Archive | June, 2013

Blue Goose

16 Jun

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Location
235 Queens Quay West, Toronto (Harbourfront)
Website: None, but they do have some info on Twitter

I’ve eaten a lot of burgers over the course of my lifetime.  This is actually the 50th hamburger that I’ve reviewed since starting this blog back in 2011.  I’ve also eaten my share of un-reviewed hamburgers over the last three years, and of course, I was a fairly profligate burger-eater pre-Tasty Burgers.    I’m going to guess that I’ve eaten a thousand hamburgers in my lifetime, and I’m going to say that this is a fairly conservative estimate.

This is all to say that when I make the statement that a particular hamburger is the best hamburger I’ve ever eaten in my entire life, this is not a statement I take lightly.  So please, imagine that I have the gravitas of Morgan Freeman and the seriousness of Edward R. Murrow when I say this:  The burger that I just had at Blue Goose is quite possibly the best hamburger that I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.

MY ENTIRE LIFE.

Blue Goose was actually started by Blue Goose Pure Foods, a producer of various types of “farm to fork” organic meats.   Knowing that the restaurant was started by a company that takes its meat seriously, I had high hopes.

It’s based out of a shipping container on the Toronto Harbourfront (along with Sully’s Honest Dogs and Lobster Roll), which is odd.  But who knows, maybe shipping containers are the new food truck.  This is actually the second group of shipping container-based eateries to grace our city (the first being the Scadding Court ones near Kensington market — including Wiggle Room, a burger place I’ve been meaning to check out).

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For obvious reasons, these ones are only sticking around until the end of the summer, so if you want to check out this burger (and trust me, you want to check out this burger) you’d better not dilly-dally too much.

Though I had high hopes from the get-go, I knew I was probably in for something special when the girl behind the grill began to prepare my hamburger.  She pulled out a glorious ball of pink and white ground beef, and as soon as I saw it my eyes widened with joy.  A Toronto establishment which knows that the words “lean” and “hamburger” should absolutely never be used in conjunction with each other is a rare treasure indeed.

She placed the beef on the sizzling griddle, smashed it down and seasoned it liberally with salt.  No other spices, no onions, no garlic, just great quality meat, salt, and searing heat.  Perfection.

And make no mistake, this is great quality meat.  Amazingly rich and almost obscenely beefy, it’s abundantly clear that Blue Goose is not kidding around when it comes to the quality of their beef.  When I rally against overly-busy meatloaf burgers, this is why.  Because I know that when you start out with really good meat and cook it properly, you can end up with an amazingly complex, incredibly satisfying flavour that you don’t want to mess with.

As for the refreshingly non-lean, fatty beef?  Yes.  It was so rich, so juicy, and so incredibly delectable.  The beef was also — as it should be — coarsely ground and loosely packed, and had such a great texture.  Seriously: perfection.

Look, I know this is all coming off as insanely hyperbolic, but what can I say?  I loved this hamburger.

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It has quite a few toppings (cheddar, caramelized onion, pickle, lettuce, and tomato); this would normally perturb me, but here all the ingredients work together such perfect harmony that I wouldn’t change a single thing.   The cheddar comes perfectly melted and adds a creamy tang without ever threatening to overpower the beef.  The richly unctuous caramelized onions compliment the meat quite fantastically.  And the lettuce, tomato, and pickle help to give the burger balance and cut the richness of the onions, cheese, and beef.

The toasted sesame seed bun was fine.  It was probably the only element of this hamburger that wasn’t knock-me-back amazing, but there was certainly nothing wrong with it and it complimented the burger well.

They serve a single burger, and a double.  I started with the single, and it was so damn good that I did something that I’ve never done before: I went right back and ordered another one.  A double this time (well, I split it with my dining companion — I’m not that gluttonous).  These are not wimpy patties, so the double was fairly enormous, but I think I liked it even better.  This one had a higher proportion of beef to the other ingredients, and was thus even more richly beefy.  It was outstanding.

As I think should be pretty clear by now, this hamburger is absolutely essential.  If you’re anywhere near the GTA and you have even a passing interest in burgers, you owe it to yourself to check it out.  I’ve only given out four perfect ratings since starting this blog: Burger’s Priest, Holy Chuck, Allen’s, and White Squirrel Snack Shop.  This one beats them all.

Go eat it.  Now.

Blue Goose - the crate Blue Goose - the crates Blue Goose - the burger Blue Goose - the burger Blue Goose - the burger Blue Goose - the double

Burger Day 2013

2 Jun

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For the last couple of years, a bunch of places across Toronto have been participating in The Grid’s Burger Week, in which a five dollar burger is added to the menu of each participating restaurant.  This year, the festivities culminated in Burger Day, which is pretty much the greatest food event I’ve been to in the city.  Certainly the burgeriest.

It really was a sight to behold, with dozens of restaurants all offering a mini burger (they were calling these sliders, but I think we all know that a mini hamburger is not automatically a slider).  It was an embarrassment of riches, and all told I sampled 10 different hamburgers, after which I was pretty much ready to crawl into a cave and hibernate.

The sad (and kind of awesome) thing is, there were a bunch more burgers I would have liked to try, but I am not a burger eating machine, as much as I would like to be.  I was also worried that the crowds would be unbearable, but I arrived right when the gates opened at 11:00, and didn’t have to wait longer than a few minutes for pretty much any of the burgers.  Suffice it to say, it was a great event and I will definitely be returning next year.

But let’s talk about the burgers.  Keeping in mind that I’ve eaten an insane amount of hamburgers and they’re all kind of blending together in my memory, here are my brief thoughts on the burgers I tried, in the order in which I ate them (and in case you’re wondering why the photos get more and more angelic towards the end, yes, I got grease on the lens.  No, it is not easy to photograph ten different burgers in an outdoor setting with no tables while also holding a bottle of water):

Kitch Bar
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Not a great start.  The patty itself was pretty meatloafy, with all kinds of stuff mixed in.  It was also cooked a little bit past well done and very, very dry.  The nacho-esque condiments (a couple of actual nachos, pico de gallo, guacamole, and jalapeno) were fine, if a little gimmicky.  The bun was cold, which was unappealing.  Perfectly edible, but nothing I’d want to have again.

Fidel Gastro’s Lisa Marie
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After the poor offering from the Kitch Bar, I was afraid that I had a bunch of overcooked, poorly thought-out mediocrities in my future, but this one quickly put me at ease.  It was amazing.  Probably the best burger I ate at the event, and one of the best burgers I’ve had in a while, period.  The beef was absolutely outstanding — coarsely ground, with an amazingly rich and beefy flavour.  I was afraid the condiments — pineapple chili ketchup and banh-mi slaw — would overpower the burger, but they were pretty great, adding a tangy zip while still making sure that the glorious patty was the star of the show.  The sweet, soft bun was also pretty perfect.  I’m not rating these burgers, but if I were I think I’d have to give this one a rare four out of four.  I’ve never been to Lisa Marie, but if they’re serving food of this caliber then I clearly need to check the place out.

This End Up
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This one was fine.  Nothing too special, but fine.  The rich pork belly, the cheese, and the umami mayo were actually all quite tasty, but the burger itself was a bit dry and ho-hum.

The Rude Boy
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Another so-so burger.  With the pastrami, thousand island, cheese, and sauerkraut, it was essentially a Rueben in a bun with a burger patty.  The patty was okay, but a bit dry and underwhelming.  I’ve actually been meaning to check out The Rude Boy for a while now, but if this is their level of burger cookery, I don’t think I need to be in any rush.

The Dakota Tavern
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I actually thought this one had a lot of potential, as the patty had a really satisfyingly beefy flavour, and the grilled, almost burnt onions complimented the burger quite well.  But like the last couple of hamburgers, it was overcooked and very dry.

Goods & Provisions
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I was pretty excited to try this one, as I figured the addition of bone marrow into the burger would have added a beefy richness.  There was no beefy richness to be found here — just an unpleasant, almost gamy flavour that was quite off-putting.  The pallid, wan patty looked and tasted like it had been boiled.  It was gross, quite frankly.  As for the tomato and shallot relish, it basically tasted like they boiled a tomato, threw it in the blender, and then dumped the resultant slurry onto the burger.  Worst burger of the day, and one of the worst burgers I’ve had in a long while.

The Good Fork
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This was a grilled cheese burger, and unlike all the other burgers I tried, they just cooked a full one and then cut it into quarters.  It was actually pretty good, though not particularly cheesy, oddly enough.  The shallot-teragon jam and the remoulade were both quite good, if a little overpowering.  It’s too bad, because the burger itself was fairly juicy and seemed quite tasty, but it was a bit overwhelmed by the other stuff.

Frank
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If it weren’t for the unusually awful burger from Goods & Provisions, this would have easily been the worst burger of the event.  The patty was super dense, dry, and way, way, way too finely ground.  It tasted like they blended the beef until it became a fine paste, and then formed the paste into a patty and cooked it all the way to well done.  It was pretty horrible.  The condiments were mostly okay, though the pickled red onions were completely overwhelming.

Holy Chuck
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Well, it’s Holy Chuck so you know it’s going to be good.  The beef patty was as juicy and delicious as ever.  The burger also featured an additional patty of ground up bacon, which sounds gluttonously amazing in theory, but which was kind of overwhelming in practice.  It was tasty enough, but the smoky, salty bacon patty completely overpowered the beef.  And when you’re dealing with beef as good as what Holy Chuck uses, that’s definitely not a good thing.

The Stockyards
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At this point my body was beginning to shut down from the abundance of beef, so naturally it was time to eat a battered, deep fried hamburger.  I questioned the wisdom of eating something this heavy when I was already catastrophically full, but am I going to say no to a cheese-stuffed battered and fried burger?  No, I am not.  I was not alone in this, either, because this was the only place I had to wait longer than five minutes for.  And boy, am I glad that I did, because it was crazy delicious.  I was afraid that it would be more of a novelty than anything else, but it was legitimately good.  The crispy, crunchy, peppery batter was outstanding.  I know that The Stockyards is supposed to serve some of the best fried chicken in the city, and if this is the batter they use, I can see why.  Note to self: try their chicken.  As for the beef, I usually find the burgers at The Stockyards to be above average, but a bit too lean.  Here, being deep fried and stuffed with cheese, that wasn’t an issue.  The whole thing was really, really good, and while it was far from traditional, it was so damn tasty.

And there you have it.  Ten burgers later I was pretty much ready to pass out, but it was a great event and one that I will happily return to for as long as it’s around.

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