Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Foodie Girls Lunch Brigade - Episode 27

Phrases commonly associated with January:

I'd love to, but I'm cleansing.
I'm enrolled in three different Boot Camps, Zumba and the unlimited plan at Pilates - It's kind of an emergency.
I'll have the water, with a small side of lettuce.
No, I'm not expecting again.  I had house guests over the holidays.
God, how do people watch this show sober?
Let me just pop that kale into the blender for you.
Oven?  What oven?
I have to stay home.  If I go out, I might accidentally run into some French fries at the bar.
I'm never eating a cookie again.

But, as my kids know, I'm always running a little late.  So you might hear me saying a few of these things in February*.  Far be it from me to put my need to fit into my pants ahead of the FG's need for a highly caloric lunch outing.

With fries.
And some cookies.

Episode 27:  We make short work of Short Order
The pre-opening buzz about Short Order, Nancy Silverton and Amy Pressman's new burger joint in the Farmer's Market was nothing short of giddy.  Nancy's recipe six years ago in the LA Times about the perfect backyard burger was revelatory (at least to me), and the Mozza worship would be ridiculous, except that the pizza is really, really good.  Reviews on Yelp have been mixed, with some raves and several feeling the prices are far too steep and the burgers were nothing special.  Controversy? Burgers? Giddy press?  Time for the FG's to check this place out.

It was a brisk, bright, breezy day in LA, and at just before noon on a Friday, we had our choice of sitting upstairs in the cozy restaurant or on the small downstairs patio with sleek wooden picnic tables.  We choose the patio.  Menus were rolled up with napkins in mason jars on the tables, and the very friendly server came over quickly to give us their "burger temperature guide" to review while we decided.

The menu inaccurately said that their more exotic burgers (lamb, pork, tuna) were only available upstairs, but we soon zeroed in our our lunch plan.   There was universal agreement on trying the Market Spuds ("With truffle salt?" "Ooh, of course!!") and the Corn Pups ("I LOVE corn dogs!" "Me, too!") to start, followed by Nancy's Backyard Burger, the Short Order Burger, and a Tuna Niciose raft.  FG6 and FG17 like their burgers well done, so we asked for one that way, and the other medium.  The tuna we ordered medium rare.  An appalling dearth of Diet Coke (but plenty of water in mismatched glass jars) led me to branch out and order a ginger soda.  I have to admit, it was awesome.

After we ordered, a couple of us walked around to peek in to see the kitchen at work.  There's a huge woodpile next to the wall, apparently fueling the busy grill.  Burgers are quickly covered with metal tins, to seal in the smoke as they cook.

The first slight sign of trouble was our burgers arriving well ahead of our pups and spuds.  So much for making this a two course lunch.   But the food looked so good we collectively forgave the service error on the spot.  Here's what we ate:

The Backyard Burger.  Not a huge fan of the guacamole in there in place of the advertised avocado, but you really can't go wrong when there's that much bacon involved.  The red onions were also notably more pungent than some people liked.  The homemade spicy mayo was marvelous, though.

The burger came out well done, although we'd asked for medium, but we let it go so everyone could have a taste. The buns were absolutely delicious, golden, lightly toasted and just slightly sweet, quality one would expect from a team with this pedigree.  The beef was excellent, too, full of meaty flavor and with a slightly coarse texture that lets you know it's been freshly ground.    The lettuce was light and crisp, exactly the way lettuce on a burger should be. But somehow, in this instance, the whole was not quite as good as the sum of the parts, we agreed.  It was a very, very nice burger, but not amazing.

The Short Order Burger, with grass-fed beef, griddled mushrooms, morbier cheese, lettuce and mustardy mayo, well done on purpose.  I actually liked this burger better, maybe because I was put off by that guac.  I could taste the beef more, and the mustardy mayo was full of whole-grain mustard seeds and had a tang that went really well with the rich cheese and bun. The mushrooms were also very tasty.  The consensus?  We liked it.  Quite a bit.  But we weren't going to go on and on about it.

The Corn Pups, when they came, were just bland.  We were all sorry we'd ordered them.  I let the group know about the corn dogs at Disneyland for future reference.

The Tuna Nicoise Raft on the other hand?  Anything but bland.  It was literally breathtaking.  A toasted bun, topped with a hand-formed patty of loosely chopped albacore tuna, with a glorious mix of frisee, baby heirloom tomatoes, crisp haricot vert and briny olives in a garlic-y mustard vinaigrette, with a perfectly fried egg on top.  Smashing! As FG14 said so well, "Anything with a fried egg on it makes me happy." 

It was a bit of a nightmare to get a workable bite off of the tower, but so worth the effort.  This, far more than the burgers, seemed to have Nancy Silverton's style and flair for flavor written all over it.  At $17, it's the most expensive thing on the menu, but this dish would command far more than that if it weren't being served on a burger joint patio.

And then, there were our new favorite things.  The Market Spuds.  In the words of our server, "They take a baked potato.  They shred it into little pieces.  And then they fry it."  Nuff said.

She'd told us she often makes a meal out of the spuds and the special dipping sauce (bacon bits, sour cream with a little lemon, and scallions), and at $6 for the combo, every one of us would go back and do the same in a heartbeat.  Not only are these piping hot little nuggets pretty much the only way I want to eat potatoes from now on, the portion very generously served four of us.  Although we were kind of all fighting over the last little bits at the bottom.

The Short Story?  If you're at the Grove and looking for an upscale treat, stop by Short Order, and have the Tuna Raft (if you're splurging) or the Market Spuds (if you're not).  Do you need to run right over there now?  No.  But if you order right, enjoy the sunshine on the patio, and save a little room for dessert (more on that in another post), you'll be glad you came.  If you go, apparently the milkshakes are worth a try.  Have one, and let us know what you think!

FG Final Verdict?
Short Order is ON the list!
Pricing Info:  Burgers $11-17, sandwiches & salads $8-15, sides $3-8, shakes $6, beer and cocktails available.
FG Value Rating:  Fair deal - four of us ate three main courses, the corn dogs, and the spuds for $18 apiece, including tax and tip.

* "It's kind of an emergency" and "No, I'm not expecting again" will almost definitely cross my lips.  But you'll never hear me offer to pop kale into a blender for you.  I mean, get real!

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