Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Muddled Thoughts and Food (The Counter)

2/3-lb Burger with Gruyere, Grilled Onions, Grilled Pineapple, Roasted Red Peppers, and Roasted Green Chiles

Having just completed my first year of medical school, I am honestly quite shocked at how much material was crammed into me over the course of the past ten months. It is such a grind, and course units chock full of facts and information are taught in such a rapid-fire manner, that material learned in one unit is quickly forgotten mere days after the exam as new information is pushed in on a completely different topic. Seriously, sitting here right now just five days since my exam on the gastrointestinal system, I can say that I probably forgot at least 50% of what I had learned about pancreatic cancer, hepatitis, etc. during the course of the last two weeks. And let's not even mention all of the stuff that was taught back in September and October; I remember very few of the facts pounded into me from the first couple months of medical school, especially since I find learning about protein configurations, cellular transport mechanisms, etc. as interesting as watching paint dry. With so much information crammed into the school year, it's almost inevitable that all of the topics kind of became muddled and the facts got lost, confused with one another, or just straight-up forgotten about.

So how does all of this relate to food? Well, I recently stopped by The Counter, a California-based burger chain whose whole schtick is that customers have the option to completely customize their burgers by selecting from a wide array of different toppings, cheeses, buns, and sauces. With The Counter opening its first New York location in Times Square earlier this last year, I was curious to see how this whole design-your-own-burger concept would fare.

If you are a burger purist or someone who shuns all burger toppings other than a slice of American cheese or perhaps some lettuce, tomato, and onion, then you should probably stop reading right now because the burger I "created" would likely abhor, disgust, and/or infuriate you. I ordered a 2/3-pound burger on an onion bun topped with Gruyรจre cheese, grilled onions, grilled pineapple, roasted red peppers, and roasted green chiles, along with a side of barbecue sauce. Although Serious Eats found the burgers at The Counter thoroughly unimpressive, I actually did not find the burgers to be quite that bad. My primary complaint about the burger was that with so many toppings crammed in between the buns, the flavor of the burger just became one muddled mess. The onion and pineapple dominated the burger, and I did not taste the cheese at all, let alone the beef (though Serious Eats noted that the beef was bland, so maybe that's why I didn't taste it). I guess the simple solution would be to simply order fewer toppings on my burger, but then my inner Asian says, If I paid for four toppings on the burger, then damnit, I'm going to put four toppings on this burger, even if it ends up making the burger taste worse. In other words, there was no way in hell that I was going to order less than the maximum number of allowed toppings. So what I was left with was a burger that ended up being kind of like my first year of medical school: satisfying to a certain extent, but because there was way too much going on, everything just got muddled together and lost in the process. The mishmash of toppings completely obfuscate the flavor of the beef such that the beef is no longer the star of the burger. Mildly satisfying as a sandwich, but not so if you are expecting a bold, beefy taste from your burger.

1451 Broadway
New York, NY 10036 

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