Celebrity chef Bobby Flay is the king of the burgers. His ultra-popular, laid-back Bobby’s Burger Place in Garden City is a must-visit when thoughts of a juicy, classic burger overtake the brain. With spring in the air and my mind on Saturday afternoon barbecues I visited Flay while he worked on new menu items at Bobby’s Burger Place, including the chain’s first veggie burger and bacon cheese fries. The charismatic chef shared his tips for a good quality of life, grilling and what Long Island wine you don’t want to miss.
Long Island Pulse: With weather this beautiful signaling the arrival of spring: what’s your favorite dish for the season? What’s so great about it?
Bobby Flay: I think of seasons by ingredients rather than by dishes, so when I think of spring I think green. In general, I’m thinking fresh peas, fava beans, asparagus, artichokes…I love doing roman style crispy artichokes. They’re very fresh but also very salt-forward.
Pulse: Those sound great… I just bought some beautiful, plump asparagus from my local farmer’s market. What should I do with it?
Flay: Oh, asparagus? I like to add fresh lemon juice, fresh orange juice, capers, extra virgin olive oil and a little whole grain mustard and mix it in a mixing bowl. That’s your dressing. I’ll grill the asparagus from raw to finish. Don’t blanch it. When [the asparagus] is still warm, throw the dressing on top to coat. It’s amazing.
Pulse: That sounds perfect. Other than your own, what are some of your favorite restaurants to enjoy in the spring?
Flay: In Manhattan, I love Marea, just off Columbus Circle, for really great, simple Italian. And Morandi, downtown, does this great escarole and fava bean salad that I love. I have it all the time.
Pulse: Even though people are becoming more and more health conscious these days, your “Burger Place” is obviously extremely popular. Is this a contradiction?
Flay: Burgers are classic. They’ll always be around. I believe in fresh ingredients on top of the burger, and adding a lot of fresh relishes like coleslaws, cabbages, lettuces, Greek yogurt and tomatoes. That and making the burgers smaller. The way I see it, the 12th bite is never as good as the third. Our burgers here are six ounces and that’s plenty. We use only certified 100 percent angus beef, so it’s great quality stuff. The number one question I’m asked is, “How do you stay in shape?” It’s hard, because I’m always tasting what I cook. That’s going to be the theme of my next cookbook: Bobby Flay Fit.
Pulse: You’ve had entire shows (on Food Network) devoted to the subject of grilling…and we definitely love to grill on balmy evenings here on Long Island. What’s your top grilling tip?
Flay: Oh, grilling tips! (Laughs) I think most people, especially guys that think they can grill, are actually making a huge mistake. Most people flip and turn way too much. Let the grill do its job! Let it get nice and crusty on one side, then flip to the other side and let it get crispy on the other side. That’s it. Don’t turn your meat, fish, vegetables over and over again.
Pulse: You’re known for your recipes, but what will you be drinking on spring weekend evenings? Is there a local Long Island wine you love to reach for?
Flay: Well, as it get’s warmer, I’m going to be drinking a lot of Rosé. I love Whispering Angel, Minuty…and actually, there is a vineyard that I love to stop by when I’m out at my summer house on Long Island. It’s called Wolffer Estate and I go and stock up and bring it back to my house. I don’t really leave my beach house in the summer.
Pulse: Ah, but you race horses here, right?
Flay: Oh, I love Belmont Park for racing. In the summer, it’s absolutely amazing.