Yes, that's correct, legions.
Gentle readers, have mercy, for just a few days later, I encountered the true nemesis of fine dining everywhere:
a screaming doodiemonster.
This was the birth of my beloved Baby E.
Not having the benefit of having extended family Deepinthehearta, Mrs. E and myself immediately went from foodies who live to eat out to housebound parents, which has been a lovely ride but for quite awhile put a serious damper on our eating out.
It did give me the opportunity to work on my cooking, which has improved substantially, if the diners' reports are to be trusted. Though this is a food blog about Houston, I will from time to time post reports of my latest culinary stylings, such as they are, if AE and the readership of this blog will indulge me.
But, Baby E is barrelling towards toddlerdom, literally and figuratively, and the (Foodie) Iceman has begun to thaw just a bit. For some reason, AE agreed to give me the wheel of FiH again, and I will do my best to earn his trust in this regard.
Enough with the chat-chat; on with the food. One of the few restaurants Mrs. E and I did manage to make it out to whilst Baby E
So, I was stirred into action by AE's latest missive on burgers, which, I have to say, puzzled me quite a bit. As I remarked to AE privately, what is not to like about burgers? Nice fatty beef, grilled, topped with outraged onions (which suit my perpetual sense of outrage at just about everything), served on lovely bread, with a side of freedom fries . . .
I can only eat hamburgers every once in awhile, and I don't know how Alison Cook, bless her heart, does it every Friday, but I was surprised at AE's muted response to Little Bigs (esp. having tried the sliders at Reef), and resolved to give it a proper test drive myself. This weekend, Mrs. E and I gently removed the soldering iron Baby E was using to affix emself to us, and went to hear Helene Grimaud play Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 (glorious, and superior to the more famous No. 2, I think), followed by a stop at Little Bigs. I ordered two beef sliders and a spicy chicken, and Mrs. E did the same.
Pause for a moment to query why the heck portobello still finds its nasty, mealy self into fine dining (yes, I consider Little Bigs at least fine dining-esque, since its genesis was in the kitchen of Reef and the brain of Caswell)? I was watching an Iron Chef America competition in the last few months and had to restrain myself from cheering when one of the judges took Bobby Flay to task for using portobello. Since cost is not a factor in Kitchen Stadium, the judge asked, why use portobello? Aside from being so 1994 (his words), they just don't taste very good. Why not morels (it was a beef dish)?
I love mushrooms. Oyster, shiitake, chanterelle, porcini, cremini, morel, even baby bella mushrooms are good with me. But portobello? The flavor is overpoweringly woody, and they are just so meaty and mealy, you have to literally drown them in fat to have any chance at softening them. They're gross. Those who like portobellos are wrong.
(mostly kidding, but I do find them nasty). As such, especially in anything like a fine dining scenario, portobellos have no business with much of a presence. There are infinitely tastier, more refined fungi than portobello. And so let me also say that using them as a vegetarian substitute for meat -- because of the meatiness of portobello -- only serves to highlight what makes these shrooms so foul to begin with. Get them out of there, Mr. Caswell.
For the record, I adore vegetarian food, and am a huge fan of all manner of veggie burgers (esp. black bean burgers). But portobello is a bit uninspired, especially considering the source, and does not belong on the menu, IMO.
Second point: the spicy chicken burger was too spicy for Mrs. E. After nigh on a decade in Houston, Mrs. E is slowly developing some capacity to handle spice, but cayenne pepper is rough stuff for her, and I did not even think to suggest that most Southern batter recipes do feature cayenne to some extent.
This did not prevent me from eating her spicy chicken burger, of course . . .
Overall, how were the burgers? Excellent, really. Enjoyable little bites, and where else can you go spend $20 dollars for six gourmet sliders, two heavenly baskets of freedom fries (very very good), and contemplate spending roughly twice as much on a Turnbull blend that is almost certainly sold at or near cost ($37)?
I still maintain that for pure burger satisfaction, one would be hard-pressed to find better work than Lankford Grocery or PappasBurger (hey -- they do it well, frankly), but I am certainly no authority on burgerdom.
I am champing at the bit in my haste to try Bedford, as I absolutely adore Robert Gadsby's food. I am especially keen on trying it after reading Jennifer's wonderful review in 002 and learning what Mrs. E and I had discovered after multiple trips to Noe (when he was still cooking there): the man can make incredible food without butter or cream. Amazing, that.
More on that in future posts. For now, the Iceman must retire to his ice cave and contemplate the greater quandaries of life.
(And prepare Baby E's milk)