Burgers, lots of delicious burgers. This year I was honored to judge the 24th Annual Sutter Home Winery Build A Better Burger National Burger Contest in Napa, California. Last year my Sour Apple Pork Burger win secured a bid for my return to beautiful wine country. This year, topping the cook-off and taking away the grand prize of $25,000 was the delicious, “Heart and Seoul of Korea Burgers“. Abundant flavor, and… SPAM, which was a fun surprise! People’s Choice went to the “Chorizo Beef Burger” to the tune of $10,000, and it was very flavorful and interesting too. Runner up was the “Whistler Village Poutine Burger” for $15,000, which was delicious and sung the song of the Midwest, to this Iowa girl.
The burgers: blissful. The hospitality: humbling (I challenge you find another place on this planet that has better hospitality, you won’t.) The company (aka: people): completely wonderful. Oh… and the wine, don’t even ask! (Mama hasn’t had a hangover in quite a few years…) The wine is absolutely divine. Wine~Divine. I say no more.
We arrived at the Sutter Home Victorian Inn, where they kindly ‘put us up’ for our stay in a charming Victorian era room. Touted as ‘best breakfast in all of Napa Valley’, to which I say ‘best breakfast EVER’, this inn and the employees are fabulous. Mary Jo (the lovely woman I met last year and helped me secure excellent bacon for my Sour Apple Pork Burgers) made us a gorgeous cheese tray to enjoy after our harrowing flights out to California. (WHYYYY do we always have to RUN to make a connection? WHY?) Mary Jo also made her signature scones, to which I’ll be sharing a recipe for soon. She even made lemon poppyseed just for me with the plump Meyer Lemons from the generous tree outside (did she see me swoooooooning over the lemon tree?). I was in heaven.
Below: this is the pre-burger & wine extravaganza picture. Believe it or NOT, I ended up with zero, I repeat: Z-E-R-O, stains on my dress from the entire contest. Big deal people. Big deal. These judges were so fun to spend time getting to know in one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever been.
(Left to Right: Laura, yours truly, Rusty, Wendy Nyberg (Sutter Home Sr. Dir. of Mktg), Dr. Sharon, Eric, Tracy)
Rusty Hamlin: The executive chef for the Zac Brown Brand and host of the renowned pre-concert catered party, the “Eat & Greet.”
Eric Greenspan: A recognized chef and owner of 3 top LA Restaurants who has competed on Celebrity Cutthroat Kitchen and Iron Chef America.
Dr. Sharon Ufberg: A lifestyle journalist who writes for various print and online publications about women, wellness, music and wine.
Tracy Benjamin: Founder of the fun and colorful blog, Shutterbean.
Emcee: Laura Werlin: James Beard Award winning author, cheese and wine expert.
For more info on the judges lineup, check this out.
Oh, and being on the road with this guy is always a bonus. I’ll spare (him) you by not pasting the picture of him lugging around my colorful floral purse (although I think it is here on Twitter). Glad he’s game to cover the map with me, and he got to taste the burgers too! (Also pictured here are friends we enjoyed spending lots of time with on the trip!)
Coming soon… my top 5 tips to improve your chances of WINNING A BURGER CONTEST. I promise, it’ll be done by next weekend and will include tips from other judges and expert contesters! PS: Burger above is my personal favorite. Just plain and simple. WITH bacon.
Have you ever entered a cooking contest? Check out the Build A Better Burger website and get your creative culinary juices flowin’!
Sutter Home Winery covered my travel expenses and lodging for the duration of the Build A Better Burger contest. Opinions expressed in this blog post are my own.