The much anticipated Burger and Beer Blast is drawing closer! Each year Westchester’s top local chefs face off in a fierce competition for the title of “Best Burger” by creatively spinning the classic All-American burger during Westchester Magazine’s Wine & Food Festival. We’ve asked the following participants: Westchester Burger Company, Madison Kitchen in Larchmont, The Wooden Spoon in New Rochelle, Coals Pizza in Portchester and Bronxville, AJ’s Burgers in New Rochelle, and Pow! Burger in New Rochelle to dish on burgers, buns, and strategy.
What burger will you be serving at this year’s Burger and Beer Blast?
Madison Kitchen: We will be serving our “Sir Madison Burger Sliders.” It is our signature burger at Madison Kitchen; 30-day, dry-aged beef blend, tickler cheddar cheese, bacon onion jam, and MK sauce on a pretzel bun.
Pow! Burger: This year we’re making the Big Kahuna burger: Our flat top grilled burger topped with smoked and seared black forest ham, pineapple chutney, and chèvre spread served on a Martin’s slider roll.
Westchester Burger Company: Our Macintosh burger. It’s two ounces of Angus meat with pepper jack cheese, onions, a sliced cold piece of Macintosh apple, and a Cajun remoulade.
AJ’s Burgers: AJ’s Burgers will be serving our new Latin-inspired Cuban Burger. The Cuban Burger is our special blend of beef with in-house pulled pork, Virginia ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, pickles, garlic butter, and Martin’s famous potato rolls.
The Wooden Spoon: We will be serving a burger with a salty and sweet flavor profile. Our burger will be topped with a bacon and gorgonzola fondue and a balsamic reduction served on a brioche roll.
How are you going to make your burger standout?
Pow! Burger: To us, there is only one way to make our burger stand out from the rest, and that’s the burger itself – the taste, texture, and presentation. The burger has to have a great flavor and the toppings need to compliment that flavor, not over power it. As far as the presentation goes, the burger just needs to look like its pouring out of the bun, it just does something to the human psyche that makes them say “I WANT THAT!”
Westchester Burger Company: Homemade brioche buns and the fact that we are the premier gourmet burger makers in Westchester.
Madison Kitchen: By using the freshest ingredients possible. Home-made bacon onion jam/MK Sauce, freshly baked buns (baked the morning of), fresh ground Schweid & Sons beef.
AJ’s Burgers: The Cuban Burger is going to standout because it’s going to have a mix of Latin and American flavors infused together. The burger will be balanced with cheese, tanginess, a little savory, and the perfect amount of heat.
What do you feel is the most important component of a burger?
Coals Pizza: Absolutely the meat. We use excellent beef from Schweid & Sons. Season it well and the beef stands out no matter what you put on it.
Madison Kitchen: I’m a bun guy, so definitely the bun, it needs to be able to stand up to the juiciness of the burger — no one likes a soggy bun! And of course the burger patty itself.
The Wooden Spoon: The most important component is always the patty. Whether it is a beef burger, veggie burger, or some other patty, it needs to fresh, cooked properly, and juicy. The reason we choose a burger on a menu amongst all of the other options is because we are craving what is between the bread!
Would you consider burger making an art? How so?
Westchester Burger Company: Absolutely, the fact that we can be creative with toppings and spreads. It’s no longer just a plain burger; we can use lamb, salmon, bison, kobe, and we can make beautiful, beautiful burgers.
AJ’s Burgers: Definitely, yeah! I’ve always imagined burgers to be like a blank canvas. Toppings and ingredients are like the different paints — one burger with the right toppings could be the next Michelangelo.
Coals Pizza: There’s an artistic element in the choice of toppings, which gives you limitless possibilities. But, at heart, it’s really a craft. How you handle, season, cook and assemble the burger is key.
What can make or break a burger?
The Wooden Spoon: The bun can definitely make or break a burger. Even if all the other components (patty, cheese, toppings, and sauce) are all fresh and delicious if you do not use a bun that will hold up to the toppings it will be a complete disaster. No one likes to put their burger down to regroup because of a bun failure.
Pow! Burger: Complexity. I’ve been to a ton of restaurants where they put everything but the kitchen sink on their burger just to help justify selling this hunk of meat for 16 bucks… I say focus on simplicity, and freshness. Fresh meat cooked right, a medium sized selection of fresh toppings and a fresh bun. That’s it… that’s what makes a burger.
Coals Pizza: The bun is very important. A bun shouldn’t overwhelm the burger. It’s a tasty vehicle for the other components. And God forbid it’s stale. That’s the worst! I treat those buns like newborns until the second we slide the patties on them.