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Do you ever find yourself craving a burger?  I do.  Once, in light of a burger craving but in the absence of a good burger joint, I went out and bought all of the ingredients to make my own burger patties plus a little hamburger shaped patty maker.  This girl knows what she wants.  So this past week, I found myself having such a craving.  Living on a budget and cooking very little for myself as of late, I haven’t been getting quite as much red meat as I probably need, so it was high time for an all-American beef burger chow down.

Now, there are a LOT of burger joints in New York.  For example, take Danny Meyer’s chainlet Shake Shack (which I’ll be reviewing sometimes soon).  It specializes in burgers and shakes and has grown rapidly since it first opened in Madison Square Park in 2004 – there are now 6 locations, one of which is in Miami.  There’s also BLT Burger, Black Shack, Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien, etc.  Then, there are also a lot of restaurants that have capitalized on the burger trend by adding frou-frou burgers to their very frou-frou menus, including Minetta Tavern, DBGB Kitchen & Bar, Txikito, and Bar Breton.  Clearly – my simple burger craving can’t be resolved easily in New York.  There are just too many places with their own spin on the classic hamburger!  I suppose I could just settle for a simple Big Mac, but that would take all the fun out of discovering New York cuisine – am I right?  So, when the weekend rolled around, I did my research and settled on Stand.  I’m sure you’re wondering, what were the factors that swayed my decision?  Two things really:

  1. They have a hamburger with fried egg
  2. They have a milkshake called Toasted Marshmallow

I arrived at Stand around 8:45 on a Saturday night and had to wait about 5 minutes for a table.  While waiting, I had a chance to take in the atmosphere and decor.  If I had to neatly sum up my impression of the restaurant’s design, I would say that it looks like a diner out of an episode of the Jetsons.  Much of the restaurant is styled like your typical 1950’s/1960’s American diner, but all of the lines are a little sleeker and cleaner and it seems that everything is covered in stainless steel or chrome.  There was very loud music playing, and the clientele seemed to be 20-somethings out with friends or on dates.  I actually found the music to be too loud – my voice was hoarse by the end of the meal.

After being seated and given menus, it took the waitress a little bit too long to bring water to the table and take drink orders.  Poor service would continue throughout the meal…  One of my dining companions ordered a glass of Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold beer, which was surprisingly delicious.  It had a very unique finish – I would actually describe it as being “sweet” – and very low IBU (thank goodness, because I hate the bitterness of many microbrews).  Our waitress abandoned us for a little while longer, but then came back and took our orders.  I chose the Bold Burger, along with shoestring fries and regular fries.

The food took a bit longer than expected to arrive, and once it did, I realized that my order was incorrect.  However, since the waitress once again vanished, I decided just to make do with what I received.  Shortly thereafter though, she walked past, noticed my “modifications” to the burger and, without really even asking, whisked it away to be replaced with a new once.  While I waited for my food to reappear, I focused my attention on the massive amount of french fries in front of me.  The regular french fries were great.  Hand cut, golden brown, perfectly salty, and in that wonderful middle ground between crispy and soft.  I can’t say the same about the shoestring fries.  Now, I know that I can’t expect that shoestring fries will be comparable to regular fries, but they just didn’t meet the basic expectations that I have for shoestring fries.  They were the right size – not too thin, not too thick – and they weren’t tangled together in some horrendous bird’s nest.  However, they were overcooked and under-salted.  We ended up only eating about half of our small order.

Once my corrected burger finally arrived, it was very enjoyable.  The brioche bun was light and flaky on the outside and tender on the inside.  The beef patties were very generous, coming in at 7 oz. each, and they had a fairly high fat content, making them incredibly juicy and flavorful (though this might not sound like a pro for some people).  I was a big fan of the chipotle sauce, though it seemed to be applied a bit haphazardly, as I didn’t really start tasting it until 1/3 of the way into the burger.  The fried egg was a nice addition, but it had been fried for a bit too long.  I think a sunny side up egg with a runny center a la Croque Madame could actually be better on this burger.

The presentation of the burger was decent – for a burger with so much stuff on it, they managed to keep it from looking sloppy.  The lovely golden crust of the brioche bun and the usage of a large toothpick to hold everything together probably helped.  However, the placement of the two, sad-looking fried pickles on the plate took away from the appeal of the burger.  I would have preferred to just get this huge burger on a clean white plate – especially since the fried, bread and butter pickles weren’t very good.  They came across as an afterthought.

After our waitress managed to clear our plates, I ordered Stand’s famous Toasted Marshmallow shake.  I have to admit – I had very high expectations for this milkshake as I adore toasted marshmallows.  When the shake arrived, I would have to say that the toasted marshmallow floating on top was the best part of it. The shake itself was a big let down.  It tasted like a regular vanilla shake.  There was very little marshmallow flavor, and there certainly wasn’t any of that charred, smokey flavor that one expects from a toasted marshmallow.  I later discovered the recipe for this shake on Gourmet.com, and I can see why the predominant flavor was vanilla:

  • 3 scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • I large dollop buffalo milk yogurt or regular yogurt
  • 5 Kraft Jumbo Jet-Puffed marshmallows

With more marshmallows or perhaps some marshmallow cream, this milkshake would probably have been better.  For all the hype about it, my friend’s vanilla kahlua shake had significantly more flavor – though it had small pieces of bittersweet chocolate blended throughout, which was sort of an odd and unexpected addition.

With the burger, the fries, and the shake, I spent about $34 at Stand.  Was it worth it?  Yes – despite the various let downs throughout the meal, it satisfied my craving.  However, I don’t know that I’d go back.  I’ve had a better burger and a better shake from BLT Burger (which I personally think gets too little credit) and from Shake Shack.  However, the atmosphere is fun, the selection of burgers and shakes is diverse, and I think it could be a good spot to hit up with friends before going out or even on a casual date.

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Filed under Dessert, Dinner

Baked by Melissa

I should make one fact known before I go on – I’m a bit of a cupcake aficionado.  I’ve had cupcakes from every buzzed about bakery in New York, save one or two.  I’ve had cupcakes from Sprinkles in L.A. and from Georgetown Cupcake in D.C.  I just can’t say “no” when it comes to cupcakes.  In fact, I’ll go well out of my way to find them (the quest for Sprinkles during my last visit to L.A. was quite entertaining).  So, this past weekend, I decided to try Baked by Melissa.  Since they’ve opened a new store near Union Square, I really had no excuse not to stop by and try a few different flavors after visiting the Greenmarket.

The first thing I’ll say about the store is that it’s small.  Very small.  It definitely promotes a get-in-and-get-out mentality.  So, if you want to sit and enjoy your cupcake, this might not be the place for you.  But on a Saturday afternoon in the midst of running errands, it worked for me.

Immediately in front of you when you walk in is a large case full of teeny, tiny cupcakes.  And when I say teeny, I mean teeny.  I grabbed a menu from the counter and perused my options.  The two that jumped out at me were the Cookie Dough – a vanilla cupcake topped with chocolate buttercream frosting and filled with cookie dough – and the Peanut Butter & Jelly – a vanilla cupcake topped with peanut butter frosting and filled with jelly.  I asked the girl at the counter for the prices, and she tersely informed me that they were each $1 (customer service doesn’t seem to be Baked by Melissa’s forte).  “$1!!!” I thought,” But an oversized cupcake from Crumbs is $4.50, and 4.5 of these cupcakes surely won’t add up to one from Crumbs.”  In the end though, I decided to suck it up and buy two.

After I walked out of the store and looked in my box, I was shocked.  I’ve had mini cupcakes before, but these take the cake (sorry, had to do it).  The diameter of each cupcake is equal to that of a quarter, and the bottom portion is so tiny that it seems as though all you’ve bought is a bitty baby muffin top.

After getting over my initial surprise at how absolutely miniscule these cupcakes are, I gave them a try.  I started with the Cookie Dough, and it was scrumptious. The cake was moist, the cookie dough was soft and delicious (and there was plenty of it), and the frosting was flavorful and creamy but not overly sweet.  In two small bites though, it was gone.  I was left wanting about 5 more.

Next, I ate my PB&J cupcake.  This one was a bit disappointing, especially because I love PB&J inspired desserts.  The cake was about the same, maybe a bit drier, but the filling and frosting left something to be desired.  The jelly tasted like your average Smucker’s and there was very little of it – much less than there had been of the cookie dough in the other cupcake.  The flavor of the icing was absolutely that of peanut butter, but I wasn’t a fan of the texture.  It was just about as thick as peanut butter straight out of the jar, which, coupled with the already intense flavor, overwhelmed this teensy cupcake.  A lighter, perhaps whipped peanut butter frosting may have been more appropriate.

Overall, I spent $2.00 for 25 seconds of pure, unbridled cupcake joy.  Was it worth it?  Maybe.  Would I go back?  Only if I’m in the area.  Would I order differently?  I’d get the Cookie Dough again – and more of them – and I’d probably try the S’mores and the Peanut Butter Cup (though I fear I might have the same commentary on the icing as I did with the PB&J).

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Filed under Dessert, Snack