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Burger Tour BC: Victoria Beacon Drive In

It is a fact universally acknowledged that a raincoaster in possession of a dining-out budget must be in need of a burger. I admit it: I’m a sucker for any savory-looking patty with nice buns. I try hard not to be That Guy, that guy who orders the steak at a seafood restaurant, but when there’s a burger on the menu it’s gonna get ordered and that’s a fact. Since I’ve been traveling the back roads and highways of BC lately I will update you on the state of burgerage around the province, starting with the capital, which is not Vancouver which everybody thinks it is, but Victoria, land of the newly wed and nearly dead.

Of Victoria we have spoken before, and shall again, for it is one of my favorite cities. Large enough and wealthy enough (thanks to our taxes!) to have a great arts scene, but small enough to be walkable, at least neighborhood by neighborhood, with a great transit system, a magnificent setting, and a foodie culture that runs far more to the making than the ordering-and-photographing, it’s a charming, pretty city. Heck, I made an offhand reference to it on a hacker forum recently and was blizzarded with posts expressing just how much these hardcore hackers adored twee little Victoria, with its houseboats, its shameless Anglophilia, and its borderline-deranged worship of afternoon tea.

God only knows how many burgers I ate there, but here is one whose photo I happen to have with me at the moment.

Beacon Drive In burger

Beacon Drive In burger

The Beacon Drive In just beside Beacon Hill Park boasts that it has been “Serving up smiles since 1958″ and I don’t doubt it, in part because I’m not sure they ever redecorated. I remember coming here in the early 80′s, and it was laughably old-fashioned then. Now, it’s bloody priceless (which reminds me, is Archie from the comic books still driving that ridiculous Model T, because if he is, it must be worth about the cost of a new Lambo, but I digress). It’s also still busy, for good reason.

Not only is the menu a classic Diner With Everything from a Gidget movie, but it has West Coast add-ons like the Oyster Burger and Salmon Burger. Mine hostess and photographer Lori Dunn even got a float, it’s that old-fashioned. You can order a float here without being ironic.

In the 80′s it was famous for its onion rings, and even now they’re terrific; perfectly cooked in a crispy batter that’s not too thick, the onions within just caramelized enough to fall apart when bitten and not before. Could use a bit of seasoning salt, but that’s my only quibble. I ordered the BBQ Swiss Mushroom Burger and it was exactly as a diner burger should be; sloppy with sauce, juicy patty, whopping big pickle on top. There’s nothing exceptional about the sauce or the burger or the bun; it is exactly what it seems, a plain low rent burger that is nonetheless perfectly respectable in its blue-collar way. Note: the “Screaming Deluxe” Cheeseburger has hot sauce. And this is a place where “Deluxe” itself means “comes with lettuce, tomato, and onions.” So don’t be sniffing that you can’t find truffle fries on the menu. If Bruce Springsteen eats truffle fries, I don’t wanna KNOW! You know what I’m saying?

Beacon Drive In Soft Serve

Beacon Drive In Soft Serve

But the soft serve looks truly wonderful, and if it hadn’t been freezing cold and raining I’d have tried some. Striped, swirled ice cream! Truly, we live in an age of wonders.

More burgers to come! And even some non-burger food items!

Happy Thanksgiving, Yankistan!

From me up in Canuckistan and Gary Oldman back in Blighty, I hope your Thanksgiving was filled with love, happiness, family, friends, pumpkin pie, turkey, stuffing, and definitely none of that sweet potato pie/casserole crap, which is just what Southerners have instead of decent carbohydrates.

Turkey a la Kardashian

Turkey a la Kardashian; it's all natural! We swear!

Turkey a la Kardashian; it’s all natural! We swear!

Unlike the Kardashians themselves, Turkey a la Kardashian is at least comprised of biodegradeable materials. And it’s not high maintenance: a couple of lemons under the skin is as spicy as this dish likes to get! Five minutes and you’re good to go, although we understand certain chefs may prefer to spend a lot more time with the butter and the spice rub.

Then of course there is this season’s biggest hit, the Twerky. (more…)

Wedge Issue

Martha, Martha, Martha! First of all, as Jezebel rightly points out, your phone photos of food are even worse than my own, and constitute an aid to the burgeoning anorexia movement.

Secondly, that is way, way too much dressing.

Thirdly, wedge salad is crap. There, I said it. Sometimes you feel like crap, okay? I get that. I’ve been there. But nobody should be expected to pay for this crap; certainly not the $5 and up you’ll see it priced at (I once saw wedge salad at $14, but the place went out of business shortly thereafter). There’s no amount of pinky-beige dressing that makes it okay to charge for 25 cents worth of iceberg lettuce that can’t even be thoroughly washed because you won’t take it apart. You want to feel nostalgic for “old diner food?” Go to an old diner, m’kay? They wouldn’t dare charge you for this.

And if someone presented this to a hungover me at brunch, what do you think would happen? EH? Well, the plate wouldn’t look any different afterward, and that’s a fact. The nastiest practical joke I ever heard consisted of someone filling an airplane sick bag with Thousand Island Dressing and pulling it out when the plane hit turbulence, to retch ostentatiously in it before spilling it all over the aisle. Yes, vomiting is contagious, in case you were wondering.

That’s probably the REAL reason you can’t take more than 100ml of liquid on a plane any more.

Meanwhile, at the cool kids’ table:

SHOTS

SHOTS

Getting an oil change at Burger 55

The burgers are grilled, so most of the oil actually came from the onion rings, but who could resist a tempting pun like that when writing about a burger joint in a converted garage? Eh? I ask yez.

Burger 55 by Alex MacRae

Burger 55 by Alex MacRae

Full disclosure: Burger 55 in Penticton, BC, is one of the most successful self-employment clients of my old friend Lori Dunn. They applied for a training and support program for small businesses in Penticton and Lori approved them and has been one of their most loyal customers ever since. Since then they’ve won so many Best Burger and Small Business awards they’re about to run out of wall space to display them. Mind you, with about 300 square feet total there never was that much wall to begin with.

That's the entire kitchen, folks.

That’s the entire kitchen, folks.

Their website has a Cult page. That should give you a hint.

Peter Navin burger and donation box

Peter Navin burger and donation box

Having gotten their start thanks to a community initiative, they are still community-minded. Peter Navin was the friend who originally found them their unique location; for the past several years, Navin battled brain cancer and ultimately lost the fight. Burger 55 created a commemorative Peter Navin burger for $7, and proceeds are donated to his family.

There are only three stools inside and a handful of picnic tables outside. In the heat of the Sonora Desert summer it’s best to sit on the side towards the creek, where you can get partial shade and a refreshing breeze. In the winter, it’s best to just get take out and eat it in the car facing the lake while having an emotional conversation while playing old rock ballads.

They also deliver, provided you order $15 or so worth of food and bev, which isn’t hard once you get into the premium add-ons and side orders.

Burger 55 custom bacon cheese burger

Burger 55 custom bacon cheese burger

Their deal at Burger 55 is custom made burgers: that doesn’t make them unique, but the paperwork does.

Paperwork?

Burger 55 menuboard instructions

Burger 55 menuboard instructions

Well, it’s a very Canadian burger joint, you know? You walk in, you stop for a second and goggle at it just because it’s so dinky, then you reach to your right and pick up a clipboard and one of those mini-pencils you never find outside of voting booths or esoteric burger garages in Canuckistan, and you go through an extensive, small print checklist of what you want and what you don’t want. Salad style? Tortilla? Gluten free (of COURSE they have gluten free buns)? What kind of cheese, if any? Which sauces? And every section is a densely populated box and a tough decision, especially the free extra toppings which extend to roasted peppers and corn, beet strings, and the like. You want it, you put a checkmark beside it. You want double? Two checkmarks. Simple once you get the hang of it. There are eight cheese options alone.

The meat is all excellent quality, and they can do turkey burgers, beef, salmon, portobello mushroom, or lamb. On a low carb diet? Go for salad style for $3 extra, but it’s not a snotload of extra salad, I warn you. The esoteric selection of premium toppings includes a grilled local peach. The sides are: Fries, Fries with Curry Sauce, Side Salad, Sweet Potato Fries, and Onion Rings. The fries are all good but the onion rings, it must be said, are greasy. Tasty, but greasy. Onion rings, I remain convinced, require a different frying temperature than potatoes, and a darn good draining. Still, they are the superior side order (that is my past as an A&W fetishist catching up to me). Fries are for plebes, and for hangovers. #Truefax

If you can’t decide, the three standards (Hot, Burger 55 Signature, and The Other One I Forget Oh Wait It’s a Cheeseburger) don’t do it for you, and the Special of the Month isn’t your cup of protein (this month it’s Chicken and Waffle), you can ask them to freestyle, and they will make a unique mystery combo for you. I’ve noticed that freestyle burgers lean towards the saltier, so if that’s not something you want, say so for a demi-freestyle.

I had a AAA Beef burger on a cracked wheat bun with shredded beet strings, lettuce, roasted sweetcorn, homemade pickles, pickle relish, aged shredded cheddar (I forgot that aged cheddar doesn’t melt unless you put mushrooms on it while it’s melting), Burger 55 BBQ sauce, and some really good bacon strips. And it was perfect. They use local ingredients as far as possible, and make their own sauces. The sauces, particularly the Buddha Asian BBQ sauce, got so popular that they decided to bottle and sell them: Curry, BBQ, and Buddha sauces, plus their spice mix.

My friend Alex had a beef burger grilled on the flattop right next to my bacon, which flavoured it somewhat, with a cheese skirt, ie hanging over the side; they put a dome over it so the cheese melts all around in approved classic burger style. I haven’t seen that since I was at the old lunch counter at Save On Meats where they cooked a burger that was a full pound of meat, two half-pound patties that were so thick you HAD to put a dome over them or they wouldn’t cook through.

And if my headline left you thinking this would be an article about getting your pipes cleaned, well, if that’s your goal I’d just advise you to stick to salad style. Don’t nobody enjoy that process after a burger the size of your head.

 

Created with flickr slideshow.

Drunk Dial a Congressman!

Cheers! To the Unemployment Office!

Cheers! To the Unemployment Office!


Let’s face it, if you’re a furloughed federal employee, what else do you have to do?

The internet is way ahead of you, and has stepped into the void formerly filled by your work hours, stuffing it full of hours of bilious and bibulous joy: DrunkDialCongress.org exists, and it is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

You type in your phone number, you hit Call, and a faceless, nameless robot that is probably take a job away from a good American quietly and efficiently connects you to the public phone line for a representative for your district.

Not sure what to say? Don’t worry, this is politics: there are talking points (with proper citations, no less)! “Why don’t you make yourself useful and mow the lawn” is my particular favorite.

Below the talking points, we have the key ingredient: DRINK RECIPES! What type of tipple is most appropriate for calling up your elected representatives to scream at them for not doing their jobs? Well, Rosemary’s for remembrance, so how about some B&B? But the idea of getting plastered on an imported French liqueur is not sufficiently patriotic. And you’d have to drink a lot of Bud Light to get drunk enough to really do this. The listed cocktails are pretty good bets: they’re all sweet enough, and mixed with enough cogeners that you will wake up with a life-threatening burden of self-hatred the next morning, which should remind you of your public servants (that is, if they had the ability to regret their bad decisions, which they don’t).

The Bad Representative might go down smoothly (well, interns would have the whole story on that) but the Southern Congressman is probably going to be the crowd-pleaser. At least in his first term…

THE SOUTHERN CONGRESSMAN

2 oz Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey
1 tsp lime juice
5 oz sour mix

THE FANCY STATESMAN

2 oz blended whiskey
1 cherry
juice of 1/2 lemons
1 tsp powdered sugar
1 egg white
1 slice lemon

THE BLOODY BASTARD

1 part sour mix
1 part vodka
1 tbsp grenadine syrup

THE BAD REPRESENTATIVE

1 oz Scotch whisky
1 oz cherry brandy
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz lemon juice
1 slice lemon

The Sleepy Senator

1 oz absinthe liqueur
1 oz tonic water
1 oz sugar syrup
2 tsp lime juice or sour

Cheers!

Happy Caturday!

pancake cat goes om nom nom

pancake cat goes om nom nom

Yessss!!! pancake cat can has pancake!!!!1!

Yessss!!! pancake cat can has pancake!!!!1!

Go, little comrade! Liberate teh pankakez in teh name of Teh Peepl!

Mason Jars, Holidays, and Safety

Mason Jar Microwave Cakes

Mason Jar Microwave Cakes

I know putting things in mason jars is the very latest in foodie fads (if it’s 2010) but there are practical considerations to deal with. Here is one of them from Victoria-based private chef and recovering economist Janice Mansfield.

I know those little pies and cakes in mason jars are all over Pinterest, and they look as cute as buttons, but PLEASE do NOT bake your desserts in them!

Mason jars are made to be heatproof, but are not made to withstand dry heat (aka baking). Perfectly ok to use as serving dishes for things already cooked or made up. All it takes is one glass splinter to ruin your long-weekend barbeque!

Snack safely!!! and have a good one!

Happy Canada day to my friends in Canuckistan and Happy Independence Day to the Yanks!

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