Amstel Light Burger Bash is the most anticipated event of the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival. But the one person who was perhaps most looking forward to the event wasn't a festivalgoer, but a participating chef: Bobby Flay. Having lost to fellow Iron Chef Michael Symon several times, this was the year, Flay noted before awards were given, that he was going to take his friend down. "I don't mind if Michael wins, I just don't want to come in second," Flay said on camera just moments before. But for a third time, it wasn't to be.
Leave quibblers to muse over dry patties. Having tasted all 32 burgers, it's hard to argue B Spot's Pork Burger wasn't the best. That pork and bacon burger topped with pulled pork, slaw, and a side of pork cracklin' was the night's juiciest. This burger follows the Cleveland burger joint's 2011 winner, the Yo! Burger (topped with fried salami, provolone, shasha sauce, and pickled onion), and 2010's Fat Doug (Swiss, pastrami, and slaw).
Guy Fieri's "Straight-Up with a Pig Patty" from Guy's Burger Joint, took the Heinz Best Dressed Burger Award (he gamely lifted an open bottle of ketchup to his mouth in celebration). Judges sided with Miami's Whisk Gourmet Food + Catering for its crispy shallot, bacon, and Swiss burger, which probably should have really won the award for longest burger description: Sirloin patty, melted Swiss cheese, buttermilk-marinated crispy shallots, pecan wood-smoked bacon, tangy horseradish sauce, ripe Florida tomatoes, and watercress on a toasted bun.
Bobby Flay's Bobby's Burger Palace entry, a "Crunchified" Buffalo-style burger with Red Hot sauce, blue cheese dressing, and potato chips was strong. It, along with the ridiculously delicious SmokeShack, Shake Shack's soon-to-be-standard option, were considered by many to be some of the top entries. Other notable burgers were:
• Marc Forgione's "The Hangover 2" (prime hanger steak, aged Cheddar, and onions)
• The Meatball Shop's chili cheeseburger (a chili flavored meat patty smothered in Grafton Cheddar cheese sauce, topped with caramelized onions on a toasted sesame bun)
• Morimoto's wagyu burger and pork kakuni
• The Little Owl's bacon cheese burger on a housemade bun with The Little Owl scooping sauce and Guss' pickles
• The Dutch Burger with Cheddar on a brioche bun with secret sauce
• Flip Burger Boutique's rBQ Burger (fried pork belly, pimento cheese, bread and butter pickles, and smoked mayo)
Forgione's burger was solid, as was The Little Owl's — both New York burgers were juicy and flavorful. The Dutch Burger had great funk and was better than an unspectacular rendition served recently at the restaurant in New York. The Flip burger (Atlanta) had a strange, thick texture, which was perhaps just overworked, an issue that several burgers faced. Not so with Morimoto's wagyu burger, which was juicy. He faced another problem — a thick, chewy, somewhat dry bun. But he wasn't alone. Several other chefs served burgers with bun issues, whether they were dry, or too big for the burgers being served on them. The Meatball Shop skirted this by serving a thin, toasted sesame seed bun.
Check out the winners in the slideshow, along with a few made-up awards for some of the other entries. Given the number of burgers entered (32), the sides and showmanship that some of them were submitted with, and that there are only three official awards, it only seems fair to reward some of the other entries with some recognition.