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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Feeding Frenzy

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this past Summer (which is entirely possible, and I’m not here to judge), the Ramen Burger has been sweeping the food scene coast to coast. Yes, a burger sandwiched between two “buns” made from what you ate that entire last semester of college because you ran out of money for groceries. And who better to bring the trend to Philly than the awesome gang over at Cheu Noodle Bar! For one night only, the noodle joint was cranking out McD’s inspired versions of the hot, new food craze, including a Tonkatsu (fried chicken) patty and their own Cheu-ized version of the Filet O’ Fish.

I might be more inclined to eat at a fast food place if I could request to “combo that jawn”.

All the ramen buns were being fried up on the fly, so naturally there was a bit of a wait. But that’s what we’re all here for, right?

Since the pop-up started at 6, I decided to try and get there as early as possible in case a line started to form. 5:30 – no one was there yet, so I felt a little weird just hanging around outside by myself and sat across the street in a park like a creeper, keeping an eye out. Finally, a small group started to gather around 5:45 and at 5:57, we were allowed inside. I took a seat at the counter, I placed my order, and by some miracle of the Ramen Burger gods (or maybe just the fact that I was one of the few solo diners), I got served the very first ramen burger of the night!

View from the top: The noodles look so cool!

The burger looked AMAZING! The ramen bun held together well enough after the first bite, but began to unravel as I continued eating. It was messy, but probably the best kind of messy you could ask for. The burger itself was delicious and juicy, cooked perfectly medium. The homemade “special sauce” gave it a nice flavor. And while I don’t normally care for raw onions, they were just thin enough that the taste didn’t bother me. Plus, how can you have a “Big Mac” without the onions? The fries were garnished with some bonito flakes; they were supposed to have been drizzled with a miso truffle sauce, but I didn’t mind since I prefer to dip then to have something coating my fries (plus I just dipped them in the leftover special sauce).

Ramen Burger cross-section: So many layers!

An older gentleman was seated next to me at the counter and had actually wandered into the pop-up purely by accident. He had heard it was a noodle place, so he was surprised by the strange burger happenings of the evening. I told him about what was going on, and that he should brag to all his friends tomorrow that he went to one of the hottest food events of the year. His Filet O’ Fish on ramen bun was arriving just as I was leaving, so I hope he enjoyed himself! I heard they ran out of food just around 9 o’clock, which is not surprising at all judging by the crowd of people waiting outside when I left. As for the ramen burger itself, I’m not sure if it would be something that I would eat regularly, but it was definitely fun to try.

So what’s next for whacky food concoctions that cause people to wait in ridiculous long lines for hours on end? Will someone put a cronut between two ramen buns? Guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

National Cheeseburger Day

Since it seems like every food gets its own holiday nowadays, September 18th just so happens to be National Cheeseburger Day! So in honor of this magical day, I’m going to describe my dream cheeseburger:

First off, we start with a nice, fresh, soft Challah roll.

Next, the patty: Pat LaFrieda is the #1 name in burgers, so obviously, their 8oz shortrib blend – a delicious mix of flavorful meats – would make the perfect burger base.

Cooked to a perfectly pink-centered medium, of course.

Lettuce (preferably bibb or green leaf) and Tomato (a big, crisp beefsteak slice), obviously.

A few slices of fresh avocado

Some thick cut Applewood smoked bacon (Because, Bacon)

A fried egg

And finally, the most important part of all. The thing that really makes a cheeseburger a cheeseburger – THE CHEESE!

I’d go with a Cabot clothbound cheddar: a little bit sharp, a little bit sweet – kind of like me!

Smear a little mayo on the bun top, squirt a little ketchup happy face on top of the cheese and VOILA! Dream burger activated!

Hmm, that sounds kind of familiar, you might be saying to yourself. Indeed, the Betty Burger at Smoking Betty’s had a lot of my “dream” burger elements and so I thought it would be my burger soul mate, but it turned out we just weren’t right for each other. Now if a restaurant could make me a combination of everything I mentioned above, I might just be willing to put a (onion) ring on it.

What would YOUR dream cheeseburger be? Mention it in the comments below. It could be a Frankenstein of your own creation or something simple; it could even be your favorite pub or fast food burger! I’d love to hear from other passionate burger lovers.

Philly Burger Battle

This past Friday was the first ever Philly Burger Battle, presented by Philadelphia Magazine & Amstel Light. Unlike the Burger Brawl, readers had the opportunity to vote for their favorite burger from several regional restaurants in two separate rounds before the final 25 participants were selected. Compared to the Burger Brawl, it was on a Friday night, which it made it a little more relaxed than a Sunday afternoon. The space – outdoors at The Piazza at Schmidts – provided enough room for people to move around easily without feeling overcrowded. There were guide maps available to let you know where to find each competitor, as well as a breakdown of when the voting would end and winners would be announced (that was my one pet peeve about the Burger Brawl; I was not told when voting would end so by the time I’d gotten my share of burgers in and went to select my favorite, the voting bins had already been taken away). Signs at each booth gave full descriptions of each burger creation, from the type of meat to the toppings to the buns. And of course, there was the obvious presence of beer sponsor, Amstel Light: from giveaways of Amstel swag to the adorable and gorgeous Amstel Light girls taking pictures and directing traffic. My only complaint was that more burgers weren’t from Philly! (A lot of the competitors were from areas in the suburbs)

Unlike the Burger Brawl, I was ready this time: I would not be defeated by indigestion! I had a game plan; take small bites and try to hit as many of the stands as possible. In the end, I only made it to 20 of the 25 burger booths, but the ones that I did get to were pretty good. Here’s a run down of my favorites:

1) The Blind Pig’s Against Doctor’s Orders” – An all beef patty topped with pepperjack cheese, bacon jam, pulled pork, coleslaw, fried onion strings and a housemade BBQ sauce. This was the first burger I tried and honestly, it turned out to be my favorite of the night. You can put coleslaw on just about anything and I’ll love it. The burger was nice and juicy, onion strings crispy and everything just pulled together with a lot of nice flavors. Plus, they’re local – I had to vote for them to make sure Philly would take home the crown!

2) PJ Whelihan’s (Turnersville) “Spicy Mustard Roquefort Horseradish” – There were 3 PJ Whelihan’s locations in the competition and this location had by far the best concoction: an 8 oz house blend of short rib, sirloin & brisket topped with a horseradish roquefort aioli, tomatoes & microgreens all on a mini brioche bun. The blend of meats gave it a great flavor. It was very light and fresh tasting, and wasn’t overwhelmed by the horseradish flavor at all.

3) Steam PubThe Wass” – This was another one of those “put my favorite things on it and I’ll eat it” situations. The burger was an 8 oz angus patty topped with a fried egg, chipotle mayo, bacon crumbles, lettuce & tomato. Delicious! I would go to their restaurant and order this burger in a heartbeat.

And the winner was… The Pour House in…  New Jersey!? How dare they win the PHILLY Burger Battle, right? Well, they did have a pretty good burger. The “Second Coming” was a patty made of a Pat La Frieda 100% dry aged sirloin blend (already making them a standout),  topped with gruyere cheese, roasted garlic aioli and overnight tomatoes on a Le Bus roll (well hey, at least they’re local!).

All in all, it was a pretty cool event and it was interesting to see the differences between two burger competition events held in Philly this year. I just hope that next year, there’s more local/citywide representation! And for pictures of more of the burger battle fun, check out the album our Facebook page – Facebook.com/asideofketchup – Don’t forget to LIKE us while you’re there!

Sto-kay!

Sto’s Bar just opened recently in Old City and it’s burger has already made Zagat’s “10 Must-Try New Burgers in Philadelphia” list, so I figured I had to go check it out for myself since I’d already sampled some of the other burgers on the list recently. I opted for the Classic Burger: 10oz Angus Beef, served with Lettuce, tomato, onion, special house mayo and cheddar cheese. I wasn’t asked how I wanted my burger cooked, but was pleasantly surprised to find a nice, warm pink center. The bun was soft and not brioche; more bonus points! And even though I didn’t request it, the chef put cheese on my fries and my hangover was quite thankful.

It was definitely a good, solid bar burger. They’ve also got a few other varieties on the menu like the Jersey Burger, topped with Pork Roll naturally. And a burger topped with Kielbasa and served with a side of pierogies instead of fries.

Burger Rating: “B”

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