U-Mini in Los Angeles Makes the Future of the Fast Food Burger Look Bright
DEC 14, 2012
It's amazing to think that it was only four short years ago when I first profiled restaurateur Adam Fleischman and his small, high-end burger spot on La Brea Boulevard. Now his Umami empire has expanded to 14 locations and there are more on the way.
From the beginning Fleischman had a vision of applying unique burger aesthetic to the fast food model. I can remember him telling me about the ins and outs of his version of, well, In-N-Out, and thinking that his dreams were bold—bold and a decade away. Fleischman's idea of a reasonable timeline for starting a fast food chain is much shorter than mine.
Two weeks ago he opened the first outpost of his fast food operation in the Westwood section of Los Angeles. This one is called U-Mini, but there is talk that the chain will expand under the Umami name. Recently, Fleischman gave me a tour of the new operation. It's unquestionably forward thinking in its design and ordering technology, but what impressed me most were the burgers themselves.
The ordering process at U-Mini is designed for maximum efficiency. I put my order through on the in-store iPad system, but Fleischman has designed the operation so that you place your order and pay all through a custom smartphone app. Place your order, pay up, and they'll let you know when your food is ready. It's a straightforward idea that will make the lunch rush about as rational as it can be.
The first burger I tried was the Vintage Burger ($5.85). Fleischman explained that he wanted to evoke the memory of the classic McDonald's cheeseburger, but use his techniques and quality ingredients to bring it to the next level. That's just what he's done.
The basics are as you'd guess: a five-ounce Umami blend patty, topped with bread and butter pickles, minced onion, mustard, Umami Ketchup, and cheddar on the classic Umami bun (a Portuguese roll that is among the best in the business). Fleischman insists on all of his ingredients being made by his team and all of the Umami restuarants (including U-Mini) grind their meat fresh, in-house every day.
The patty itself is cooked on a beautiful cast iron plancha with the smashing technique that Fleischman developed for the Umami truck. This means that your patty will get a prodigious crust with its medium to medium well center.
Fleischman had mine cooked a bit less than they'll be serving to the public, so that's the reason for rich pink center in the cross-section shot. The word is, you can't request a medium rare through the automated ordering process, but you can make a special request in person.
The flavor profile of the burger is immediately familiar. There's no mistaking that classic McDonald's cheeseburger germline is clear, but the U-Mini version is so much more. The patty is juicy and full of flavor and the pickles and onions add a balance of sweetness and bite. The cheese and bun are exemplary. But the flavor that will send you down memory lane is, in this burger reviewer's humble opinion, the mustard. It adds that little extra acidity that I feel is the key to what we know to be the McDonald's cheeseburger difference.
I also tried the veggie burger ($5.85) on Fleischman's recommendation and, despite my cultivated prejudice to the genre, I found myself beguiled by his earthy, full flavored version. Certainly this isn't a burger for those of you not given to the mushroom, but I found myself halfway through the thing before I took a breath. It's no beef substitute, but I don't think it should be thought of as such. It's a sandwich of its own design that will please the vegetarians that you'll want to bring along to your burger lunch.
The fries ($2.50) are fresh-cut Kennebec potatoes that are instantly the best fresh-cut fast food fry around.
The Umami fries ($2.50) get a dusting of "Umami" seasoning and are earthy and tasty, but I found the standard fries to be a distinguished version of the classic.
I also sampled the shakes ($3.50/$5, small/large) at U-Mini. Recently Umami acquired L.A. Creamery and is richer for it. U-Mini serves nearly perfect shakes in two flavors, Salted Caramel and Milk Chocolate. Treat yourself to a sample of one if you're hesitant. If, like me, you're working on your self-discipline, order both and try mixing them yourself. It's a magical pairing.
I'm so pleased to say I knew Adam when. "When" in this case was over four years ago when he was just building Umami. He reached out to me as a reader of AHT. He asked me to come try out the burger at his new restaurant called Umami Burger. He was, you see, a Serious Eater who had a dream of a different kind of burger served in a different kind of burger restaurant. Now another piece of that dream is a reality—a very tasty reality.
1131 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90024
About the author: Damon is one of our roving burger reporters and food writers. When he's not eating more than is warranted or healthful (and then writing about it) he can be found writing and producing for television and film. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wild Idea Buffalo Company
1575 Valley Drive
Rapid City, SD 57703
The Wild Idea Buffalo Company is the leading provider of grass-fed, naturally-raised buffalo meat in the United States. All the buffalo (also called bison) meat we sell is antibiotic and hormone free, 100% grass fed, non-confined, free-roaming and humanely, field-harvested. Ours is the best gourmet meat you can buy on-line and have delivered to your home. No other red meat is better tasting, better for you or better for our planet.
SELF | May 1998
1/4 to 1/3 cup filling
1 teaspoon butter (or 2 teaspoons if sautéing filling)
1 tablespoon milk or water
salt and pepper to taste
First, prepare the filling. A basic rule of thumb is that you need one quarter to one third cup of filling for every two eggs. If you are using a filling that needs to be cooked — such as apples, mushrooms, onions, peppers, leeks — quickly sauté in a small frying pan with 1 teaspoon of the butter. If you are making a cheese omelette, either slice the cheese thinly or grate it finely and put aside.
Crack the eggs into a small mixing bowl. Stir gently with a fork until well-beaten. Add the milk or water, salt and pepper, and any herbs, and set aside.
Heat a 6- to 8-inch omelette pan over high heat until very hot (approximately 30 seconds). Add the butter, making sure it coats the bottom of the pan. As soon as the butter stops bubbling and sizzling (and before it starts to brown), slowly pour in the egg mixture.
Tilt the pan to spread the egg mixture evenly. Let eggs firm up a little, and after about ten seconds shake the pan a bit and use a spatula to gently direct the mixture away from the sides and into the middle. Allow the remaining liquid to then flow into the space left at the sides of the pan.
Continue to cook for another minute or so until the egg mixture holds togeth*er. While the middle is still a little runny, add the filling. Put in sautéed vegetables or fruit first, near the center, then sprinkle any cheese on top.
Tilt the pan to one side and use the spatula to fold approximately one third of the omelette over the middle. Shake the pan gently to slide the omelette to the edge of the pan.
Holding the pan above the serving plate, tip it so the omelette rolls off, folding itself onto the plate. The two edges will be tucked underneath.
Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Blueberry Cinnamon Scones
MAKES 8 SCONES
Blueberries and cinnamon are like good friends — they should be together as often as possible. These rich and tasty scones make a special treat.
2 3/4 cups brown rice flour
1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon garbanzo bean flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup canola oil
1 cup organic whole cane sugar
1 cup rice milk
3/4 cup frozen blueberries
1. Combine the brown rice flour, garbanzo bean flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the canola oil and organic whole cane sugar until well mixed. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and rice milk alternately, a little at a time, until well mixed, about 3 minutes. Chill the dough for at least 3 hours or overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
3. Dust your counter liberally with brown rice flour. Knead the blueberries into the chilled dough and pat the dough into a 2-inch thick disc. Cut the disc into 8 wedges. Place the wedges onto a greased or parchment-line baking sheet, spaced evenly apart. Bake until scones are golden brown and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes.
Reprinted with permission from Flying Apron’s Gluten-Free & Vegan Baking Book (Sasquatch Books), by Jennifer Katzinger.
KALE SALAD WITH DRIED CRANBERRIES, PINE NUTS AND PARMESAN
Serves 2 – 3
One large bunch of kale, washed well, spun dry, stems removed and very thinly sliced
One handful of dried cranberries, or more to taste
3 – 4 tbs. of toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup hot olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toast the pine nuts in a baking pan for 6 – 7 minutes until lightly browned. Toss together the kale, cranberries and pine nuts in a large bowl.
Heat the olive oil in a small pan until very hot and nearly smoking. Carefully pour the oil evenly over the kale. Listen to the sizzle as you are nearly frying the leaves. Grate the parmesan onto the salad to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve right away.
2 cups carrot juice
10 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and reserved, caps sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup instant barley
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery with leaves, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups kale or mustard greens, stems removed and leaves torn
1 tablespoon grated peeled ginger
Bring the carrot juice, 3 cups water and the mushroom stems to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the mushroom caps and barley and cook until the barley is toasted, about 5 minutes.
Add the onion, celery and rosemary to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots and cook 2 more minutes.
Increase the heat to high and add half of the carrot juice mixture, leaving the mushroom stems in the pan. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is almost absorbed, about 6 minutes.
Add the remaining carrot juice mixture, the kale and ginger and cook, stirring, until the barley and vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, then ladle the stew into bowls.
Per serving: Calories 333; Fat 14 g (Saturated 5 g); Cholesterol 15 mg; Sodium 375 mg; Carbohydrate 50 g; Fiber 8 g; Protein 8 g
Hot Crab Salsa Dip
It couldn't be easier...this stove-top salsa dip is a party favorite. It's loaded with crab and spinach in a creamy salsa sauce. You just know it's going to be good.
Prep 20 min.
Total 25 min.
Servings: about 2 tablespoons dip and 4 cracker
Cook: 5 min.
1/2 of an 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
1 cup Pace® Chunky Salsa
1 can (6 ounces) crabmeat, drained
Cut up fresh vegetables
Pepperidge Farm® Golden Butter Distinctive Crackers
Heat the cream cheese, spinach and salsa in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat until the cheese is melted, stirring often. Stir in the crabmeat. Serve with the vegetables and crackers for dipping.
Preheat Oven to 425F Degrees
(Ingredients are for two servings-- one avocado)
1 ripe avocado
1/2-1 tomato, diced (or half a can of diced tomatoes, drained)
3/4c. corn (drained or if frozen--warmed)
1/3 c. cream of cheese*
1/3 c. bread crumbs
1/3 c. shredded cheese
1 green onion, diced
Cilantro, salt, pepper, lemon juice for garnish
* You may substitute with another cooking cream
Cut the avocado in half and remove pit. Set on baking sheet lined with Silpat or a parchment paper coated with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, combine tomato, corn, cream of cheese, and bread crumbs. Scoop out about 3-4 tbsp. of the mixture and fill the center of the avocado (where the pit used to be). Shape into a dome and flatten with the palm of your hand. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Then bake for 5-8 minutes. Remove and garnish with a pinch of cilantro, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Then top with green onions and serve.
Serve avocados with any additional stuffing. Extra stuffing is always yummy! Especially for the parts of the avocado not topped with stuffing!
HG's Fully Loaded Chi-Dog
Every Hot Dog Has Its Day!
People everywhere can appreciate a delicious frank loaded with goodies. Our guilt-free take on a classic Chicago dog will blow your mind...
1 hot dog with about 40 calories and 1g fat or less (like Hebrew National 97% Fat Free)
1 light hot dog bun (or HG Alternative)
1 slice tomato, halved
1 dill pickle spear
1 tbsp. diced onion
1 1/2 tsp. yellow mustard
1 1/2 tsp. sweet pickle relish
Optional toppings: celery salt, sport peppers
Microwave hot dog on a microwave-safe plate for 45 seconds, or until hot.
Split open the bun, and lay tomato slices on one side. Place hot dog in the center, and top with remaining ingredients. Bite in!
MAKES 1 SERVING
Serving Size: 1 hot dog (entire recipe)
PointsPlus® value 4*
HG Alternative: Can’t find 80-calorie light buns? Just get the lowest-calorie buns you see, and adjust the calorie count accordingly.
HG FYI: While our recipe has less than half the amount of sodium as the average Chicago dog, we recognize it's still pretty high in sodium. If you want to reduce the salt content, use only half of a pickle spear or skip it altogether.
Chicago Dog, Average
City of Big Calorie Counts...
Facts are facts: Hot dogs are FUN, and people love them. They're handheld and full of flavor, plus they're often associated with good times -- summer, cookouts, baseball games, etc. Chicago dogs are super-special, thanks to a creative combo of toppings including yellow mustard, white onion, sweet relish, dill pickle, and tomato slices. And since none of these toppings are particularly fattening, you might assume that a Chicago dog is reasonably guilt-free. Guess again! Most frankfurters themselves have far more fat and calories than you might suspect... and those long doughy buns certainly don't help! We recruited our favorite low-cal basics, and then loaded 'em up with all the crazy extras. The results are totally tasty and TOTALLY impressive in the nutritional department. Get ready for the DOG days of summer...
Serving Size: 1 hot dog
PointsPlus® value 12*
Turkey Chili Enchiladas
1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
1 large onion, chopped
2 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and set aside
2 medium tomatoes, chopped roughly
1 1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp chili powder
3 tsp sofritto paste
2 Tbsp cumin powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 cups chicken broth
1 red bell pepper, roasted and cut into chunks
1 Tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 14 ozs can red kidney beans, wash and drained
Heat olive oil, then add chopped onions, ginger garlic paste and saute until slightly brown. Then add the chopped tomatoes and cook until they are very soft. Now add the ground turkey followed by the cayenne, chili, cumin, garlic powder and the sofritto. Cook for about 15 to 30 minutes. Then add the tomato sauce and chicken stock and the bacon. Let the mixture cook on a low simmer for about 1 hour.
Adjust seasoning, salt, pepper and spiciness. Now add the kidney beans and the red bell pepper.
Use this to fill up your tortillas and make them into enchiladas and topped with buffalo mozzarella and baked for about 15 minutes until bubbly. The top the enchiladas with slice green onions and pickled jalapeno and serve with Mexican crema and salsa verde.
Classic Fried Chicken
Recipe courtesy Food Network Magazine
4 hr 0 min
3 hr 9 min
1 3-pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces, or 3 pounds chicken pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 quart buttermilk
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 bay leaf
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 sprigs thyme
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying
Vegetable shortening, for frying
Season the chicken generously with salt and black pepper; place on a baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.
Mix the buttermilk, hot sauce, bay leaf, garlic and thyme in a large resealable plastic bag. Add the chicken, making sure the pieces are submerged. Seal and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours.
Mix the flour, baking powder, paprika, onion powder, cayenne, 3 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper in a separate resealable bag.
Fill a deep 12-inch cast-iron skillet halfway with equal parts peanut oil and shortening. Heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees F.
Remove about half of the chicken pieces from the buttermilk mixture, letting the excess drip off. Transfer to the bag of seasoned flour; seal and shake to thoroughly coat. Remove from the bag, shake off any excess flour and transfer to a rack.
Carefully lower the coated chicken into the oil. The temperature will drop to 300 degrees F to 325 degrees F; adjust the heat to maintain this temperature so the crust doesn't burn before the meat is cooked. Fry, undisturbed, 2 to 3 minutes to set the crust, then carefully lift with tongs to check the browning; continue to fry, turning as needed, until golden brown and cooked through, 12 to 14 more minutes for smaller pieces and 14 to 16 more minutes for larger ones. (A thermometer should register 160 degrees F in the breasts and 170 degrees F in the thighs and drumsticks.)
Remove the chicken to a clean rack to drain, sprinkle with salt and let rest a few minutes. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Caramelized Broccoli and Red Onion Pizza
J. Kenji López-Alt
DEC 13, 2012
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.
Every recipe we publish is tested, tasted, and Serious Eats-approved by our staff. Never miss a recipe again by following @SeriousRecipes on Twitter!
Makes 3 pies, serving 4 to 6
15 minutes (plus time to make dough and sauce, if using homemade)
Baking steel or stone
1 small head broccoli, cut into 1/2-inch florets (about 3 cups florets total)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 recipe pizza sauce, such as our New York Style Pizza Sauce
1 recipe New York Style Pizza Dough, divided into three balls, or three 12-ounce balls store-bought pizza dough
1 pound grated full-fat dry mozzarella cheese (about 4 cups), very cold
Toss broccoli, onion, pepper flakes, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl. Season with salt to taste. Set aside.
At least two hours before baking, remove dough from refrigerator and shape into balls by gathering dough towards bottom and pinching shut. Flour well and place each one in a separate medium mixing bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise at warm room temperature until roughly doubled in volume.
1 hour before baking, adjust oven rack with pizza steel to top position and preheat oven to 550°F. When ready to bake, turn single dough ball out onto lightly flour surface. Gently press out dough into rough 8-inch circle, leaving outer 1-inch higher than the rest. Gently stretch dough by draping over knuckles into a 12 to 14-inch circle about 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to pizza peel.
Spread approximately 2/3 cup of sauce evenly over surface of crust, leaving 1/2 to 1-inch border along edge. Evenly spread 1/3 of cheese over sauce. Spread 1/3 of broccoli and onion mixture over surface of pizza. Switch oven to broiler, then slide pizza onto baking stone and bake until crust is golden brown and puffed, and broccoli is charred in spots, 4 to 8 minutes. Transfer to cutting board, slice, and serve immediately. Repeat with remaining two dough balls, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese, reheating baking steel in between pies as necessary.
The Easiest Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
1 Cup Peanut Butter
1 Cup Sugar - White
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
Combine ingredients and drop by teaspoonfuls on cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. Let cool. Recipe doesn/'/t make very many, so you could double recipe as you desire.
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