the in-n-out variations

in-n-out burger

Second only to my fondness for Mexican food is my west coast craving of the In-n-Out Burger. It’s without question one of the best quality burgers out there. The fact that it’s a fast food chain makes their uncompromising standards even more remarkable. Meat, onion, lettuce, tomato, pickle and bun combine to create an idealized work of art as artistically pure as the french fries which are cut and cooked to order. Conceptually this led to me to have a little fun stripping away the nostalgia and experimenting with a bit of digital data-mashing. Corrupting the code of the image above brought about a number of interesting surprises – kind of like discovering there’s a “secret” In-n-Out menu where the fries come Animal Style.

in-n-out burger var 1

in-n-out burger var 2

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in-n-out burger var 3

in-n-out burger var 5

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steak ‘n shake

The constant queue outside the newly opened – and oddly apostrophed – Steak ‘n Shake in midtown makes me think there’s more to this burger joint than meats the eye. Stay tuned.

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ship bottom, nj: beach burger heaven

Don’t even think of heading back to the mainland without stopping off in Ship Bottom for one of Woodies infamous shack burgers.  If I close my eyes I can still recall the narcotic taste of fried pickles and grilled onions – not to mention the beautifully warm sensation of beef juice as it dribbles down my arm.

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brunch is a four-letter word

Upstairs at The Kimberly, brunch can best be reduced to a couple of four-letter words: “view” for the unexpected cityscape that comes with being thirty stories up in a rather unremarkable part of midtown, and “slow” for the utter disregard bestowed on diners by an inexperienced if not completely inept wait staff. (somebody please promote the bus boys – my water-glass was never less than three-quarters filled). When a new restaurant’s finding it’s legs one can forgive the front of house faux pas if the kitchen can come up with the goods. Disappointingly, a four-top of Eggs Benedict, Belgian Waffle, Scrambled eggs with Merguez, and a Kobe burger turned out to be something akin to brain surgery: 45-minutes after ordering half our plates hit the table hot and the other half ice-cold. (Is there anything more unappetizing than a puddle of cold congealed Hollandaise?) Come on people, this is brunch, not proper restaurant food. If they can’t get it together to send out a warm plate of eggs to a half empty restaurant things don’t bode particularly well for the evening rush. Still there is that view. And certain people might even consider the languorous pace of things a luxury. In the Meatpacking District we’d have been handed a check and ushered out the door in a fraction of the time spent waiting for eggs to be reheated.

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double double-doubles, phoenix

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flip burger boutique

Fans of Bravo’s Top Chef series will recognize the Chicago season runner-up Richard Blais, the spiky-haired molecular gastronome currently masterminding Atlanta’s two Flip Burger boutiques.  Heralded for a creative take on American cuisine, Blais has worked his way through the kitchens of Thomas Keller,  Daniel Boulud, and Ferran Adria.  He’s even been a competitor on Iron Chef: America.  So what’s he now doing running a burger joint? Reinventing what we’ve come to expect from a burger, fries, and shakes.

“Fine dining between two buns” is Flip’s motto and it sets you up perfectly (almost) for what’s to come, starting with the sleek red and white interiors.  Spacious booths are padded out to create a cocoon of leather, giving the whole enterprise the feel of, er, well, the Enterprise.  Spotlessly clean and vaguely futuristic, you’ve arrived at a burger joint the Jetson’s could only dream of.  A quick glance across the menu and it looks like burgers and fries and shakes, but look closer:  chocolate beet milkshakes? short rib kimchee and pickled garlic burgers? foie gras nuggets?  Huh? This is serious food, meticulously prepared: parsnip frittes, sesame sweetbreads, roasted bone marrow with braised oxtail, fried pickles with buttermilk sirancha, and burgers galore, like the farmer burger (organic grass-fed beef, scuppernong preserves, tomme and collard greens), the pate melt (veal and pork, lingonberry jam, cornichons, pickled shallots and swiss cheese), and the southern (chicken fried beef, pimento cheese, b&b pickles and chow chow), all served on brioche buns.  And don’t forget the milkshakes, chilled to a custardy thickness courtesy of liquid nitrogen: nutella and burnt marshmallow, krispy kreme, and an unbelievable foie gras.  That it’s all neatly delivered in an unpretentious, budget-friendly “boutique” is genius.  That it’s delicious – even when adventurous and whimsical to a fault – well, that’s the real surprise.

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