Nothing like a good burger

We interrupt this regularly scheduled column, which eventually will discuss hamburgers, to bring you a special message about another feature in this magazine.

This is a testimonial this month’s Test Kitchen by Editor Kelsey Reinhart. These Cheesy Spinach Balls taste, in a word, fantastic.

I read the recipe while proofreading this month’s edition on the Saturday before Super Bowl LI. Knowing that I could use one more foodie item for a Super Bowl party and that nearly all of the needed ingredients were on-hand, I figured, “Why not give this a try?”

My result turned out a lot greener than the pictures of About Editor Kelsey Reinhart’s more yellow (read: cheesier) attempt. Neither of us was disappointed, though, and you won’t be either.

Now, about those hamburgers.

Twenty local restaurateurs brought samples to the About staff for taste-testing conducted by a panel of judges that did not include me for reasons not fully explained. What’s the point of a fancy title if you don’t get the best perks?

Here are my thoughts, with the help of a big-time burger aficionado, about what it takes to make eating a hamburger a nearly toe-curling experience:

• The ratio of bun to burger is important. The bun can’t be too big or too small. Typical store-bought buns can’t handle anything larger than a one-third pound patty.

• Toast those buns. But go easy on the butter.

• Don’t poke or press the meat. If the patty crumbles, the cook did not know what he (or she) was doing.

• A good burger takes time. It’s not fast food.

• A burger can ooze a little, but it should not be super messy meal.

• You can never go wrong with bacon.

You can read the results from our Burger Wars here. Enjoy!

—Rich Desrosiers

I’ve got a burger for you, and it might be properly cooked

Every burger featured in this magazine is delicious.

I didn’t need a taste-test to determine that. I’m a sucker for burgers and, living in Stark County for going on 13 years (and married to a Stark County girl going on 18 years), I’ve already sampled all of them.

Many times. I have the waistline—and the cardiologist on call—to prove it.

But for all the great burgers you can eat in Stark County, you’re highly unlikely ever to taste the best—mostly because there’s no way we’re going to be able to fit all the readers of About magazine onto the deck behind my house.

That’s right. The best burgers in Stark County are the ones I grill myself.

That’s ridiculously arrogant—yet so amazingly true! Ask anyone who’s sampled the goods.

Granted, you can’t please everyone all the time. I’ve been told alternately that 1) My grilling is awesome; 2) You’re never touching the grill again. Different family members have suggested 1) Flip the burgers more often; 2) Don’t flip them so much. One time, I ended a family debate about the proper temperature of the grill with a menacing wave of the spatula.

I like to quote Forrest Gump: “You never know what you’re gonna get.” Your burger could be charcoal-black, as hard as the cement in the driveway. Your burger could be dripping red, leaving you to wonder if the heart still is beating. And if you’re around long enough, you might stumble across the Holy Grail of Brown cookouts—a burger that is half-charcoal, half bloody. But you have to stop marveling at it to eat it, which can be tough.

I know what you’re thinking. “This doesn’t sound like one of Stark County’s best burgers.”

To quote someone—was it Forrest Gump?—I offer this: “It’s the journey, not the destination.” Maybe it’s just me, but eating is so much more enjoyable when you’re cooking yourself, as opposed to dropping a couple bucks at a counter.

Spring is nearly here. We’ll fire up the grill again soon. The family is excited. They know there’s nothing like a bite of charcoal to build some character.

—Scott Brown

The best in the business

The great burger debate happens across the country throughout the year in most every community, large and small.

And the best burgers are always made locally. They always should come with plenty of napkins and enough mess that makes asking for just one more napkin a necessity.

Before we get to my favorite burgers, let me introduce a little magic into your life the next time you’re making burgers at home.

Grab some pulled pork, preferably from Old Carolina Barbecue Co. or if you’re in a pinch, the prepackaged Jack Daniels pulled pork will do. Make white cheese queso—or cheat and buy the stuff already made in the refrigerated food section of your local grocery.

Place your burger on the bottom side of the bun, add a couple of good spoonfuls of pulled pork and drizzle with plenty of white queso that it flows over the bun.

Again, make sure there are plenty napkins on hand. The mess is worth the party in your mouth.

•••

This is probably going to get me in trouble because I’ve got friends and family in the restaurant business, and specifically the burger business. Let’s start with the premise that no burger should be a naked burger. There has to be fixings on a burger, and the best combination thereof, wins.

You will find that in all three of my favorite places to eat a burger, there is a special something added to the mix.

Let’s get started, in no particular order:

Triple Nickel, Amvets Post No. 555: Joe Sigler has been slinging his burger in downtown Canton for more than a decade now, and two of my favorites would be in consideration for my final prison meal. The roasted red pepper burger has just the right amount of slivers of roasted red pepper. But my absolute fave is the mushroom-mozzarella burger, made with fresh mozz. One of the secrets at the Amvets? Joe uses a garlic butter on the toasted buns. It adds texture, not to mention flavor, and it holds all those fixings on without soaking into the bun.

Smoke The Burger Joint: This is the most unique tasting burger in Stark County because, to my knowledge any way, no one else is slow-smoking their burgers. Smoke The Burger Joint, in the Gander Mountain Plaza off Portage, names its burgers from places around the country. Some of my favorites here are the Classic LA Burger and the Dirty Vegas. If burgers aren’t your thing, Nonna Caprese and Havarti Honey & Bacon grilled cheese sandwiches will knock your socks off. Did I mention they have seasoned fries here, too?

Best Burger: I’m not gonna lie. I discovered this place on convenience because it is close to home. Get the Best Burger. It comes with Swiss cheese and a few slices of pastrami. The pastrami adds a nice little flavor kick you wouldn’t expect.

—Todd Porter

My robot house keeps ignoring me

Want to know which of your neighbors has made the tech-savvy jaunt into smart home technology? Just listen for the screaming. If you hear “Alexa” getting yelled at a lot, chances are you have identified a smart home.

Alexa is the fixer who completes all of the tasks that you ask of Amazon Echo ($179.99), a foot-tall Pringles-like tube that can search the internet and control just about anything connected to it. To operate, all you have to do is yell “Alexa” at the top of your lungs and give it a command. You can ask just about anything. Alexa is a female voice that will politely direct you to the Amazon version of whatever you want.

We’ve had one in our home for a few months. I won’t say, “I can’t even remember how we got by without this thing,” because I remember exactly how. It’s slightly unnecessary, but to be fair, it is a little like having a robot assistant. And robots are cool.

My wife can casually ask Alexa to add eggs to the shopping list, and Alexa adds eggs to a list that we can see on our phones. My daughter asks Alexa the time when bedtime is looming. Alexa gives her the time, and then my daughter repeats it over and over until she reaches my wife or me to give us an update.

But when I talk to Alexa, she ignores me. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be big-timed by a speaker. I find myself calling out louder and louder until she either responds with a blue “I’m listening” light, or I decide that smart home technology is stupid. Our thermostat is connected, via Wi-Fi, so I can simply ask Alexa to change the setting, in theory. The reality is that I yell at Alexa to do so until I realize I am only five feet away. Then I make the walk of shame to manually change the temperature, and I mutter my hatred for technology under my breath.

The Echo is a device that is hard to sell, because it can do so many things. My biggest issues with it, I’ve realized, is that I just don’t know the best uses for it.

The most obvious one is as a portable speaker. It’s nice, and a little weird, to say “play music,” and have the last station you played start immediately. It’s very convenient. Though, we use Pandora to stream music, and sometimes if you ask Alexa to change the channel, she plays dumb and points you to Amazon Prime Music.

Another good use is for the news. Ask for the news, and you’ll get a quick rundown of headlines. News from The Canton Repository is on there, so it’s really nice to be able to get local headlines from around Stark County.

When I think of what a smart home should do, I picture “The Jetsons” house, where in the morning, the house pulls me out of the bed and spits me into my car after a shower and breakfast. Maybe that will be the case someday. For now, I’ll have to settle for yelling random questions at the thing on the bookcase.

—Dave Manley

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