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Sutter Home's Build a Better Burger Recipe Contest 2014

Cous Cous, Sweets, Chips, Dip, and Wine.
Cous Cous, Sweets, Chips, Dip, and Wine.Melissa Vogt

Sutter Home Wines held their annual Build a Better Burger Contest this weekend and attendees are saying it was the best year yet! With the addition of live music and a sit down format for dining, in which the Sutter Home Build a Better Burger team served up burgers consistently throughout the day, the organization of the entire event was perfectly executed. Attendees had the opportunity to watch contestants chef up their burgers for the judges, sip on the array of varietals from Sutter Home Wines, Menage à Trois, and The Show, and taste each of the ten contestant's burgers—five from the beef category and five from the alternative (non-beef) category. Yes, that's right, attendees noshed on ten delicious burgers throughout the day!

The judges and the crowd were in accordance with each other over this year's winners. In the beef burger category, Michael Cohen took home the first place prize—$100,000—for his Chipotle Bacon Maple Jam Burgers with creamy blue cheese and pear, spinach, and hazelnut salad. In the alternative burger category, Cristen Clark wowed the judges and guests with her Sour Apple Pork Burger with cheddar cheese, cayenne-apple-candied bacon, and potato-chip onion haystacks; she took home the first place prize—$15,000—in the alternative burger category.

Sour Apple Pork Burger
Sour Apple Pork Burger Melissa Vogt

Sour Apple Pork Burger

The Sour Apple Pork Burger, created and prepared by Cristen Clark from Runnells, Ilinois, won first place in the alternative category. The cayenne-apple-candied bacon complemented the sweet pork patty, which was both tender and moist. Additionally, the crispy potato-chip onion haystack gave the burger a nice contrast in texture. To top it all of, the sweet and sour flavors of the burger were juxtaposed against each other nicely and left the palate satisfied.

Chipotle Bacon Maple Jam Burger
Chipotle Bacon Maple Jam Burger Melissa Vogt

Chipotle Bacon Maple Jam Burger

Michael Cohen of Los Angeles, California, took first place in the beef category with his Chipotle Bacon Maple Jam Burger. The flavor of the creamy blue cheese and the texture of the crunchy hazelnuts gave this burger a balance in texture and flavor that not all of the other burgers exhibited. Furthermore, the pungency of the creamy blue cheese was offset by the sweet pear flavor. There was also a lovely balance between the sweetness, pungency, and herbal flavors of the entire ensemble that made this burger stand out from the rest of the beef burgers in the competition.

Red Lantern Lemongrass-Glazed Chicken Burger
Red Lantern Lemongrass-Glazed Chicken Burger Melissa Vogt

Red Lantern Lemongrass-Glazed Chicken Burger

Jim Bradley of Chicago, Illinois, presented an impressive Red Lantern Lemongrass-Glazed Chicken Burger with delicious flavor. This alternative burger had just the right amount of smokey flavors from the spice-crusted chicken, toasted buns, and grilled mushrooms. The crisp cucumber also gave the burger a sensation of  freshness—something other burgers lacked.

Barbados Burger
Barbados Burger Melissa Vogt

Barbados Burger

The Barbados Burger, created and prepared by Kelly Randall of Vallejo, California, exhibited delicious island flavors. The burger itself was made of ahi tuna and accompanied by a slice of navel orange. The tuna was a welcomed alternative style and in combination with the sliced navel orange and ginger sesame aioli, tasted bright, warm, and welcoming instead of heavy, rich, and overpowering like some of the beef burgers.

Over-The-Top Truffle Burger
Over-The-Top Truffle Burger Melissa Vogt

Over-The-Top Truffle Burger

Some may say that the Over-The-Top Truffle Burger prepared by Bloomingdale, Illinois contestant, Kim Jones, could have taken home the first place prize in the beef category because of its complex flavor combination of truffle oil and salt alongside the pungent and creamy goat cheese. These flavors worked perfectly together and the burger was tender, making the overall experience of this burger certainly rival the winner.

German Currywurst Burger
German Currywurst Burger Melissa Vogt

German Currywurst Burger

The German Currywurst burger, created and prepared by Krista Towns from Aiken, South Carolina, was a top contestant in the alternative category. While curry is not a typical flavor expected in burgers, its spiciness alongside the pork sausage patty, was pleasantly received by the palate. The textures in this burger preparation were also spot on; the textural juxtaposition of the crispy pork skins and soft tomato curry-ginger jam was lovely.

Lone Star Hoss Burger and Mexicali Burger
Lone Star Hoss Burger and Mexicali Burger Melissa Vogt

Lone Star Hoss Burger and Mexicali Burger

The Lone Star Hoss burger, an original from Maureen Hiller of Katy, Texas, was tender, juicy, and flavorful. This burger was both sweet and smoky, balanced by an earthiness from the peppers and richness from the bacon cheese. Harold Cohen of Hollywood, Florida—father of winner Michael Cohen—prepared an excellent Mexicali burger with savory esquites and pepita crema. This burger was crisp, smokey, and intensely meaty.

Chicken Dressed as Duck Burger and Savory French Toasted Burger
Chicken Dressed as Duck Burger and Savory French Toasted Burger Melissa Vogt

Chicken Dressed as Duck Burger and Savory French Toasted Burger

The Chicken Dressed as Duck burger, created and prepared by Ellen Verdugo of Gloucester, Massachusetts, was wonderfully rich and juicy. This burger had just the right amount of meat to sauce ratio with a nice layer of greens and hearty bread. The orange thyme aioli alongside the spicy cherry mostarda was a nice balance of sweet and sour flavors that enhanced the burger's moist and delicious quality. The French Toasted Burger from Bill Clifford of Exeter, New Hampshire was a welcomed addition to the beef category because of its alternative bread. The perfectly grilled french toast was light and fluffy—a good combination for the juicy and tender beef patty, smothered in the rich bacon-shallot chevre.