The Food Snob is no fuddy duddy. Sometimes eating traditional menu items from familiar restaurants isn't quite enough to get the Snob juices flowing. We need excitement, people!
To that end, there are many food-based celebrations the Snob enjoys. Generally any event with a suffix such as "fair" or "palooza" is sure to draw our attention.
And fests. We love fests. Also, we love burgers. So when the Barley House posted its menu for Burgerfest, an annual fundraiser for the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth featuring 16 unique burger varieties available for eight days only, you can imagine our reaction.
We slept in a tent outside the front door and waited for them to open. Eight days in a row.
(Full disclosure: We didn't really do that. But it took every ounce of Snob restraint not to.)
Even for a palette as finely tuned as the Snob's, Burgerfest is a daunting undertaking. Selecting the appropriate burger to sample requires a specific formula, high-tech gadgetry and a patient waitress willing to give us a few hours, plenty of personal space and four or five servings of the Barley House's delectable homemade hummus.
The options were seemingly endless, including one burger dubbed the Irish Hangover, complete with a coffee spice rub and cheddar cheese and topped with a potato cake, fried egg and buffalo sauce. It's like breakfast and lunch and dinner and breakfast again.
The selections are a little more expensive than traditional burgers, but some of the proceeds from each purchase go to the children's hospital. How can you argue with that?
We finally arrived on an offering dubbed Big as a House ($15), fittingly sponsored by Better Homes and Gardens Realty. It was a beef patty topped with barbecue smoked pulled pork, shredded chicken in buffalo hot sauce and smoked mozzarella cheese.
The Snob has an affectionate relationship with cheeseburgers, developed over years of courtship. There are times when a good, greasy diner burger cooked on a flat top and topped with melted yellow cheese and few other toppings is the way to go. That's burger purism.
But sometimes you want to pile as much stuff as you can legally fit in a hamburger bun. At those times, it's not about the burger patty itself but the overall burger experience.
Which is good, because if we're being honest the burger patty was essentially knocked out by the other flavors in this offering. If the meats on the sandwich were running for president, the patty would be Vermin Supreme: You're glad it's there, but after awhile you don't really notice it.
Still, this was one heck of a burger. The Snob took one look at the shredded meat exploding out the sides and opted for the knife-and-fork route. The flavors didn't necessarily blend together, but they were complementary enough to make for a pleasant experience, a sweet, spicy, burgery masterpiece.
The pulled pork was tender and tasty, not overly sweet. But the real winner here was the shredded chicken in buffalo sauce, something we can't remember finding on the Barley House menu during our other 1,944 visits. But the sauce was expertly crafted, with excellent flavor and just enough heat to balance the sweetness of the pork, and the chicken was juicy and light.
And while the burger patty may have been overshadowed by its zingier counterparts, we snuck a few bites of it by itself and found it to be quite tasty on its own. Perhaps the only real complaint was that smoked mozzarella is a mild cheese to begin with and was completely lost in the muddle of flavors. In fact, if we didn't have photographic evidence, we might not have known there was any cheese on the burger at all.
But any complaints here were minor. With more than a dozen taste-bud teasing burger creations to choose from, Burgerfest was the smashing success we knew it would be. And don't worry - we stashed the tent in the trunk of the Snobmobile. You can bet we'll be first in line again next year.