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Never in my wildest dreams did I intend to pair a burger with a Riesling; even with my excitement for the high-acid white wine, it seemed taboo. I wouldn’t underestimate Riesling, with its lithe acidity and sprightliness on the palate, but it just does not spring to mind when I am entertaining the notion of having a gourmet burger or any incarnation of red meat nestled in a bun. Nevertheless, it transpired and I am living to write about the experience. Buckle up—your pairing world won’t be the same again.

I was at The Standing Room again, recently, to tackle the crab sandwich with a buddy of mine—writer of Detroit OnLion—and enjoy a nice chilled Riesling with the highly touted lunch item. I brought the tumblers and a few packs of ice to keep the tall tapered flute chilly while driving down from the Westside of Los Angeles. We went in and perused the menu and when comfortable placed our order for the sandwiches… only to have our request denied—the Crab was not ready. We scrambled to find alternatives and when Jeremy audibled he went big ordering the Napoleon—a behemoth that consists of short rib, fried egg, half pound patty, two different cheeses, French fries, bacon, arugula and some other standard accompaniments—for nearly fourteen dollars. I tried two more times to get something that might match the Spätlese but the items were out or had been 86’d, and I was forced to settle with the Cash burger (crispy onions, Chinese barbeque sauce, avocado and bacon). It did not strike me as an ideal partner for the wine and I was losing faith, a little dispirited at the thought of an unintended pairing.

We waited for our order in the car and poured the wine, making the most of what I thought was a lost scenario and would ultimately mean another dash to Redondo Beach to eventually try that elusive crab sandwich. The 2008 Braunerberger Juffer (#199) from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer had a light straw color and a fragrant bouquet of green apple, lime and some notes of new tires (strong fresh rubber). On the palate the wine was nearly off dry with a healthy dose of RS on the tongue and bountiful green apple coating the buds. Light, zippy and refreshing, the Riesling was falling further from my mind as I had pondered a different pairing. It just didn’t seem realistic for the meal at hand.

When we got the burgers, we created a mock photo shoot and began tweeting our experience before eating. We took our first bites—it was cumbersome for Jeremy—and both of us were smitten with our selections. I urged him to drink his iced tea since I was confident his burger was off limits for the Spätlese and he heeded the recommendation. Midway through the burger, with its sweet flare, I reached reflexively for my tumbler full of wine and took a sip. My eyes went wide with astonishment, the sweet flavors of the bbq sauce and the crispy onions matched with the residual sugars in the wine, and the acidity was enough to ready my mouth for another bite of beef. I would say that there was a weight issue with the wine, the body not quite as big as the burger but, nevertheless, it made nearly an outstanding pairing because of the signature attributes of the Riesling. Another reason the Cash burger was almost a perfect partner was its delicate nature, not strictly focusing on a big patty as much as it was on the Asian fusion vibe of the Standing Room and it happened to be a successful combination of ingredients all around.

I finished my burger, while Jeremy had to roll up his sleeves and get medieval on the Napoleon burger; drippings from the egg, pieces of tender short rib as well as Parmesan Truffle Fries were strewn about the wrapper and basket. He was in hog heaven (stating later that it may have been his favorite burger on the West Coast) and I was left scratching my head over a Riesling that had the power to stay with the Cash burger. I still have to try the crab sandwich (one day making it back to Redondo Beach), but this pairing proved to be another fortuitous experiment in burgers and wine.

Recently I broke down; my staunch powers of frugality gave way, or were demolished like the Mulholland Bridge on Carmageddon Day, and I found myself spending a fortune at Amoeba Music. After reeling in my spending, and staying under a Benjamin I was armed with some serious music—mostly in the form of compact disc. The following day I was off from work (retail schedule!) and fixing to get a burger from an interesting place in Redondo Beach. I picked up my Mom in Long Beach and made the journey over PCH to the Standing Room.

Spinning Madlib’s Beat Konducta Vol. 3-4—a phonic voyage to India—we were underway, maneuvering north on the scenic route until we made it to the convenient store that doubles as a gourmet burgery, parking the car close and readying the camera as we entered. The proximity to the beach is enough to heighten the senses, the salinity in the air, the cool ocean breeze and the unobstructed sun glowing radiantly. The outside of the Liquor store marks The Standing Room, with wall art and what I was guessing is an order window (not in use at the time).

Once inside, a fairly familiar feeling rushed over me, like any liquor store outside the web of Circle K and Seven Eleven, one with a little more of an independent ambiance. In the back a small kitchen, next to a television and a myriad of refrigerated beverages completes this mosaic of The Standing Room. I had read good things about this place and was really looking forward to a dynamite burger.

We had a little bit of a wait, talking to others about the credentials of the establishment; they were eager to recommend items like the Soft Shell Crab sandwich, the Napoleon and other assorted items. I was personally ready to snack on something simple, but after a brief talk with the chef, who told me that the “Dressed” put them on the map and it would be a worthwhile choice, I placed an order for the “Naked” and “Dressed” for a $14.75 tag.

After about ten to twelve minutes of waiting we had our burgers in to-go containers and an extra cone of Parmesan truffle fries (a delicious comp) to go with it. We took the food out to the street—seriously, there is no seating—and ate curbside. Allowing the suns rays to provide the perfect natural lighting for the burger as I conducted my photo shoot.

The “Dressed” hamburger was enormous, aside from the ½ inch patty that came with it, when stacked, a fried egg, arugula, caramelized onions, two different layers of cheese (Gruyere and Smoked Gouda), tomato jam and a little aioli completed the half-foot presentation—it was a bit cumbersome to eat.

After the first bite the yoke broke and the sandwich became even richer in flavor. The cheeses added sharpness and smokiness while the sweet jam in combination with the onions completed the pleasant arsenal on all five of my tasting senses. Delightful.

The “Naked” burger, rather, a classic burger in the Standing Room’s view, was fresh, large and enough to make me stop thinking about the fact my Mom was sitting on a curb in the parking lot sampling the burger. It was completely different from her accustomed choice, but proved capable of displacing her favorite Islands burger experience.

The fries—generally, not a favorite item for me—were absolutely perfect; seasoned excellently, crispy and retained the heat the entire time instead of getting limp, cold and soggy like fries often do. The cheese was generous (but not overwhelming) and so were the sprinkles of herbs. The truffle oil helped provide the extra nudge to make these fries a masterpiece, that complex fungi oil lent itself to the seasoning, forcing me to almost perform clean-up duty—mop up every last drop.

We had successfully polished off two heaping hamburgers and most of the side before we threw in the white napkins. The food survived the hype (rare feat, much like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), the portions were beyond fair—ample—and the prices were slightly more affordable than most gourmet burger joints (Rounds excluded). As my Mom and I pressed on for the day, working our way back to the LBC, blasting the rest of Madlib, I could only think of two things to make this place better: Seats and the location being a little bit closer to my home so that I could pair that Soft Shell Crab sandwich with a bottle of wine practically (and legally). I am not one to buckle under a challenge though; I will be back to explore the rest of this exciting menu.

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