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The BK Veggie?


Steve Klc
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Very interesting article:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content....sqk.asp

Thanks to my favorite blog by Glenn Reynolds:

http://instapundit.blogspot.com/

for drawing my attention to this article--in a journal I wouldn't ordinarily find time for--and for highlighting the impressive and over-riding impact of the conclusion, that "In a way, it's a little miracle that meat-eaters and vegetarians can come together and eat peacefully--at the Home of the Whopper no less."

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I don't trust anyone who refers to the whopper as a "mouth-watering, finger-licking, juice-dripping burger".  That hasn't been true since the 1970's, when they started storing them indefinitely under hot lights before you actually got your hands on them.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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That used to be true, but these days most of the fast food joints have shifted away from having premade sandwiches and towards having premade components. At the typical BK, they keep the patties warm in drawers and when an order comes up on the computer screen they throw it together and, in some cases, put the whole thing in the microwave. Then they drop it on the pass. This happens usually while the order-taker is picking up the soda and fries, so it's a transparent process. I'm sure Holly knows all the terminology for the different ways of doing it.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I used to date somebody in college who worked at Burger King. He ordered his burgers with two bun tops. He said it was the only way to guarantee that all his components were freshly made right after he ordered them. This was many years ago, so maybe it wouldn't work now, I dunno.

I'm going to try the BK Veggie for lunch today. I'll report back later.

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"no mustard" works better.

not in the NYC area, as mustard is rarely found on BK's or McD's burgers!!!

i always wondered about this point.  why would mustard be standard in one region of the country while in another it's nowhere to be found?  can one actually argue that virginians are overall big fans of mustard on burgers while NJians aren't?

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I imagine the big food chains did a lot of research to figure this out, and that it does reflect majority local preferences.

Two bun tops idea is clever, but I think BK -- at least as evidenced by the ones I've visited -- has been cleverer and has now circumvented all conceivable attempts to get freshly made food.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I imagine the big food chains did a lot of research to figure this out, and that it does reflect majority local preferences.

i'm not sure that i buy that.  and if so, i'm guessing that the research isn't something that they repeat on a regular basis.  one would imagine that the data is outdated.  of course, when you grow up having mustard on mcdonald's hamburgers, your preference for having mustard on mcdonald's hamburgers will probably not change as long as you live in that area.  but i don't think that's the issue i'm questioning.

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That used to be true, but these days most of the fast food joints have shifted away from having premade sandwiches and towards having premade components. At the typical BK, they keep the patties warm in drawers and when an order comes up on the computer screen they throw it together and, in some cases, put the whole thing in the microwave.

Is it really much more of a guarantee of freshness that the pattie is kept pre-warmed instead of the entire burger?  Sure, the bun might be fresher, but you are still winding up with dry grey meat.

And that Microwave step, yuck... I suppose it is to help melt cheese, but still...

I remember in ye ancient days liking McDonalds more until I discoved that at my local BK you could actually watch them take it off the fire and put it on a bun.  I'm not sure when this stopped, but I'm guessing some time around 1980.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Food hot off the grill tastes best.

Food assembled to order from warmed ingredients tastes second best. Buns don't get soggy or saturated with grease, lettuce stays crisp, etc.

Assembled sandwiches wrapped and sitting under heat lamps taste the worst.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I just schlepped the four blocks to my nearest location of Burger King to try the BK Veggie for lunch. There were no signs outside the location I visited indicating the new menu item in question, although other new items were depicted in pornographic juicy detail on glossy posters which blocked most natural light from the interior. A small sign just inside the door showed tiny images of several new menu items, including the BK Veggie, so at least I knew it was available at the store I'd visited. There was a larger sign behind the counter under the menu board which included a decent-sized picture of the sandwich as envisioned by a food stylist. I took my place in line and placed my order, which came to $4.28 for the sandwich, a large order of fries, and a large Coke. I ordered my sandwich without tomatoes (to which I am allergic), but did not make any other specifications. I also asked no questions about the sandwich. The counter clerk did not seem surprised somebody was ordering the BK Veggie sandwich.

My food came out quickly, and I hustled back to work as quickly as possible (I knew the fries wouldn't be too good if I dawdled, as they'd already been sitting under a heat lamp for at least a few minutes before they went into my bag). I sat at my desk and opened my bag, removed the paper-wrapped sandwich and cardboard fry container, and unwrapped my sandwich to make a placemat with its wrapper. I have not eaten a sandwich from a fast food place in a long time, so I actually found the wrapper-placemat, the ketchup packets, and so on to be novel. It was like I got happy meal toys even though I didn't get a happy meal.

I snacked on some fries while I examined my sandwich. The bun looked a little bit tired, and a bunch of slightly limp, yellowish iceberg lettuce was on my placemat that I assume fell out of the sandwich. I could see that there was a grilled patty with a slight char around the edges; the patty was thinner than most of the veggie burgers I've eaten. And there was a little bit of mayo showing along one edge.

I picked up the BK Veggie and immediately felt that the bun was, indeed, limp. It had been grilled or griddled and left to sit for some time. There was a thin smear of mayo, the iceberg lettuce, and the patty on the sandwich. No mustard or pickles, which I thought were part of a standard sandwich at Burger King...but what do I know about that? The patty was not quite like any veggie burger I've eaten before. It is the "conglomeration" type of veggie burger with many things finely minced and formed into a patty, not the more "authentic" type where they try to make it taste like meat. I guess the closest comparison I can make is to Morningstar Farms Garden Veggie Patties (which is the same veggie burger as they market at Subway on Vegi-Max subs). It's not as salty as the Morningstar Farms ones, and the veggies are minced much smaller...no whole slices of water chestnut. The burger didn't have much chew or much flavor; the cooking method did not impart any actual flavor to the sandwich. There was no char flavor to the burger or the bun; they tasted like they'd been broiled in an oven or left a little too long on a restaurant griddle. Mustard and pickles would have been an improvement. I wish I'd realized I had some Trader Joe's Sweet and Hot Mustard in the fridge, it would have improved the burger significantly.

I do feel a need to compare the BK Veggie to the two other fast food vegetarian burgers I have tried: Subway's, and Back Yard Burgers. The BK Veggie benefits from the broiling/griddling more than Subway's Vegi-Max, which gets warmed in a microwave. But the pattie on a Vegi-Max is more flavorful to begin with, and the cut up veggies you get from Subway are fresher and more varied. The Back Yard Burger Gardenburger totally blows away both the BK Veggie and the Subway Vegi-Max, though. It's a Gardernburger brand pattie, which is actually cooked on a charcoal grill when you order it. It comes on a bun that's made from a potato-enriched dough, and there's actual leaf lettuce and sliced red onion and dijon mustard on it. If you live in an area with a Back Yard Burger franchise, take your vegetarian friends there when you need a quick meal.

The BK Veggie definitely ranks low on my list of best veggie burgers. None of the elements are prepared with any care or interest, and so the whole sandwich as fully assembled lacks a certain oomph. I'm very deliberate about assembling a veggie burger sandwich, so it was more disappointing than I think it might have been had I not been a frequent veggie burger eater. That being said, it is a very big deal to me that Burger King is marketing something vegetarian as an entree, and I will definitely eat it again. I'll get it when I'm on the road, and I'll eat it occasionally just so I can encourage Burger King to keep it on the menu in my own small way.

Grilled veggie burgers, like grilled meat burgers, are the best patties. This is how I prepare a veggie burger at home without a grill:

(I prefer the Boca Burger Vegan burger, but this is effective with any type of burger.)

Put a 12" nonstick skillet on medium-high heat and grease the pan with a little olive oil. Slice up some onion and toss it in to fry. Defrost the burger in the microwave if it's frozen. Slice your roll.

Brush or spray (I use a QuickMist sprayer) both sides of the burger and the cut sides of the roll with more oilve oil.

When the onion is starting to brown a little bit, turn the heat to medium and add the sprayed veggie burger.

Let cook for a few minutes without moving so the bottom gets a little bit browned in spots. Keep an eye on the onions, if you keep them moving they will not burn.

When the bottom is browned, flip the burger and add the bun top and bottom, cut/sprayed side down. Let it toast for a few minutes and then turn the pieces over. Let sit for only a minute or so. Turn off the heat.

Assemble your sandwich with the onions and your preferred toppings.

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Malawry, have you ever attempted to make your own veggie burger from scratch? It seems inevitable to me that a cook of minimum competence could put something together that blows away any frozen prepackaged veggie burger. I've tried several of the major brands and thought they were all quite poor. They tasted nothing like a real hamburger, and they tasted nothing like vegetables. I'd prefer one or the other, rather than some other species of food.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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after reading Malawry's intense report, i couldn't help myself.  i had to go try this thing.

briefly, i thought it was pretty good, and i don't think i've ever had a veggie burger.  i ordered it with pickles and onions, which i figured it didn't come with after reading Malawry's review (although, i can't imagine why they *wouldn't* put pickles and onions on a veggie burger).  in addition to insuring that i got a "fresh" specimen, i also like pickles and onions.

i took a nibble of the patty itself.  i found it nicely spiced, and did detect the "flame broiled" aspect, which added flavor.  the rest was simply the basic lettuce, tomato (which i took off), onion, pickle, and according to the above article, "low-fat" mayo.  overall, it was a good sandwich, and one that didn't leave me feeling gross. although, my usual order is a double whopper with cheese. yuck!

they obviously aren't pushing this thing in manhattan, as i wasn't even sure that they served it until i saw it on the menu above the registers.

i'd probably try it again, if i was feeling health-conscious.  that being said, if i'm in BK, i'm probably not feeling health-conscious, but rather too-many-drinks-the-night-before conscious.

while we're on the topic, i've found that the "kitchen" is rarely the culprit when it comes to the long lines at these places.  it's the people between the food and the customer that are the problem.  food is often piled up, and the customers are piled up, but the near brain-dead people in the middle just can't seem to complete the transaction.  i sometimes think that they should open a mcdonald's automat, like the old days, to cut out the completely unnecessary middlemen.

/end rant

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No, I haven't made my own. I eat veggie burgers mostly as a convenience protein food. If I'm going to actually cook, I prefer to make a dish with beans, tofu or fish instead of making a pattie to put on a bun. Veggie burgers are what I eat when I go to the gym before coming home from work; by the time I get home I'm famished.

The single biggest reason I haven't made my own burgers is lack of freezer space; it's not like you can make just two patties and be done with it (every recipe I've seen makes at least 4). Sometime I want to make a bunch and keep them around for meals for a while. Now that we have a chest freezer (yay!) I may make an attempt at some point in the near future.

I have eaten veggie burgers made by others, and inevitably they fall apart easily. Seems making them cohesive is the hardest part. Most of the recipes I have seen call for lentils as a primary ingredient. I'd be more interested in one that's made from TVP or tofu, which I think take on other flavors better and have a more meatlike texture.

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A guy I know ordered one of these things.  He is a strict vegetarian and asked beforehand if there was any meat or meat product in the BK veggie (remember the McDonald's fries incident), and was assured that it was 100% vegetarian.

After consuming said product, he related a very severe case of the trots and spent much of his afternoon in the restroom.  He returned to BK to tell them about his reaction, and was told by another employee that the BK veggie are cooked on the same contraption as the regular burgers so that they absorb the "juices" (read grease) of the other burgers for flavor.

Being an omnivore as we humans were intended to be in my opinion, I rarely have much empathy for vegetarians, but this did seem wrong to me as (1) he asked before ordering and (2) the thing is advertised as the BK veggie.  In the case of McDonald's fries, it isn't exactly like they were touting them as a menu items for vegetarians.

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Being an omnivore as we humans were intended to be in my opinion, I rarely have much empathy for vegetarians, but this did seem wrong to me as (1) he asked before ordering and (2) the thing is advertised as the BK veggie.  

with all due respect to this person whom i've never met, i honestly don't feel bad for a person who is a strict vegetarian and

1)  orders *anything* at burger king

2)  asks a 5 dollar an hour high school dropout about the ingredients and/or cooking procedure (which it sounds as though your friend skipped over) of a product that might possibly make him ill if it contains animal product.

and i though the McD's hot coffee incident was absurd.  c'mon!

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Tommy, I guess your right.  He clearly deserves it for ordering a "veggie" burger and relying on the store employee's affirmation that it is vegetarian.  Why would anyone think a "veggie" burger is vegetarian?

However, it is ashame that we have to adopt a buyer beware attitude toward retailers of all types, including restaurants. Must be nice for the sellers though.  

Employee:  "Um sir, shouldn't we tell the customer that these 'veggie burgers' are cooked in meat grease?"

Manager: "why? whats he gonna do sue us, don't you know that no one wins lawsuits against fast food restaurants after the McDonald's coffee case."

Employee: "I guess your right, and screw him, I am just a highschool drop out who makes 5 bucks an hour."

Bevis and Butthead rule.

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Why would anyone think a "veggie" burger is vegetarian?

i'm assuming that's sarcasm, and i appreciate it either way.  but to be clear, i think "veggie" implies vegetables.  if i were a strict vegetarian, i would not assume it meant vegetarian in content or cooking process.  actually, aren't there several different "grades" of vegetarian?  that is to say, what is "vegetarian" to one might not be vegetarian to another?  i could be completely wrong on that.  this, of course, wouldn't be the first time.

buyer beware.  *yes*, in restaurants.  i would say *more* so if you're putting the product in your mouth.  :)

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Not sarcasm necessarily, but what I imagine his reaction would be to your post.  I think in our current vernacular tagging an item with the title veggie does imply that it is vegetarian.  However, I would not be surprised if anything at BK or its like gave me the trots.  In fact, White Castle has become quite famous for it.

Cheers.

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