Friday, May 29, 2009
TBG Eats: The Portobello Mushroom "Six-Dollar Burger" from Carl's Jr.
Current Weight: 165.6 lbs.
A mushroom goes into a bar and sits down to order a drink. The bartender walks over and says, ''I'm sorry sir, but we don't serve your kind here.'' The mushroom sits back and asks,''Why not? I'm a fun guy!"
I was a little late to the mushroom revolution.
It's weird, because I clearly remember seeing a blue, cellophane-wrapped bushel of mushrooms in our refrigerator all the time as a child, but I can't remember ever eating anything my mother made with mushrooms.
Not surprisingly, my first memorable mushroom experience was…in college. There was a pizza place about a mile from the dorms at San Diego State that served up large mushroom pies for $2.50/each after 10:00 PM on Wednesday nights. No topping(s) substitution, limit two per order, carry-out only.
Back in 1995, I thought this was the greatest food deal ever imagined. In 2009, I realize the line of customers that snaked around the block – openly drinking Natty Ice or Keystone Light from Solo cups – were being served surplus fungi that probably spoiled the week before.
A few years later, then-Girlfriend Bootleg and I went to a wedding where stuffed mushrooms were served. Garlic…butter…bread crumbs…crab meat. I wanted to pilfer the platter and do bad, bad things to it. Not long after that, we went to another wedding where – instead of steak (or any other meat, for that matter) – giant grilled Portobello mushroom caps were the main entrée.
That went over with the guests about as well as you'd imagine and I'm pretty sure I was the ONLY one there who actually enjoyed the meal.
So, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I missed the Portobello Mushroom Burger during its initial run at Carl's Jr. According to CJ's website, it's made with a "100% Black Angus beef patty, 'shrooms, two slices of [processed] Swiss cheese, red onion, lettuce, two slices of tomato and mayonnaise".
I like those things.
This burger was even featured in USA Today and received an honor in "product excellence" from something called Produce Business Magazine. Now, I'm not sure how much a relatively anonymous award like that is worth, but as a 2x "Music Zone Writer of the Year", I wouldn't be doing my job if I glossed over it.
I paid about $8.50 for the combo meal, which comes with the biggest "medium" sized fries known to man. CJ's fries are the single most-improved fast food item out there, so if it's been awhile since your last Carl's Jr. jaunt, get yourself a side and see what I mean.
My burger was served up babysitter-hot and the saucy mushrooms blended with the molten cheese to make for a gloriously gooey experience. The actual patty was rather dry, though, as the 'shrooms and cheese could only do so much. Portobellos usually have a deep, smoky taste, but this characteristic was really watered-down here.
I'm not sure CJ's could do much more to improve upon this very good, but not quite great burger. Any more mushrooms and you'd have to eat this with a spoon. Perhaps a little more mayo if the meat is always served up this chalky and anything topped with red onions will almost always be OK in my eyes. 870 calories, 53 grams of fat.
Grade: 3.5 (out of 5)