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2013 Burger Brawl

I was so upset that I had to miss the Burger Brawl last year that I made sure that I did not miss it again this year! As soon as I found out, I got my tickets and waited (impatiently), plotting all the delicious burgers I was going to enjoy. In case you’re not familiar, the Burger Brawl was started in 2011 by Restauranteur Rob Wasserman of Rouge/500 Degrees fame (who I got the pleasure of meeting by accident while taking a much needed burger time-out), and the proceeds go to support local Philadelphia-area schools by constructing new technology labs. Past winners include London Grill and Bobby Flay (which just so happen to be two of my favs).

I’d already tried a handful of the competitors that were participating this year and my strategy was to cover the burger bases that I hadn’t touched on yet like Misconduct Tavern and Percy Street BBQ (whose burger topped with ham and a cured egg yolk just happened to be my favorite of the bunch).

Percy St BBQ’s burger entry

There were all kinds of burgers on display in the competition, in many different shapes and sizes. Some decided to go the “slider” (or “mini burger”, if you want to get technical) route like Rouge and 10 Arts.

Rouge “slider”

Others were grilling up full sized patties and then slicing them into halves (like Table 31) or quarters (like The Industry); a slightly better strategy and easier to get out to the masses.

Table 31’s Burger Entry

The Industry Burger

There were burgers with crazy toppings like South Philly Tap Room’s Ham-Hamburger with Scott Schroeder’s Super Ham Salad, and Silk City’s Banh Mi Burger, which on top of the Vietnamese influences, contained a layer of liver pate! (Plus they both had awesome, detailed burger illustrations!)

I made it about halfway through the burgers before I eventually gave up and decided to take a timeout for about an hour. But unfortunately by the time I was ready for Round 2, most of the burger stations left were all out of meat! Luckily, I didn’t miss too many that I hadn’t already had like Alla Spina, The Dandelion and London Grill. The one I was most disappointed about missing was George Sabatino’s burger (his station was near the entrance when I came in, but his grill wasn’t set up yet). Luckily, Morgan’s Pier re-opens this Thursday, so I’ll have all summer long to try out this crazy burger that is supposed to be dipped in liquid nitrogen and deep fried!

So who were the big winners? The People’s Choice award went to Lucky’s Last Chance of Manayunk for their Peanut Butter, Bacon & Jelly burger! (Nice to get some neighborhood pride going!) I know that combination of things on a burger sounds kind of scary, but it was actually really good – and I don’t even like jelly!

Lucky’s Last Chance

And the Judge’s Choice went to Fat Jack’s BBQ for their “Ultimate Memphis Mauler Burger” topped with… Well, just read the description below; it’s certainly a mouthful:

Ultimate Memphis Mauler Burger

My indigestion considered, the Burger Brawl was an amazing event with an even more amazing turn out. I definitely can’t wait to check it out again next year – Hopefully it will be even bigger and better! And while you’re waiting for next year’s Burger Brawl, check out the rest of this year’s awesome burger action on our new Facebook page (Don’t forget to “LIKE” us while you’re there!): Facebook.com/ASideOfKetchup

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South in yo’ Mouth

Last night I was invited to the Four Roses Whiskey Tasting at Percy Street Barbeque, which also doubled as an unveiling of their delicious new menu items. While the menu had been primarily focused on Texas style BBQ, a lot of other competition in the BBQ arena has started to pop up around Philly (Most notably Stephen Starr’s Fette Sau). Looking to stay ahead of the curve, Chef Erin O’Shea has spiced up a bunch of Southern favorites while still keeping your tummy happy with delicious smoked meats.

First up were a variety of appetizers:

Poached shrimp with spicy pickled vegetables, beer vinegar, saltines. Just think of it as a Hillbilly shrimp cocktail!
 
Lamb ribs with braised sauerkraut and apples; so tender & falling off the bone.
Pork Belly with house made potato bread, cured egg yolk, maple syrup; I could eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Fried Virginia oysters with sausage and grits; The oyster was so light and moist considering it was fried. This was probably my favorite of the starter dishes.

Meanwhile, we were busy blind sampling five different bourbons from Four Roses’ lineup. We learned that Four Roses uses 5 proprietary yeast strains with two separate mashbills to produce 10 different bourbon blends, each with their own unique character, spiciness, and rich fruity flavors. Each of these bourbons are aged in different distilleries throughout Kentucky, and depending on temperature, evaporation and other environmental factors , each bourbon has a different taste. We were asked to rate each of the 5 samples from 1 (being our least favorite) to 5 (most favorite), and at the end our results were tallied and that would determine which barrel Percy Street will be using this upcoming season.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with the Philadelphia Whiskey Society, so I’ve gotten used to tasting different whiskeys and adapting my palate.  We were first asked to take a drop from each whiskey and rub it in our palms to heat it up, and then smell our palms to detect the different fragrances in the whiskey. Then, nose the whiskey with your mouth slightly open to pick up more of the aromas (kind of the way snakes use their tongues to smell, right?). Finally, the sipping! With your tongue pressed slightly behind the back of your bottom teeth, letting the liquid slide into the middle of your tongue to get a good “mouth feel”; determining the burn or smoothness, texture, floral or woody-ness, etc. and letting it coat your tongue thoroughly as it works its way though all your flavor receptors. After sampling a bit of each whiskey, I then added a few drops of water to see how it would open the bourbons up. Some of them improved slightly, but for others, not even water could change my mind. I went with the whiskey in the Green dotted glass, which turned out to be the overall winner. I twas just very smooth and sweet and there wasn’t a lot of burn afterward (Percy Street will be revealing the exact name of the bourbon and its distillery location this week, with the barrel arrive in 4-6weeks).

Just when I thought everything was said and done, each of our tables was delivered Percy Street’s epic meat tray; The Lockhart – several slabs of brisket, half a chicken and a handful of ribs, along with five sides. Holy cow (and pig)!
Baked beans, sauerkraut, housemade coleslaw, German potato salad and collard greens: yum!

After all those amazing appetizers, I wasn’t even sure if I had room to eat any of it, but I took a chicken leg, a small rib, some brisket, all the sides and went to town. There were six people at our table and we received three Lockhart trays between us. We were a table full of ladies and could easily have probably just shared one or two between the group; there was so much food left over! (Although I did look around at the Men’s tables and their plates were pretty much licked clean, lol) I’m pretty sure I left in a meat coma and woke up this morning smelling like BBQ, but it was so damn delicious. I definitely can’t wait to get back over there to try more of the pork belly, grits and of course, our specially selected Four Roses bourbon. Keep your eyes on their Twitter feed for the whiskey name and its arrival at the restaurant!

Queue for BBQ

If you work in a fairly large city, you probably already know that if you don’t bring your lunch with you that you’re destined to spend a good portion of your lunch hour fighting the other throngs of lunch-less office dwellers in the quest to eat. (And you find yourself spending more time waiting to actually get your food then you do eating it.) Oh sure, you could try to time it so you beat the rush. Or maybe  you go a little bit later once things have settled down. But there’s at least a dozen other people all using your same trial & error method.

I work in Center City Philadelphia and my main option down the block from my office is the Market at the Comcast Center, which provides of a plethora of options from Mexican to Chinese to Sushi to Jewish deli sandwiches to a DiBruno Bros outpost. But one of my favorite places – and a pretty recent addition to the market – is Percy Street BBQ. If you’ve ever been to the Percy Street location on South St, then you already know how amazing their food is. I mean, why get a McRib when you can get the Percy Street boneless pork sandwich for just a few bucks more? (Which is HUGE and you could probably save half of it for dinner, but I’m a fat kid so I ate the whole thing in one sitting.)

Heaven on a Hoagie Roll

They’ve changed up their menu items since they first opened this past winter (sadly, that delicious beast above is no longer featured), but the quality is unbeatable. And even with a side and a drink, you’re still coming out just around $10. So if you’re in the Comcast Center area and looking for a lunch that won’t break the bank, definitely pop by Percy Street!

Real & Delicious Pulled Pork for only $7!? It’s true!

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