny lines, as each character waxed poetic about their burger experiences. Regardless of my repulsion for NYC, I started wondering about the best burger I’ve had locally. What is it about the burger, the sandwich staple of most bars and restaurants that causes us to recall with fondness the best burgers we’ve ever had?

Could it be the sublime combination of meat and toppings, ranging from a slab of tomato and a leaf of lettuce, or could it be the combination of cheese and bacon (for you traife-eating heathens)? Is it a charcoal-grilled burger, kissed by flame, or a griddle seared burger, cooking in its own fat that makes your mouth water (remember, as the senior Palate says-“the flavaaaaaah’s in the faaaaaaat!”)? Do chain restaurants have any hope? Will Luke finally marry Laura? Will anyone actually recognize Miley as Hannah Montana? Stay tuned…

So, within the past month, and for the next few weeks, I have been, and will continue to journey across the MetroWest and Boston area in search of a great burger. While I will report on some of them here, and over the next few posts, the full narrative report will be heard on the Jordan Rich Show on WBZ 1030AM, midnight, on November 8/9. Tune in, for the dulcet tones of the Critical Palate!

Watch City Brewery, Waltham, MA—I met a friend for lunch there a few weeks ago, and decided to throw caution to the wind and get a burger for lunch. I usually avoid heavy lunches, because I have found that limits your afternoon work more than a heavy lunch. An hour after finishing, it’s “hello, food coma.” But, I was going to be out for a while, and I figure the worst that could happen would just be a car crash. (Mom, stop reading here) So I dove into a mushroom cheeseburger, with onion rings (which, for my mother’s benefit, I didn’t finish).

The burger was good, really good. Not the winner in my personal “sew my ass shut” sweepstakes, but a solid entry in the burger sampling, and a good way to start “Burger Quest-2008”.

Nobscot’s, Framingham, MA--In an earlier posting about my trip to NH, I talked about those hidden jewels, the diamonds in the rough that you might otherwise skip. Thinking Nobscot’s was one, we ventured inside.

The food was adequate, but not exceptional in any way. Nobscot’s is a bar, with a dining room attached. One of the junior Palates had Buffalo Tenders, and they were tasty, but the rest of the food was just ok. You can never really embrace a place that serves their mushroom and onion burger with canned mushrooms. I bet you even Brother Ezekiel of the Pennsylvania Dutch eats fresh mushrooms on his burgers. One last insult-I didn’t want fries (although I saw, from a distance, that these were “steak” fries, which I really like), and asked to substitute cole slaw. The waitress told me that it would be a $1.50 side dish, because they don’t substitute (this is always a bad sign at a restaurant-one that doesn’t care enough about their patrons to allow them to swap out a relatively inexpensive item for a cheaper one). I decided that $1.50 was a small price to pay for my cardiac health, and was cheaper than a Lipitor, but I thought that was pretty cheesy of them to up charge you for cole slaw, which I’m sure is cheaper than the frozen steak fries from Bayonne, NJ. The burger wasn’t good enough for me to rush back.

Ted’s Montana Grill, Westboro, MA--Third time back to Ted’s was fine too. I got, no surprise here, a mushroom cheeseburger, with salt and pepper onion rings (once again, for my mother’s benefit, some left behind on the plate). Of the two times I’ve gotten burgers here, they’ve both been prepared right, and the onion rings have been delicious. If you can get beyond Hanoi Jane and the eco-friendly happy horse crap, it’s a pretty good burger experience, though pricey. Saving the environment costs a lot of money, along with those paper straws.

Some of kind readers have made some suggestions-Wild Willy’s in Watertown, Kennedy’s Pub in Marlboro, and one of you, apparently jerking me around, suggested that Ruby Tuesday’s “Triple Prime” burger was a real winner. Yeah, a winner of the Kentucky Derby-I didn’t know frozen horsemeat packed in Secaucus, NJ came graded as “prime.” Keep the suggestions coming.

You’ve been great. Enjoy Weird Al Yankovic…

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Taste of the Palate-Part 3

After a brief “High Holiday Hiatus”, I’m back, gearing up for a new year of sin-free postings. I have begun to repent, and am feeling cleansed enough to write again. I was feeling very lethargic, being bogged down with so much sin…

A few of you readers (too many to count), were hanging on every word regarding my gastronomical tour of the White Mountain Region of New Hampshire…and all came to me with the same question: “Critical Palate do you do anything other than eat?” Assuming the “drink coffee” wasn’t the response you were looking for, I assure you all that I am not a couch potato…more like a couch potato puff! We did a bunch of things while away, and here are some of the highlights, or lowlights.

Clark’s Trading Post

No trip is complete to the White Mountains unless you spend an afternoon at “Clark’s”. This is small town, hokey entertainment at its best, and worst. Trained bears that don’t eat their trainers, steam train ride to the highway, past an old “prospector” that makes Ernest T. Bass look like a brain surgeon, bumper boats and a family of female Russian contortionists that had every 15 year old boy wondering about things…

Flume Gorge

The “Flume Gorge” is a natural rock formation and waterfall that has formed over thousands of years, or since the NH Division of Forestry and Wildlife blasted away some of the rocks. Actually, unlike the scam that was “The Old Man in the Mountain”, this does seem to be fairly natural. It’s very scenic, popular with tourists to the White Mountain region, and apparently, very popular with Hasidic Jews.

Here’s small snippet from their web site:
“The Flume is a natural granite gorge extending 800 feet at 
the base of Mount Liberty
Towering granite walls rise to a spectacular height of 90 feet
The Flume Gorge was discovered in 1808”

It is a nice hike-we all did it. But, the state of New Hampshire has a lot of nerve charging a bucket of cash to get in for that schlep. It would be like the Egyptians charging the Jews to go into the desert!

Nonetheless, having never been in, I felt compelled to see the sights, and so we soldiered up and in. Here’s a picture for your perusal.

Attitash Alpine Slides

We took the Junior Palates to Attitash for a day of outdoor fun and frivolity. The main feature/attraction there is the “Alpine Slide”. Imagine a slightly tamer Luge ride-a sled, with a brake, on a cement slide, for a mile-long, high-speed ride down the mountain. To get there, you have ride up a high-speed chair lift, so if you’re afraid of heights, you might want to skip it!

Once you’re on the slide, and getting up a head of steam, watch out, and hold on. Not quite Olympic track speed, it’s a lot of fun, but riders are susceptible are susceptible to getting a “Wedgie” or “V-eggie”, depending on gender.

Chutters in Littleton, NH

The Guinness Book of World Record holder for longest penny candy counter. I don’t think there’s much more to say.

FunSpot/Go-Karts in Meredith, NH

The Guinness Book of World Record Holder for largest indoor arcade. Please, pass the Tylenol, or rat poison.

Across the street: go-karts. The kids finally got a chance to drive their own cars, at least for the 4 laps. This was a real hoot, as was my daughter’s airbrush tattoo. “Look Dad, my own tramp stamp!”

Alpine Adventures Zip Line in Lincoln, NH

This was the “money shot” of the vacation, literally and figuratively. I had read about this in the Boston Globe before vacation, and I figured if I can ride in a hot air balloon, I can strap myself into a climbing harness, latch myself onto a thin wire, and zip across the treetops and zoom down the backside of Loon Mountain. Though expensive, the Junior Palate and I decided that this was one of the best things ever. Also one of the scariest! Like a tightrope walker, one word of advice-don’t look down! Click here for more details…

It’s great to be back. Enjoy Ozark Mountain Daredevils…