Now feels like a good time for the next edition of The Swill, doesn't it? Herein, certified sommelier and Hip Tastes book and blog author, Courtney Cochran, brings you the latest gossip and findings from the wide world of wine. Her latest installment is what happens when sommeliers stop being polite, and start eating burgers. Hella burgers. I'm talking 8 burgers. Via Con Dios, Courtney!. [Photos: Courtney Cochran]
Burger week brought a challenge such as I’d never before seen, called for reserves of strength I didn’t know I had. I tasted eight burgers; nine, if you count McDonald’s.
I tried these burgers Tuesday with more than a dozen beers and wines at Mission Beach Café, where the lovely staff gave my burger team and me a cherry table in the front and took fab care of us as we noshed our way through some of the best patties in town. I knew the burger frenzy had reached a crescendo of sorts when I was surprised (ambushed?) at MBC by a coterie of Burger BFF bloggers, who swooned with excitement over our mega burger spread.
Big thanks go out to host MBC and to those who participated on site or virtually with your own burger + wine/beer pairings using the hash tag #burgerarmy. With no further ado, the gluttonous (but good, oh-so-good) results.
The Pickup Artist
The Monk’s Kettle
Best Pairing: Ayinger Bavarian Dark Lager
Monk’s burger made me go weak in the knees. It was just so juicy, rich and full of caramelized-onion-and-crispy-bacon goodness that I scarfed down more than half of it before I could stop myself (rookie burger tasting move, as I still had eight to go). Its deep smoky-caramelized flavors were a home run with Monk’s Ayinger Bavarian Dark, the beer redolent with frothy bubbles that harmonized just right with the expertly-toasted-yet-still-pliant bun. #seductiontastessogood
Mission Beach Café
Best Pairing: Pey Marin “The Forager” Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
MBC’s burger paired a pleasant, not-overly-intense smoky flavor with lots of gooey cheese and the best meat-to-bun ratio of the gourmet burgers (read: massive but still easy to handle). It was also the most versatile of the “gourmet” bunch when it came to pairing, working well with several light to medium beers (Lagunitas Pils was a standout) and this fine Pinot from the spot’s list.
The ClassicBig Mouth Burger
Best Pairing: Clos Saron “Tickled Pink” Rosé
Big Mouth’s burger scored points for simplicity, and I found its crisp raw onion, fresh tomato, ketchup and tangy pickle a fresh-flavored respite from the more intensely flavored burgers (with heaps of blue cheese, bacon, etc.). Of all the pours on hand, I found the Clos Saron Rosé (from Monk’s list) the best match with Big Mouth, the wine’s brisk acidity a delicious answer to the burger’s raw veggies and pickle.
Best Pairing: Lagunitas Pils Czech Style Pilsner
The big flavor in Heirloom’s burger comes from caramelized onions, and this rich, sweet-earthy combo worked fabulously with numerous sips, especially the Lagunitas Pils out of Petaluma. The beer created a cool creaming texture on the palate that – along with its light, low-bitterness profile and high acidity – cut right through the burger’s intensity, leaving me feeling refreshed. One of my fav pairings of the day.
Bender’s Bar & Grill
Best Pairing: Preston Dry Creek Valley Syrah perfectly
The dive bar burger of the bunch was straightforward-tasting with a nice smoky overtone that really came into its own when paired with a Preston Dry Creek Valley Syrah. Meaty and smoky in its own right, this full-bodied red rounded out the burger’s flavor profile, bringing in red fruit notes and spice thanks to its oak aging. A tasty hi-lo triumph.
The Merlot ?er
Best Pairing: Cannonball California Merlot
For the uninitiated, this burger brings a lot to the table, with ingredients ranging from fried egg to bacon. In a word: it’s a lot. It paired best with a hedonistic Merlot from Cannonball, which really brought the burger’s juiciness – somewhat muted by the egg, etc. – back into the fore. Merci, Merlot.
Best Pairing: Green Flash Brewing Company Tripel Style Ale
This high-alcohol brew (9.7% ABV) boasts a piquant fruity-spicy flavor profile, meaning: it’s a sit-up-and-check-me-out beer. Good thing, too, because Sycamore’s sliders are a rowdy bunch, matching up super beefy flavors with blue cheese and (wait for it?again) caramelized onions. This brew was the only thing on the table that could handle these sliders’ intensity. Score, a direct hit.
The Sleeper Hit
Best Pairing: Radikon Ribolla Gialla, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Italy
The trusty McD’s cheeseburger has long been a favorite of mine. Maybe it’s because a college boyfriend used to spoof the Hamburglar for kicks, snatching burgers from drive-through patrons in full Hamburglar costume (it was cool until he got arrested, anyway). I found this burger’s pasty patty and bland orange-y cheese deliciously elevated by a glass of Radikon Ribolla Gialla, one of the cult-cool “orange” wines coming out of northeastern Italy right now (and brought into MBC by a wine geek friend).
Extended skin maceration and natural yeast fermentation gives this funky-fabulous pour more body than a typical white, a hint of spice and a lovely savory quality. Suddenly, I was feasting on something to talk about.
Cautionary Note: Due to the massive caloric intake from all these burgers I was unable to sleep Tuesday night, and lay awake into the wee hours with a subtle eau de grease oozing from my pores. I did this for you, Eater fans. And I will never, ever do it again (sorry, Carolyn).
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to the gym.