Burgers are like buses - you go for ages without one then several come along at once.
I was recently reading up on French-born, New York-based chef star Daniel Boulud and his signature $123-a-pop truffle burger. And that same day I found myself talking to Peter Gordon about his plans for Dine, when he suggested, with a twinkle in his eye, we create Auckland's most luxurious burger - something funky and approachable for the Dine lunch menu that will get people talking.
I do wonder, though, whether Boulud's burger can be surpassed. It's made with a lean mince burger pattie stuffed with red wine short rib, foie gras, root vegetables and preserved black truffle on a toasted poppy seed and parmesan bun with fresh horseradish mayo, oven roasted tomato confit, red onions and frisee lettuce, all accompanied by pillows of sliced potato deep fried so they puff up like kettle fries. Served only during the black truffle season, it's a burger that sounds hard to beat.
But what makes a great burger - is it the freshness of the bun or the quality of the pattie? All too often the beef is ground too finely, seasoned too early, packed too tightly or cooked too long. Some cooks mix egg and breadcrumbs into their patties, yielding mealy or mushy mounds. And a stale or charred bun that's way bigger than the pattie is not nice to eat.
Ultimately, it's the ratio of ingredients and the "juicy" factor that makes any burger a winner.
And then there's debate over how much you can tinker with a burger. There are purists who say never and others who are open to the idea of additions like pork belly instead of bacon. London's Hawksmoor steakhouse has added a spicy Korean kimchi to a cheeseburger - apparently giving it enough kick to wake the dead.
When it comes to making your own burgers at home the first tip is grinding your own mince. And it needs to be done in a mincer - a food processor will just mush up the protein.
Push the meat through a large 8mm screen first, then through a 5mm one so the meat is not overworked. Add your favourite seasonings and a beaten egg, then roll the mince between damp sheets of cling-film to 15mm thick. Cut out with large cookie cutter, and place in freezer for one hour so they firm up.
Plunge the firm patties into simmering salted water for one minute, drain and pat dry.
This sets the shape and stops the pattie from popping up in the middle when grilling. Make sure the grill is preheated and the pattie has been greased. Cook to the desired degree and allow to rest to let the juices relax back into the protein, just as you would a steak.
If that all sounds too much, try the Dine Fusion Burger - a thin slab of Wakanui blue grain-fed beef, lime nori-dusted koura and fiery red chilli relish.