Comments Come True: A Textured Battle of the Non-Burgers
"Yes! That's it. Say it one more time so I can write it down," I asked my friend, who helped me figure out why I've always denounced the existence of the veggie burger.
My friend repeated the epiphany while we were at Everlasting Life restaurant on Georgia Avenue in Pleasant Plains: "When you take the first bite of this veggie burger, the flavor, and certainly the texture, imitates a regular burger. It's flavorful, for sure. But after you swallow, you're missing that savory, fulfilling feeling. There's just not that, you know, that extra feeling," as he pantomimed that zenith gulp. "You know, umami. Have you ever been to Umami Burger in L.A.?"
And then we started talking about fleshy cow burgers while dining on a Garvey burger, Asian noodles, marinated kale, macaroni TVP, and carrot supreme (imagine tuna salad, but with minced carrots instead of fish).
But back to the burger: Formed into a patty and then fried, Everlasting Life's textured vegetable protein burger, better known by its three-initialed TVP, mimics the look, texture, and flavor of a beef burger. The homemade sauce, a combination of soy cheese (also made in-house), barbecue sauce (ditto), and mustard, adds a welcome depth and helps imitate that real burger flavor.
The purpose of Everlasting Life's burger seems to be re-creating the real thing. On the flip side, Luna Grill's veggie burger doesn't pretend it's a beef burger.
Ground-up brown lentils, mushrooms, cornmeal and flour combine to create a version that doesn't taste like a burger at all. The texture is softer and it lacks the "crumb" character of ground beef. It doesn't actually taste like anything in particular. None of the ingredients dominate, so that can leave the eater in a position to squirt some spicy mustard as a way to inject some life into the patty.
I've discussed veggie burgers before, detailing the two paradigms:
There's two camps: make a veggie burger taste like meat or make it its own. I'm in the latter camp: I don't think the patty should attempt to imitate meat's unparalleled taste.
But in this head-on competition, if you're looking for a burger to fool you, close your eyes and try some TVP.
In order of appearance in the comments.