Burger Bash 2016 Winners: Morimoto and Jersey Dawg (and Rachael Ray)
With a sandy seaside backdrop, dozens of roaring grills, and tables outfitted with ketchup and mustard, the scene was set for a Burger Bash tonight at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, which is celebrating its 15th birthday in Miami all weekend long with the likes of Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis, Guy Fieri and Alex Guarnaschelli. As burger lovers packed the expansive tents and got their hands on the between-the-bun creations before them, FN Dish was on hand to take in the sights, smoky smells and, of course, all the beefy, meaty tastes that only this fan-favorite Bash could provide.
Rachael Ray was once again on hand to host the sold-out tasting, and this year proved especially significant, as it marked the 10th anniversary of Burger Bash. In celebration of this landmark milestone, the Festival team wowed Rachael on stage with not only her own Bash award but also an oversize burger cake made by none other than cake-baker extraordinaire Buddy Valastro. FN Dish was on hand tonight and we caught up with Rachael to dish about the longtime success of the event. "I think that the Burger Bash is a fun idea because we challenge the world's greatest chefs to put their talents on a, well, on a hug — on a bun," she told us. "And it makes food more accessible and presents the chefs in a whole different light."
In true Festival fashion, this year's Bash featured not only beefy burgers oozing with gooey cheese, but also some next-level side dishes, like plantain chips and corn pudding. It was up to Bash guests to pick their favorite bite among the burgers and nominate it for the coveted People's Choice Award, while Rachael brought in a panel of burger enthusiasts — including Neil Patrick Harris, David Burtka and Marcus Samuelsson — to taste each offering and dole out the Schweid & Sons Very Best Burger Award.
Food Network's own Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and his titular restaurant earned the title of People's Choice Award tonight with a Menchi Katsu Burger. This crispy-on-the-outside patty was breaded a la the traditional Japanese katsu style and fried until golden.
The judges awarded their sought-after Schweid & Sons Very Best Burger Award to Jersey Dawg, which hails from right here in Miami, not New Jersey. The local eatery's Classic Slider, featuring a subtle sweetness thanks to the onions, was rounded out with a meaty chili on the side.
Chopped Grill Masters judge Chef Tim Love was on hand to rep his Texas eatery Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, and he delivered a taste of the South with a Chicken Fried Steak Burger. Finished with the requisite gravy of traditional chicken-fried steak, this moist patty was tucked inside a thick, crunchy breading.
At many booths the name of the game was cheese. The beloved burger chain Shake Shake brought a creamy cheddar cheese sauce to the Bash with its smoky Bacon Cheddarshack, while the Fooq's team guaranteed a gooey finish by torching its Jarlsberg-topped Fooq's Burger (pictured above) right on the spot.
Michael Mina 74 at Fontainebleau from Miami Beach delivered all the tried-and-true burger elements, like bacon, cheese and onions, in its Michael Mina 74 Steak Burger (pictured above), but they each featured supercharged flavor. The bacon was smoked, the American cheese a gooey sauce, and the onions sweet and soft.
Last year's People's Choice winner, Miami's Pincho Factory, returned to the Bash with a Guayabera Burger, piled high with "mojo onion" and a sweet-tangy barbecue sauce spiked with guava.
In town from Chicago, Bo's Burgers brought a taste of the sea with its Bo's "West Indies Style" Surf and Turf Cheese Burger (pictured above), which featured a topping of succulent crab.
Double the meat, double the taste, right? That proved true with The Company Burger's offering (pictured above). This New Orleans-based eatery served up a two-patty burger piled with pickles — and rounded it out with a piece of carrot cake for a ready-to-go dessert.
Not unlike a burger patty in its shape and texture, the meatball was the star of the bun in the Kobe Beef Meatball Burger (pictured above) from Prime 112 from Miami Beach. This moist meat was finished with a cheese blanket and plenty of tomato sauce.
Miami Beach's Quality Meats also delivered a next-level take on a burger in the form of its Quality Meats Patty Melt Deluxe (pictured above). In place of the usual bun there were slices of toasty bread, and to finish, a squirt of creamy "special sauce" on top.
Though there was indeed no shortage of smoky, savory flavors to try tonight, there was also a strong showing of sweet treats. Jacques Torres, famed chocolatier, handed out a craveworthy Chocolate Sable Cookie as well as an oh so thick Frozen Hot Chocolate, while Valastro impressed fans with his can't-miss cannoli.
Keep coming back to FN Dish all weekend long for insider coverage of the 2016 South Beach Wine & Food Festival.