I wait with bated breath for Spring, not for the warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours but for PEI Burger Love to start. Restaurants from throughout Prince Edward Island vie for the best burger creation for the month of April. Now in its fourth year, this promotion started with 14 participating restaurants and has grown to include 54 dining establishments competing for burger supremacy. What began as a local effort to showcase Prince Edward Island’s high quality beef has now surpassed our humble shores (check out the feature on Food & Wine’s lifestyle site FWx). PEI mussels, oysters, and potatoes will have to make room on the international stage for the new showstopper – beef.
I am particularly excited for this year as I am nine months pregnant and in full indulgence mode. Two years ago, I was also nine months pregnant for PEI Burger Love and managed to try half a dozen burgers before going into labour – I am hoping to break that record this time around!
I have tried three burgers so far in the first week:
The Burger: The Bludacris Burger – 6oz Hand-formed Island Beef Patties, Blue Cheese Gouda, Blue Cheese & Maple Aioli, Bacon Jam, Caramelized Onions, and Arugula, on a Homemade Baked Potato Bun containing Potato, Cheddar, Chives & Bacon
The Verdict: I am a huge fan of blue cheese but because they use a blue gouda it is not overpowering and even those that don’t like a sharp cheese will enjoy this burger. The subtle sweetness from the bacon jam, caramelized onions, and maple in the aioli are ideal accompaniments and the peppery arugula adds some texture. The burger was juicy (as in all over my hands and face) but the bun was robust enough to not get soggy. What I liked best about this burger is that even with all of the other ingredients, the beef was still the star. I am somewhat of a purist when it comes to burgers and the best ones always focus on the meat.
The Burger: Apple Jack – Two 4oz Patties, Green Apple Mayo, Caramelized Onions, Homemade Jack Daniels Glaze, Smoked & Candied Maple Bacon, 2 year Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Fresh Green Leaf Lettuce, and Hot House Tomatoes on a Steamed Potato & Scallion Kaiser Bun
The Verdict: As the name may suggest, this burger is on the sweet side which pairs well with the cheddar. I have asked many people what they look for in a burger and a common preference is a soft bun – Phinley’s delivers here with the bun molding to the burger soaking up all of the delicious juices. The fresh tomatoes and crisp lettuce are a nice addition to the double burger patties and cheese and play on the traditional burger. The smoked and candied bacon is the piece de resistance as the sweet and salty epitomizes all of the flavours.
The Burger: The Gatsby – 7oz Island Beef Patty, Chipotle-BBQ Aioli, Maple Chipotle Bacon, Smokey Peppercorn Gouda, Braised Baby Back Boneless Pork Rib tossed in Chef Kyle’s BBQ Sauce, Sauteed Portobella-Shiitake-Cremini Mushrooms, and Pea Shoots on a toasted Old Style White Bun
The Verdict: Each component of this burger could stand on its own – the mushrooms were expertly cooked and seasoned, the baby back ribs were tender and sparked a dejavu of my childhood love of cherry cola, the gouda was like a soft blanket of ooey goodness, and the bacon was absolute divinity. It was well-layered and had the perfect ratio of meat to toppings. I licked the plate clean and wanted more despite the post-burger hangover.
My only disappointment is that PEI Burger Love only lasts one month and even with my large Italian appetite (and now belly) I won’t get to try them all.
I urge you all to get out there and try some of the ingenious concoctions created by our local restaurants. Here are a few tips for enjoying PEI Burger Love:
1) Prepare Yourself. Eat lightly before treading on a burger. They are enormous and you don’t want to leave even a crumb on your plate.
2) Be Adventurous. Try a new restaurant, travel outside of your community, or try a burger with flavours you normally wouldn’t gravitate towards. You might surprise yourself.
3) Share. Chefs have been working hard on their burger masterpieces so give them some extra love by sharing your experiences on social media.
Check out all of the burgers at www.peiburgerlove.ca and remember to vote for your favourite.