Adventures of the Sutter Home Burger staff as they create and observe the 2006 Sutter Home Build a Better Burger, the $50,000 burger competition.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fire up those grills boys and girls! It's Build a Better Burger season!

Well, almost anyway! We're working to update our website with all the latest and greatest for the 2007 contest. I don't know a whole heck of a lot right now, but here's what I do know:

You can look for rules and sponsors April 16. We will be unveiling our kickin' new website then and word on the street is that we will have the World's Largest Burgerbase! That's right! Whenever that burger craving kicks in (and if you're me, it's often!) just cruise on by to and search the Burgerbase! We will have all the recipes in there, searchable by ingredient, wine pairing or keyword! How cool is that? Um, totally is the answer I say.

In regards to the contest, entries will be accepted from May 1-August 19. We are still nailing down details but we will post any new information on the website as soon as it becomes available. Check out and look in the Features Section for the most up-to-date info.

Grill on!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

We have a winner!!

A $50,000 congratulations to our Beef Grand Prize Winner!
Camilla Saulsbury is not only taking home the $50K, but she is also being whisked away in a limo to San Francisco TONIGHT, where she will have a glamourous dinner on the Bay (yea, we're fancy like that!) before hopping a plane to New York City on Sunday morning for her appearance on the TODAY Show! Be sure to check out Monday morning's TODAY Show and watch for Camilla!

Let's give it up for the Born in Berkeley Burger!!

Our second and third place Beef Winners are in!

Drum roll please!

Our third place winner for the Best Beef Burger is:
Diane Sparrow, with her Honey Chipotle Burger!

Our second place winner in the Beef category is:
Jenny Flake, the author of the Feta Florentine Burger!

America has spoken!

We posted all of our Finalist Recipes online and let you folks vote on your favorite and you have chosen a winner!

From the thousands of votes received (and all in a 2 week period...very impressive, you guys!) the America's Choice for favorite recipe was the Paella Burger from Olga Esquivel-Holman! Congrats to Olga!

An Alternative Winner has been crowned!

We had five FABULOUS burgers on the alternative side today and I have tried them so I can say in all honesty, I feel for the judges who have to choose their favorites! Though it was tough, they selected the winner!

Big Congrats to Liz Bennet for her Opa! Burgers, which took home the $10,000 prize as the Alternative Winner!

Special props also go out to our second and third prize winners!

Heather Kenney took home the second place medal, while Olga Esquivel-Holman is bringing home some hardware with a third place trophy!

It's like a big backyard BBQ--Sutter Home style!

I have to say, Sutter Home knows how to BBQ the right way. We should take a little time to recognize a few people because there are some serious VIPs in the house.
We have the entire Trinchero family with us today. Bob, Vera and Roger are all out as well as Vera's sons Tony and Bob Torres.

Many people don't realize that Sutter Home is a family-owned company. We may be world-wide, but we are still a mom and pop organization at heart. And that's the way I like it!

Here's a quick snapshot of our special guest...Vera Trinchero Torres and her friend Mary, who have always been huge burger supporters...hands off boys!

One finalist to go...

Jenny Flake is our last finalist to go before the panel. Jenny is also a returning finalist and is presenting her Feta Florentine burger as we speak (or, as I type)...

The judges are in total approval of the bread choice with Jenny and love the ingredients and the concept but it is coming out a little salt-heavy.

The Hearty Boys love the juicy burger, but thought the choice of cheeses may have added a bit too much salt as well.

Texas knows beef...

Camilla Saulsbury is our Region 4 finalist and being from Texas, she knows her beef!
Camilla is a returning finalist and James says seven years is too long a wait for this burger! He is a definite fan...the layers are workin for him.

Cat Cora gives the burger three greats! From the sound of it, that's like getting 4 stars! A little more toast on the burger, but she is still loving it!

Camilla has received a marriage proposal from's GOTTA be good! Daisy said this is a really awesome burger and she actually added in about ten reallys but I couldn't type them fast enough!

Diane Sparrow's Honey-Chipotle Burger...

Cat Cora is loving the components of Diane's was hot and juicy!

Daisy loves the bread's texture but is wishing there was more chipotle!

The Hearty Boys would like to lick their fingers on this one! The sweetness of the honey may have overpowered the fire of the burger but they are diggin' on it.

Daljeet is up!

Our region 2 finalist Daljeet Singh is presenting his burger...

James McNair's mouth is on a good way! The flavors are really grabbing him! Unfortunately though, James likes his buns toasted and Daljeet has a cold bun. That could cost a few points, but here's hoping the flavor makes up for it...
The Hearty Boys are lovin' the ingredient use, especially the iceberg lettuce. "Iceburg lettuce gets knocked a lot, but it really does add something..."

Bring on the Beef!

We are just about to present the beef finalists! Kathi Jones will start it off with her Japanese-inspired Mirin-Glazed burger! I had originally met Kathi on the BBB Book Tour and was very excited to learn that she entered after meeting with Chef Jeff Starr in Rochester! His cooking class at the Pittsford Wegmans really made an impact!

James is loving Kathi's burger--it's "packed" with Japanese flavor! She purposely didn't choose Kobe Beef because it is not readily available at her store...definitely scoring some points with the judges!

Cat's impressed with the flavor but the bun is a little doughy for her and there is a bit too much mayo. There are so many complex flavors and Cat says less is more.

Daisy is diggin' the idea for the burger and loved the mayo, but thinks there was a bit too much as well.

The spinach added a tasy crispy-ness which impressed the Hearty Boys and they thought the taste was killer...


Liz Bennet is up and presenting her Opa! Burger...
After a few mouthwatering bites, here is what I'm picking up from my corner of the burger world:
James is curious about the Bolo Buns Liz brought with her...a specialty in Seattle!

Cat Cora just gave out a BIG MMMMM, Liz is grinning! Good things, good things....The flavor is really jumping out at her. Juicy, perfectly cooked, feta chees and kalamata olives really add to it! Cat is a happy camper.

Daisy is loving her burger with the Sutter Home wines....she said it absolutely makes it! We have some serious fans here!

The judges meet the Paella Burger!

Olga from Region 4 is on! She came up with Paella burger on her plane ride home last year when she was imagining concepts.

The judges are very impressed with the acid in her mayo spread and Daisy Martinez is a huge fan of the burger! The spice of the chorizo is really winning her over!

The Hearty Boys are also impressed with her tasty efforts!

Karen presents...

Karen Tedesco is up with the judges...they are having some very positive reactions! Apparently her concoction of Asian Pear Slaw is a hit!

James McNair is lovin' life right now with a big ol' bite of Karen's burger! YUM!

Alternative Finalists are hitting the panel!

Dick Boulanger is presenting as we speak....I gotta capture some more good stuff! I can't keep up!

Let the grilling games begin!

OK, so 6:20am is not the best time for me to roll in, but I can't complain because there were others who were here eariler...crazy, I know. But we take our burgers VERY seriously!

Our alternative finalists have hit the grills and we are under way!

Olga is our Region 4 finalist from Witchita, KS...who says grilling in the morning isn't fun?!?

And Dick Boulanger is going strong with his Region 1 Alternative burger....

I purposely didn't eat breakfast so I would be prepared to taste all the burgers...this could be viewed 2 ways-- either really smart or really dumb--because looking at all that grilled goodness is making me hungry NOW!

The start of something big...

It's burger day here in the Napa Valley and it all began at dinner last night! After some long flights for some of our contestants, they got a chance to meet our volunteers. They all got to kick back and relax before the grilling was to begin!

This is just some of the tasty morsels they had before Jeff Starr prepared one of his rockin' dinners....

And if you saw that spread before you, you'd have the same look on your face that Kelly (another BBB volunteer and all-around burger enthusiast) and I (yes, that's me) have too! (And for the record, the cheese that I'm chomping on is really tasty!)The finalist from region 5 in the alternative category, Liz Bennet is enjoying her time in the Napa Valley!
One of our volunteers Debbie and our Event Manager Extrodinaire Michele enjoying the evening...

Sutter Home President and Chief Operating Officer Bob Torkelson takes a moment to toast the finalists and wish them luck in the competition...

I hope these finalists are enjoying their relaxation's all business tomorrow!

A little meet and greet action with Bob Torkelson and Daljeet Singh...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

We're right smack in the middle of BBB Cook-Off Week and The TODAY Show wants to party with us!

It has been nothing but burger madness here in the Napa Valley this week! We are preparing for the finalists to arrive and our BBB Crew is busy tying up all the loose ends to get everything just perfect! And trust me, from the look of it all, it's going to be the backyard BBQ of the year!

Not to mention that the TODAY Show wants to get in on the party! The grand prize winner will be whisked away to New York City following the presenation of a $50,000 check to meet with Matt and the gang at the TODAY Show on Monday, October 2!

How cool would that be?

I will be locked down to my computer on Saturday to make sure that no one misses any of the action--well, except when they offer me a burger...what kinda person would refuse that??

Pictures and details to follow...tune in Saturday. The updates will be flyin'!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Tidbits of info for your consumption!

Greetings burger fans!

I have been getting quite a few emails about the status of recipes that were NOT selected. Unfortunately because we got so many entries this year (we DOUBLED from last year!) our judges can not give individual feedback on recipes. We also have no way of knowing for what reason the recipe was not selected. I'm sorry for the confusion, as I know many of you would love to get some feedback.

Also, the finalist recipes are up and running and ready for the making! Visit the the online version of Build a Better Burger and check out these recipes, they are delish-trust me!

I will keep you posted on all the grilled goodness so keep checking back!

And don't forget to vote for your favorite recipe, beginning Friday, September 15th! You could win some cool stuff and I'm sure all of you are like like winning and you like cool stuff, so visit the website for all the details!

Grill on!

Friday, September 08, 2006

2006 Finalist info!!!

The long await is over! Our 2006 finalists have been selected! After two days full of burgers, one for beef and one for alternative recipes, we have chosen the following recipes:

Region 1: Kathi Jones, Rochester, New York
Mirin-Glazed Burgers with Sesame-Ponzu Spinach and Wasabi-Ginger Mayonnaise
Region 2: Daljeet Singh, Coral Springs, Florida
Masala Burgers with Tangy Tamarind Sauce and Red Onion-Mint Relish
Region 3: Diane Sparrow, Osage, Iowa
Honey-Chipotle Glazed Beef Burgers with Mint-Avocado Sauce
Region 4: Camilla Saulsbury, Nacogdoches, Texas
Born in Berkeley Burgers
(a.k.a. Bacon Cheeseburgers with Aged Teleme, Arugula-Fig Topping, Pepper Bacon, and Lemon-Grilled Fennel)
Region 5: Jenny Flake, Gilbert, Arizona
Feta Florentine Burgers with Frizzled Prosciutto on Parmesan-Toasted Ciabatta Rolls
And our Alternative Finalists...
Region 1: Richard Boulanger, Williston, Vermont
Bouillabaisse Burgers with Tomato-Fennel Relish and Saffron Mayonnaise
Region 2: Heather Kenny, Arlington, Virginia
Casablanca Bisteeya Burgers
Region 3: Karen Tedesco, Webster Groves, Missouri
Coconut Basil Chicken Burgers with Thai Peanut Pesto
Region 4: Olga Esquival-Holman, Wichita, Kansas
Paella Burgers
Region 5: Elizabeth Bennett, Mill Creek, Washington
Opa! Burgers
Thank you to all of those who entered, you all definitely made our jobs a lot harder this year, and that's a good (and yummy) thing!
More details on BBB 06 to follow...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The State of the Burger Address

Hello my burger-lovin' friends! With the close of the 2006 BBB, I am happy to report that we closed Monday, August 21, at noon with the total number of recipes received hitting the incredible 8,723 mark - 560 of those coming thru the USPS. Last year we had approximately 4,000 recipes sent in for the contest so we sure put that number to shame!

Now, I know some of you are worried about whether or not your entry was received. Two quick things--1, you may have gotten a "thank you for entering the win a grill sweepstakes" message after you entered. For some reason, our digital wires got crossed and the system sent out the wrong message, but don't panic because we DID receive all those entries. So while the wrong message went out, the recipe did get stored in the right database. Whew!

On another recipe submission note, because of a the crazy number of recipes we got, which absolutely rocks by the way, I can't search for individual recipes to see if they went through--here are just too darn many. Chances are the recipes did go thru, even if you didn't receive an email, but the database won't let me search for individual recipes by title. I am sorry for that part, but if you saw the database of entries and saw how many we would have to go through, you would see it gives a whole new meaning to "needle in a haystack".

Our legal review team was workin' hard to power through ALL the recipes and looking them over for legalities (making sure you had 16 ingredients, used those ingredients in the order in which they were listed, etc etc.) and now that they have completed their task, they turned them over to the judging panel to review the recipes based on the criteria set forth in the rules.

Our panel of chefs (the judges for the judging review) have also reviewed their recipes and I am pleased to report that the top 5 burger recipes from each region have been chosen (but I can't tell--they made me sign the same type of contract that Patrick Dempsey had to sign when he promised not to divulge who Meredith picks on Grey's Anatomy.)

So, with that being said, finalists will be getting calls very soon. On September 8, by 3pm Pacific, all the finalists will have been notified. So stay by your phones on that day! You never know...And, since we all know how I heart the use of this website as a vehicle for all communications burger, the finalists will also be announced on the website by the close of business Monday, September 11.

Our team behind the scenes is working extra hard to get all the pieces in place and Food Network will be in the mix again this year as well. We are looking forward to another great year!

I will also be live blogging the day of the event and will come complete with photos, so you will all get to be a part of the festivities as well.

Additionally, once we post the finalist recipes, you have the power, my friends. We are holding the America's Choice portion of the contest and you at home will get to vote for your favorite recipe. Check the site for details on that too.

Whew! I think I'm burgered out for today, but there's more where that came from, so keep checking back!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Blog Technical Difficulties

Hello burger fans! We have had some problems posting to our blog for some time now, but rest assured, they are all fixed and we will continue to post as much as possible. We will also be LIVE blogging the BBB event in late September, so everything is back on track.
Just wanted to update you!

More to come, stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Entry Tips

Ah-ha! I thought I would grab your attention with that title!

Hello BBBBlog-followers, I'm back in Napa checking out some entries and making myself hungry by the minute!

Since the heat is on in getting your recipes in, I thought I would take a moment to let you in on some secrets from behind the scenes.

Here's the thing. We have a very strict recipe review process and it goes a little something like this:

Legal review -- did you follow the rules? Followed by the Recipe Review which is based on 4 criteria: ease of preparation (ie would I want to make this for my family after a long day at work?), creativity (we are looking for more than just the average bacon cheeseburger here folks), visual appeal, and taste (fondly referred to as "the YUM factor").

Now, since the legal review is first, there are some things we are seeing right off the bat which you all need to know about so as not to ruin a perfectly good recipe entry on a technicality. Let the insider information begin.

Many recipes are failed because a complete list of ingredients is not included in the recipe. Please do a double-triple check to make sure you have listed everything. Sometimes there are things that are so obvious that we forget to throw them in the list. Many people leave out the buns!

I've also run into a lot of great burger recipes but have had to fail them because they marked the recipe as Alternative and is should have been Beef, and vice versa. Remember the rule: if your recipe has less than 75% beef, it is Alternative.

Recipes are also failed because the ingredients are not being used in the order that they were listed in the very first section. Super important one here! I would recommend writing out your recipe then have a friend give it a whirl and see if it is done the proper way.

Those are the majors that have been popping up, so just be aware and if you think something is funky in your recipe, the safest thing to do is re-submit it. Unfortunately we can't search for particular recipes at this stage so we can't seek out individual recipes to make sure they were received or done a certain way. When in doubt, re-submit.

So in conclusion, I just want everyone to know that I'm so loving burger season and it is in part to your recipe submission ideas. I can not wait to try these bad boys. And you had better believe you will all hear about it when I do.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Flood waters can't stop the BBB Tour!

The BBB Cookbook Tour rolls on!!

I'm currently sitting in the airport in Syracuse, New York where Sutter Home Culinary Director and Executive Chef Jeff Starr and I are awaiting our flight to Fairfax, Virginia for another stop on the tour. We just finished up a Wegman's visit in Rochester and Syracuse and to say they went well is an understatement (if I do say so myself!)

We had full houses every night! People in New York just can't get enough of the BBB and let's be serious, can we blame them? Jeff led a cooking class at the Pittsford Wegman's location on Tuesday and Thursday nights and gave some grilling tips. WARNING: Grilling tip to follow!

One important one being handle your meat as LITTLE as possible. The reasoning behind this actually is pretty logical, but I would have never thought of it. The more you handle the meat, the more the warmth of your hands on the mean will melt the fat in the meat, thus leading to a tough "hockey puck"-style burger. Makes you think twice about juggling your meat, doesn't it?

Another grilling no-no has to do with the use of the spatula while the patties are on the grill. I have been (but will no longer be) guilty of smashing the patties down with the back of my spatula. It just makes me feel extra chef-like, like I always have to be doing something with a tool or food to look like I know what I'm doing. But, by pancaking my patties, I'm smashing out all of the grilled goodness from the burger! The juices that keep your burgers moist and juicy and left on the grill and not in your mouth.

At any rate, those were two top tips that came out of Jeff's classes. I had planned to include some photos for those of you that missed out, but my USB cord had a little run in with my bottle of hairspray in my carry on bag--as in the hairspray drenched said USB cord, so I will have to get a new one before posting the pics. Apparently when the flight attendents say that luggage in the overhead bins may shift during the flight, they aren't kidding.

While I have your attention, I would also like to say that these classes are a lot of fun and I definitely recommend checking them out. This is my first time traveling with Jeff so I haven't seen him in action at the grill before and the gorgeous colors of the ingredients he was using, combined with the tips on how to make it easier, and of course, the samples of his creations, made me want to go home and cook! Alas, it will have to wait until after Virginia and Atlanta, Georgia. But I would like to take a moment to tip my cap to the Wegman's staff. Angela, Heidi and Denise have it goin' on in the kitchen. If you are in the Rochester area, take a class at the Wegman's Menu Cooking School where Jeff was this week. They are super fun and informative and more importantly, they let you eat fabulous foods!

So, here's what next on the agenda (it's all about BBB and burgers until I head back to CA on July 10!):

July 1
Jeff Starr cooking demo and book signing at the Fairfax Wegman's in Fairfax, VA. It's from 12-2pm and he will also be doing a second round from 5-7pm, just in case you can't make the earlier time.

July 7-9
2005 finalist Allan Brantley will be out at a few Kroger stores in the Atlanta area talking about the contest and signing a few books. We will also have a grilling demo on Saturday at the Crabapple Kroger store. (Details to follow.) And, since Allan is such a recent finalist, his recipe isn't in the book (but totally worthy--trust me, I tried it!) so we will be handing out copies of that as well. So pretty much it's a bonus recipe. Now, there are two things (that aren't burgers) that I like: bonus and free. These events are both. So stop on by and say hi. I will get some more details and the addresses of the stores as we get closer so make sure to keep checking in. Incidentally, Jeff and I are done traveling yet. He and I will be heading to Texas, with events planned in the Dallas and Houston areas. The time frame is looking like July 19 and July 20 for Dallas and July 22 for Houston. As always, we'll keep you posted.

Also on July 7-9 weekend, James McNair will be in the Cincinnati and Chicago areas for some book signings and grilling demos. I will be posting those specific dates and times later this weekend. Right now, it is looking like James will be at a Kroger in Cincinnati on July 7 and Chicacgo Dominick's and Meijer stores on July 8 with one more Dominick's location on July 9. Definitely more to follow.

In the mean time, keep perfecting those recipes!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

BBB Cookbook Tour arrives in Portland

So I have arrived in Portland and am ready for some serious grilling! We are going to be cooking all sorts of beefy recipes this weekend at a few Fred Meyer locations. James McNair will be available to autograph your official BBB cookbook and he will also be answering any burger questions you may have. Come out and join us this weekend! I mean really, can you think of anything better than firin' up a BBQ on a weekend? I didn't think so.
Here's the scoop:

Saturday, June 24
Fred Meyer
22075 NW Imbrie Drive
Hillsboro, OR 97124

Sunday, June 25
Fred Meyer
3030 NE Weidler Street
Portland, OR 97232

And just to get everyone even more pumped up, Good Day Oregon has asked James to be their featured guest on their whole morning show tomorrow. That's four hours of grilled goodness! Big props to the crew at Sur la Table on Couch Street, as they are opening their store to us tomorrow morning. Tune in as James lets viewers in on the secret to perfect patties on Good Day Oregon!

So come on down and visit and meet our Burger Guru in person this weekend at Fred Meyer. And while you're there, indulge yourself in a burger (or two!); you won't wanna miss it!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Infamous Salt & Pepper Question

I think that a very common question running through the minds of contesters across the country is regarding the use of salt and pepper in relation to the 16 ingredient limit. Now, since this is my favorite forum for answering BBB questions, I would take a moment to address this one.

So what's the verdict you ask? Do salt and pepper count towards the 16 ingredient limit? The answer (drum roll please)....

YES, they DO count towards the limit. Now, there may have been some confusion and many of you may have used salt and pepper and not counted them so now you're left with a recipe that is over the maximum number of ingredients.

Fear not my burger-lovin' buddies! One of the most beautiful things about this contest is that we allow you to enter more than once. Many times people choose to enter multiple recipes (totally okay, by the way) but you can also enter the "same" recipe with the proper modifications so as to meet the 16 ingredient criteria. So, if you're worried about your entry being disqualified, just point that web browser back to the entry page and enter that fabulous, mouth-watering recipe and you're totally in the clear.

See? Not so bad after all! Feel free to tag me back with any questions at

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to pack my spatula for Portland, OR because I'm hittin' the streets with James McNair this weekend! We will be visiting some Fred Meyer stores in the area and grillin' up a few of my favorites!

More details to follow so stay tuned and if you're in the Portland area, come by and say hi and have a burger on us!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


As the self-proclaimed BBB assistant, I get to see all the questions that everyone has regarding the contest and I'm here to answer some that seem to keep popping up. This is all good stuff and I'm keeping records of all the FAQs so as to make sure to incorporate them into the rules for next year (yes, I'm already thinking about next year, it's the curse of the burger!) We want to make sure you have all the info at your finger tips when coming up with your recipes!

Here's a good contesters think of everything! (Good for you for being thorough! No need to get DQ'ed for a technicality!)

If I use the same ingredient in two different places in my recipe, does that count as one or two ingredients?

If the same ingredient is called for in two different places, the ingredient will still be counted as one ingredient. For example, if salt needed to make the patties and is also needed in a sauce for the burger, it would only be counted as one ingredient. Specific amounts for each would need to be indicated.

So, hypothetically-speaking, if I needed salt to rock the fab in my patties, I would submit my recipe in the following manner:

1 cup Ingredient 1, diced
1 cup Ingredient 2, chopped
1 tsp. Ingredient 3, 1/2 tsp for patties and 1/2 tsp for sauce

Take ingredient 1 and mix with ingredient 2, as well as 1/2 tsp of ingredient 3. Set aside remaining 1/2 tsp of ingredient 3 for later use. And so on and so forth.

Here's another good one:

If a recipe calls for a homemade sauce, should it be counted as one ingredient or are all of the ingredients used to make the sauce included in the 16 total ingredients?

Answer: If a recipe calls for a commercially prepared product such as pesto, that would count as a single ingredient. But if a recipe includes making pesto, then every ingredient of the pesto counts as one of the 16 total. In other words, if the pesto has 10 ingredients, that leaves only 6 other ingredients that can be used in the entire burger, bun and all. Now you gotta get really creative and choose wisely!

I'll keep throwing up some more questions as they come in, so keep checking back as I am a huge fan of this forum for clarifying contest rules. (This is code for "I'm addicted to the BBBBlog!)

Of course, if you've got more questions, you can always
email them in. I'm here to answer any burger question you have, so hit me with your best shot!

BBB visits COPIA!

Let me begin by announcing that summer is my favorite time of year and here's why. The grill, people, the grill! You know that smell of freshly cut grass and something cookin' on a grill? Well I happen to think it's the best thing ever. Maybe next to chocolate. But I digress.

Anyhow, Sutter Home kicked off the 16th BBB contest in mid-May and our first grilling expedition was to COPIA, the American Center for Food, Art and Wine, and Head Judge James McNair and Sutter Home Culinary Director and Executive Chef Jeff Starr prepared some prize-winning burgers. Before I go any further, I just have to say, I want the kitchen at COPIA. You should have seen the appliances and and that counter space! Do you know what kind of culinary creations I could make in there? Well, ok, try to make...

James McNair was speaking to a full class at COPIA and gave them lots of burger trivia and tasty morsels of BBB knowledge. Did you know that the first use of the shortened term “burger” for the hamburger was likely due to the character J. Wellington Wimpy, who debuted in the “Popeye” comic strips in 1929. (Perhaps you've heard of him? "I'd gladly pay you Tuesday, for a hamburger today...") The hamburger-loving character became so popular that his favorite sandwiches became known across the country as “Wimpy Burgers.”

James chose three winning burgers to prep for the class, including the
Big Fat Greco-Inspired Lamb Burger, along with the burger that is a twist on an American classic: the Grilled Avocado BLT Burger. For those in the audience that weren't meat-eaters, James prepped the Soy-Glazed Salmon Burgers with Ginger-Lime Aioli. Each one made me more and more hungry! And the thought of getting to sample all three? Stop it.

After James prepped each burger, we headed outside to catch up with Chef Starr and his crew, who were busy firing up those grills! Chef Starr opened with some wine pairing notes that were totally helpful and more importantly, things I could understand. When people get wine-technical on me, I get a little nervous, but Chef Starr broke it down, making wine pairing easy for anyone to understand. He talked about his concept of "taste balance," which totally made sense. Chef Starr explained that whatever you taste first will change the taste that follows. His example? Have you ever brushed your teeth and then sipped orange juice? (Ugh, yes, insert scrunched up face here.) The sweet toothpaste actually changes the taste of the OJ, making it more sour and bitter. My favorite tip was that if a food and a wine pairing tasted good to me, then it was a good pairing, hands down. None of that fluff about only white wines with chicken. If I liked it, good for me, I had found a good pairing.

Chef Starr did give some tips for those who were up to trying new pairings. He said that many of the BBB recipes contain ingredients from around the globe, from Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Some of these flavors can be hot and spicy. Heat from chilies can make wine taste strong. That’s why pairing the stronger, bigger, bolder wines like Cabernet Sauvignon are not the best with fiery dishes. Milder wines, such as Sauvignon Blanc, will work better. And wines with a little sweetness, like Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, White Zinfandel, and White Merlot are better yet! The sweetness of the wine will help tame the fire of the chilies. Makes sense to me!

It was at this point that the eating commenced and all those in attendance got to enjoy the three prize-winning burgers. Again, let me reinforce the idea of a Saturday afternoon BBQ. Now that's what I'm talkin' about!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Due to some amazing traffic from the Food Network Build a Better Burger 2 special last weekend, we've had technical issues over the past four days.

Thankfully, those are all cleared up and we're receiving all your entries as smooth as can be. And, WOW, what variety.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Hello, I'm HJ, this year's Build a Better Burger Blogger.

I'm so excited to be sharing all of this year's contesty goodness with you. We have exciting new celebrity judges, we've got features planned with how the judging works, and my favorite, how the wine we make at Sutter Home goes with all of the burgers we sell.

Over the next four months, I'll be keeping you up to date on how the contest works and who's behind the scenes.

I can't wait to kick this off!