The Impossible Burger (Plant-Based Grounds)
Last summer I reviewed The Impossible Whopper with Cheese. I have eaten a few more of them since then. I have also eaten Red Robin’s Impossible Burger a couple times. Although I am not a huge Burger King fan (they have some of the worst fries in the business), the Impossible Burger is significantly meatier-tasting and all-around-tastier than the competing product, the Beyond Burger.
The Impossible Burger is now available as beef-style grounds in a twelve ounce package. The package is cheaper than the similar package from Beyond, but it is also twelve ounces rather than sixteen. I have not seen the Impossible Burger sold in grocery stores as patties, which is fine with me. If I were shopping for beef to make burgers I would rather form my own patties than buy pre-formed ones, and I appreciate forming my own here as well. This gives me options. What size of buns did I buy? Do I want a thick, imperfectly-shaped “tavern” style burger or a thin “fast food” style burger? Do I have the kind of itch for Wendy’s that only a square burger can scratch? I like options.
Cooking directions for the Impossible Burger are similar to the Beyond Burger. Greased pan, medium heat, three minutes per side. The Impossible Burger smells much better than the Beyond Burger (which smells somewhat like dog food) out of the package. It also makes less of a mess when cooking, as it isn’t loaded with beat juice.
Unlike the Beyond Burger, which stays soft even after excessive cooking, the Impossible Burger becomes crispy, perhaps even crispier than all but the leanest beef. I note this because I have formed thin, overcooked “Dick’s” style patties, and it is easy to get them a bit too crispy without exercising some care.
I have made two versions of vegetarian “Dick’s Deluxe’s” with these patties. The second time I cooked the patties a little bit less, and I was very pleased with the result. As I have said before, the Impossible Burger tastes like meat but not necessarily beef. I have never eaten buffalo or ostrich, but if I ate one and someone told me it was a buffalo burger, an ostrich burger, or a burger made with some other fairly lean and slightly gamey beef-like meat, I would believe them. It is certainly tastier than ground turkey.
In any event, the texture and flavor is quite good, especially on a fully-dressed burger with “the works,” but unlike the Beyond Burger I do not find that it is necessary to “disguise” the taste with dressings and condiments.
Twelve ounce packages are on sale at Safeway and Freddy’s for just under seven dollars. Safeway’s Open Nature grass-fed beef is currently $7.50 per pound, meaning at the moment the Impossible Burger is just under a third pricier. I would like to see the price drop below the price of beef.
Since the Impossible Burger is made from soy as opposed to the pea protein of the Beyond Burger I would only have a reason to recommend the Beyond Burger over the Impossible Burger for folks with soy allergies or other reasons for avoiding soy products.
Although I have only tried these as burgers, I have every reason to believe they would work well in tacos, spaghetti sauce, and other places where ground beef would be used.
Love/Four Sail (Elektra Records, 1969)
Upon looking at the cover of Four Sail, one might say, “This isn’t Love. This is Arthur Lee and three random strangers.” They may or may not be right.
The conventional wisdom about Love is “They were an LA band that recorded a garagey cover of Burt Bacharach’s ‘7 and 7 Is,’ the psychedelic nugget 7 and 7 Is,’ and the masterpiece Forever Changes, and that’s pretty much all you need to know about.” Love was also possibly the first successful multi-racial rock band.
But, as anyone who has listened to the side of Da Capo that isn’t a horrible 20-minute jam would tell you, there is more to Love than Forever Changes.
Forever Changes is, however, the last album made by the “classic” line-up of Love, which also included Brian Mclean, who wrote a few of their most well-known songs and added a softer, poppier element to the band, which resulted in the gentle brass arrangements and other orchestration of Forever Changes. And Four Sail doesn’t sound much of anything like Forever Changes.
Arthur Lee was apparently convinced that he was going to die soon after releasing Forever Changes. He didn’t, and somehow he decided to fire the rest of his band while he still owed the label, Elektra, another album. He formed a new version of Love and set up a makeshift studio in an LA warehouse and recorded three albums worth of material. Elektra got to choose an album worth of the best material, releasing it as Four Sail. Love released the rest of the material on their new label, Blue Thumb, as Out Here.
The sound of Four Sail is hard to describe, because, as opposed to, say, Love’s self-titled debut, which sounds like the Byrds, it sounds like nothing else. One thing it certainly doesn’t sound like is Steely Dan. At the time Elektra, with some of LA’s best engineers and probably the best equipment available at the time, was known for making some of the best-sounding records in the business. The poorly-recorded Four Sail sounds nothing like an Elektra album, with distortion on tracks that shouldn’t be distorted and wacky stereo, with – for example – drums and guitar entirely in the right channel, and bass and vocals along with just the reverb from the drums in the left channel. For some reason Arthur Lee double tracks a lot of the vocals, which works well.
This new version of Love has a much harder edge than the classic lineup with Mclean. The drums are particularly over-the-top, giving songs a manic Keith Moon-esque energy. The new bass player, with fast walking lines and such, sounds remarkably like the old bass player. The new guitarist likes wah wah and distortion along with jazzy and Spanish-style leads one would associate with Love. With one exception, the horns are gone. While Forever Changes had an underlying darkness about it, Four Sail has an overt, immediate darkness throughout, which is evident from the first few seconds of opener “August,” in which some strange Spanish guitar gives way to manic jazzy guitar pyrotechnics along with insane drums before Arthur Lee’s unmistakeable voice sings “I said August is all that I know” with the type of melody only he would dream up.
Lee, who was incarcerated at least three times and struggled with mental illness throughout his life, is a fascinating figure and an excellent songwriter. Serving as producer, these songs are a lot more directly Arthur Lee than previous works, in with Lee’s music is filtered through McLean, producer Bruce Botnick, and others.
The music here brings the listener closer to Arthur Lee’s psyche. While I praise his songwriting and singing and believe he was wrongfully imprisoned for about six years toward the end of his life (his friend literally confessed to being the one who fired the gun into the air), he was also a violent man who was convicted of arson.
While Four Sail is not Forever Changes, it is a number of things – catchy, haunting, dark, and deeply-affecting. Songs like “I’m With You” and “Singing Cowboy” have a way of getting right under your skin. Arthur Lee had a great voice – at times unexpectedly high-pitched and gentle, he wrote great melodies and lyrics, and he knew how to combine melodies with words in such a way that a seemingly innocuous line like “You’re gonna have a good time! No more bad times!” (on Good Times) is eerily soulful.
The lush arrangements of Forever Changes are gone, but Arthur Lee’s songwriting chops and unique musical signature are fully intact.
The unusually hard-rocking “Robert Montgomery” combines a very aggressive guitar lick with a gorgeous melody, again propelled by effective lyrics while the dark but sinisterly cheerful “Your Friend and Mine – Neil’s Song” addresses the band’s roadie who sold their equipment to buy drugs then died of an overdose. Album closer “Always See Your Face” comes closest to Forever Changes, but this is nowhere near the same album.
A similar parallel could be drawn between Four Sail and the Beach Boys’ Smiley Smile, an excellent yet minimalist and creepy album delivered after the celebrated and impossible-to-top Pet Sounds. Although Pet Sounds is the masterpiece, I listen to Smiley Smile at least as often.