Drewno’s ‘The Beast’ Earns Top Honors at Brainfood’s Burger Battle
With the sun and rain battling for supremacy in the sky, 10 of D.C.’s top chefs battled in the courtyard of Poste Moderne Brasserie Sunday, hoping to walk away victorious from Brainfood’s first-ever D.C. Burger Battle. After all was said and eaten, The Source’s Scott Drewno and his creation won both Judges’ and Chefs’ vote as top burger on the day with Battle host, Dennis Marron of Poste, taking home the People’s Choice award.
Now get a load of these f**king burgers.
Drewno‘s burger, dubbed “The Beast,” was a square, double-pattied beef blend of Creekstone Farms brisket, short rib, oxtail and ribeye with double melted American cheese, caramelized maui onions, a confit bacon and chili mash-up, specially-made, limited-edition Gordy’s mustard pickles (Drewno calls them the “Secret Weapons), lettuce, an heirloom tomato (compressed with tomato water, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper), Duke’s mayo and Heinz ketchup, all between a Ruffles Sour Cream and Onion potato chip-infused bun (yup, you read that right). And because that wasn’t over-the-top or anything, it was topped off with an Old Bay-chili-salt-seasoned tater tot. (Don’t worry, there’s a diagram below to help you sort all that stuff out.) Drewno says it took them about three weeks to come up with the burger, testing out various blends before deciding.
As for Marron‘s winning burger, the Poste chef went with just about the whole damn animal with the 110% Burger. The meat grind, according to Marron, was a 25% chuck, 25% short rib, 25% rib eye, 25% brisket and 10% beef cheek blend, and since we had eaten ourselves into a semi-comatose state all the while suffering through a serious case of the meat sweats, the math totally checked out to us. The cow amalgamation was cooked sous vide with bone marrow and thyme, finished off in a cast iron pan over cherry wood and then served on a house-made onion soup and rosemary bun topped with a Port City Porter whole grain mustard, red onion marmalade, braised beef cheeks, a cheddar cheese sauce and a Gordy’s sweet pickle chip.
And the winner’s weren’t the only ones who pulled out all the stops and went balls-to-the-wall with their burgs. Andrew Dixon stayed trued to his Epic Burger Wednesday roots from Mad Fox, and hooked up a short rib patty topped with pork belly, beer cheese made with their Leonidas Batch 300, relish, arugula and caramelized onion mayo on a house-baked pretzel bun. Victor Albisu of Del Campo (and Taco Bamba) got big use of the smoker as just about every component of his burger was smoked, from the patty itself to the cheese, bacon, quail egg and even the sauce, a burnt onion Russian dressing. Birch & Barley’s Kyle Bailey and his t-shirt slinging crew went with a beef and a bit of pork patty, cooked with a pat of butter in the middle, topped with house-made bacon, three cheeses, pickles, fried shallots and “fancy” sauce (very Thousand Island-ish).
Battle co-host Teddy Folkman and his Sous Chef Nick of Granville Moore’s put forth a damn fine, street-food inspired bulgogi burger on a pretzel roll from The Bagel Bakery in SE D.C. topped with sambal sauce and a slaw made with napa cabbage, red onions and jalapenos mixed with red wine vinegar, sugar, salt and clove and cinnamon-heavy pickling spice mix (we wouldn’t mind seeing this one added to the menu of his H Street joint). Ripple‘s Marjorie Meek-Bradley presented probably the fanciest plate on the day with purees of avocado and smoked egg yolk served alongside her chipotle-bacon-topped burger. Anthony Chittum of soon-to-open Iron Gate was the only competitor to eschew the bun and went with a pita-wrapped burger with a half-pickle spear, tomato and feta.
And finally, two chefs opted for lamb over the cow at the battle– Haidar Karoum of Proof put his between an olive oil sesame bun with some jalapeno keffir cheese and buttercrunch lettuce while Firefly‘s Danny Bortnick went with a tzatsiki aioli, pickled red onions and harissa butter on a nice, squishy brioche bun.
At the end of the day while moaning and writhing on the couch, ruing our decision to inject so much booze and meat into our bodies, a small greasy grin crept across our lips. Yes, there’s a very good chance we’ll still be carrying this red meat in our systems well into the next month, but the whole thing was for a great cause. All of Sunday’s proceeds go to Brainfood, a D.C.-based nonprofit that uses food and cooking to teach life skills and healthy living to teenagers. The group has permanent sites in Columbia Heights, Chinatown and Mt. Vernon Square and has the capacity to accommodate over 150 teens with year-round food-focused programming. Their latest effort is the Box Project where D.C. teens put together and prepare boxes of local produce and prepared food available in weekly subscriptions.
Burger Battles and other events of this nature are akin to All-Star games. They’re exhibitions. They let competitors show off their creativity and try things they wouldn’t normally attempt during the regular season. Some put forth unbelievable, jaw-dropping displays and others are like Robinson Cano in Kansas City. But in the end everyone has fun and that is exactly why we love events like this one. Brainfood’s Burger Battle may have paled in size to some of the other competitions we’ve experienced over the years, but it was one of the smoothest run we’ve ever attended. And it was an inaugural event at that. Lines for burgers and beers –if there were any– moved quickly and there was no shortage of grub or booze throughout the whole thing. Best of all, aside from the sharp pains resulting from our pants digging into our over-saturated bellies, we had a blast. Watching the 10 chefs do their things throughout the afternoon, grinning and laughing together all the while working through the hot temps over even hotter grills, it was obvious they were loving it too.
We can’t wait for next year’s Battle– hopefully we’ll be done digesting by then.
A whole hell of a lot of photos from Sunday are below: