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fundamentalA refined take on the burger was what I’d expected when I’d completed my dinner reservations for Fundamental LA a few Fridays back. What I left with was a remarkable evening centered on familiar ingredients surprisingly repurposed for the betterment and cultivation of one’s palate.

The restaurant’s space in the afternoon is filled with a warming glow and shows off the artfully industrial décor; at night, in the absence of the sun, the eatery heats up, transformed into a chic and grown-up destination that conjures images of dining spaces in the finest big cities in our country. It’s cozy square-footage, intensified by the animated buzz of patrons and staff, completes the day-night metamorphosis.

A menu divided by plant and animal themed fare and creative wine list work hand-in-hand to provide everything necessary for a great dinner at a modest price. However it wasn’t the sides or the elegant 2006 Gigondas decanted into a 1000ml flask that had me hooked. It was rather one entrée—the “bœuf burger.”

fund burgA fifty-fifty blend of short rib and brisket that had been dry-aged for 2-4 days, blanketed by a finely melted Tilamook cheddar, arugula, house made pickles, garlic aioli, ketchup and a brioche bun, arrived halved, flaunting the precise cooking time that achieved a medium rare and highly desired pinkish core.

Ostensibly quotidian, from the familiar ensemble of ingredients to the presentation, nothing appeared novel, but that was belied by the careful attention to detail. Not only was the cooking time flawless, the preparation brought out a savory and well-seasoned patty. Umami! As for the well-worn supporting cast, each played their part in completing a surreal burger; a careful spread of garlic aioli added a sharp undercurrent of flavor while the arugula delivered a peppery element. In this place, I couldn’t imagine their burger served on anything other than a brioche bun.

The burger experience was reminiscent of that girl next door, growing up awkwardly together, seeing her through her first attempts at make-up, and her wildly different fashions, until one day, as if out-of-nowhere, it all comes together gorgeously—no seams exposed—and you are left with someone you’ve known for a long time but that you don’t know at all. The burger at Fundamental LA is worth your acquaintance.

RC BA friend’s belated birthday dinner was the perfect excuse to indulge, and, on advance reservations, we headed west for an early supper at Rustic Canyon to corroborate all the weighty claims about a superior burger served at the Santa Monica eatery.

RuthWe arrived at 6 PM sharp—parking nearby was easy despite competing with fellow early birds—to a table for two. The dining room was half-full and sun-soaked, poised to catch the most of the waning light as it washed over the worn hardwood floors. A beverage list towered vertically, while our cardstock menus lay glued to the table. There was little milling over the drinks, we skirted the vin in favor of beer—the list was chock-full of interesting choices—the Rustics, were in fact, a wine bar. The burgers’ reputation was sterling and the reason (one of them, anyway) for our trip, but the starters were where we welcomed our server’s input.

Guided gently to a Clam & Mussel Pozole and the ever-popular Kale Salad to precede the heavier main fare. I nibbled on some olives, passing time with playoff hockey chat.

Two diametrically opposed dishes landed together, sharing only their earthy green hue. The bowl of Pozole finished with crisp tortillas, making use of a wide range of flavors and engaging all the senses. From the varied textures to the subtle spice and clean cilantro flavors, the starter had it all in spades. It unfortunately overshadowed the kale salad.

Then the burgers landed. All business. Identical presentation between the two plates as the immense cheeseburgers split their rectangular ceramics with fries. The brioche bun was toasted to a firm and flaky consistency to keep its integrity under the rich and fatty grind that was cooked to a perfect medium-rare (a good default setting). The sharp cheese, melted nicely, lent another layer of fatty flavor, which added continuity to the sandwich’s theme. The spread, pickles and sweet onions worked harmoniously to provide an extra bit of lift. It was simple and satisfying.

If a burger’s purpose were to showcase the high quality meat that makes it into the patty then Rustic Canyon would surely get a gold medal. The patty was tender, filling and delicious and they didn’t hide it. We not only disagreed who would make it out of the first round between Anaheim and Detroit but also on how good that burger was (by me it took top honors for E.O.M. in May), as it didn’t bowl my friend over. I guess that’s what happens when one’s expectations are parked above the Hollywood sign. Still, the overall dining experience was excellent and I can’t wait to go back for seconds on the Pozole.

Little BearRecently, on a beer kick that I couldn’t shake, I stumbled upon Little Bear—a Belgian Beer Café—stooped on its corner of Industrial Street (in Downtown LA), across from Church and State, serving epic fare (ambitious burgers) and belly filling brews behind a big red door.

Lunch at Little Bear fostered a casual vibe, workers relaxing behind their hazy witbier and lively discussions whose acoustic bounce off the vaulted ceilings ramped up the buzz; we planted ourselves central to our surroundings, carefully selecting liquid accompaniment to the ordination of midday burgers.

More than the De Ranke Saison that filled my chalice, I was curious to see how well the Little Bear burger worked because, at fifteen dollars, the stakes were high.

Fire CrackTo get our fill, we began with crispy firecracker shrimp that were plated tail up, with a Thai dipping sauce and cilantro garnish. As easy on the eyes as they were on the tongue, possessing a lovely fried snap, the rich crustacean filling was given a lift by the sweet peanut sauce on a starter that boasted it all from texture to taste.

Two Little Bear burgers landed next, sharing their ceramic plates with a spread of Flanders frites. Photo-worthy. The Little Bear burgers were decked out with a large patty covered in bubbling Stilton cheese, fried onion crisps, mushrooms, truffle oil and kissed with cherry gastrique all between a toasted sesame studded brioche bun.  Simplifying burger arithmetic: they were working the sweet ‘n savory angle.

The first bite lacked balance; the Stilton came in hot and heavy, as did the truffle oil dominating the beef. As I inched closer to the core however the sandwich had found its groove, blending umami characteristics with the sweet kriek spread and cubing it all with the textural crunch of the fried onions. Sublime bites. The bun also showed better than most brioches, the toasting was perfect, complimenting the gamut of flavors and keeping its integrity as the burger discharged its jus to burst its bounds.

With a crescendo that would make Ravel envious the Little Bear burger’s flavor trajectory was exponentially up, gathering steam with each ensuing bite. It was complex and quite filling, leaving me to meditate over the farmhouse ale. Impressive, when you consider the price (which included the spuds), that Little Bear could over-deliver! For beer geeks and burger enthusiasts alike, Little Bear struts easily into E.O.M. territory for March!

Rosewood Tavern BurgerA day of two inventories passed last Sunday. A long morning session, with a 2:00 AM wake-up call, spanning 13 hours til 3:00 PM, counting floor stock of all things liquid in my retail environment, before moseying over to the restaurant for a second dose of counting bottles. A double-header, I laced up the sneakers, not allowing myself a chance to let a rare Sunday off slip away to make-up sleep, even if that meant more work. The head sommelier was treating me to a burger lunch for allaying his counting woes. My mind’s eye trained on the prize—stories of an epic cheeseburger served on Fairfax Avenue would finally be corroborated or debunked.

Rather than kvetching about the grueling inventory of my primary job, it was actually exciting to finally participate in a restaurant count. The head sommelier and I began a thorough inventory of the cellar lasting about 2 ½ hours, which seemed easier than the 6 ½ hours I’d spent tracking bottles at my retail post, except that the chill of a real cellar put the hazard in the work and started to go through me at the 2 hour mark. Finishing with dessert and sparkling wines—we’d counted everything, and I was ready for lunch at The Rosewood Tavern.

I had heard plenty about this burger before we had arrived—mindful of the many great disappointments with past lunches/dinners where the buzz had fallen short. Regardless, it was going to be fun to have one of my favorite foods with our sommelier outside of dinner service and our regular tasting group contact, and drink a sterling bottle of wine.

2008 Conterno BarberaWe toted a bottle of 2008 Conterno Barbera d’Alba, to lighten our own inventory and sidled up to the bar. It was nearly empty on a Sunday afternoon, a large, dark and spacious décor. We would have two burgers—medium rare—no substitutions—with standard accompaniments. A winning combination.

Between musings on work and occasional glances at the football games we gave scrutiny to the Barbera. The Piemontese red showed a developing nose of black cherry, plums, leather, coffee, smoke and dried herbs. The first sip however, offered something more youthful, with a good core of fruit washing across the palate—indicative of a structured wine with a long road to maturity. The savory flavors reappeared on the finish behind crushed fruits (red but mostly black), carried by a medium plus acidity, and a long and clean finish. It was impressive on its own and would hopefully gather strength with the all-American cheeseburger.

Two massive cheeseburgers arrived after a fifteen-minutes, sharing their burdened plates with a hefty pile of seasoned fries, a picturesque film of cheddar cascading down the half-pound patty, crisp butter lettuce, red onion rings and tomato protruding, and a sturdy looking pretzel bun keeping it together—it was an inviting image.

The first bite suggested a better method would be to eat with utensils. Juice running freely from the medium-rare meat; the first time in a while I could see the evidence of a true medium-rare afforded me in a generous and coarsely ground patty. The fundamentals sound, only one minor flaw emerged—easily ignored—they had over-seasoned the burger. Nothing a little wine couldn’t fix.

A wonderful blend of flavors emerged with each swig of Barbera from the old world producer (the son carrying on the tradition of his father—the late Giovanni Conterno). The acidity waded through the overflow of jus from the grind and tamed down the salty sword of seasoning. A delightful combination of beverage and fare.

For the money—fifteen dollars for burger and fries—it represented great value; the proportions were hearty and fair, but more importantly, the burger was simple and satisfying. Nothing was over-complicated; rather the burger was dialed in and someone in the back of the house understood cooking times! A few pinches less of salt would’ve catapulted Rosewood Tavern to burger fame. A long day of inventorying wine paid dividends as I shared a bottle of one of my favorite Italian cantinas, with a good friend, over one of the finest bar burgers in memory.

It had been one decade since I last stepped foot in a Wendy’s. Despite the long absence, I have always held fond thoughts of the fast food chain, and especially for their late founder, Dave Thomas, the avid hockey fan and supporter of the NHL. Can’t find that combo too easily nowadays. Pushing headfirst forward into my survey of the fast food circuit I made a pit stop at Wendy’s to share a split of Chateauneuf-du-Pape over a ¼-pounder and a French film.

My customary order from Wendy’s was never a burger, but rather chicken nuggets; Wendy’s was never my go-to burgery, having eaten there less than a handful of times in my life. On the rare occasion that I went, I copied one of my hockey line-mate’s orders from afternoon practice in Tustin/Irvine. Then it hit me; this may’ve been my first actual burger from Wendy’s (!), as I rolled up to the drive-thru and placing my request for a ¼-pounder.

I made it out of the drive-thru through for just shy of one five-dollar bill, placing the tote with the warm and redolent contents next to my carefully positioned split. In my possession was a half bottle of affordably priced (though it was sample—free) Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Clos de l’Oratoire “Des Papes” from the less-than-stunning 2008 vintage. The bottle’s vintage label and surprising color scheme has always been attractive to me, even after I learned of Domaine du Pegau, Château de Beaucastel, and Château Rayas—whose labels might communicate a slightly more historic sense and their high prices certainly affirm their significance (of place and pedigree) along with their current acclaim. All this is to say that riding shotgun on the passenger seat, I had the workingman’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

When I pulled up to my friend’s house, with a copy of Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Doulos, food, camera and wine, our evening was close to underway. My friend oddly enough had already eaten at Wendy’s earlier in the evening and was just awaiting my review. I set up a mini photo shoot, opening the bottle and positioning my subjects while he readied the DVD. We sat down, while I ate and he talked about the happenings of the day before we started the gangster flick.

The presentation, much like my Burger King experience before it, was in good order. The ingredients looked crisp and fresh. The flavors were simple but the patty was a little dry—no doubt it fell victim to being chaperoned a mile and half out, instead of being wolfed down on the spot; I was willing to give it that. I washed down the mouth-drying burger and reached for a glass of the red wine that was brimming with darker berries and ripe plums, giving way to cracked black pepper, a faint meatiness, and herbal notes of thyme and lavender. It was delightful. I was smitten with the performance of the value-minded Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it elevated the food and certain savory flavors were extracted from the wine while I took my next few bites. It was a favorable exchange, as the Southern French wine did yeoman’s work to mask the only flaw of the burger.

Not only did the wine help the food, it eased us through the unfortunate ending that befell the star of the Melville film. That evening the working-class Châteauneuf-du-Pape was the highlight of the night, supporting both the cinema and food. The Wendy’s showing wasn’t terrible by any stretch, but just like some of my favorite fast-food chains, inconsistency issues can rise to mar the experience. I wouldn’t be against going back but I am in no hurry to do so.

We were definitely “those guys” when we stumbled into Slow Club on Oscar Sunday to grab lunch. Just fifteen minutes before they closed to prep for dinner, we walked in, much to the chagrin of many of the servers… and possibly the kitchen. It was inexcusable on our part but after an hour-long trek on BART it was warranted. There was a lot of research prior to arriving at 2501 Mariposa Street; the short list presented a mix of bay area classics and burgeoning kitchens that took serious time for my one chance at burger perfection. We elected to dine at an untested spot, after assuaging our doubts by reading countless blogs and reviews that twinkled brightly and nearly fawned over their burger.

Inside and seated, our server was more than hospitable, giving us some time as we studied the menu to balance our pre-decided burger with a side and scan the surroundings. The most prominent observation was the fung shui of the place; the kitchen and bar had traded places, seeing the kitchen in animation once you set foot inside and the bar at the back of the house, otherwise the semi-industrial feel of the eatery was nothing too shocking. The menu is where the focus was, loaded with ambitious choices that befit the culinary scene and made choosing the second plate a laborious process. Our trusty accompaniment spoke to me after I spied the Banyuls dressing, piquing my interest when other choices sounded more promising than a salad.

To pair with lunch, I had a glass of Bordeaux while my buddy had expanded his beer knowledge by ordering a glass of Triple Voodoo’s Inception. We sipped casually, waiting about ten to fifteen minutes until the two plates arrived. Open-faced, with one half presenting a proudly charred patty stewing in its own juices and just opposite were the fresh arugula, balsamic onions and tomato. I assembled the sandwich and cut it down its center. One fatal flaw was exposed instantly. They overcooked our burger to medium well (instead of medium rare), showing a slight hint of pink. It was too bad too because the meat was high quality—sourced from Prather Ranch—and dry aged to lock in more flavor. Despite the overcooking, the grind and crusting on the burger were fantastic. Another small hiccup was the healthy smear of sharp Dijon mustard aioli that helped mask the prized meat. The flavors attacked the palate and with all those good ingredients, it was shame to bury them under a zingy mustard spread.

The salad lived up to the billing, an interesting vinaigrette helped spruce up the side dish. Everything was in balance; the components were there for a great burger, the portions were ample and the prices were even reasonable… we happened to run into an inconsistency issue that I am willing to excuse on account of our arriving late to the party. It might be a while until I have a follow-up, but I wouldn’t mind revisiting the Slow Club next time I hit the Bay.

Fairfax Avenue is a fashionista’s paradise, sporting kids with wild styles and of course, jeans tailored too tight—often exposing ankles. In addition to the hip hoards of youth that inhabit and prowl the avenue, the area houses a culinary epicenter; a lot of Los Angeles staples can be found somewhere on that road, like Canter’s Deli (practically, an institution, though not my favorite deli), Meals By Genet, Animal and many others. Friday night, I went to the Golden State seeking out “The Burger” but possibly finding the next great café on an Avenue that is rich in food options.

Inside The Golden State Café was a handsome collection of art adorning the walls, unevenly; wood tables were coupled with matching chairs, a lonely flat screen TV projected ESPN highlights and cement flooring all worked in concert to provide the ambiance of an art studio that cooks. Casual yet refined. The soignée establishment was hopping, each seat was filled, and lively chatter took place at every table. One of the owners (a bespectacled and friendly man) and a young waitress (Eva) were behind the counter to field all of our queries, making sure we placed the proper orders on beverages and chow. The entire group was there for burgers so the only thing that changed amongst ordering were the sides; I elected for jalapeño cabbage slaw to accompany the house burger sans cheese. It incorporated: Harris Ranch beef, Fiscalini Farms Cheddar, applewood smoked bacon, arugula, house made aioli and ketchup served on a brioche bun*. I also inquired about the wines and was set up with a glass of Meritage blend.

Food arrived shortly after ordering; the impressive speed was not the only thing to get excited over, rather the burger’s generous presentation was as inviting as the interior of the restaurant, with the bun slightly hinting at what was under the hood. A thick slab of flavorful bacon, a stout patty, and some arugula and on the side laid a mountain of lightly dressed jalapeño cabbage slaw.

The patty was perfectly executed, medium and yielding some jus; my teeth were delighted by the texture, soft interior encased by a little crispness from the char. The complexity wasn’t only in the texture but the bacon, which added sweetness to give the burger some depth. The bun’s egginess was off-putting but that would be my only criticism, since it held up for the entire meal unlike so many other brioche buns I have had. The balance of flavors was there. As for the side… sublime. A little heat was derived from the raw slices of jalapeño that were wedged in between finely shredded cabbage and thin slices of carrot that had bright crispness and was not swimming in a broth of mayonnaise, like so many other restaurants choose to make a slaw. It was a refreshing change.

Another bright spot was Golden State’s dessert. An ice cream case that was open to a couple of possibilities: floats or by the scoop; our table split (as evenly as five people can) to have beer floats—Old Rasputin Ale with a scoop of your choice of ice cream— and some scoops of the unusual flavors like bread, chai tea, and black currant n’ orange. I heard only good things about the beer float and as far as my scoop of ice cream was concerned I chose honey salt that was predominantly a rich honey flavor rounded out by the salt, keeping the honey in check. A smart combination.

On the whole this is a place I want to come back to. The food is enough reason to come—simple but well executed. Friendly service and a relaxed atmosphere highlight the experience. Fairfax Avenue has, indeed, another stalwart eatery.

* Sourcing is a big deal for a lot of foodies; it ensures that the vendor has selected quality goods from a purveyor that is proud enough to have their name on the product.

The Foundry on Melrose—a beautiful and modern establishment dedicated to Jazz and dressed up food. Eric Greenspan is responsible for a lot of the wonderful things that go on at this hip eatery—especially the burger. So renowned, it vies for the title of best burger in our big city (“Los Angeles, I’m Yours”).

It was here that my group and I took on the Patio Season Burger ($12 each) to see if it could be our favorite as it is for so many others including Quinn Hatfield of Hatfield’s—another reputable restaurant.

With the burger, we ordered a bottle of wine ($57 but curiously enough they charged $32) to split four ways and a side of mustard greens ($6).

Burger Breakdown:

Arriving on a square plate, open-faced on four tiny Hawaiian sweet buns (eight in total) lay an inch thick patty with some arugula, tomato and cornichon pickles. On one side of the square plate there are three separate square dishes providing “summer condiments” (which included tamarind onion tapenade, homemade mayonnaise and pineapple bacon relish). Lining the other side of the square plate are three golden onion rings with a silky smooth complexion. The presentation… stunning.

Damon Gambuto's image

I excitedly dug in after a word on the best way to eat it. That was to cut it into sliders—four miniature burgers to enjoy, or so I thought. Two of the four burgers (mine included) at the table were a tad overcooked; they retained the pink center but were devoid of jus. The onion rings were also served cold. The burger really worked the sweet angle—the rolls and relish were a bit out of balance for my palate. The grind was coarse and became tiresome. For my money the burger had little going right for it. The mustard greens were forgettable.

On the side:

I will say a little bit about the service because I think it is an underrated part of a meal—made especially more important when you have less than stellar service. Our waiter was friendly but not too knowledgeable, leaving something to be desired about the wine and beverages. At the end of the meal we had a little problem with the cheese plate; the server assigned to us for describing the cheeses was reciting notes from a training pad (seemingly amateur). Everyone has to learn somewhere but it was apparent the staff was not as familiar with their fare as some of the other eateries of this lot. It was acceptable but could have been better.

I can safely say that this burger is unique—I cannot think of another one quite like this. There are burgers that have similar goals but Mr. Greenspan has taken burger making to another level, leaving the imagination wildly active. Unfortunately, it does not chime with me but others seem to be enthralled (call me a traditionalist).

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.

My inaugural wine and burger pairing took place in Brea this weekend with a couple of friends, two flasks and a plastic pitcher full of wine. I could not think of a more appropriate “burger joint” to kick off wine and burger tastings than Brea’s Best—where two Greek brothers own the establishment and have been producing fantastic hamburgers as well as other fine meals for quite some time. One of the brothers (Tom) is also an avid wine enthusiast. It has been a favorite restaurant of mine for twelve years. Brea's Best

My hypothesis was that American wines would drink best with American food. I was going to limit the tasting to strictly California however one Italian wine (a Barolo) found itself on the tasting menu. The wines were picked randomly since this tasting would govern our choices for the next time. The wines poured were: Reversanti (2005) Barolo, Peju Province Merlot (2004) and finally Thompkin 3rd Degree (2006).

Aromas and Flavors

1.) The Barolo from Reversanti (14% alcohol) smelled of anise and cherry—coating the palate fully, big yet smooth. Knowing that this wine pairs well with big meals I thought it had as good as any chance to be the favorite with a hamburger.

2.) The Peju Merlot (14.5% alcohol) from Napa was herbaceous with a tiny bit of vanilla on the nose and medium bodied on the tongue. I selected this wine because I was afraid of overpowering the hamburger with a tight Cabernet—I decided to take a slimmer approach and see if this wine could complement the hamburger.

3.) The Thompkin 3rd Degree (15.8%) from Santa Barbara had the brightest fruit flavor. The full-bodied Cote du Rhone via Santa Barbra was a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache that seemed to be the strongest of the three choices and could have the advantage when it came to taming the char of the patty.

When the burgers arrived we immediately grabbed our three plastic cups and began pouring the contents of our mobile containers. Since this was a new procedure we fumbled around a bit with procedure and lack of resources: Would we share cups? Should we eat inside?

We ate outside–far from the restaurant (since that is not an option) and we did share cups. We made various observations about the tasting and how each wine interacted with the burgers. The first and most obvious note was that the Peju Merlot was flattened by the burger—all the interesting flavors that were present on its own were absent with each bite of a burger.

Thompkin Cellars 3rd degree shined through the drippings from the patty and the char—as expected, vying for the desired perfect pair of the evening. Its ability to cut through the flavors and still retain all of them was astonishing.

The Barolo was enjoyable from start to finish—it only seemed to gather strength with the meal, enhancing the char. Both were better together and that is what I was looking for. I would not think to have a Barolo with a hamburger but in this case the flavors paired synergistically making it my favorite of the three wines poured.

The next pairing will be better executed—as we have a point of reference—we will be more confident when pouring. We remedied our cup situation by immediately going to Cost Plus to purchase some wine glasses (without stems). We have also deduced that California wine may not have the advantage when it comes to pairing with hamburgers. The Barolo by a nose.

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