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Dozens of restaurants from sea to shining sea have entered the fifth annual Blended Burger Project, and 23 (so far) are in Florida. Of those, 11 are in Brevard County.
That’s how strongly the notion of mushrooms mixed with meat for the purposes of health and sustainability has captured the fancy of local chefs and proprietors. Should they garner enough online votes starting Memorial Day — and later, those of a panel of judges — they will prepare their winning entries later this year at the James Beard House in New York City.
The competition, a partnership between the James Beard Foundation and the Mushroom Council, challenges chefs to create a burger with a patty that’s at least 25 percent mushrooms.
Brevardians have fared well in the past three competitions, going up against popular restaurants from the likes of Manhattan, Chicago and Los Angeles. Cedar’s Café in Melbourne topped the polls in 2016, 2017 and 2018; and last year, burgers from The Bearded Chef, Pizza Gallery and Grill and Playalinda Brewing Co. Brix Project also were among the top 10 in popularity with online voters nationwide.
Chef Brandon Basista, the Bearded Chef, was judged to have been one of the top five Blended Burger chefs nationwide in 2018, and he prepared his burger at a dinner last winter at the James Beard House in Manhattan, as did Elkhouri the two previous years. Each winning chef also will be awarded $5,000 this year.
Local participants in the 2019 Blended Burger Project, a partnership between the James Beard Foundation and the Mushroom Council, include:
28 North Gastropub at The Avenue Viera (28northgastropub.com). Chef Kyle Hash will prepare “(A) short rib-brisket blend burger patty with roasted Cremini and oyster mushrooms, chive aioli, truffled Gouda, smoked mushroom duxelles and crispy mushroom straws,” he said.
The Bearded Chef food truck (thebeardedchefeats.com). Chef/owner Brandon Basista calls his entry ‘“Pho-Real, the amalgamation of soup and sandwich.” It will have an “umami bomb beef/pork-blend patty with smoke-roasted Monterey crimini mushrooms, charred ginger and green onions, spiced with our ‘pho king’ blend, topped with mushroom-chive jack cheese, red onions, burger aioli made with sriracha-style sauce and mushroom hoisin (and finished) with our pickled shiitake and serrano, and micro herb salad.”
Cedar’s Café, Melbourne (cedarscafe.com). “The Fall into Blending Burger (is) lamb and beef blended with a 35-percent Florida-grown Monterey mushroom patty, topped with a horseradish-roasted, beet-goat cheese, tarragon-mushroom-mustard sauce and lettuce on a butter-grilled brioche bun, lightly dusted with fresh coarse-round pepper and salt,” according to chef Toni Elkhouri.
Coasters Taphouse, Cocoa Beach (facebook.com/CoastersTaphouse). Chef Cheyne Balbier said, “Our Hen of the Wagyu burger uses ground Wagyu beef, blended with locally-sourced, organic Hen of the Woods mushrooms, topped with blue cheese, thinly-sliced prosciutto, fig aioli and roasted red pepper. It tastes as great as it sounds.”
Darci’s Bacon Blues, Cape Canaveral (baconblues.net). The Sweet and Sassy Burger will have “fresh ground chuck blended with cherries and smoked Florida Monterey mushrooms, smothered with brie, jalapeno bacon, candied jalapenos, arugula and spicy cherry ketchup on a fresh brioche bun,” said chef/owner Darci Kropp.
Ember and Oak, downtown Melbourne (emberandoak.com). Chef/owner Kevin Andersen will present, “The Forager: The gist of it is a chanterelle brioche, short rib-brisket-chuck-morel mushroom blended burger (with) pickled ramps, and wild garlic aioli,” Andersen said.
Nomad Café, downtown Melbourne (thenomadcafe.com). Owner Megan Gonzalez said Chef Otilio Gonzalez will prepare, “a blended patty of lamb, Okeechobee oyster mushrooms and fresh ground beef, topped with halloumi cheese, pickled watermelon, tomato, green leaf lettuce and harissa aioli on a brioche bun.”
“Any Port in the Storm,” a last-minute entry by chef/owner Johnathan Fort of North by South Bistro (facebook.com/northbysouthbistro) in Satellite Beach includes fresh cucumber, roasted red bell peppers, fried onions and goat cheese on top of a portobello and beef patty, Fort said.
Playalinda Brewing Co. Brix Project, Titusville (playalindabrewingcompany.com). Viva Ybor! is what chef Justin Medina described as, “the Cuban to end the debates.” It contains Puerto Rican-infused Cuban pork, sweet-cured ham, Emmenthaler Swiss, spicy English mustard, house-made mustard pickles, fresh Cuban bread and a salumi-seasoned beef/pork/crimini blended patty with a side of papas fritas, mushroom mayochup, maduros and oyster-mushroom black bean soup.
Pompano Grill, Cocoa Beach (pompanogrill.com). The Psychedelic Phish Burger is “a blend of local Florida-caught cobia, Scottish salmon and roasted crimini mushrooms, hoisin sauce, ginger and garlic, coated in a tuxedo sesame and panko crust, topped with sweet soy mayo, pickled shitake mushrooms and pickled cucumber and arugula salad, on a porcini mushroom-dusted brioche bun,” chef/owner Jacqueline Sampson said.
The Snug Pub, Cocoa Village (search “The Snug Pub Eatery” on Facebook). The Mushroom Impossible is “a blend between 25 percent Florida-grown Monterey mushrooms and (an) Impossible plant-based protein burger on a porcini-buttered ciabatta bun topped with Edam cheese, red onion, portobello mushroom, sriracha-marinated tomatoes (with) sprouts and crispy enoki mushrooms, served with an avocado crème,” said chef/owner Justin Marks
Voting will take place May 27 through July 31 at jamesbeard.org/blendedburgerproject/vote. A panel of experts from the James Beard Foundation choose five winners from among the top online vote-getters, based on culinary creativity, flavor profile and presentation.
Participating will showcase their burger entries on their menus throughout the competition.
Join the conversation at facebook.com/groups/321FlavorWhereBrevardEats.
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