Eating a burger at Birdsall House was the next logical step after visiting Hemlock Hill Farm in Cortlandt Manor. I’d shot a video about the farm; I’d observed the cows up close as they grazed and lounged in the shade. Hell, I’d even stepped in their cow flops.
Now, I was about to bite into a burger made from Hemlock Hill beef. Had I been face to face with the steer who’d given up his life to become this hefty, juicy patty? The thought kept crossing my mind. It was a reassuring thought, that I knew exactly where my meat was coming from, and had a semblance of understanding about how the animal lived.
I don’t mean to get all pseudo-deep here; just really liked that the beef was local, is all.
Anyway, I was at Birdsall House for lunch with Katherine Curry and her friend Darryl. All three of us ordered burgers, but we started with a plate of pulled pork nachos.
And a bowl of soft, creamy polenta. I know it’s just glorified grits, but I’m really beginning to develop a taste for the stuff.
(Side note on polenta: a reader named Christine emailed the best suggestion a few weeks ago when I could only eat soft foods: Make a batch of polenta, spread it on a dinner plate and let it cool, then slice it up like a pizza. Pan fry the pieces in a little olive oil until crispy, and top with sauteed broccoli rabe and garlic, grated Parmesan and a sprinkle of hot pepper flakes. Phenomenal.)
And now, the burger.
Birdsall House adds several nice touches to their burgers. First, the fries are excellent. Then there are the accoutrements: a porter and caraway mustard, and a homemade ketchup that has a unique tang to it, almost like sauerkraut. A small pile of caramelized onions comes on the side, as do a few slices of pickled carrots. And the bun is whole wheat. Nice.
None of this takes the focus away from the star of the show though, the Hemlock Hill beef. I took a very substantial bite and mmm, good. The beef was… beefy. (I can’t think of any other way to describe it.) But do you know what I mean? Some burgers don’t taste like much of anything without the condiments. The flavor of the beef itself is muddled and muted. But this burger — there was a definite presence; it tasted like beef.
I just wish I had ordered mine cooked medium, rather than medium-well. I guess with everything I’ve read, I’ve become leery of seeing pink in my burger. We discussed this at the table and a good point was made: that one of the reasons to eat locally and from small farms is so that you can feel safer about your food and enjoy it without hesitation. So, yes, I should have ordered it medium.
And don’t forget the beers. The list of local craft beers looks very interesting. Laura De Maria of Hemlock Hill Farm said it best when referring to Birdsall House: “If you had a beer and a burger, it’d be a great combination.”
970 Main St.