On Burgers and Bohemians
October 23, 2008
It’s late October, and I’m feeling like a seasonal creature, like a weathervane, almost, responding to the seasons as they come. All summer, I spend my extra cash hanging out on patios around the city with my friends. As summer fades, I end up spending all my drinkin’ money, so to speak, on a weekly supply of luscious heirloom tomatoes. Seriously, I need an extra allowance to support my habit, as I take them home pound by expensive pound. But if time is money, as they say, then why should I resist? Heirloom tomatoes are so ripe with satisfaction that the time it takes to slice them open is all you need to make a fantastic meal. I mixed one up (raw, of course), with pasta, fresh spinach, and a little cheese melted in some pasta water.
Now that the scarves are on and the fleshy heirlooms will soon be gone, I’ve entered the next phase of hibernation. I bought a bunch of stuff for the kitchen. In one transaction, I bought all of the practical things I have been craving for months. The granddaddy of the purchase was a mandoline. I read that the OXO Mandoline Slicer is the best of them all, and after seeing Mario Batali describe it on the product’s Amazon page, I was hooked.
On the social front, I had a last hurrah to warm weather on the patio at Salut with Nathan, the bohemian woodworker. When I lured him over to this side of the river, I used the juicy lucy at The Nook as my bait. Unfortunately, so did everyone else. There was a 40-minute wait. As we drove around thinking about where else we could go, he kept teasing me by saying “The Nook!” oh “The Nook!” as though I was a Greek siren who lured him to eternal damnation in genteel St. Paul. Where else could I take my incorrigible friend?
I have strange reservations about eating at restaurants that feel even a little corporate, and Salut does, with its smorgasbord menu and concept decor. It wouldn’t be out of place next to P.F. Chang’s and Maggiano’s over at the mall. However. I’m getting older now, and who am I to complain? With Salut, there’s now a French restaurant with great service and a happy bustle bringing extra life to a busy corner of St. Paul. And I was eager to try their burger. Dara Moskowitz included it in her now-famous 20 burgers you must eat before you die list. So off to Salut we went.
We ordered a bottle of red called la piquette, which translates into “nasty wine,” and Le Cheeseburger Royale with aged cheddar, lettuce, and tomato on grilled ciabatta with hand-cut fries. Yeah, it was very good, but I couldn’t quite determine if it was list-worthy. I might say it lacked a certain je nais sais quoi, a certain God-knows-what. But did it matter? The fries were perfectly crispy and my company was among the finest. I would go back to Salut (almost) any time.