Monday, August 31, 2009

Windy City Cooking: Week 5

(Ed.'s Note- Every Monday, Chicago's best pal Jason Hissong writes Windy City Cooking, a column about eating and preparing food in the Big Onion. Enjoy! -Max)


American Cuisine: The Hamburger
By Jason Hissong
31 August 09

       Our American cuisine is much like the people who inhabit our country, which only makes logical sense. There is no national cuisine because of regional variation. The immigrants that populated our nation brought with them their own food culture and thus, today, we have a national cuisine that lacks a singular identity. It’s a hodgepodge, anything goes, Frankensteinian creature.
       This is the first in a series of columns where I will try to introduce my own take on American cuisine. What makes the food of my nation different from that of other nations? France, or Italy, or Spain, or Mexico, for example? If American cuisine does have a marquee dish, this is a great contender for that title: The Hamburger.
       Why? Because it’s ubiquitous. It’s everywhere from every fast food joint to, probably, most homes on a semi-regular basis. And it’s so versatile. There is no end to the variations of a hamburger’s constituent parts. 


       I had the pleasure of spending my Saturday evening with a lovely woman in her Uptown neighborhood. She proposed three options and asked me to make the final decision. My reasoning went something like this: I had already had Thai once this week, so that was out. I wasn’t in the proper frame of mind for Italian, so that was out. The last option had, and I quote, “an epic beer list,” and a decent choice of food. And who can ignore the siren’s call when she’s saying "epic beer list"?
       So we went to The Bar on Buena. While the name is accurate it is sort of pedestrian. Everything else, though, was not.
       It’s the end of August but the last couple of days have felt like October. Nevertheless, we sat outside, partly to avoid the noise of the inside and partly because it wasn’t cold enough for us not to.
       I browsed a menu. And flipping through it’s instantly obvious that this place does, indeed, have an epic beer list. But that doesn’t mean their food takes second fiddle. Many menu items enticed me- Texas Grilled Cheese Toast (maybe in December), Pulled Pork, Tequila Marinated Steak Tacos- you get the idea. But there was one menu item with its own gravity- The B.O.B. Burger. And I’m willing to bet that if you saw this item, your decision would be made as well:
Your old favorite topped with Red Dragon Cheddar, Pancetta and a Fried egg. This is the burger to end all burgers!... $11.00
       That’s right. It’s a burger. With Pancetta. And a fried egg. And Red Dragon Cheddar. All in the same stack. Add some sweet potato fries, and a tall glass of a micro brewed pilsner and that, my friends, makes the word epic applicable to the entire meal.


       It was delicious. The flavors were all intense and deep; the burger was messy as the first few bites broke the egg open. The sweet potato fries provided a nice compliment to the heavy burger. The saltiness of the fries tied together with the saltiness of the pancetta. The cheddar was creamy and perfectly melted and the burger was just so so good. There’s nothing wrong about this burger, and everything right.


       American cuisine elevated to a new level of sophistication, without pretentiousness. An epic burger.

       What I’ve cooked this week: Sunday morning pancakes. Angel hair with spicy peanut butter sauce.
       Where I’ve eaten this week: Bar on Buena for the B.O.B. Burger. Roong Petch Bammee Noodles. Orange Garden’s sesame chicken.

All Bar on Buena pictures by Ashley Heher. Thanks, Ashley!

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