Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Sharing our leftovers..." PGA Beer Fest & Burger Bash

Member Post - "Big Mat with Cheese"

I was honored to accompany Burgers by the Beach to experience North Palm Beach's burger offerings at the PGA National's 2nd Annual - Craft Beer Fest & Burger Bash. Many people came out but the most notable participant there, the sun. Hot and muggy also attended but we barreled through and made a point to sample everything, including all the beers.... In the end, we the people, were asked to choose three: Best Alternative, Best Innovative and King of All Burgers

Here's my selections:
Best Alternative Burger - Mrs. Smokey's Fried Biscuit Brisket
Even though this contribution followed the meat-in-a-bun format, the elements were off the typical path leading to a pleasant surprise. The batter-fried bun was moderately sweet and was reminiscent of fried goodies you'd find at a state fair or a carnival. The smokey pulled-pork and cole-slaw topping established a theme of southern flair and charm. All these flavors blended nicely in the end.  

Best Innovative Burger - Hurricane Café's Molé Burger
I will venture north and hunt this one down to have again. Here's why…
Creekstone Farms Angus Beef, Andres's Red Molé Sauce, Crispy Cabbage, Smoked Pork Belly, Queso Fresco, Chile Sauce, Cilanto & Green Onion, Pretzel Bun. Layers of unique ingredients = layers of complexity. I plan on writing a poem about the after-taste on this monster. This creation was what half of this festival was about to me, something new and unique. 

King of All Burgers - Frigate's Waterfront Bar & Grille
The other half of this experience was wanting something classic/traditional. This burger kept to simple and had all around great burger taste. For me, a great burger starts with simplicity and being cooked right. Trying to achieve simplicity can easily border on bland. This burger was cooked just right, leaving some pink in the middle letting juices release upon first bite.  

But in the end, after 2,000 other votes, the Official Winners were:
Best Alternative Burger - Mrs. Smokey's (Fried Biscuit Brisket Slider)
Most Innovative Burger - Hog Snappers (Tuna Burger)
King of All burgers - CHUCK Burger Joint (Cheeseburger)

Hey burger lovers, Lunchbox here...
Yet again, after a case of the 24hr Meat Sweats, not only from the burgers but beer & sun combo, we've gotten around to writing up our review. 'Tis the season for burger festivals. The addition of over 20 beer vendors + random artists was a welcoming change of pace. It truly had more of a laid back festival vibe than an All You Can Eat Buffet... Couldn't really hear the band (blown speakers make for muffled music) but it wasn't stopping anyone from enjoying the day. Over 2,000 people packed the event space which surprisingly so, we truly never had to wait for a burger or beer. We walked right up to every vendor. BONUS POINTS for that PGA National. Well-Done! 

Here's a larger taste of how much we enjoyed the event! 
Can't wait for next year...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Shula Burger - Delray Beach

What is it about Shula Burger that attracts so many people? How good are these burgers?

I walked in at 7pm (Wednesday night) to find the registers closed & a 20 min wait to order because the "kitchen is backed up." These are counter service burgers & on the 2nd day of being opened they are that backed up? This is in a new shopping plaza in West Delray and the cheapest option, so I do understand the draw, but not being prepared on the 2nd night of is rough. Hope it's worth the wait.

After noticing up to 7 burgers at one point just sitting in the kitchen window... I knew this was going to be a long wait. 

They list the burgers as a Signature Blend of Angus chuck, short rib & brisket. Always fresh. Never frozen. (starting to become a watered-down marketing ploy in the burger industry that really doesn't help sell the burger quality much more). Always cooked medium. A single Shula Burger is $6.49 ($2.99 extra for a double).  It's a pretty small patty that it hidden in the bun. Why shredded lettuce? And I never got to the pickle because its sliced long and was placed at the edge. Yes, I could of started from that side of the burger but I didn't so it actually took away from the overall experience. I shouldn't have to open a burger to look for toppings. I should be able to taste them with every bite. The Specialty burger - The Don $9.99 (Two classics on one bun: burger/hot dog with pickle, American cheese, onion sauce, mustard on a brioche bun). This was messy. They overdid the ketchup/mustard so the burger became sloppy. The hotdog is a cool feature but have you ever been to a BBQ and watched a friend or family member eat these two at the same time? Maybe on the same plate, but never together. 

Maybe I should of tried a specialty burger. The burger loving couple I met had The Wine County Burger:  roasted pepper, goat cheese, balsamic greens & roasted tomato -&- The French Onion Burger: caramelized onions, double gruyere cheese, garlic mayo & crushed garlic croutons... and without hesitation said they'd be back again. 

I will be back to try more on the menu but overall, first time trying The Classic & The Don really didn't sit well with me. Maybe there really is validation why I decided to give up on the Miami Dolphins franchise as a fa and join my wife's Baltimore Ravens... 

I did however LOVE the Sweet Potato Tots. Soft. Moist. Seasoned very well with a cinnamon sugar blended into the tot. Job well done there! 

Overall Rating: Rare (1) - Well-Done (5 best)
Shula Burger - Delray Beach = Medium (3)

Shula Burger on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Minetta Tavern - NYC

The hype is real! This $27 Black Label Burger has achieved the ever so elusive 'burger nirvana.' After topping the NYC burger charts over the last few years there was no way I was missing out a chance to indulge my taste buds. Minetta Tavern is a classy steak joint in Greenwich Village using a great blend of chuck, short rib, brisket, skirt & rib eye. At $27 it tops the list of most expensive burgers I've ever tried. At that price it had to impress... Holy Cow! Perfect. Juicy. Tender. Amazing. Got the point?

The meat was so tender. Almost no need to chew. It was melting with every bite. The blend was so well crafted you can pretty much taste each cut of meat within the blend. Topped with a sautéed then caramelized onion adding a sweet taste to each bite. No cheese. And not needed. Why take away from the meat... 

Still over 25 minutes after eating I couldn't bring myself to even grab a cup of coffee & ruin the amazing flavor simmering around my mouth. 

Overall rating: Rare (1) to Well-Done (5)
Minetta Tavern = Well-Done (5)

Officially a top 5 burger for me now!

Minetta Tavern on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 3, 2013

"Sharing our leftovers..." Riverwalk Burger Battle 2013

After a 24hr case of the 'Meat Sweats', I'm finally able to work up the stamina to review this years Riverwalk Burger Battle. Being a judge & having to sample all 16 burgers in a 2 hour period can really set off the heartburn alarm, but not tonight... Medication aside, this was something I've been preparing for. I need to begin by sending a huge thank you to Burger Beast (@burgerbeast) & Burger Belle (@theburgerbelle) for graciously accepting me into the judging fraternity this year. I think I can still smell the char-grill smoke on my fingers (even after multiple showers).

The grease was running down my forearms and the lip-licking taste of jalapeno, bacon, melted cheese & beef really stood out all night. There seemed to be a consistent theme of bacon this year. Where as I heard from years past, they were taken back by the lack of the fried-egg this year. I tend to agree. But maybe that burger-fad is dying? Chefs are headed back to a familiar taste: Bacon. "Everything is better with bacon." So they say...

A few burgers lacked creativity. Maybe they were trying to impress with the special infused meats or simplicity of a well executed burger. Let's face it, this is a best-of-the-best contest. Impress us. Try not to serve a burger where you forgot to melt the cheese. Or has more than just cheese/bread. Better yet, don't add sprouts. This was an all-beef burger contest. Why add grass, I mean, sprouts? Save that for the Vegan contest on Earth Day. Oh yeah... Pineapple made its way onto a burger. Caramelized pineapple? Hard to tell. The cute hula-skirts & themed napkins didn't help stimulate my senses while tasting this one... You do eat with your eyes but the overwhelming taste of pineapple on this non-traditional Hawaiian burger didn't make the cut.

Achieving "Burger Nirvana" seemed to be a difficult task this year but as we got deeper into the judging rounds, a few burgers started to separate themselves from the rest. Plain bacon, became Jalapeno Bacon. Creative sauces began to appear on the burgers. The overly juicy burgers were gone, replaced by char-grilled greatness. Combinations of flavors started to blend perfectly and after all was said and done 2 burgers actually ended up with "Burger Nirvana." Charm City Burger Co. (our #9 entry - The Wizz Burger) really set things off with a Charm Sauce and Metled Cheese combination that had 2 of the 5 judges eating the entire sample provided (keeping in mind, we had to sample all 16). Then Rosie's Bar and Grill (our #13 entry - Bacon Bitty Bang Bang Burger) turned in an even more impressive flavor combination of the aforementioned Jalapeno Bacon, combined with a perfectly seasoned slider, potato chip & bbq sauce to have 3 of the 5 judges immediately giving it high praise.

Sgt. Sauce showing off Rosie's Burger

Overall most burgers rated fairly well for my taste palate. I have judges a few burger events prior to this and went in with an open mind & an empty stomach. I was taken back by the lack of creativity but on the flip side impressed with the quality of flavors. Some tried to much. Others not enough. It seemed as though sliders made for the better burger. Note to future competitors: Do not serve the judges a full burger that needs to be cut. You just can't guarantee it will stay together and showcase the flavors as you like. One bite is all we get.

Final results from the 4th Annual Riverwalk Burger Battle:
Overall Judges Champion: Rosie's Bar/Grill (Burger Nirvana Award)
Fan Favorite Champion: Rosie's Bar/Grill
Best Burger Joint: Charm City Burger Co. (Burger Nirvana Award)
Best Fork & Knife Burger: Big City Tavern
Honorable Mentions: Gimme-A-Burger, ROK:BGR & American Social

We are proud to say we have reviews on our blog from 4 of the top 5 winners! If you didn't get a chance to make it this year. COME ON! See what you missed?

Special thanks to ERNY CANTU of Junk Culture Studios,  Riverwalk Trust Ft. Lauderdale, Quinn ProQuo Business Strategist, Publix Apron Cooking School, Jack Daniels, Brown Distributing & everyone else involved with this event.

WE HAD A GREAT TIME!!!! See you next year!