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Sunday, April 25, 2010

My so-called Life as a Food Paparazzi and Top Burger Showdown: Rustic Canyon vs. Houston's

I'm a bit miffed at how food bloggers and camera-happy food lovers are given a bad wrap in recent NYT and LAT articles. I think many restaurateurs are feeling the heat about the prospect of having anybody be critics and potentially influence their business. I don't see how taking pictures of the food hampers their work or craft in any way. Just because we take pictures of the food doesn't mean we don't appreciate the food and let it go cold before consuming. Get used to the scrutiny, peeps.

Speaking of pictures, some fancier restaurants dim their lights so low it's hard to shoot a good picture of the food anyway.

Which brings me to the point of my post. I found a burger at Rustic Canyon that's on par with my favorite burger in LA. That's remarkable considering how loyal I've been to the California Burger at Houston's. It's been unbeatable until I tasted the burger at RC. I wouldn't go as far as saying it was better, but it was equally good.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to shoot images of the venerable RC burger because it was far too dark and the flash messes up the photo. I'm posting a photo courtesy of Feast. But I can vouch for the excellence of this fancy burger.

Like the Houston's burger, it had a fantastic patty that was grainy enough and seasoned and cooked perfectly (medium rare). The bun, oh, the bun. I'm not sure if RC's famous pastry chef makes the buns too (RC's owner also owns Huckleberry, a bakery across the street known for its maple bacon biscuits that I find mediocre) but the bun was perfect -- soft and fresh but also firm enough to be able withstand the heavy patty and all the works. Houston's has a sesame bun but this one was just as good.

The works: I like Houston's better with arugula, avocado, red onions and American cheese with a side of mustard and barbecue sauce. The RC burger pairs the Niman Ranch beef patty with Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, pickles and an herb remoulade.

The fries: RC's is better but not by much. Houston's needs some work with the shoestring fries, which I was never a fan of. And both should offer sweet potato fries, which I'm particular to. For a fancy place, I was telling my dinner companion that the fries looked and tasted more like diner fries. Diner fries should be served at diners.

Oh, and RC didn't have barbecue sauce, which I usually like to dab on my bloody burger before sinking my teeth into it. But I was impressed to find they instead had a homemade Sriracha sauce, death ketchup itself, which was a good substitute.

Some of you may know my obsession with burgers -- so much that I'm part of a burger club that regularly samples burgers around town and rates them. Check out my burger roundup.

On that note, I've always considered the Father's Office burger highly overrated, but last night I tried it again and it was better than my first time. Although I'm still no big fan, I'd say it's on par with Umami Burger, which is not too shabby. Just not the best by any stretch.

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