The 3rd annual Let’s Talk About Food Festival—the region’s largest outdoor food celebration event returns to Copley Sq. this weekend. The free festival, which was founded by local journalist Louisa Kasdon, features discussions with experts on current food issues such as sustainability and GMOs, live interactive cooking demonstrations with local and celebrity chefs, kid friendly activities, healthy food sampling—all designed to change how we eat, grow, cook, buy, and sell food in the community.
I am completely humbled and honored to be judging the “Earth and Turf” burger competition among some of the top chefs in Boston. The chefs will be challenged to create their version of the “Earth and Turf” burger— a burger that has a lighter carbon footprint by using 20% less ground beef, but still satisfies even the most self-proclaimed meat lovers. This is not your average burger competition. Participants include: Tony Maws, Craigie On Main and Kirkland Tap and Trotter; Chris Coombs, Deuxave, Boston Chops and dbar; and Tony Rosenfeld, B.Good;. The burger recipes will go on the menus of each participating chef and will also be published on Boston.Com. This is going to be a great event and hope to see you all there!
Sometimes, a quick detour away from the burger game might need to be in order. I don’t need to delve too far into the review game aside from burgers, nor do I intend to. But every now and then I have some opinions on things (shocking) that have nothing to do with our dear burger (even more shocking).
I haven’t gone out quite as much lately, but a quick thumbs up, thumbs down:
Thumbs Up: Rialto. I’d only been once, and had a ho-hum burger experience years ago. But a few weeks ago with my sister in town, we sat at the bar, had a few stellar bites and solid cocktails, and were on our way. For a mere $15 we enjoyed Arancini, Duck Pate and Stuffed Fried Olives. Jody was in the house which was nice to see, and it was the perfect, laid-back setting we needed and the food was as delicious as can be.
Thumbs Down: La Brasa. The menu reads so well but it fell very short for me. Even though it looks like every other restaurant nowadays, I still dig the look. On a recent Saturday night we sampled a number of dishes, all missing the same ingredient across the board: salt. It’s amazing how often this seemingly simple aspect trips up major restaurants constantly. Two carrots split in half and served with a watery, one-note mole´ain’t gonna cut it. Neither will $17 for one piece of over-cooked fried chicken, or $8 for about a cup of uninspired and greasy fried rice. But apparently I’m on the outside looking in, because media darlings, bloggers and the like seem to love it.
I don’t believe in off-nights, I believe in the power of consistency. Not the easiest feat to achieve I realize, is one visit fair to write something off? Maybe, maybe not.
Is there too much stock put into cooking a burger to the requested doneness? Maybe, maybe not. It’s an area that is a hot button issue for burger enthusiasts, because if you are going to be cooking copious amounts of burgers at your restaurant, you should probably be nailing the temps on a consistent basis. If you order a steak and it is not cooked the want you wanted it, it’s getting sent back, one would presume, but burgers sometimes get a free pass. Maybe it’s a price issue with burgers being on the more affordable spectrum (usually), so it’s less of an issue. Where am I going with this? I lean somewhere on the side that it has to be more about the general flavor and enjoyment of the overall burger. Do I want my burger cooked a perfect medium-rare? No doubt about it, and the better spots will hit that temp each and every time, and I’d be foolish into trying to convince you that it’s not a factor in my overall grading scale, because it absolutely is. However, if the burger is juicy, seasoned and has the proper meat to bun ratio, I’ll take that over a perfectly executed patty with no seasoning or substance. Long story short, and I’m sure you can guess where I’m going with this, Brass Union in Somerville makes a very tasty burger, but on this inaugural visit, medium-rare it was not. continue reading »
Judges with the winner, Mike O’Connell
If I had my pick of what to do on any given day, I’d say wolfing down a burger might be at the top of my list. Now, throw in an extra twenty burgers and we might be in business. Or, I might be in over my head. And welcome to Boston Magazine’s Battle of the Burger, 2014 addition. I had the privilege of being a judge for the home griller’s portion of the program, where three super talented home cooks duked it out to see who made the best burger. They were all fantastic, and the winner, Mike O’Connell, created a duck burger unlike anything I’ve ever had before. Despite my preference and being more of a beef purist with my burgers, the duck was lush, elegant and insanely delicious and he was a well deserved winner. It was quite an honor being on the panel with fellow judges Leah Mennies (food editor of Boston Magazine), Kelly Olynyk (Celtic player, and admittedly the person I was most excited to meet) and Ron Savenor of the famed Savenor’s. The evening was mc’d by my good friend, Jason Rossi, of Radio 92.9 fame. The rest of the night was a thrill as I sampled burgers from all the participating restaurants, a bunch of which I hadn’t had before. Many were very classically prepared, and a few were completely original for the event and I certainly had an amazing (albeit a very full) time. My personal favorite was the burger from Zebra’s Bistro, who served up a smaller version of their house burger, arriving on a challah bun and topped with miso aioli, Vermont cheddar, bacon and pickled red onions. The winner, for the second year in a row, was the popular Blue Ox in Lynn, and I clearly need a re-visit since many people claim this to be the best burger in the area. All in all it was a fantastic night with great food and great friends and I can’t wait to come back again next year.
Me and Vegas Burger Blog, burger brothers for life..
Situated in Newtonville, the newish location of Rox Diner (the original being in West Roxbury) is all about breakfast all day, with a pretty burger-heavy menu for those folks not looking for French Toast for dinner. What really grabbed me right off the bat was the proclamation that they use LaFrieda beef; in this case a short rib and chuck blend. LaFrieda is of course one of the better, if not arguably the best beef you can get out there (Shake Shack for one uses their product as well as many of the top spots in NYC) so I was especially eager to try them out. Basic cheeseburgers begin at $12 and climb to $14.75 for a couple of the more involved, so there is something for everyone. continue reading »
Finding myself in Western Mass for a weekend, I knew a burger was obviously going to be in the cards. After a quick stop at the new outpost of White Hut, I found my way into High Horse, a brewery and pub in Amherst. Like any good pub, it devotes a large portion of the food menu to burgers, which the restaurant boasts as being ground in-house every morning. Pickles and buns, I’m also told, are made in-house as well. If you think making pickles isn’t a big deal (and I would agree with you) take a look at all the local Boston restaurants that use pickles (while still delicious) from another hometown company. Generally lots of components are made in-house, but the pickle is often outsourced and I never understand why. A refreshing but painfully small pour of a Saison joined my lunch as I sat outside on the patio. continue reading »