A Hamburger Today
Providence: Maybe Plouf Plouf's Duck Burger Just Shouldn't Exist
Location varies in Rhode Island, but often Waterman and Thayer in Providence; check their Twitter @ploufplouftruck for current location; ploufploufgastronomies.com
Short Order: Duck burger fails miserably; go for sausage sandwich
Want Fries with That? Sure—great shoestring fries with equally tasty dipping sauces
Price: Burger de Canard w/frites, $13; fries, $3.50
Duck and burger. If you're hip, you might think of duck fat fries—a revered technique that has become a staple at fancy pants burger places everywhere. If you're a glutton, a foie gras-topped patty may come to mind. If you're a purist, you may just call "sacrilege."
Why am I playing this game of word association? All it took was a solitary phrase on a garish red food truck: "Burger de Canard with Frites." Yes, you read that correctly—"de Canard" means this a burger of duck. This is neither a subtle addition of duck fat to the griddle nor some foie mixed into the patty for richness. No, this is an attempt to make a hamburger patty made out of duck meat. And do these heretics get away with this mad experiment in burger creation? Well, sort of...but mostly no, especially once we consider the circumstances under which one eats a burger from Plouf Plouf.
For the high price of $13, you can get the Burger de Canard in about five minutes and you can scarf it down on a street corner in about half that time. Abstracting the elements from the final product, it seems like it could work: a grilled 1/3-pound patty of coarse ground, loosely packed duck meat (I love a flame-kissed burger amid plenty of great griddled ones in Providence), and high quality toppings such as thick cut applewood bacon and actual wild mushrooms (this excessive ingredient quality is Plouf Plouf's trademark). Sure, duck may not be standard burger meat, but a duck burger might have succeeded under these circumstances, right?
From the outside, the grilled patty doesn't look too different from a beef burger—a mediocre beef burger. The exterior had a brownish hue, but a distinct lack of char or crust. Perhaps the grill wasn't hot enough, or perhaps the cook was trying to prevent drying out at all cost. Regardless, this patty exhibited none of the great, charred textures of a good grilled burger. Failing the visual test, perhaps it could succeed in the flavor department. I mean, it is a fancy French food truck.
I can only describe the sensation of biting into this burger as slimy. At first, I confronted the thick cut bacon that's more porcine leather than crispy pork strip (I quickly discarded it for the dog). Next, the wild mushrooms were too moist (I didn't think that possible) and not cooked down enough, giving them a profoundly rubbery texture that nearly ruined the burger experience. Once the toppings went bye-bye, the burger itself wasn't great, but wasn't horrible either.
Although it could have benefitted tremendously from some crust, the patty was cooked with precision, with a warm center that was neither too mushy nor too dry. In terms of flavor, the richness of the duck came through, especially with the addition of a sweet demiglace. Unfortunately, I chewed and chewed as I waited for ducky nuances to start peeking out and was met by more of the same: a consistent richness that, while not overwhelming, made the burger experience one note. I didn't even have the luxury of ketchup, mayo, or mustard to at least make it taste familiar. Despite these flavor failings, the bun was an absolutely fantastic fresh-baked soft white roll that suited the burger perfectly.
The highlight, unsurprisingly, was the side of french fries that came with the burger. Hand cut and fried to order, they were as fresh as can be, although some extra time in the fryer would have given them more pronounced crispness. The flavor, however, was spot on and makes these frites the best on Thayer Street, which is populated with frozen spuds that insult french fries and, more generally, the potato.
So what do you do next time you're starving and you bump into the reddest food truck in Rhode Island? If you're feeling fancy and particularly curious, give the duck burger a shot, if only for your own edification, or purchase their much better merguez sandwich and forget that it was so expensive. Otherwise, I'd try another burger joint or food truck, where you'll likely find better value and better burgers.
About the author: Sam Levison is a college student, food TV lover, and wants a Shackburger now, please.