Growing up in the Midwest, I consider the hamburger to be the quintessential American food. When done right it displays the best America has to offer. It is opportunity for its economy and accessibility to all. It is thrift in that its meat is often a grind of cuts that are too small for steaks and roasts. The rich flavored beef comes from cattle fed on grains and grasses grown on windswept prairies and raised by cowboys. The vegetable set, a sweet-hot onion, crisp lettuce and a juicy tart tomato, is a complex delight harvested by farmers who settled this land. Place all this on a bun made by bakers who are drawing on a thousand years of collective experience and you have an American classic. Follow it with a great beer and you have perfection at the table.
Deschutes Brewery displayed such a prowess for the hamburger on my first visit that it now seems inevitable that I would eventually be the Chef there. It was in the spring of 2002 and a perfect Central Oregon day. It was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The room was lively but not overcrowded, (A great time to visit if you love the beer and food but want to avoid the crowds). The sun shone through the windows illuminating a room that is reminiscent of an English Pub. The smell of malts and barley steeping in the mash filled the air as the brewers worked their magic.
I dressed my cheeseburger and bit in. My teeth made their way through a soft bun smothered with Brewers Mustard, ketchup, and mayo. I felt the crunch of lettuce and onion. I tasted the onion’s sweet heat as I tore through tomato and beef. I could taste the juice of the Borlen Beef as it coated my tongue with its rich, natural goodness, and I knew. This burger had been cooked perfectly. The cooks had readied my repast to perfection. I wiped the juices from my chin and washed down my bite with a pull of Mirror Pond Pale Ale. My tongue was in bliss. Even the simplest dishes are elevated to the sublime when executed with respect and precision. This meal set the bar for such execution. It is the standard I use in leading an amazing team of cooks at Deschutes Brewery.
Matt Neltner, Executive Chef