I must admit that the thought of writing my first Burger Love column was pretty intimidating. No food event evokes so many differing opinions; even I have conflicted views about the whole thing. This particular Burger Love, however, seems rather subdued compared to previous years. Whether this is a reflection of burger burn-out or just an indication that Burger Love has become an integral part of our Springtime rituals, I’m not sure. But, what I do know is that I’ve managed to eat some great burgers without the distractions of previous years, something of a pleasant surprise.
First up, an admission: of the ten or so burgers I ate, I didn’t have a bad one. Maybe it was my selection process (I tend to gravitate to the simpler burgers), but I was consistently impressed. I’ll talk about my burger philosophy before moving onto a couple of burgers that I think epitomized that and one that didn’t but that I loved anyway.
When I picture my ideal burger it represents what I call “The Ratio”. For me, the ideal burger is 1:1:1 (toppings to patty to bun). Once violated, this ratio becomes hard to return to. Add bacon, add a big wedge of cheese and use a huge bun: all of these additions risk messing up the ratio to the point of no return.
Under my formula, the perfect burger keeps it simple: quality and good balance are essential. There’s no space to hide behind a million sauces or a big bun. The two burgers that I tried that captured this ideal were the Peter Pan burger at the Brickhouse on Sydney Street in Charlottetown and the Wheelhouse in Georgetown.
The Peter Pan burger was as simple as it gets. Chef Seth Shaw should be applauded for serving up a solid cheeseburger during an event that promotes excess (no ice cream cone on this burger). I appreciate the 5oz patty which retained its juiciness and the basic but high quality toppings. If I had a complaint, I’d say that this burger didn’t need bacon, but that’s probably heresy. Most of all, I appreciate that this burger embraced its diner heritage not only in form but in its $11 price tag. Chef Seth’s burger would be one of the most solid burgers in town any day of the week.
The second burger that does justice to the ratio is The Amalgamator from the Wheelhouse in Georgetown. Terry Nabuurs of Terry’s Berries fame is no stranger to Burger Love, his burger last year, which featured a blueberry infused bun and a bacon-wrapped scallop garnish, was easily one of my favourites. Despite the fact that this burger featured a larger 7oz patty, I found it well-balanced and delicious. The key: a delicious mushroom duxelle that tied everything together. A great burger is only assisted by great sides, I had the mac and cheese, but there were some other cool options including deep-fried mashed potatoes.
Nigel Thompson of Sneaky Cheats embraces excess. His Big Homie did not follow the ratio, but I didn’t care, it was the only one I had twice. Nigel used a conservative 5oz patty, but the combination of his mother’s bread and butter pickles, pimento cheese, crispy onions and a garlic aioli was insanely good. This burger was proof that sometimes rules are made to be broken and I couldn’t be happier about that.
Another Burger Love in the books. I appreciate the more subdued nature of this years affair. I’m also happy that there are increasingly more options for the non-burger lovers out there. We are lucky to have vegan options at spots like Stir it Up and My Plum my Duck and spots like the Pilot House that make use of the Beyond Meat patty. I’d like to see this trend continue, Burger Love should be a time to enjoy excess but also reflect on our consumption habits.