- Impossible Burger (front), Regular burger (rear)
The last time Michael Symon sounded this excited on the phone was in the wake of winning a James Beard Award. Not surprisingly, his excitement centered around a burger. But shockingly, this wasn’t a beef burger that he was going on and on about: it was a plant-based burger.
“In 10 years of eating non-meat burgers I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Symon says. “This is a total game-changer.”
The burger in question is the Impossible Burger, developed by a Silicon Valley-based team of scientists, engineers, chefs and farmers. Unlike your typical veggie burger, which usually is created by mashing and mixing various legumes, nuts, mushrooms and vegetables into a dry, disappointing patty, the Impossible Burger employs a high-tech process to recreate the look, feel and, yes, flavor of real ground beef.
“When Traci Des Jardins [consulting chef at Impossible Foods] asked me if I was willing to give them a try, I said sure, but I’m so skeptical of that kind of stuff,” Symon explains. “She said, ‘Great, I’m hopping on a plane tomorrow and bringing you some.’ I told her, ‘Man, you must really be confident about these burgers.’”
Not only was Symon impressed; he immediately agreed to place them on the menu at B Spot. At present, B Spot restaurants
are the only restaurant that offer these burgers in the Midwest.
At Symon’s urging, I headed to B Spot at Eton today for lunch. I decided to order two Thin Lizzys, one made with the Impossible Burger ($9.99) and the other with the standard high-quality ground beef ($8.99). On paper, I ordered the two burgers so I could do a side-by-side comparison. But to be perfectly honest, I ordered the regular beef burger as a back-up in the likely case that I was disappointed with the vegan patty. I ended up polishing off both burgers.
The secret ingredient in these plant-based burgers, which are largely comprised of wheat, potatoes and coconut oil, is heme, the iron-containing molecule found in red meat but also found in plants. But rather than pluck living plants from the earth to source it, these guys force yeast cells to produce it for them.
Like Symon, I was blown away by the burger. Covered in grilled onions, melted cheese and pickles, I likely would not have even known that it wasn’t beef if I didn’t order it myself. The patty had a perfect crust from the griddle, and it held together just like ground beef. And true enough, it had a beef-like flavor, not unlike a long-simmered pot roast. Was it just as delicious as the ground beef burger? No, but it wasn’t that far off.
“These burgers aren’t designed for vegans, they’re for meat lovers who maybe want to feel a little better about their carbon footprint without sacrificing flavor. And they have zero cholesterol.”
They also boast more protein, less fat and fewer calories than 80/20 ground beef.
“I’m never going to stop eating beef, but it’s nice to have the option to go this route when I feel like it,” Symon says.