David Eyre and Mike Belben are two blokes who own the Eagle pub in Clerkenwell, London. And by blokes, I'm talking British bitches.
Anyway, David and Mike were looking for a new term that would imply that their pub's food was better than every other pub's food. It was not the toughest mountain to climb, improving on English pub food, but they combined gastronomy and pub and came up with the horrid gastropub.
And so, thanks to David and Mike, there came unto us yet another trend for U.S.-based restaurateurs to glom onto, this one possibly more annoying than listing the village of origin of every ingredient on the menu, like hand-selected, scissor-cut, organically raised, hormone-free, North-Western Upper Bumfuck cattle. Thanks, you British bastards.
As long as I can remember, the only name we needed for a place that serves good draft beers and delicious burgers was "awesomeville." And yet, just
recently, I found myself at a new place in Delray Beach that calls
itself a gastropub but that I will call a restaurant with a lot of
beers on tap and a menu that has a high proportion of meat to not-meat.
But I wasn't there because of the meaningless gastropub label; I was
there to try the food (and booze). And one thing that really stood out
that night was the crab burger (and booze). Not only was it tasty as
hell but it got me thinking about what sorts of thing can be
burgerized (and matched with booze).
Ground beef burgers
shaping it into a patty and grilling it isn't the only way to
burgerize ground beef. Always season the raw stuff with salt, then try
mixing it and stuffing it. Beef blended with chopped bacon, then
stuffed with a chunk of cheddar or Swiss cheese before cooking, pairs
nicely with a hearty brown ale. Or mix the ground beef with a chopped
jalapeno pepper (with seeds, you wimp) and stuff that with goat cheese
to make a kinda Texas art-opening burger that pairs nicely with a good
IPA. Variations are endless, but don't try stuffing the burgers with
booze. That doesn't work.
I love the
taste of lamb so much that I'll eat a gyro even from that crappy place
at the mall. Mix ground lamb with fresh minced onion and garlic (not
those questionable powders) and some fresh minced mint. Salt and
pepper, then brush 'em with olive oil and fry or grill them. If you
(ahem) go Greek, serve on a bun with lettuce and a cucumber-yogurt
sauce. Pair it with one of the wheat beers flavored with citrus, or an
ice cold gin martini.
You're kidding, right?
Crabby. And 'spensive. But crabby. The key here is some mayo, egg and
bread crumbs to make an edible spackle to hold your lump meat together.
Try mixing in some softened onions, cayenne, Worcestershire, and any
other stuff that excites you. Coat with some extra bread crumbs and pan-fry them. Serve on a bun with mayo, red onion, and jalapenos (yes,
jalapenos). You can make the same thing with lobster if you're trying
to impress someone with your shellfish bad-boy image and want to one-up
a lobster roll. Most people would try for class and pair this with some
wine; show them they're idiots by serving it with rocks margaritas
(made with 100 percent agave tequila, of course).
is, selecting great meats and making them into great burgers doesn't
have to be complicated, nor does it require overly complex drinks
designed by "mixologists" for a proper pairing. And places that serve
them certainly don't need a special name. "Fucking awesome restaurant"
will do just fine.
Bradford Schmidt is The Meatist. He's also author of the blog Bone in the Fan. He lives in northern Palm Beach County and is working on a good pairing for the meat cupcakes he made last week.