Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Living the high (wine) life at Shake Shack

The Shake Shack in Madison Square Park is known for long lines and great beef.  But tonight, I discovered a new way to enjoy what many say is Manhattan's best burger.

It all happened when, two drinks into the evening, my new friend said, "Hey do you want to go to Shake Shack?"

We had been having one of those typical Manhattan first dates: chic location, overpriced alcohol, and an unusually good conversation that ranged from Baroque embellishments to waiters who rush you through your bottle of wine.  It was fun, but somewhat de rigueur - until the Shake Shack suggestion came.  This would be a game changer.

The thing is, I make a point of not eating on first dates.  I can't take in the meal anyway when I am soaking in all the physical details of a new person.  But - Shake Shack. Now that was allowed. Not only allowed - encouraged.

It happens to be that before tonight, I had never eaten there.  That's my foodie confession.  I hadn't intentionally avoided it. On warm summer evenings when there was a live band playing in the park, it beckoned to me - hard.  But there was always the line to contend with, and I never wanted to go there.

However, tonight the line was less than ten deep.  It gave me just enough time to peruse the half bottles of wine in the window. And I was frankly shocked.  Clos du Val? And Ridge?  There were no prices listed, but I thought the Ridge sounded fantastic.  A big California red to soak up all the delicious burger grease?  Thank you very much.

And, so, this is how a casual jaunt for what should have been a $20 meal became a $50 plus event.  The little bottle of 2008 Ridge, which was a Bordeaux style blend full of ripe black fruit and firm tannins, was a whopping $32.  Pretty pricey for a "restaurant" that had dysfunctional outdoor heaters and folding chairs where mice scampered in the 50 degree breeze.

And yet.

This was one of those truly memorable meals.  My first Shake Shack burger.  Those crisp wavy potato strips fried to not-quite-greasy perfection. The frisson of first date conversation. And the magnificent Ridge, which shone through the fading lights of the park and warmed me up body and soul.  It was a stellar dining experience after all.

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