Hamburgers and Ice Cream

“Wow, I didn’t know she used to be good looking!” – Joe’s reaction to the online news of Elizabeth’s Taylor’s death. He’s pretty much known her only as some overweight broad with too much mascara in the days of her fundraising for AIDs. I think that the website he saw used a photo of her from her 20s or 30s.

I made pancakes this morning, because last night Joe had been watching some basketball game. When a player on the winning team was interviewed afterwards, he said he had a craving for pancakes. When Joe went to bed, he said, “Now I have a craving for pancakes.”

I used the recipe in Alice Waters’ “The Art of Simple Food”, which of course isn’t simple. It’s about the only recipe for pancakes I’ve seen that has you separating the egg; beating the yolk in with the milk; then beating the egg white into soft peaks and folding them into the remainder of the batter. To heck with that, I simply crack the egg into the milk and give it a brisk whisk. The good part about the recipe that I do follow is 3 tablespoons of melted butter.

While we ate our rather rich, partially buckwheat pancakes, we read the newspapers. The oversized burger on the front page of the NY Times food section this morning gave me the urge to go out for hamburgers. (Even though the Times article was about vegetarian burgers.) Five Guys, an East Coast chain, opened a branch in Sunnyvale, so we figured we’d go try it out for a late lunch.

Scanning the Yelp reviews beforehand showed it to be a mixed bag. I’ve finally figured out that the value of reading the Yelpers doesn’t lie in getting an overall report card ‘grade’, but in the details that let you know what to order or to avoid, and other useful tips to know in advance. In this case, it was very helpful to know that the difference between a ‘little’ and a ‘regular’ burger was one patty vs two – especially since it wasn’t spelled out on the store menu. And that there were free peanuts.

We decided to split a little bacon cheeseburger, with all the condiments (they call it ‘all the way’), excluding pickles and raw onions, adding on grilled mushrooms and relish. (Most of their toppings are free, which is nice, considering how most other burger places nickel and dime you for them.)
I though that two patties might be too heavy. As it turned out, with so many toppings, the single patty was overwhelmed by the taste of everything else. We also ordered fries.

The free peanuts are camouflaged in cardboard boxes against the backwall. There’s a metal scooper you use to scoop some of the unshelled peanuts onto a cardboard plate and bring them back to your table to snack on while you wait for your burger. Joe and I wondered if we were supposed to do here what gets done at the Long Bar at Raffles: drop the shells on the ground.

The bacon in the burger was really good. Crispy, made its presence quite known. (My pet peeve about Barney’s burgers (a local burger chain the East Bay) is that they pre-fry their bacon, so that by the time it’s added to you order, it’s limp.) However, the Five Guys buns were too squishy and soft, and the patty itself was nothing to write home about. Joe detected a canned taste to the mushrooms.

I liked the fries here more than those at In-n-Out, they had more substance. But you also get way too much – one order of fries means half of them are in the paper cup holder, and the other half are spilled into the brown paper bag in which your foil-wrapped burger is handed to you. Sure, eating hamburgers means messy hands, but this is gratuitous. I wish they’d downsize the fries portion and price.

The other annoying thing is – since they wrap the burger in foil, they should provide recycling bin for the foil. But they don’t.

Overall – Joe wasn’t impressed enough by it to want to come back. I might come back, more for the fries than for the burger. Too bad they don’t serve alcohol, they’d be very good with beer.

On our way back along ECR, we stopped to check out Loard’s ice Cream. It’s a new branch of an old-timey ice cream chain that’s based in San Leandro. Apparently it got bought out by some Silicon Valley entrepreneur who had made his fortune, and was looking for something else to do.

Actually, I’ve had been to a Loard’s before. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, Loutz and I were in the same grad school program. Our classes were in the steepest NE corner of campus; I lived waaay downhill, so I got a good work-out biking uphill to class everyday. Loutz, let’s just say he ran and biked a lot. So even if his commute to classes from I-House was relatively flat, he was quite skinny.

We became friends in part because we liked ice cream. We started going on ice-cream runs, checking out different ice-cream places. (We each had a car.) We’d go into an ice-cream shop, I’d order one scoop, or two, if I really couldn’t decide on just one flavor. He’d order a pint of ice cream. And it would take us the same amount of time to finish eating our respective order of ice-cream.

A couple of years ago, Joe and I went to visit him in Cambridge, MA. He took us to an ice-cream shop after dinner. He ordered a pint of ice cream, everyone else had a cone, and it took us all about the same time to each finish our ice-creams. Yup, Loutz is still as skinny as he was in grad school. I am decidedly not.

Back to the ice cream exploration of grad school days: we found Loard’s . . . in the yellow pages on the phone-book. While the handful of branches were nearby as the crow flies, they were still quite a drive to get to, located as they were in the more ‘obscure’ neighborhoods. Otherwise I think they could have given Fenton’s a run for their money, Fenton’s being more centrally located on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. They both have old school flavors; and the sherberts come in technicolor shades of orange, green and fuschia.

Today, based on the quality of the ice-cream, Loard’s has the edge. I had the apricot sorbet. It was little bit icy, but it tasted like intense apricot, nothing but intense apricot, so help me god. Joe had toasted almond: the nuts in the ice cream were fresh and in large pieces.

Loard’s just opened here 5 months ago. They’re a shorter bike ride from our house than Rick’s in Palo Alto. I hope they stay in business here through the warmer weather!


3 thoughts on “Hamburgers and Ice Cream

  1. To say Elizabeth Taylor was “good looking” is like saying Michael Jordan is a pretty good basketball player. Taylor was one of the most beautiful women ever. EVER!

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