The Burger Debate of 2008

September 28, 2008 at 1:43 pm (Napa Valley) (, )

So I was one of the lucky few to attend the 18th annual Sutter Home Build a Better Burger competition yesterday – a competition that seeks out the best burger maker in the US.   This years theme was along the lines of “Americana”, the burgers that best represent a home town, state, or region.  It was the perfect day:  good weather, great food, and fab friends. 

There were 10 total contestants: 5 “Alternative Burgers”, which can be made of any type of meat (like pork, seafood, lamb), and 5 “Beef Burgers”.  And guess what…we got to taste them all, AND VOTE for the People’s Choice Award. 

All of the judges are culinary professionals – from cookbook authors to restaurant owners – and the Burgers are judged on a 50 point scale from the following attributes: 
Visual (10 points)
Ease of preparation (10)
Creativity (10)
Taste (20)

If you want additional information about the competition you can click on the link below which will take you to the web-site.
http://buildabetterburger.com/

The following is the orders the burgers were presented to each table and the judges.

Alternative Burgers:
1.  Ocean State Swordfish Burgers wih Tangy Apple Tartar Sauce – Valerie Szlatenyi, Wakefield, RI
Suggested Wine Pairing:  Chardonnay
2.  Tidewater Boil Burger with Charred Sweet Corn Salsa and Lemon-Lime Crem-onnaise
Suggested Wine Pairing:  Chardonnay – Susan Scarborough, Fernandina Beach, FL
3.  YooperSausage Burger with Mustard-Zin Mayo – Lisa Huff, Clive, IA
Suggested Wine Pairing:  Zinfandel
4.  Kansas City BarbequePork Combo Burger with Barbeque Bean Spread and Piccalilli Slaw – Kathleen Stubler, Kansas City, KS
Suggested Wine Pairing:  Zinfandel
5.  Ole Mole Chicken Burgers with Pepita Pesto and Tomatillo Slaw – Sharyn Hill, Las Cruces, NM
Suggested Wine Pairing:  White Merlot

My favorite:  Tidewater Boil Burger – it reminded me of a East Coast Crabl Boil out on the beach.
People’s Choice:  Ocean State Swordfish Burgers with Tangy Apple Tartar Sauce
$10,000 Winning “Alternative” Winner:  Susan Scarborough – Tidewater Boil Burger with Charred Corn Salsa and Lemon-Lime Crem-onnaise

Beef Burgers
1.  New York Steakhouse with Tarragon Mayonnaise and Frizzled Onions – Sonali Ruder, New York, NY
Suggested Wine Pairing:  Cabernet Sauvignon
2.  Palmetto Pride Pimento Cheese Burgers with Tangy Bacon Slaw and Spicy Grilled Green Tomatoes – Mary Thompson, Lexington, SC
Suggested Wine Pairing:  Merlot
3.  Smoky-Sweet Bacon Burgers with Crisp Apple and Blue Cheese Slaw – Jamie Miller, Maple Grove, MN
Suggested Wine Pairing:  Pinot Noir
4.  Bluesiana Burger with Zydeco Sauce, Mardi Gras Slaw and Root Beer Glaze – George Graham, Lafayett, LA
Suggested Wine Pairing:  Cabernet Sauvignon
5.  Hawaii DaKine Burgers with Sweet-Chile Glaze, Ginger-Goat Cheese Spread, and Hot Watercress Salad – Kristine Snyder, Kihei, HI
Suggested Wine Pairing:  Zinfandel

My favorite:  Pimento Cheese Burgers
People’s Choice:  Hawaii DaKine Burgers with Sweet-Chile Glaze, Ginger-Goat Cheese Spread, and Hot Watercress Salad
$50,000 Build a Better Burger “Beef” Champion:  Hawaii DaKine Burgers with Sweet-Chile Glaze, Ginger-Goat Cheese Spread, and Hot Watercress Salad

Guess the People Knew What they were doing on this One!  Thank god, I only ate a bite of each of the burgers, or I think I might have been sick!

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Taking Care of Myself – From the Inside-Out

September 24, 2008 at 4:49 am (Napa Valley)

Because I am under the weather I decided to make something healthy for dinner.  Lucky for me I found inspirationin my September Bon Appetit – a pot of green lentils.  Because really, what could be healthier than a pot of home-cooked green lentils? 

I had the perfect ingredients already at my fingertips…bacon, carrots, leeks, and of course the lentils.  Just needed to pick up a few extra things like hazelnut oil and ham at Sunshine market, which is never a chore and always a treat.  (Seriously, I enjoy going grocery shopping way too much!)

With all my ingredients ready, the prep and cook time took less than an hour.  Perfect for a girl that needs something healthy in her belly with time to rest on the couch.

Pot of Green Lentils
Inspired by Green Lentil Salad with Bacon and Ham, Bon Appetit – September 2008

1 # French green lentils
4 oz. bacon
6-10 small carrots (actual carrots not the pre-packaged kind you dip in ranch)
3 leeks, chopped
3/4 C chopped ham
1 bunch thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 C chicken broth
2 C water
2 T Sherry vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 C hazelnut oil (this is not a cheap purchase, but honestly gave the lentils such a great flavor)
1/4 C chopped Italian parsley
1.  Place lentils in a large saucepan and cover with 2″ of water.  Bring to a boil; drain.
2.  Cook bacon in same saucepan until crisp around edges.  Add leeks, carrots and ham.  Cook until leek looks translucent.  Add thyme sprigs, bay leaf, chicken broth and water to pan and stir.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and partially cover – simmering for 25 minutes or until lentils are tender.
3.  While lentils cook whisk vinegar and mustard in a bowl.  Slowly drizzle in oil.  Season with salt and pepper.
4.  When lentils are done add mustard dressing and parsley; toss to coat.  Salt as needed.

Wha-la!  Dinner is served…and lunch and maybe as a side dish for dinner the next night!

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In much need of rest…

September 23, 2008 at 1:57 pm (Napa Valley)

I knew it was going to happen.

The slight cough, the scratchy voice, the 100% increase in kleenex usage.

But, its September in the Napa Valley, who wants to rest?  There is so much to do this time of year…football games, harvest parties, and of course the fall bocce season.  Again, who wants to rest?

So I didn’t rest like I should.  I kept going, thinking that this plague of mine would go away on its own just by my sheer will…and then I couldn’t get off the couch.  It’s been a roller coaster week due to the plague – a lot of ups and downs:
Low:  JLB losing 2 bocce games to Casino Cowboys
High:  Attending the 49er and Lions game
Low:  Feeling to bad to go to last available Giants game of the season
High:  All-Star Annie making me some deliciously healthy soup

But, I am on the mend.  Thank God for over-the-counter drugs.  And for these memories of the 49er game!  And for the Minkie who is crazy and makes a sick girl feel sane!

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Joanie Luvs Bocce vs. Italian Stallions

September 16, 2008 at 8:39 am (Napa Valley)

It was a showdown for sure.  The #1 team (Italian Stallions) versus #2 team (JLB) engaging in battle for the top spot on Thursday nights. 

This was more than becoming the #1 team on Thursdays…this was personal.  The Italian Stallions make my blood boil (especially one member of the team).  To make matters worse, Britt and Tony had other plans…two of the starters gone!  It was up to me and Caffo on one end, and Bersofsky and Cappo Hearn on the other.  Paul, Helen Jane, Nora Lea, Malcom, Tom and Jess and my parents rooted us on.

It started out rough, we lost 12 to 4.  There was some frustration and frowning.  We had a team talk to pull it together.

The next game was better and we pulled out a win 12-9.

But, the fabulous part of the evening was winning the third game 12-0.  A complete spanking in the world of bocce.

JLB is now the #1 team on our night.  I have no idea what we rank in the overall league.  I will have to ask Cappo Hearn, he keeps track of this kind of stuff!

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2008 Tuff-E-Nuff

September 15, 2008 at 12:25 pm (Travel) (, )

Made the trek to Bass Lake this past weekend to play in the annual Tuff-E-Nuff golf tournament.  (Oh yes, I do play golf…even if it is only 3 times a year!) 

Talked poor Caffo into going with me, boy was he in for some surprises.  Bass Lake on a normal trip is pretty exciting; Bass Lake with all the Tuff-E-Nuff golfers in town is a life changing experience.  I felt kind of bad for dragging an innocent into this experience, but if anyone could handle it I knew it would be Caffo.

For a little background info, my family has been putting on the Tuff-E-Nuff tournament since 1977.  It is called Tuff-E-Nuff because that was the name of my Grandpa Delbert and Uncle Larry’s race boat…pretty exciting stuff.  I hardly remember going to any of the boat races since I was super small, but I do have my dad’s racing jacket for being on the crew at one point.  I wear the jacket to bocce and it is a real crowd pleaser!

Weekend Highlights:

  1. While putting together the gift bags in the garage a car hit a tree next to the driveway and flipped a couple of times…didn’t see this but definitely heard it.  Lucky for everyone, the driver walked away with not even a scratch.
  2. Paul Bierly’s teeing-off swing…can’t explain but was like nothing I had EVER seen before.
  3. My 14 ft. put to get the team a Birdie…played with 3 boys so obviously wasn’t going to out-drive them.
  4. The Pines Bar…just a down-home, Coor Light drinking, good time, ALWAYS!  You know it’s a solid place when someone buys a round of Jaeger for the entire bar!
  5. Surfing behind my Uncle Mike’s boat…until I woke up today and my shoulder blades were aching.
  6. Just spending time with all the crazy people…thank GOD this tournament is only once a year.

Interested parties may want to know that the tournament next year is September 19, put it on the calendar…it is a rocking good time!

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promisQous behavior in the Big Apple

September 8, 2008 at 5:59 pm (Travel) (, )

Lucky for me one of the wine brands in our portfolio is named promisQous.

Lucky for me my friend K-Dog thought it would be the perfect wine to pour at the Yummie Tummie product launch.

Lucky for me this event took place in New York City…and I got to attend.

I had sooooo much fun, almost too much fun because at this point I am exhausted.  There was shopping at H&M, a walk down 5th Avenue to Central Park, pastrami sandwich at the famed Carnegie Deli, and of course many lovely dinners and glasses of bubbly with my brother Ryan, K-Dog, and his fashionista crew!

The trip was successful for two reasons…

1.  promisQous was a huge success at the event and all but one case of red was consumed. 
2.  Ryan and I got to attend our first runway fashion show sitting front row at Cushnie et Ochs.  The show was for two new designers that just graduated from Parsons Design School and K-Dog is predicting they are the “future” of the fashion world.  Beyond exciting….the theme was American Psycho and the models walked out onto the runway from behind a revolving blade.

I’m finally now unpacked.  I’m finally through all the laundry.  But, there are no complaints.  A trip to the NYC is always welcome.

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1 Weekend, 2 Tomato Recipes

September 4, 2008 at 4:03 am (Napa Valley) (, , )

Ahh, Labor Day.  The mark of the end of summer and the beginning of fall.  No more wearing white, no more skinny dipping, and definitely no more massive Coors Light consumption because it is way too hot to drink anything else.

I kept getting the question “What are you doing for Labor Day?  Going anywhere fun…to Bass Lake, to the houseboat, to LA?”  And I repeatedly answered “Nope don’t want to fight the crowds, staying as local as possible.” 

Friday and Saturday I pretty much stuck to the plan, but by Sunday I was ready to do something

The Minkie

The Minkie

different.  So I packed up the Minkie and some low key clothing and headed east on Highway 12 to H-town to visit my parents and Popo and Grandma.  (H-town is my pet name for the town I grew up in Hughson, CA…a special place about 10 miles down Highway 99 from Modesto).

First thing on my agenda was not the usual visit to El Super Taco for a Green Sauce Enchilada, but visiting a local fruit/veggie stand to purchase a ton of tomatoes.  The agenda for the afternoon would be tomato pickling…I had been inspired over the last couple of weeks by various tomato recipes I had seen in various magazines and articles and had decided that this would be a good time to try some.  (I don’t think my mom and Grandma didn’t know what they were in for!) 

Pickled Farm-Stand Tomatoes with Jalapenos
Food & Wine, August 2008
2 C rice vinegar
1/2 C light brown sugar
2 t salt
2 C EVOO
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 t fresh ginger, finely grated
2 t mustard seed
2 t ground black pepper
2 t ground turmeric
2 t ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 # tomatoes, cut into wedges
8 scallions, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
4 jalapenos, thinly sliced into rings

1.  In a medium saucepan, bring the vinegar, brown sugar and salt to a boil, stirring.  Remove from heat.
2.  In a medium skillet, heat the oil.  Add the garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, black pepper, turmeric, ground cumin and cayenne pepper and cook over low heat until fragrant (about 2 minutes).  Carefully pour into the vinegar mixture.
3.  In a large heatproof bowl, combine the tomatoes, scallions and jalapenos.  Stir in the hot pickling liquid and let stand at room temperature for 4 hours.
Serve with:  grilled steak or chicken, also crusty bread to sop up the juices.
Note:  Since we had mass amounts of tomatoes we tripled the recipe and it still turned out lovely and because we were making so much we actually “canned” the tomatoes.  We did this by sterilizing the jars, filling the jars with the tomato mixture and then topping the jars off with the hot pickling liquid.  Then sealed the jars shut and let them cool to room temperature.  Wha, la!  A taste of summer ready for the dreary winter months!

After the days work we were inspired to make something with the remaining tomatoes the next day.  So after dinner we perused through my ear-marked magazine pages and Internet print outs.  And finally decided we would make Tomato Jam. This recipe we also tripled and “canned” so that we use the jam at a later date.

Tomato Jam
The New York Times, August 20, 2008
1 1/2 # ripe tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
1 C sugar
2 T freshly squeezed lime juice
1 T Fresh grated minced ginger
1 t ground cumin
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/8 t ground cloves
1 t salt
Red Pepper flakes to taste
1.  Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.
2.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam (about 1 15 minutes).  Taste and adjust seasoning, then cool and refrigerate until ready to use.  Will keep up to a week, unless you preserve it by “canning”.
Yield:  About 1 pint

Needless to say it was a super productive 2 days and I got to have some nice visits with my family.  Minkie got to run free and I got to eat Mexican food.  Sometimes it’s the simple things that just put a smile on my face.

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