Not to far back, someone thought to take the lowly burger to new heights by putting it on a fine dining menu, subbing the resident diner condiments for ultra-posh ingredients. This created an avalanche of fine dining burgers, costing upwards of $40. With all of the buzz around the rediscovered burger, lower priced “gourmet” burger joints popped up for the mainstream folk who don’t want to pay the extragavent price, and now they grace cover after cover of glossy food magazines, every restaurant has a signature one….
So, what makes a gourmet burger? Everybody has their own opinion on what makes a burger great- does that make it a gourmet burger? Do you have to add obnoxiously expensive ingredients? Do you need to have 6 condiments or garnishes with a funk-a-delic name on it? Or is it simply that you need to ram it down peoples throughts that you are trendy and cool, and therefore gourmet?
I’ve had the $2 burger, the $6 burger, the $12 burger, the $16 burger and the $40 burger. I can remember that the $2 burger was, as expected, a $2 burger- bun, meat (hopefully) patty, pickle, ketchup, mustard. The $40 burger was a disappointment- it claimed truffle, aged cheddar, and a host of super-awesome unattainable at your regular joe place stuff. I tasted….nothing noteworthy. As with the $16, and $12 burger, the $40 gourmet burger had so many garnishes, that it was a big, messy, muddled mess of ingredients, nothing was distinctive.
I had the best burger that you can find in the region this past weekend. What I would consider a gourmet burger- it was cooked well, had a good bun, and it tasted like a burger. You can get them every Saturday at the Boyce Farmers Market in Fredericton- or you can take them home and enjoy them during the week. Elke’s BBQ, you guys rock. The seasoning is perfect, they have their signature hole-in-the-center for even cooking, a warmed crusty bun, you choose your toppings (ketchup, curry ketchup, yellow or dijon mustard, sauerkraut, onions or relish), for $3.50. Not only that, you can smell the grilled meat aroma- almost like you did all the work yourself…. Simple and to the point. No identity crisis about being a burger or a fancy appetizer on top of a burger.
Who knows how long Bobby Flay, Hubert Keller, Emeril Lagasse, Marcus Samuelsson and Laurent Tourondel will lend their considerable talent and personalities to the increasingly saturated gourmet burger market? I, for one, hope they move on to reinvigorate something just as mainstream that actually needs it, or even come up with something new… I love a good burger, but can we move on? Perhaps find a new muse?