When I started eating less meat, one of the first things I added to a steak dinner was sauteed mushrooms. I started buying smaller cuts of sustainably raised local beef. With the size of the steaks shrinking, adding meaty mushrooms to the meal made it heartier. The flavors of beef and mushrooms blend so well together that a side of mushrooms at a steakhouse or mushrooms as a topping at a burger joint are expected.

The James Beard Foundation has decided to use this classic pairing of beef and mushrooms to create a challenge for chefs and restaurants to make a blended burger for the Better Burger Project.

Chefs are challenged to create a burger that is at least 25 percent fresh, cultivated mushrooms blended with traditional burger ingredients. Why blend meat with mushrooms?

Blending meat with mushrooms reduces calories, fat, and sodium while adding important nutrients like vitamin D, potassium, and B vitamins. A blended burger also brings more sustainable, plant-based items to menus allowing Americans to enjoy the taste and flavor of the burgers they love, knowing it’s a healthier and more sustainable preparation.
Chefs across the country have risen to the challenge, which is also an Instagram contest. Diners are encouraged to take a photo of their Better Burger and post it to Instagram using the hashtag #betterburgerproject and the handle of the restaurant or chef who created the burger. The five chefs with the most photo uploads by customers will win a trip to New York City to cook their creation at the James Beard House.
 

Our very own Ali'i mushroom burger w/ #betterburgerproject @beardfoundation #beachtree flag @fshualalai

A photo posted by Massimo Falsini (@chefmassimofalsini) on

May 28, 2015 at 10:31am PDT
I learned about this challenge because one of my favorite Philadelphia restaurants, Village Whiskey, is participating. Chef de Cuisine Dave Conn at the Jose Garces-owned restaurant has created a burger he calls the Village Whiskey Woodland Jewel, a blended mushroom burger with Donko Shiitake Jus, roasted vidalia onion and Shelburne Aged Farmhouse Cheddar.

The regular burgers at Village Whiskey are excellent, and I hope I can get there before the end of the challenge to try this new blended burger. To find a restaurant near you that’s participating, the James Beard website has a list of Better Burger Project participants.

The challenge and contest started on May 25 runs until July 31.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.