As many of you know, last week I was invited to the All-Star Burger Bash at MGM as part of their 4th Annual food & Wine All-Star Weekend. I was extremely excited coming into this, as all eight burgers sounded great. Unfortunately what I forgot, but was quickly reminded of when I started eating, is that mass-produced, rushed food events such as this rarely produce great products. We noticed many sliders were missing ingredients from one to the other, and in many cases we could rarely taste all of the ingredients listed in their descriptions. Either way we had a great time, met some awesome people, and ate tons of food! Continue reading to see a brief rundown of each slider offered.
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon: Le Burger – beef topped with foie gras and caramelized bell peppers. The foie gras instantly stood out as the primary flavor in this one, and it couldn’t have been better. Some people say that a restaurant cheats by adding bacon to anything to make it better; in this case the foie gras took that same role. The bell peppers had a nice contrasting crunch to them and also really great flavor. This was a great way to start off the event.
Avenue 24 Bar & Grill: Classic Slider – beef cheek topped with boursin cheese smear, tomato jam and shallot cracklings placed in between a salted caraway brioche bun. I loved the salt and seasonings on the bun, but wasn’t too crazy about the beef cheek. I’m all for alternate meats to the typical slider patty, but the beef was lacking seasoning and overall flavor. The cheese had pretty good flavor, but the tomato jam and shallots were non-existent in mine.
Shibuya: Nori Salmon Burger – Salmon patty topped with wasabi relish and asparagus slaw in a rice bun, all wrapped in nori. While I greatly appreciate a total departure from the norm, the salmon and nori had strong flavor, but I couldn’t taste much else. There was a faint wasabi flavor, but I must have missed the asparagus slaw on mine. I liked the rice buns, and the whole time I kept thinking about what the ramen burger might be like.
Fiamma Trattoria: Tuscan Sliders – house ground prime beef with white cheddar, red onion pickle and a piece of prosciutto in a ciabatta bun. The bun was crispy, maybe a bit too thin, but flavors didn’t mesh entirely well for me. Overall this was a bit dry, but I thought the crispy potatoes that were on mine were neat. I’m not sure why but the potatoes weren’t on anyone else’s at my table. The prosciutto had little flavor in the mix, but the mustard drops on the plate were a nice touch.
Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill: Grilled Slider – gouda cheese, habanero tamto chutney, IPA caramelized onion, reutberger dunkel bustard, arugula, arrogant bastard beer battered cipollini on a fresh pretzel bun. This was by far the most convoluted of all the burger offerings, but unfortunately I didn’t get half of these flavors in my slider. I loved the pretzel bun, and even the pickle, and liked this one quite a bit despite not really tasting some of those items and their obvious presence. I did have a great last spicy flavorful bite that left me with a good feeling about this one despite missing many of the elements.
Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House: Hand Ground Burger Steak – burger with oxtail marmalade, topped with horseradish havarti cheese and crispy onion crust in a handmade potato roll. This one was dry, and not that flavorful. I really liked the cheese but this didn’t have much else going for it; the onions had ok flavor on their own but got lost in the assembly.
Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak: Grilled Beef Burger – with a pork belly patty, a slice of an heirloom tomato with blue cheese and a zesty chipotle BBQ sauce. I have a long standing rule that I never order a burger I need to review with blue cheese because it overpowers the entire thing, and this was no exception. I love pork belly so I was very excited to try this one, but I couldn’t really taste anything special about it or anything else.
Michael Mina PUB 1842: Bacon Cheeseburger – beef patty smothered with smoked gouda and melted ‘Merican cheese, lettuce, PUB 1842’s secret sauce, bacon and more bacon. I’m not sure if they ran out of bacon by the time I got to their booth, but mine didn’t have either helping of bacon they claimed. This one felt the most like I was eating a full burger as it held great char flavor in the patty, but I didn’t quite get all the cheeses and everything else in it. The shredded lettuce and sauce definitely helped tie this together for me still. I would also say they had the best presentation of the event as they had a nice stamped paper insert on their plate and even included a side of chips with each one.
They even had a fry station with several great sounding options, but unfortunately I didn’t get to sample much of it as I was quite full after eating 9 sliders in about an hour. While all of this was going on, they had a team of judges eating probably better-prepared sliders than the ones I was getting. That process happened intermittently for the first hour or so, which was followed by a longer than anticipated waiting period for them to announce the winner. I think everyone was shocked when they announced PUB 1842; while it was unquestionably a great burger, everyone I spoke to during the event emphatically called out the Robuchon slider as their favorite. I would say my favorite was easily the Robuchon with its foie gras; it was juicy, fatty and just delicious. My second favorite, despite the missing bacon was the Pub 1842 slider and its close similarity to a full burger. And rounding off the top three was Wolfgang’s slider, as I loved the pretzel bun and pickles. Overall this was a very fun event and am so happy I could be a part of it!