This girl loves a burger. I really mean it. More than the perfect medium-rare filet mignon, more than the mouth-watering herb and mustard crusted rack of lamb, more than Joel Robuchon’s succulent quail (you know we’re serious now), the idea of the juicy, meaty cheeseburger makes me certain that I could never ever be a vegetarian, not even for a day. And being the lucky girl I am, I live in a city of unbelievable burgers. I feel that it is a personal calling to try as many of them as possible, from the small but excellently dressed Wall Street Burger, to the standard-of-all-comparisons from Shake Shack, to the positively divine DB Burger at DB Bistro Modern.

A side-effect of all the burger splendor the city has to offer is that I will never complete my task of eating every burger I want. It’s difficult, because, as you might imagine, when it comes to food and lust I have very little restraint. So when I do encounter a new burger, it is always a happy day for me.

{image by Melissa Hom for New York Magazine}

Enter Carmine Club Cafe and their absurdly delicious Pork Burger. Last week after a night of drinking on an empty stomach (it’s a crime that some mistakes are so fun), a burger was just what the doctor ordered. Having heard about the various virtues of the Pork Burger multiple times, I decided it was time to bite the porcine bullet. Luckily, Carmine Club Cafe has a near perfect location in the West Village (um, hello it’s across the street, literally, from Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books, what more do you want?), so I happily trekked out through post-snow storm Manhattan.

I’ll cut to the chase: the burger was everything I hoped it would be. A thick pork patty, smeared with smoked gouda, topped with a slice of farm-raised bacon, and dressed with smoked pepper mayo. Add the pile of salt ‘n’ vinegar fries, and it was a perfect lunch. The bun was great, maintaining structural integrity without being too bready. The cheese was rich and gooey and my only complaint is that I could have had more of it. The pork was juicy, the bacon nice and crisp. In short, if you are craving a burger, head over to Carmine Street.

Check out Carmine Club Cafe and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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I am quite sure that I have mentioned many times my obsession with Joel Robuchon‘s potato puree. If you have never tasted it, you might be thinking something like, “Oh mashed potatoes can be very satisfying, sure.” You are wrong. His potato puree is beyond mashed potatoes, beyond cream, beyond even butter. Each mouthful is transcendent; you’re filled with a sense of peace and the conviction that the world is full of goodwill. I’ve had it multiple times on two different continents and I cannot ever imagine getting enough. Sometimes they even send out an extra serving of it because they know I want a truckful.

I have thought about trying to replicate this gateway to nirvana multiple times, and last night I attempted it for the first time. There are lots of slightly different recipes for this floating around, so I picked the first one and dove in. The basic idea is to boil the potatoes, squeeze them through a ricer, beat a bunch of butter and milk into them, squeeze them through a strainer, and then finish it off with more butter and milk. I followed the recipe exactly with one exception: I didn’t have whole milk so I used heavy whipping cream instead.

My initial reaction was that my arm hurt. Perhaps I should have been weight training for this, because after 4 minutes of beating the potatoes dry, 5 minutes of beating butter in, and 15 minutes of cramming the mashed mixture through a sieve, my right arm was pretty upset with me. If I weren’t in pursuit of such a noble end, I might have given up.

As far as the finished product was concerned, I would rate my first effort as a B. They were definitely more rich and less chunky than the average mashed potatoes. I think the potatoes could have been cooked for a few more minutes, as some parts were difficult to press through the ricer and the texture at the end was still a little grainy. Another problem I noticed was that the potatoes didn’t fully absorb all the butter and cream. Even though I beat the mixture very vigorously with a wood spatula as instructed , there seemed to be a portion of buttery liquid that I couldn’t get into the potato. I am not sure if I didn’t allow the potato to dry enough or if the ratio of potato to butter was off, but it resulted in potato puree that was not quite as light as I wanted. While the end product was very tasty, it was not as creamy and smooth as the real thing. I did not expect to hit the nail on the head the first time; if it were easy to make the puree everyone would be making it all the time. However, I thought it was a solid first try and will continue to research the matter. For my next effort, I am going to consult The Complete Robuchon for advice from the source.

Recipe after the jump

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Greetings from Queens! I’m having a delicious lunch at M. Wells, currently working on this seafood cobbler with bechamel, Gruyere, and biscuits. Also tasted the beef tartare (filet mignon, poached egg) and a gravlax special that involved potato and creme fraiche. Yum!

1. Here is a great interview with one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Jean-George Vongerichten, from the Wall Street Journal last weekend. My favorite highlights: he never plates his food at his personal dinner parties, he has a weakness (perhaps addiction?) to gummy bears, and after spending eight years studying all manner of French stocks, his socks were still knocked off by a simple 3-minute broth sold on the street in Bangkok. These things confirm what I’ve always believed: that it’s not the pedigree of the chef or restaurant, it’s the people you eat with and the foods that make you smile. {image from Wall Street Journal}

2. The other day Uncrate brought my attention to this fabulous Molecular Gastronomy Starter Kit. Brought to you by the fine minds at ThinkGeek, this kit is every child-nerd-cum-ardent-foodie’s dream. The kit includes 50 types of thickeners, emulsifiers, and binders, a few simple cooking tools, and a DVD full of cooking tutorials. So before you go rushing off to El Bulli, try your hand at a little molecular gastronomy yourself.

3. Bocuse D’Or is underway! Best of luck to James Kent and his commis Tom Allan, the USA team. Follow the events with Eater’s great coverage.

Last night was one of those times when we throw a bunch of food around the kitchen, invite a bunch of people over, and drink several bottles of wine. As usual, it was a delicious affair that left me completely stuffed to the gills and passed out by 11:30. This week the theme was Southern food, so everyone thought of the most delicious, artery-clogging dish they could and made it.

Becca provided the featured item: a fantastic pile of pulled pork. It simmered away on the stove all afternoon and the smells were truly mouthwatering. It’s a miracle I didn’t eat it all before dinner. To accompany the pork, she made two different sauces: a fairly standard barbecue sauce and an Alabama white sauce. None of us had heard of this sauce before, but it was pretty tasty. It mostly reminded me of a honey mustard dressing.

To supplement the pork, I made creamed spinach and biscuits. I am very particular about biscuits because I grew up in North Carolina where there is this wonderful phenomenon known as Bojangles. Bojangles is a southern fast food chain whose most famous offerings are the chicken biscuit, the seasoned fries, and sweet tea (aka the nectar of life; the stuff is almost unbearably sweet but, my goodness, it’s delicious). There is something about a Bojangles biscuit (my guess would be about a stick of additional butter) that makes it better than any other biscuit I have tasted. So I hopped on the internet, searched for recipes, and came up with this. They turned out really well, though not quite as delicious as Bojangles’. I think I was a little too conservative with the “brush butter on biscuit” step. Next time I will douse a little more thoroughly.

The creamed spinach was also delicious, although I made a few slight changes to the recipe. Instead of peppercorns I used crushed red pepper and left out the chile, which turned out fine. I also didn’t feel like getting whole milk for the sole purpose of this dish, so I used the leftover buttermilk from the biscuit recipe. Otherwise I followed the recipe and came out with a truly rich, creamy plate of spinach. My eating strategy was to cut a biscuit in half, pile on pork, spinach, and one of the sauces. It was highly successful.

Our lovely guests also brought their Southern offerings. Alex and Jane brought collard greens and whipped them up with some pepper and garlic. Alex also made some of her sweet potato fries, which we have met before and absolutely loved. Jyoti baked a beautiful heart-shaped red velvet cake and cream cheese ice cream, rather than icing. The combination was amazing.

All of this resulted in one of those nights where you aren’t sure if you need to vomit or go back for more food or pass out or just lie in a heap on the floor moaning about how full you are. Obviously I settled for this last option which was so charming that all of our guests packed up and left. But nothing says “bonding” like getting indecently and embarrassingly full with a bunch of your friends, so all in all, I have to say that the Southern Extravaganza was a success.

As always, recipes after the jump and in the archive. May you all encounter a buttery biscuit in the near future!

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As I mentioned yesterday, I had the good fortune to have two very satisfying dinners over the weekend. On Saturday night our food friend and frequent Infinite Table subject Jyoti invited us over to her apartment for a three cheese fondue with tomato onion chutney. We wandered out through the light snow flurries and arrived to the wonderful smell of onions cooking on the stove. This is one of my favorite smells in the world, especially on a cold winter night. After a round of cocktails and several pilfered chunks of cheese (Becca was grating; I was eating), we were ready to melt the cheese. Jyoti dumped our piles of gruyere, Emmenthal, and vacherin (a gooey, soft, totally to-die-for cheese) into a big pot and melted away. Then she folded in the tomato onion chutney and served it in her perfect heart-shaped fondue pot.

Even though I had been eating stolen bits of cheese and pouring a bag of pita chips into my face the whole evening, I saved enough room to be starving by the time dinner was served. Instead of the traditional pieces of meat and vegetables, we decided to load up on carbs. Nick boiled and then quickly sauted some tortellini and I brought along a few loaves of Jim Lahey’s stecchia (long, Italian loaves from my bread hero) that I had made the night before. We swarmed the fondue pot and proceeded to stuff our faces. The chutney was a delicious addition to the melted cheese and I really loved the flavor of the melted vacherin. Nick and I were a little skeptical about the idea of using tortellini, but it turned out to be delicious. We opted for a chicken-filled tortellini since we thought a three-cheese tortellini dipped in three-cheese fondue might be too much, even for professional eaters such as ourselves. My bread also turned out reasonably well. It tasted delicious, but looked pretty ugly and definitely nothing like Jim’s perfect loaves in his cookbook (hence the lack of pictures). I’ll definitely be trying the bread again because I loved the taste, but I promise I’ll work on making prettier loaves so I can photograph them for you.

If you’re on the East Coast, I hope you are staying warm and dry. In New York we’re expecting another snow storm tonight, which seems like the perfect moment to make some beef stock and guzzle a bottle of red wine. As always, recipes after the jump!

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Very belatedly, here is my New Years post, as promised. As I mentioned in December, there are some new features at The Infinite Table. So without further ado or procrastination, here they are:

1. The Infinite Kitchen. In my food and eating explorations, both on the internet and in real life, I frequently come across kitchens and dining rooms that I love. I feel guilty piling too many of these pictures on The Infinite Table because they are so tangentially related to food. So I have set up The Infinite Kitchen Tumblr to post all these pretty pictures. So whether you can’t get enough food and your passion spills over into kitchen design, or you are just an interior design nut, go check it out for some eye candy. I’ll also be taking submissions for posts, so if you have some sweet pictures of your kitchen, send them to me!

2. As I keep posting and keep adding links to recipes, it occurs to me that it might become increasingly difficult to go back and find that recipe you wanted to try. So for your convenience, I decided to add a recipe index. Every time I write about a recipe, I’ll post the link there.

3. This year I have also decided to start accepting reader requests. While my roommates and I have gluttonous habits and rarely have to search long to find something we’d like to cook (and more importantly, eat), I am always open to trying new techniques, new cuisines, and new flavor combinations. So if you see a recipe and need a guinea pig or hear of a restaurant but don’t live in New York, let me know!

So those are my exciting new plans for this blog. There are now links to the recipe index and reader request pages at the top of this website and a link to The Infinite Kitchen in the “Find Me” section at the bottom of the page. Please enjoy and let me know if there are other things you want to see! Last weekend I had the good fortune to enjoy a three-cheese fondue and a giant pot of shepherd’s pie while in the middle of completely rearranging my living room and kitchen, so I’ll be posting about those tomorrow!

I am going to be doing a lot of holiday eating in the next few days and I will take careful notes so I can share all my delicious holiday meals with you. In the mean time, I’ve collected a series of videos that remind me that food is more than just putting nutrients in our bodies.

It can transport us to a different place and time:

It can be a way to avoid our problems:

Or address them:

And most importantly at this time of year, any meal, no matter how humble, shared with family and friends, will seem like an infinite feast:

So no matter where you are or what you’re celebrating this week, I hope you are with people you care about, eating lots of food, and enjoying life. Happy holidays!

In the event that you miss my post on Art Basel Miami Beach, you should know that I love art in addition to food. Although so many people in the art world have chemically, psychologically, or financially altered appetites, there is actually a pretty happy relationship between art and food (and an even better one with drink). So I was pretty happy to notice two art/food news items recently.

First, Robert Mann Gallery is showing Wijnanda Deroo’s Inside New York Eateries, a body of work documenting empty New York restaurants. From the press release:

“With recently shuttered institutions like Tavern on the Green in Central Park or Relish Diner in Williamsburg, there is also an nostalgic quality to the series, testament to inevitable economic cycles and the cutthroat nature of the high-powered New York restaurant industry. And yet, many of these cafes are durable, perennial favorites, trans-generational in their appeal simultaneously indicative of a cross-section of aesthetic and historical moments. How many thousands have sidled up to the Grand Central Oyster Bar (established 1913) at the end of an arduous day? However, consistent with her entire body of work, Deroo’s scenes remain eerily devoid of human figures — except the occasional painted mural or decorative detail — the devoted patrons and staff remaining conspicuous by their absence.”

So head out to 210 11th Ave to check it out. The gallery will re-open from the holidays on January 4th and the show runs through January 29th. {via Zagat Buzz}

The second food-themed art show is “EAT/ART: A Visual Feast” at Atlantic Gallery. This show is in support of the great organization Just Food, which strives to build a sustainable food system for all five boroughs of New York. Just Food also just opened Farm School NYC, a school that offers individual classes and a certificate in urban agriculture. I’m kind of dying to enroll, but sadly it’s too late to apply for the pilot 2011 year. In the mean time, I will have to satisfy out EAT/ART 135 West 29th, Suite 601. The show closes today (the 23rd), so unless you are kicking around Chelsea it might be too late. But T Mag provided us with a handy little slideshow, so check out the link. {via T Magazine}

Sadly we did not have any dinner parties this week, but I did have a couple of weekend food adventures. On Saturday I met several friends and went over to the Mulberry Street pop up Big Social Holiday Market. I found this pop up on Grub Street, but when I arrived I was kind of disappointed by the small number of food stalls. That being said, some I loved pretty much every food vendor who was there, so in the end it wasn’t that bad.

1. Macaroons I love French macaroons, otherwise known as macarons. I know it is cliche and they are “the next cupcake,” but whatever. They are sweet and delicious and come in pretty colors. The lovely Macaron Parlour was therefore my first food stop at the market and I got four: earl gray, ginger, red velvet, and caramel fleur de sel. All four flavors were delicious, but my favorite was hands down earl gray. I could eat forty of those in a sitting. Unfortunately they do not have a shop yet, but they are available for online orders and events, so be sure to check them out.

2. SkimKim The Skim Kim stall had a number of cute products, many based on various kim chi flavors, but my favorite was Green Goddess (soybean oil, water, garlic, ginger, chives, kiwi, black sesame seeds, toasted sesame oil, lime, agave, salt). The tasting samples were served on little bits of bread, but it would work as a dressing, a dip, a spread, or a pasta sauce. The woman working the stall also suggesting throwing it in dumpling mix, which I would never have thought of, but which I’m sure would taste delicious. I ate so many samples that I eventually felt guilty and purchased a bottle, so I will be sure to let you know how it tastes in different contexts.

3. Faux Gras I do not generally get very excited about vegan food products. I completely respect other people’s dietary decisions, but vegetarianism in general and especially veganism has never appealed to me personally. So I had serious reservations tasting The Regal Vegan‘s “Faux Gras,” a vegan foie gras substitute. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the taste. I wouldn’t say that it does a particularly good job approximating the taste of foie gras, but it was a very delicious spread and I would happily eat again or purchase in-store. I couldn’t find a complete list of ingredients, but I do know that it includes lentils, walnuts, and caramelized onions. If you ever encounter it, it’s definitely worth a try, but expect something that tastes like lentils, walnuts, and caramelized onions instead of bloated duck or goose liver.

Sadly I did not sample of offerings of the following two vendors, but they are New York favorites and therefore worth a mention.

4. Luke’s Lobster I have only ever had one thing from Luke’s Lobster: the lobster roll. I cannot foresee myself ever ordering anything else because it is so good. I’m not sure what else to tell you; you just have to go eat one. They have locations in the East Village, Upper East Side, and Upper West Side. And at $16 for a lobster roll, Maine Root Soda, Miss Vickie’s chips, and pickle, you really have no excuse not to try it.

5. Pies ‘n’ Thighs I am embarrassed to admit that I have never been here. I am always on the hunt for proper Southern food in New York (so expect a recap of a visit to Red Rooster soon), so I feel like I should have been here already. I could invent some snide comment about how it is in Brooklyn and that is why I haven’t been, but that would be a lie because I eat in Brooklyn pretty frequently. So really it just comes down to laziness.

That’s it from the Big Social Holiday Market! I am now at home in North Carolina until the 30th. Watch out for a holiday post tomorrow, and then I’m signing off for a few days. I’ll be back to regular posting before the year ends and then look out for some exciting new features on The Infinite Table!