The Burger Bash hosted by Rachael Ray at Dumbo's waterfront Tobacco Warehouse last night was the first event that sold out for the Wine & Food festival this weekend, but the $200 tickets secured attendees a balmy, chef-star-studded, filling night (check out the slideshow here). Amusingly, this may be the only event we've ever been to where the topic of indigestion was an appropriate ice breaker. Even more entertainingly, the A-list — including Rachael Ray, Tom Colicchio, Michael Lomonaco, David Burke (who put his HTZ woes behind him for the night and got his spirits up), a hatless Spike from Top Chef, and Al Roker — stayed the night. The party was such that you could grab mouthwash cups of Blue Moon ale (full drafts were in the next room) or raise the roof to Dancing Queen by the stage — but we made a beeline to the burgers.
Festival maestro Ian Schrager told Metromix this week to do "a little thinking before you chomp down at Burger Bash. 'Look at all the burgers first and narrow down what you want to try [...]There's no way in the world to try 15 or 18 burgers.'" So we considered his advice and suggestions from other roamers and zeroed in on our picks.
Rachael Ray's burger looked cooked to the point of resembling turkey meat, but it seemed a necessary sample since she's planning her own burger joint in the city. It was dry, but that's also because Ray was one of few contenders who cooked patties past rare. Most stands served meat that was completely red and creamy in the center. That added moisture helped the Market Table burger since tasty caramelized onions couldn't offset a bun that was too thick and chewy. Shake Shack's entrants didn’t compare to the fresh orders whipped up in Madison Square Park, but the team earned supporters by handing out shots of vanilla custard and fudge milk shakes and cool visors that will soon become a part of Grub Street's Halloween costume. Al Roker's burger, meanwhile, prompted some disloyalty from someone on the Roker production crew: "His burger was good, but it wasn't the best."
The crowd snatched trucker-hatted Tom Colicchio's burgers before we could try one, but we noted that the hearty Craft burger was much different from our favorite of the night: squished deliciousness from roadside Jersey diner White Manna. The small patty and soft potato bun melded together so well, it could taste good after a day in your back pocket.
The one entrant we felt safe skipping was Katie Lee Joel's
grilled cheese patty melt (was this not a burger bash?) — and in a fairly unbelievable upset for the restaurants participating in the event, SHE WON. With a grilled cheese patty melt, yes. And we didn't even see the Piano Man there shilling to make it happen.