In the world of food blogging (and among my friends) In-N-Out Burger is second only to the French Laundry. While I love reading about the French Laundry, dining (if I may call it that) at In-N-Out seemed a much more feasible proposition.
This past weekend, I had the still-unexplained privilege of attending a Science Foo Camp organized by O’Reilly Media and Nature Publishing Group. The small, invitation only meeting was hosted by Google, held at the Googleplex, and drew a few CEOs, a smattering of Nobel Prize winners, a handful of editors-in-chief of major publications, a Microsoft big wig, Martha Stewart (??) and, umm... me. Don't ask, I don't know why I was invited either. To say that I was intimidated to the point of blindness would be like calling the ocean a little watery.
First, a word about the Googleplex – it’s fantasy land. It’s a grown up amusement park. It’s the Googledom. Googlevana. They do anything they can to keep they employees at work, and I suspect it works. It would for me. I shit you not, they have a massage parlor on the campus. Along with a laundromat, a volleyball court, dry cleaner, hair dresser, a dog- and booze-friendly policy (they can drink on the job. Seriously), and 14 cafes, most of which aim to be organic and local. They are big on food at Google. There were stations with snacks set out for us whenever we were not stuffing ourselves (myself) past the limit of reason with the most delicious food. The fact that they maintain that level of quality on such a huge scale of preparation is mind boggling.
Conference menu highlights:
Dinner, Friday night
Theme: Food on a stick.
Chicken and tofu kebabs
Grilled corn on the cob (on a stick), candy sweet, moist and crisp.
Pressed sandwiches (don’t know how these fit into the stick scheme but they were fantastic, especially the ones with banana and cardamom-scented peanut butter pressed between a crispy rosemary roll)
S’mores (get it? Stick? Fire? Yep, it’s clever)
Brie and dried cherry stuffed French Toast, which apparently, did not pass muster with Martha Stewart who was, for some unexplained reason, in attendance.
Eggs Florentine, with marinated heirloom tomatoes, sauteed spinach, and a light cheddary hollandaise sauce all atop an English muffin that miraculously avoided becoming soggy - until you spilled the yolky contents of perfectly poached fresh eggs, that is.
The best falafel I have ever had – browned yet not too fried, creamy and moist with the slightest hint of curry flavor. I suspect they were hybrid falafels, chickpeas spiked with peas.
Lamb gyro pitas, marinated chunks of lamb in a yogurt and mint sauce
Salad of heirloom tomatoes, English cucumbers, kalamata olives and firm feta cubes.
The food alone at this conference was worth the cross-country flight.
Onto the burger experience. After the conference disbanded, I coerced a new friend (and owner of the coolest of all design firms in NY) to drive my SciFoo-ed out self to In-N-Out. To be fair, Phillip was a willing participant in my burger quest – everyone seems to love that place.
In-N-Out is a true fast food burger place, but without the heavy grease and processed food smell searing your lungs upon entry. It was clean. It smelled clean. They cut their own French fries in each store – I know because I took the trouble to photograph the slicer!
Everything is made fresh, making the process not terribly fast, which I greatly appreciate. Their meat is made out of meat, not grey bits of horse snouts, or whatever it is that goes into McCrappie’s “burgers”. The bun was buttered and toasted to a crispy, buttery edge, the lettuce was crisp, and the tomato was not.
The meat patty, while thin (I should’ve gotten the double) tasted like beef, and fresh beef at that. The fries were a little anemic in color but tasted as they should, like potatoes and not chemicals. It was great. A perfect fast food meal, with none of the fast food hangover two hours later. I am almost (almost) glad there aren’t any In-N-Outs round these parts – I would be in big, burger-eating trouble. As Martha would’ve put it, they’re a good thing.