business news in context, analysis with attitude

I like mine with lettuce and tomato…

Regular and longtime readers know that there is an abiding affection in the MNB community for hamburgers…which is one of the things that led to the great “ultimate burgers” list that we all pulled together late last year.

Now, the Chicago Tribune writes about how the hamburger is being adopted respected chefs and high-end restaurants – either by putting it on existing menus or opening establishments specifically dedicated to one of the greatest of all meals.

One of the advantages of such moves, the Tribune writes, is that “they understand meat better than a typical burger slinger. And use higher quality. Indeed, few things in life are as satisfying as unwinding in a hoity-toity establishment with a burger -- grease running erotically down your hands, drawing jealous stares from diners pretending to enjoy buckwheat blini with compressed Asian pear.”

Chefs such as Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and Bobby Flay have opened burger establishments (Flay has opened four!), and there are a numerous restaurants where they don't even have burgers on the menu but will make them on request. (The Trib reports that the Spiced Pear in Newport, R.I., makes a particularly delicious one.)

Part of the reason for the burger boom is financial – it would appear to be the perfect recession food – but there also seems to be a gastronomic component as well. Because a burger is, in fact, a burger, it is easy to compare and easy to make a statement with one’s approach to this most basic of culinary delights.

By the way…if you want to check out our Ultimate Burger list, go to:

We’ve been having a lot of discussion here on the site about the decision by United Airlines to begin selling privileges formerly accorded only to its most loyal frequent fliers. The decision by United, which I think undermines the whole premise of its loyalty program, is part of a general trend by almost all airlines to find ways to nickel-and-dime fliers to death with fees for everything from checked baggage to food. (One airlines reportedly was considering a fee for use of on-board lavatories…but never decided to pull the trigger on that one.)

Well, there is a story in USA Today this morning that puts this trend in an economic context, saying that US airlines are making a small fortune on these fees – collecting almost $4 billion in checked bag fees alone during the first six months of this year, almost double what it collected during the first half of 2008.

There’s no way that the airlines give up these revenue streams. They’re already hooked on it, and are trying to find new sources so they can get a fix, any fix.

But it doesn’t change my essential opinion of the United decision. It’s dumb, really dumb.

Then again, they have other problems. One united guy I was talking to during a recent trip bemoaned the fact that so many people have been laid off by the airline, and he predicted that United gets bought by Continental Airlines by the end of the year.

There’s a new product that I’ve tasted this week that I think is going to be a big hit: PopChips, which essentially are potato chips that are popped like popcorn rather than being baked or fried. They are delicious – especially the Original and Barbecue varieties – are relatively low in calories and fat. Check them out at

Tasted a lovely red wine this week…the 2005 Holthill Reserve Shiraz from Buronga Growers in southeastern Australia. It is very smooth and perfect with steak…and, of course, a thick, juicy cheeseburger.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

KC's View: