In preparation for this week's burger-centric Cook the Book featuring The Good Stuff Cookbook we sat down with Spike Mendelsohn to talk burgers, fries, and why this former Top Chef contestant decided to forgo fine dining and embrace the burger at Good Stuff Eatery in D.C.
Name: Spike Mendelsohn
Location: Washington, D.C.
Where did you eat your most recent burger? It was at the restaurant, and you'll laugh, it was a plain cheeseburger, no dressing, nothing on it. Just the cheese and the meat from Captial Meats. which is awesome, I'm really proud of our meat and that's when you get to taste it most.
Cheese: American, cheddar, other? Anything works, depending on what type of burger we're making but for me personally, yellow American.
Ketchup or mustard?Ketchup and mustard, mixed, old school style.
Preferred bun: I have a brioche bun on the menu for our egg-topped burger but we like toasted potato buns.
Grilled, griddled, or broiled? Griddled.
And how would you like that done, sir? Medium-rare to get the true flavor of the beef.
Tell us a little bit about the meat that you use at Good Stuff: We use a blend of brisket and sirloin from Capital Meats blended and formed daily from cattle raised in Virginia. We try and source all of our ingredients from within 100 miles.
Why did you decide to open a burger place? Instead of opening a 20-seat fine dining restaurant that would appeal to a small percentage of people I wanted to open something that would appeal to a wider audience. Burgers and fries are something that people have a relationship with.
Would you do us the favor of describing your favorite burgers? In-N-Out in California, and Corner Bistro at 3 a.m.–anything at 3 in the morning tastes pretty good. And I had some pretty great burgers while judging the Top Chef Masters burger competition.
What are some you tips for better burger-making at home? Working with your local butcher is a great thing. It allows you to develop your own blend. I think what really makes a burger is the toppings which is something that The Good Stuff Cookbook is great for. And of course, you have to toast the bun, on both sides for great texture. A trick that my grandfather taught me is to wrap your burgers in wax paper—this steams the bun a little bit. As far as cooking the meat goes, I let my burgers rest before I serve them. It's just like roasting a chicken—you take it out of the oven and let it rest before you cut into it so that all of the juices don't end up on the cutting board, and the same goes for burgers.
The fries at Good Stuff are a little different, can you tell us about them? We use waxy potatoes, Red Bliss. The advantage is they're sweeter and the ones that we get in the restaurant are aged so they have a little less water content which means that they absorb a little less oil when you cook them. I leave the peel on which gives them a nutty flavor. They aren't quite as crispy as Idaho potatoes but the finished fries are crisp on the outside and the inside is almost like mashed potatoes, and that's what I love about them.