Can you feel it? The epicenter of the burger world seems to be shifting lately. NY and LA, the old guard as it were, are making way for the new – as in New Mexico. Late last year, the New Mexico Board of Tourism launched an interactive map to help visitors find the finest purveyors of the state’s indigenous Green Chile Cheeseburger; and the reigning intercontinental heavyweight champs of the burger blog world, A Hamburger Today, recently launched a series featuring burgers from The Land of Enchantment.
Ever since George Motz introduced the world to The Bobcat Bite in Hamburger America (youtube video) I’ve been craving an authentic Green Chile Cheeseburger. Sure, I’ve tried canned chiles to create my own at-home version, but something is missing. Unfortunately, several factors are working against me as family/job responsibilities coupled with the fact that I live in Philadelphia make a quick visit to New Mexico an impossibility. I needed to get closer to the burger so I figured I’d go the vicarious route and talk to a native.
New Mexico’s most famous living resident might very well be Marc Maron (I’m just going to assume we’ve all forgotten about Bill Richardson, right?). Host of one of the most popular podcast’s in the Apple iTunes Store, WTF, Maron seemed like the perfect guy to ask what makes a Green Chile Cheeseburger so special. A few days ago we finally connected and talked about burgers and being a foodie, and along the way he was kind enough to recommend a few of his favorite burger joints.
Burgatory: So what can you tell me about green chiles?
Maron: Green chiles, well that is what New Mexico is known for. You can get it in a can, Ortega’s or whatever, but it’s not the same as fresh roasted, Northern New Mexico green chile…at chile time…you can get it along side the road, they harvest it then roll it around in these giant roasters so the peels fall off then bag it. My stepmom Rosie, she’ll freeze a ton of it…it’s a very specific flavor and it really only happens there. It’s pretty great…
Burgatory: Are they spicy?
Maron: It can go any way…you can get it really spicy or you can get mild but there’s still that underlying flavor that is pretty unique.
Burgatory: When you think green chile cheeseburgers, which place comes to mind?
Maron: I grew up eating at the Frontier Restaurant and I go there every time I am back. They make a great green chile stew and they also make a pretty great green chile cheeseburger. It’s not your chichi, two inches thick, Kobe beef ‘bit of business’, it’s a flat patty like you get at a diner, maybe a 1/2 inch thick, all of them are consistent, they’re all made fresh but it’s not a gourmet burger, but they put a wad of green chiles on the top and then they use shredded cheddar cheese. So it definitely has a unique flavor to it, nothing tastes like Frontier. But if you’re going there expecting some sort of rare to medium-rare, drippy, bloody burger so you can be a snob about it, that isn’t going to happen. If you want a dirty, green chile cheeseburger, that’s the place to go.
Burgatory: So is Frontier your favorite burger joint? I know you split your time between the east coast and the west coast…
Maron: Well there are different kinds of burgers…you’ve got your fast food type of burger, or diner type of burger or you’ve got your fancy burger.
I try not to get too involved with it, but I definitely love In-N-Out Burger out here (in California). Again not a great burger in terms of grade of beef or thickness or that kind of stuff, but for a dirty fast food burger – the best.
Burgatory: Do you consider yourself a “foodie”?
Maron: I like to cook and generally I’m not out there pushing the envelope with cooking, I just have a knack for it and I’d rather cook than eat out. I find cooking very meditative and it captures my focus and I do it to step down all of my anxieties. We have very little control over most things in life but if you get going with cooking at least you have control for a half-hour. I come from an eating disorder laden family and I think it’s my way of acting out against my chronically skinny mother.
Burgatory: I know you’re a fan of the Food Network and you even did your own web series “The Angry Chef,” (youtube video: Jonny Cakes – NSFW) was that your idea of what a Food Network show starring Marc Maron would look like?
Maron: Yeah, I would have liked to have done it there. I didn’t really pursue it much because I’m not much of a cook and they kind of take themselves pretty seriously over there…
Maron: Yeah, the lit cigar thing would probably bother them and maybe some of the language would bother them…I think the angle of the Angry Chef (youtube video: Minestrone – NSFW) was to cook your hostility and anger out of you…that while you are cooking you talk about what’s bothering you and get it out during the cooking. You can get pretty aggressive during cooking, which they sometimes do on the shows but they don’t really take a therapeutic angle, they take a cooking angle.
Burgatory: And there’s not a lot of talk about ex-wives?
Maron: Well I am sure that there are plenty of those guys that have plenty of that to talk about, but they don’t have the guts to be honest, all they can do is honestly cook and I even question that sometimes…you don’t ever see those guys prepping food, do you? No. Do they ever throw a bone or a thank you to the 6 or 7 culinary students that want to be chefs in the back diligently cutting Emeril’s onions? No.
Burgatory: Are there any parallels between cooking and comedy?
Maron: I used to talk about how I missed being a grill cook back in college because there is a sense of reward that is fairly quick with some cooking. When you flip an egg successfully, you know you did it, so there can be a relatively immediate gratification element that I think it shares with comedy if you are doing it right.
I can’t thank Marc enough for taking the time to talk. A lot of the conversation we had isn’t represented above and at some point I will probably put up the entire raw audio, but it is a tough listen because of the quality of the sound via Google Voice. Marc tours the country often and he has a slick website with all sorts of worthwhile info and merch. His coolest relationship might very well be with justcoffee.coop, a Madison, WI based coffee roaster that offers a WTF Blend coffee which is ridiculously good.