Cravings Blog

Plant-based burgers masquerading as meat are all the rage

Michael’s on East chef Jamil Pineda created a bison-chorizo-mushroom burger porcini-rubbed and topped with pan-roasted trumpet mushrooms, monterey pepper jack cheese, tomato and sweet onion relish, baby romaine, and creole mayo. The final creation, an entry in the James Beard Foundation Blended Burger Project, is served on a Tom Cat brioche bun. The burger is served with truffle fries and house-made ketchup.
Michael’s on East chef Jamil Pineda created a bison-chorizo-mushroom burger porcini-rubbed and topped with pan-roasted trumpet mushrooms, monterey pepper jack cheese, tomato and sweet onion relish, baby romaine, and creole mayo. The final creation, an entry in the James Beard Foundation Blended Burger Project, is served on a Tom Cat brioche bun. The burger is served with truffle fries and house-made ketchup. Provided photo

For meat lovers, a plant-based burger sounds like a nightmare. But Michael’s on East chef Jamil Pineda designed a burger with texture, flavor and accoutrements that do not disappoint.

The burger, made from High Plains Ranch bison, chorizo and beech mushrooms has a mouthfeel quite similar to a beef burger. And bison has a stack of health benefits over cow meat: lower saturated fat and total fat, reduced cholesterol and sodium, fewer calories and slightly more protein.

Pineda’s burger is porcini-rubbed and topped with pan-roasted trumpet mushrooms, Monterey pepper jack cheese, tomato and sweet onion relish, baby romaine and creole mayo. Diners are encouraged to squeeze the fluffy Tom Cat brioche buns together to join the burger’s flavors for an ultimate bite. The combination of sweet relish and creole mayo make for a spicy-sweet flavor unexpected but welcomed in a burger experience, in my humble opinion.

Pineda’s creation is part of the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project. Now in its second year, the annual contest challenges chefs to entice guests with mushroom-blended burgers, a healthier yet unorthodox combination for most American palates. I’m not a mushroom person usually, but I couldn’t pick out the mushroom flavor from Pineda’s burger.

“Broadly offered on American menus, the beef-and-mushroom-blended burger, otherwise known as ‘The Blend,’ was conceived of and incubated by the Healthy Menus R&D Collaborative (HMC), an educational initiative of high-volume culinary leaders developed by the Culinary Institute of America in partnership with its founding member, the Mushroom Council,” reads the JBF project info page. “The Blend concept is an example (of) the innovative and strategic culinary insights that are used to address the substantial health and environmental imperatives that face the food service industry.”

The blended burger will be on the Michael’s on East menu until July 31. Fans of Pineda’s creation are encouraged to vote for it at http://www.jamesbeard.org/blendedburgerproject/vote and use the #BlendedBurgerProject hashtag when posting on social media.

Michael’s on East is one of two restaurants on Florida’s Gulf Coast participating in the James Beard Foundation Blended Burger Project. O’Maddy’s Bar and Grille in Gulfport is also participating. Seventeen Florida restaurants have entered the nationwide running. The five chefs with the highest vote tally will win a trip to New York City to cook their blended burgers at the annual James Beard Foundation Food Conference on Oct. 17 and 18.

The James Beard Foundation isn’t the only organization that’s caught on to the fact that foodies nowadays are craving and demanding healthier food. This week, Impossible Foods launched a bleeding meatless burger at a San Francisco restaurant. How can a meatless burger bleed? You ask. Science!

According to their website, Impossible Foods spent 3 1/2 years researching what makes meat so “craveable.”

“Our biggest discovery was that a molecule called heme is the “magic ingredient” that gives meat its craveable flavor and smell. Although it’s exceptionally abundant in meat, heme is essential to every branch of life, including plants. A heme-containing protein naturally found in plants gives our meat its truly meaty flavor.” It’s also the heme, extracted from a soybean gene, that makes this plant burger “bleed.” Coconut oil replicates fat globules in the plant-meat, made of wheat and potato proteins.

Impossible Foods seeks to better Americans’ diets and detract from the inefficient and resource-heavy meat processing industry. NPR reported investments into Impossible Foods by Google Ventures and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, among others, have given the company $182 million in seed funding. The Impossible Burger will debut in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles this summer.

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