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Monthly Archives: December 2012

forage

I’ve been debating whether or not to post this because the burger in question is in fact a special, and as you all know there’s nothing worse than reading a review of something delicious only to discover that it’s no longer there. Cruel and unusual is what I call it. BUT can something really be a special if it’s been on the menu as a special for six months? If it was a house guest, you would have inquired about paying rent a long time ago or made them move into a hotel. So, I will write about it. Carpe diem, Mayans be damned we’re all still here, or if you prefer YOLO.

Forage is one of my favorite restaurants in LA for a number of reasons. It’s not just that they cook with ingredients that are locally sourced and support small farms, but they actually give you credit to their restaurant if you give them your excess fruit or vegetables from your home garden. They’ve got a whole program for it called Home Growers Circle, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside despite my own lack of green thumb. I’ve killed many a cactus in my day.

From the Forage Blog

From the Forage Blog

Of course none of this would mean anything if the food was awful. A home grown tomato means nothing if it’s been desecrated by some poorly thought out dressing. I’m happy to report that Forage makes some of the best side dishes in Los Angeles. As someone who will always choose mac n’ cheese over arugula, I often find myself at the Forage counter asking for the bulgar wheat with lentils over the potatoes au gratin, which feels very weird. They also have a brand new menu every day depending on what’s available which they post diligently online.

Anyhow, like I was saying, I didn’t want to review this burger because I was afraid it wasn’t going to be there for very much longer, but then I ate it, and it’s delicious, and you know all those reasons seemed silly. So without further ado, I present Forage’s special burger. On a grilled homemade bun they put a grass fed beef patty with sweet pickles, sweet onions, a slice of heirloom tomato, lettuce, some sort of mayo, and aged white Cheddar.  The whole thing is a mere $12.50 which is pretty decent for a gourmet burger. The only catch is you will want to get yourself a side while waiting for it to be prepared. Otherwise there’s a fifteen minute wait while they cook the thing, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you’re sitting there hungry and everyone else in the place has their food, it feels like eternity.  Also, it always feels very virtuous to eat your roasted beet and citrus salad before diving into a cheese burger.

Do not be fooled by its tiny circumference. When mine finally arrived, I was outraged at its size, but when I picked it up, I was surprised by its heft. Also don’t make any plans to touch anything once that baby has been picked up. It is a cheesy, oniony, sloppy mess.  The burger itself is rather salty, which is countered by the sweetness of the onions and the crispness of the lettuce, but the real surprise is the genius of the cheese and pickle. The combination of sweet pickle and aged Cheddar is no rarity on the other side of the pond, but it’s a rarity in America. The tang of the pickle and the comforting warmth of the cheese turn this burger from average to extraordinary. I just hope Forage finally gives in and puts it on the menu for good.

PS.  Save room for dessert. They make some beauties.

forage cake

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Apple Pan Steakburger

Apparently December is to go down as the month of unmet burger expectations, which is not necessarily a bad thing, just the reality regarding a recent short string of meals that were not exactly what we hoodburgerers thought they would be. My review this week was intended to be an homage to old faithful, as I do from time to time for you traditionalists (see Pie and Burger, and T.K.’s), despite the fact that I had not yet been to this particular pillar of the L.A. burger pantheon. I have however heard this name spouted time and time again from people offering their opinions (solicited or otherwise) on the best burger around, and they’ve been around for about 70 years. If that wasn’t enough, National Geographic listed this place as the best burger in the country (which now that I have eaten there, confirms my suspicion that Nat Geo should stick to knowing about beautiful photos of glaciers and leave the burgers to the fat boys [me]).

Apple Pan outside

The neon-lit exterior of the Apple Pan looks like it borrowed its inspiration from a seedy hotel in any rural area in the country, which for the record I am not mad at. I walked inside at 9:45 p.m. on a Tuesday and there were 2 empty seats in the whole place. Multiple couples were waiting for others to finish so that they could be seated. To be fair, the restaurant probably couldn’t fit more than 20 diners at a time. I didn’t count the stools, but all of the seating is around a 3-sided horseshoe shaped bar that encircled the cold parts of the kitchen. Clean-cut young men dressed identically to those who serve a similar function and in a similarly cheery fashion to those at In & Out whizzed about dropping off mounds of French fries on small paper plates and taking orders to memory. Everything is served in or on disposable ware: paper plates, Styrofoam cups, and if you order a soft drink they give you a paper cone and an adorably vintage looking holder for it. I’m not too keen on the disposable stuff, but it’s fair to say, so far so good.

Apple Pan Fries

First came my fries, far enough in advance of the rest of the meal they could easily be considered an appetizer. This worked out fine, because it was late and I was starving, though typically I would have not been impressed. They were nothing to write home about but were hot, crisp and just what I would expect from a frill-free venue such as this. Upon them hitting the counter my server slung another tiny paper plate down and poured me a sea of ketchup with zero provocation. I didn’t need it, but the showmanship drew my appreciation. Then came my burger.

Apple burger guts

More showmanship, which, much like the sketch-ball motel exterior design; is not lost on me. The guy set the thing (wrapped in a paper sleeve) on its side and slid it upright down the bar to me with no plate. I have never felt more like a young John Cusack in my life (and I’m not even making reference to an actual movie moment, I just felt that cool). I was so excited! I snatched that burger up, took a huge bite, and tasted nothing but pickle relish. Like, nothing. Their “special” sauce is ketchup and either 2 kinds of relish or sweet relish with a splash of vinegar, but either way, you get a LOT. Mine also had Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese (an additional $.50 well spent), dill pickles, mayo, and a fat wad of fresh iceberg lettuce, also a la In & Out, all on a plain white bun. Now it wasn’t bad mind you, all the parts described were just as good as could be expected, but I think Apple Pan fell victim to its hype outshining its product. Based on its reputation, I expected magic and the burger itself did not really deliver.

Apple Pan Apple Pie

Being that hoodburger is about burgers this review probably appears critical, but it needs addressing that the burger was the only disappointing part of the entire experience. I made friends with nearly everyone in the whole place due to the close proximity/communal seating, and had what would probably have gone down as the best apple pie of my life had I not been too full of mediocre burger to fully appreciate it. So for you traditionalists (and definitely pie lovers) I still would recommend trying Apple Pan if you never have, because it seems that 70 years and multiple national recognitions later I am pretty much the only one on earth not impressed by their burger. And for those of you more like myself who prefer that the list of their burger’s toppings be bursting with hyphens and accent marks, stay tuned, because there are still undiscussed bougie burgers a-plenty.

-Geoff Sawyer

Apple Pan Inside

Apple Pan Soda cone

Abandoned Pie

Photo by Kira Hesser

Photo by Kira Hesser

Things don’t always work out the way you expect them to. Actually most of the time, things never work out the way they do in your head. In that spirit, I will tell you about the burger at MessHall Kitchen. MessHall is a new eatery that has sprung out of the ashes of the Louise’s Trattoria that graced the corner of Los Feliz Blvd and Hillhurst in Los Feliz.  The place is massive. Filled with long wooden tables and metal stools in-between bare brick walls, the restaurant feels chic and homey at the same time. Modeled after a camping lodge the menu is full of cheeky references to Survival  (drinks menu) and Damages (the bill) and contains everything from oysters to smoked corn fritters to brisket.  It’s fancy comfort food.

Naturally I assumed their burger would be a point of pride. I mean, they named it after themselves after all. The MessHall burger is an aged beef patty with sautéed onions, Vermont white cheddar, smokey sauce (code for smoky ketchup) on a brioche bun. The menu mentions something called b & b pickles that are supposed to be on there, but my burger had no such thing. It is a simple burger. The combination of onions, cheese, and beef is always a winner and the sauce lending certain sweetness. Was it memorable? Not really. So why am I wasting your time? Here’s why.

Photo by Kira Hesser

Photo by Kira Hesser

I will now utter the unthinkable words. Brace yourself. “The Brussels sprouts were better than the burger AND the fries.” Horrifying, no? I still haven’t been able to come to terms with it. My dining partner insisted on getting the Brussels sprouts and I indulged her because you know, health is good. I was not prepared for what happened afterwards. These unassuming nuggets of green deliciousness outshone the whole meal. They were perfectly cooked, not tough or burned, and melted like little buttery nuggets in your mouth.  Abandoning my burger, I gorged on Brussels sprouts, sad that my mother wasn’t here to observe this monumental event. By the time the meal was over, I didn’t even know who I was anymore.

I leave you with a word of warning about their pie. It’s not pie. The waiters will swear up and down that they’ve got great banana cream pie. I am here to tell you that they do not. They have great banana cream pudding.  Their “pie” comes in a little glass jar with sugar cookies and a flambéed banana on the side. There is no crust. I repeat there is no crust. Everyone knows that the secret to a great pie is a hot, flakey, buttery crust.  To put filling in a jar and call it pie is ridiculous. That’s like handing you a lump of white cream and calling it an Oreo.  The Emperor has no clothes, people. That being said, their banana pudding is scrumptious.

Photo by Aaron G.

Photo by Aaron G.