In Cleveland and across the country, chefs are reimagining the iconic burger by composing patties blended with ground meat and chopped mushrooms and accentuating them with various accoutrements. As an extension of this year’s annual James Beard Foundation Blended Burger Project, several local restaurants are adding their own sumptuous beef patty and fungi mash-ups to their menus, and a few are entering their burgers in the Blended Burger Project national competition. The goal is to encourage people to explore healthier food options, and a burger is a logical summertime favorite to get the creative juices flowing.
“This is about making a great burger taste even better,” said Eric Davis, spokesperson for The Mushroom Council. “You get the inherent rich umami from the mushrooms, which holds that flavor and the juices, and you’re adding extra nutrition with vitamins B and D, plus cutting way down on sodium.” Mushrooms are low in calories, are fat-free, cholesterol-free, and gluten-free. They also are a clean, more earth-friendly source of protein. Beef production alone utilizes about three-fifths of the world’s land and yields less than 5% protein. Growing one pound of mushrooms requires fewer than two gallons of water, and one acre can produce one million pounds of mushrooms, according to The Mushroom Council.
To kick things off in May, The Mushroom Council traveled to six cities—including Cleveland—to promote the Blended Burger initiative. “Our goal is to spread inspiration,” Davis said.
Various iterations of burger blends are on the menus of participating Cleveland Independents restaurants including 111 Bistro, Alley Cat Oyster Bar, Astoria Café & Market, Chinato, Cowell & Hubbard, Creekside Restaurant, Der Braumeister, L’Albatros Brasserie, Nuevo Mod Mexican and Tequila Bar in Akron and in Cleveland, Parallax, Table 45, and Thyme2.
Creekside Restaurant’s Drunken Bison Burger, for example, features Blue Ribbon Meats’ ground bison meat mixed with chopped red wine-infused portobello mushrooms. The 7-ounce patty is stuffed with a semi-soft goat cheese that has been brined in red wine, then drizzled with a barbecue sauce. The burger is embellished with fried shiitake mushrooms tossed in truffle oil and arugula and served on a homemade brioche bun. Pickled red onions cozy up alongside to balance out the sweetness of the barbecue sauce, Chef Travis Bletsch said.
Over in Cleveland’s Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, Astoria Cafe & Market Executive Chef Cory Kobrinski is channeling all kinds of flavor with his riff. Nutty, grassy, umami, and gamey flavors collide in his Lamb, Ox Tail and Wild Mushroom Burger. The patty is composed of local lamb, beef chuck, shiitake, oyster, and cremini mushrooms, and topped with grilled pita, feta, tzatziki, cucumber, Beefsteak tomato, red onion, dill, and arugula. “The wild mushroom blend and beef chuck adds an earthy, cheesy flavor. The fattiness from the oxtail and glutamate from the mushrooms give you a full, meaty sensation in your mouth. The fattiness from the lamb adds nice depth and uniqueness to the blend,” Cory said.
Cuyahoga Falls-based Retro Dog is entering its blended burger into the competition—half Midwest-raised, grain-fed beef and half chopped portobello mushroom, with added ground dried mushrooms. The burger is topped with sautéed onions, crispy bacon, a smoky sweet ghost pepper mayonnaise, Roma tomato slices, and baby arugula on a toasted buttered brioche bun.
This summer you can taste all the local Blended Burgers and find your own inspiration for your next backyard barbecue.
Diners can vote for their favorite local burger at the Blended Burger Project through July 31. The top five winning chefs will earn a trip to New York City to showcase their burger at the James Beard House in November 2018.