Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tisha Eats New York: The Tale of the $32 Burger

If a picture could paint a thousand words, then this could fill a thousand stomachs...

But before we get into the, eherm, meat of the matter (sorry, couldn't resist), a little backgrounder.

King had this idea of trying to get standby tickets to Conan, but our first and second attempts were a bust. (The second was, to be more accurate, a near-attempt, as I had decided earlier on that Ethan Hawke wasn't worth getting up at 6:00 am for.) My tour guide was feeling bad that none of our plans seemed to be pushing through, so he decided to treat me to lunch at db Bistro Moderne. I will forever be grateful that none of our earlier plans worked out; otherwise, I would've missed out on one of my best NYC experiences!

The place is one of chef Daniel Boulud's seven award-winning restos, and luckily, it was where one of King's sisters worked. King generously shelled out over $60 (plus tip!) for two entrees--but with these, we got three complimentary appetizers and four free desserts! The dish that I was raring to try was the famed Original db Burger--a whopping $32 burger that King told me about the day before. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, take a look at the appetizers we were served, on the house!

Cucumber cups with goat cheese. These tiny things were very refreshing.

I'm not sure exactly what this was, but I think it had escargot in it. I loved how it was perfectly salty. Me likey sodium!

When King's sister-- a chef at the resto--asked what we were given, she gave him a horrified look when he replied, "'Yung parang embotido!" King, konting culture naman. Haha. (In fairness, we were both clueless! 'Til now, I have no idea what it was!)

And then, it was time for the main attraction:

The Original db Burger, a sirloin burger filled with braised short ribs, foie gras, and black truffle, served on a parmesan bun and with fries on the side. Good grief. The waiter set it down in front of me, and I was staring at it, speechless, for about half a minute. The maitre d' walked by and voiced out exactly what I was thinking: "How do you eat it?" he began. "With your hands!" he finished, holding out his hands in a crushing motion for emphasis. I looked at him, then looked back at that monster of a burger, unconvinced.

I ended up using a knife and fork. but even then it was a bit of a challenge devouring that hunk of meat. I love showing people this photo because it always elicits a reaction (often along the lines of, "OMG!"). Looking at it now, I wonder if they used an entire calf to make it.

I don't think I'll ever have that burger again--not because it wasn't good, because it really was. I am happy enough that I at least got to experience it once. But coming from a developing country, I would feel far too guilty to blow that much a second time (whether it's my money or someone else's!) for a burger. (And if we're talking decadence, there's that $150 burger with 20g of shaved black truffles!)

Oh, we also had this...

Crispy Duck Confit ($33), which had wild mushrooms, broccoli rale, sweet and sour duck jus. In true hating-kapatid fashion, King and I each ate half of the two entrees. The memorable meal ended on a sweet note. Or, rather, four sweet notes (alas, I didn't get to take a picture of the basket of little lemon-y pastries):

I think one is pumpkin pie, in keeping with the holiday spirit as it was Thanksgiving that week. The one on the left had my name all over it. That thing had a chocolate, peanut butter, and marshmallow layer, a bit of toffee sauce, and berry sorbet. The Eurhythmics must've had this in mind or in mouth when they sang, "Sweet dreams are made of this..."

I barely even touched this pretty selection because I was so damn full. Macaroons, chocolates, I wish I could go back to finish what I left behind!

When I thought about what I would eat in NY, I imagined hot dogs, burgers--you know, American food. I never imagined I would have American food with a French twist, or that I would even have the chance to eat not just a famous $32 burger, but a lot of absolutely delicious extras along with it. And for that, I am incredibly thankful to King, his sister, Chef Mimi, and all the gracious people at db Bistro Moderne. This is, by far, one of my most memorable food trips ever!

db Bistro Moderne
55 West 44th St., NYC 10036

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tisha Eats New York: Junk in My Trunk

A friend who used to live in the US once told me that there, he could only manage one quarter-pounder, while he would need two at the local Golden Arches to feel as full. So if there was any place in the world to get my burger fill, America was it! Land of the free, home of the brave, and begetter of the whole Supersize-Me movement.

I had a total of four awesome burgers during my trip: one from Major's, one which I have dubbed The Most Expensive Burger I'll Probably Ever Have (in an upcoming post), and two from good, ol'-fashioned fast food joints.

Shake Shack
SE corner of Madison Square Park, near Madison Ave. and E. 23rd St., NYC
(212) 889-6600

It was a tad cold that day

Trusty tour guide/now native New Yorker/rakstar King introduced me to Shake Shack, a burger and shake kiosk located within Madison Square Park. The line was enough to tell me that the burger was definitely in demand. The shake, though incredibly tempting, would have to wait 'til my next visit as it was freezing that day. (My tropical blood still hadn't gotten used to the biting cold. See thick-ass coat in the photo above!)

I got me the ShackBurger, which was made of freshly ground beef, and which came with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and Shack sauce--and they certainly didn't scrimp on any of the ingredients! If there were any burger, among all the burgers I've had over the years (and I've had a lot), that could be a contender for The Unhealthiest Burger Ever, this would've been it. And when it comes to burgers, the unhealthier, the better! That thing was perhaps the oiliest burger I've had in my life.

Unfortunately, the outdoor heating system was still under construction, so King and I sat on the park benches, me shivering as I bit into that sucker. As we sat there, we spied the fattest squirrel I have ever seen, munching on a french fry! Ahh, squirrel cannot live on nuts alone. That little critter must feast daily on Shake Shack junk.

Note: They have a thing called the Pooch-Ini--as far as I can tell, it's a shake for dogs!

Five Guys
319 Washington St., Hoboken, NJ 07030
(212) 683-3273

Gooey! Mmmm. Slightly squished from the walk home...

The great thing about my bro's place is that he lives right near Washington Street, which is home to lots of interesting little stores and restos. Among the establishments on this street is Five Guys, which, my brother told me, has been voted the best burger in, like, the country. It'll set you back about six bucks BUT you could load it with any (or all!) of the toppings for free!

It was a pretty damn good burger, made more enjoyable by a hefty serving of their yummy cajun fries.

Gray's Papaya
539 Eighth Ave. at 37th St., NYC (plus two other locations)

My friends outside the hotdog joint

A junk food post won't be complete without a little something on an item that is so New York: the mighty hot dog. On our "movie tour" of NYC, my friends and I decided to swing by Gray's Papaya, made popular by that Matthew Perry starrer, Fools Rush In (among lots of other movies). While we passed on the papaya shakes, we wolfed down the uber-cheap hotdogs (served by a kabayan!): a little over $3 or $4 and you get the recession special--two hotdogs and a drink!

I miss this hotdog

These aren't fat hotdogs; they're actually pretty skinny, but are longer than average. But these things are awesome! In my opinion, they taste exactly the way a hotdog should taste.

In general, it's hard to get out of the mindset of converting from dollars to pesos, so in a Pinoy's head, the prices might seem a bit steep, especially for fast-food stuff. But once you get out of that way of thinking, and once you bite into those burgers, those 'dogs, you'll realize that given the quality of the stuff, you are so getting your money's worth.

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