National Burger Day – Pairing at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse
In addition to being Memorial Day, the day when we honor those that have served and died for our country, it also happens to be National Burger Day. Considering this is a day when many Americans turn to the grill for their celebrations, it seems fitting. All too often, though, people do not think about what to drink with their burgers, other than simply “something cold”. And so all too many revelers fall back on the watered down, fizzy yellow stuff that does nothing to enhance their carefully prepared burgers, fresh off the grill.
When pairing beer with burgers, there are several different angles one can take to enhance or accentuate the flavors. From the meat to the toppings and even the sides, there are numerous ways to prepare and serve a hamburger. I had the pleasure of sitting down at an excellent Tampa restaurant this weekend and had an incredible beer-and-burger experience.
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse is known for – not surprisingly – their steaks. They are a fine dining establishment with a sophisticated menu, impressive wine list, and numerous awards. However, they are also keenly aware of the role beer can and should play in the culinary world, an attribute too-often lacking in many high-end restaurants still. My sons and I had lunch with Ryan Mitchell, Chef Partner at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse, and he treated us to three different iterations of the Prime Burger, a bar-only favorite. In addition, Chef Mitchell gave me several different beers to sample and pair along with the meal (diet soda for the kids, in case you were wondering), to decide which was the best to match up with the flavors of the food.
The Prime Burger is top grade ground beef served on a brioche roll, topped with crisp bacon seasoned with the special house blend, and your choice of cheese; aged Wisconsin cheddar, Swiss, or Danish blue cheese. The burger comes with a side of a pair of large onion rings and an aioli dipping sauce. I chose the blue cheese, and my sons picked the cheddar and Swiss, respectively. Chef Mitchell brought out a series of beers – from light American lagers to Belgian White to American brown and IPA.
The first comment from my boys (aged 12 and 8) was – with wide eyes at the sight of their burgers before them – “Ooooo… bacon…” And the dug right in. My youngest, ever the diplomat, said “Um… dad… your burgers at home are really good… but this may be the best burger I have ever had.” And he was right. Starting with the brioche roll, a light, fluffy bread was the perfect vehicle for the juicy, flavorful burger. The Danish blue cheese was nicely melted and the pungent, earthiness melded with the meat. Likewise, the Wisconsin cheddar and the Swiss cheeses brought their own complimentary flavors to the other burgers (yes, I stole bites from my children… it was responsible journalism…). But all were in agreement that the big hit was the bacon.
I was unable to pry the secret spice blend out of Chef Mitchell. but it was exquisite. Sweetness and pepper and… I don’t know what else. Generously applied to an already-great cut of bacon, just the right balance of crispiness and juiciness, it was an amazing addition to the flavors of the burger and cheese.
As for the beers, I narrowed my favorite pairings down to two, both from Cigar City Brewing: Jai Alai IPA and Maduro Brown Ale. The Maduro was an excellent match with its strong malt characteristics that complimented the cooked meat and bacon, and really brought out the best in the blue cheese as well. The Jai Alai cut through some of the fat, listing it from the tongue and allowing each bite to be as clean and delicious as the last. In addition, the bitterness of the hops were a perfect balance with the richness and earthiness of the meat and cheese.
The Prime Burger is part of the “5 for $6 ’til 7” menu at the bar at Fleming’s, your choice of “5 premium cocktails, 5 distinctive wines by the glass (or beer) and 5 generous appetizers. Each selection priced at just $6 each, and served nightly at the bar until 7 pm.” The burger alone is well worth it. Thanks to Chef Ryan Mitchell and the folks at Fleming’s for this amazing meal. We all loved every bite.