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epicurean teasers

The artsy world of eating drifts continuously through culinary phases – nouvelle cuisine, mexican fusion, asian fusian, classic french… And so on. And even the dearly-beloved American burger (with cheese) has not escaped unnoticed. Here I’ve named and pictured two of the most mouth-watering creations in the USA. Move out of the way Mickey D, you too In-and-out. This place is for those who dream of, lust for, the best of the best of the best.

Please check my Magnificent Hamburgers post  – and comment with your own suggestions? 

Sadly, a masterpiece has vanished with the closing of Phoenix’s Fez Bistro.  A tragedy, for the addicted.  Its complicated, many-faceted sauce was a resistance-melting aphrodisiac, soaked into its homemade sourdough.  RIP Fez Burger.  But Phoenix seems to be a champion among champions for towering mouth-watering burgers.  Google them before you hit the city – you’ll find a panoply of choices.

Sorry Australia.  I cannot be tactful…. I cannot recommend the sliced raw beetroot and slaw-laden McDonald’s burger.  What on earth were they thinking?



Hangover Burger Lordsburg Taproom, La Verne CA
hangover burger
When I was high-chair size, I remember a busy-body lady leaning over to me and chirping “Look at those lovely carrots… Are they what make your cheeks so rosy?” Speaking to strangers was a no-no, but this needed a reply.”No… meat.”  I glared at the carrots.  I knew what I liked.

The world today seems to be becoming anti-beef.  Perhaps we Americans eat too much of it – but there it is.  Most of us love it – especially the iconic burger.  Here I give you a couple from our travels.

Hangover Burger, version from CA:

This jaw-widening treat is a half-pound patty of ground Kobe or Angus beef on a brioche bun, layered with onion strings, melted Muenster cheese and, importantly, chipotle bacon and chipotle mayonnaise and sauce.  Smoked chipotle peppers (nee jalapeno) smoked after they dry out. You might be able to buy this salsa, or sauce.  It isn’t overly picante – just smoky delicious.

*(Bacon recipe below, if you can’t find it at your market).

When the thick patty is cooked and the cheese slice well melted (I find medium rare best for flavor and juiciness, but my daughter-in-law recoils at pink) place 2 pieces of that outrageous bacon on it, spoon on a little chipotle salsa (chopped tomatoes and cilantro, 1 and 1/2 Tbs chopped canned chipotle peppers) – and slather chipotle aioli on the bun (more canned chipotle, mixed with mayonnaise – easy peasy) – then lay on some  pungent arugula. Add a scant handful of thinnest onion strings for a perfect crunchiness – and top with a tender fried egg.  Cover with the bun, pick it up with two hands, and have at it.  Bon appétit!

Sooo good.  And maybe it is good for a hangover… Or maybe it’s just that everything hangs over. (See photo above.)


  • 6 slices thick-cut hickory smoked bacon
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon southwest chipotle seasoning, mix (Mrs. Dash, Tones, Konriko or homemade)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Arrange slices on baking sheet; bake until almost crisp (8-9 minutes). Drain the drippings from baking sheet and discard.
  2. In small bowl, combine agave nectar, chipotle seasoning and pepper. Brush bacon with the chipotle mixture; bake until glazed (8-10 minutes).


Then there’s the glorious, succulent, unimaginably delicious Zin Burger, from the bistro of the same name, in Tucson.  The caramelized onions can be sautéed in zinfandel, should you wish –  or so can optional mushrooms,  pictured here.  zin burgerThe homemade buns are fresh-baked from potato flour with a touch of honey.  And the cheese, warmed Manchego, nicely fits itself to the primo Kobe beef patty – all this sits on a blanket of delicately shredded lettuce.

Even my lettuce hater man likes it – the bed serves as a sponge for the burger’s savory juices.  Soooo good.


Lettuce Free Salad?

salad no lettuce 2

Hard to fathom, but there are people in this world who really don’t like lettuce. When they order their juicy cheeseburgers, it’s “hold the lettuce.” The same for any sandwich, even the iconic Club. And when they’re served unrequested side salads (unless spinach of course), they mine it for extraneous items like tomatoes – leaving behind the lettuce, rejected, wilting on the plate. My husband is a lettuce-loather. Sees no reason for it. But these days, fluffy lettuce salads come flaunting wonderful additions like raisins, pine nuts, slices of bell peppers, carrots julienned, grated cheese… Even meats. The fluffy lettuce, of course, being the vehicle to transport goodies into our inner selves. (Who doesn’t know that?)

avocado petals

avocado scoops, petals

So how to get these palate picky people to enjoy your salads? Create one without lettuce. One of chilled florets of cauliflower, broccoli, slivered colorful bell peppers –and of course, tomatoes. Those raisins and pine nuts. Even a handful of pecans festooning the top. But the way to lure all this into their gullets, is with a gleaming luscious dressing, a dressing that pops out the vibrant colors of your art. One with a tiny bit of zip, one that will tease the palate into one forkful after another. And don’t forget topping it off with curls, or petals, of avocado (accomplished by a judicious scooping out with a spoon – so quick and easy). Some don’t like avocado. If the slices are not mixed in, just fanning out atop the artwork, they can be pawned off to dining companions, the aficionados. My husband doesn’t like them, nor does he condone the use of cucumber. My father wouldn’t eat those either – said they gave him the “burning burps.” So the cukes are up to you. I find them weak in this combo.

But don’t eschew the avocados or “alligator pears” (southern speak). They are soooo good, and so good for you. Just ring or top the salad with them.

Here’s my dressing suggestion to start you off:

½ Cup good orange juice; ¼ Cup red wine or rice vinegar ( – or a mix thereof); 1/4 C cold pressed olive oil; 2 T ketchup; 1 T mustard; 1 T honey; optional dash of tabasco; several very thin slices of red onion; 1 T dried tarragon. Salt and pepper. Add a bit of water if it needs thinning or extending.  If OJ unavailable,  no worries.  You can use lemon juice or more vinegar, to make the oil-to-vinegar proportions to your liking.

Mix all this up, sample it and adjust to your own preference. Let it sit and chill and meld for a bit in the refrigerator, before drizzling it onto to your heaping mélange of crudités (for the uninitiated, the French word for raw veggies). This salad, unlike the lettuce ones, can be dressed way ahead of time, and kept chilled.

This would sub for cooked vegetables, on the plate – colorful, easy, and toothsome.

In the past, vegetables occupied what they called “the quiet corner” of the plate. No more. Carnivores might even dig into this beauty first!

sticky date puddingFor me, one of the finest pleasures of travel comes at the table. Way beyond those $100 hamburgers we pilots are infamous for sniffing out at airports, across the sweeping landscapes of the USA. Though I bloom with the excitement of new sights, gustatory delights are simply a requirement for me.

As a ’50s teen I was sent to lectures at Paris’s Cordon Bleu cooking school (sadly, no scribbled notes are left – they were in my lousy french made-up shorthand anyway). My mother saw that she wasn’t going to keep me from nosing out delicacies from the patisseries and boulangeries, so she figured she might as well give me tools to make my own. As it happened, la chef des chefs Julia Child was there at the same time, learning to become the illustrious chef JULIA CHILD – and I would love to say that we met, but we didn’t, not then. I was a kid. Later on, though, I worked for her as a lowly unpaid volunteer on her television program – setting the table, ironing her blouse, watching her assemble French fantasies, and finally slurping them up after the shoot with the rest of the crew. (That was the pay.) So my palate was prepped for ferreting out the best of the best, wherever life took me, in the years to come. And I am going to share some recipes.

Let’s start with Australia’s over-the-top Sticky Date Toffee Pudding…

This absolutely had us on our knees, in the seaside town of Geelong.

1  heaping Cup of DATES, dried, pitted, & coarsely chopped into chunks.  Dry ingredients: 1 tsp baking soda, 6 oz. sifted self-rise flour, ¾ C brown sugar (or more); 2 T butter (unsalted or salted) 2 large eggs. (Preheat oven to 375F.)  Combine dates and baking soda in heatproof bowl. Pour 1 C boiling water over this date mixture, set aside till room temp. Cream butter and sugar in big bowl till pale – add eggs one at a time, beat till smooth. Fold in flour, stir in date mix along with the water. Pour into greased and floured 8” deep cake pan, bake 30-45 minutes till cooked through – set it aside a bit before gently plopping it out onto a plate. Cut into whatever size pieces you wish… but it usually serves 8.

TOFFEE SAUCE: ¾+ C brown sugar, 1 C cream, ½ tsp vanilla, 2 T butter (unsalted best).  Combine ingredients over low heat, stir till butter melts. Simmer 5 minutes. Serve hot, over squares of pudding.

Serves 8, takes an hour to make. I think you’ll like it.

Another thing… Whipped cream can take it to another level.