Shacking up

I grew up with loads of junk food, TV dinners and all things fatty and American. My Italian boyfriend on the other hand, was raised on healthy eats like freshly laid eggs, homemade pasta sauce (never ever the stuff in a jar), and home-produced olive oil.

It’s an interesting dichotomy we have going. He’s all about organic produce, hormone-free meat and staying away from artificial sweeteners and MSG. While I’m all for healthy eating, I’m not as committed to the cause. I indulge in many a treat jam packed with all sorts of ingredients that are terrible for me, and I know it.  That’s just how it is.

But every once in a while, probably because of my bad influence, he surprises me. Of all the things on a menu, he’ll order the one I would least expect him to. That’s what happened recently when we went to Shake Shack, the always crowded, always smile-inducing delicious burger joint on the Upper West Side.

There's a whole lot of deliciousness going on here.

I ordered first: an order of fries and a small cup (which turned out to be a pretty large small cup) of frozen custard in the flavor of the day, “Bee Mine” (vanilla custard blended with strawberry puree, honey and rosewater). Then I slid over to let Flaneur order: a Shack Stack burger and a vanilla milkshake.

“What’s that?” I asked as my eyes scanned the wall-mounted menu, before reaching the last item on the burger list. “Shack Stack: cheeseburger and a ‘shroom burger topped with lettuce, tomato and Shack sauce.”

Wait a minute. What’s a ‘shroom burger then?

“Shroom burger: crisp fried Portobello filled with melted Muenster and cheddar cheese, topped with lettuce, tomato and Shack sauce.”

I was stunned. He was a getting a cheeseburger topped with a big, fat, cheese-stuffed Portobello mushroom on it, basically two sandwiches in once! And so much cheese!

The only way you're mouth isn't watering is if you're a vegetarian or blind.

After waiting and whining about being hungry, then nudging through the packed restaurant, and then staring down people who were done eating and just lingering around, we planted our tray at an open table in the corner.

The burger looked interesting, practically open-faced and oozing cheese from all angles, but there was no food envy from this girl. My fries were fantastic: the ideal size, color, consistency and above all, taste! And I swear I didn’t order them because the menu said, “100% free of artificial trans fats and made from Yukon Gold potatoes, 25% less fat than average fries.” (That was just a bonus.)

Frozen custard, frozen goodness.

My frozen custard, a wonderfully thick love child of ice cream and soft-serve, was rich and creamy with a nice subtle hint of the honey and rosewater amidst the strawberry. And the color was sweet too: a shadowy pink, not the garish, Pepto-Bismol pink of so many other strawberry ice creams.

Flaneur’s vanilla milk shake, made from the same vanilla frozen custard used as the base for “Bee Mine,” was also creamy and dense, much more like something you’d eat with a spoon than through a straw. But it works out better that way. If it were any more liquid, the whole thing would be gone with the first slurp.

But the star of this show was without a question, the Shack Stack burger. The second Flaneur bit into it, his whole face lit up like a Christmas tree. It was a mouthful of happiness.

“You gotta try this,” he said, cheeks puffed out as he continued chewing.

I took the burger, not quite sure how to attack it so that I got a little bit of everything. I must’ve looked like a python about to unhinge its jaw and swallow a horse.

As I chomped down on the Shack Stack, the warm melted cheese oozed into my mouth and mixed with the juicy patty, the crunchy breaded Portobello and the tomato and lettuce, to make for one of the best burger mouthfuls I’ve ever had. And while it probably packed a mind-boggling amount of calories and fat grams, honestly, who even cares?

If my ever-health-conscious boyfriend did, I sure couldn’t tell.

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