Shake Shack Collaboration

You may have heard of a skinny Italian Chef whom skilfully shines with 3 Michelin stars upon his shoulder. Said Chef is known for being nothing short of crazy, with an obvious air of creative genius. Massimo Bottura, whose phenomenal, foodporn filled cookbook Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef was recently published (hello Christmas gift!!), is one of my culinary heroes. His restaurant nestled in the streets of Modena, Osteria Francescana, sits firmly atop my Foodie Bucket List.

Now if you remember, I told you about New York’s favourite burger being brought to London last year with the opening of Covent Garden’s Shake Shack. Well, restaurateur and personal hero, Danny Meyer (yes, most of my heroes are food related), launched a peculiar, but marvellous collaboration. Shake Shack culinary director Mark Rosati teamed up with world-renowned Chef Bottura and together the two created The Emilia. After being devoured by hungry New Yawkers, the beast was flung across the pond for a more civilised debut*.

*Read aloud in poshest accent manageable

You know when people show pictures of their babies (please don’t) and you think, “Do they know? Are they aware how ugly its alien-like head and horrifying facial expressions actually are? Should I tell them? No, best sit here and listen to the hundreds of awe-inspiring talents it has as it wriggles around in some ridiculous outfit.” But then, you learn of its ability to fit shapes through the correct holes, watch as it rides the family cat with perfect form and even struggle to escape from its super human grip. You’re impressed. A little shocked even, that such a vile, mundane looking creature has any capability to inspire. That is what occurred with The Emilia.

Now please don’t take this to mean I ever doubted the incredibly capable creators of this burger, but, just look at it.

Shake Shack: London

Shake Shack: London

Although Emilia won’t be winning any upcoming beauty pageants, she would definitely pack a punch in any flavour round. Named after the Emilia-Romagna region, this burger combines a custom-blend of 100% Aberdeen Angus beef patty with cotechino sausage and parmigiano reggiano. It’s then topped with salsa verde and Villa Manodori balsamic mayonnaise, which is made with Chef Bottura’s own Villa Manodori Artigianale balsamic vinegar.
Shake Shack: London
It may not be pretty, but damn is it beautiful! A flavour combination fit for the Guide itself. Shake Shack: London After a smile and nod to Chef Bottura, beaming warmly from behind a rave of flashing cameras, we tucked in to a creamy Big Blend concrete. This is a classic combination of chocolate and vanilla custard with St. John Bakery brown sugar biscuit and chocolate hazelnut brownie thrown in.

Moments later, with my mouth full of custard, the lovely and New York style friendly Mark Rosati joined us with something special. Shake Shack: London He and Massimo didn’t stop at their meat monster, they took the creativity a step further with something sweet. A beautiful blend of chocolate and coffee custard was topped with a generous drizzle of cherry balsamico. As someone that could happily consume balsamic vinegar on almost anything, this made perfect sense and was an appropriate ending to our casual culinary feast. Shake Shack: LondonFor the balsamic lovers out there, I urge you to pour a bit of good quality balsamic into your bowl the next time you indulge in some chocolate or vanilla bean ice cream. Thank me later and be sure to tag me in the foodporn @Alessandra_LDN.

Flesh & Buns

The team behind Bone Daddies, Soho’s favourite ramen hotspot, opened Flesh & Buns in Covent Garden last year. I had wanted to go since day one, but fate seemed to continuously intervene. As the designated foodie, it’s always insisted that I choose the restaurant. Thus, dining at Flesh & Buns should’ve been a simple one to check off the list. Yet, several dates, meet ups and catch ups planned around dining at this particular establishment, always seemed to fall through.

Fast forward to a new year, back in London from the States, and outside Flesh & Buns. My date and I scurried in from the cold, down the stairs, under the projected anime cartoons and into the restaurant. The layout is informal, taking inspiration from Japanese izakayas, with tables, booths and a long, high top running down the middle of the room between the bar and open kitchen.

The venue certainly continues London’s Rock & Roll restaurant theme, yet was considerably brighter and whiter than I expected. The name is derived from the highlight of the menu, flesh and buns. Flesh being different types of meat, including 28 day dry aged ribeye, lamb chops, grilled sea bass and young chicken. Buns being the Chinese Hirata buns which have become something of a food trend in London over the last year, and I can certainly see why. Pillowy, chewy, sweet vehicles of deliciousness, gently escorting tender, flavourful ingredients into my mouth.

But first, starters.

We kicked off the night with Chips & Dips.
The American in me excepting a bowl of tortilla chips with a fresh, chunky salsa felt confused as to why this would be served in a ‘Japanese’ restaurant. But such confusion was slightly pacified upon the arrival of large, fried rice crackers. Accompanying this, a bowl of guacamole and jalapeño salsa. Let the confusion be ignored as this was delicious, light, and incredibly moreish. Flesh & BunsWhenever I spot yellowtail sashimi on a menu, I have to order it. It has yet to fail to please and I love seeing the different ingredients used to enhance one of my favourite pieces of fish. The Flesh & Buns version involved an incredibly flavourful combination of lime soy, green chilli and granita.
Regrettably this had to be shared. Although, I considering sneaking an extra piece whilst he was distracted with the arrival of his miso soup.

Flesh & BunsOnto the main event. Flesh & BunsThis is what a happy foodie looks like – pre feast Flesh & BunsWe settled on the crispy duck leg with sour plum soy and beetroot pickle, which was forked apart table side into bun-size pieces. (see what I did there? instead of bite-size?) The meat was a little salty, but evened out with the bite from pickled beetroot. Flesh & BunsFlesh & BunsFlesh & BunsThe duck was good, but the crispy piglet belly with mustard miso and pickled apple was on a completely different level. Tender, soft meat with a slight crunch from the crispy crackling paired perfectly with sour pickled apple and a mustard miso sauce.
This, I 
could’ve eaten all over again. Twice. 

Flesh & BunsFlesh & BunsFlesh & BunsLast, but so obviously not least, the sweet stuff.
S’mores with marshmallows, biscuits and green tea chocolateFlesh & Buns For years I’ve talked about doing s’mores as a dessert in one of my (future) restaurants. When Flesh & Buns first opened its doors last year, the concept sounded fun and enticing, but damnit, I then discovered they stole my idea!

Now, I don’t actually believe the Bone Daddies boys sat around listening to my countless food conversations, plotting how to steal my plans. But, I knew I had to see how they executed such a classic American dessert. Flesh & BunsA little Japanese fire pit arrives along with green tea chocolate, marshmallows and two biscuits each, to sandwich your s’more.

Flesh & BunsTake your marshmallow, and after gently toasting, or violently setting aflame as the method my date chose to take, then smush (technical term) it between your two biscuits and piece of chocolate. The heat from the marshmallow will melt the chocolate creating a gooey, delicious sandwich. Flesh & BunsAs if the s’mores weren’t enough, we plumped for the Kinako donuts with black sugar custard.
Flesh & Buns

These, are not a thing of elegance.
One bite left the custard running down my face. Although not as visually exciting as the s’mores, they are however, competitors in the flavour department. Thick, sugar coated balls of dough each filled with a sweet, warm custard. Pure decadence and a fantastic end to an amazing meal. Flesh & BunsIt took me absolutely ages to get around to going to Flesh & Buns and for those that are letting it continue to linger on your list, go!

Promise me you’ll order the s’mores?
Oh! And be sure to go wash your hands in the bathroom for some surprise, um, adult humour on the walls.

Shake Shack: London

I know I’m a bit late on this one, but you’ll soon forgive me as the food porn is well worth the wait.

Shake Shack finally floated across the pond and swung open its doors smack bang in the middle of Covent Garden early July this year.
Londoners & expats alike queued up for hours, desperate to get a bite of New York’s famous burgers.

I was away in America at the time, but as soon as I returned, I was determined to size up London’s most recent burger addition.

Now I know what you’re thinking, another bloody burger restaurant!?

But just take a look at this.

Shake Shack: LondonThe critics and bloggers went wild for the much anticipated arrival, not all of which particularly enjoyed their bite of the American style burger.
Yet, Shake Shack soldiered on, with their Covent Garden venue being complately packed out everyday. Shake Shack: LondonWhen I finally got the chance, I marched my way down to Covent Garden ready to well and truly tuck in after all that pre-holiday healthy eating.   Shake Shack: LondonI perused the menu before making my choice.
I of course had to go for the classic Shack Burger, a cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce.
What’s ShackSuace? you ask.
A crazy combination of mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, dill pickle, garlic powder, paprika and cayenne pepper which is then slathered all over your burger like frosting on a cake.

Shake Shack: LondonSince this was a celebratory feast of sorts (celebrating the opening of Shake Shack, obviously) I also decided I needed to try the SmokeShack Burger. This is an utterly filthy cheeseburger topped with a glorious combination of British free range Willshire cure smoked bacon, chopped cherry peppers and ShacksSauce.  Shake Shack: LondonTo accompany the burgers, a mandatory order of crinkle cut fries was made.

The burgers themselves were great, chips were crunchy and delicious, but I realised what has all the critics’ knickers in a twist.

London’s recent burger blow up has been all about the gourmet burger.
Shake Shack’s fast food contestant doesn’t fight at the same weight as London’s other competitors, which is why there has been a little let down amongst diners.
It is however, a delicious fast food burger made from good quality ingredients, served in a darling atmosphere.

Now for you Shake Shack virgins, I have one final tip.
Order a concrete.
What’s a concrete you ask? all bright eyed with wonder.
A concrete is a heavenly dessert of dense frozen custard ice cream that has been blended at a high speed and is served with your choice of mix-ins.

Go ahead, have a look.

Shake Shack: London

Chocolate and vanilla custard with marshmallow sauce was delicious…

But just look at the chocolate and vanilla custard topped with peanut butter and gooey chocolate hazlenut brownies from St. JOHN Bakery.
SwoonShake Shack: London Shake Shack: LondonNow if you’re still reading and haven’t immediately run down to Shake Shack to join the queue, just remember to gauge your expectations.
The burgers are great and venue is perfect for a group meal with friends or fun date.
But most importantly, you must promise me you’ll order a concrete and send me a picture on Twitter @Alessandra_LDN to make me utterly envious.

Oh and…
Dear Shake Shack,
Please make adult version of this for me to wear ASAP. Thanks!

Shake Shack: London