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15 November 2011

Tonight's Episode: Burgers and Beers and Bands Oh My!

            One of the cool things about being a self-appointed food expert like yours truly is the opportunity to judge various cook-offs. This past weekend I was invited by Eat This Charleston to come judge their first ever Burger and Beer Challenge for Autism.  I know what you are thinking, why would you hold an event so Autism can become even more powerful. Turns out they are actually raising money to find a CURE for Autism. Sometimes I require greater clarity than your average bear.
          Judging with me were Jimihatt, the bearded bad-ass behind Guerrilla Cuisine, Scott from the ever popular Charleston Food Bloggers, and in true Gilligan's Island fashion: The Rest (never got a formal introduction, too lazy to email Eat This guys to find out.)
           I grabbed The Girl (who is always down for burgers), and off we went to Awendaw. The event space was fantastic, large open field with multiple covered picnic areas, multiple stages, and easy access to US-17. The host restaurant, The Funky Little Kitchen, was once home to the biker hangout Kicking-Horse Saloon. The turn out was solid to try the 6 restaurants and 3 micro-brews.

         I'll start with the beers first. Westbrook Brewery is a brand new Mt. Pleasant based brewery I knew nothing about. They brought two beers to the table. The first was a massively hopped IPA, siting at 6.5%. Neither The Girl nor I was a big fan of this one. A little on the bitter side, for my taste, and only an average IPA. Their other beer is a curry-inspired White Thai. Replacing the traditional Belgian White's coriander and orange peel with lemongrass and ginger is inspired, and gives this 5% beer a freshness that can stand up to a Charleston summer, and a bite that holds up well in our mild winters. The Girl agreed it was tasty, and would have no problem with me putting it on tap at our house.
Grades- IPA 4.5 out of 10     White Thai- 9 out of 10
Someone learned their lesson about not bringing business cards

       Next up is another relatively new brewery, Holy City Brewing. Their first beer is a year round drinker called Pluff Mud Porter. This lighter-than-normal 5.5% porter has a chocolate undertone but seems off balance. I can't place my finger on why, but it was more like drinking bad coffee than good beer. The second of their three offerings was another dark beer, Bowen's Island Oyster Stout. This 5.75% achieves a pleasant and earthy dryness by adding, you guessed it, Bowen's Island oysters to the boil. This does not make them taste like oysters, but does impart a mineral flavor that is both unique and appealing. The third beer Holy City brought out was the Holy City Pilsner. This 5% daily drinker has mild hops and a clean finish that both The Girl and I liked. It may not win any points for originality, but for the heat of Charleston, it is a far superior drinker to any of the Big Fizzy Macro-Brews.

Grades- Pluff Mud Porter 3.5 out of 10 Bowen's Island Stout 9.5 out of 10  Holy City Pilsner 8.5 out of 10
Mac: Model? No. Beer expert? Yes

     The final micro-brew was Palmetto Pale Ale. If you haven't had one by now, the last two paragraphs were probably wasted on you. Solid if unspectacular beer that The Girl is happy with as an everyday brew.
Grade- 7.5 our of 10

The overall Judges AND Peoples Choice winner was Westbrook White Thai! Congrats!

On to the Burgers!
       Coleman Public House, 17 North, and Finz Bar & Grill turned out the least favorite burgers of the day. Coleman's suffered from over garnishing with alfalfa sprouts and a lack of seasoning. 17 North's Duck fat fried burger was a good attempt to stand out, but my burger was cooked until dead and the fried green tomato garnish was limp, thick, cold, and slid right out of the breading. Finz offered a red onion and pimento cheese burger that was solid. Not a stand out, but I wouldn't be disappointed if I had ordered it in a restaurant. The Girl really like her Finz burger, mostly because of the simplicity. That, and she is addicted to pimento cheese.
My Grades-
 Coleman 6 out of 10
17North 4 out of 10
Finz 6.5 out of 10
Coleman's burger: Lost in a sea of Green

Before I get into the top 3 burger, I need to talk about Eurasia's offerings. They decided to do a duo. If you have ever watched Top Chef you know how risky that is. What if one item falls flat and one is great? Do you judge them separately? We decided to judge each burger on its own merit. That was good for Eurasia, as they had my least favorite burger of the day, a wonderful sounding House Ground Georgia lamb burger with creamy cumin-dill dressing, and goat cheese. The sauce read like a broken tzatziki, and turned into a green puddle. The lamb flavor was completely drowned out. In fairness, the dressing had a nice taste and I'm sure in a restaurant it would have worked better. Here it just fell flat.
My Grade 4 out of 10

My number three burger was from our host, The Funky Little Kitchen. Creole Bacon, Carolina mustard BBQ sauce, and siracha blend for a sweet heat, pleasantly seasoned, and a fun little burger.
My Grade 7.5 out of 10

Number two came from Sesame Burgers & Beer. They decided to go with a mouth-party of Fig & Bacon jam combined with Bleu Cheese. The sweetness of the jam brought tremendous balance to the cheese. Instead of overwhelming you, this turned out to be a very smooth burger. Unless you had the one The Girl got. The jam was WAAAAAY too heavy, killing you with sweetness.
My Grade 8.5 out of 10
Easy on the sauce, I want to taste that Bleu Cheese

My number one burger, if you haven't guessed, was from Eurasia. Their Real Deal Burger with homemade Worcestershire sauce, provolone, crispy fried onions and sautéed mushrooms nailed it. Intense flavor, well seasoned, and perfectly cooked. The way the mushrooms on the bottom of the burger play with the crispy onions on top bring harmony to the flavors.
My Grade 9.5 out of 10
To your right, we have a great burger. To your left, we have a burger.

The Overall Peoples Choice winner was Sesame, while the Judges Choice was Eurasia's Real Deal Burger

That was not the end of the fun or the food. Out came the food trucks! Geechie Island, Tokyo Crepes, and Zahh Pizza pulled up to keep the masses fed while the live music kept playing. What a wonderful day for a great cause! Eat This Charleston threw a fun party, Funky Little Kitchen has a great venue, and we went home happy.

Nutella? Crepe? Me Likey! 

Funky Little Kitchen on UrbanspoonEurasia Wine Bar on UrbanspoonSesame Burgers & Beer on Urbanspoon17 North Roadside Kitchen on UrbanspoonColeman Public House on UrbanspoonFinz on Urbanspoon

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