"I had gone on my own South Beach Diet, for one evening at least, and came out smelling like a rose, or at the very least like a cheeseburger. "
Even with me sharing an entire loaf of onion confit bread with young Ollie Kottke (son of Meg Hourihan and Jason Kottke) Tuesday lunch I was down two pounds for the week, to 228, on Thursday morning, when I boarded a plane to Miami for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. My plane arrived on time at 6:30 p.m., and after looking at and rejecting four hotel rooms, I was finally able to settle in, take a shower, and head to the famed Burger Bash.
I was looking forward to the bash for two seemingly contradictory reasons: there would be burgers I had read about and salivated over; and I knew this was going to be the ultimate Ed Levine diet test.
In other words, which Ed Levine would be attending? Old Ed Levine, who would have snarfed down five or six burgers in the name of research and proximity, only to be up all night with a case of burger poisoning. Or, the new, dare I say improved Ed Levine, who would carefully examine and suss out the best half-dozen burgers of the twenty-two assembled on the beach at South Beach and take two bites of each.
That was the question as I walked into the tent full of burgers shortly after 8 p.m. last night.
The first person I saw was New York City's Michael Psilakis, chef and co-owner of Anthos. He beckoned me to try his lamb burger. I took a bite (it was mighty tasty in a lamb burgerish way) and left the rest on the plate.
Next to Psilakis was Michael Schlow of Radius in Boston, last year's Burger Bash winner. He shoved his Schlow Burger, made with cheddar cheese, crispy onions, and horseradish-pepper sauce, at me. I took another bite and when he turned to talk to the next person in line, I cleared his burger from my plate.
I did the same thing with a burger from Michelle Bernstein's Miami restaurant Michy's. Her burger had crispy bacon, grilled onions, melting blue cheese, and aged balsamic on a pretzel bun. Very tasty indeed, and a burger I could have easily finished. That, my Serious Eater buddies, would have been a big mistake. So I soldiered on.
Bobby Flay's Bobby Blue Countrified Burger was next. It was a small (I would say four or five ounces) burger with blue cheese sauce, crispy bacon, and potato chips on top. Both cleverly constructed and seriously delicious, it took every bit of my willpower to take two bites and leave the rest behind. But I did it.
I made my way across the burgerway to the other side of the tent. Some folks I'd run into from Hill Country Barbecue in New York told me to definitely try former Top Chef Spike Mendelsohn's D.C.-based Good Stuff Eatery Colletti's Smokehouse burger: applewood bacon, sharp Vermont cheddar cheese, fried Vidalia onion rings, and chipotle barbecue sauce. The Hill Country folks were right. Spike nailed this burger.
Mine was medium rare, not too big, not too small, and every bite was beefy, juicy, crunchy, and tangy. It was everything you could want in a burger. I realized I was not going to taste a better burger that night, so after an obligatory bite of the Shake Shack double-stacked 'shroom-classic Shack Burger combo and a taste of the Ubuntu vegan boudin noir burger (very tasty in a non-burger way) I stopped.
I waited for the winner to be announced on stage. My tastebuds hadn't failed me. Spike's burger swept all three awards: the People's choice, the judges, and the Allen Brothers meat award (they supplied all the beef for the burgers with the exception of Shake Shack, which had their own meat sent down.
So how did I do in my burger temperance efforts? I thought I had done pretty well. I went back to my room comfortably sated but without going into a burger-induced coma. I regarded the evening as a success, eating and diet-wise, but it was one those nights where I could have been kidding myself. Thinner was going to tell all the following morning.
I brought Thinner into my hotel room bathroom, set it down a flat surface, and got on.
227. Holy shit. I had beaten the burger bash. Maybe the floor was slanted, so I moved the scale around. No matter where I placed it, I weighed 227. I had gone on my own South Beach Diet, for one evening at least, and came out smelling like a rose, or at the very least like a cheeseburger.