National Burger Day at Rustic Canyon

The burger reportedly stared its long, wonderful journey at Louis’ Lunch in New Haven Connecticut. Louis’ has been selling ground beef patties between two pieces of toasted bread to busy office workers since 1900. Burger guru George Motz profiles them in his book Hamburger America, and they are also featured on the DVD that accompanies the book. George also visits LA’s venerable Apple Pan in the book, deemed one of his favorite burger joints in LA.

LA is hit and miss with it’s burgers. Or inexpensive, good burgers anyway. In my opinion, In-and-Out Burger reigns supreme for the best tasting, cheapest burger. There are some great King burgers in South Central LA if you dare to make the trip. There are a handful of gourmet burger joints around the city like Father’s Office, Lucky Devils, 25 Degrees, The Counter, and 8oz. And several restaurants that have their own version of the classic sandwich, The Hungry Cat, Marmont, Village Idiot, Morton’s and the like.

This time around, we hit up one of those great restaurant adaptions of the classic meat and buns. To celebrate the burger’s 109th birthday, and National Burger Day (May 28), we stopped in at Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica. Chef Evan Funke, who can be seen nearly every week browsing the rows of fresh produce at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, is at the helm creating seasonal cooking at its best. The menu, constructed of fine small plates, a couple of pasta dishes, and main dishes like a Root Vegetable Shepherds Pie, California Rock Cod, Pan Roasted ‘Jidori’ Chicken, and of course the Niman Ranch Burger.

To start off with we order a bottle of the 2003 Panza Petite Syrah. It’s a dark ruby-red wine with flavors of currant, raspberry, blackberry, and plum. There are hints of clove and toasted hazelnuts, very big and bold with a long finish. The squash blossoms arrive, beautiful flowers, stuffed with goat cheese and herbs. Lightly breaded, then deep fried. Never would I think of eating flowers, but stuff them with goat cheese and deep fry them, and they are consumed in just a few seconds.

The burger arrives in all it’s glory. A beautiful presentation, the burger is stacked on a soft and chewy bun, with a slice of sharp Vermont cheddar, a single onion ring, house made pickles, wild arugula and the addition of a fried egg on top. The meat, a good 8oz Niman Ranch ground beef patty. Was slightly overdone for medium rare, and a little under seasoned for my liking. The egg was perfectly cooked, the pickles added a nice zing of flavor. Overall, the taste and quality of ingredients made this an exceptional burger to celebrate such a great “holiday”.

The Vahlrona Chocolate Truffle Pudding with whipped creme, delicious cold and creamy pudding, topped with a thick layer of truffle pudding and fresh whipped cream was good. But I think I missed out when we didn’t order the Hot Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts with local stone ground hot chocolate. It’s supposed to be one of Zoe Nathan’s exceptional dishes. Nathan, is the Pastry Chef at the equally raved about Huckleberry Bakery located just a few doors down (and owned by the same folks at Rustic.)

It goes on the list of one of the finer burgers in town, but at $16 (plus $2.50 for the egg!) It’s also one of the more expensive burgers. But on this special day, a little extra cash, for an extra special burger, is worth it. How often do you get to celebrate someone’s 109th birthday?

Copyright 2009

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