Burgers x 5: Beer n Burgers Event   Leave a comment

On Saturday, Portland Monthly Magazine and Whole Foods partnered up to put together a block party benefiting Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon. If purchased before the event, the $10 ticket for burger sampler ($15 for 5 burgers and 5 beers) was a ridiculous value- even the additional $5 cost at the door wasn't bad. The day started out overcast and cool, but quickly warmed up as the sun came out. The picnic-like event setup with the checked tableclothes on tables and large cushioned ottomans that had a "plate" piece in the middle to balance cups of beer, Portland Monthlys liberally scattered to hold down the tablecloths, mason jars of sunflowers, a white picket fence delineating the event area, backyard bbq upbeat party music and smell of roasted peanuts was very welcoming even before the sun arrived though, so good job on that for the planners!

They also tried to set up garbage cans and recycling bins, but I don't think the recycling bins were well marked enough to separate paper, plastic, and compostable like the setup at the Farmer's Markets are, so probably wasn't quite as successful at separating based on what I was seeing in those bins. For those who weren't drinking, and even those who were, I think they missed out on easy $1 sales of bottles of water that could have also benefited the cause.

I will look beyond the irony of standing on a street in front of a Whole
Foods stuffing yourself silly with 5 sample sliders in raising money for hunger and voting for best burger. Seriously, these were the size
of fast food burgers (or at least the patty was the size of my palm, so I was over my quota for a serving size- don't think you can fool me because some of those pattys were also thick), so I guess they might be considered "sample/slider size" compared to
the original humongous size that is probably served as a burger entree,
but still! It would have been easier to have all 5 samples if most of
them had been halved actually. Eventually what I ended up doing after my
first burger and a half was only taking a couple bites and wrapping the
rest back for later. And this is without me having any beer either I was full after 1.5 samples…

First tasting was Deschutes Brewery's entry by Executive Chef Jeff Usinowicz and Pastry Chef Jill Ramseier. They offered an "Ultimate Burger", concocted from butter-seared Panorama beef with root beer-braised pork belly, deviled egg mayonnaise and smoked paprika ketchup on a white cheddar bun. The deviled egg mayo was a great condiment, and the white cheddar bun a gougeres-like fluffy cloud for grounding the beef, belly, and ketchup. I thought the pork belly was a bit overdone though so the concept wasn't executed per the advertising, so this earned third place in my head of the five burgers submitted for this event.

Henry's Tavern had Executive Chef Jerome Duncan's entry of a urban stuffed burger, an offering of a broiled slider topped with smoked mozzarella, pepperoncini and beer braised onions with lettuce, tomato, and Tree Hugger Porter mustard on a Brioche bun. Biting into this burger and to encounter the pepperonici and sauteed onions, and then have the smoked mozzarella ooze out, gave this IMHO the best burger patty, and it was a my second place ribbon for best burger. This was a really heavy filling burger well countered by the fresh tomato and lettuce. Here's too shots: one from each side.

 

Next stop was some water. And then, Whole Foods Market Seafood Mongers Christopher Schmidt and Eric Vegas and their Grilled Salmon Slider, a red pepper and fennel salmon slider with herb aioli and organic baby greens on wheat bun. I haven't had a salmon slider before, though I do like salmon, and I also like Thai Fish Cakes which are almost like slider patties… This Grilled Salmon Slider was too fishy for me. I think if they had gone further down a Thai-style seasoning, or adding more fruit salsa-like topping like mango or pineapple, or gone a more citrusy lemon-dill way maybe it could have worked. But, it's not quite fair to judge seafood mongers equally against restaurant chefs either- couldn't someone have given them a hand? Dressed with italian seasoning a smidge of mayo and greens and that's it? Did they taste this?

I know, it really looks like it should have been a Thai fish cake instead. Sadly, no it wasn't.

After packing this one away for later, the next stop, and the winner of my vote for #1 burger, was Laurelwood Public House and Brewery. Executive Chef Scott Clagett created a portabella mushroom beef burger with bacon-tomato jam, arugula, crispy onions, Oregon truffle aioli on a brioche slider bun. Arugula was a genius green to include as a topping dressed just enough with the aioli, and the crispy onion a texture counterpoint to the very well seasoned beef that was juicy from the portabella mushroom. I am a cheese lover, and I didn't even miss the lack of cheese here that truly made it a burger instead of a cheeseburger.

Final stop and sitting at #4 was Widmer Brothers Brewing Chef Ryan Day and Chef Travis Hansen's Rouladen Burger, stuffed with a chopped pickle, onion, bacon, and stone ground mustard topped with a smoked onion cheese sauce on a rye melba. All of us appreciated the choice of a rye melba and the size of this taster, enough to give you several good bites of flavor but not totally fill you. Rather then a chopped pickle which was in the right path but not quite tart enough, a cornichon or two would have been able to hold up better tot he smoked onion cheese sauce and stone ground mustard and visually fit. With cornichons or better pickles, this slider could have been higher for its contemporary take on a slider to show you can be tiny but still
pack a lot of flavor punch.

And now from the past few days, I'm suffering from indigestion.

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