When you’re buying a car, a suit, a pair of shoes, a watch, or even a hamburger, quality makes a difference. Leather seats or plastic in your family limo? All-weather wool from Armani or shiny polyester from T.J.Maxx? Mephisto loafers, or sneakers from Payless? Tag Heuer or a fake Rolex?
Oh, hell, this is too complicated. Let’s go get a burger.
When we’re in the market for luxury, quality may look and feel good, but you can cut corners without jeopardizing life and limb. Cut corners on ground beef, and you may be taking more of a risk.
It may not happen often, but cheap ground beef has a record: It can kill you. A food poisoning outbreak in 1993, attributed to a virulent form of E. coli in hamburgers, sickened 700 people and killed four children.
The problem with industrial ground beef, experts say, is that you don’t know where it comes from, and you don’t know where it’s been. Worse, everything gets mixed together. “If pathogens are present when meat is ground,” warns the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, “then more of the meat surface is exposed to the harmful bacteria. Also, grinding allows any bacteria present on the surface to be mixed throughout the meat.”
All together now: “Eeeuuuwww!”
But there’s a way to have your ground beef and eat it too, safely and with real enjoyment: Stick to meat from locally produced, grass-fed critters, grown by folks you can meet face to face at the farmers’ market. In Louisville, I suggest Bluegrass Burgers, 3334 Frankfort Ave. (Feb. 13, 2014 Voice-Tribune), or the subject of today’s dissertation, Grind Burger Kitchen, the recently established land-based operation of the city’s popular Grind Burger Truck.
“We use local, grass-fed beef. Our primary supplier is Foxhollow Farm in Crestwood,” say Grind owners Liz and Jesse Huot. “We buy whole cuts and grind all the meat ourselves to create our own proprietary blend. … It’s our policy to not sell you beef of unknown origins. This means that going to the grocery store and buying more beef is simply not an option.”
The little yellow storefront in a rather gritty strip along Preston near Audubon Park might not look much like a fancy burger emporium, but the fare is first-rate.
The 1/3-pound Grind burger ($9) showed its breeding in a fine texture that kept the meat tender and juicy like a steak. Its mild steak flavor didn’t seem as overtly “beefy” as the grass-fed beef from some local farms, perhaps because the rich cheddar melted succulently into every bite. It came with a slice of yellow heirloom tomato and caramelized onions. The fluffy white bun was okay but not as exciting as the burger.
A side dish of “What the Kale?” salad ($3) featured tender young kale and mild mustard greens piled high on a smallish plate, with crunch added by pumpkin seeds and julienne radish, topped by thin-shaved slices of Parmigiana.
The house-made veggie burger ($9) was outstanding. It’s a textured patty full of delicious beans and grains – chickpeas, lentils and quinoa – mashed into a coarse paste that yields a “burger” with complex flavor and a texture that’s, well, a lot like ground beef. A schmear of pimento cheese made it even better.
Thick, skin-on fries ($2) were well-made and delicious, served crisp and sizzling.
Amemorable burger lunch for two came to $24.91, plus a $6 tip.