This story eventually gets to the best hamburger in Denver.
I did it again. Waited until the last moment then pushed beyond that. I ran out of everything essential, everything needed to try my ideas, depleted of basics; milk, eggs, sugar, butter, flour, honey, vegetable oil, olive oil, lettuce, tomato, all fresh vegetables, everything. And I cannot explain why I put it off, I don't understand why myself because I it's no problem at all and people are always nice, always helpful and always engaging but I still put it off. But last night, Christmas Eve things were very different. All that was intensified.
My chief aim was to buy each type of regular sugar, refined, brown, and confectioner's. The second main aim was to buy the largest bag of popcorn available and to buy the lye treated version to experiment. That's called posole around here. I've been using popcorn to grind into powder for polenta. A previous experiment was with heirloom kernels from Anson Mills, rather expensive, but I honestly could not tell a difference from regular popcorn. And I'm tired of running out. Plus I like popping popcorn and experimenting with that. I needed sugar to continue. The posole ground to powder is grits. That's the difference between Southern grits and polenta. Grits are made with corn treated with lye. A process devised by Central American indians they call nixtamalization. See the word tamale in there? It has nutritional advantage over straight milled kernels. I wanted to see if grinding posole would result in masa harina used for corn tortillas. And I suppose it does. I haven't tried that yet.
So all that was the motivation. And now I'm going into a place where people are working on Christmas Eve.
I started out looking for posole. In the second aisle I was blocked by two women loading up cans into a cart. A King Soopers worker was loading the cart of a customer with large tins until she had eight of them. She cleared them all out. "Hey! That's what I'm looking for. Except I need the dry version." The King Soopers worker, a slight young attractive black woman smiled broadly and said, "Wait here" then sped off. The Mexican woman adjusted her pile of cans. "Are you making a big batch of stew?"
"Yes. Menudo, actually."
The King Soopers woman returned with a sack of posole, "Here!" Such alacrity, so much high energy, such helpfulness and good cheer. "Where did you get these?"
"Over there. Next aisle."
I told her my intention and she was all ears. Except for being all teeth too. She smiled throughout, apparently genuinely interested. I broke it off. She chirped loudly, "Merry Christmas!"
I would have found them eventually. She needn't have dashed off. But she did.
I rolled my cart over to the fresh meat deli to replenish my pile of applewood bacon. The man there couldn't hear very well. "How much do you want? "
"About half that pile in the front" It turned out to be 3/4 lb. and that didn't sound like enough. "Go ahead and make it a full lb." He removed more leaving a small pile behind. "Oh go ahead and give me all of it." The man grabbed all the bacon, now a pound and a half and said,
"I'll charge you for just one pound. We're closing the cases soon anyway."
They never do that. They've never given away anything.
I scanned their sausages hoping for something Polish, or else spicy. I wanted something sturdy. I bought four of them with the intention of braising them with cabbage and potatoes. The man said, "I'll add two more but not charge you."
"All right! Thank you, thank you, thank you."
They never do that.
But then he said, "Here. Try this apple sausage." It's apple and chicken. I had passed on that. "When you come back tell me what you think about it. My name is Stacy. You can tell me how you liked it." I thought, "odd name for Mexican guy, but whatever." The incongruity of his name with his face and his accent will serve me to recall it.
They never do that.
I got eight in house made sausages for the price of four. Four dollars total. Fifty cents each. What luck that I went food shopping on Christmas Eve.
Tight in the aisle a sort of momentary traffic jam of shoppers I came face to face with tall thin scraggly ugly old black man passing the opposite direction as myself and walking with a cane and holding a large sack of potatoes under his non-cane holding arm. I had eye contact and I nodded acknowledging his presence. He stopped. I thought, "Here's where he asks me for money." He did have the appearance of a bum. But I don't care. I talk to bums. He leaned in closer to me and whispered as if revealing an astonishing secret, "They're selling these ten pound bags of potatoes for ninety-nine cents."
"What? I love potatoes. I could eat potatoes every day."
"You should get you a bag."
"Thanks for the lead."
I rolled my cart over to the regular deli. The man working answered my aged cheddar questions curtly. While slicing the cheese in silence I asked him, "Do you have any children?
"Are they too young to snoop all over the house looking for presents?"
"Chuh. Pffft. Sneer. No. They're snooping all over the place."
"Where'd you hide them?"
"In the car."
"They'll never look there. That's number one place on the list to hide presents. I just now read that on the internet."
"Ha!" He opened up about his snooping little kids. He was pleased with the psych game. It brings out the kid in himself while being a providing father. He described his family. He's actually an engaging person and he's there on Christmas Eve for them. He glowed speaking of this. He didn't mind working.
I'm at the niche where peanut butter and jams are stacked on shelves. I'm surprised to notice two brands of powdered peanut butter. I look around. A young hipster type couple, millennials, well dressed, well groomed, an attractive couple is nearby, turns out they are engaging and well spoken too but that was not obvious at first. They have the appearance of being aloof.
"Hey! Look at this. Powdered peanut butter. Gawl!"
The woman responded.
"I Know. Weird, huh? I saw that before. I think people use it for their protein shakes."
The tall dark thin man wearing peacoat, shined black shoes and woven cap said,
"They remove the oil. Like she said, for protein shakes."
"I'm against non-fat things. I am pro full-fat."
The woman said,
"I'm am pro-fat too."
"I am against all these antilipoidites."
"Ha ha ha." The man laughed.
"Everything is powdered nowadays. It's the new thing. Get used to it because it's going to be everything powder for now on."
I said, "Yeah. I just now bought powder potatoes."
"Yes. See? Everything powder."
The woman goes, "What?"
"I asked the internet, 'how can I make my cinnamon rolls soft' and the answer was potatoes."
"Really? How does that work?" I explained how using a regular potato works. But it does add quite a lot of water in the potatoes and that's why I'm trying powered potatoes. I'm tired of boiling a potato just for that. "It works for hamburger buns too. And now, because of this potato bread discovery, finally at this late point I've got my hamburger act down !"
The man laughed. He had a constant smirk. He had that odd effect of a person behind the person presented. It's hard to describe, but a bit like the person presented is persona, a puppet for the person behind it. A sort of remoteness but now the puppeteer stepped forward into the puppet. But so am I in a way and my acting out, my emphatic exaggerated explosion for emphasis of having my act down and my insistence that now I can make the best burger available had him amused. I was interesting somehow to him. "That along with excessive butter inside the hamburger, those two things, a hamburger dripping in butter and potato buns made as sliders, with a bread and butter pickle is the best combination on Earth. Yes. I've got my act down. Finally."
"The best hamburger in Denver that we've found is at Tag."
"I live next to Burger-Fi."
"Tag's hamburger is, oh, I'd say, on a scale, two point higher than Burger-Fi."
"Where is it?
"Hmmm. Um. Don't know the address or cross streets. Near Congress Park."
Tag Burger Bar: 1222 Madison St. So there you go.
Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Seasons greetings, what have you