The Underground Gourmet is not one to take anything away from the good works of Mrs. Katie Lee Joel, whose surprise patty melt brought home the bacon at the New York City Wine and Food Festival Burger Bash this past weekend. And let’s set aside for now the burning question among the stout-bellied Burger Bash attendees of whether a patty melt is really a burger or just a grilled-cheese sandwich with high aspirations. Nevertheless, the really big burger news last week was the unveiling of Ryan Skeen’s latest concoction at Irving Mill.
As you may know, Skeen rose to burger stardom at Resto, where working like a one-man Pat LaFrieda, Inc., he devised a toothsome six-ounce patty from a mix of house-ground hanger steak, beef cheek, and pork fatback. At Irving Mill, determined to outdo himself, he’s substituted for the hanger the seldom seen belly cut sometimes called bavette steak, a.k.a. flap meat, that’s become all the rage on the West Coast. The result is a typically well-proportioned, pan-seared Skeenburger — richer and fattier than his previous efforts, if that’s possible, and about as juicy and flavorful as an August peach. It comes on a squishy Martin’s potato bun this time around with a slice of melted Irish Cheddar. And those medium-rare-burger aficionados whose feelings were hurt by Resto’s refusal to cook theirs to temperature will be happy to know that at Irving Mill, they can have their burger cooked however they like.
As if this weren’t enough, Skeen is as we speak feverishly working on his next project — a double-decker Frankenburger of sorts, consisting of the aforementioned Skeenburger and a slab of fried goetta, each patty topped with a slice of cheese. Goetta, by the way, is an old Cincinnati specialty of German-American origin, essentially a mix of pork scraps and oatmeal, and as such the only foodstuff that simultaneously raises and lowers your cholesterol.