I’ve never been a “Bed & Breakfast” kind of person, always preferring the anonymous consistency of a larger hotel when traveling. I think part of the reason might have been that I never came across the right one. This summer we found it, tucked up the side of a mountain in Woodstock, NY. The amenities were nice, it featured all sorts of earthy-crunchy touches that my wife appreciated, it had great food and a truly nice owner, but the one thing that has stuck with me since our stay, and what has me thinking about returning, was the library in our room which featured a ton of old cookbooks. Odds are they were chosen as much for kitsch as they were for food dreamers, but their mere appearance hinted at a new culinary world for me and I have been on a mission to find some old cookbooks for our own book stacks. I finally had my chance a few weeks ago at our local library’s annual book sale and I felt like I scored big time with a copy of Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls. Now, of course, the first thing I did was search for a burger recipe and I was rewarded with a few in this 1957 time capsule. The first one I cooked up is above and I must admit it looks like your basic hamburger, but it has a juicy twist.
The recipe is all of 3 ingredients long, but the results were pretty impressive.Combine in a bowl and then form into patties
- 1 lb. of ground beef (we used 85/15 grass-fed beef)
- 1/2 cup of evaporated milk
- 1 tbsp. salt
I know what you’re saying. Looks kind of boring, and on paper it is. I have never even considered using evaporated milk in a burger before and to be honest I wasn’t sold after combining the ingredients. The concoction had a really loose consistency and I panicked a bit and ended up tossing the patties in the freezer for a few minutes to firm them up for fear that they would disintegrate while cooking. Me of little faith. 6 minutes per side under a broiler set to high is enough for the higher side of medium (in reality I had them under for 8 minutes per side in hopes of getting a bit of a crust on them which resulted in an incongruously moist solid grey middle). Tossed on squishy rolls with a slather of mayo, mustard and a tomato, these retro treats were legit. The evaporated milk does impart a bit of creaminess to the burgers, but it is not off-putting. I think the selling point of these burgers is you can satisfy the “well-done” folks at your BBQ with a juicy burger – something they may never have experienced before (especially at 160°).
I have poured over tons of burger recipes over the years and have never seen evaporated milk on the ingredient list. Have you? It made me wonder what other ingredients have fallen out of favor. Thankfully I have a small stack of 50′s, 60′s and 70′s cookbooks now to cook my way through in hopes of finding out the answer to that myself.
Click here for extra pictures from the cookbook.
Retreat At TreeGap in Woodstock, NY (the original inspiration for this post).
Cast in the eerie shadows of the twin towers of the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant lies the Philadelphia Premium Outlet Mall, a mecca for consumers that in just a few days will cast its siren song southward to lure Black Friday shoppers and welcome their efforts to spur the economy through ritualistic spending at Nike, Adidas, Jockey, Le Creuset and the thankfully curable Perfumania (not to mention food offerings such as the painfully punny Chinese stand called Asian Chao).
What was even just a few months ago a barren field now teems with activity, forever in the present with today’s hottest fashions and modern trends. At the exit ramp off of Route 422 drivers are offered barely the chance to turn away from the mall, almost by centripetal force their cars are willed to turn left and ease into the acres of available free parking. But for those who can fight the potent inertia of drastically reduced prices on factory seconds and previous year’s stock (or perhaps more realistically forestall their entry into the maelstrom for a few moments) there is a reward for steering your car to the right at the end of the ramp – The Hilltop Drive-In.
In stark contrast to the not so accurately named outlet mall (anyone from these parts will know they are nowhere near Philadelphia, Google Maps pegs it at just over 29 miles from City Hall to the Wilson’s Leather Outlet), the Hilltop sits as a pink-hued reminder of a bygone era and the simple pleasures of a pre-fast food chain dominated burger landscape.
Make no mistake, this is not the best burger you will ever eat, but the overall experience makes it well worth the effort and miles. Add equal parts classic architecture, hand-spun milkshakes and malts, black and white photographs and retro signage and you’ve got yourself the ideal destination for a lazy Sunday drive to the far reaches of the suburban Philly telephone area code.
On this my second trip to the joint I ordered the California Cheeseburger, so-named for the appearance of (gasp!) vegetables which, at a time in our country, must have been viewed as exotic and otherworldly, just like the Golden State. Two perfectly acceptable fast food size and style beef patties were joined on the white, squishy burger bun by a piece of American cheese, sliced raw onions, tomato, shredded lettuce and mayo. (I substituted the kaiser roll which this sandwich is usually served on for a regular burger bun due to my long held belief that a kaiser roll has no business being near a burger.)
I had forgotten the pure pleasure of eating a burger with heaps of mayo on it. Despite the results of A Hamburger Today’s “Favorite Condiment” poll back in August, far too few of the burgers we eat have mayonnaise on them. Why not? Adding more fat to a burger seems like a no-brainer, and at the Hilltop, which uses some brand that bridges the chasm between Hellman’s egginess and the sweetness of its arch enemy Miracle Whip, the gooey-ness continuum that is created with the inevitable mingling of the white American cheese and mayo is pure perfection. That moment of self-questioning “was that the cheese or the mayo?” works well in the burger as grease delivery vehicle equation.
The Hilltop’s roots reach back to the 1950′s when it was a Carvel outpost and the shakes and malts served today are legit. I had a chocolate malt on my first trip and it was perfect, deeply chocolaty with flecks of slightly bitter malt powder. Soft-serve cones and sundaes are available as well and I can imagine in the summer time they do a fare bit of business cooling off the locals with these treats.
One of the great surprises of The Hilltop is that they serve Good’s Potato Chips from nearby Adamstown, PA. An old-school producer of no-frills, fried in lard chips, Good’s have become a strictly rationed treat in our house (Philly area folks can get them closer to home at The Head Nut in Ardmore) and as served here are the perfect accompaniment to your burger. They also offer pretty good french fries, McDonald’s style thin cuts fried up crisp and tasty, but when presented with the chip option they slip into second place.
Special mention must be given of their crab bisque soup. With our proximity to Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay, decent crab doesn’t seem like it would be too hard to come across, but it certainly wasn’t expected in this kind of setting and truly stole the show on our first visit.
Huge thanks to ModBetty of Retro Roadmap for bringing The Hilltop to my attention via her great post and pictures (special notice should be given of the early ’50′s black and white image she shares of the Hilltop as a Carvel -complete with a rogues gallery of patrons straight out of central casting). Her site is packed with other great info and she is the rare Keystone state resident with actual duckpin bowling experience.
As the days get shorter and the air a bit crisper up here in PA, the odds of foregoing preparing a home cooked dinner and ordering Chinese takeout instead have increased. This quick recipe came about the day after a recent takeout night and we resurrected it this evening for dinner with some friends. It is a dead simple recipe which produces a quirky take on familiar fare and, when combined with Sriracha Ketchup, makes for a darn good burger.
The taste? Take everything you love about bacon on a burger and then sugar that up about 200%. By itself, honey boneless spareribs may be the most addictive item on any Chinese menu (and easily account for 2/3 of my repenting on Yom Kippur) and as served here (chopped up and mingled with high quality beef) it follows along the lines of the trend led by so many “name chefs” adding different cuts of meats into their burgers (not just on them). The spicy ketchup cuts down the sweetness a bit and provides a tease of heat to take this burger to the next level.
Rough #’s here, but any combination of these ingredients will produce more than passable results.1 lb. ground beef (we used “all-natural” Hillacres Pride beef purchased at our local farmer’s market) 1/4 lb honey boneless spareribs from Pak Yue (which is a fun name to say but always sounds confrontational when they answer the phone)
2 tablespoons of Oyster Sauce
Dice the pork into very small slivers then combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix lightly but well and then form patties (we made slider sized burgers). As mentioned earlier on this blog, and ripped from the pages of John Torode’s book “Beef and other bovine matters,” when using the oyster sauce you can omit salt from the recipe. The oyster sauce provides you with the tang you are looking for and keeps the burgers incredibly moist.
Siracha-Ketchup3 parts ketchup 1 part Sriracha
As shown cooked on the gas grille and served on Martin’s Whole Wheat Potato Rolls.
500 Thurston Ave Ithaca, NY 14850-2434 (607) 257-4649
You’d probably be excused for confusing Louie’s Lunch with Louis’ Lunch, the venerable Connecticut restaurant which claims to be the birthplace of the hamburger. Both have Ivy League links (Louis’ Lunch is in New Haven, home of Yale, while Louie’s Lunch sits on the north campus of Cornell in Ithaca, NY), both are mobile (Louis’s moved four times before settling into its current location and Louie’s has four wheels and thus can move at any moment – though there are a bunch of wires to unhook from the light pole and something that looks curiously like coax cable) and oh yeah, both serve darn nice, lo-fi burgers.
With lineage dating back to 1918, the current Louie’s Lunch truck sets up shop seven days a week to satiate the late night cravings of our country’s future doctors, lawyers, jock-rockers (Huey Lewis) and surgeon generals (oh yeah I’m talking about you C. Everett Koop). Until 3 am (except Sunday nights when they retire at the modest hour of midnight) students in various states of stress and/or inebriation can hit up this mobile c-store for cold drinks, hot coffee, energy shots, candy bars and of course – burgers.
Back in college at the much less educationally challenging (though no less hilly) Mansfield University, I discovered the Bo Burger, a griddled hamburger topped with cheese and a fried egg. To this day, no single dish has screamed “college” to me as much as this combination which I used to enjoy at the local truck stop affectionately known as Greasy Eddie’s, and so when I saw the Bo Burger listing on the starboard side menu of the truck I jumped at the chance to reminisce about my own college years.
Louie’s version featured about 1/4 lb of griddled beef, resting on some white American cheese and topped with a nicely cooked egg. Health departments be damned for their insistence that eggs cannot be runny, but kudos to the flat-top chef who brought this oeuf in just on the cooked through side, avoiding that rubbery, overcooked state. The Bo Burgers of my youth were served on squishy white buns, but this being Ithaca (home of Moosewood and macrobiotic jerky) my Bo was served on a whole grain bun flecked with oats…a bit odd, but good; almost allowing me to dream for a second that this burger was kissed by Mother Earth herself and thus filled with only healthful vitamins and minerals (reality check – it is in actuality a glorious greasebomb of a burger!).
Served with a smile by an actual Cornell student, I give this burger high marks for both quality and history. For years I have been fascinated by the idea of making decent burgers in a food truck and as mentioned on this site before, my own bucket list includes opening a mobile burger shop called “Burgatory” (ideally parked on City Ave in Philadelphia half-way between the Catholic Seminary and the Hebrew Yeshiva). Louie’s provides further proof that good burgers can come from just about anywhere and thousands of Cornell grads no doubt have fond memories of placing their own late-night orders at Louie’s window.
The Louie’s folks have done a great job of cataloging their own history on their web site. For more details on the various iterations of the lunch truck and pictures of through the years, click here.
This is the first of a four part series ingeniously titled “Burgers I Ate While In The Finger Lakes Region A Few Weeks Ago.” Future installments will include entries from a winery, a creamery and the epicenter of the gourmet vegetarian movement. Stay tuned.
Editors note: I am honored to present the first guest post ever here on burgatory.com. Penned by good friend and world-class BBQer, baker, chef and eater, Jim Caccamo, this post is guaranteed to make your mouth water and have you running to a map to figure out exactly where Missouri is (we know it’s there somewhere – in the middle, right?). Look for Jim’s own blog about Technology & Ethics kicking off later this fall.
Beef In a Pork Town
I’ve spent the past twenty years living in beef towns. Chicago, with its Vienna Beef dogs, and Philadelphia, with its devotion to the Cheese Steak, certainly have their charms. But I grew up in the land of bar-b-que–Kansas City, Missouri. Now, I don’t know much about my new home here on the east coast, but what I do know is that few people from Philly know much about my home town. For most people around here, KC is one of those generic places in the thousand mile “flyover zone” between here and the west coast. If people have a sense of it, they think of it as a cow town.
Of course, it’s not a cow town. When I was growing up, it had a population of more than 2.5 million people. The stockyards had long given way to 4 professional sports teams, ballet, opera, and world class art museums. That, and we ate pork, not beef. Bar-b-que, to be specific. There were some good burger places, no doubt. Winstead’s made thin, melt in your mouth burgers. Town Topic did the perfect all-night-diner burger. But Kansas City was a bar-b-que town, with pork ribs at the top of the luscious hickory-smoked, mopped, and rubbed heap.
Today, the city’s food landscape has changed. Don’t get me wrong, bar-b-que is still king. But the city has undergone a dining-out revolution, and now there is a veritable royal family of great restaurants that serve excellent contemporary American cuisine, local favorites, and foods from around the world.
Into this mix comes Blanc Burgers + Bottles, a burger place in the Westport neighborhood that opened in 2006. Blanc is an independent boutique-burger restaurant that focuses on quality. Their menu is trim, focusing on burgers, fries, and beers. The beer selection is great, with a variety that is balanced between local, national, and international microbrews. They do a few appetizers and some great “adult” milkshakes (see later).
But the focus here is the burger. Their beef burgers are half-pounders made from a custom blend of tenderloin, ribeye and NY strip steak. They are going for the taste jugular. The buns are baked daily at a local bakery. They make their own pickles. They do hand cut fries and sweet potato fries, and local brew Boulevard Pale Ale battered onion rings. To top the fries, they make their own ketchup, whole grain mustard, and chipotle aioli, all of which are vibrant and flavorful. They do offer bison, pork, turkey, mahi mahi, and lentil burgers, but I didn’t try them, so I can’t help you there.
As much as I love iBurger (and the hilarious sounds my daughter makes while playing it) I haven’t found a truly useful burger app for the iPhone (note to self – get off high horse and invent truly useful burger app for iPhone). To the rescue comes a new app from foodie grocery chain Whole Foods featuring a full slate of burger recipes presented in a truly slick interface.
Over 25 burger recipes are featured ranging from the uber-healthy (beef and bulgur burgers) to the truly decadent (stuffed burgers with gorgonzola and smoky bacon).
Nutritional info is provided (and thankfully placed strategically so it is easy to ignore) as are diet keys which help point you to offerings that may/may not fit into your diet (you’ll be happy to know that Sliders are good for those who are “sugar conscious”).
One of the best features (though not burger specific) is called “On Hand” which allows you to type in up to 3 ingredients you have “on hand” and then suggests recipes in the library based on that. Pretty handy to have when you are scraping the refrigerator bottom before shopping day.
We’ll be testing out the slider recipe soon and probably checking in on the app while out shopping to see what we can create.
Whole Foods annual “Buck A Burger” sale ends tomorrow (July 7th) I think. We loaded up and cooked off some of their bacon and blue cheese burgers for lunch yesterday (tweet – Rounding out a weird weekend with some Bacon & Blue Cheese burgers from Whole Foods Buck A Burger sale. http://twitpic.com/9eezw10:41 AM Jul 5th from TweetDeck ) – pretty tasty.
ps: If you are a budding iPhone app designer and are interested in helping create the burgatory iPhone app (and enjoy working for free) drop me a line…we actually do have a neat idea!
“Bald guys like me don’t get famous, we’re just happy to get work.”
Fresh from the road playing the role of Elwood P. Dowd as part of the touring company for Mary Chase’s Harvey, Jon Menick’s agent arranged an audition for “something.” The intentional ambiguity of the agent’s statement would portend a lot of the secrecy which surrounded this second part of the campaign. With so much on the line (money-wise), finding an unknown actor and then keeping his identity a secret until the right time was critical. Menick’s acting ability and lack of national presence helped him secure the role of Herb, and Menick shared with me some of the planning that went into fleshing out his character.
More than a little hat tip to the gents over at BBQ Addicts whose invention, the “Bacon Explosion,” was the creative jumping off point for this monstrosity.
No shot of getting this thing in the New York Times, but my concerns (and those of our crew of culinarily curious friends) were in getting this in our bellies. The idea just seemed like the logical next step and although it took about 3 hours start to finish, it is more than worthwhile trying it out at home for your next get together. This one is guaranteed to stop people in their tracks. As always, I will note that I am not a professional chef and though these directions worked for me, they may not work well for you. This recipe is fairly forgiving so as long as you are certain to cook these beauties all the way through I can see little danger in making a minor misstep (and tons of upside in creating your own variations).
I actually made a Bacon Explosion alongside the Burger Explosion for comparison’s sake. The recipe for the “Bacon Explosion” which is packed with pork sausage is best picked up at BBQ Addicts, though I will note that I tweaked that recipe a little, swapping out the bbq rub for a home spun mixture of salt, pepper and rosemary. The rosemary worked out very well.
Burger Explosion (serves 8-10)1lb 80/20 ground beef 4 slices of white American cheese 9 slices thick cut bacon 3 slices of regular bacon 1 butt of whole grain bread – toasted
1 large egg 2 tablespoons Oyster Sauce
1/3 cup BBQ sauce (any kind will do)
Step 1 – Fry up the 3 slices of regular bacon on a griddle as you would for morning breakfast, when done remove from griddle and pat dry (don’t worry about getting too much grease off, this ain’t health food!)
Step 2 – Take the butt end of the whole grain bread and sop up the rendered bacon fat from the griddle.
Step 3 – Place the bread into a food processor and whir it up for a few seconds to make breadcrumbs (yes, even the breadcrumbs are gonna taste like bacon!).
Step 4 – Put your ground beef, egg, oyster sauce and 3 tablespoons of the bacon-y breadcrumbs into a bowl and mix thoroughly by hand.
Step 5 – Make a 4×5 lattice pattern with the bacon (this may be the most fun part of the recipe)
Bryn Mawr Hospital Cafeteria 130 S Bryn Mawr Ave Bryn Mawr, PA .
Babies don’t come out in real life as fast as they do on TV, so with a few minutes of time on my hands in between contractions, an epidural and the blessed event I figured I’d post about the cuisine here at Bryn Mawr Hospital. This being a hospital and all I was a wee bit concerned about the offerings in the cafeteria (would it be nothing but healthy stuff?), but clearly they are catering to a wide audience with their extensive offerings (salad bar ->nachos bar -> deli sandwiches -> pastries).
Was very happy to see (4) burger options on the menu, advertised as fresh from the grille sirloin. I opted for the cheeseburger (white American), and as you can see from the above it came wrapped a la your typical fast food burger. A self-serve toppings bar was available with some bright red tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sliced onions, pickles and bacon as options. I actually skipped over the bacon (just seemed odd in a hospital – bacon will probably bring me back here sometime soon enough) and loaded up with a few tomato slices.
End product was about 1/3 lb (maybe even closer to 1/2 lb) cooked medium + all the way through and was served on a decent quality kaiser roll. With some ketchup and mustard this baby doctored up to be pretty decent with a very strong beef taste. No doubt this was a Sysco or similar food service burger, frozen until just recently but prepared well for the lunch time rush.
Wife can’t eat anything but ice chips and freeze pops (and nurse wondered what the smell was in the room in a manner that clearly said “who the heck is eating fast food in here!”) so I couldn’t get another opinion on this but it might be the real deal. Not sure how many folks would stop by here for a casual lunch, but if this labor continues any longer (nurse mentioned someone in labor for 3 days…) I might convene a meeting of other burger lovers for further sampling.
Thanks for all of the well wishes to date (have been posting some on Twitter though promised wife I would not “live Tweet” the birth). The world will welcome another burger lover very soon.UPDATE: More burgers will have to wait…he’s here!
Post holiday weekend and we’ve got an impenetrable wall of leftovers in the fridge from Saturday’s Passover Seder and Sunday’s Easter dinner. Tons of great food prepared by family and friends and lots of late night snacking and experimenting opportunities.
This burger was pretty much inevitable after the first bite of haroset at the Seder. On the Seder Plate haroset represents the mortar which the slaves used to build the pyramids in Egypt. The almost too simple recipe of chopped apples, nuts and wine is available everywhere on the web (see here, here and here) and is ideally prepared by your mother/grandmother. The version we had was just on the happy side of “too sweet” and as used here was the perfect burger topping.
The burger itself was an 80/20 mix of ground chuck and was produced using “The Great Burger” recipe from John Torode’s new book “Beef and other bovine matters.” The secret to Torode’s recipe (and how these burgers are served at his Smiths of Smithfield restaurant in London) is his use of Chinese oyster sauce instead of salt. His theory that salt dries out the burger too much and that this side-effect outweighs the benefits of the taste it imparts is an interesting one and I have to say I kind of agree. We grilled the burgers and I purposely left one patty on to the point of overdoneness and it was still juicy. More side-by-side tests are necessary, but I’m willing to buy into the logic. The oyster sauce doesn’t overpower the burger either. In the end it was much more subtle then the sniff from the bottle might have suggested.
At this point I am not sick of matzo…that will come soon enough though. Sadly, as anyone who has eaten a Hillel sandwich knows, matzo is not the best sandwich delivery vehicle, but even as it crumbled to bits with the first bite it remained the only logical choice for this burger and the rare bites that did include burger, haroset and matzo were perfect.
Our pantry will be filled with matzo for months (do they sell it in anything but 5 lb. boxes?) so this dish will pop up again in our house very soon…just have to make more haroset but that is easy and is a great use for any leftover wine you might have laying about.
By the way, the perfect beverage for this burger is of course Passover Coke. The local Genuardi’s supply was waning considerably the other day…load up while you can!
Next up is an Easter burger with cabbage roll topping on a potato roll! Stay tuned.