Friday, March 30, 2012
Burger reviewed: Wagyu Burger, beef burger, cornte cheese, onion confit, house pickles, fries
Venue: Bear Brass
I feel a lot of sympathy for Richmond supporters. The journey of a Burger Friday fellow reviewing burgers on a Friday has a lot of similarities with the proverbial emotional rollercoaster experience of the yellow and black faithful. Today we headed off with an air of anticipation following some strong recent murmurings to expect big things from the burger at Bear Brass, a self described “buzzy” venue in Southbank along the banks of the Yarra River.
With an absolute belter of an autumn day in Melbourne at a positively balmy 27 degrees with the sun shining, the setting could not be better for a big first up performance. The small side to side cranial movements of a head wobble are just starting to set in that this could be the one. And then the reality sinks in. Whack.
While the Burger Friday fellows like to avoid hype in order to judge burgers with an openness of mind (not seen since when Ben Cousins’ experienced his last hit), perhaps it was these reverberations that penetrated our sub conscious thoughts which ultimately left us underwhelmed.
So let's start with the good, before moving onto the bad and the ugly. The burger itself was generous in size, with a decent helping of McD's style fries and accompanying saucers of tomato sauce and homemade pickles. Plentiful sauce is always a favourite of the fellows so this was welcomed with open arms, even if it’s come from a Big Red Heinz bottle out the back. The venue also gets a tick, as it is in a bloody good location and having been recently refurbished, is in spectacular nick. The cooking of the burger patty also gets a tick from me, because it was cooked to a nice medium and was sufficient in size and appearance.
Now for the bad. The bun to patty ratio was all out of whack. The patty sat in that bun like it was a baseball in beaten old chewed up baseball mitt. Using the power of guesstimate, I would say the ratio was around 1:2, falling clearly outsize of the acceptable range. It wasn't that the patty was small, it was just that the bun was proportionally oversized.
Also falling into the bad category was the cheese. While taking time out from managing my (fantasy) football team during the week, I was postulating that good cheese should be awarded a Nobel peace prize for its contributions towards structural integrity and overall harmonisation of burgers across the world. My postulations however require a rethink after today's burger. Perhaps the key element is not just cheese by itself, but cheese in conjunction with the application of heat to bring forth the gloriousness of melted cheese. Unfortunately this cheese was neither melted nor glorious.
And the ugly has to go to the flavouring. Or should I say lack thereof. I poured that whole aforementioned saucer of pickles (also containing some chillies which had about as much heat as Melbourne in the middle of winter) and the saucer of sauce on the burger to try and give it flavour. While this helped to some degree, it was ultimately to no avail. A great burger has that ultimate combination of flavours of sweetness, saltiness and smack of tanginess to finish it off. This sadly had none of the above. It's unfortunate given the cooking of the patty was great and the simple addition of some salt, pepper and good relish could have turned a mediocre burger into something much much better.
For me the burger as a whole was a lot like the coaching career at Richmond of the man with the golden tan Terry Wallace. He came in with a bang, looking good and getting supporters excited about where the tigers were going. Ultimately though for all the good looks, 5 year plans, bravado, and head wobbling, the tigers were no good where it counts, being performing on the field. But if a few pieces had fallen the right way (like recruiting Buddy Franklin instead of Richard Tambling), who knows, perhaps they could have been something. Likewise for this burger, a couple of additions and suddenly we have something great.
Burger Friday Rating: 25.5/50
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
The world's most famous burger company have provided many memorable moments over the years for millions around the world. Here is a list of some of their least spectacular menu items.
The fabled McLobster drew some hype earlier this year when rumors swirled about its reappearance nationwide. It's currently only available in parts of New England and eastern Canada.
There are a couple factors that gutted the McLobster's hopes of making it to the big time. It costs a hefty $5.99, which consumers are reluctant to pay for a single sandwich. Plus, it's incredibly difficult to market a "quality" shellfish item at a fast food joint.
The McGratin Croquette (known as Gurakoro in Japan) was a particularly strange item, specially created for the Japanese market. It contains deep fried macaroni, shrimp and mashed potatoes. 8tokyo.com describes the texture of the inside of the croquette as "fluffy and creamy."
Most attribute its failure to its taste, but the marketing of the McGratin Croquette didn't match up well with the Japanese audience either. Somehow, it still manages to make a surprise appearance every so often in Japan only.
McDonald's founder Ray Kroc had countless successes with his items, but this wasn't one of them.
The meatless Hula Burger was meant for Catholics who abstained from eating meat every Friday. Instead of a beef or chicken patty, its bun contained a grilled pineapple slice, topped with cheese.
The idea behind it made sense -- the execution just didn't work. People simply didn't like it. McDonald's killed the Hula Burger early on, as it became quickly evident that its alternative, the Filet-o-Fish, was getting much better traction.
Pizza & McPizza
McDonald's developed new pizza items in the late 1980s in its push to start offering dinner items, but it had some inherent problems right from the get-go.
The made-to-order pizza took far longer to make than the usual McDonald's fare, and consumers just weren't willing to wait for food that was supposed to be fast. There was also the McPizza, which resembled Hot Pockets and failed miserably.
Competition in the pizza industry was intense, and McDonald's pizzas didn't have the pull to take customers away from the big chains like Domino's and Pizza Hut. But also, it just wasn't consistent with the McDonald's brand. People went to McDonald's for burgers and fries, not pizza.
Another one of those dinner items, McSpaghetti just couldn't get it quite right. There was also lasagna and fettucini alfredo, along with side dishes in the form of mashed potatoes with gravy and a vegetable medley. It went down quickly with the rest of that dinner menu.
It's still available in some international markets, and even has a bit of a cult following.
The McAfrika was one of the biggest marketing catastrophes McDonald's ever caused for itself. It contained beef, cheese, tomatoes and salad in a pita-like sandwich.
It was released in 2002 during a slew of famines in southern Africa. McDonald's apologized and pulled the item, once the PR crisis heated up.
McDonald's did it again with the McAfrica in a 2008 promotion for the Olympics. Unsurprisingly, it received a similar negative outcry.
The Arch Deluxe debuted in 1996 and was meant to target (and only target) McDonald's adult customers, but it bombed massively. The burger was a quarter-pounder with peppered bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheese, onions, ketchup and a secret sauce.
It's been considered one of the most expensive product failures in McDonald's history, primarily due to the $100 million marketing campaign that accompanied it. Advertisements depicted children disgusted with the burger, and Ronald McDonald playing adult sports.
A decade later, McDonald's tried a similar sandwich in Japan, called the Tomato McGrand. It failed too.
The taste of the McHotDog was acceptable to consumers, and there were no scandals behind the scenes or within the bun.
But the failure of McHotDog was a branding issue. Even what seemed like a low-risk, simple product never caught on because McDonald's consumers just didn't equate the brand with the type of food. It made a few comebacks during the mid-1990s as a seasonal item in select mid-western US restaurants.
It has since reappeared in Japan, where consumers are used to McDonald's offering a wider variety of options.
McDonald's introduced the McDLT in the mid-1980s. It was a simple burger with lettuce and tomato, but came in a styrofoam package with separated the lettuce and tomato from the beef patty, keeping the veggies cool and the meat warm.
All was going well for the McDLT until a PR crisis squashed it. The country was becoming increasingly conscious about the environment, and the double-container caused double the damage.
McDonald's pulled the ill-fated McDLT from its menu in 1990, after a 6-year run.
The McLean Deluxe was another one of McDonald's earlier efforts to be perceived as more health-conscious. It was more a cousin to its predecessor the McDLT than the similarly-named Arch Deluxe which appeared half a decade later.
Introduced in 1991, the burger was advertised as 91% fat-free, but what doomed the McLean Deluxe was what McDonald's did to get it that way.
McDonald's replaced much of the fat with water and injected carrageenan (seaweed) in order to get the patty to stay together. It performed well in initial taste tests, but it didn't sell well once it went live.
Big N' Tasty
The Big N' Tasty was yet another attempt to defeat Burger King's Whopper, a feat its predecessors -- the McDLT and Big Xtra -- failed to do.
While not a complete failure, consumer preferences had leaned towards another line of McDonald's items in recent years -- the Angus burgers -- and the company decided to cut the Big N' Tasty from its menu earlier this year.
McDonald's started offering super-sized meals in 1993, and fast-food-goers gobbled it up. But it all went downhill in 2004 when independent filmmaker Morgan Spurlock's documentary Super Size Me was released. The film showed Spurlock eating nothing but McDonald's for a month, and how it negatively affected his body.
It was a PR disaster for McDonald's, and the company had no choice but to start pulling super-sizing from its menus. By the end of 2004, super-sized portions were gone forever.
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/failed-mcdonalds-items-2011-8?op=1#ixzz1qGum2G7T
Friday, March 16, 2012
Burger reviewed: house-made beef double pattie with lettuce, bacon, onion & cheese
Venue: Beer Deluxe
Date: 16 March 2012
This week the fellows were dealt a curve ball when their planned venue, was at full capacity, resulting in No Mercy’s classic “Where do you go?” ringing in my head. While our switch of venue may not have been as seamless as Chris Tarrant’s transition to the backline, the fellows made the decision to venture to Beer Deluxe, located at Melbourne’s favourite eyesore, Federation Square. While the outdoor relaxed setting may not have gone well with the muggy overcast weather conditions, one can appreciate the friendly atmosphere the venue delivers. It feels like the kind of place Bernie Vince may decide to drop his pants at, after a few celebratory frothies.
There is nothing wrong with a double pattie, but it would have been nice if the patties actually matched the size of the bun. Furthermore, despite being homemade, the patties were as dry as a Carl Barron comedy show. As already eluded to in earlier blogs, bacon always makes things better. Nevertheless it is the fair to say, the bacon added as many runs as Brad Haddin during the summer. The biggest criticism I can reserve for this burger centres around the sauce, or apparent lack of it. I am pretty sure my tastebuds picked up a semblance of American mustard, but I may have been dreaming.
One of the fellows’ biggest grievances is the skewer that often appears in between a burger. Generally this indicates a burger’s inability to hold together, but in this case, the burger lasted the journey quite well. This begs the question what the hell was the skewer doing there? I also was aggrieved that despite the fellows ordering their burgers at relatively the same time, there was a large time differential in receiving the burgers. It is lunchtime so it is best to be prepared.
However all was not lost. The positives really stem from the size of the burger – a beast if you will. The onions weren’t too shabby either. While we fellows have shown a preference toward fries of the shoe string variety, these chips were definitely a winner. I believe the chip is a harder skill to master, so Beer Deluxe can be commended for this effort. Also, no one can really complain about a double pattie burger with chips for $12.50, can they?
Furthermore, Beer Deluxe is aptly named given it specialises in showcasing local beers from Australian craft breweries. I have already forgotten the name of my pint, but think VB, but good. The staff were also helpful when quizzed about the taste of the available beers. While the comeback may not see the burger enter Mike Sheehan’s Top 50, Beer Deluxe has fared much better than Thorpedo did in the pool later that night.
Taken as a whole, the burger can be described as fair, reasonable, run-of the mill, average, well I think you get the picture. I would happily eat there again but will not be rushing back either. One can think of the many players listed in the famous facebook page “mediocre 90’s AFL appreciation society” as the source of a ripper analogy. However I am going to go with a different tact and label the burger renowned Tasmanian cricketer Michael Di Venuto. While he was good enough to grab 9 one day international caps for the Aussies, in the end, the Aussie selectors were not rushing to go back for more, and he now finds himself playing international cricket for Italy. That’s right people, Italy have an international cricket team. They have even won two division 2 European cricket championships. Ah the things you learn while looking up Michael Di Venuto’s cricket statistics on google. Until next week.
Burger Friday Rating: 31.37/50
Friday, March 9, 2012
Burger reviewed: 175gram Fresh Ground Wagyu beef, grilled brioche, baby cos lettuce, thick cut tomato, house-made pickles, cheese and bacon.
Venue: Trunk Diner
Date: 9 March 2012
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new clubhouse leader!
In a week that saw a well known Australian newspaper publish an article on Victoria's best burgers, the fellows now redundant, made their way to Trunk Diner for an absolute ball-tearer of a burger. Which somehow, did not make its way onto this well known newspapers list - seriously you put a cheeseburger from a milk bar out in the sticks, a place which is sure to end up as an insurance scam when it "accidentally' burns down, over a gastronomical experience in the CBD of the best city in Australia - that's right Sydney I said it.
As such, I am giving this little beauty the title of "The People's burger"!
Located on Exhibition Street, Trunk Diner is described as an "American style diner". When one hears this description, one thinks of barmaids dressed up in cheerleading uniforms and roller blades. Quite the contrary. We were greeted by a Vincent Chase look-a-like who was clearly hung over and quite proud that he was 30 minutes late for his shift.
The outdoor setting was very pleasant and a place where you feel right at home (as evidenced by the number of birds who had snapped one off on some of the tables).
Now to the burger. Trunk have played this well (unlike Gautam Gambhir and the short ball - seriously I haven't enjoyed watching a bloke go out this much since Darryl Cullinan last played) as they have gotten the basics down pat (unlike Scott Muller). The bun is light and soft, the patty is tasty and juicy and the salads are fresh. But Trunk are able to differentiate themselves in a number of simple ways.
The first is that they have taken the best parts of the two best burgers in town and combined them into a superburger - a cheeseburger with bacon if you will. They have taken the "construct your own" approach of Rockpool and combined it with the unbelievable sauces of Cafe Vue. As if there was any argument that smokey barbeque is the greatest condiment on the planet, I will go out on a limb and say the homemade smokey barbeque at Trunk is the balls! And being given a bottle of it to put on your burger and dunk your chips in is a huge win.
The second is the bacon. As eluded to earlier, everything is better with bacon. And the Miss Piggy at Trunk is cooked a lot longer than anywhere else giving it a slightly charred taste which is groin-grabbingly transcendent without tasting bitter or burnt.
Finally the homemade pickle. More playful than a proverbial at a Wiggles concert. The acidic pickle leaves the flavours of the burger mingling in your mouth in a seductive pas de deux.
My only gripe about this burger was that my patty was slightly more towards well done than medium but the other fellows did not seem to have this problem. Ah well, life is a box of chocolates Forrest.
And to the sporting analogy. Due to a number of complaints from our readership of the weekly burview being targeted more towards our male audience, I will be likening this week’s burger a few things that are a little more feminine.
1. This burger is a lot like Australian Diamonds stalwart Eloise Southby-Halbish. The burger was well complimented by bacon and the salads (for the purposes of this analogy we will call the bacon Shazza McMahon and the salads Natasha Chokljat). The burger can even be accompanied by a well known beer (this is in reference to ESH's romance with footballer Justin Blumfield). All in all, a burger that will go down as one of the better Melbourne has produced.
2. This burger is a lot like a Mimco clutch - great value, dependable, devoid of handbag clutter and goes well with a nice pair of boots (beer).
3. The movie Love Actually. Tasteful, consuming and enough Hugh Grant to satisfy your cravings.
That's about all I have got. Great value for money and very tasty - get on a Trunk burger right meow.
Burger Friday Rating: 43.25
Burger reviewed: Cervo burger – house-made beef burger with tomato, bacon, caramelised onion & swiss cheese, served with fries and salad.
Venue: Cervo Cafe
Date: 8 March 2012
The fellows ventured down to Cervo Cafe (adjacent to Crown casino) to sample the aptly named Cervo burger – a house-made beef burger with tomato, bacon, caramelised onion & Swiss cheese. At the princely sum of $21.90 (or $30 with a beer), the fellows were expecting a spectacle to rival the Superbowl half-time show, but, as Janet Jackson can attest, the spectacle doesn’t always turn out as planned. This burger was no different. It failed to deliver on the biggest of stages.
I am not sure how many fingers the chef had in the kitchen, or how many beads may have fallen off their abacus, but it might be worth counting how many ingredients are supposed to be included in your burger before sending it out. While Jack Watts or Josh Fraser may be able to make a career out of failed promises and under-delivering, when we fellows see bacon on a menu – we expect it to be there. Fail.
Our dismay didn’t end there. The burger continued its downward spiral faster than Tiger Woods’ reputation. The bun was clearly sourced from the back shelf at Woolworths and only thrown under the griller to give it some life. The salad didn’t fair much better and was as wilted as Sam Newman’s libido. The hat-trick was complete when, to our utter amazement, the burger had no sauce. What sort of burger has no sauce? Honestly? One can only think that Cervo cafe’s budget was about as meagre as that of Paul Stoddart’s Minardi formula one team.
The burger made the faux pas of using a skewer as a decoration – it clearly didn’t assist with the structural integrity of the burger given the burger had collapsed before reaching the table. The Italian flag atop the skewer was an interesting touch, but I’d have preferred if the kitchen had focused on cooking the pattie. The house-made beef pattie was more like meatloaf, and we all know how well that went down at last year AFL grand final.
A bit like England’s recent test series against Pakistan (0–3), it was difficult to find any positives from the Cervo burger. It is fair to say that the French fries to the Cervo burger were the Monty Panesar of the English XI. When everything else around was a shambles, like Monty, they stood out from their peers. They were crunchy, fresh and well-seasoned. Equally too, the Swiss cheese was melted perfectly on the burger but the damage was already done. Some shining lights in an otherwise bleak performance.
The burger reminded me of the infamous Sam Bowie - the number 2 pick in the 1984 NBA draft. In arguably the most colossal blunder in sporting history, Bowie went on to average 10.9 ppg and 7.5 rpg while the number 3 pick, Michael Jordan, went on to become the greatest ever. Why Portland chose Bowie over Jordan we can only speculate. Why the fellows chose Cervo cafe over Neil Perry’s Rockpool, we can only assume because Rockpool was closed...
Burger Friday Rating: 22.66/50
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Burgers are cross generational, cross cultural and cross societal. A good burger can bring people together from all walks of life to enjoy the simple pleasures of beef, cheese, sauce, bacon and bun. It doesn't matter who you are or what you do, everyone can appreciate the simplicity and complexity of a good burger. A great burger is a work of art.
We here at Burger Friday are on a mission (from the Burger Gods) to find the best burgers in Melbourne. We see this as our duty to help facilitate the coming together of the people to enjoy this simple and delicious Friday tradition, and maybe just make this place a little bit better. After all, if beef, cheese, sauce, bacon and bun can mingle together seamlessly as if they were born to be one glorious food, can't we all just get along.
So as Champion's of the People (aka the People's Champ) that we are, we want to throw it out to you to tell us where your favourite burger venue is and where we should go for our reviews. After all this isn't a Burger dictatorship, this is a Burger Democracy of the people.
Interesting little article in the Age about the burger chain Grill’d. Not sure about the maths in tip number 2 (pretty sure 51% is greater than 49%), but regardless Grill’d has done a great service to improving burgers across Melbourne and to the recognition of men’s health issues through Movember. It takes balls as big of burgers to go out and start your own business so we tip our hats to you.
No ads. No celebrity endorsements. No meal deals. No upsizing. Grill'd Burgers wants a brand without the trimmings.
“We don't believe in loyalty programs,” says founder Simon Crowe. “We don't believe in highlighting some people to the exclusion of others. We want the business to be communal in its feel.”
So says one of the few people in history to have a burger named after them. The 'Simon Says' burger is a grilled chicken breast with avocado, bacon, salad, tomato and herbed mayo. It is also the source of some chagrin for the man who left a lucrative career as international brand manager at Foster's Group to start a healthy burger shop in Hawthorn in 2004.
There are now 51 Grill'd restaurants across Australia employing more than 500 people and generating $67 million in revenue in the past year, up 68 per cent from the year before .
“I kind of feel like the movement that is Grill'd is not me, it's our people," Crowe says, "and I sometimes feel a little embarrassed that there is a focus on me. But I know the business needs a leader. I know it needs somebody who is its spokesperson.”
It may seem strange to describe a burger franchise as a movement, but it sums up the 39-year-old Melburnian's grand plans. The dream started becoming reality one night at the pub, when friends told Crowe to put up or shut up about his plan to start a healthy burger shop.
Still, there were teething problems. A lease collapsed and Crowe remembers being racked by doubt, particularly one afternoon in January when he visited the store after a storm.
“I drove down the street to have a look at it and I was shaking in the car because there was not a single soul in the street and I thought, 'what have I done, what am I doing?'”
But Crowe was fulfilling a life-long ambition to own a business.
At Foster's, he recalls “I almost had the perfect job, [except] I was selling an Australia that I didn't believe in. I was selling a Crocodile Dundee Australia".
“If I could write my ticket I would love to take Grill'd, with the Australian character that we have, and take that overseas. That will happen, but we're not in a mad rush to do it. We've got plenty of expansion opportunity in Australia.”
He attributes success in part to not contemplating franchising from day one.
"That meant that we became expert operators... when there were operational issues and challenges we knew how to fix them and how to make sure that the business model was robust and strong.”
“So many food businesses, particularly those that are 100 per cent franchised, will often turn to consultants who say you need to get 20 or 50 or 100 sites to actually become profitable, and they stretch themselves too far, too thin.”
There are now 22 franchises and 29 company-owned Grill'd outlets. The aim is for half the restaurants to eventually be owned by franchisees who have come through a comprehensive testing process, including a psyche assessment.
“What we often find is there are people who are looking for a business opportunity only, and they tick the business acumen box and sometimes the life experience, but it's a square peg, round hole if they don't comprehend what Grill'd is.”
Crowe studied psychology at Melbourne University and sees the parallels in marketing.
"We need to understand how people think, how they might behave, what's important to them and meet their needs. So psychology and marketing are often one and the same, they're just termed differently.”
Grill'd hones in on sounds, smells, theatre, ambience, music, temperature, lighting, and service.
"The layer effect of all of those things is what's special and what's powerful, and when we get that right, it's intoxicating. It's actually almost addictive,” Crowe says.
But are Grill'd Healthy Burgers actually good for you?
Two years ago the Obesity Policy Coalition found a Vegetarian burger from Grill'd contained more fat than a Big Mac. However, senior policy adviser Jane Martin says larger portions mean more kilojoules.
“No question we have a meal-sized offer," Mr Crowe said, "and it's something we're incredibly proud of."
"It's not about only fat because if it was we'd recommend that you eat only a lettuce leaf and not anything else.”
Melanie McGrice, of diet consultancy Health Kick, says Grill'd uses more fresh food and ingredients than traditional burgers.
“If you're going to choose between the two, I would be going for a Grill'd burger," McGrice says.
She advocates eating take-away food only once a fortnight, leaving some room for improvement for the energetic Crowe, who still chomps through four burgers a week.
Crowe's 5 tips for entrepreneurs
1. Know your business at an intimate level. You need to have enough knowledge of the day-to-day operations to 'smell test' the genuine insights from the noise, and recognise any potential drift away from your vision.
2. 51 per cent business: 49 per cent people. People are your greatest asset – always. While they will no doubt be your greatest challenge, your team requires the entrepreneur to direct and steer the business agenda to give its people visibility into the future and provide them the opportunity to shine.
3. Make your brand the hero of your business and ensure that it is the filter through which all decisions are made.
4. Choose your business partners carefully and know what they bring to the table. Ideally ensure that you are getting more than only capital. A good business relationship is like a marriage – a journey; full of ups and downs but it's inter-dependent, and worth the ongoing investment in time and emotion.
5. Passion! While we applaud it in sport we often ridicule it in business. Passion can be the most engaging and most intoxicating driver of success to all of those that interact with you and your business.