My apologies to my vegetarian friends, but this week I'm all about the meat!
On this week's episode, our guest reviewers talked about the best burger in town. But, really, how do they know? Have they had all the burgers in town to compare? And, just what makes a burger the best in town? Don't get me wrong, I've had some delicious burgers, but the "best" is really difficult to prove, because it all depends on what you like.
Guest reviewer Rebecca introduced us to a really rockin' place called Rockit Bar & Grill. As with all of the restaurants we feature on Check, Please! I visited their website to gather more information. And there it was, a gorgeous looking, delightfully cheesy, tasty-looking gourmet burger. With it were the words, "Best Burger, Good Morning America." Apparently, the Rockit Burger has been named the "Best in the Nation" by a national morning TV show. I had to check out the menu. I found some pretty basic chicken and turkey burgers, but there was also a lobster burger and a Kobe beef burger with seared foie gras! Very unusual. This merits some further investigation.
There are a few elements that make a burger a "great burger." Let's start with the most obvious; the meat. Beef is beef, right? Not really. Where and how cattle are raised will provide different textures, flavors, and fatty makeups. Preparation is also very important. A burger should be thick enough to maintain its juiciness when cooked, but not so big that you have to use a fork and knife to eat it. The meat should be well seasoned and cooked to perfection, allowing it to be slightly pink in the middle. (Unless, of course, you are a "well done" kind of meat eater.) Next, consider the bread. There are a range of bread possibilities and preparations. Some options include Kaiser rolls, sour dough buns, onion rolls, and the ubiquitous sesame seed bun. Rockit Bar & Grill uses a pretzel bun for most of its burgers. Yum! The bread may be steamed, toasted, dips in gravy or just served at room temperature. Toasted is my favorite because you get a slight crunch and still have the soft and chewiness of the bun. The last elements of a great burger are the condiments. This is where a chef can really let his creativity fly. Anything goes! Are you a raw onion, diced onion, red onion, caramelized onion, or no onion type of burger lover? Do you like red tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, green tomatoes, or sun-dried tomatoes? The possibilities are endless. And oh, the cheeses! Cheese adds that warm comforting taste to a burger and each cheese changes the flavor dramatically. Gourmet burgers sport avocados, fancy mustards, and anything else you can layer on. Add all of these elements together and voila you have a great burger!
Since the meat is a big deal in a burger, I thought you might want a little more information about the two most common types of beef you'll find on menus in the USA.
Many restaurants and grocery chains boast the sale of Angus beef. Angus cattle is a term that refers to two Scottish breeds of cattle, which naturally that don't have horns. The two breeds of Angus cattle are Black and Red Angus, which refers to the predominant coloring amongst of the cattle. Black is predominantly the original Scottish Aberdeen Angus cattle and the most preferred. Here's an interesting fact: while the cattle first appeared in the USA in Kansas, in 1883 the American Aberdeen Angus Association was founded in Chicago. A successful public relations campaign starting in 1978 made Angus beef a preferred style of beef in the USA. Your local McDonald's serves Angus beef along with a number of other chain restaurants. It has a modest to high degree of marbling and is excellent for steaks, stews, and burgers.
Kobe beef refers to beef from the black Tajima-ushi breed of Wagyu cattle, raised according to strict tradition in Japan. Kobe beef is renowned for its flavor, tenderness, and well-marbled texture. Raised in an isolated region of Japan, the distinctive feeding techniques have led to distinguishing features that make the meat both superior in marbling and in the ratios of unsaturated versus saturated fats. Kobe beef is often considered a delicacy. Don't freak out. After the "mad-cow" scare in 2001, there was a ban on Japanese imported beef to the USA (which was lifted in 2005). However, in order to meet the increasing demand, most Kobe beef is actually "Kobe-style" beef that comes from a domestically raised Wagyu cross-bread with Angus cattle.
Tell us where you think you've found the best burger in town in the comments below. Do you agree with our guest reviewers? Does Rockit Bar & Grill really have the best burger? Tell us what makes your burger experience the best! And don't forget the sides.
Carmen M. Schmidt
Associate Producer, Check, Please!