Boston's burger wars: a new leading contender
I know we have a couple of currently active burger threads, and I thought about adding this post to one of those, but this was too much of a life changing experience to get lost in a 100+ post thread.
I read in one of the other threads that Mistral is serving a burger now. So I prepped with a six-mile run though Lincoln (that climb up Trapelo Road is a killer!), came home and showered, and then head out to Mistral, arriving around 9:00. I was pleasantly surprised to find a near empty bar (Erica, behind the bar, attributed the slowness to the fact that the Celtics, Bruins and Sox all were playing tonight; they do have a couple of TVs over the bar at Mistral, but they insisted on showing the Celtics game even after the outcome no longer was in doubt, even though the Bruins were locked in a 2-2 tie!).
The burger is listed on the bar menu, which indicates that it is available only in the bar and lounge area. It includes fries and aged cheddar cheese, and is priced at $18. I ordered mine, medium rare, and waited patiently, turning down an offer of bread, as I didn't want to risk filling up on anything else.
The burger arrived, and it was a beautiful sight, a large (easily a half pound; perhaps larger) well charred burger, served on a grilled oversized onion roll with lettuce, tomato, pickles and a decent sized pile of skin-on fries. And it was good! The first bite into the lovely crust resulted in a gush of hot juice running down my arm. The flavor was of well seasoned (good hints of pepper) beefy goodness. I'm not sure the cheese really added anything; given the size and flavor of the burger, I don't think I could taste it at all. The fries were good, but I only ate a few, as it took all my effort to work my way through the burger.
This may well be my new best-of-Boston burger. Yes it's expensive at $18, but I though it was well worth it.
I've got another one to add to the mix. I know it's been discussed on this board before, but it's worth mentioning again!
Anyway, not too long ago, my hubby and I went to Craigie on Main. We kept seeing these big, seemingly juicy, burgers come out from the kitchen and we totally wanted one. Having just had the 6 course tasting menu, we were a little full and decided that the next time we went back, we'd test the burger out. Well, last weekend we did go back and we ordered the $18, 8oz., local, grass fed burger. I would venture to say that it's the best, that I've tasted so far, high-end burger in the metro-Boston area. Being so in lust, we had a lot of questions for our waiter.
According to our waiter, the challenge with working with local grass-fed beef is adding flavor. Though the meat is readily available, it is very lean and we all know that fat adds tons of oomph. Though our waiter continued to answer our questions, like where the meat came from, the types of meat involved and the fats used to flavor the beef, we wanted to learn even more, so we searched the internet and found a good posting here: http://www.goodeater.org/2/post/2009/04/cheffing-with-tony-maws-not-just-a-cheeseburger.html. Tony seems to have worked out the challenge very well. Essentially, this is what Tony does to make the perfect burger:
1. Start with three cuts of beef, brisket, short rib and flap meat.
2. Make up for the lack of natural fat by adding pure beef fat, a combination of suet and bone marrow. Genius. The fat content ends up being about 15% - surely not for the dieters among us.
3. Add "umami", essentially a flavor enhancer. For Tony, the perfect umami addition is dehydrated miso paste.
4. Cook in a steam-injected, pressure and temperature controlled C-Vap oven, which locks the moisture inside. Yeah, I don't have one of these either.
5. Brown the meat on both sides.
6. Add accompaniments, black diamond cheddar cheese from Vermont, watercress, deep fried onions and mace ketchup.
7. Serve atop a sesame seed bun with crispy shoestring sweet potatoes.
I will definitely be getting the burger at Craigie on Main again. I did learn a couple of things though. Next time, I will ask for no cheese. The cheese was delicious, but I scraped most of it off, wanting only to pay particular attention to just the flavor of the meat. I will also be more careful with the shoestring potatoes - though yummy, they are hard to maneuver and I ended up snapping a small portion off and watched as it flew into my left eye - causing for a very painful encounter.
OH and most importantly, in order to order the burger, which is on Craigie's bar menu, when you make your reservation, request to sit in the bar area. The bar menu is only served in the bar area. No worries, the full regular menu is also available there as well.
Experienced this burger for myself on Tuesday night. I didn't post because really, there are no words. Except, if I force myself: how can that much flavor fit in one bite? It might be the best burger I've ever had. Truly.
Definitely not something one can have on a regular basis due to cost and, well, it can't be good for one's cholesterol count. BUT, it will be a hard thing not to go in and get it whenever I find myself walking by.
Sweet Tom and his amazing cocktails just make it that much better.
Actually...is it? If what Kristinayee is saying --that the meat burger is 15% fat --total--that's actually LESS fat than a traditional cut of chuck, isn't it? Chuck is 20% fat, I believe, and what most burger purists use/enjoy. The best burgers I've ever had have either been all chuck or a combo of chuck + another cut (or two)...
Either way, sounds amazing, as does the Mistral burger. Looks like I've got two new burgers to try.
Nice to see flap meat getting its due, though I'm surprised Maws doesn't refer to it as "bavette". That's the same cut that most of our finest local steak tips purveyors use. A very tasty piece of beef, though tough if mishandled.
That's one crazy-sounding burger; I must try it soon.
Thanks. A couple of notes I want to add:
-- I ordinarily am not a fan of overly larger burgers -- I'm not an RF O'Sullivan fan, for example -- but this burger was too good to object to the size. I started a thread last week about places that serve both good pizza and good burgers: given the size of this burger, Mistral would be a fabulous place for two people to share the burger and one of their pizzas. (You have to be prepared, of course, to the price to add up, especially when drinks are added.)
-- I describe the bun as "oversize," but it was not too big for this burger. And it stood up reasonably well, certainly as well as one could expect given the juiciness of the burger.