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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!

Wine A-Z

The Wine Rack: Now THAT is what I call a Go Cup

That’s what I call a Go Cup. Heck, it might even make jogging tolerable.

Well, maybe it won’t boost your cup size all the way through the alphabet. Still, this handy-dandy little portable wine container will definitely bump you from an A to something farther down towards the Mittel-European consonantry. And yes, it’s called the Wine Rack. And no, I have no use for it myself, as I can already hide a 40-ouncer and a couple of highball glasses in my bra with room left over for garnishes.

Dessert of the Year: Paris Hilton’s Birthday Cake

Happy Birthday Paris Hilton. You don't look a day over 40.

Happy Birthday Paris Hilton. You don't look a day over 40.

A sincere Happy 56th birthday to Paris Hilton, the Manolosphere’s favorite celebutard. We saw the pictures from your party (and we wondered, for a moment, if when someone told you to “blow” the candles, awkward hijinks ensued) and it looks like a great time was had by all.

Especially the guy who crashed your party and stole your birthday cake.

I woke up this morning with a $2000 birthday cake in my living room.

It’s big.

It’s red.

It says “Paris”.

And its fucking delicious.

24 hours ago I got a call from my well-connected buddy Kevin. “Dude, I’m crashing Paris Hilton’s birthday tonight. Pretty sure I can get you in,” he says. “Pretty sure you can’t,” I say. “Pretty sure I will,” he says.

90 minutes later we’re strolling down a red carpet like we belong there…

This is as delightful a tale of dessert-based Schadenfreude as the interwebs possess! Yes, just like Kim Kardashian’s $1million birthday cake, this relatively low-rent stunner was just going to be used for decoration and then thrown out. Naturally, in an economic climate as dire as ours, this offended our young adventurer, and he took the only course of action which an ethical partycrasher could, liberating the tasty treat in the name of The People.

and then posting the whole thing to Facebook, god love him.

Even in my sub-functional state, I realize this is going to be a delicate mission. There are still at least 100 people in the building, 20% of whom are employed to be looking for idiots like me.

Parading a confection the size of a small firetruck through the main hall is going to turn a head or two…

I take my cue and make a bullet for cake city.

In one fluid motion, I sidestep a confused waiter, seize the prize, and about face to the door.

I pass the security chief again on the way out.

I nod purposefully… he nods in return.

40 seconds later I’m in the front seat of a Nissan Maxima with 70 lbs. of awesome in my lap.

Success.

As the sun rises, I crash hard. In the morning, I’ll awake to an interesting surprise in the den.

It’s red. It’s delicious. And I don’t know WTF I’m going to do with it.

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King of the Road

Suck on this, Skyscrapers!

Suck on this, Skyscrapers! Gyeongbok Palace by Laszlo Ilyes

Prepare to be gobsmacked by this gentleman of the road, a mere street food vendor in the humble Namdaemun Market in Seoul, Korea. In only a couple of minutes he spins a hunk of chilled honey into 16,000 delicious candy threads, then rolls and stuffs them to form individual desserts. While he calls this an ancient Korean delicacy, it’s really nothing more or less than a dressed up version of that staple known as Dragon’s Beard in any Chinatown, or Cotton Candy in any county fair.

I’d tip big for a snack served with a side of this fresh charm.

A Merry MultiCulti Christmas!

From David Mamet to you:

But what do the Chinese do on Passover?

How is this night different from all other nights? WONTONS!

The Gourmet’s Companion

Now that import restrictions are so … restrictive, one must resort to creative ways of getting one’s most precious items across borders.

Is that a Bratwurst in your suitcase or are you just happy to see me?

Is that a Bratwurst in your suitcase or are you just happy to see me?

You can just put the laptop into the checked luggage, but don’t let THIS baby out of your sight. You know what they say: keep your friends close, and your andouille closer.

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Fish caper

Mr. Henry was short on time and on ingredients. Ocean caught off St. Augustine, cleaned and frozen in skim milk right on the boat, mahi-mahi filets had not yet completely thawed. At 11:15 a.m. Mother Henry was ravenous, asking whether her son was ever going to fix that fish.

When lunch is late, Mother Henry is not at her best.

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How do you hurry a mahi-mahi onto the lunch plate? The answer is salt.

Sea salt liberally applied helped the fish thaw. Scouring the fridge for ingredients, Mr. Henry found a bottle of capers, a lemon, and some dried parsley flakes – just sufficient to construct a sauce piccata.

Dredge the salted filet in flour (with black pepper) and sauté to a light brown in a mixture of butter and olive oil. Remove to a serving plate and deglaze your pan with lemon juice, white wine, or both. (Add more butter if you want more sauce.) Add capers and chopped parsley (fresh is preferable), combine briefly and pour over the filets.

From start to finish the whole thing won’t take more than five minutes, so don’t begin until your guests are ready to eat.

The recipe works equally well with filet of veal or breast of chicken. To assure the meat is evenly thin, pound it flat beforehand between plastic wrap.

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Capers are a curiosity – immature flower buds cured in brine or vinegar. The best ones are Italian cured only in rock salt. Before using these you should them soak in cold water for a few minutes.

Mr. Henry’s friend Famous Howard lives exclusively on take-out. In his refrigerator there are precious few items, but always a bottle of capers. Howard finds the addition of capers adds immeasurably to the flavor of almost any sandwich.

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As a history buff Howard might be excited to learn that capers are mentioned in The Epic of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian story from the third millennium B.C.

Continuity and Change on the Upper West Side

hair.jpgDoper moved out. For 25 years he sat slumped in the same sunken upholstered chair watching TV, smoking joints and eating take-out. On sunny days he crept out onto the fire escape and talked on the telephone, prattling in a harsh outerborough accent.

At home, Doper never wore clothes.

Hearing the call of the Age of Aquarius, he was a naturalist who went back to the land, which for him meant the Upper West Side between 72nd Street and 96th Street.

During the quarter century he shared the backyard airspace with this hirsute old hippie, Mr. Henry never learned his real name.

Mr. Henry spoke directly to him only once. On a bright and cheerful morning Mr. Henry stepped out onto his tiny porch and was assaulted by the sight of natural man scratching his furry self.

“Couldn’t you put something on?” Mr. Henry asked rhetorically. Doper did not speak. Furrowing his giant uni-brow, he shrank back inside the dark apartment.

Doper did not go to work in any conventional sense. Once in a while he was spotted rifling corner trash cans for books and knicknacks that he displayed for sale on the sidewalk in front of Artie’s Delicatessen on Broadway and 83rd Street. Until ten years ago, every six months or so his aged parents came to straighten up his grotty apartment.

Perhaps because Doper always traveled by bicycle, he managed to maintain an enviably sleek physique despite being in his middle 60’s. Did he subsist exclusively on marijuana, Chinese take-out, and paper bags of birdseed? Will we soon be seeing The Doper Diet at Barnes & Noble?

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Perhaps he simply couldn’t stand the yuppification of Broadway.

At the corner of 77th Street a new restaurant is about to open, The West Branch, an offshoot of Tom Valenti’s Ouest which for years has been the only place in this neighborhood to get a really fine restaurant meal.

The West Branch will provide room service to the sleekly renovated hotel On the Ave.

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What’s more, next to The West Branch will be a new Fatty Crab, an uptown offshoot of the downtown place famous for Singaporean street food and for not accepting reservations.

Instantly 77th and Broadway, a corner where store after store has foundered, is becoming a destination location for people with appetite and cash.

The Doper moves on.

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