When not busy handing out awards, the good folks at the James Beard Foundation are on a mission to remind everyone that small changes can have a big impact. Now for the fourth year, the Foundation has invited chefs to compete to be part of this movement—one rich burger spiked with gourmet fungi at a time.
The James Beard Blended Burger Project is a campaign-contest built on saving the world through tasty burgers. If this sounds like a competition made for the Twin Cities’ eco-conscious dining scene, you’d be correct. According to official specs, eligible burgers must be “made by combining finely chopped mushrooms with meat, creating a burger that’s tastier, healthier, and more sustainable.” Each patty must contain a minimum of 25 percent filler-fungus, thereby demonstrating the culinary potential of investing in food sustainability. The initiative is meant to remind us all, from chefs to consumers, that by making small changes, we can have a ground-up impact on the world around us, without giving up burgers (known contributors to happiness) while the rest of the world burns.
A total of eight restaurants state-wide are participating in this year’s competition. St. Paul’s French Meadow entered a blended pork variation with onion bacon jam, smoked gouda, maple dijon, arugula, and pickled mustard seeds. Minnetonka’s Gold Nugget Tavern and Grille whipped up a Fiesta Burger from portobello and crimini mushrooms blended into ground beef and house fajita spice, topped with three kinds of peppers, melted pepper jack cheese, pico de gallo, and a peppadew aioli. Farther afield, WOW American Eats’ St. Cloud and Moorehead locations got in on the action, as has Rochester’s Hot Chip Burger Bar.
Still no one is taking this more seriously than the establishments overseen by two-time James Beard award semifinalist Kim Bartmann, aka “Instigator of Bartmann Group.” Long known for operating mindfully, Bartmann’s myriad restaurants have stacked the deck by entering three separate burgers into the competition this year.
Red Stag Supperclub’s chef Joe Holmes made a burger with Peterson Craftsman lamb and beach mushrooms from Forage North, topped with Bitfrost Farms goat cheese, pickled red onion, mint, gem lettuce, and harissa aioli. Over at south Minneapolis’ Book Club, chef Asher Miller’s burger consists of Organic Prairie steak combined with portabello mushrooms, and finished with roasted red peppers, arugula, Fontina cheese, basil pesto, and a balsamic aioli. Pat’s Tap is also getting in on the action, by way of chef Dave Robinson’s grass-fed beef blended with pork and crimini mushrooms, topped with sweet chili sauce and a peanut dressing.
Winners are chosen (to a point) based on popular vote, after which the top five winners are selected by a panel of JBF-chosen “burger experts.” On the line is $5,000 in prize money and a trip to New York City to cook at the Beard House.
Show up for consciousness and hometown pride—preferably after actually trying the chefs’ labors of love—by voting online here through the end of July.