Friday, November 25, 2011

Notice Anything Missing Lately?

It’s been a long time since we have consumed, and I have written about, a hamburger. Even Chuck has discovered that there is much more interesting food out there. But sometimes circumstances and appetite cry out for a hamburger and, fortunately for us, we are in Albuquerque—the home of Lumpy’s Burgers. And not even 55 degree weather, a brisk wind, and outdoor seating only would deter us.

“If anything, the name is just one of several things about Lumpy’s which seems to inspire curiosity. Lumpy’s does not subscribe to the stereotypical template of how a burger joint should operate. It’s an archetype–something original, a burger restaurant daring to be different” (Gil Garduno at nmgastronome. com/blog).

On our June 2, 2010 blog, I described the Twelve Step Program for ordering a Lumpy Burger. A brief refresher. Take a paper bag imprinted with the menu. Mark your choices with a crayon. Select a potato.

Take both to the nice young woman at the order counter.

Chuck and I, being old hands at this, wasted no time filling out our order. But some time was devoted to instructing Kitty Humbug on the proper potato selection. If you want screwy sweet potato fries—as did I—you want a long and thin spud. The second from the left looks just right.

All burger patties are ¼ pound size. The smallest sandwich--“The Wimpy”--has one patty. Next is “The Lumpy” with two patties. And for those with really large appetites is “The Plumpy,” its three patties weighing in at ¾’s of a pound.

It would be “The Lumpy” for both of us. Chuck, ever the purist, ordered his with onion only and thin regular fries.

Now here is the flaw in Lumpy’s system when it comes to regular fries. Selecting the potato just before preparation doesn’t allow for double frying. Therefore, you don’t get the crispness one wants (or at least we want) in a good French fry.

I went a more adventurous route and had my “Lumpy” with green chiles, onion, pickles, and ranch dressing. While the sandwich didn’t contain a lot of green chiles, those present produced enough heat to definitely let you know they were there.

Neither of us specified a degree of doneness for the burgers (and may well have been laughed at if we did) so the patties came medium well. Therefore, I thought that they were somewhat dry although this was eased a bit by the ranch dressing. But they did have that nice crust than comes from flat top cooking. I suspect that Chuck would prefer the crust. Can’t make everybody happy.

Now for my fries. Again, quoting Gil Garduno: “The fries recommended by most are the ‘skrewy’ fries…These are not conventional fries, but waifishly thin potato chips and they are terrific. Served warm in white paper bags, they are relatively low in salt and almost entirely greaseless. The sweet potato chips are some of the best chips we’ve had in a long time. They’re somewhat smallish, but very crisp and delicious. The bottom of the bag also doesn’t contain any of those annoying broken chips you find in commercial products” (nmgastronome. com/blog). So good are they that they were featured on an episode of United Tastes of America with Jeffrey Saad.

So popular is this place that Lumpy’s sold over 175,000 burger patties in their first 16 months of operation and has led to the opening of a second Albuquerque location. This one has indoor seating.

Our previous review gave Lumpy’s a 5.0 Addie rating. Is it burger ennui that forces me to lower that rating to 4.0 Addies?

We Gave Kitty Humbug the Night Off…

and joined Chuck’s cousin Jack Dannenberg and his wife Linda for dinner one evening. At Jack’s suggestion, our destination was Vivace, an Italian restaurant in the Nob Hill section of Albuquerque.

“…VIVACE features truly authentic cuisines from all regions of Italy. Featuring over 30 individual pasta dishes, VIVACE chef and owner Joey Minarsich makes every dish from scratch. ‘Nothing happens until a guest places an order. We serve the freshest fish every day, and our Veal, Beef, Chicken and other meats are the best we can buy. Plus we work very hard to feature daily specials that help to feed our culinary curiosity’ (

Before departing for the restaurant, we took a glance at the on-line menu. Chuck was set to order the Penne all 'Arrabbiata with penne pasta tossed with a spicy sauce of pancetta, tomato, red pepper flakes, minced garlic and fresh basil. Then he heard the list of specials (one of which had something to do with wild boar) and quickly changed his mind. What caused this? The special dish of penne with Italian sausage, arugula, and fresh tomatoes finished with a garlic, wine, and butter sauce. This was delicious and deceptively simple and deceptively complex at the same time. At my first taste, I exclaimed, “I could make this at home.” A few more bites from his plate and I was less sure.

Preceding the pasta came a salad of mixed greens with a light oil and vinegar dressing and garnished with pickled onion slivers. I didn’t taste this, but presume it was good.

My choice was less clear cut. On the one hand, I wanted to order two appetizers the first being the Insalata Di Funghi (“mushroom salad” to we the great unwashed) with wild mushrooms and baby arugula with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh lemon, and truffle oil. My second would be the Fritto Misto with mixed bay scallops, shrimp, and calamari fried and served with a lime and parsley dipping sauce. But then there was the Gnocchi Con Rucola—pan fried potato gnocchi with slivered garlic, wilted arugula, and Parmegiano-Reggiano in a light cream sauce.

It wasn’t until my turn to order that I made a decision—the gnocchi.
“The word gnocchi means ‘lump’ or ‘knot’ and is originally a Germanic word that may describe the distinctive shape of gnocchi. And just like most of Italian cooking, these delicious lumps do not just vary from region to region, but from household to household as well, depending upon what is available. However, the most common way to prepare gnocchi is to combine potatoes (boiled, peeled and mashed) with flour to form soft bite-size lumps of dough” ( Sometimes, although not here, the small dumplings are passed over the tines of a fork or some other device to leave a light score that better traps whatever sauce is being used.

To quote Gil Garduno yet again: “…the Gnocchi Con Rucola (pan-fried potato gnocchi with slivered garlic and wilted arugula, Parmegiano Regianno and a light cream sauce) is certainly a keeper. Rucola, the Italian word for arugula, is a spicy, peppery, potent and aromatic salad green that has long been popular in Italy, but rarely used imaginatively in America (salads don’t count). The Rucola provides a very interesting contrast to the deep richness of the gnocchi and the cream sauce” (

I chose the Caesar Salad and this was the only disap-pointment. Rather than incorpora-ting the anchovies into the dressing, they were presented whole on top. It was fine when you got a bite of the salty fish, but if you didn’t the salad was disappointingly flat.

We have found another Albuquerque keeper in this 4.5 Addie restaurant. We’ll just have to spend more time here on our next trip in order to eat at all of these favorites.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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