I was fortunate enough to not only attend but to judge the Burger Bash on Monday night, of course I use the term “judge” loosely, as the three judges really just tallied the votes and presented the trophy to the winning chef. The other two judges being Andrew Rimas, Managing Editor at the Improper Bostonian and J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, food writer and burger lover extraordinaire, both much more accomplished than I in the world of food, I was truly humbled to be along for the ride. Chris Lyons, of Chris Lyons PR along with Chef Ken Oringer were the true brains behind the fundraiser and both did an amazing job of organizing the event, which helped raise money towards Autism Awareness.
Despite my efforts, I’ll never be truly comfortable as a “member of the media,” I write a blog, no biggie, I’m still a chef through and through, and was here to eat burgers. Having said that, I don’t generally go for a “cheffy” burger. More than anything, I want a burger to taste like, well, a burger. When I take a piece of the beef, and just the beef, I want flavor, I want juiciness and I want seasoning. I’m not going to bash any place here, like I said, this was a charity event, all the chefs donated their time, food costs and staff, a lot of money was raised and that’s a good thing. But for me, a burger is beef, has to be, despite Ming Tsai producing a delicious “shrimp” burger with a killer oxtail fondue, it’s not a burger. Lamb is a little closer, but still foreign to me in the burger category. And the one’s that put foie gras and truffles into the burgers, not for me. The best burgers I tasted on this night were from Andy Husbands at Tremont 647, clean flavor, a classic combination of ingredients and just done right, and the fantastic pancetta and cheddar burger from Lois di Biccari at Sel de la terre, those were the tops and it wasn’t even that close. The winning burger, from Brooke Vosika at the Bristol Lounge, had foie gras and bearnaise, a good burger, but too rich for me. Other places were close, but either bad choices in bread (too much or too little), way too overpowering in the heat department, or just not beefy enough. The Toro burger finished a very close second, as they also put out a very tasty burger, but just missed the mark on my second go around.
The interesting thing I found was how some chefs chose to cook full burgers and cut them into quarters, while the others simply made sliders. I found it to be a much more clever idea to cook them as a full burger, as sliders just don’t cook as evenly in my opinion. Even still, despite the dim lighting, all burgers were cooked a pretty perfect medium-rare the majority of the night, no easy feat. Everyone has different opinions on what the perfect burger should be, and talking to people in the crowd, I didn’t hear the same answer twice. No, the judges didn’t deliberate for hours as if we were on Top Chef, the people spoke, and The Bristol Lounge was the winner.