You know you want it. The only question is, how.
Maybe it’s the recession, maybe it’s the rehabilitation of beef’s reputation, maybe it’s just the primal need to put meat on a bun, but Brooklyn is in the midst of its biggest burger renaissance since the invention of the George Foreman grill.
The wider availability of grass-fed, organic beef has certainly brought some vegetarians back over from the Bark Side, but the main reason why everyone is jumping on the patty wagon is taste.
“The fact is, burgers are America’s favorite food,” said Lee Schrager, founder and director of the New York Wine and Food Festival. “I never met a burger I didn’t like.”
Schrager, of course, is biased; his two-year-old festival, a spin-off of his popular South Beach version, will hold its second annual Burger Bash in DUMBO this fall — and tickets go on sale on Monday.
But bias or not, Schrager is doing something to champion Brooklyn’s burgers. Last year’s event, as readers of The Brooklyn Paper well recall, forgot to include a Brooklyn hamburger (until our staff and Borough President Markowitz cried, “Fowl!”). This year, Schrager’s licking his wound by putting on the menu burgers from two Brooklyn loin landmarks, Dumont in Williamsburg and Mullane’s Pub in Fort Greene.
As you might imagine, we headed to both places immediately.
Mullane’s specializes in fancy toppings and funny names (“Elliotts Burger,” for example, features crispy onions, cheddar cheese and a horseradish sauce, while the “Fort Greene Burger” is covered in red pepper puree, caramelized onions and mozzarella).
Meanwhile, Dumont (and its spin-off, Dumont Burger) focusses on simplicity.
“It’s a slightly leaner mix of chuck and some brisket, with a secret marinade thrown in,” said Dave Perazzo, the chef du cuisine at the Union Avenue eatery. “But it all starts with quality meat. The simpler the better. If you start throwing in crazy stuff, all you’ll taste is the crazy stuff, not the meat.”
Deirdre Finnegan, who co-owns Mullane’s with her husband, agrees that the meat is the key. She gets it delivered fresh every day from Patty’s Meat Market on Seventh Avenue in Dyker Heights — an 80-percent meat/20-percent fat mix that she swears by.
“The toppings are just to keep it interesting,” she said, “so it’s not the standard pub burger.”
Over at Morton’s, the high-end steakhouse, Executive Chef Joe Raiola also goes for an 80-20 meat-fat mix.
“That’s just enough fat to hold the burger together,” he said. “Any more fat would be greasy and shrink down too much. Any less, and it’s too dry.”
He wouldn’t reveal what cuts of meat he uses, but he did give away one state secret: he pours in a little tomato juice, and oils the outside of the burger before tossing it onto the blazing hot grill.
If it all starts with the meat, there’s no better place to start than with Eddie Dmytrow, owner of Patty’s (and, conveniently, his last name is pronounced “d’MEAT-ro”).
“We have the best meat, I won’t lie to you,” he said. “It’s a mix of three parts chuck, two parts top round and one pound of sirloin. It comes out beautiful.”
And it pays to listen to Dmytrow when it comes to your burger this summer.
“You can go to stores and get something fattier, but it’ll shrink to nothing,” he said. “And how are you going to have friends that way? I could sell cheaper meat, too, but they mix in all kinds of other stuff in there. It comes from out west, but I don’t know when it was ground up.”
Experts (and we are not only talking about ourselves here — we made calls on this!) agree with Dmytrow that lean meat has no business being made into hamburger patties.
“A burger has to be juicy and fatty — it’s what you crave,” said Claire Stewart, a lecturer of culinary arts at City Tech in Downtown Brooklyn, which has a surprisingly good restaurant program.
That said, Stewart (who always mixes some Worcestershire sauce into her meat) said we are in a golden age for burgers — “provided we don’t narrow the definition of what a burger is,” she said, ticking off a list that included lamb burgers, chorizo burgers and even veggie burgers.
“If you’re a vegetarian,” she asked, “why should you be denied the nice feeling of taking something hot off the grill?”
Um, cause you’re a freakin’ vegetarian?
“Uh, OK, I guess,” Stewart demurred. “But there are some great ones out there.”
Not on our watch.
New York Wine and Food Festival Burger Bash will be at the Tobacco Warehouse [inside Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park, enter on Water Street at Dock Street in DUMBO, (866) 969-2933] on Oct. 9, 7 pm. Tickets are $200 and go on sale on Monday, June 15; Dumont [432 Union Ave., between Devoe Street and Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg, (718) 486-7717]; Mullane’s Pub [71 Lafayette Ave., at S. Elliott Place in Fort Greene, (718) 797-7606]; Patty’s Meat Market [7917 Seventh Ave., near Ft. Hamilton Parkway in Dyker Heights, (718) 836-4400].