A New Burger King Emerges Triumphant at SUPERBURGER

This year’s SUPERBURGER wasn’t so much a Burger Bloodbath, as it was formerly known, but more than a few chins were glistening in the mid-afternoon Montauk sun, anointed as they were with plenty of sweet, sweet burger nectar. My chin included. 

Standing in a fenced off section of lawn on Star Island, feet from the Mega Yacht docks of the Montauk Yacht Club, was to be in a microcosm of the perfect summer get-together: lithe, long-legged beauties accompanied bottomless taps of Amstel Light and Amstel Wheat; games of ping (or beer) pong popped up at branded tables; and the pervasive aromas of hot coals suffused with the sizzling scent of ground meat drippings wafted gently through the air. This is how outdoor grilling is meant to be. 

Despite the fact that all were present to witness or to partake in what was to be a competition between masters of the culinary craft, very little about the event carried that charged, emotionally volatile atmosphere that comes with your standard cook-off. All the chefs were focused, no doubt, but affable and genuinely having a great time talking with friends and fans alike. 

“What more could I want?” said a smiling Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly of the West Village’s Fedora. “I’m here with friends, and this is a good balance between work and play. We’re just here to have fun. Winning is just, whatever. It’s not about that.”

Then what was it all about, I found myself asking. Is it just about standing around on a beautiful summer day, pushing yourself to consume as many insanely delicious meat-bun-condiment concoctions within a three-hour period? Well, as it turns out, yeah pretty much.

“The goal is to celebrate summer and have some good burgers,” said event organizer and progenitor Ben Leventhal, who first started the event six summers ago. “It’s a fun thing to bring the best of these great chefs together and watch them do something different. I think this is by far the strongest field we’ve ever had. The average quality of these burgers is very, very high. These are at least eights and nines, all of them.” 

Even head judge Kate Krader from Food & Wine magazine was smitten by the entrees. “So far, three years in, this is the best year ever,” she opined, speaking between bites into a heavily greased microphone.

The tune of the day seemed to be sticking to tradition, with each chef adding at least one personal twist to their creations, ranging from the somewhat simple (bacon grease for Jesse Gerstein and Dan Aldworth) to the innovative (chorizo and refried beans on Alex Stupak’s Mexican Hamburguesa) to the off-the-beaten path (Zak Pelaccio’s Lamb Burger). The judges were apparently looking to see who could best capture the essence of the consummate ‘Beach Burger,’ which the crowd and myself were blissfully unaware of until the very end. 

For my money, the absolute standouts were Pelaccio’s lamb burger (or lamburger, as it is pronounced à la mode Parisien) with Lady Jayne’s barrel-aged worcestershire sauce, sheep’s milk cheese, salted chilies, and aioli; PJ Calapa’s Butterfly Burger, which came straight to Montauk via Texas with French’s yellow mustard, white American cheese, and, hands-down, the best buttery, toasty bun in the game; and Stupak’s La Hamburguesa, a short rib patty with chorizo, refried beans, Chihuahua cheese and lime mayonnaise. 

Alas, I am no burger judge, and those select few saw things differently. Perhaps my judgment was clouded by Momofuku’s Christina Tosi’s Grasshopper Pie with basil mint foam, or merely by the fact I was unable to take one bite of each burger and throw the rest away for fear of hurting feelings or receiving a reprimand for wasting food. But when the judges cast their lot, the cards fell as followed:

Rated on a 100-point scale, with the points awarded as the judges see fit, first place was decided by a margin of only .4 points while third was a mere 1.2 points behind second; margins that are, as judge Josh Capon so eloquently phrased it, "very small numbers.”

Third place with 82 points was last year’s runners-up Jesse Gerstein and Dan Aldworth, one of two amateur groups in the event. Second place came in at 82.4 and was Harold Moore of Commerce.

And the winner of the Amstel Light SUPERBURGER Trophy and a spot in the New York City or Miami Food and Wine Festival was Seamus Mullen of Tertulia with his Hamburguesa Ligeramente Ahumada; a lightly smoked beef burger topped with smoked American cheddar, caramelized onion jam, and nora pepper ketchup. It was, to be sure, a most excellent burger; the first one I sampled, in fact, and more than worthy to bear the savory mantle of SUPERBURGER. 

SUPERBURGER: Burger Battle Royale with Cheese

Eleven chefs have answered the call this year for the sixth annual SUPERBURGER (aka Hamptons Burger Bloodbath) competition at the Montauk Yacht Club this Saturday, and all are in it to win it. For the first time, this formerly invite-only event is selling tickets, giving your average Joe Lunchpail a chance to rub greasy elbows with the cognoscentis of ground chuck and watch as dreams are fulfilled, hopes are dashed, and burgers are eaten.

Headlining the event is Emile Castillo from The Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien, with competitors Seamus Mullen of Tertulia, Zak Pelaccio of the Fatty Crab, PJ Clarke’s Mike Defonzo, Sarah Simmons from City Grit, Harold Moore from Commerce, Alex Stupak of Empellon, Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly of Fedora, and PJ Calapa from Sweet Afton. Also present will be last year’s runner-up Jesse Gerstein, James Ramsey, and Ryan Solien of the Montauk Yacht Club reppin’ the host venue. Last but certainly not least, Momofuku Milk Bar’s own Christina Tosi will be concocting madcap confections for dessert. Sitting in judgment of these aspiring meat Michelangelos will be Pat LaFrieda (owner, LaFrieda Meats), Lee Brian Schrager (founder and director, Food Network South Beach and NYC Wine and Food Festival), Spike Mendelsohn (Good Stuff Eatery, and Top Chef contestant), Kate Krader (restaurant editor, Food & Wine Magazine), and Josh Capon (executive chef, Lure Fishbar and B&B Winepub).

Event sponsor Amstel Light is bringing the beer, Pat LaFrieda’s has the meat, and Tito’s Handmade Vodka will supply the higher octane imbibables. Tickets aren’t cheap, but even at $135 a pop, you’re still getting more high-concept burgers than you can comfortably eat, free drinks, and the chance to be a part of burger history. For tickets, go to eater.com/superburger. We start fasting Thursday.

GoogaMooga: City’s Best Food, World’s Best Porta-Potties

Okay, so The Great GoogaMooga wasn’t all that great—but at a festival packed with chocolate ice cream, drip coffee, beer, and fried chicken, they sure did one thing right: the Porta-Potties.

These were no ordinary Porta-Potties. After gorging on three Baked ice cream sandwiches, a plate of Tertulia paella, half an Umami burger, a dirt cake chocolate pudding from a Top Chef contestant, and three beers—I was pooped and ready to pee.  

But unlike any other porta-potty I’ve ever seen in my entire life, these porta-potties had character. They had cleanliness. Immaculate seats and walls, no stench, and the best part: outside sink stations with pedal-pumped water and soap. So you can wash your hands.

For the four hours I was there (after circling the entirety of the park to find the tickets tent), I actually looked forward to going to the bathroom. Part of it was because I wanted to wait out the long line at the Dinosaur BBQ stand and mourn (in private) the fact that Wooly’s Ice was sold out by 3pm. Also, I drank too much beer. But most of all, I just appreciated the clean space and antibacterial soap. 

So next year, even if they continue to only serve dead animals and abstain from handing out Disneyland-style fast passes, let’s hope they do one thing right: preserve the potties. 

4 Out of 5: Soraya Darabi on New York

Soraya Darabi is a digital strategest and cofounder of Foodspotting. This is her take on four places she likes, and one place she doesn’t.

RECOMMENDED

Boqueria –  "A longtime fan of Boqueria in the Flatiron District, I was so pleased to see Tertulia open in the West Village this season. The Ibérico pork ribs are not to be missed!"

Dear Fieldbinder – "A best bet for vintage-inspired frocks with a German twist.  All of my coolest Brooklyn girlfriends shop here.  A signature key necklace I’ve worn every day for almost 6 years was purchased at Dear the first week I moved to the city from college."

Gramercy Park Hotel – "When it’s not a bustling ‘it’ spot, Rose Bar at The Gramercy Park Hotel makes for a mighty fine reading room.  You can find me there every Sunday afternoon, pretending it’s my own.  The art, expertly curated, changes seasonally and the fire is always roaring. Pro tip: If you’re nice to the waiters, they’ll let you order the salumi platter from Maialino and nibble it on a tray at Rose.

Trump Soho – The Trump Soho opened a killer spa last year, and I recommend their Turkish Haman baths constantly.   It’s an authentic wash and scrub down – perhaps not as pleasant as it is refreshing.  The cold jolts of water at the end are exhilarating.

NOT SO MUCH

The East River Promenade at night – The view of the boroughs bridges is gorgeous, but it can get a bit sketchy after 8. Stick to the West Side Promenade instead, starting with a tour of the High Line.

[Photo: Elk Studios]