For my first reviews, I sampled the culinary stylings of Cold Stone Creamery and the Five Guys burger joint in Brooklyn.
First to the Cold Stone Creamery. Last week on Top Chef, the chef-testants were asked to create a new ingredient addition for the chain's ice cream. The show is always filled with its share of eccentrics, who I think could make really good food, but decide to stretch themselves to show off and out do everyone else. Sometimes, they are very successful. Other times, they fall flat. The falling flat is really funny a lot of the time, because these guys have huge egos and they get taken down a rung or two. I get the feeling a lot of these guys are out to prove they are worthy to everyone.
Each season has had its share of eccentrics. There was the guy who made a tamale with about a 100 ingredients for a challenge where they were judged by housewives. There was also the guy who pretty much put foam on every one of his dishes, or some kind of gelee.
This season features a chef named Hung who I could tell from day one was not going to disappoint in the cooking insanity department. So, last week it was put stuff in Cold Stone Creamery ice cream. The highlight were the Cold Stone Creamery ingredients made by Hung. My personal favorite was his cauliflower white chocolate foam. Cauliflower white chocolate foam? Cauliflower white chocolate foam??????? I couldn't stop laughing at this thing.
I decided to go to the Cold Stone Creamery myself, hoping that the cauliflower white chocolate foam had not made the menu. Liquid into liquid ice cream? Create a slight problem there, Hung?
The place was mobbed, but I went to the one in Times Square, so that's not a surprise. Another pleasant surprise was that no cauliflower landed in my ice cream. Ok, I'm going to say it again -- cauliflower white chocolate foam?
Anyway, back here on Earth, in the mobbed ice cream place, I had to pick from the menu fast. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure I would have been the victim of a stampede. I choose "Birthday Cake Remix. Here it is just after I started eating it:
The verdict: 7.5. I am sure the cauliflower white chocolate foam would have greatly improved it. Ok, stop talking about that. It was cake batter flavored ice cream, mixed with brownies, sprinkles and some kind of caramel type sauce.
What I never get about these kinds of places is why this stuff has to be so sickly sweet. I choose the smallest portion, because I knew if I got anything else, I couldn't finish it. But the whole combination was this sugary insanity. Cake batter ice cream. Sweet on its own. They could have put a dark chocolate dense cake in these and called it a day. Then, the sprinkles. Ok, jazz it up a little, but to finish it off with that syrupy sauce? That lowered its point value with me. Cold Stone Creamery is a good concept. Ice cream, mixed up with what you want or off the beaten path kind of ingredients. Interesting. But less is more when it comes to those types of things. I am not some sort of culinary snob. A Big Mac to me, is a little slice of heaven. But this was underwhelming.
Well, despite its sickly sweetness, I did finish the thing:
But it isn't going to become a destination for me. Kind of a one time thing. But no way in hell a cauliflower white chocolate foam would have improved it.
Next stop on the gluttony tour was the Five Guys burger joint in upscale Brooklyn Heights. When it comes to Five Guys, I am actually hipper than the Brooklyn hipsters, because I knew about it first. I loved Five Guys burgers when I lived in Washington. Actually, for about a year, they were pretty much my sole source of solid food. The Five Guys I went to was always mobbed with people, smelled of fries and peanuts and was the absolute definition of place that looks like a ramshackle shack from the outside, but had great stuff.
Five Guys is kind of a down home, hole in the wall kind of place that isn't anywhere even close to being hip in Washington. In New York, its in hip Brooklyn Heights. The place reproduced the decor I was so accustomed to in Washington:
Still, something about it felt wrong. Maybe because it is franchised, or something. It kind of reminded me of that moment in the original Wayne's World when Wayne's basement is reproduced as a TV set. The original had missing floor tiles and showed a general lack of regard for decor, which was fine by me. But, this is not a review of the decor. Its about the burgers. This one gets a more complicated score.
Overall burger quality: 8.5
In comparison to the original: 6
Comparison to previous burgers I had in New York: 9.5
I guess that averages out to about a 7.
Yeah, the original is always the best. I got my usual combination -- cheeseburger with onions, relish, pickles and mayonnaise. The patty was thinner than I remember and not as juicy. The burger itself was overloaded with my toppings and almost got lost in all of it. I did eat the whole thing, of course:
See the extra pickle and onion left over. What am I supposed to do with that? I guess I could have gotten fries, but with the visit to the ice cream place beforehand, it was all kind of too much. Also, considering I take a cholesterol lowering drug prescribed for geriatrics, I'll skip the fries for now.
The final analysis:
If I crave burger-y goodness, I'll just fire up my George Foreman lean mean fat reducing grilling machine (it always has to be referred to in its entire name) and cook a burger recipe I found in a book by James Beard, who is pretty much the father of modern American cuisine. I take ground beef, put some heavy cream in it, grind up onions, salt, pepper and on to George and maybe toss on a piece of cheese and you are good to go. I'm just not sure if it is worth enduring the [censored]ing New York City subway system for just an ok hamburger, when I can make the same one at home.
Anyway, stay tuned for more gastronomical gluttony, because believe me I love to eat.