Hamburgers – America’s Favorite Food for the 4th of July

We’re out in the middle of nowhere. You know, and the good thing about it is, we are the only thing in nowhere.

So says Joe Maranto the owner of the Meers Store and Restaurant, home of the Texas Long Horn Beef Burger. Location: Meers, Oklahoma – population six people, eight cats, and a dog.

Well I found out about the Meers store in a documentary film called Hamburger America. This film tells the story of eight deliciously unique hamburger emporiums. Some are small, some are bigger, they’ve all been around for a while, and almost all are described as ‘world famous’. As they say at the Meers store – Eat Beef, the west wasn’t won on salad.

We’ll come back to Meers shortly. So it has been my tradition to do a post on art for the July 4th, and Thanksgiving Day holidays. But what could be more traditional than a July 4th cookout. So here we go with a look at one of the American food items most often consumed on this the July 4th weekend. Whether you are cooking burgers outdoors on a charcoal grill, or flippin’ burgers on an electric grill, or if you prefer them fried in a cast-iron pan, it seems obvious that you must really love just plain wolfing them down. The hamburger is an American tradition and is as popular today as ever and that’s taking in to account the recent rise in the cost of beef.

Hamburger American is filmed, directed, and edited by George Motz. I can’t say with certainty, but it is likely that Motz was influenced by TV Journalist Charles Kuralt, who in 1967, convinced his bosses at CBS News to let him get out of the studio, and travel across America finding stories. Kuralt claimed he was tired of the grind and the competitive nature of TV Broadcasting’s version of the news. They said okay – we’ll give it a go for three months.

The title of the series was On The Road With Charles Kuralt, and it ran for 20 years.

In Motz’s film – we visit eight different hamburger restaurants across the country. The segments are about the making of the burgers, some of them in ways you wouldn’t or couldn’t ever imagine, but the real focus of the film is the story of these establishments, some of which predate me, you, our parents, and even our grandparents. And per the film, some of these establishment’s long-time clientele are certainly old enough to be our grandparents.

So off we go to visit these hamburger emporiums. We’ll sample the burgers only visually of course, but it is interesting watching the owners of these places talk about their burgers and their restaurants which have become their life’s work. First stop: Memphis, Tennessee – where you can find Graceland, the home Elvis A. Presley, and on Beale Street, you will find Dyers World Famous Hamburgers. They proclaim that their burgers, which are deep-fried in 102 year old grease, are the best burgers anywhere. Dyers began in 1912, and the present owner… Dyers2 … Tom Robertson says the grease is processed and strained daily, but they’ve never thrown it out and started over, so somewhere in there, are molecules from 1912. Robertson said, I won’t reveal the ingredients with which they season the grease, but if your grease isn’t from 1912, it won’t matter anyway. Have you had your Vitamin G today, with G standing for grease?

He said on an average day, they sell anywhere from 300 to 500 burgers. As Robertson says – It’s all about the grease. If you’re watching your health at all, I’d recommend that you go next door.

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Chef (2014)

There’s a lot to like about Chef. First of all, it is great film if you are someone who likes to cook and enjoy the food experience in all its infinite variations. There’s even a term called food porn used by aficionados of movies about cooking and great food.

It is a buddy film. It is a road film. It is a film that without being about sports – has the likeable ‘sporting motif’ of a successful guy whose career ran off the rails, but he gets his shit together.

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Last Full Day in Hong Kong

Today, Tuesday the 12th of November is my last full day in Hong Kong. I’ve just two things planned. Sometime after 9:35 AM, but definitely before 10:20 AM I would head down from the Mid-Levels towards Hong Kong Station. There I would be able to check in for my 9:35 Cathay Pacific flight to New York on Wednesday, get a boarding pass, and hand over my 30 inch, red, and wheeled Kipling duffel bag.

Getting there is easy - just follow the great signs which read In-town Check-In

Getting there is easy – just follow the great signs which read In-town Check-In

The time frame had to be just so because I could not use the in-town check-in until less than 24 hours before my flight, and I had to leave before the Down Only Mid-Level Escalator became the Up Only Mid-Level Escalator.

The all-important round trip ticket between the Airport and Hong Kong Station - purchased on the plane for just $21 US dollars

The all-important round trip ticket between the Airport and Hong Kong Station – purchased on the plane for just $21 US dollars

It worked like a charm. By the time I was done with the down escalator, and the covered walkways above the city streets, I’d then be entering the IFC Mall. From there it was all indoors.

Check in at Cathay Pacific

Check in at Cathay Pacific

I presented myself and my passport and my duffel at the Cathay Pacific counter. The young lady checked her watch, then proceeded to get me all checked in and set. Shortly after, I had a boarding pass in hand and had some time to kill. I found a Delifrance shop and had myself a ham and scrambled egg on baguette and a coffee. I had time to kill because I had to wait for the escalators to change directions.

The only other plan was to meet Jeannette and Yu Ling for dinner that night. Jeannette had mentioned that she would be in in Mongkok, and that is where Yu Ling worked. I had only been to Mongkok once before and that was with Jeannette who gave me a brief tour of the street markets. But that was years ago.

A street view of an entrance to Langham Place. I camefrom the MTR station below the building

A street view of an entrance to Langham Place. I came from the MTR station below the building

Now Mongkok still has the street markets, but it also has the up-market Langham Place, a towering structure which you can enter directly from the MTR. There are shops, a hotel, and above all that is an office tower.

The architecture is new and modern. Like nothing you’ve ever seen before, at least on the interior. It is easy to lose track of what floor you are on because one of the escalators is 83 meters long – that’s 272 feet or nearly the lengthy of a football field. Basically, the central core is an atrium, and the escalators seem to stretch toward the sky, only we are in doors.

I ultimately met Jeannette at the Starbucks whch turned out to be on the 4th level rather than the third. Or maybe it was the other way around. But she found me.

Yu Ling worked upstairs so we knew she would find us.

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Monday Night, November 11th – My Penultimate Night in Hong Kong

The 11th of November was my penultimate night in Hong Kong. I was going to do the solo bit tonight. Dinner was at the Zabon Ramen shop on Hollywood Road. At this point, Hollywood Road ran as an underpass for traffic and pedestrians beneath the escalator/covered walkway overhead.. The Zabon Ramen shop was just about beneath the escalator.

As you enter the shop – all the staff will announce that they are welcoming you – Iraahaimase!

You are directed to a space at the counter, or to a table for groups of three or more. In the above photo, I sat where the man (on the left side, drinking from a cup or glass is seated.

There’s a menu with pictures and text, and a notepad with check boxes for you to enter your selections. There’s also a place for you to advise how you want your ramen noodles: firm, soft, or normal.

After scanning the menu, I opted for some small pork dumplings (gyoza) and a large bowl of miso ramen.

Plus a Kirin Beer.

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A Day of Sailing Around Hong Kong Island & Dinner at The Nepal Restaurant

The sailing event was called the Tommy Bahama Around the Island Race. It took place on Sunday, the 10th of November, and has been held for more than 100 years. It is a 26 nautical mile race around Hong Kong Island. Beginning at Causeway Bay – more than 200 boats, of various sizes and classes competed.

Held under the auspices of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHKYC), the race has two start lines and the competitors will range from one person dinghies to 50 foot ocean cruising yachts. Given the disparities of sizes – the over all winner will be the boat with the fastest time around – once the ATI Handicaps have been applied.

Said handicaps are a way of making the ‘playing field’ even considering the size of the boats, sails, and shape of the boats – be they multi-hulls like catamarans and trimarans as well as monohulls.

I did not attend or sail, but one of our dinner companions that night did take part. Jeannette claimed that this was the first time they had even completed the race.

Any way back to the dinner. The three of us, the non-sailing contingent, met at The Nepal Restaurant, located at 14 Staunton Street just a few steps off the Central Mid Level Escalator in Hong Kong’s Soho area.

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Hong Kong Day 8 – Korean Barbecue

A restaurant serving what was described as Korean Barbecue was the target. Located in To Kwa Wan, it is just a very brief walk from the Ferry . My route was the Island Line from Sheung Wan to North Point. Then a block and half walk to the ferry which I just missed. That’s the penalty of trying to judge the evening rush hours.

The early evening rush hour on the MTR

The early evening rush hour on the MTR

Too many people on the MTR at the same time and it takes longer to off load and board at each stop. Plus it was crowded, so I heard the repeated phrase ‘Please stand back from the doors’ in both Cantonese and English far too often. Many times the doors closed in our car then re-opened because they couldn’t close the doors in another part of this MTR train. So I missed the boat. By a minute. However going in the direction of Kowloon side from Hong Kong sides – this Ferry departs at 17 and 47 after each hour.

Arriving at Kowloon City. That's the Grand Water Front Plaza on the right

Arriving at Kowloon City. That’s the Grand Water Front Plaza on the right

But it worked out – Yu Ling met me at the ferry, Kowloon side, and Steve met us at the restaurant.

I am not familiar with Korean Barbecue at all. In fact the only thing I knew about Korean food is that they can barbecue beef, chicken, or pork, and that you will be served kimchi as an appetizer, side dish, or something to nibble on while the food is cooking.

Kimchi is described as fermented vegetables with a variety of seasonings. Start with chopped cabbage, add Korean radish, Korean fish sauce, ginger, red pepper, salt, sugar, and add scallions last. Mix together by hand. And that’s kimchi.

Sorry Neighborhood Korean Barbecue Restaurant, this isn’t something I’d request again. It is a Korean staple but I think it is not for everyone.

That's Yu Ling, me, the side-s=dishes, and they Tsingtao

That’s Yu Ling, me, the side-dishes, and the Tsingtao

And this time it is Yu Ling, Steve, and the side-dishes. The barbecue has yet to be fired up.

And this time it is Yu Ling, Steve, and the side-dishes. The barbecue has yet to be fired up.

But for the special barbecue dinner, it, the Kimchi simply ‘comes with’. Make that comes with any meal in a Korean restaurant. You can taste it or ignore it. It’s just a part of the meal. There are a lot of other side dishes , and dipping sauces that are served as well. But I can’t really tell you what most of them were.

But the chicken, pork, and a couple of steaks are barbecued right there on your table. Electric barbecue of course. No sign of charcoal at all.

You get a lot of food, and you get to watch the meats cook right in front of you. The staff cuts and slices – sometimes with knives, and sometimes with scissors and tongs.

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Hong Kong – Day 7 – I Visit The World of Suzie Wong

Day 6 & 7 In Hong Kong – Relaxing and Exploring and an Offers to Party –

On Monday, after my trek to Kowloon City in search of a great lunchtime biryani – I went across the harbor to Tsim Sha Tsui – Canton Road, and Peking Road. The shopping mecca of TST. I had my eyes checked and ordered a set of eyeglasses from my friends at Classy Optical who have relocated to the other side of Peking Road.

Formerly they were at 110 or was it 112 Peking Road, they are now at 77 Peking Road, just a little ways in from Nathan Road.

Yu Ling came down from Mongkok where she works and we met for a no-frills, no photo ops dinner.

Tuesday: Day 7 – okay, on this day I did a little more exploring. The section of Hong Kong known as Wanchai has long been a haven for night clubs, partying, and more. US soldiers and sailors, as well as sailors from various other visiting navies usually head for the delights of Lockhart Road.

All of that was made famous in a book called The World of Suzie Wong. The book was authored by Richard Mason in 1957. It was the story of a British ex-pat named Lomax living as an artist in a Wanchai hotel.  He befriends a young woman who worked as a prostitute at this hotel, and her clientele were mainly American and British sailors.

The book became a theatrical play which starred France Nuyen as Suzie Wong and William Shatner as Lomax. Yes, the very same Shatner who would later portray, Captain James T.Kirk on TV and in the movies. Then, in 1960, a movie.was produced based on the same source material. It starred William Holden and Nancy Kwan. And today, some 50 plus years later – here I am in the same area.

Neon night clubs, bar girls, cheap hotels, and more. The perfect place to have fun or be bad. I started out intending to walk around on the Wanchai Harbor Promenade. But with all the city planners have done with developing and redeveloping the area, the original setting of the book, play, and movie – the fictional Nam Kok Hotel, which was based on the Luk Kwok Hotel on Gloucester Road no longer exists. Gloucester Road is still there, but the Luk Kwok came down in the 1980’s. So it is quite likely that Mason himself might not recognize the area. As for the promenade itself, it is not so easy to get to if you aren’t familiar with it.

All I knew was that it was East of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center (above)

Anyway I spent a rather short time there (on the promenade) and soon headed back on one of the elevated walk-ways which basically serve as fly overs for the pedestrians. Eventually I saw a sign that said Delifrance 1 minute walk on Lockhart Road.

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Day Five in Hong Kong – The Adventure to Enjoy Chicken Biryani in Kowloon City

Day Five in Hong Kong. This was a Monday. The weather gods were cruel to me today. It was one of those days that if you carried an umbrella – you’d soon tire of it occupying one of your hands, and if had left it behind, you’d wish you hadn’t. The rain was enough to get you damp if not truly wet, but not enough to get you soaked. As I said – it was one of those days.

With my friends Jeannette and Yu Ling at work, I was left to my own planning. Or should I say, I had no real plans. However if you back track to my post for Day Three, in this series of postings, you will remember that we didn’t get to have that dinner on Saturday. I didn’t get to sample those Nepalese Dumplings described as the highlight of dining at the restaurant called Indian Curry King.

So on a rather spur of the moment decision I decided to ride the MTR, hop the ferry, and hope to find a taxi that would have an English-speaking driver, or at minimum, one who knew the restaurant.

I boarded the MTR at Sheung Wan. I can reel off the stations on the Number 1 Train (to Chai Wan) by heart – I think.

Sheung Wan
Wan Chai
Causeway Bay
Tin Hau
Fortress Hill
North Point
Quarry Bay
Tai Koo – I had stayed at the hotel East in Tai Koo in 2011
— and so forth to the line’s end at Chai Wan.

It’s not all that far – eight stops – maybe 15 minutes. They call this specific line of the MTR the Island Line because it connects the major neighborhoods along the North shore of Hong Kong Island.

The ferry from North Point to Kowloon City runs at 17 and 47 minutes past the hour and only a few people were heading to Kowloon City at this time of the day – between 1:30 and 1:37 PM. I didn’t cut it too close, so I had to wait about 8 minutes for the ferry.

Fourteen minutes later the ferry is at the pier in To Kwa Won. The Grand Waterfront Plaza looms high – 60 stories high in fact.

A taxi stops for me.

I climb in and say – Neih sic mhsic Yingman ah?

The words mean You can/not can speak English {question tone]

Fortunately, unlike the weather gods, the language gods were watching over me as the cab driver said immediately that he can speak English. I say Indian restaurant, Curry King, 24 South Wall Road, Kowloon City. Zip/Zip – 5 minutes pass and I am deposited right in front of the place. In the photo below, we can see the South Wall Road street sign, and that blue sign, the one over the phone booths, is the one for the restaurant.

It is a smallish place with maybe 10 tables. And maybe three tables were occupied. I sit down towards the back at a two-person table. I face the door and see everyone who might come in.

As I said it was a single room. What the restaurant lacked in decor, it really made up for it with the food. When the waiter came over, he said Welcome sir.

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Hong Kong – Day Two

Along with basically living two days without sleep just getting here – comes a very fine and subtle change also known as a serious bout of jet lag – my sleep patterns are all askew. After dinner last night, I went to bed rather early (just after 10:00 PM), but it was not what I expected.

Waking up at 3:00 AM isn’t fun. I worked on my blog – looked at some emails, basically fiddled around on the web before crawling back into bed just after 5:00 AM. I canceled a plan with a friend who teaches at Shantou University. Basically I wanted a day where I would be able to just go back to the apartment when and if necessary.

The main plan for Day 2 was dinner with friends at the Peking Gardens, a stylish restaurant in Star House, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon which is steps from the Star Ferry in Kowloon just across the Harbor from Hong Kong. In short Peking Duck was on the menu.

I was third to arrive. Steve and Yu Ling were already at the table. I checked in at the reception desk, where the reserved table was noted. The instructions were – your friends are at the table. Go through that door. Not having a clue as to what was behind Door Number One (hopefully a dining room and my fellow diners – I proceeded. On the other side of the door, a beautiful woman, in a dress split to mid-thigh was waiting for me. The restaurant works by radio. Watch for the tall man with glasses and a mustache (and needing s shave). In any event, I was escorted to the table. I doubt anyone’s eyes were on me.

Still not having a clue, I sat facing them. Little did I know that I was sitting with my back to the harbor view,

The Harbor View that I didn't see

The Harbor View that I didn’t see

Anyway shortly thereafter, Jeannette appeared. She had booked the place, and we left the selection of the food to her.

In addition to not having the harbor view, I was sitting with my back to the preparation of the Peking Duck. A roasted duck is wheeled out and offered for our inspection. They carve the duck in full view of our table (except for me), cut off the skin, slice off the fatty duck tissue, then put the skins back on. This (below) is what the finished serving looks like.

A platter of Peking Duck.

A platter of Peking Duck.

It is served with some vegetables like cucumber, and celery,which has been sliced into tooth pick size slivers. Then you add the duck and veggie into a wrap, which you have coated with a special sauce. You roll the whole thing up, and voila – Peking Duck.

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