Tuesday, May 1, 2007

First Post! Welcome to Beef Aficionado.


Welcome to Beef Aficionado, a Blog dedicated to Beef eating.

When I first envisioned Beef Aficionado I intended to primarily focus on steaks, like the Wolfgang's steak for two pictured above, prime rib, high end restaurants and butchers that specialize in dry aging. I had always planned on eventually featuring burgers but after watching George Motz’ seminal film “Hamburger America,” reading the wonderful A Hamburger Today blog and witnessing a veritable explosion of burger locations in New York City in the last few years I became inspired to focus on the Hamburger. Plus May is National Burger Month so what better way could there be to kick off a blog than by eating a month worth of Burgers. But first a little perspective.

I grew up in England and thus never attended Fourth of July barbecues as a child, nor drive in diners and burgers where not served in my school, so my vision of the hamburger is obviously going to be quite different from that of an average American. To me a hamburger was much more than just lunch or diner, it represented a whole culture, a way of life. The fact that you could eat it with your hands seemed to reflect the freedom that America offered. To me the American Hamburger was defined not by the hockey puck like “beef burgers” that they foisted upon us at Wimpy Bars or the virtually indefinable, in both form and aroma, blobs of meat that are sold off push carts outside of Football (soccer) stadiums or down Oxford Street on Saturday nights, nor even by the MacDonald’s that opened up on Kensington High Street in the late 70’s that took us a good 3/4 hours to get to from our South London home.

I always thought that the classic American Hamburger must be what a chain of restaurants called the Great American Disaster that later morphed into the Hard Rock CafĂ© served up in 1970’s London. Located throughout some of the cities trendier neighborhoods like Fulham and Knightsbridge they provided an experience that I imagined was what America must be like. Modern dark stained wooden furniture and raw brick, loud blaring rock music, waitresses in tight clothes, low lighting and, to justify the name, framed newspapers depicting some the 20th century’s greatest disasters –Hindenburg, Apollo 13 etc. But ambiance only gets you so far and we kept going back because the food was spectacular. The French fries (I don’t think they even called them chips) where crinkle cut and incredibly crispy and golden, served in wooden bowls. I remember snapping off the “head” of the fries at one of the narrow points in the accordion like ridges to reveal a puff of steam and a fluffy flaky interior and then dipping it into real Heinz ketchup, not the runny vinegary stuff that would cost 2 pence a packet at the fish and chip shop. The burgers where equally captivating, massive, fat, juicy flame broiled patties cooked to order, a charred exterior literally cracked open when bit to reveal the succulent pink flesh inside. The burgers where served on beautiful golden seeded buns with lettuce, tomatoes and onions. Desert consisted of milkshakes and sundaes of enormous proportions.

When I moved to America in my mid teens back in the mid eighties my vision of the quintessential American Hamburger was thrown into turmoil. The Great American Disaster had been so definitively superior to everything else in my experience that coming to the US was a watershed. Now I was inundated with seemingly endless variations, everything from steamed mini sliders to half pound flame broiled monsters. I soon realized that there really is no such thing as the quintessential Hamburger, that what is, in fact, so quintessentially American about burgers is the very fact that there is so much diversity in form, that there is no consensus and consequently each can become unique expression of the American experience. Of course the mid 1980's where not kind to the burger. Fears of cholesterol and high fat diets saw burgers drop in popularity. Avocado and bean sprouts appeared on menus across the nation. I must admit that I avoided burgers for the better part of a decade. Initially because of the health concerns but later as my finances improved I began a serous exploration of food in NYC and must admit that I looked down on burgers as rather common.

I rediscovered the burger in much the same way as the rest of America, through the low carb diet fad. The afore mentioned exploration into food in NYC had left me with a wealth of experience and the belly to show for it. For a carnivore that needs to lose weight what could be more appealing than the Atkins diet? Exactly. I lost about 35lbs and at the same time fell in love once more with the hamburger. That was a two years ago and while I have managed to keep the weight (mostly) off I cannot stop eating hamburgers.

Please check back soon, I have plenty of burger posts on the grill.

Nick
Editor-in-Beef






8 comments:

Slice said...

Welcome to the crazy world of foodblogging. You're heading down a rich, rewarding, and often maddening path!

DocChuck said...

I don't know how the hell I missed it, but I did (your website, that is).

Just discovered Beef Aficionado today, and I am IMPRESSED! . . . hard to impress a 65-year old Psych Professor (now retired) who considers himself an expert on all-things-beef.

So far, your posts are great. Just hope that you don't run out of ideas.

I love your photography and have added many of your photos to my extensive (over 28,000 images) collection of Food Porn (hope you don't mind).

Best of luck,

DocChuck (also known as BunglingBill on some second-rate websites such as RoadFood.com)

Nick said...

I don't know how I missed your comment until now Doc Chuck but thank you for your kind words.

Helen Connolly said...

Hi Nick
Only just discovered this site today so I'm replying to something that's 2 years old! I too went to the Great American Disaster on the Fulham Road back in the early 70s (although you must have been incredibly young if you were in your mid teens in the mid 80s!) I had just got back from 2 years in New York working as an au pair so I was pleasantly surprised when I went there. I remember the burgers being amazing and desserts to die for, quite unlike anything normally served up in England. I think when the second one opened they called it The Great American Success. I didn't realise that they went on to become the Hard Rock Cafe. My other favourite burger place is Smith & Wollensky in Manhattan.

Helen Connolly said...

Hi Nick
Only just discovered this site today so I'm replying to something that's 2 years old! I too went to the Great American Disaster on the Fulham Road back in the early 70s (although you must have been incredibly young if you were in your mid teens in the mid 80s!) I had just got back from 2 years in New York working as an au pair so I was pleasantly surprised when I went there. I remember the burgers being amazing and desserts to die for, quite unlike anything normally served up in England. I think when the second one opened they called it The Great American Success. I didn't realise that they went on to become the Hard Rock Cafe. My other favourite burger place is Smith & Wollensky in Manhattan.

playamanzanillo said...

Hey Nick
Great site
I worked as a cook at the Great American Disaster in Brussels in the early 70's. Great beef grilled to order in 9 variations (18 with double patties). Eaten a few meals since then but still the best burger I've ever had.

Anonymous said...

Yup, No question

Back in the days of The Great American Disaster/Success in London of the 70's there was nothing to compare.
The ambience was incomparable.The whole experience of enjoying a proper full flavour American burger served on a wooden platter was something else.

Oh that they still existed !

The beef patties were and still are the best ever burgers I ever had.

Jayyjay.

jayyjay said...

Yup, No question

Back in the days of The Great American Disaster/Success in London of the 70's there was nothing to compare.
The ambience was incomparable.The whole experience of enjoying a proper full flavour American burger served on a wooden platter was something else.

Oh that they still existed !

The beef patties were and still are the best ever burgers I ever had.

Jayyjay.