Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lunch at the Crocker Art Museum

Real food bloggers obsessively haul their cameras around, snapping typically washed-out, poorly focused images of whatever sits on their table. I happen to think this is going too far, and refuse to transform a convivial table into a food porn stage. Besides, sketches are more fun since I can alter reality a bit. Put the soup next to the burger when they arrived sequentially. Add art where there was none. Remove the other diners. Change the burgundy blend wine into a rosé that they didn't have.

I'd heard about the burgers, made from high quality beef, prepared under the watchful eye of someone from Mulvaney's, their buns a perfect balance of sponginess and structure. The meat beefy and succulent; the sauce dripping with blue cheese with a few strips of smoky bacon appearing randomly as the burger is devoured. The fries, recently whole fresh potatoes, now succulent and crispy.

The truth is, the burger was well executed. The rather sparse bacon hid like a shy pig, then resisted being bitten through. The meat and cheese played well together atop fresh leaves of lettuce. The bun indeed held it all together without being tough or disintegrating into sauce-laden stain bombs. So, despite the light bacon dose, one of Sacramento's better burgers.

The fries were more of a mystery. Although sculpted from fresh potatoes, flavorful and fresh, they lacked crunch. They lay on the plate, golden yet limp and relaxed, yielding to the teeth without that all so important initial crunch. Were they not pre-soaked to reduce their starch content? Were they fried in a single dipping instead of having a rest between dunkings? My friend asked if I was going to inspect the kitchen, but I resisted. Sometimes ignorance is, if not bliss, at least more conducive to an enjoyable lunch with friends than on the spot investigation of arcane french fry gastronomy.

Today's soups were sausage and gazpacho. I happen to love gazpacho, but initially received the sausage instead. It smelled wonderful, but back it went. Summer calls for at least one cup of gazpacho, when all its ingredients are at their peak. It arrived with a flourish. Mellow red, cool as a cucumber with a bit of spice coming in like castanets in a flamenco serenade, it soothed yet stimulated as tomato tangoed with cucumber, garlic and chili heat.

Overall, the prices were reasonable, considering that the cafe is located in an art museum - a locale known more for high prices and mediocre food. The burgers cost about what they'd run in a more upscale burger joint. There were some quirks, like one diner receiving about half the portion of fries as the others - but overall the service was prompt and professional. The high point was the gazpacho, not by any lack in the burger, but because it's not something I eat often and this version was done quite well.

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