It’s no secret that many of the city’s best burgers share a common, juicy thread. Pat La Frieda and his Wholesale Meats are responsible for the patty prowess of places like Shake Shack, The Little Owl, Market Table, and of course Minetta Tavern, where the Keith McNally-exclusive Black Label blend manages to justify its $26 price tag. So it should be no surprise that my heart practically leapt forth from betwixt my gigantic, fantastically toned pecs (hey, everyone needs a hobby, right?) when I learned via A Hamburger Today that NYC’s overlords of delivered groceries, FreshDirect, would be selling La Frieda burgers for the remaining days of summer and beyond. Better yet, they come vacuum-sealed in a mixture of oxygen and carbon dioxide which keeps the patties fresh almost thrice as long. La Frieda burgers in my own home? A whirl had to be given.
The La Frieda burgers come in three varieties: Original (chuck, brisket, and short rib, $5.99/lb), Brisket (chuck and brisket, $5.99/lb) and Short Rib (chuck and short rib, $6.99/lb). Since it was my first time handling such prized meat, and because square one seemed like as good a place to start as any, I went with the Original. The patties are thick and beautifully formed thanks to a low-pressure chopping machine, a careful step which results in a texture that borders on chunky. Seasoning the meat with a Quebecois black pepper spice blend from Les Epices Gourmandes, I set my grill pan to medium-high and gently placed my burgers in the searing cookware. Meat temperature is a debatable preference, but I tend to go for medium-rare. After a nice crust had formed, I flipped the patties and topped them with slices of pepper-jack cheese, doming them with a turned-over soup pot to help the cheese melt faster. I aspire to modest levels of burger purism, so I topped the decadent manwich with thin slices of half-sour pickles and a dollop of country ketchup from Stonewall Kitchen, which has a nice vinegary bite to it that bolstered the half-sours perfectly.
Consensus? These are the best burgers I’ve ever cooked at home. They’re well worth the cost, being on par price-wise with other FreshDirect burger offerings. Cooked medium-rare, they developed an excellent crust in my grill pan, with the flavor and texture of buttery chopped steak. It was everything a burger should be, with all the elements — tang from the pickles and ketchup, unctuousness from the cheese and beef — in complete harmony. Sometimes when industry brands try to make the jump to grocery items their efforts fall flat, but La Frieda and FreshDirect have nailed this one. Clara Peller, it’s over. We know where the beef is.