Dining With Denise Neil

Public at the Brickyard accepts challenge to build a better burger

“The Bomb Burger,” Public at the Brickyard’s entry into the national Blended Burger Project, is made by mixing baby bella mushrooms, button mushrooms, mushroom powder and soy protein with Yoder ground beef.
“The Bomb Burger,” Public at the Brickyard’s entry into the national Blended Burger Project, is made by mixing baby bella mushrooms, button mushrooms, mushroom powder and soy protein with Yoder ground beef.

Public at the Brickyard co-owner Travis Russell loves burgers.

But now that he’s a father in his late 30s, he’s becoming more aware of his red meat intake.

So when the James Beard Foundation put out a nationwide invitation to restaurants to create a burger that reduces red meat by blending it with mushrooms, Russell quickly accepted. Now, his restaurant’s burger is one of hundreds being served at restaurants across the country through July as part of the Blended Burger Project.

The James Beard Foundation, named for the late cookbook author and American cuisine pioneer James Beard, is a 3-year-old project designed to encourage chefs to create more sustainable dishes that taste good but cut back on calories and sodium. Blending mushrooms with meat is an actual thing created by minds from the Culinary Institute of America. Officially called “The Blend,” the concept is turning up on menus across the nation. Chefs say that the umami flavor in mushrooms blends perfectly with beef and actually makes burgers more moist and flavorful.

“It’s not a bad idea to cut down on red meat, and that’s sort of their push – to create more sustainability, to make a little bit of an impact,” Russell said.

To participate, restaurants had to create a burger that used at least 25 percent mushrooms in the recipe. Public’s chef, Josh Ironwing, tested several recipes before settling on “The Bomb Burger,” made by mixing baby bella mushrooms, button mushrooms, mushroom powder and soy protein with Yoder ground beef. It’s topped with Lovera Prairie Bomb cheese, organic red leaf lettuce, caramelized onions and mustard aioli and served on a Bagatelle sesame bun.

Russell said he loves the burger, and if customers agree, it’ll stay on the menu permanently. It will for be available until July 31, when the Blended Burger Project ends.

Fans of the burger also can vote for it on the project’s website, and if Public wins, its chefs will be honored at an event at the historic James Beard House in New York. People who vote also will be entered to win an all-expenses paid trip for two to the event.

Public is one of only two Kansas restaurants participating in the project. The other is Hank Charcuterie in Lawrence.

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