Thursday, February 18, 2010
My First Cheeseburger
It had to be on my terms.
There would need to be a (good) red wine – a peppery Cantina Tre Seerre Barbera ($9) that glistens on the tongue.
There would need to be a mound of hand-cut seasoned fries that I could count as one of my daily servings of vegetables.
There would need to be soft lighting – all the better to conceal the sloppy process of consuming the item in question.
And there would need to be pickles.
There had to be pickles.
Rustic Canyon would be the place. 8 pm on Wednesday, February 17th would be the time. And Nastassia of Let Me Eat Cake, would be by my side – urging me on if I tried to chicken out and order the pappardelle with braised duck ($15) or pan roasted branzino ($30) instead of the cheeseburger we’d come for. She wouldn’t protest when I ordered it medium rather than medium-rare. And she wouldn’t find it repulsive if the herb rémoulade dripped on my fingers.
And I licked it off.
So I made a reservation. I booked a spot in a Bar Method class before said reservation in order to work up an appetite (and eradicate some of the guilt), and then I snapped my mouth shut lest anyone try to convince me that my choice of restaurant for my first ever cheeseburger was a terrible decision.
Of course, even if they had I wouldn’t have listened. I’d made up my mind -- Rustic Canyon was it.
I could hardly contain my excitement when I woke up yesterday morning.
“I’m going to eat a cheeseburger today!” I thought happily as I selected my attire for the evening – a pair of not-so-skinny jeans with room to grow around an expanding stomach, and a comfortable sweater that I wouldn’t need to dry clean if I happened to get grease on it.
The words repeated in my head all day, and I felt a rush of excitement every time I thought about it – like I was going to a movie premiere or flying to Paris or doing something considerably more exciting than eating a cheeseburger. For a girl who typically opts for fish over steak or fruit over a side of fries, however, it felt decidedly rebellious.
Arriving at the restaurant last night, my appetite raging from my difficult workout class, I was flush with lusty anticipation for the burger to come.
This is it. I thought. No turning back now.
A cursory glance at the menu did nothing to steer me off my course.
“I’ll have the burger,” I said proudly to our server. “Medium.” I finished more sheepishly, knowing that my male friends and foodie counterparts would be gouging their eyes out if they heard my request. But I was being a rebel tonight. Rebels buck tradition. Challenge authority. Defy expectations.
Just like the Niman Ranch burger ($16) at Rustic Canyon.
After 26 years of avoiding cheeseburgers, and nearly five years of snubbing burgers, I thought I was setting myself up for disappointment when I finally broke down and ate one.
It would be too greasy. It would fall apart in my fingers. It would be undercooked. Overcooked. I would feel sick after.
But biting into that thick patty of beef that is caressed by a pliant brioche-style bun from Rockenwagner Bakery, and lovingly topped with sharp cheddar cheese, sweet onion fondue, bread and butter pickles, herb rémoulade, and arugula, was a moment akin to my first taste of the squid ink pasta at Babbo in NYC three years ago.
I closed my eyes, searing the flavors into my memory.
It was bliss.
My subsequent actions are not fit to be shared with the general public, but there was a considerable amount of moaning, groaning and excessive dipping of the thick-cut fries into the accompanying aioli sauce during the next fifteen minutes.
The end result was not a pretty sight, but as I waddled to my car (thankful I’d thought to bring the un-skinny jeans with me that morning), I felt overwhelming happy.
I’d eaten a cheeseburger.
And, more importantly, I'd loved it.
Rustic Canyon Winebar
119 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401