February 9, 2006
Biting into the burger with bling
I will gladly pay you tomorrow for a Kobe beef with blue cheese burger today
By Susan Reilly firstname.lastname@example.org
Seems the $10 luxury burger has dug its heels in.
Once seen only in L.A. and NYC and on the room service menus at expensive hotels, burgers priced at or near the $10 mark are appearing all across southern New Hampshire.
Why the mark-up?
Chris Martin, chef at Michael Timothy’s in Nashua, said that beef prices have climbed, tenderloin has doubled in cost, and that is the reason for the high prices.
“It is not as simple as making a burger from ground hamburg found in the grocery store,” said Martin. In fact, Michael Timothy’s has developed it own recipe using three parts tenderloin and one part chuck to create a juicy burger.
“The hamburger is an all-American staple, that is why we keep it on the lunch menu — people want it. But we decided that if we were going to have it on the menu, it would be the best burger we could come up with. And I think we have that,” he said.
Martin said he does not think people mind paying top dollar for a burger when it is made with the highest-quality meats.
“Choice meats, with no byproducts or fillers and the right amount of fat, make a high-end burger. But that is what people want,” Martin said.
“Go on and get an 89-cent fast food burger. It will be a two-ounce burger with low, low-grade meats. What you will find in good restaurants, at least mine, is top-grade ground sirloin beef in a juicy eight-ounce patty, fresh veggies and a homemade bun. You can’t beat that,” said Hale Cole-Tucker, chef at Depot Square Steakhouse in Derry.
Depot Square Steakhouse sells its burger with a half dozen different toppings.
“We sell a ton of burgers. I think they remain so popular because they are truly an American favorite,” Cole-Tucker said.
At Cotton in Manchester, owner and chef Jeff Paige made the decision to jump from certified Black Angus for burgers to Kobe beef because Burger King started using Black Angus.
“When I saw the ads for Burger King, I wondered what the customer was going to think. Black Angus there, for a fraction of the price, or at my restaurant for more, so I made the switch,” he said.
Paige said he was nervous, because the switch from Black Angus to Kobe meant an increase in price.
“Not everyone understands that better sometimes costs more, so I was worried,” he said.
The switch paid off; Paige reports that Cotton sells more burgers than ever.
“The bottom line is that people love a good burger,” Paige said.
While every restaurant has its own secret recipe for the beef patty, there are common denominators in toppings. Cheese, of course, includingtop cheeses like Vermont cheddars and artisanal bleu cheeses. Smoked bacon is another popular topper as is a fresh, house-baked bun.
“For the most part, when you order a burger it is comforting because the end result will be pretty predictable. Everyone knows what they like on their burger and how they want it cooked and that is how you will get it,” said Cole-Tucker. “And when you get what you want, you don’t mind paying for it.”
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Kobe or not kobe ...
Kobe beef. It seems to be everywhere and commanding high prices, but what exactly is it?
The Wagyu cow blesses the Earth with Kobe beef. While Kobe beef is known for its tenderness, flavor and well marbled texture, how it gets that way is somewhat of a mystery. Some point to the superior genetics of the Wagyu cow. Others say it is the labor-intensive massaging that the Wagyu cow receives. Maybe it is the beer the cows are fed.
True Kobe beef is raised and slaughtered in Japan. There, the Wagyu cows are massaged because they have little room to exercise. Because the cows get so little exercise, they have little appetites, so they are fed beer because the yeast stimulates their appetites. Part myth? Who knows ? The Kobe beef industry has done nothing to deny these rumors.
It is estimated that there are only between 3,000 and 4,000 Kobe beef cattle available each year in Japan and therefore the country does not export it. Kobe beef costs over $100 per pound in Japan.
In America, restaurants serve Kobe-style beef produced from a crossbreed of the Wagyu and the American Black Angus that is raised and slaughtered the same way as the Japanese Wagyu cows.
Hankering for a burger?
Here is a handy guide to some of the area’s top burgers.
• Bedford Village Inn (2 Village Inn Lane, Bedford, 472-2001) Grilled Angus beef burger with caramelized onions, smoked bacon, Vermont cheddar, herb-Parmesan hand-cut French fries. Choice of toasted onion roll or whole wheat roll ($10). Trio of mini Angus burgers: St. Andre cheese, port reduction and fried shallots; barbecue beef shortrib and cabbage slaw; roasted mushroom and Gorgonzola. All served on an herb roll and with herb-Parmesan hand-cut French fries ($12) .
• Michael Timothy’s (212 Main St., Nashua 595-9334) Wood-grilled steak burger on a potato roll with Swiss cheese, bacon, pickles, house sauce and onions ($9).
• Fody’s Great American (9 Clinton St., Nashua) Grilled hamburger with aged cheddar, smoked bacon, lettuce and herb mayonnaise on a toasted bun ($10).
• Cotton (75 Arms Park Drive, Manchester, 622-5488) All-American Kobe burger ($9.50). Bleu Heaven burger with bleu cheese, Applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles ($10.50). Magic mushroom and Swiss burger with sautéed mushrooms, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles ($10.50). Lo-carb-friendly burger served with a fork and knife sans bun with side of steamed broccolini, cheese optional ($9.50).
• Depot Square Steakhouse (East Broadway, Derry, 437-4200) Steakhouse cheeseburger topped with American, cheddar, Swiss or pepper jack cheese ($7.99). Bacon burger topped with crisp hickory-smoked bacon and cheddar cheese ($8.99). Mushroom burger topped with fresh sauteed mushrooms and Swiss cheese ($8.99). Southwest burger topped with jalapeños, chili and pepper jack cheese ($8.99). BBQ burger topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, sautéed onions and smoky BBQ sauce ($9.99).
• Hanover Street Chophouse (149 Hanover St., Manchester, 644-2467) Fresh ground all natural sirloin, aged Grafton Village Vermont cheddar, house-made bun and fries ($10).
• Buckley’s Great Steaks (438 DW Highway, Merrimack, 424-0995) Ground fresh from select trimmings withcheddar cheese and smoked bacon ($9).
• Toro (63 Union Square, Milford, 673-1815) Burger served on a brioche bun with cognac mustard, melted brie, crispy pancetta and bitter greens with pomme frites ($8).
• The Barley House (132 N. Main Street, Concord, 228-6363) Dublin Burger pepper-charred and topped with bleu cheese and whiskey gravy ($7.95).
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