Tag Archives: burger

Adventures at The Spotted Pig

3 Jul

Spotted Pig burgerIt’s the darling of the New York gastropub scene (if indeed the Big Apple has enough to call it a scene) and it had the distinction of being the one and only New York restaurant I had ever heard of.

This makes it more than a coincidence that when looking for a dinner venue in a recent stopover near Manhattan that a colleague suggested we give The Spotted Pig a try.

Having only read about this place a few weeks previously after idly following a foodie tweet I was aware of a few key facts.

1) This was a genuine pub, in the heart of Greenwich Village.

2) It had a Michelin star.

3) You either loved it or hated it.

4) Chef April Bloomfield is British and a River Cafe peer of Jamie Oliver. He described her as ‘cooking like a ninja’.

The facade of the Spotted Pig was so anonymous that half our party walked straight past it without noticing. Inside it was small, cramped and kookie. It reminded me of a favourite pub of mine in Bristol (from the early 90’s), the Victoria, with nooks and crannies, small tables and not an inch of visible wall space that wasn’t covered by a picture.

A Girl and Her PigPride of place above the bar was April Bloomfield’s recently published cookbook – A Girl and Her Pig.

Excitement built. When we realised we could just forget the table waiting list and order at the bar it reached fever pitch.

If you are sitting at the bar you need to start with bar snacks.

We ordered a selection of starters to share – deviled eggs, devils on horseback (there’s a lot of devil in NYC) and chicken liver toast.

The bar staff were knowledgable, friendly and…Scottish. This was the most laid back Michelin star I’d ever encountered. Compared to JSW, my local Michelin starred venue in Petersfield, Hampshire, this felt like popping round to a friend’s for a mid-week dinner. I’m not knocking JSW and its contrived formality, but the Spotted Pig was so laid back that I felt like could sink into the bar stool and stay there all night.

Back to those snacks. The verdict was that they were pretty good. I wouldn’t have classed them as fine dining – that’s not Bloomfield’s style anyway – but her famous ‘anal rustic’ techniques shone through. It was detailed informality.

She has a signature dish and I was determined to try it. The Chargrilled Burger with Roquefort & Shoestrings (fries that is) was famous for its simplicity and the fact that Bloomfield refuses anyone the right to customise the dish. No salad, no ketchup, no mayo (unless you are Bob Dylan who by all accounts got given some by a starstruck waiter one night in error). This was a burger that was confident enough to say ‘I am brilliant, take me or leave me’.

I took it and  I took it medium rare. Some colleagues were more adventurous and went for pork belly or octopus. Not for me such extravagance. I wanted that burger. I wanted it even more when I saw one go past the bar on its way to a lucky diner.

The Spotted Pig burger is a triumph. It is served on a brioche bun with a perfectly crafted criss cross of griddle marks. It is accompanied by a mountain of shoestring fries which are perfectly seasoned, with salt and a significant portion of fried rosemary. I looked and it and thought that I would not be finishing it. A few mouthfuls in and I knew I had to. Initial impressions were that the fries were like posh chipsticks, but that wasn’t fair. These were not fries in any traditional sense and once I got my preconceptions about chips out of my head I realised that the Spotted Pig was doing something pretty special.

I’m usually a fast eater. I wasn’t aware that I was taking my time with this simple, but enormous, burger, but 30 minutes in I realised that everyone else had finished. I still had a fair few shoestrings to get down me. Part of this was because the fries were hard to eat. Most of it was because it was worth savouring.

We wandered off into the New York evening for a less salubrious few hours in a variety of bars, but the Spotted Pig was a fantastic start to the evening.

I can understand the critiscism that it doesn’t deserve a star, but as a gastropub, and a not particularly expensive one at that, it stands out head and shoulders over anything I’ve ever tried before.

Mergeuz and halloumi burgers

27 Jan

mergeuz and halloumi burgerMrs Gastronome found something that excited her in the aisles of Asda this week – mergeuz. These spicy, bright red sausages remind us both of holidays on the continent – frying them up over a camping stove, or in the tiny kitchen of a villa.

We’ve had sausages and salad this week already though, so I was determined to make them slightly more exciting, as if mergeuz on their own weren’t exciting enough.

What I created can only be described as a mergeuz burger.

I pan fried the sausages gently while I toasted a couple of bagels and grilled two large slices of halloumi. I assembled it into a stack with some sliced tomatoes and salad leaves.

It looked great, but did it taste as good as it looked?

Well, almost, but it was a little salty (let’s face it, halloumi is pretty salty in its own right) and by the end I was not quite as into it as I was at the start.

Next time we have mergeuz in the fridge I will probably augment them with something that compliments the salty sausages rather than adding to them. Or save them for the next camping trip.