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  • José Luis Villegas /

    Raphael Candall, left, chef at Capitol Garage, and David Scott keep their patties sizzling Tuesday at Raley Field. Burger judges picked Chef's Table/Hill's Kitchen as the best of 15 entries.

  • José Luis Villegas /

    The people's choice award went to Krush Burger, a favorite of the food truck circuit.

Meat the challenge: Chefs pile on taste during Burger Battle

Published: Wednesday, Sep. 19, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Sep. 19, 2012 - 10:40 am

At the Sacramento Burger Battle on Tuesday evening at Raley Field – there were two battles – the competition among the 15 restaurants and personal battles to finish trying all 15 creations.

"They are all so good. It's like Thanksgiving times 10," said Whitney Nexsen, of Roseville, while sprawled out on her back.

Feeling the pain, a stuffed Nexsen plopped herself down on the soft infield grass for a quick digestion break.

The primary competition – at least according to the chefs – was the battle for the 3-foot tall trophy awarded to the best burger. Led by Rick Mindermann of Corti Brothers, the judging took place over two hours with a mandated palate rest of five to 10 minutes between burgers.

He said he urged his fellow judges not to try to take down all 15.

"No matter how good that burger is, take a bite or two," Mindermann said.

The winner of the judged competition was Chef's Table/Hill's Kitchen of Rocklin, which featured slow-smoked brisket.

There were two awards, one coming from the six-judge panel and an audience choice award selected by the 650 people in attendance.

The people's choice winner was Krush Burger, a popular food truck operator, whose creation featured three types of mushrooms – chanterelle, crimini and shiitake.

The event was organized by Elk Grove burger blogger Rodney Blackwell with the proceeds, approximately $25,000, benefiting the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. Blackwell, who started his blog Burger Junkies about a year ago, said he was moved to create the event after attending the Denver Burger Battle in 2011.

"I've always been into burgers, starting with the quarter-pounder with cheese," Blackwell said. More recently he discovered gourmet burgers served by fine dining restaurants.

The event displayed the wide range of topping, meat choices, cheeses and sauces that can turn a classic American meal into a gourmet food experience.

Blackwell refused to be pinned down as a classic or a gourmet man.

"I like a full range. I like a classic burger, but I also like the extravaganza burger," Blackwell said.

Nexsen and her husband, Jon Nexsen, were in the classic camp.

"They were all great, but the classic is definitely the best," said Jon Nexsen.

"The classic done right, because you can taste all the flavors," added Whitney Nexsen, pulling herself from the turf.

There was no shortage of exotic toppings. Even the burgers described as classic had slight gourmet twists:

The Delta King's entry featured cumin fried onions; the Golden Bear's patty mixed beef, pork and lamb; the offering from Ettore's European Bakery and Restaurant featured a cheddar scallion bacon bun; Flaming Grill Cafe's secret weapon was its goat cheese spread; and the Porch came to battle with buttermilk fried okra on its burger.

Most of the offerings were straight from participating restaurants' menus..

The eating came in waves with VIP ticket holders receiving a one-hour head start.

Yanni Pandpeos, pleased with his efforts, enjoyed a glass of wine before the 7 p.m. general entry began.

"We tasted every one," Pandpeos said.

"They were all very different. There were sweet ones. Ones that were spicy," Pandpeos said. "There was something for everyone except vegetarians."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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