Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine at the Burger Bash with his winning bacon cheeseburger. Photo: Jacquelynn D. Powers
The biggest line could be found at Morimoto's station, where the Iron Chef was serving a pork "Kakuni" burger with glazed pork belly. Over at Shake Shack's booth, the New York stalwart tried to ingratiate themselves to the Miami scene (they are opening a local outpost here in the spring) with free t-shirts, shakes and their famous burgers.
Women were swooning over Rocco DiSpirito, who spent more time posing for photos than dishing up his Pork and Chow Chow Slider, which was a mini pork patty, wrapped in bacon and served with chow chow and pickled beets. While Guy Fieri turned heads with his blond, spiky coif, fans weren't able to get too close to him as he was flanked by bodyguards all night. We were able to chat up the festival's founder and director, Lee Brian Schrager, whose top pick of the evening was Morimoto's porcine-themed burger.
Art Smith, one of the judges, shared some of his requirements for the ultimate patty. "A burger should look like a burger and taste like a burger," he divulged. "The secret is a hot toasted bun, crispy lettuce, aged cheddar and crispy smoked bacon. If food is fresh, you don't need a lot of ingredients or sauces. You don't need guacamole on a burger. Dr. Oz always says that, 'If your grandmother wouldn't recognize it, don't eat it.' I was looking for simpler food with lots of flavor." Best known as Oprah Winfrey's chef, Smith consumed 27 burgers in the judging process. His selection for Best Burger? Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine in Miami. And since Smith recently lost a whopping 96 pounds, he came to the Burger Bash straight from the David Barton Gym on South Beach, where Rachael Ray was also spotted working out yesterday.
Everyone had high hopes for reigning champion Spike Mendelsohn's entry. While his Farmhouse Bacon Cheeseburger was well-received, Spike was not the "top chef" last night, though his accompanying Pink Cotton Candy Shake was certainly a guilty pleasure. Healthful types visited the South Beach Diet's booth, where Dr. Arthur Agatston prepared the night's only turkey burger, which was served on a flaxseed whole-wheat bun. Although it was nice to have a diet-friendly option, there was no way this burger was going to prevail.
Miamians seemed to take the night, however, with two of the four winners hailing from the 305 area code. Not only did the Standard Hotel's Mark Zeitouni win Best Side Dish for his homemade tater tots, but Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine nabbed the prestigious judges award for Best Burger with his perfectly executed bacon cheeseburger with smoked bacon, white cheddar, heirloom tomatoes and local lettuce. Rounding out the winners were B Spot's Michael Symon, whose Fat Doug burger (with Swiss cheese, pastrami and coleslaw) won the People's Choice award, and Masaharu Morimoto, whose glazed pork belly topping won Best Dressed Burger honors.
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Related: New York Wine & Food Festival 2009 - From Burgers to Barbecue