“It is said that your life flashes before your eyes before you die. That is true, it’s called Life.”
– Death, Terry Pratchett “The Last Continent”
Burger of the Month at Kuma’s Corner for March, 2014
- Frizzled beets
- Sharp white cheddar cheese
- Chili and chocolate braised venison
- Horseradish aioli
- 10 oz. Beef patty
- Pretzel bun
Kuma’s Corner‘s March Burger of the Month – Russian Circles, named after the Chicagoan instrumental rock and post-metal band, differs from the rest of the burgers previewed thus far in that its name was “leaked” as the second of three BOTM’s, part of Metal Beers & Burgers collaboration series between Kuma’s, Dryhop Brewers brewery and kitchen and the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild. Naturally, me being a Kuma’s fanboy and whatnot, I immediately started speculating its ingredients and figured it would be some kind of Russian-inspired and hockey-related masterpiece, given the name and the fact that “Russian circles” is a hockey exercise drill in which a player skates around all the 5 face-off circles on the ice while maintaining control of the puck. Yeah, I had to Google that. Until the very end I was a believer in some puck-looking ingredient, like deep fried slices of beets or even those amazing Fried Pickles (complete with Chipotle Mayo or “Russian Sauce”) that both Kuma’s locations feature on their appetizer list. Well, I was wrong about the pickles, but it looks like I nailed the beets part, even though they are far from round-shaped on the actual burger.
Much like the band, the burger is based on an array of effects and layers of
sound flavor. The frizzled beets on the Russian Circles were in fact a mess of curled, purple tendrils and any and all attempts to play with the lightning of the photo or to apply any filters caused this mass of innocent roots to resemble an angry, tentacled eldritch horror bursting out of a beast’s carcass. Hence the #nofilter. These beets were my first non-canned encounter with the vegetable and I was expecting a sweet, baby corn flavor, but instead got a very mild earthy taste. They simply melted in the mouth and resisted just enough to be chewy without being crunchy and while they didn’t have much of a taste that I can put my finger on, at the end of every bite from the Russian Circles there was a very strong and surprising aftertaste identical to that of a baked potato. My partner in bovine genocide also detected it, so I’m not going bonkers. It was wonderful and weird. A bit of melted, sharp white cheddar cheese was under the beets and had a very pleasant texture, though I’m afraid that I was too enamored with the meet of this burger and did not paid much attention to it. The main ingredient here, and the one that I’ve been anxiously hoping to see on a burger ever since I was introduced to Kuma’s Corner? The venison. The chili and chocolate braised venison was not only plentiful, but tender, devoid of any gaminess and was ultimately one of my favorite kinds of meat prepared in my favorite way. Similar to the Veilburner‘s braised maple rosemary skirt steak and the Ghost’s slow-braised goat shoulder, the thick, stringy texture of the venison meshed just perfectly with the soft, medium rare beef patty, absorbed all the ingredients in its meaty web, and engaged my jaw in a way that made every bite last. Simply the pure enjoyment of so much meat put all the other ingredients on the back burner, leaving only that strange baked potato taste behind. Finally, the horseradish aioli provided a hint of pungency, while the garlic gently neutralized the earthiness of the beets, which is also why Greek tzatziki sauce is often served with beets in the Balkans. While I was indeed distracted by the tons of meet, let it be known that I was not entirely oblivious to what the other ingredients were doing flavor-wise. The acidic sharpness of the cheese, the hint of the beets’ earthiness, the venison’s chocolate and chili notes, the pungent zestiness of the garlic and horseradish all played their part, mostly by crashing at the back of the throat like a Russian matryoshka doll of enrichment, simultaneously reacting to the delayed burn of the stout paired with the Russian Circles.
Russian Circles was created in collaboration with Dryhop Brewers brewery and kitchen and the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild as the second wave of a three month long celebration called Metal Beers & Burgers, where burgers and beers are released monthly as a carefully crafted pairing. Kuma’s Corner’s Russian Circles burger was March’s Burger of the Month and was paired with the DryHop Brewers Death Rides a Horse Russian Imperial Stout [8.0% ABV], named after a song from their “Enter” album… and my oh my is this a perfect pairing. Stouts and I have a strong relationship, especially since my 21st birthday where I officially had my first “legal” beer – a Guinness. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to find the micro equivalent of the Irish macro and sadly, now that I have, it’s in the dark reflection of Death Rides a Horse, which is only going to be available ’til the end of March. It is so good, in fact, that after I order myself one at Kuma’s Corner, I ordered another one. I also paid DryHop Brewers a visit a couple days ago and there’s a half gallon growler filled with the stuff in my refrigerator as I’m writing this.[from notes]: Pours a dark black with a light hint of brown with little to no head whatsoever. Both nose and taste meet an amazing balancing act of espresso and chocolate from start to finish without any lingering bitterness remaining from the coffee or its hop characteristic.The body of the beer is light and smooth even for a stout and not syrupy at all, and all of these components hide the “burn” of the 8.0% ABV extremely well with the first hints of alcohol only noticeable as the beer goes down the throat for a very pleasant, warm and “spicy” feeling. This could be my stout of choice until the day I die, but you know… it’s limited. The chocolate and espresso notes play very well with the subtle chocolate and chile of the braised venison without overpowering or eradicating the flavor of the burger and its other ingredients . Additionally, I was a big fan of the delayed sensation of alcohol which sort of enriches all the other hints of flavors, especially with the horseradish and garlic in the aioli and the sharp cheddar. It’s almost as if the burger and beer were made for each other.
Also, a Rye IPA would go extremely well with the cheddar and horseradish flavors of the Russian Circles, so if you are not a fan of stouts or want to try something different, Two Brothers Brewing Co.’s Cane and Ebel Hopped-up Red Rye Ale [7.0% ABV] should do the trick by adding some additional spice of its own. I wrote more about it here.
I didn’t get one because I knew the burger plus the two stouts were going to be more than enough for me, but if you plan on drinking less or are an even bigger glutton than me, please feel free to order Kuma’s very special bowl of Chili – the veggies are less dominant than the meat, but are simmered in Pabst Brewing Company Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) American Adjunct Lager (4.74% ABV) and a Porter and the secret ingredient is: CHOCOLATE SAUCE. Chili is always a great choice, but pair it up with the chili and chocolate braised venison of the Russian Circles and I’m sure you won’t regret it. Damn, I wish I had ordered one.
P.S: It’s the same chili that goes on top of the Black Sabbath burger.