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Do You Want Some Mushroom in Your Burger?

Food critic Jason DeRusha previews dishes from local restaurants participating in James Beard Foundation's Blended Burger Project


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Third Bird, blended burger
Third Bird's Blended Burger

There’s no hotter food item than burgers. At the same time there is widespread agreement that as a society, we eat too much beef. So how do you rectify the conflict?

The James Beard Foundation (yes, that James Beard Foundation, of the awards) is challenging chefs around the country to create a “blended burger” containing ground beef and at least 25 percent fresh and chopped cultivated mushrooms. The Blended Burger Project launched last year—locally, Marin and Heartland were involved. This year's participation around the country is expected to double, and in the Twin Cities, it’s going to be far bigger than that.

Already a dozen Minnesota restaurants are in: Blue Birch at Marriott Minneapolis Southwest, Bryant Lake Bowl, Third Bird, Bulldog Northeast, Chef Shack, Eurest Dining (which runs cafeterias in businesses like Thrivent), Marin Restaurant & Bar, Mill Valley Kitchen, Rock Elm Tavern in Plymouth, Red Cow, Spoonriver, and Tado Steakhouse in Treasure Island Casino.

You’ll find these burgers on menus starting Memorial Day and running through July 31. Then you can vote on your favorite at jamesbeard.org. The five chefs with the most votes will get a trip to the James Beard House where they’ll show off their burger in front of all sorts of fancy food people.

They had a launch party at Marin in downtown Minneapolis a couple weeks ago: Mike Rakun is going to serve a mushroom Jucy Lucy, on a challah bun. There will be a mushroom and brie patty, topped with smoked onion bustard, pickled ramps, and a little bit of watercress. The slider I sampled was excellent. You didn’t miss the 26 percent of beef that’s been replaced by shiitake mushrooms!

“Sustainability and nutrition are part of our mission statement and things we talk about daily in our restaurants. This project really highlights both of those values,” Mike told me.

Mill Valley Kitchen is doing a blended bison burger with minced portobello mushrooms. Chef Shack is creating a smoked mushroom bison burger. Bryant Lake Bowl is going with local Peterson Limousin Beef and blending it with duxelles, topping with sun-dried tomato and herb chevre. And the Third Bird will serve beef and porcini blended burger with carrots, ramps, fiddlehead ferns, and Ellsworth Creamery Colby.

This a cool project, so watch for it over the next month and be sure to vote!

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