Burger Battle 2011

On Monday night, Jeff and I headed out to KO Prime to experience our first Burger Battle. This was actually the second annual Burger Battle, and it was hosted by Chef/Owner Ken Oringer and Executive Chef Josh Buehler of KO Prime. Oringer and Buehler challenged Boston-area chefs in a burger battle with all proceeds going to benefit Autism Speaks. Local beef lovers could get tickets and sample and vote on the burgers.

Not quite sure what to expect, we entered the Nine Zero Hotel through the main doors and checked in and got bracelets, pens, and scorecards. I imagine this must be what it feels like to attend a Top Chef event.

This wasn't my card. I forgot to take a picture of mine before submitting it.
(And someone really should have hired me to edit these.)

After checking our coats, we went up to the restaurant and saw all the chefs setting up their tables and getting ready for the masses to descend on them. (We even caught a glimpse of Chef Will Gilson dressed as Hamburglar.)

Being that it was still a few minutes before 6, we grabbed drinks at the bar and sat in the bar area for a little bit.

I ran into one of my coworkers and we chatted for a few minutes, and then Michelle and her fiance Bret arrived, and we decided to see if the chefs were serving burgers yet. They were.

Trina's Starlite Lounge was closest to us, so we started there and then made our way around most of the room, went upstairs and made the rounds of the rooms up there, and then headed back down to find any burgers we missed.

Upstairs we ran into Scott, and I tried to say "hi" in between bites of burgers. When we got back downstairs, we ran into Katie, Will, and one of my old roommates and her boyfriend. It was fun catching up with people and trying different variations on that classic comfort food: the burger.

Jeff and I started out by getting our own burgers, but as the evening went on, we would just grab one to share. This was definitely the way to go. I managed to try all but one burger!

Here's the rundown:

Trina's Starlite Lounge
Veal burger with mascarpone butter, caramelized onions, and baby arugula

KO Prime
KO burger with cheese, cherry pepper sauce, and house-cured bacon

This was Jeff's favorite burger. I didn't love the first bite, but it got better after that. The cherry pepper sauce added a nice kick, and I'm all about the house-cured bacon.

The Gallows
Flat patty burger with American cheese, grilled onions, iceberg lettuce, and homemade pickles

I first tried The Gallows' burger at the Boston Food Bloggers launch party. I liked it then and liked it at the Burger Battle too.

Charlie's Kitchen
Charlie's Kitchen ultimate Angus bacon and blue cheese burger

My burger picture came out awful, so I'll spare you, but I thought the bun was really good. The burger was okay but a little overwhelmed by the blue cheese.

The Bristol Lounge
Sirloin burger topped with foie torchon on a buttered, grilled bun with a potato ring

Oh man, this was my favorite! It was hard to take a bite and get some of that potato ring too but so worth it. The burger was juicy and flavorful, and I could have eaten a full-size one. It seems like I'm not the only one who thought this because this burger took first place!

Aged sirloin and short rib burger

Garden at the Cellar
Grilled beef burger with cheese sauce, bacon bits, and a flaky biscuit bun

The biscuit in place of the bun was a risky bet here, and while I wanted to love this burger because I love Garden at the Cellar, it just didn't work for me. The burger had a texture more like meatloaf (wasn't that Fabio's downfall too?), and I need a real burger bun. I would love that biscuit with sausage gravy for breakfast though!

Sel de la Terre
Bread, cow, pig, cheese, secret sauce

Classic burger

The Butcher Shop
Archer Angus beef burger, house made brioche bun, smoked candied tomato, Cabot Cloth Bound Cheddar, "special sauce," and house made spicy pickles

This was my second favorite. I was kind of sold once I read that it had smoked candied tomatoes, and upon tasting it, I was really sold. We actually chatted with chef for a few minutes while we waited for a new tray of burgers to come up. I've been wanting to check out The Butcher Shop for a while, and if the burger is any indication of the food, I know I'll love it there.

Blue Ginger
Asian sloppy Joe with crispy onions and sambal avocado Greek yogurt cream sauce

Terrible picture. Delicious sloppy Joe. Okay, so I picked this burger as my third favorite because I really loved the flavors, but as you can tell, it wasn't really a burger. Ming Tsai made sure to tell us that not everyone would pick this burger... because not everyone has taste. At one point, he also told me I was crowding him, and I felt like such a jerk for being in his way, but then he told me he was just joking. He definitely has a great sense of humor.

Island Creek Oyster Bar
Vermont beef and cheddar, house made bacon, fried oysters, pickled onion, 
and horseradish aioli on a poppy seed brioche bun

I didn't try this one, but it won third place! And I heard the fried oysters on top were tasty!

The Burger Battle was a lot of fun. We did some mingling, chatting, and chowing and then cast our votes for our favorites. The Bristol Lounge stole the show for the second year in a row! Sel de la Terre came in second, and Island Creek Oyster Bar nabbed third.

I'm sure that the score cards are so simple so that votes can be tallied quickly after all the burgers are eaten, but I would have loved a more complex rating system so I could have scored the burgers based on flavor, how well they were cooked, accompaniments, type of bun, etc. There were different things I liked about different burgers.

Full disclosure: I had press passes to this event thanks to the lovely Nicole Kanner of All Heart PR.

Have you ever attended an event like this where you get to rate the dishes you try? Which one would have been your favorite burger based on the description?