Friday, January 19, 2024

Passion Fruit and the Classic American Hamburger


New Yorker - "A Passion-Fruit Devotee’s Pilgrimage West"
By Hannah Goldfield

"About a decade ago, a friend of mine and her husband moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. After landing at LAX, they went straight to Gjelina, a restaurant in Venice that exemplifies a certain image of life in Southern California: seasonal, sensual, wood-fired cooking; a sun-dappled patio near the beach. “We had this long, exquisite lunch,” she recalled recently. “And just as we were getting ready to pay the bill, feeling like ‘Wow, we’re Californians now!,’ something dropped out of the sky and landed in the middle of the table.” A passion fruit had fallen from one of the vines overhead, and as they sat there staring at it in delight a waiter appeared. “Wordlessly,” she said, “he cut the fruit into two hemispheres and handed each of us a tiny dessert spoon.”

The story sounds like it was plucked out of a tourism campaign, or the depths of my subconscious. I first tried fresh passion fruit fifteen years ago, in Brazil, and in the years since it has captured my appetite and my imagination in equal measure. A passion fruit is as enclosed and mysterious as a hen’s egg, though a common commercial variety called Frederick’s looks like it was laid by a dragon: when it falls off the vine, its exterior is smooth, firm, and slightly speckled, the deep purple color of wine-stained lips. The shell is stiff and leathery, requiring a bit of sawing to open. What’s inside seems almost not meant to be seen: a geometrical, otherworldly cluster of small black seeds (edible, delicate, and pleasingly crunchy), each suspended in an orb of glossy, sunset-colored pulp, surrounded by fragrant juice of the same golden hue, as obscenely slurpable as an oyster. I find the flavor, perhaps my single favorite, intoxicating. It’s citrus-adjacent, but more complex: sweet, bright, savory, sour, and even a touch sulfuric."

New Yorker - "Reviving the Classic American Burger"

"As with pizza, barbecue, and other archetypal American foods, there’s no shortage of strong opinions about what constitutes a proper burger, but George Motz has earned a right to his opinion more than most. Arguably our foremost scholar of hamburgers and their history, Motz has made documentaries, hosted television shows, and authored several books about burgers, and has even taught a hamburger seminar at N.Y.U. So when he announced, last year, that he would be opening a burger joint of his own, New York’s center of hamburger gravity shifted—subtly, but perceptibly—toward the red brick building on the corner of MacDougal and Houston where Motz had signed a lease. The restaurant, which opened in November, all kitted out with chrome and Formica, is a retro fantasia bearing the same grand, unifying, hand-on-heart name as his first film, and his first book: Hamburger America."

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