In honor of Burger Week 2011, Decanted columnist Talia Baiocchi chose five restaurants in NYC with renowned burgers and asked their Beverage Directors to tell us what exactly we should be drinking with their respective meat sandwiches. Here's what they had to say:
The Spotted Pig
Carla Rzeszweski, the wine director at The Breslin and The John Dory has recently taken over the wine list at Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield’s beloved West Village gastropub. As the list stands, it’s a broad collection of wines split almost evenly between old and new world with a few back vintage gems tucked in here and there. Over the next few months Rzeszweski will be putting together an entirely new by-the-glass program. As for the rest of the list, she plans to move forward in a very measured way to fine tune the list, perhaps introducing a more maverick sensibility to the wines chosen, while always remaining true to a list that invites exploration and very simple pleasure of delicious wine.” (photo: Scott Gordon Bleicher)
The Burger: Chargrilled with Roquefort Cheese & Shoestrings $17
Wine: La Stoppa ‘Ageno’ 2006. “This is an orange wine, made entirely of white grapes (Malvasia, Ortrugo, Trebbiano) that have rested in their skins for over 30 days. The skins have lent tannin to the wine, which makes it a great match for protein-rich meat. The extremely aromatic Malvasia grape gives this wine awesome floral aromas of rose water and jasmine, along with candied ginger and a smoky apple cider note. Paired with the Spotted Pig Burger, the tannin backs up against the meat, and what you have left is a very refreshing, cool interplay between the Roquefort, the buttery bun and the floral notes on the nose.” ($71)
Beer: Ithaca Beer Company, Flower Power IPA. “Following the same relationship between the Roquefort and the beverage, the Ithaca Beer Company's Flower Power IPA is an intensely floral IPA from upstate New York, with a strong but very balanced amount of hops. The mild bitterness of the hops creates a beer with body that can handle the burger, and again the explosion of aromatic notes complements the heady Roquefort.” ($9)
Booze: The PG Tipple (Bulleit bourbon, PG Tips tea, lemon juice, simple syrup, marmalade, mint). “Just in time for spring the Pig's cocktail list is getting a breath of fresh air, thanks to long-time bartender, Ryan Gannon. A boozy iced tea with a mild twist, the PG Tipple acts in this instance as a simpler option to pair alongside the burger. The strength of the Bulleit can handle the grill on the burger, the double-brewed PG Tips create a mild tannic mouthfeel that gives the cocktail structural backbone, and the marmalade and mint act together to create a very chuggable springtime iced tea with a kick." ($12)
Burger & Barrel
Burger & Barrel’s Beverage Director Natalie Tapken has created what is perhaps the country’s finest solution to the ages-old pub wine predicament. In other words, there’s no three-week-old magnum of Woodbridge Merlot that’s been baking behind the bar here. Instead, you have one of the country’s most ambitious wine programs attached to a burger-centric restaurant.
The Burger: “Being back from New Zealand, I have lamb on the mind so I went with the Lamb Burger w/ Grilled Ramps, Ramp Remoulade and Fresh Mozzarella.” ($18)
Wine: “I really enjoy the flavor of lamb and try not to hide it wine the pairing. Right now I love the Travaglini Gattinara  (Piedmont, Italy) we are pouring by the glass. I am a huge fan of Nebbiolo. The wine has enough acid to stand up to the mozzarella on the burger. The tobacco and herbaceous qualities enhance the lamb element of the burger, while the crushed floral and cherry notes round off the ramps.“ ($15 by the glass)
Beer: “The rich flavor of the lamb needs an equally weighty beer. I love the Hitachino Red Rice Ale (Ibaraki-ken Naka-gun, Japan). This is a hefty beer that is quite complex. The malt and strawberry qualities compliment the bitter backbone to this beer that can do the heavy lifting with this burger.” ($8)
Booze: “B & B Spritz (Gin, Aperol, Lemon, Grapefruit, Sparkling Wine) is perfect as it is refreshing enough to wash down this burger. The mint is also a perfect compliment to the lamb and ramps. You can never go wrong with Hendricks and Aperol!” ($13)
Jim Chu and Johnny Santiago’s beloved neighborhood joint takes a humanitarian approach with their wine list. They are more or less doubling the wholesale cost leaving prices much lower than the average around town. The giveaway is short and sweet with less than twenty wines in the “rockstar” or “more mainstream, well regarded” category with producers like JJ Prum and La Rioja Alta moonlighting. The rest of the wines are filed under “punkrock” or “some new winemakers, lesser known varietals from makers you know, future classics” like Lioco and Bibi Graetz. The beer selection is brief with a focus on the US. The cocktails take a more global route, with twits on familiar standards.
The Burger: 6oz 80/20 Blend, Applewood Smoked Red Onion, Red Oak Lettuce, Tomato, Tom Cat Brioche Bun, Half Sour Pickle, Hand Cut Fries, Garlic Chili Mayo.
Wine: 2006 Dominio do Bibei ‘Lalama’ (Mencia/Garnacha blend, Ribeira Sacra, Galicia, Spain). “First time I tasted this wine I fell in love, it's a total seduction. It's meaty, subtle, minerally, rich, sexy, and complex. This is my favorite wine on the list and ironically one of the least expensive. Also I'm partial because my family is from Galicia. I recommended this bottle to a buddy and his girlfriend and they attacked each other in the booth. He called the next day slightly embarrassed and wanting to know if I put Spanish-Fly in the bottle!” ($48)
Beer: Sixpoint Crisp Lager. “You can never go wrong with a lager and a burger. We get all of our beer from Union distributors and only carry American small craft brews. Jim's favorite on tap right now is the Sixpoint.” ($6)
Booze: The Sancho. “[This is] one of my original creations. It's tequila with an ancho-chile honey, lime and fresh-squeezed orange. The heat from the ancho-chile really kicks in with the burger's smoked onion. If I'm sitting alone at the bar, this is the drink I'd get with the burger. It's a total macho meal. Sancho is also Spanish slang for "the other guy that your girl is fucking." Generally in kitchens when a guy sneezes, you say "sancho"; it's a fun game." ($11)
Resto owner Christian Pappanicholas currently heads up Resto’s beverage program, which sports one of the better beer selections in the city with about 140 available in a variety of formats. The wine selection is around the same size and focuses on affordable biodynamic and organic wines. The cocktail program riffs on standards and the top shelf is well stocked with small batch spirits.
The Burger: 6-ounce house grind that consists of beef cheek, hanger steak, and fatback. It is pan fried in a black steel pan until it’s cooked through (this is to ensure the fatback renders making it very juicy). It is served on a bun from Rockland bakery and comes with red onion, pickles, mayo and Gruyere cheese. It can be served as a single or double double and house made Boudin Noir (blood sausage) can be added for two Dollars. It is served with twice cooked frites made from Kennebec potatoes.
Wine: 2008 Thierry Puzelat KO ‘In Cot We Trust’ (Malbec, Touraine, Loire Valley, France). “[This is] a rustic blast of delicious earthy and savory flavor, with a hit of blackberry fruit and great tannins. Almost iron like quality. This is where sharing similar qualities work well together. The iron and blood from the beef cheek, hanger steak and blood sausage really hit home with the iron fruit of the Malbec.” ($18 by the glass)
Beer: 2009 Orval Abbaye Notre-Dame D’Orval (AGED IN HOUSE) (Luxembourg, Belgium). “Truly sour and complex nose and head. The longer this bottle ages the more sour it gets. The Brettanomyces strain of wild yeast (same found in sour lambics) gives great acidity and funk. Belgians get the sour thing right and leave it to the Monks to do it even better. The Brett yeast plays like great acid in a wine and cuts through the fat like Lipitor!” ($14/btl)
Booze: Greek Blood & Sand (Clynelish Scotch, Ouzo 12, Carpano Antica, fresh orange, orange bitters). “A twist on the classic, adding the ouzo to the scotch, antica and fresh orange adds the added dimension of herbal goodness. The anise brings a spice to drink that otherwise is very balanced. The citrus and acid is nice with the fatty meat, but the real winner here is the peat from the scotch and the anise from the ouzo that both love the liveriness from the cheeks and the hanger.” ($13)
Former manager and current Beverage Director Alessio de Sensi has built off of the theme park for wine nerds that Chris Goodhart originally created here at Minetta. He’s added a new focus on “renegade” natural wines on the low-end and has beefed up the high-end with back vintage classics, bringing the mean price up but keeping the everyman well cared for. (Photo: Paola Beretti)
Wine: 2009 Regnie "Grain & Granit" by Charly Thevenet (Regnie, Beaujolais, France); 2007 Brouilly, Chateau Thivin (Brouilly, Beaujolais, France). “The Black Label Burger pairs best with a Gamay to enhance its hearty qualities. By the bottle the Regnie and by the glass the Brouilly.” ($68, $12)
Beer: Radeberger Pilsner. “Radeberger is a German Pilsner and it has enough body to balance the richness of the burger yet its clean and crisp finish leaves me wanting more.” ($8)
Booze: Ginger in the Rye (Michters Rye, La Fee Absinthe, Angostura bitters, fresh lime and ginger beer). “The bite, spice and oakiness of the Michters and La Fee enhance the rich flavor of the aged beef whilst balancing the sweetness of the caramelized onions. The tartness of the limes and tang of the Ginger refresh and clean the palate so you can enjoy bite after bite.” ($15)
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