Anatomy of a Bad Burger

Rachel Tepper Paley

Illustration credit: Jen Fox

Alone, black truffles are a beautiful thing. Those thinly shaved, woodsy morsels nearly melt away on the tongue, leaving behind a musky, distinctive flavor that lingers wonderfully. And we wouldn’t turn down other staples of decadence if they were offered: caviar, Kobe beef, pancetta, and yes, even controversial foie gras.

But together? We’re dubious that more is really more when it comes to these treasured ingredients, but a forthcoming New York City restaurant seems to have missed the memo.

Beer and Buns, which opens March 20 in the St. Giles Court Hotel, will feature a $250 burger of Kobe beef topped with shaved truffles, sautéed foie gras, beluga caviar, pancetta, and a “secret sauce.” (Be grateful that it’s only $250. Its creator, chef Wisit Panpinyo, wanted to charge $1,000 a plate.)

The dish sounds like too much of a good thing to us, but we asked Ariane Daguin, the founder of leading foie gras and truffles purveyor D’Artagnan, for her thoughts on this burger (and those like it). After all, this burger is merely a symptom of a larger problem; we’re in the midst of a most expensive burger arms race!

On foie gras as a burger topping: “It’s nothing new to use foie gras as a condiment. Why not on a burger? [But] if you are going to put foie gras on a burger, maybe you want to consider the [fat content] of the meat you use. Fat on fat, it’s going to be overkill.”

On caviar: “I really don’t see it. I try to [envision tasting] it in my mouth, and I kind of feel like I want to spit it out. I love [the] iodine in caviar. But I think it would exacerbate the natural metallic taste of the meat.” 

On pancetta: “Pancetta is naturally salty, and is naturally very porky, and assertive in its flavor. Foie gras and pancetta in the same sentence? I’m afraid of that.”

On truffles: “In order for truffle to shine above [all of the aforementioned], you’d have to use a huge amount of it.” (The few shavings shown in this picture of the burger probably wouldn’t cut it.)

So what’s with the fascination with over-the-top burgers? ”This is America,” the French-born Daguin sighed of our more-more-more approach to this overindulgent burger. 

But Daguin points out that not everyone in the states is dead set on overindulgence. ”When you look at the good chefs in America, you see that they very rarely use more than four or five ingredients on a plate. It just becomes a mumbo jumbo of things.”

The potential downfall? “Being unique and creative just for the sake of stunning people, it’s going to work in the short term, and then it’s the emperor’s clothes. People are going to see through that very fast.”

For the sake of burgers everywhere, we hope she’s right.