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.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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