Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Free McDonalds For A Year

I'm not a huge McDonald's fan.

Actually, let me rephrase that.  If you are an American, you were probably at one time a huge McDonald's fan.  Growing up, McDonald's was the BEST.  My 3-year old son loves it.  And because in some ways McDonald's is my earliest memories of cheeseburgers, my guess is that something genetically happens to a young boy's mind that cements it in his brain as some sort of life-long enjoyable flavor.  That's happened to me.  I'm 30 years old now, but when I buy my son a cheeseburger at McDonald's, that part of my brain fires up and I can't resist taking a bite.

I'm not even sure I'd consider it a "cheeseburger".  It's in a world all it's own.  It's not a burger, it's McDonald's.  I hope that makes sense to some of you.  In my defense, I NEVER go out of my way to actually eat a full meal at McDonald's.

Until now.

A location close to my house just re-opened after they rebuilt their building.  First 100 people in line at 6am this morning got a coupon for a FREE VALUE MEAL PER WEEK FOR ONE YEAR.  I know, crazy.

My buddy Dave and I camped out last night.  We were first in line, got about 3-4 hours of sleep, and should've done a documentary on our experience.  Dave was the mastermind behind it, and spent the weeks leading up to the event emailing the management, scoping the scene, planning the details, and laying awake at night in anticipation.  His efforts paid off handsomely, and now we are both going to be growing fat on McDonald's this year.

Maybe I'll use my free weekly value meal on my kids.  But maybe I won't...a Big Mac somehow sounds amazing right now.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Review of Ted's

Ted's Montana Grill is a chain restaurant.  There's like 46 of them.  I'm going to go on record and say that this is a good thing.  Ted's does so many things right when it comes to burgers, and my complaints are few.  Come, readers (all 6 of you): let's dive into the world of burgs once again and be satisfied.

The menu at Ted's is daunting.  They've got all kinds of food, but of course I focused primarily on the burger portion of their menu.  Even that is daunting.  American, gruyere, bleu, jack, pepper jack, chilis, jalepenos, arugala, tomatoes, peppercorn, eggs, bacon, onions, mushrooms...kaiser, wheat, oat buns...bison or beef...mustard remoulade, garlic aioli, Z-sauce...the options are NUMEROUS, people.  

But, in order to stick with both my traditions and my gut sense, I kept it simple and ordered a BEEF BURGER, MID-RARE, MONTEREY JACK CHEESE, CARAMELIZED ONIONS ON A KAISER:

(Those sides you see there are fresh-cut fries, simply perfect in every way, and two ramequins of their mustard remoulade and their garlic aioli).

Ted's is, by the manager's own admission, focused more heavily on their bison than on their beef.  As a result, the bison tastes great and the beef is really nothing to write home about in the sense that it is just your basic chuck beef.  No special blends of meat here.  However, the greatest part about Ted's beef is that it arrives at the restaurant basically still on the cow.  They cut it up, cube it, and grind it all fresh daily.  Would that more restaurants take their cues from Ted's in this regard.  It simply makes for the juiciest, freshest, more flavorful patties.  (More on that in a bit.)

My comrades decided to branch out with their burgers, ordering the Avalon (bleu, arugala, garlic aioli, bacon crumbles, and grilled onions), and the Peppercorn (peppercorn encrusted, gruyere, herbed dijon mustard, arugala).  These burgers are serious from a culinary standpoint, not your average diner burger, and are general explosions in flavor.  If you like a LOT going on with your burgs, Ted's can deliver in the flavor department.  Oddly (for me), I was most impressed with the flavor of the arugala.  I know, weird.  Their bacon is smoky and totally kick-butt, too.

Alright.  A few thoughts on my burger.  First off, it was unfortunately overcooked.  I asked for mid rare, and only saw traces of pink.  A travesty (sorry about the low quality image, my iPhone 4S is junk):

However, the meat was saved simply by merit of their proprietary seasoning (more involved than salt and pepper), the sheer freshness of their beef, and the fact that they pack it so loosely.  It was still really juicy and flavorful.  At this point, I want to highlight Ted's cooking method, because it impacts their burgers dramatically.  It's griddle-cooked, but they put a stainless steel cup OVER the patty as it cooks.  They don't smash it, and only flip it once.  In short, it's as if the meat is cooking in a little mini-oven, and the juices have nowhere to escape so they stay in the meat.  The positives of this method: juicy burgers, loosely packed patties.  The negatives: harder to get a mid-rare burger, and less salty crust from the griddle.  I am conflicted as to my thoughts regarding this method of cooking.

Let me put it this way.  If it wasn't for their seasoning blend, I'd consider their cooking method a deterrent.  I'd rather have a slight press onto the griddle with a spatula, more crust, and a truly pink burger on the interior.  However, I also find that there is not a whole lot to complain about when it comes to their beef's overall flavor.  It sure as heck beats out a lot of local patties I've eaten.

In other news, the caramelized onions were gloriously sweet, the tomato on the side was super fresh, and the mustard remoulade was an awesome spread for my simple burger.  The bun: meh.  Not offensive, but not special.  I really enjoyed my simple burger, and on a special occasion would be really happy to gorge myself on one of their more involved specialty burgers.

All in all, I greatly appreciate Ted's attention to detail regarding their food.  They really care about the little things, take great pride in their offerings, and churn out a very respectable burger.  With a better white bun, a truly mid-rare patty, and a little more crust from the griddle, it'd be outstanding.  As it is, I give Ted's a solid, I'll-come-again-and-be-excited-about-it 7.5 out of 10.  Tough to go wrong here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ted's Montana Grill

I haven't eaten here in years.  Their prices went through the roof, but I always remember the burger being one of my favorites right after I got out of college.

A buddy told me that he just went and got one of the best burgers he's ever had.  Bison on wheat, with bleu cheese (which happens to be one of my wife's favorite burgers even though we stopped going to Ted's years ago).

Needless to say, since the Burger Reformation of 2011 (when I became convinced burgers were a passion of mine and began studying them with fervor), I've had some inner promptings that maybe I need to return to Ted's and give it a proper review.

They grind fresh meat, which is way more than I can say for most burger joints out there...I'm excited.  There's a part of my brain that has been permanently seared by Ted's burgers, and I think it's time I awaken that desire again.

Anyone been recently to a Ted's?  Or claim it as their favorite burger?

Burgers are Incredible

I made some burgers last night.  Let me give you the run down, and then critique my own work.  Ingredients as follows:

90/10 organic beef (kosher salted and peppered)
Wonder classic white buns
extra sharp cheddar cheese
fresh hot house tomato
fresh iceberg lettuce
caramelized onion
burger sauce (a blend of mayo, ketchup, vinegar, sugar, sweet relish, and paprika)

In-n-Out Burger is doubtless the inspiration for my creation last night, as I served double cheeseburgers.  Using the smash method (an American tradition that involves placing a ball of beef on the griddle and then smashing it with a spatula), I was able to get a nice, salty crust on the burger.  The biggest downfall was the 90/10 beef blend.  It's passable when cooked medium rare, but anything beyond that and the low fat content simply results in patties that are too dry.

The produce was the high point.  I am tempted to say that iceberg and hothouse tomatoes are simply as good as it gets when it comes to standard burger roughage.  Word to the wise: properly caramelized onions take forever.  Give yourself a good 45 minutes to let those babies get soft and brown before you fire up the griddle or grill.

I wish I would've stopped to get some American cheese slices.  The sharp cheddar is fine, but who was I trying to kid?  American cheese is the greatest burger cheese, and I lamented its absence last night.

The buns were fine.  Basic grocery bread.  I am THIS CLOSE to putting in a $25 order to have some specialty buns shipped from the east coast.  Martin's Potato Rolls.  Look them up.  I hear they are the BEST.

The burger sauce was great (on the fries as well), but I really want to investigate some sort of special recipe...adding spices, chiles, garlic, I don't know.  I think a great sauce can really be a signature element of a burger, and I am still using a very basic concoction.

All in all, it was a great meal.  Let me know if you ever want to get together and make burgers.