Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Battle of the Burgers

After a nationwide search, we have a shortlist of 8 and now £2,000 will be awarded this Friday to the finalist who wins 'Battle of the Burgers'. 

I'll be one of the judges!
Other judges include; J.B. Gill from JLS & Nick from - so quite an honour to have been invited. 

The competition has been run in partnership with Red Tractor, a logo you may be familiar with if you buy British beef or lamb.  
Many farmers have both cattle and sheep on their farms and the Red Tractor scheme covers quality beef and lamb production as well as a range of other agricultural produce. The assurance standards encompass food safety, animal welfare, environmental protection and traceability. The basic welfare needs of sheep and cattle must not be compromised at any stage of their lives, and farmers must ensure that their farming practices do not damage the environment. Animals need to be identifiable and traceable back to their farms of origin, and moved in clean vehicles so that the beef and lamb produced is free from contamination and safe to eat. - See more at:

The final 8 are;

The Bengal Burger - Lamb mince with a chili and coriander relish and mint dressing.

Mum’s Sunday Lunch Burger - Lamb mince with a Yorkshire puddings bun, parsnip crisps and cauliflower cheese fritters.

Steak Burger - Beef mince with red and green peppers, chipotle, beetroot, lettuce and tomato.

Burger with Berry Glaze - Beef mince with a blackcurrants and blackberries glaze.

Pan Asian Delight Burger - Beef mince mixed with fish, soy and oyster sauce, a miso Mayonnaise and a Oriental pickled cucumber

Blue Cheese Aioli Burger - 3 cuts of beef minced, bacon, bacon jam, monterey jack cheddar & a blue cheese aioli.

The J-Bomb Burger - 3 cuts of beef minced, a JagerMeister marinade, Red Bull onion rings and a Gruyere crisp.

The Incredible 5-Onion Burger - Beef mince with red and white onions cooked various ways

They have one hour to create their burgers for the panel; we'll be judging taste, complexity of ingredients, cooking ability and presentation. I've got a hunch what burger will win, but I'll keep that to myself. Who's your money on?

I'll be tweeting from the event, winner to be announced at around 5pm,  so keep a look out. #battleoftheburgers

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Burger Tasting for Deliverance - Day 4

The score going into today is 3-0 to the classics, so the new burgers have just pride to play for. Let's see how they matched off today.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Burger Tasting for Deliverance - Day 3

After a meat free Wednesday(at lunch only mind), it was back to the classic beef today - Not in both 'burgers' however...

 The Classic Burger

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Burger Tasting for Deliverance - Day 2

24 hours later and it's straight back to work and what a curve ball Deliverance threw today. There was no meat in the burger. I repeat. THERE WAS NO MEAT IN THE BURGER! A small part of me was glad, as I've never had a vegetarian burger before and it's not something I see my self ordering when meat is available, so the chance to review them was a new opportunity. 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Burger Tasting for Deliverance - Day 1

Eating burgers for a job. Sounds like something I've made up. But for the next week I'll be 'working' for Deliverance, comparing potential new burgers against their current selection.

When this advert went live, almost a month ago, it was comfortably the most forwarded page to me I'd ever received. An application and a few emails back and forth and it was confirmed. I'd got the job! Being paid in burgers, yesterday I started 'work'. 

Monday, 5 August 2013

Friday, 2 August 2013

Cultured beef - Frankenstein's monster or the future? The test tube burger.

What's the most you've ever paid for a burger? £5, 10, 50? What about £250,000!

In West London this Monday at 1pm there will be a burger that will have cost £250,000 to produce.

Professor Mark Post, a doctor and scientist at the University of Maastricht in Holland, has been working on this project for a few years. With funding from an anonymous backer has been able to produce 3,000 strips of beef that make up this 5oz patty.

Initially I thought it was just science pushing the boundaries of what's possible and something that wouldn't affect me, but Professor Post has given the following predictions
  • Meat consumption is set to double in the next 30-40 years
  • 70% of agricultural land currently used to farm cows and pigs
  • 5,000 litres of water is used to produce 1kg of beef
  • 20% of the worlds greenhouse gasses are methane produced by cows
If these figures are to be true, it does appear we will have to find an alternative at some point. It's just not sustainable. 

The science is a bit beyond me, but Owen from works in stem cell research and had this to say:
It's grown from sheets of muscle progenitor cells. These are the cells within the body that play a part in maintenance, so if you damage yourself, they can replace the lost cells. To grow cells requires media that contains the nutrients & proteins they need to replicate. This commonly contains Foetal Bovine Serum (FBS), obtained at the point of slaughter from cows. So not only are the original stem cells needed from culled animals, but also the media to grow it in. So instead of replacing animal deaths it is merely reducing the potential amount, Professor Post has always been clear with this. But with the FBS it's also really expensive, over £100 for a litre, so cost of manufacture will always be quite high. How many cells in a burger? No idea, I expect it above a billion cells, probably somewhere in the region of 1x10e10 (10,000,000,000) cells and that's being conservative!

Professor Post believes that this producing the lab meat will give:
  • Healthier meat, as they are in control of the protein and fat levels
  • 90% reduction of land
  • 96% reduction of water
  • 70% reduction of energy

Most people I've spoken to about this cultured beef have been horrified at the thought of eating the 'test tube' meat. I would obviously prefer my beef to have been from a live cow that had been reared and slaughtered in the right way, but we only have to look back a few months to the horse meat scandal to see that the ethics of food are not unanimously agreed. It will all come down - in the short term at least - to taste and price. Long term however, this may be the way if we want to continue consuming the levels of meat we currently are.
Will the vegetarians, who are against the slaughter of animals now eat meat? Will, what some see a freak show, put more people off meat?
There have been mumblings that top chef Heston Blumenthal will be cooking the burger for the mystery backer. Would you try it? Leaving the science and facts for a second, I wonder what bun they'll use, will there be any toppings?
"The burger has been made using Cultured Beef and other ingredients commonly found in similar food products such as salt, egg powder and breadcrumbs. Red beet juice and saffron have been added to bring out its natural colours."

So, Monday, I'll be there! Follow me on twitter and check out #culturedbeef on Monday for my live tweets.
Hopefully the mystery backer is a no show and they give me the nod to try it.

Do I leave a tip? What's 12.5% of £250,000...

See FAQ on the Cultured Beef here

Cultured Beef FAQ

What is Cultured Beef?
Cultured Beef is created by painlessly harvesting muscle cells from a living cow. Scientists then feed and nurture the cells so they multiply to create muscle tissue, which is the main component of the meat we eat. It is biologically exactly the same as the meat tissue that comes from a cow.

Why do we need Cultured Beef?

For two reasons. It could solve the coming food crisis and help combat climate change.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that the demand for meat is going to increase by more than two-thirds in the next 40 years and current production methods are not sustainable. In the near future both meat and other staple foods are likely to become expensive luxury items, thanks to the increased demand on crops for meat production, unless we find a sustainable alternative.
Livestock contributes to global warming through unchecked releases of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The increase in demand will significantly increase levels of methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide and cause loss of biodiversity.
Cultured Beef is likely to be a more sustainable option that will change the way we eat and think about food forever.

How is it made?

Cultured Beef is created by painlessly harvesting muscle cells from a living cow. Scientists then feed and nurture the cells so they multiply to create muscle tissue, which is the main component of the meat we eat. It is biologically exactly the same as the meat tissue that comes from a cow.
The cells grow into strands. 20,000 of these small strands of meat are then combined to create one normal sized burger.

Where do the cells come from?

From cows raised on organic farms. Two samples were used, one from a Blanc Blue Belge cow raised at a farm in Belgium. The second was from a Blond Acquitaine cow.

What evidence is there that Cultured Beef will be better for the environment?

Livestock contributes substantially to climate change through the release of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The FAO prediction of a more than two-thirds increase in global demand for meat over the next 40 years will mean a significant increase greenhouse gas emissions.
Current methods of producing meat are inefficient because of the amount of land that needs to be given over to the production of grain for feed. Pigs and cows transform only 15 percent of vegetable proteins into edible animal proteins. The production of Cultured Beef promises to be far more efficient as it can be done in a controlled environment. A life cycle analysis by Hannah Tuomisto of the University of Oxford confirms large reductions in the usage of land, energy and water in the production of Cultured Beef, compared to obtaining beef through livestock.
What’s more, Cultured Beef could be produced near population centres, reducing the carbon impact of transporting beef, as it will not be dependent on large areas of land.

How is this different to GM food?

This is fundamentally different to GM food. No genetic modification is involved in this process. Cultured Beef is normal beef; it consists of cow cells.

How does it taste?

We expect it to taste like a normal beef burger. Accepted food technology methods are used to adapt the beef’s taste and texture so that it is virtually identical to farmed beef.

Fake meat has been around for decades but has never really taken off. Why do you think Cultured Beef will?

The products that have been released already are usually based on some kind of reconstituted soy or fungal mix. They are usually more expensive than meat and don’t taste as good. We are committed to producing a natural meat product that is both cheaper than farmed meat, indistinguishable in texture and just as tasty.
Does Cultured Beef involve cruelty to animals?

We still need donor animals for the muscle cells, but the animals can provide the cells by harmless biopsy. One sample could create up to 20,000 tons of Cultured Beef. You can take a sample from an animal and the animal lives.

Is Cultured Beef safe to eat?

Yes. The beef is produced from beef cells and during the production process there are no chemicals added. The beef is cultured with the help of natural nutrients.  The food technology methods that will be used to add taste and texture are food industry standard and internationally recognised. Arguably, Cultured Beef is safer than farmed beef, as scientists eradicate the risk of human disease contracted from livestock.

When will Cultured Beef be available to buy?

Of course it is hard to predict this sort of thing, but we might see Cultured Beef, and other cultured meats, available commercially within 10 to 20 years.

Can you make other meats using culturing techniques?

Yes. We chose beef because it is so popular and uses a lot of resources to grow it, but culturing other farmed meat would be possible.

How much did this burger cost?

The burger costs more than €250,000 to produce as this is still very novel science, but high costs today are a small price to pay for the potential future benefits of Cultured Beef to all of mankind.  It is important to remember that Cultured Beef is intended as step towards a solution to some pressing problems in global food production, not just an expensive burger. In the long run Cultured Beef could be cheaper than conventionally farmed beef, and certainly better for the environment.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Elliot's Burger Bar

For too long now, Elliot's have kept one of the best burgers in London to a lunchtime only slot. Until now! 

Let's hope for some continued good weather and hopefully this 4 weeks can be extended.

To see my previous 10/10 review click here. This really is a classic burger and if the lunchtime slot's restricted you from tasting this treat, you now have no excuse. GO GO GO!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Shake Shack - Sneak Peak Tasting & Housewarming Party

Shake Shack has now officially opened, but I'd spent last Wednesday and Thursday night sampling all they had to offer. Wednesday was a blogger 'Sneak Peak Tasting' & Thursday was a 'Housewarming Party' with some of London's top restaurateurs & chefs there....& me :)

The staff were incredible both nights, and if something hadn't come out from the menu that you fancied trying...a few minutes later you'd have it on your table. Fantastically well run events. Thank you to all involved.

Just some pictures for now. I will hit the queues soon to give you my opinion of their burgers.

Big B @ Byron, Beak Street, London

Burger: Big B
Price: £9.75

The Big B ended up being a Big D-isappointment 

Friday, 28 June 2013

Shake Shack London

Danny Meyer has been at the very top of the restaurant game in New York for nearly 30 years. In fact Danny is at the very top of the restaurant and hospitality industry worldwide.

It started in 1985, aged just 27 with Union Square Cafe, winning countless awards, this has grown to become Union Square Hospitality Group, which runs some of New York's best loved restaurants, including Shack Shack. 

Inspired by his childhood in St. Louis, with visits to Steak 'n Shake and Ted Drewes frozen custard, in 2004 Shake Shack opened its first in Madison Square Park, New York. This has now grown to 28 locations dotted around the globe... July 5th, they are opening in London!

I emailed some questions to Edwin Bragg their Director of Marketing & Communications to which he very kindly replied. 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Day 11 Gallup to Las Vegas

Burger Reviewed: Diablo Burger - In-N-Out

Despite driving 600+ miles, seeing a 50,000 year old meteor site, one of the modern wonders of the world and driving through the Vegas strip, I still managed a couple of burgers. 

We gave this a miss. 

Diablo Burger

Burger: The Blake
Price: $11.75

Gimmicky branding on the bun - The 'bun' is an English muffin - There is a low fat content in the patty. All of this screams wrong, but it's all so so right! It rips up the rule book on burgers and serves one of the tastiest burgers I've had.

The importance of knowing where your food comes from.

What a burger. The low fat content isn't a problem. Their local farms are breeding some high quality meat. It'd been cooked perfectly and still managed to be juicy. The roasted green chillies gives a heat, without being over powering as it's closely followed by the creamy chilli mayo to form a great partnership. Glorious helping of cheese melted over the chillies and patty. Even the bun, which isn't really a bun, was great with an outside you could tap, a soft inside and sturdy enough to absorb the mayo and juices.

Almost a carbon copy of Honest Burgers famous rosemary salted fries. Texture and seasoning spot on.

A tasty well crafted burger in another one of the towns we nearly drove through and what a mistake that would have ended up being. Not just for the burger but for Flagstaff, a picturesque town that we could have happily spent most of the honeymoon at. 

Overall Rating - 10/10
Diablo Burger on Urbanspoon

In the middle of nowhere in Arizona you have a 50,000 year old meteor site. A huge hole in the ground, but quite a few interesting stories on the tour detailing all the investigations and discoveries that have happened over the past hundred years with people expecting to find gold and ending up losing everything.

On to the Grand Canyon. One of the wonders of the world, but I'm going to sound really spoilt and uncultured here - It is what it is. Was one of those times where what you expect is what you get. 

It spans 277 miles, but you can only see what you can see and I wouldn't really recommend it unless you were going over it in a helicopter. Here are my pics of it though.

In-N-Out Burger

Burger: Double-Double, Animal Style
Price: $3.30
Location: Las Vegas

I'd like to think when rating burgers previously I'd managed to remain impartial and not let hype or circumstance influence - there's no denying when In-N-Out came to London late last year I was overly excited and when the beef is compared side-by-side against other 10/10's is doesn't compare. That said, this is a fast food joint so maybe rating it as highly as I did previously is right. 

Again, this burger doesn't have as high a quality seen in other of my top ranked burgers, but for price and speed, this is simply faultless. It's one of the most exciting burgers in the world.

With an untold number of "secret" off menu possibilities, and if you order an Animal style Double-Double, medium rare, you'll go away happy. 

10/10 may be generous when compared with some of the other heavyweights, but there's just no way any true burger fan can find fault with their burgers or business model. The fast food benchmark.

Overall Rating 10/10

We arrived late in Vegas. VEGAS BABY.

Accommodation: Hooters Casino Hotel - $14.50 A bit old fashioned but beat that price!


Distance covered today 635m