Discoveries in Food and Wine

The Burger


Anyone can take great meat and make a delicious burger (so long as they avoid overcooking it).  It takes a master to make a burger into something special.  Fortunately for me (and a bunch of other restaurant-goers in the Tampa area), I know such a master.  His name is Marty Blitz. Now, it just so happens that Marty is the chef proprietor at our long-time favorite place, Mise en Place, and I’ve written about it before, but this story isn’t about the restaurant, but about this single burger (and apologies right away that I didn’t get a picture).

It was just a simple thing, really. We were in the area in the middle of the week and decided to drop in for lunch. We hadn’t been to the restaurant for a month or so, and it had been more than a year since we had been in during the day.  And has happened every time I get complacent about the food there, something magical occurred.

One of the things which Marty has gotten himself into recently is making a poutine of the day, so that’s what I started with.  I did get a picture of that.

Duck Poutine with 2014 Soter Vineyards North Valley Pinot Noir

Pulled duck in a red wine thyme gravy over fingerling potatoes is okay by me any time.  I knew it was a little much to finish since the burger was coming, so I took about half of it home and had it for lunch the next day.  That’s fine living.

Back to the burger.  Here’s how it’s listed on the menu:

Pat Lafrieda Short Rib Burger​ – Pancetta, Basil Aioli, Provolone, Fig Balsamic Red Onion Ketchup, Arugula, Focaccia

There’s obviously quite a bit going on there.  When you think about it, the elements are just upgrades on classic toppings: pancetta for bacon; basil aioli for mayo; provolone, the best of the sandwich cheeses, spicy arugula for lettuce, focaccia for a normal bun, and what I found to be the piece which really set it all off–the fig balsamic red onion ketchup.  I’d actually call it more of a chutney, but now we’re just splitting hairs.

From taste through texture, it was simply transcendent.  Brisket burgers can sometimes be dry, but this one was perfectly juicy.  The pancetta complemented the headiness of the burger itself, the aioli and the provolone added the unctuousness which the leaner meat needed, and the ketchup’s dark sweetness sent the whole thing into overdrive.

I eat and enjoy a fair number of burgers. I expect most of them to fill a kind of comfort food role, but I don’t imagine that too many of them will be memorable.  This one will.  In the future, when someone asks me about the best burgers I’ve ever had, I’ll start into a story about how we just happened to be in South Tampa on a random Tuesday, and go from there.