Meltkraft

151 E 43rd St. New York, NY 10017 (212) 380-1735meltkraft.com

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Self proclaimed as an artisan grilled cheese sandwich shop with farm-sourced everything, Meltkraft sounds like a cheesy paradise waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately, if you listen closer you can also hear the sounds of wind leaving your sails, because their craft needs a little work based on the two sandwiches I tried.

The first was the Melter Skelter. I mean ya gotta love a sandwich named after a Beetles song and a movie about Charles Manson. It’s made with 3 month aged reclette, pickled green tomatoes, jalapenos, BBQ potato chips and watercress (pictured). Which sounds off the charts by description alone, and while it is certainly good, I was hard-pressed to actually taste much more than the cheese and jalapenos.

That said, at least it was far superior to the Brielle, made with Brie (obviously), as well as cranberry chutney, caramelized onions and toasted pine nuts. Again, delicious in theory, but quite bland in execution.

And so along with the ho-hum performance comes a knife count with matching syllables. For better melts just a stone’s throw away, I suggest heading down to Beecher’s in the Flatiron.

2 teeth

Pat LaFrieda

The Pennsy 2 Penn Plaza New York, NY 10121 • http://www.thepennsy.nyc

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Well known as one of the best meat purveyors in the tri-state, Pat has been putting more smiles on restaurant goer’s faces than the all-you-can-eat buffet at Scores. But being the man behind the man is one story. Being on the stage all alone is another. Nonetheless, Pat has decided to take a stab at playing the front man at the Pennsy with a meat-a-palooza sandwich stand.

Now obviously the meat is gonna be on point, there’s really no disputing that. But as we know, one ingredient does not a sandwich make. I believe that lesson is in the Bible under Hoagie 25:17. A sin I find LaFrieda somewhat guilty of with his ham and brie sandwich. Now obviously it has other ingredients in it, but the balance is completely off and there is not an ounce of inventiveness to make up for it. So it ends up tasting like a torpedo of bread and brie, with a little bit of pig… no Gerald.

Improving from there is the steak and cheese Sammy with caramelized onions is strong. A classic for certain, but it hits all the right notes. Particularly in wintertime when comfort food is more en vogue.

And speaking of putting on the winter weight, the Chookies are also pretty darn joy inducing. Essentially half-baked chocolate chip cookies in cube form, or more to the point of the name, chunks. Get it? Chunky cookies = Chookies. Lame as it may be, it obviously sucked me in.

2 teeth

Odd Duck

1201 S Lamar Blvd. Austin, TX 78704 • (512) 433-6514 oddduckaustin.com

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I was in town for SXSW and had heard that Austin had some serious culinary game, so after doing copious amounts of recon before our travels, I came upon one recurring must, the Odd Duck. Over and over people said it was hands down the hottest, bestest place in townest. And being the little instigator that I am, I just had to waltz on over there packing chips on both shoulders.

Inside the duck, the décor is very casual, with not much to it, yet just enough cues to make it feel somewhat cool and contemporary, although I can’t honestly say why I felt this way. I just sensed it. Maybe it was our server, who started off with a chip or two on his shoulders as well, wanting to prove to the Yankee scum before him that Austin has skillz. Well, sadly he won, because these small plates packed some big flavor.

Starting things off, we enjoyed the goat brie with jam, a white balsamic syrup and multi grain crackers. It is bone simple and bone delicious. It can also be found on the dessert menu, depending on how you roll with the fromage.

After the strong start, however, it was followed up by two of the weakest dishes of the night, the sweet potato and the pig face buns. The pig face was rapped inside a Parker house roll sitting in a pool of mustard and it wound up tasting a lot like a pastrami sandwich from a kosher deli. Good, but not at the level of anything else we had. And while the sweet potato was also fine, with its green chile, nacho spice and fried skins, I’m really not gonna get into it, because we have bigger and better dishes to get to.

At the tippy top, an Ultimate two times over, was the jerk spiced pork belly, served over a cheddar rice cake and complemented with the genius addition of fresh strawberries, giving it a pop of sweetness to accent the heat, along with a little moisture to quench the fire. It was ire mon!

Another fantastic dish was the duck fat fried rice (duck had to be on the menu somewhere, right?) loaded with goodies like a soft egg that oozed all through the rice, Brussels sprouts, chile and ez cheese, which I am so conflicted about I can’t even tell you, but it was so good that when I later die from it, I need to go back and re-read this review to remind myself that it was worth it.

Keeping the interesting coming, the braised goat with masa (tortilla dough) , queso fresco, peanut pipian (a sauce typically found in Mexican food) and lime mayo was such a genius blend of Middle Eastern and Mexican flavors.

Now, after such artistry and inventiveness, I had to double down on dessert going with the sensational cream filled donut brightened with orange, sweetened with honey, dusted with pistachio and bested by no one. Yes, Doughnut Plant and Peter Pan, you just got served!

But as good as that donut was, the second dessert was every diet’s worst nightmare. A pear butter cake made with bran, pecans and topped with vanilla bean ice cream. It was moist and dense and packed with so much yumminess, it was as if every pecan in the state of Texas were summoned into this little, round disc of delicious.

Easily the best meal I had in Austin and a very Texas-big four knives.

4 teeth

112 Eatery

112 N 3rd St. Minneapolis, MN 55401(612) 343-7696112eatery.com

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Oh my friggin’ wow! I was not expecting this. Sure, I was hopping for it to be good, but this place in the Little Apple could easily hold its own in the Big Apple.

Perhaps the most mind-blowing of the dishes was the fresh ricotta with honey and white truffle oil. Simple? Yes. Simply amazing? Hells yes!

The lamb scottadito with mint yogurt and the pasta with foie gras meatballs were also both very good, but the other big standout of the night was the burger. Crazy good. But the key is to put the pickles on the burger and not eat them separately. The sweetness mixed with the salty brie, on that Portuguese roll… Trust me.

4 teeth

The Ultimate Burger

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Eatery 112 – Minneapolis, MN

Deceptively simple, this burger shines by simply combining two very well thought through toppings. The first comes in the form of its gooey brie, which they somehow magically prevent from making the burger soggy. The second, a vital part of the equation, the sweet bread and butter pickles on the side. You MUST put them on the burger. The interaction between the cheese and the pickles and the meat is divine. All house in an English muffin that manages to stay out of the way just enough to allow the ingredients to take center stage, but present enough to make its contribution felt.

Minetta Tavern – New York, NY

It’s all about the meat baby. The Black Label burger is the Mona Lisa of ground flesh. Some kind of crazy concoction of prime, and pork and veal and maybe even a little bone marrow folded in. Hard to say. But there is literally nothing else that special about this burger, and yet that patty will grab you by the taste buds, looks them in the eye, and make them its bitch.

Father’s Office – Santa Monica, CA

I know bold, sweeping statements always get you into hot water, but if I’m wrong on this one, boil me alive, because the fact remains, The Office Burger is the best burger on the face of the Earth. Yes, I went there. Granted I haven’t eaten ALL of the burgers on the face of the Earth, but I’m still pretty sure I’m right. Now, just caveat, however. If you are a burger purist, this is not your burger. This thing is a product of innovation. It starts with high quality prime topped with a blend of gruyere and gorgonzola. Then a layer of bacon and caramelized onion compote. Next comes watercress and finally a wonderful Portuguese roll to house its prowess. Now I know what you’re thinking, no tomato? No. No ketchup or mustard either. In fact, you can’t even ask for it, because the place doesn’t allow it. Perhaps a bit authoritarian for a burger joint, but I promise you will never miss these lesser burger crutches. This thing does just fine without. And therein lies its true greatness, and its rightful place at the top of burgerdom.