Two St. Petersburg food spots participate in this year's Blended Burger Project

Chow down on their reimagined patties through July 31, then vote for your favorite.

click to enlarge The Cider Press Café's newest Blended Burger mixes Beyond Meat with portobello, onions and garlic. - The Cider Press Café
The Cider Press Café
The Cider Press Café's newest Blended Burger mixes Beyond Meat with portobello, onions and garlic.

A couple of food spots based in St. Petersburg — a vegan restaurant and a rolling rotisserie — are getting in on the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project. Now in its fourth year, the annual contest is essentially a partnership between the Mushroom Council and JBF that encourages chefs across the country to dream up more sustainable and nutritious burgers without sacrificing great taste.

Restaurants participating in the Blended Burger Project must then offer the reimagined patties they develop on their menus, allowing patrons to eat, then vote for, their favorite creations May 29 through July 31. Where can local diners go to chow down on Tampa Bay’s 2018 submissions? The Best of the Bay-winning Cider Press Café and Vanchetta Food Truck.

The featured burger at Cider Press, which has entered the contest for a second year, mixes a Beyond Meat patty with portobello mushrooms, onions and garlic — topping it with charred kale, herbed provolone, red onion, tangy lemon aioli and smoked sea salt on a kaiser roll.

“We had such a rousing success with last year’s burger that we wanted to do it again!,” Cider Press owner Johan Everstijn told CL in an email. “...Putting our vegan ‘KaleLemon Me Softly’ burger head to head with beef burgers lets people see for themselves that our burger compares favorably in taste, consistency and price. ‘Vegan comfort food’ is definitely here!”

According to Everstijn, KaleLemon Me Softly’s lemon aioli and charred kale make it a true original — not to mention an unconventional flavor combo, burger-wise. But the addition of mushrooms is particularly important because the Blended Burger Project is also a way for the JBF and Mushroom Council to educate the public about The Blend, aka a patty mashup of ground meat and finely chopped ’shrooms that addresses “the substantial health and environmental imperatives that face the food service industry.”

click to enlarge Vanchetta Food Truck's Vanchetta Burger. - DJ Lady Shay
DJ Lady Shay
Vanchetta Food Truck's Vanchetta Burger.

All participants are required to blend mushrooms (at least 25 percent) with a protein to pull off their burgers, and Vanchetta’s entry — the porcini-infused and porchetta-topped Vanchetta Burger with aioli, onion and fontina on a potato roll — is no different.

In the end, a panel of food experts determines the five grand prize winners, chosen from a pool of the contest’s best 20 burgers with the most online votes. The prestigious panel includes Andrew Zimmern (James Beard Award-winning TV personality), Susan Westmoreland (culinary director of Good Housekeeping) and Antoinette Bruno ( CEO).

In November, the victorious restaurants — judged on creativity, flavor profile and presentation — will then have the opportunity to cook their patties as part of the Blended Burger event at New York City’s James Beard House. Even better: Diners who cast a vote are entered to win an expenses-paid trip for two to NYC, where they’ll experience the burger smorgasbord inside the historic home for themselves.

So what are you waiting for? Help Vanchetta and Cider Press come out on top.


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