Monday, March 9, 2009

Livin' The Life: Umami Burger, Los Angeles

Ever have those conversations with friends or coworkers about what you would do for a living if you won the lotto? I'm pretty sure you'd be lying if you say you never have.

Like most of us out there, I cannot truthfully say that I would have chosen my current career if I had my choice of any job in the world. Yeah, like I actually like crunching numbers and pulling data out of my ass? Like I like having my eyes glued to a computer monitor for over 8 hours a day? Like I crave going to boring meetings that are sometimes held to discuss other meetings? Yeah right. If I won the lotto, I would not, yes I repeat, WOULD NOT be whoring out fancy- shmancy analyses like I do now. Would not.

So let's say I won the lotto, then. But not a huge mega-ball-or-whatever-they-call-it drawing for like 200 billion dollars. Let's say it was a small-to-medium-ish lotto that would allow me to buy a bigger and nicer home, stash away my kid's college fund, do some traveling and buy some cool stuff but was still not big enough that I had to stop working completely. Big enough, though, that I could stop being a corporate wage slave and so something that I really love. Like...

...professional food blogging!

I've always dreamt of a job that would let me be somewhat free to roam about our city without the rigid schedule and walls of the corporate world. You know all those people who you see just hanging out at a café or out shopping on a weekday afternoon when you're taking a "mental health day" from work? Well I want to be one of those people. Now I don't know exactly what professional food blogging would entail since I only do this for fun right now--heck, I don't even know if such a career exists--but I imagine it to be a job where I could eat at lots of different restaurants, hang out at coffeehouses to write, and not have to be back at my desk by 1:30 everyday.

Now as some of you might already know, I haven't been working recently, so I've been able to live out some aspects of my dream career life, delusional as they may be. For example, I've really, really, really been wanting to try recently-opened and much-talked-about Umami Burger, so I got ready, threw my camera in my bag and made my afternoon all about the restaurant currently at the top of my go-to list.

In a previous life, er, I mean in a life I lived just a month and a half ago, I would have been stuck in a boring meeting in BFE Orange County staring at the clock. But on this particular day at 11:30 in the morning, I was in my car, feeling liberated, driving north on La Brea on my way to what I was hoping would be burger heaven.

Upon pulling up, the observations of this wanna-be-professional-food-blogger went full force. Small parking lot is a pain in the ass. Friendly greeting upon entrance. Small space with a very zen feel. Beautiful mosaic tiled counter. Order at the mosaic-tiled counter and they bring you your food. Lots of natural light. Cute but awkward little alcove toward the back with more tables and counter-like seating. Cake Monkey treats available for purchase at the counter.

I sat at a two-top in the corner for maximum photography lighting and snapped away at the tall bottle of Mexican Coke I was enjoying while waiting for my food. I would take a swig of the cane- sugar-instead-of-high-fructose-corn-syrup-sweetened soda and think about stuff. Nothing in particular, just stuff. And then I'd take another photo and then repeat.

There were two guys sitting behind me dolled up in the typical LA casual-chic uniform of faded t-shirts, designer jeans and flip flops talking about nothing in particular. These guys, I assumed, were part of this out-and-about-on-the-weekday crowd that I am so envious of. Another diner walked in who, after sitting down and pulling a camera out of her purse and exchanging glances with me and my big ass DSLR, revealed herself as a Yelper out on the prowl for good eats. In my make-believe professional foodblogging life, I imagine meeting lots of other food loving people: other bloggers (professional or not!), Chowhounds, Yelpers, and all levels of restaurant staffers from wait staff to chefs to owners. It was totally appropriate, then, that I ended up having lunch with Yelper Chick and talking about all things food.

But what I was really there for, what motivates my inner food blogger in the first place, was the umami. The fifth taste. The taste outside the realm of salty, sweet, bitter and sour that one can only describe as "delicious." From what I could taste, Umami Burger's burgers are aptly named.

I would have ordered one of each burger if I could--Umami Burger's eight current burger varieties like the "Port and Stilton Burger" with blue cheese and port-caramelized onions and the "Triple Pork Burger" with fresh ground pork, chorizo and cob-smoked bacon, aged manchego and pimenton aioli sounded like they'd invoke some serious umamification. But if it was serious umami I was after, then the restaurant's signature burger, the "Umami Burger," would be my guy. The house-ground beef was texturally divine and deep on flavor. Shitake mushrooms, oven-dried tomatoes and caramelized onions added yet another dimension of taste and texture. And the proverbial cherry-on-top was a delicate yet crunchy house-made Parmesan crisp. Also delicious was the gleaming Portuguese bun that tied the whole umamification process together. Hand Cut Fries, boiled and twice-fried, are stacked Jenga-style and ordered separately. They're a little skimpy on quantity but high in quality, and definitely do not overshadow the star of the show.

As I was focusing in on my lunch, owner Adam Fleischman approached our table and told me he charges $5 a photo. Uh, ex-squeeze me? Baking powder? Who dares talk to a professional food blogger that way? But he was just kidding of course. And he was also so gracious that Yelper Chick and I were showing such an interest in his restaurant that he brought us a sampling of his Roasted Garlic Potato Salad made with Russian Blue and fingerling potatoes. I much preferred the fries as a side, but it was an extremely nice gesture from a guy who obviously knows good food and takes such great pride in what he does. Schmoozin' with restauranteurs--that's what I'm talking about. This professional food blogging gig is something that I could really get in to.

Of course when I do end up getting a job--meaning a regular, corporate job--the coach will revert to a pumpkin and the horses will revert to mice. Unless I play hooky or am on vacation, leisurely weekday lunches amongst LA's daytime crowd will be almost impossible. My dreams of being a professional food blogger will have been a figment of my imagination, and I'll be that number-slinging, data-whoring cubicle dweller once again 'cause unfortunately, that's what pays the bills and can afford me more trips to Umami Burger. Until I win the lotto that is.

Umami Burger
850 S. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 931-3000

Umami Burger on Urbanspoon

These bloggers also got their umami on recently: A Hamburger Today, The Foodinista, Eating LA, Alli 411, LA Times' Daily Dish


Anonymous said...

Your writing is so amazing that I hope you really would win that lottery and write / blog full time! I've got to try the Umami Burger -- looks very yummy!


weezermonkey said...

Yummy yummy yummy!

Let's be professional food bloggers together!

thefoodinista said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thefoodinista said...

whoops, i hit delete, but what i meant to say was

Adam should pay YOU $5/photo! great pics!

Passionate Eater said...

If any food blogger could be a professional one, it would be you. You definitely put the kick-ass "f" in food blogger!

Daily Gluttony said...


I hope I win the lotto too! LOL!

Weezer Monkey,

Yeah, maybe if we all form a corporation of food blogging professionals, it'll be power in numbers!


thanks! seriously huh? that would have given me a head start on my dream career. ;)


thanks so much! you'd be a pretty kick arse professional blogger yourself! :)

joanh said...

i heard about this place from a friend!!! thanks for the info.. i will have to bookmark it for my other friend who i know would love this place. :)

sarah said...

chica - have you thought about applying to blog for squid ink, or better yet, being their editor???

Viagra Online Without Prescription said...

how wonderful it is to eat this delicious image of this hamburger with fries, in the meanwhile you make me hungry, and now I will order some of them.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin