This week was burger week. I decided to try a variety of veggie burgers as they seem to be the most mainstream of vegetarian cuisine, and I had such good luck at Hillstone in Manhattan. I tried three; the Boca Burger, the Gardenburger and Veggie Burger at Custom Burger in San Francisco.
I'll start by saying that despite my enthusiasm for dining at Bogo in Manhattan, I really don't care for vegetarian food that attempts to be something its not. A well-prepared burger is a nearly perfect food. A burger that contains something that attempts to be beef, is nearly perfect failure. However, a "garden burger" (small g) is something entirely different and thus may succeed or fail in its own right. This in mind, my review.
I liked the veggie burger at Hillstone as it was something well-conceived, well-executed and unexpected. It had a rich, smoky BBQ flavor and a texture that was earthy and grainy, but not squishy. For this reason I didn't care for the Boca burger. To me this food was a poor attempt to simulate the texture of meat. If I was passionate about not eating meat, I'm not sure why I would eat this at all. To me this says, "I know you're uneasy about killing an animal, but let's approximate that experience as closely as possible without actually getting blood on your hands." The harder you try to simulate meat, and the closer you come to getting it right, the more you simply gross me out. I wanted nothing to do with this.
Alternatively, I did enjoy the Gardenburger. It had a savory, well-seasoned vegetable flavor consisting of grains, black bean and rice. Adequately dressed, it was a great sandwich. The Custom Burger Veggie Burger fell short in my experience. Although, it was more grainy than a Boca burger, it had its own disturbing squishiness that left me a bit unappetized. Nevermind the bun was a bit stale, the restaurant a bit dirty and the fries soggy. I would say that place has sadly gone downhill (I was also going to add that I found the staff particularly unattractive, but felt that would be an inappropriate remark).
Other than this short comparison of burgers, I don't have much else to say about the third week of being a vegetarian, other than I'm getting bored with the whole experiment. I have a greater appreciation for vegetarian options that I never would have considered otherwise, and I'm happy to introduce some of these into my regular rotation of eating, but I'm looking forward to enjoying a greater variety in a week or so. I'm especially looking forward to enjoying some of the foods I really love (for example, I'm not going to Shabu House to order the Kobe broccoli).
I've also become a dining liability with friends, afraid to ask me to dinner for fear they too will have to eat something made of hemp. Add the no drinking policy and I might as well have swine flu.
Matt and Nicole: we'll get bourbon and steaks next week, I promise.