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Salt's CureAfter my last burger outing I was seeking redemption; a swing from distrustful of brioche, to hoping for any other form of wheat-based carbohydrates, perhaps even seriously considering a protein-style burger (lettuce-wrapped) for a reprieve. At Salt’s Cure, my brioche-induced fears might be abated, but now I just needed to see if their gourmet offering would warrant the price.

D&G FiveAcross from Astro Burger and Fat Burger (on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Vista Street), sits Salt’s Cure, perched coyly behind a saltshaker. The American eatery scrawls Calfornia-centric fare on the chalkboard daily, with a few staples that survive the eraser. Their wine list lives by the same idea, supporting the chalkboard rotation with a stellar Californian lineup.

In for dinner with a friend, punctuating the Memorial Day weekend with a pair of burgers and bottle of Donkey & Goat Five Thirteen—the red wine, born in El Dorado (Amador County), showed youthful notes of red plums, dark berries, and violets all misted under a faint crack of the pepper mill. We ordered in support of the burgers.

S C BOpeners a King Salmon atop a sweet onion puree, a simple presentation and clean flavor spectrum showing off the fish, it wasn’t until the entrees arrived that our eyes perked wide with excitement.

Two identical open-faced burgers, with one showing a strip of house-made bacon over a translucent layer of cheddar that coated the patty while the other side balanced a few fine rings of red onion and red leaf lettuce, all atop a toasted in-house Ciabatta! The bun alone was relief.

After assemblage the first bite showed off the superb texture of the sandwich. Crisp veggies, a melt-in-your-mouth patty and chewy bun came together well. The patty was comprised of a 70-30 grind (meat-to-fat), which explained the juiciness, and why I was thankful for the slipper bread bun—it held the burger’s integrity. The bacon, generally an overpowering addition, was content being rank-and-file with the rest of the burger’s components, adding a sweet-smoke finish. And finally salt, that basic ingredient, didn’t just figure into the name of the restaurant, its liberal dashes brought out a precise depth in the flavor department. A finely tuned burger that paired nicely with Southern Rhone inspired red.

Salt’s Cure had recaptured my gourmet burger spirit. Even the little things were taken to the next level—the accompanying fries that packed rosemary-freshness were excellent vehicles for one of the better house made ketchups I’ve encountered recently. My buddy and I were both blown away by the quality at almost every level from the attention to detail to the wine list. Seventeen dollars is a fair price to price to pay for excellence—if only that were the price for the entire dinner.

Before my three-week trip to Europe—in the interest of wine and family—I orchestrated an eat-a-thon of my favorite comfort food, something I have said before is essentially American: the burger. I knew well in advance that hamburgers in Europe would not be on the same level of my favorite eateries in California therefore I pledged to not eat one on the trip.

The event was dubbed “The Burger Bonanza” and it would include three wines to be paired with three unique burgers from Los Angeles. The wines were an Oregon Pinot Noir from Belle Pente Willamette Valley (2007), Coto de Hayas Garnacha (2008) and the Mercury Geyserville Jug wine (200?). My plan was to pair these wines with three unique burgers and see if the differences in preparation and style from each place made a difference with the wine.

1.) Belle Pente Willamette Valley (12.5% alcohol) possessed a thin body and light violet hue. Its flavors were subtle—light mineral. I chose this wine because of the reputation of the Oregon Pinot Noir wines.

2.) Coto de Hayas Garnacha (14% alcohol) was a full-bodied red wine with a peppery finish and cherry n’ spice on the nose. The Spanish wine seemed like it had the depth to pair well with a burger.

3.) Mercury Geyserville Jug wine (14.25%) showed a medium body wine with purple color. This blend acts as a chameleon and enhances flavors of a lot of dishes so I thought it would be a safe bet with the burger.

The first spot was Astro Burger—a small chain that serves a clean and simple burger with shredded iceberg lettuce, a little sauce and quarter inch patty on a seedless bun for a modest price.

We paired the Astro burger with the three wines and when our canteens were drained the winner was proclaimed, the people favored the Garnacha—largely because of the body and its ability to hold up to the flavors of the meat. There was nothing too exciting about Astro Burger but it was a good start to the rest of the festivities.

My plan would soon become mission implausible after our second stop. The Apple Pan dashed my dreams of pairing since just the ordering in the Edward Hopper-esque eatery is enough of a challenge. We decided to forgo the pairings and just concentrate on the burgers.

While I had intentions of pairing all the burgers (Astro Burger, Apple Pan and Gus’s Drive Thru) with wine I was unable to do so. Shortly after the first stop our group of 7 had to make it into one of the busiest burger joints: the Apple Pan. It is too bad because I am sure a different wine would have reigned supreme.

I look to do something similar in the future; with better planning, the execution I imagine could be spectacular. I did learn though that three burgers down the pipe in a four hour period is a stretch for any eater—well maybe not Kobayashi but almost all others. As for the wine of the day, the Garnacha—although a citizen of another country—proved to be a great partner for the burger matching the flavors and striking a balance that highlighted both parts of the meal. So much for home field advantage—two European wines have been crowned kings.

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