Married to burgers

Kenley and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary last month by taking our love for hamburgers upscale.

It was the first wedding anniversary we’d celebrated in Los Angeles. Our first anniversary was spent with friends at the Thirsty Fellow bar on our last full day in Columbia, S.C., before we hit the road for L.A.

Kenley proposed to me in Paris, so I usually seek out French restaurants for romantic dinners. Comme Ca is a French bistro in L.A. that’s said to have one of the best hamburgers in town. Perfect! I get romance; Kenley gets a burger.

Chef David Myers studied under Daniel Boulud, whom The New York Times credits with starting the “gourmet burger” craze when he stuffed a burger with truffles, short ribs and foie gras at his DB Bistro Moderne in New York. The cost? $32.

In 2009, The New York Times called Myers’ Comme Ca burger “the perfect burger.” Read the article here. On its “A Hamburger Today” blog, the website Serious Eats tested The New York Times’ theory. You can read the blog’s take here.

And last year, LA Weekly counted the Comme Ca burger as one of its 30 burgers in 30 days — and declared it’s still perfect.

Comme Ca also makes Pulitzer Prize-winning food writer Jonathan Gold’s annual list of 99 essential L.A. restaurants (not just because of the burger).

The restaurant is on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. On the way, you get to stroll past such boutiques as Diane Von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, Vera Wang and interior designer Kelly Wearstler’s new store. The mood had already been set.

Inside, Comme Ca is a modern bistro decorated in black and white with low lighting. Stylish and romantic.

We decided that Kenley should order the Comme Ca burger, and I would order the moules frites (mussels and fries) so we could share.

I loved the sophisticated presentation of the burger, with the frites served in a silver cup. The burger itself is simple, with Vermont cheddar on top. We ordered it medium, and it was served with very little pink in the center at all. It tasted very dry. We thought it might be our fault in not ordering it medium rare, but the mussels also were dry.

So the $18 burger did not live up to our expectations. But we learned a valuable lesson: Always order your hamburger medium rare. Always.

However, I loved the ambiance of the restaurant and plan to give it and the burger another try before May, which is National Hamburger Month. Kenley and I plan to rank our favorite burgers then.

(Our burger obsession started when East Coast darling Five Guys Burgers and Fries moved out west and into In-N-Out Burger territory, setting off a widespread burger debate. See which burgers we ranked in our top 5 then. We were just getting started!)

Comme Ca has only one burger on the normal menu, but it offers a selection during the restaurant’s recently started Burger Night on Tuesdays. Find out more here. And their brunch menu looks amazing. Plus, the burger is $2 cheaper then. There’s another Comme Ca location in the sexy Cosmopolitan hotel and casino in Las Vegas.

On Saturday, Kenley and I had reservations at Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica. Rustic Canyon also makes Gold’s 99 essential restaurants list. The place is known for using local ingredients from the famed Santa Monica Farmers Market and, of course, for having a good burger.

Rustic Canyon’s burger has been featured in the “A Hamburger Today” blog on the Serious Eats website, and in Los Angeles Weekly’s 30 burgers in 30 days. It was ranked best burger in L.A. last year by LAist.com.

Most recently, Rustic Canyon’s burger was named the favorite by the guys behind my favorite sandwich shop, Mendocino Farms. Those folks tasted 30 burgers in preparation for opening their new gastropub (Blue Cow Kitchen & Bar), and they named their top five. Rustic Canyon came in at No. 1. Kenley and I have tried all those top-five burgers except for the one at Lazy Ox Canteen, so I’ve added it and the now-open Blue Cow to our list of burger places.

You should plan weeks, if not months, in advance to go to Rustic Canyon. I could get only early (6-ish) or late (9-ish) reservations on a Saturday night. The Wilshire Boulevard restaurant is relatively small and is open only for dinner.

At Rustic Canyon, Kenley and I both ordered the hamburgers, though Kenley ordered his with bacon. The burgers are served with cheddar, onion fondue, pickles and herb remoulade. This time we ordered them medium rare. They were big, rich, juicy and flavorful. Ketchup was served on the side with the fries, and that simple condiment alone could set this burger apart from its main competition at Father’s Office, which notoriously doesn’t have a drop of ketchup in the house. (Father’s Office is widely regarded by many — including us — as having one of L.A.’s best burgers, but it is prepared only one way. No questions asked.)

The burger at Rustic Canyon was worth the $18 splurge. (Kenley’s was $22 after he added bacon.) Plus, the restaurant has a good craft beer selection, and the sundae we had for dessert also was amazing.

Rustic Canyon has a Burger Night on Mondays. Visit the restaurant’s Facebook page to find out the burger specials for the night.

I recently read in LA Weekly that Rustic Canyon’s chef is leaving. Sure hope the burger stays the same, and I’ll be on the lookout for his next venture.

Before dinner Saturday night, Kenley surprised me by giving me a trip to Vegas. He is faced each year with our wedding anniversary on Jan. 23, Valentine’s Day three weeks later, and my birthday a week after that. The trip to Vegas, which was planned for Valentine’s week, covers all three. You’ll be reading about that excursion soon.

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