2011.11.16 Some burgers better without local flavor

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

I have to admit, I’m a bit jealous of Scott Hume. How cool is it to make a living writing a blog devoted to hamburgers? And why didn’t I think of that?

I’m a “longtime burger lover,” just as he describes himself. He used to be Chicago bureau chief at Advertising Age magazine (OK, so I’m only a former subscriber). Then, there was his stint as editor-in-chief of Restaurants & Institutions magazine. That’s how he developed the contacts to cover the burger business globally. Add selling a sponsorship to a major ketchup manufacturer and BurgerBusiness.com was a reality.

In addition to reporting what’s coming up from various hamburger restaurants in this country, BurgerBusiness intensely covers the international scene. That’s how I learned that McDonald’s is the official restaurant of the 2012 London Olympic Games.

With four Olympic locations including one in the athlete’s village and another in the press center, the fast-food giant expects to serve 1.75 million meals between July 27th and August 12th. And for the first time, Happy Meals will be available at an Olympic venue.  

Think about that for a second. I’m sure a medal winner wouldn’t mind ordering a Happy Meal, but what about those not-so-fortunate athletes? What is there to be happy about? Wait a minute, I’ve got it...instead of toys, the meals could contain an unofficial Olympic medal. Made of aluminum, or maybe stainless steel, everyone could go home with an Olympic medal. It’s worth thinking about.

In burger news closer to home, Burger King in Canada is featuring the Ringmaster Whopper, pretty much the same as our own Whopper, except with the addition of onion rings. I think BK had this in the U. S. for a brief time a year or so ago. Sounds pretty tasty to me, although a bit messy. 

 Not so tasty sounding is the side order of poutine, which is cheese curds and french fries covered with gravy. Also available is poutine with bacon and what Burger King calls “Angry Poutine,” consisting of poutine, jalapeños, “angry” onions and “angry” sauce. 

A Burger King executive called poutine “Canada’s favorite dish.” Really? More popular than doughnuts? I don’t think so. The doughnut shop chain started by and named after former NHL star Tim Horton passed McDonald’s in number of Canadian outlets in 2005 and now leads the clown, 2,700 stores to 1,400. And Burger King thinks poutine is the favorite dish? I don’t think so.

But it could be worse. In Portugal, Burger King sells a Portuguese Whopper with toppings including sausage. I’ll pass. If ever I was in New Zealand, though, I think I would like Burger King’s Angus BLAT with bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato.

At least, I’d prefer the BLAT over McDonald’s New Zealand-only Kiwi Burger, which includes a slice of beet (beetroot to the natives) and a cooked egg. What, no kiwi? But the Kiwi Burger sounds downright palatable compared to the Chorizo Supreme Burger McDonald’s is currently featuring in the United Kingdom. Each burger comes with sliced chorizo sausage. That’s enough to make me feel McSick. I think I’ll wait for the Olympic Happy Meal.

McDonald’s has a wide array of odd burger toppings around Europe. In Italy, the McItaly Adagio Burger has mashed eggplant, tomato, ricotta cheese and chopped almonds. In Spain, the McIberia includes ham and olive oil.

In Switzerland, the McZuri is topped with a hash brown potato patty and mushroom sauce. In Germany, the Wasabi Beef Burger is topped with cabbage, carrots and wasabi sauce. I suppose that’s one way of getting your vegetables.

Both major chains are introducing extra-large burgers. In Japan, Burger King has “Pizza Size Burgers,” nearly nine inches across and meant to serve four. In Israel, McDonald’s has introduced the “Big New York” and “Big Texas” burgers, both of which include an 8.8 ounce patty made of chopped prime rib and rib steak.

The new burgers replace the recently failed vegetarian McFalafel. It included falafel (ground chickpeas), sesame paste and salad in a pita. “It was an experiment and we realized that falafel doesn’t belong in McDonald’s,” said Omri Padan, CEO of McDonald’s/Israel.

That’s the way the burger business goes. Maybe McDonald’s will bring the McFalafel back someday, if they ever decide to feature a Not-So-Happy Meal. I’ll start thinking about toy possibilities.

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