Two area restaurants, Wrightsville Beach Brewery and The Bistro at Topsail, are taking part in The James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project.
The project began three years ago in the wake of increased pressure for restaurants to focus on both consumer health and sustainability. It was designed to challenge chefs to create healthier burgers by incorporating mushrooms into their burger blends.
The Foundation’s website states, “The Blend concept is an example the innovative and strategic culinary insights that are used to address the substantial health and environmental imperatives that face the foodservice industry.”
Participants must create a burger blend that is one-fourth chopped mushrooms, according to the foundation. Customers can cast their votes in support of their favorite burgers on the foundation’s website, where they will also be entered into a drawing for an expenses-paid trip for two to the 2018 Blended Burger event at the James Beard House in New York City.
“For us it was not so much about how we could possibly gain the most votes for our burger, but to highlight sustainable menu items,” said Wrightsville Beach Brewery co-owner Jud Watkins.
Watkins and chef David Owens created a lamb and mushroom slider that also incorporates quinoa. It’s served with a simple garnish of lettuce, tomato and herb mayo on a brioche bun.
“The blend itself is very flavorful so we decided to keep the toppings and condiments very simple,” Watkins said.
Watkins said that one of the biggest challenges for restaurants when it comes to sustainability is that what is most sustainable is often least affordable. For example, Watkins said that the cost of lamb is about three times that of beef, making it a challenge to keep the price at a reasonable point for customers.
Chef Bud Taylor, owner of The Bistro at Topsail, said the foundation’s mission to promote sustainability is a philosophy he attempts to practice every day at his restaurant. He sources more than 80 percent of his ingredients from North Carolina, including all of the restaurant’s seafood, beef, pork and poultry.
He said any time he has the chance to help promote sustainability along with an organization such as the JBF, it’s an opportunity he can’t turn down. This is his first year taking part in the project and he has created a burger prepared with N.C.-raised grass-fed beef from Mills Family Farms blended with a confit of oyster and Portobello mushrooms and topped with a house made Shitake “bacon,” Havarti cheese, heirloom tomato and a lemongrass aioli on a house baked sesame bun. He named the burger the “Goomba” after the mushroom character in the Super Mario Brothers video game.
Taylor said the recipe will be on The Bistro’s website and The JBF website next week so people can try it at home.
There are still a few days left to try these burgers and get your votes in online. Voting ends July 31.
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