#TBT: Washington Square Park, New York City

Because I cannot WAIT for winter to hit again! I love rain and cold and grey skies. And we got that in spades here…

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I can’t even remember how we got here. I’d just fallen down some stairs a few days before in the ice and snow and rain of New York and done some torn-rotator-cuff damage to my shoulder. It was so cold, it was grey, it was raining and miserable outside, not many other people were out. I was trudging through the rain in my brown leather boots, pulling my scarf tighter around my neck, my hair was getting wet and I couldn’t have cared less.

Washington Square Park is one of the city’s favourite meeting places, with the arch and the fountain being popular spots for tourists and locals alike. I just thought it was beautiful through the rain on that cold day.

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Eat here: Dominique Ansel Bakery, Tokyo, Japan

Dominique Ansel Bakery
5-7-14 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo
http://dominiqueanseljapan.com/en

A while ago I wrote about my January 2015 visit to Dominique Ansel in New York City; last month saw me visit another of their stores, this time on the other side of the world in Tokyo, Japan. You can read a little more about my New York experience here, but the Reader’s Digest version is that I was met with sass and attitude, sans cronut. Unimpressed, to say the least.

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Like my New York visit, I arrived at the Tokyo store around the same time, 9am-ish in the morning, not long after opening time. Also like New York, I was met with a wall of the most beautiful and colourful looking cakes and cookies and macarons. But, in complete contrast, the lady who served me this time around couldn’t get me my cronut quickly enough, or present it to me with a proud enough smile on her face! What a gem!

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Given that it was breakfast time, I’d already walked Takeshita Street, and had a pretty massive day ahead involving a LOT more walking, I decided to grab a beautiful green matcha cookie, too. I started on that, and it was perfection – a wafer like base filled with something closer to a dense cake than a cookie, the matcha flavour was every bit as incredible as you’d expect here.

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Then, finally, my much anticipated cronut. Which I’d been waiting 10 months for.
Every.
Bit.
Worth.
The.
Wait.

Wow. So, it was a sweet potato number spiked with whiskey and creme fraiche, with nutmeg spiced maple sugar. Rich and creamy with perfectly golden pastry. This is the cronut dreams are made of. This makes walking in the rain worthwhile. This is everything. When you visit, check out their Instagram for flavour of the month!

All in all, way better experience than the New York store, the offerings had a really disting Japanese flavour to them, the cafe itself was beautiful and light and fun, and the non-stop, smiling flow of traffic through the door was testament to how popular they are over there! Great move, Mr Ansel! Now let’s look at making the move to Melbourne!

Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, New York

Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, New York
http://www.fdrfourfreedomspark.org/

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“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world. The second is freedoms of every person to worship god in his own way – everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want – everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear – anywhere in the world. That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt, January 6, 1941

The Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park was dedicated almost three years ago – a stunning four acre park that memorialises those four freedoms. You can read more on the website, but their mission statement reads:
The Four Freedom Park Conservancy’s mission is to operate and maintain Four Freedoms Park, a public space dedicated to celebrating and honoring the life and legacy of President Franklin Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms through educational initiatives and public programming.

I’m not into politics, nor do I care for politicians. I know next to nothing about my own country’s political history (and not even sure it’s worth worrying about considering the iPhone wasn’t even around yet the last time we had a prime minister run a full term), much less about a country on the other side of the world, no matter how big a world power they may be. For the most part, I don’t care. But those words up there hit me hard when I visited the FDR Four Freedoms Park in January; I was reminded of the concept of freedom (more so freedom from ourselves) writing this post on Wednesday night, and reminded again more specifically of the words themselves last week while I was putting together this article for Outlet Magazine. 75 years ago, in the midst of yet another world war (the speech was meant to help rally the American public against the threat of the Axis powers), this man had the strength and courage to speak up about the freedom that should be afforded to EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD. And what really got me, still gets me, is how relevant those freedoms are, today maybe even more so than when they were first expressed.

Freedom of speech and expression: how many instances have we heard of in recent years where journalists have been made victims? Or even just regular every day people speaking out about their beliefs?

Freedom to worship god in your own way: how many people are persecuted and killed over religious differences, not just every day, but every hour?

Freedom from want: did you know that the 85 richest people in the world hold as much wealth as the 3.5 BILLION poorest?

Freedom from fear: imagine living on constant fear of bombings, rape, drive by shootings, poverty, homelessness, abuse…

 

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The park itself is beautiful; from the pictures I’ve seen, it’s bright and colourful in summer, but it was another level of stunning in winter. You can visit any day except Tuesdays, when it’s closed, and you can take the cable car over – it’s a gorgeous view looking over the city on your way across. Everything about the island was perfect, from the decrepit old smallpox hospital to the modern design of the island by Louis Kahn, it is magnificent. It doesn’t get the attention of Central Park or The Empire State Building, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a must visit in New York City. And while you’re there, take a moment of peace to appreciate how fortunate you are to have at least had the freedom to travel to such a beautiful place.

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Before I wrap this post up and we head to the weekend (yay!), I also just wanted to express my gratitude to all of the beautiful people who have stopped by and taken the time to leave a message after my re-introduction post on Wednesday night... It was hard to write and even harder to hit the POST IMMEDIATELY button; I expected that it wouldn’t have been for everyone and I may have lost a few followers. I never could have predicted the incredible outpouring of love and support I’ve received from this online community (and I’ve actually gained a few followers!), and I am so so grateful for it! Thank you all so much, from the bottom of my heart 😊🙏🏼❤️

Eat here: Nippori, New York, (Japanese)

Nippori
245 W 51st St, New York
http://www.nipporiny.com/

So, I’m currently curled up on the couch, coughing violently, with what I suspect is a  slight fever, and feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck. But (light at the end of the tunnel) I’m also off to Japan in 43 days… this is rolling around SO quickly!!! This whole low FODMAP thing is a bit shit when I feel like a burger or a donut, but one of the other foods I frequently crave (and can actually eat at the moment) is Japanese! Yay! Every now and then I get crazy cravings for Japanese food. But good Japanese food, not like Japanese-by-numbers crap. I had one of those cravings in New York earlier this year, and did a bit of research online (AKA I Googled for 10 minutes before getting bored and hungry and settling on the first one I saw) and we ended up going to Nippori for dinner before seeing WICKED – conveniently located across the road,  by the way!

Nippori is a gorgeous little place, small but beautifully set out, with the very high standard of customer service you would typically associate with such a nice Japanese restaurant.  After being invited into the warmth from the New York winter cold and greeted like old friends who hadn’t visited in months, we were immediately seated and handed our menus. Everything looked to be pretty good, and the food envy started almost straight away, watching meal after meal being brought out of the kitchen and placed on surrounding tables. We decided to order a few plates, in the interest of being able to try as much as possible; we ended up with:

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Top left: one of the specials of the day, a perfectly braised pork belly with onion, bean sprouts, and the most magnificent sauce. Perfect choice!

Top right: pan-fried pork gyoza, one of my favourites. Nippori did gyoza particularly well, great flavour without that unsavoury aftertaste you can sometimes get with dumplings.

Bottom left: assorted sushi platter. The fish was fresh and buttery, fell apart as you ate it, and the rice was really well seasoned. One of the better sushi platters I’ve had.

Bottom right: oyako don – this chicken, onion and egg on rice dish is a favourite of mine to order at home at Shiki Japanese, and despite being a little different and a lot more expensive AUD$9.50 vs USD$13.00), it certainly didn’t disappoint. The spring onions gave it a great taste, and the sauces they used were perfect with the chicken and egg. Loved it!

It wasn’t the cheapest place to eat, but then again, nothing really is in New York (particularly in the theatre district!). It was more than worth it though; good Japanese food is always something I’ll happily justify spending a little more on, and it’s a place I’d definitely recommend if you’re craving some good Japanese food in New York, too. And while we’re talking Japanese food, any exceptional recommendations for Tokyo??!

 

Nippori on Urbanspoon

Coast to coast hot dogs! Eat here: Papaya King, NYC and Pink’s, LA

Happy Friday friends! OMG it’s been such a long week… since my run on Sunday, my body has been aching like no-one’s business (I tore the cartilage in both hips a few years ago training for taekwondo national championships, had one operated on, the other ignored, and dear god they hurt like hell after a run!), I woke up a few mornings ago feeling like I was swallowing razor blades, work’s been busy (this is a good thing, just tiring!), and I’m trying to make sure I’m making enough time in the week to work on my blog and other writing. I feel like I’m putting almost all of my energy and time into meal planning so I won’t screw up this low FODMAP thing as well as practicing anti-anxiety and depression and disordered eating behaviour, I am baking up a storm over the next two days for my sister-in-law’s weekend baby shower (there is an ungodly amount of butter and eggs in my fridge at the moment), and, despite not having having made time to de-stress with my usual daily yoga,  and not having had more than 6 broken hours sleep in a night for the last few months, I am trying to keep a positive frame of mind going! I’m actually feeling surprisingly, oddly good at the moment… calm before the storm, perhaps?!

ANYWAY, back to my original point – Friday!!! If I wasn’t FODMAPing, I’d probably be heading out for some sort of delicious meaty treat for dinner. Husband and I were discussing hot dogs last night (just the standard kind of highly intelligent dinner-table conversation that goes on in our house), and I started thinking about how much I’d love one… but instead of going to get a hot dog, I’m going to flash back to two delicious dogs I had in America back at the start of the year, on opposite sides of the country. Both classics, both city institutions, both delicious, both worthy of your spare change and time to visit.

 

First up, representing the east coast…

Papaya King
179 E 86th St, New York
http://www.papayaking.com/index.php/food/

IMG_5569To quote the great man, Anthony Bourdain, “…there’s always a shining light on the hill, an old reliable, arguably the best hot dog in New York City, our best food forward in the meat-in-tube form department: Papaya King.”

With an endorsement like that, you can hardly not visit this place when you go to New York! And so we did. We actually walked the whole 3.7km (or 2.3 miles) from our hotel to Papaya King, because we had literally just gotten off the Amtrak train that took us into NYC, dumped our bags, and were ready to kill two birds with one stone – let’s see a bit of the city on our way to food!

While I’m not sure this is the best hot dog in New York (Crif Dogs, I’m looking at you!), this was certainly the best old-style dog we had there. And the papaya drink was pretty darn good too,; I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised as I wasn’t expecting much from it! Plain and simple, dog and sauerkraut, fantastic mustard, quick and friendly service, good snap on the hot dog, soft bun, happy days. It’s standing room only, so if you’re there in winter like we were, get cosy with the guy standing at the counter next to you and come together over a mutual love for good food!

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And the west coast’s delegate…

Pink’s Hot Dogs
709 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles
http://www.pinkshollywood.com/

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I have a confession to make; this hot dog was not a planned thing. We were on our way out to dinner at Umami when our walk from the hotel to The Grove took us on a path right past Pink’s. We knew we were having big fat burgers for dinner. We still stopped for a snack. Naughty fatties, I know, but when passes a city institution such as Pink’s one does not pass it by! It’s pretty exciting, as demonstrated in the photo above by the kid who just dropped for no apparent reason other than extreme hot dog excitement.

Pink’s has been around since 1939 and if the walls lined with signed celebrity photos are anything to go by, it’s still pretty popular 75 years on. We had a chat to a local lady lining up who told us she’d lived here her whole life and never had one – she only stopped there tonight because it was the shortest she’d ever seen the line! Guess it was meant to be…

We kept it simple with our order, going the classic chili dog with mustard, onions and chili, come in at around USD$5.00 including tax. It was money well spent; fantastic dog! The chili was amazing, just enough kick to help the flavour along, not enough to overpower it. The dog itself was delicious, the bun was perfect – soft enough to enjoy, not so soft that it went soggy.

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Pink’s wasn’t originally on our list of place’s to try, but it should have been – it’s not just the delicious food, it’s the experience! People there were friendly and happy and willing to chat to us strange foreigners, even though the line was deep and they could have all been grumpy and impatient… I guess that’s just the by-product of good food and service! It’s not fancy food, but it is fun, and it’s been around so long for a reason – enjoy!

Pink's Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

Eat here: The Gem Bar & Dining, Melbourne (BBQ)

The Gem Bar & Dining
289 Wellington St, Collingwood, Melbourne
http://www.thegembar.com.au/

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I thought I knew my shit pretty well when it came to BBQ. I thought I knew all the big players on the Melbourne scene. I thought I was relatively up to speed. Then I found The Gem.

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Husband and I both had a craving for BBQ a couple of weekends ago. I was coming down with a cold, neither of us could be bothered cooking (or dealing with dishes), we just wanted some soft, fatty, melty brisket and pulled pork. I’m really growing to love the Zomato app (except for the fact that I still can’t get to an eatery’s direct website through it yet… come on guys!), particularly the map functionality – basically, you can pull up a map on it, draw a circle around the area you want to eat in and it lists everything in the area. LOVE IT! Anyway, I drew a circle around the general Collingwood area that’s not too far from home, filtered to BBQ, and The Gem came up as an option (and a highly recommended one, at that). 20 minutes later, we were changed from trackies to socially acceptable clothing and pottering around the front door counting down the minutes to the 1pm opening.

Seated with menus in hand, we decided to just get a bit of everything, because why not? You can see the ridiculously sized spread we ended up with for just over $50 above, but let me give you a bit of a breakdown…

 

Firstly, meat.

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Pulled pork ($15.00) and beef brisket ($18.00) to be exact. They were deceptively big servings for the cost, and oh so good… The pulled pork was absolutely phenomenal, slow cooked to perfection and falling apart with ease; I’d have to honestly say that I found it better than Le Bon Ton’s, personally, because it wasn’t drenched in the syrupy sweet BBQ sauce that so often accompanies American BBQ. Instead, the bottle of BBQ sauce was brought to our table to add as we pleased. When the pork is cooked that well, I don’t want it drenched in BBQ sauce, I want to actually taste the meat! Bonus points for the pile of house pickles that came with the pork – they were fantastic. The brisket was a tough call – I think Le Bon Ton’s had the edge here, but it was a catch 22; husband and I both LOVE the burnt ends of the brisket, and being some of the first customers through the door on this particular day, we managed to scored those first few cuts of beef that held all the burnt goodness. However, that meant that the meat was a little more dry than the inner bits. That said, a jug of gravy was served with the brisket, and once poured over the top, it was juicy and moist once more, with the added hit of the most amazing gravy I can remember having in recent times. And those crispy burnt bits…. damn..

 

Sides involved ranch style beans with brisket ends ($4.00) which I wouldn’t bother ordering again – there really weren’t any burnt ends in there, and that was the main reason we ordered them. A small serve of hand cut chips ($5.00) with chipotle aioli ($1.00) was a snap decision at the last minute, and the best decision of the day. Best chips I’ve ever had the pleasure of demolishing. There was no fighting over the crispy ones, because they were all crispy. Don’t even consider not ordering these, you need them.

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And last, but most certainly not least, we grabbed a few little brioche rolls (3 for $5.00) to stuff some of the meat into (DIY sliders is fun), and the mac & cheese with bacon crumb ($4.00), because how can you possible NOT order that?! The rolls were actually a great decision, not only to make sliders out of, but also to mop up the greasy meat juices at the end. We’re filthy animals, we make no apologies. The mac & cheese was magnificent – that bacon crumb… oh my God it was SO good! And again, deceptively decent serving size for $4!

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We ate like two crazed vulture/hyena hybrids, grinning manically the whole time while we alternatively stuffed food down our throats and recounted all the great BBQ we ate in America like Southern Hospitality in New York and The Joint in New Orleans. Must have been the pig that got us all philosophical; we were talking about how insanely powerful food can be in bringing you back to a certain memory, and how important a role it’s played for us. Some days I’ll find myself thinking of a certain place and wishing I was back there, and the closest I can get is re-creating the food that I ate there, in Egypt or Vietnam or Spain (**side note – currently working on a project that’ll be centered around that theme…), and those smells and flavours bring back a rush of memories in a way that simply looking back over photos can’t. Anyway, we’d just been talking about that when one of The Gem’s lovely ladies came to clear our table and ask how it all was. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it was amazing, and she wasn’t surprised. The big surprise though came when I asked how long they’d been BBQing for – “since 2012!” What??! How, HOW could I possibly have not known about this?!? Turns out they’d only been doing BBQ on weekends, and when they realized that BBQ was in fact their biggest money maker, they decided late last year to have it on the menu all week instead. Since October, they’ve made the transition to every day BBQ, slowly shifting the focus of the menu more towards classic Texas style BBQ, and it’s been an absolutely brilliant shift.

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Once again, Melbourne with it’s hidden gems (hahaha just realised as I was typing what an absolutely horrendous pun that was… but I like it so it’s staying!) surprising and delighting the taste buds… It’s a gorgeous little space, the old wooden fit out and creaking floorboards are perfect, warm and homely. It’s small enough to feel like you’re almost visiting a friend’s family in Texas for lunch or dinner, but big enough to cater for a crowd (they’ve actually also got a small dining room for bigger groups out the back). Pretty sure you’re now understanding my craving for BBQ last weekend. You should probably get out of your trackies and head over to The Gem this weekend, too…

 

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My Burger Manifesto – what makes a great burger and my (current) top 10

There was a lot of chatter among the world’s burger aficionados when Momofuku mastermind Dave Change released his burger manifesto last week. I absolutely love this adorably dimpled evil genius and all he does, and if his crack pie didn’t win me over, his inappropriate banter with other insane favourite Anthony Bourdain during their trip to Crif Dogs and his adventures on the first season of The Mind of a Chef certainly did. The man knows his shit, he’s got a brilliant food mind, and he just seems like the kind of dude I’d want to hang out with over a few drinks.

All that said, back to his burger manifesto; it really got me thinking about my own burger manifesto, were I to write one. It’s something that I’ve thought about time and time again, and discussed ad nauseam with my favourite and most trusted burger buddy, the husband (though it must be said that we don’t always agree on what makes a perfect burger).

Chang’s manifesto can be summed up as follows (though I do recommend taking 5 minutes to read the lot):
“My ideal burger is bun, cheese, burger. Sometimes bacon. Ketchup on the side, so I can control it. Pickles—yes! Obviously. And the cheese thing has to be very clear: American cheese only.”
1. I do not like a burger with a bunch of shit on it.
2. I’m not a fan of salad on my burger (he refers to lettuce, tomato and onion here, stating the only acceptable lettuce is iceberg)
3. Another thing that’s a no-no on a hamburger is mustard – ketchup only
4. No pita bread or brioche as a bun
5. Grass-fed beef does not make burgers, in my opinion (he says that it’s too lean and fat content isn’t evenly distributed. Wagyu also a no-no because fat content is too high, around 70%
6. Australians fuck up burgers by putting fried eggs and tinned beetroot on them
7. A  medium-rare burger made with really good meat that has been properly ground up is a very wonderful thing

His final disclaimer being:
Do as I say, not as I do. When you catch me eating one of these kinds of burgers that I have spoken against, please know that I am the ultimate hypocrite and that I am probably enjoying the shit out of it. Hamburgers are pretty much all good.

 

Honestly, I agree with most of that. I especially agree with the fried egg and beetroot thing being a scourge on society. Syrupy, sticky tinned beetroot and a dry, overdone fried egg. It ain’t right. Other things I disagree with. Mustard on a burger is a fine thing (providing you use the right type of mustard, obviously). Anyway, time to compare; this is what my burger manifesto looks like comparatively…

 

My Burger Manifesto

1. Bun: I don’t care what anyone says, I like a brioche bun. Not the super sugary ones you find in the Bread Top bakeries (they do have their place, but it’s not holding my burger), just a regular, standard brioche. As long as it’s been toasted a little first on the cut sides – fresh brioche buns fall to mushy piles of crap when they’re holding a solid, juicy, greasy burger and they haven’t been toasted first. And if it’s a regular burger bun, that’s fine too, providing it’s actually fresh, fluffy and lightly toasted.

2. Beef: I’m not going to pretend to know the finer points of butchery and beef – I just want really good quality beef (and you CAN taste the difference between good quality and freshly ground versus frozen and defrosted supermarket quality crap), I want it to be a good thickness, and I want it cooked medium-rare. It needs to be a little juicy and pink when it’s bitten into. My only real exception to this rule is a smash patty a la Rockwell and Sons – I absolutely love the charred bits on the outside of the patty. If I’m going with the thinner smash patties though, my burger then needs to be a double instead of a regular single thick patty. Best case scenario is a single thick patty that’s a little charred from the grill and STILL pink and juicy on the inside. And just a bit of salt and pepper to season it, thanks.

3. Meat-to-bun ratio: This is an important point of contention to me, and it’s an absolute must to get right. I don’t want all this extra bread at the end, nor do I want my burger innards flailing about all naked with not enough cover half way through.

4. Condiments: I like the trinity of ketchup, American mustard and mayo, in relatively equal proportion, and not too much (ie. not dripping all over the place and pooling in the plate half way through). And if I can get Kewpie mayo instead of regular mayo, I’m a really happy girl.

5. Salads: Lettuce – not a necessity, but if you are going to use it, make it crispy cos or iceberg, or just don’t bother. No one likes warm, limp, wilted lettuce. Tomato – one of two slice, but not too thick. Onion – I like a few thin slices of raw red onion, but a nice pile of caramelised onion certainly has it’s place as well. If you are using caramelised onion, though, don’t use the lettuce or tomato.

6. Cheese: Make it sturdy but melty. American cheese, pepperjack, Kraft singles, that’s all good. Don’t get all fancy and use blue cheese, Havarti, fior di latte or anything like that. Just no. And for the love of all things good, make sure it is melted all over that patty – there is nothing more disappointing than getting a burger with unmelted cheese!!!

7. Additions: Bacon and pickles. That bacon had better be browned off and a little crispy (read: not still soft and pink, not burnt to a blackened crisp), and the pickles need to be sliced thinly enough so as not to make the burger any harder to eat than necessary (no little cute whole pickles, just sliced ones, like your tomato). I wholeheartedly agree that the beetroot and fried egg is completely shit. The only burger I’ve ever eaten with an egg was at Au Cheval, and it was gently cooked so that the yolk spilt out and acted as a sauce. That was magical perfection, but if it’s not like that, don’t add the egg. Especially if it’s one of those backyard BBQ, chalky overcooked yolk, overly oily from sitting on the grill for an hour eggs. That’s nasty.

8. Burger VS Sandwich: If it’s fried chicken (it’s very delicious, but) it’s not a burger. If it’s pulled pork (as much as I love this stuff), it’s not a burger. If it’s made from tofu or mushroom or lentils, it’s not a burger. Those are sandwiches, and lots of them are perfectly lovely. But if it’s not centered around a beef patty, it is absolutely and unequivocally NOT A BURGER!

9. General feel: This may sound strange, but to have that certain je ne sais quoi, it’s gotta just be a bit of a hot dirty, greasy, juicy mess. When I’m holding onto that lightly toasted bun with a big juicy meat patty, nestled between crispy bacon and melted cheese and all the rest of it, I don’t want it to be nice and clean. It should be a little messy. It should be oily and greasy. It should give me reason to lick my fingers as I go. It should cause the paper holding it to turn a little translucent. I’m not saying I want the thing dipped in grease and deep fried but I also don’t want it all neat and tidy; it’s hard to explain, but if you get what I mean, you’ll probably get why it’s a big deciding factor on what, to me, constitutes a really great burger. If I want clean eating, I’ll get the salad.

So I guess that’s it. That’s my burger manifesto. And much like David Chang, you’ll almost certainly find me eating other burgers that don’t entirely fit that bill, and I’ll do so happily with greasy cheese smeared over my freckled face and bright yellow mustard staining my sleeves. Because burgers, for the most part, are good.

But some are better than others. And I’d know; I’ve eaten a disturbing amount in my time. Allow me to now take a moment to pay homage to what I currently rate as my top 10, in order of favouritism, as of July 2015 (review excepts below, click the link to go to the full review) …

 

1. The 1090 with bacon from 1090, Melbourne

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With beautiful looking burgers come high expectations, and I’ve lost count of the amount of pretty burgers I’ve eaten that have tasted like crap, so I tried not to get my hopes up. Totally unnecessarily so. This was the burger of my dreams. It was all the best parts of my favourite burgers combined. The holy trinity of mustard, mayo and ketchup was perfectly proportioned, and didn’t lead to soggy buns (thankfully, because the burger bun was perfectly soft with just enough crispness to hold it together). Flavour of the beef was just about perfect, cheese was melted magnificently and the bacon was crisp and so very good. Just the right amount of lettuce and tomato, and I know it seems like a random point, but best onion I’ve had in any burger. I don’t know what it was or where it came from, I just know it was several types of delicious.

 

2. The Manly burger from Umami, Los Angeles

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The Manly was another level of burger, and any time we discuss our top 5 burgers ever, The Manly is ALWAYS up there. Just think about it – perfectly booked pattie. Brioche bun. Crispy, golden onion rings. Chunky bacon cooked in fat to bring out a bacon flavour I didn’t know existed. And melted cheese. Seriously. Nothing more needs to be said about this burger; it’s as close to the perfect burger as I think I’ve ever had. Those bacon lardons… omg…

 

3. The double patty smash burger from Rockwell & Sons, Melbourne

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Bun – perfect, buttery, toasty enough to hold it all it sans sog, soft enough to melt on your mouth.
Special sauce – really f#^$@ng special. Really.
Kraft cheese – historically my cheese of choice on home made burgers. Couldn’t have been happier!
Patties – this smashed patty business is something else (google it – I had to!). Crispy and crunchy on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside, perfectly seasoned for my liking.

 

4. The Raph from Beatbox, Melbourne

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They’re plain, simple, and the flavour of the patties are flawless.

 

5. Double cheeseburger with egg from Au Cheval, Chicago

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A perfectly toasted bun help the double pattie and cheese business on one end, and a creamy aioli-like sauce, chopped raw red onion, pickles and a perfectly fried and soft-yolked, chive-sprinkled egg on the other. Meat was perfectly cooked and seasoned with a little crust happening and a still-pink centre. Good bun-to-pattie ratio, great cheese, and the egg yolk was the best sauce you never knew you needed with it.

 

6. The Original from 5 Napkin Burger, New York City

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I’m stoked I ordered it medium rare; cooked to absolute perfection and made all the difference in taking it from a good burger to a great one. The gruyere and caramelised onion were perfect accompaniments, and just the right amount of aioli. Couldn’t fault this one bit; it was a surprisingly amazing burger.

 

7. Bad Boy Burger from Bad Boys, Melbourne

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I was absolutely stoked to discover the promise of “crispy” bacon was not actually an empty one, like so many burgers I’ve had before. Crispy bacon usually ends up being half-cooked, barely browned bacon. This bacon was genuine crispy, and it was GOOD! The burger pattie itself was fantastic, one of the best I’ve had, actually! The outside of the patties were crispy and had a great charred flavour, the insides were still pink and a perfect medium-rare.

 

8. Double Laurie Dee with bacon from Laurie Dees, Melbourne

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The double smash patties were perfect, they had the best charred crust, and were all sorts of greasy delicious. The addition of the bacon was the best decision of the night, it was actually crispy, and the Special D sauce was similar to the Big Mac special sauce, but a whole lot better!

 

9. The Chew from Chew Burgers, Melbourne

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My burger was bloody fantastic, but did require several (5 in total) napkins for the extreme juice factor. The patty was soft enough to crumble when you bit it, but held together really well, and had a simple but really nice flavour. Great burger patty-to-bun ratio, and the bun was really nicely toasted, so it really didn’t go soggy (amazing feat considering the juiciness!!). Simple but delicious and noticeably fresh accompaniments of lettuce and tomato, and the aioli was unreal.

 

10. The Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger from Wendy’s, San Bruno (San Francisco)

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Finally, this one I actually never blogged, and it was completely unexpected, but dear God this abomination was DELICIOUS and I still think of it oh so fondly…

 

Special mentions to Burger Boys, Huxtaburger, Grand Trailer Park Taverna, Le Bon Ton (cheeseburger not included in this review),  Nieuw Amsterdam (cheeseburger not included in this review), and Shake Shack, all of which are absolutely fantastic burgers. I think next time I do this it’ll have to be a top 20… it’s like choosing between children..

Inclusions on my current “to eat” list include Mr Scruffs, 8bit, Lazerpig off the top of my head – more suggestions are invited!! Anyone else care to share their burger manifesto and/or top 10?!