The Burger Lover’s Ultimate Burger

Q San Francisco
April/May 1996
Pages 42-43

The Burger Lover’s Ultimate Burger

There are swimsuit issues for sports magazines, for fashion magazines, for car and truck magazines, even for pet magazines. As best I can tell, nobody has ever done a swimsuit issue for a food and wine magazine. I’m going to do the next best thing. Welcome to the swimsuit edition of the food and wine column. The priority here is to find a beach. Now, for those of you who don’t happen to live on an ocean coast, a lakefront beach or riverbank will prove perfectly suitable. I grew up with outings on the Huron River in southern Michigan, so I know this works. Wear appropriately skimpy clothing, don’t mousse your hair (windblown or mussed is the proper look for beaches) and bring along your local all-purpose insect repellent.

While cold picnics are the easiest route to travel here – and nobody enjoys a wedge of Camembert, genoa salami, piccoline olives, baguettes and champagne more than I do – anyone can pack a cold picnic. You and I will be equipped for a proper cookout.

First, build a fire. I like to use a hibachi, but any small grill, or dig a small sandpit, will do. This serves three purposes. It gives you something to cook over and it will keep you warm as the shadows lengthen into early evening. Most importantly, it will bring down a cadre of state troopers who start by telling you about the rules of the beach and end by joining you in a game of beach blanket twister.

After finishing your man or woman in a uniform fantasy, it’s time to get cooking. The obvious all-American choices are hot dogs and hamburgers. I much prefer the latter, so, without further rambling, here is my definitive guide to the world of Burgers on the Beach – for those carnivorous and those herbivorous.

The Carnivore’s Ultimate Burger

1-1/2 pound sirloin, coarsely chopped
1/4 pound foie gras paté
1 small onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup mixed, chopped herbs (the classics – parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme – are perfect here)
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 small red onion, dijon mustard, sourdough rolls

Mix all but last line of ingredients together. I like the coarsely chopped beef because it has more bite to it than finely ground. The paté will add flavor, fat, and help hold it all together. You can use different herbs if you prefer, adjust the salt and pepper to your tastes. Make into four patties and grill to the appropriate doneness for you and your guests. Given that you’re using good sirloin, err on the rare side. Top with a slice of red onion, mustard and serve on sourdough rolls.

The Pescivore’s Ultimate Burger

3/4 pound fresh salmon, chopped
3/4 pound fresh tuna, chopped
Juice and grated peel of 1 lemon
2 eggs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup black olives, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup chives, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 tomato, dijon mustard and/or mayonnaise, sourdough rolls

Mix all but last line of ingredients together. Make into four patties. Salmon and tuna make a great combination in a burger – I’d cook this medium rare, but that’s me. The eggs will hold it together, make sure the patties are tightly packed so they don’t fall apart. Serve topped with sliced tomato, a little mustard and mayo, on, once again, a good sourdough roll.

The Herbivore’s Ultimate Burger

1/4 pound mushrooms, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, grated
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon dill, chopped
2 tablespoons tahini
3/4 cups chickpeas
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
salsa, sourdough rolls

This one requires a little advance cooking, and a few more ingredients than the others, but it’s worth it. Even meat eaters will love this version of a veggie burger. Saute the first four ingredients in a little olive oil till soft and lightly browned. Remove from heat, cool, add the other ingredients, and form into patties. This will make about eight burgers, but it’s too hard to make in smaller quantities. You can freeze any extras and save them for future outings. Grill and serve topped with your favorite salsa – on, what else? A sourdough roll.

The Burger Lover’s Ultimate Wine Picks

Now the truth is, being at a beach calls for champagne. Serve it pre-dinner, while everyone is waiting for those burgers to come off the grill. Being a nice hot summer day, go for something on the light side with lots of acidity and fruit. If you can find it, Ployez-Jacquemart Brut Extra Quality is my top pick. I’d also go for Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs or Champagne Deutz Brut. On the domestic front, I’m particularly fond of both Iron Horse Brut and Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs. If you’re feeling particularly budget conscious, go for a sparkling wine from Spain, I tend to like the Codorníu Brut Clasico.

Now you could continue to serve sparkling wine throughout dinner. But the carnivore burger just screams out for red wine. From the French side, I’ve always felt that the best hamburger wine is Château Greysac. There’s something about a good Bordeaux and beef, and this wine just captures the right combination of flavors to go with a burger. The paté and herbs in the burger add a dimension of flavor that works especially well with more rustic styled wines. A nice lighter style Rioja from Spain, like Bodegas Montecillo Viña Cumbrero or a fruity and spicy Cantina Zaccagnini “dal tralcetto” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo take top honors from the rest of Europe. Back in the U.S. of A., Acacia Pinot Noir and Lolonis Petite Syrah from California or Palmer Cabernet Franc from New York top my list.

The salmon and tuna burger can go either way, red or white. As regular readers know, I’m fond of many pink wines, which is where I’d go with this one. From Provençe, Domaines Ott Château Romassan Rosé “Cuvee Marine” Bandol with its spicy, herbal flavors gets my first pick. Julián Chivite Gran Feudo Rosé from Navarra, Spain comes in a close second. And for those, like me, who just can’t resist sparkling wines, especially at the beach, Argyle Brut Rosé from Oregon can’t be beat in the out of doors.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told how difficult it is to pick wines for vegetarian cuisine. And one “macrobiotic” customer of mine spent five minutes giving me a lecture on the evils of alcohol while he downed his third cola of the meal and asked for another. Nonsense. Vegetarian cuisine is the easiest to pick for – the flavors are fresh and bright, the herbal and vegetal qualities match some of the best that wine has to offer. This veggie burger can also go either way, and, in truth, almost any of the wines above would go well. But to particularly accentuate the flavors, try the Z Moore Gewurztraminer or the Jekel Vineyards Johannisberg Riesling, both from California. My favorite German Rieslings come from J.J. Christofel, for those of you into spending a little more. On the red side, a lighter Pinot noir from Burgundy, like Château de la Charrière Santenay would be a good choice. William Baccala Estate Merlot from Napa is another winner.

Q San Francisco magazine premiered in late 1995 as a ultra-slick, ultra-hip gay lifestyle magazine targeted primarily for the San Francisco community. It was launched by my friends Don Tuthill and Robert Adams, respectively the publisher and editor-in-chief, who had owned and run Genre magazine for several years prior. They asked me to come along as the food and wine geek, umm, editor, for this venture as well. In order to devote their time to Passport magazine, their newest venture, they ceased publication of QSF in early 2003.


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