Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mighty Fine

The wife and I just ate at Mighty Fine Burgers and Shakes, a new burger joint in Austin that is similar to restaurants of the “In and Out" burger chain.

The first decision that you must make, upon being asked for your order, is what size patty you desire, half pound or quarter pound? Next, how do you want your burger dressed? The "Yellow" burger is dressed with mustard, the "Red" with ketchup and the "White" with mayonnaise, and of course any combination of the three is possible. Now, do you want cheese, bacon or jalapeƱos, or all three? Your not done yet. You have a choice of the usual trimmings - onion, pickle, tomato and lettuce.

The lettuce is not whole leaf (as at In and Out) but shredded, which I believe to be a mistake, but more on that later.

Bottled soda, fountain drinks and handmade shakes are also offered.

I stepped up to the counter and ordered the half pound burger dressed in white, with all the trimmings, fries and lemonade. My wife ordered the quarter pound burger dressed with all colors and trimmings and a vanilla shake. Each order was written on a small white paper bag, along with our names. I was handed my lemonade before I left the counter.

We found two seats in the very busy (it was lunch time) large dining room at one of the many long community tables all with folding metal chairs. My wife’s name was called quickly and she was handed her shake. In about five minutes we were handed our orders in the white bags with our names still on the outside.

The sandwich was tightly wrapped, something that is important to a quality burger because it helps retain heat. The bun of my burger was very ordinary and instead of adding flavor and texture to the overall product, it contributed little.

The patty, large as expected, had little flavor as a result of the low fat content of the beef and a general lack of seasoning. The low fat content also resulted in a crumbly texture in the mouth, and a lack of chewiness; problems shared with the patties served at Fuddruckers and In and Out. The lack of seasoning was no doubt deliberate since there was seasoning salt on the table for the diner to apply as may be desired and a liberal dose of seasoning made much improvement. Next time I will know to season before taking a bite.

The tomato, pickle and onion did their job adding flavor, texture and bite while the shredded lettuce added nothing. A single whole leaf of iceberg lettuce would have added the contrast of cold to the patty’s heat and crunch to the softness of the bun.

The shake was rich and creamy, had a wonderful vanilla flavor and was absolutely spectacular.

The burgers served at Mighty Fine are certainly as good as those served at In and Out.

Monday, April 21, 2008

My wife and I just returned from spending two weeks in south central Louisiana. The 22 parishes of south central Louisiana make up Acadiana and are home to those folks calling themselves Cajun. Speaking French and English, and living in an area of swamp, prairie, and bayou Cajun’s have developed a culture unique in the United States, if not the world.

The Atchafalaya basin, with its river, swamp and bayou is the most distinguishing feature of Acadiana, and we took a boat ride on its river, a very short walk on a path into its swamp seeing contented alligators sunning themselves on fallen trees, and being bitten by unseen silent mosquitoes.

We visited Avery Island, home of Tabasco and its beautiful bird sanctuary with hundreds of gorgeously bright white great egrets and pink spoonbills. We climbed on the ladders and decks of a once proud oil platform, now mostly rusted and used for training. We toured the old capitol building in Baton Rouge, where former governor Huey Long once held sway, and now used for introducing school children into the world of Louisiana politics, and the new capitol building (the tallest in the country) built by Long and ironically where he was murdered.

Of the several very nice museums we visited the New Louisiana Museum in Baton Rouge was the most interesting and well worth a return trip.

Of the grand antebellum houses we saw Shadows-on-the-Teche was the most memorable. A property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and furnished with mostly period pieces it provided a glimpse into what life for the wealthy was like prior to the War Between the States.

We enjoyed some of the best food we have had the privilege of eating including perfectly seasoned boiled crawfish, rich creamy crab chowder, red beans and rice, thick gumbo with hunks of spicy sausage, smoky jambalaya, boudin balls and of course the ubiquitous beignet.

We went to Fred’s Lounge in Mamou, at 9:30 in the morning to drink a beer (a first for me at that hour) and hear Cajun music played with abandon, and broadcast on a local AM radio station.

We went to the Savoy Music Center Eunice to listen to Cajun music at a jam session and to meet Marc Savoy. Marc is not only crafts beautiful Cajun accordions; he is a musician of the instrument playing in his family band, and a keeper of Cajun heritage. Marc took the time to not only answer my many questions but to speak with me regarding his music and passion for Cajun culture.

We went to the Liberty Theater, in Eunice where I was fortunate to meet and speak with song writer, singer and guitar player, and national treasure DL Menard. Wow, did we pick the right night to be at the Liberty. It was a celebration of Menard’s 76th birthday and the entire audience was treated to an evening of great music, delicious jambalaya and birthday cake. Since the performance, broadcast on radio, was mostly in French it was fortunate that the lady sitting next to me generously translated. Sort of like the Prairie Home Companion, the show was warm folksy and very entertaining.

Not all of the restaurants we ate at were good, in fact at least one was terrible and I certainly do not recommend the Harbor Seafood Restaurant in Morgan City to anyone.

In my opinion DI’s Restaurant just southwest of Eunice was the best, but Shuck’s in Abbeville was very good as was Mulate's in Breaux Bridge with a ceiling of business cards, and Don’s Seafood in Lafayette. Every restaurant we had dinner at had live Cajun music and I defy anyone not to want to get up and dance, which the wife and I did. Of course it helped that we had about 45 minutes of lessons and that the Cajun waltz and two-step are incredibly easy to get the hang of. Don’t misunderstand, I not saying that we danced like Cajuns, but boy did we have fun.

Surprisingly, the best gumbo was served at Frenchman’s Wilderness Campground. It was thick, rich and prepared by a family member of the staff at the campground. Also, the best red beans and rice was served to us at the Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge.

After nearly two weeks of fish; fried, boiled, broiled and baked, the ribeye steak I ate at Don’s Seafood in Lafayette was tasty indeed.

If you are wondering how you can participate in a similar experience just get yourself an Airstream trailer and join Wally Byam Caravan Club International.