April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
– T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land”
Burger of the Month at Kuma’s Corner for April, 2014
- Braised pork ribs
- Apple butter BBQ sauce
- Cheddar polenta
- Caramelized red onions
- 10 oz. Beef patty
- Fresh arugula
- Pretzel bun
April’s Burger of the Month over at Kuma’s Corner, and the third and final (for now) Metal Beers & Burgers collaboration with the good lads from Dryhop Brewers brewery and kitchen and the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, is the Corrections House burger, named after the genre-evasive collective comprised of Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Mike IX Williams (Eyehategod), Sanford Parker (Nachtmystium) and Bruce Lamont (Yakuza). Though the name of April’s BOTM was “leaked” in February, I couldn’t really wrap my head around the possible possibilities of the contents between its buns, so when it was finally announced on April 1st I was very surprised. And delighted. Overall, the Corrections House Burger is built to represent a hearty, Southern lunch on a lazy, Sunday afternoon. At the very top of the list of ingredients was the pile of sweet, braised pork ribs smothered in that apple butter BBQ sauce, which was a nice equivalent to the widespread pulled pork slowly “encroaching” the Northern states with its succulent, molasses-drenched ways (see Kuma’s LED ZEPPELIN burger, PIG DESTROYER sandwich and BBQ PORK FRIES appetizer). The amount of braised pork ribs seems to vary greatly from burger to burger, but did not overpower with its flavor. It blended seamlessly with the rest of the ingredients, which is what pork is supposed to do. Additionally, it provides the One in the One-Two Punch combo of pork and polenta. You know how every prison in every movie has that cafeteria scene where the protagonist is served a tasteless, colorless pile of goo on their food tray? Well, make it tasty and yellow, and you got yourself polenta and the smooth tie-in to the name of this burger! Usually associated with the lower class and the South, polenta is like a porridge from cornmeal powder, usually flavored with all kinds of spices and/or cheeses depending on the region. Where I come from (southeastern Bulgaria), we call it “kachamak” and we flavor it with Bulgarian feta cheese, black pepper.. and.. sugar. Sometimes paprika. Here, the polenta is flavored with cheddar cheese and with the BBQ sauce and the taste of the pork ribs it kind of tastes like a cornbread muffin with BBQ sauce, but with a slightly different texture. It is not exactly rich in taste, but it adds that awesome smooth, but grainy mouthfeel, enhances the flavors of the other ingredients and then adds that sweet, smoky corn aftertaste. Hmm.. now that I think about it, my first girlfriend’s kisses had that lingering polenta aftertaste. Awesome? Weird? You be the judge.
Anyways, some of it inevitably fell on the plate and it made for a nice dipping sauce for the fries. Heck, I could see myself ordering polenta at a restaurant. I just haven’t seen it on any menus.. Underneath, the caramelized red onions showcased yet another way of serving onions on a burger and were sweet, but definitely thicker and crunchier than your usual run-of-the-mill caramelized onions. As always, I ordered my 10oz. beef patty medium rare and it did not disappoint. Actually, I feel like it perfectly matched the consistency and texture of the polenta, which was interesting and totally unexpected. The fresh arugula on the bottom was also nice touch, though it definitely played the role of a garnish, rather than that of a main ingredient (see: The Burger from Dryhop Brewers!). I really enjoyed the Corrections House burger. Not only was it a nice way of preparing an old and tested food combination, but it also matched the theme in a very creative way. Polenta is awesome. That is all.
As with the previous Metal Beers & Burgers, Corrections House was matched with a specially made beer by the evil geniuses over at Dryhop Brewers brewery and kitchen and the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild. This time it was the Dryhop Brewers Last City Zero Malt Liquor [8.0% ABV], which was a very potent, but incredibly smooth adjunct lager style beer. Imagine if all of the subpar “yellow” beers with Bud/Miller and Ice in their names were told to man up under the threat of a summary execution via a firing squad and you’ll get Last City Zero. It had the taste that so many people are used to, it tasted like a nice beer that you can have with your usual snacks and greasy, gourmet bowel-destroyers, but it actually had a distinguished body and aftertaste. It actually had the sweet, smooth aftertaste of corn provided by the flaked maize mash in tandem with 6-row barley, resulting in a very high-ABV American malt liquor the likes of I had never seen or tasted before. Overall, it went down a-maize-ingly easy and hid the alcohol well enough, pairing with the polenta and all the other flavors of the Corrections House burger. Like DryHop Brewers Death Rides a Horse Russian Imperial Stout [8.0% ABV] and DryHop Brewers Reverse Thunder Imperial Red Ale [8.0% ABV], the Last City Zero is a beer that I’m going to miss when the month is over. It would have been such a great beer to bring to “the game” “with the guys”, or whatever, you know? Except, you wouldn’t have to drink 24 of it to get buzzed. Oh well..
Needless to say, I’ve been thoroughly impressed by the Metal Beers & Burgers initiative and I’m definitely glad that I managed to experience all three combinations. We were treated to some pretty different burgers, as well as three very distinct types of beer over the course of these three months. I have a lot of respect for Dryhop Brewers and their product and was obviously interested enough to pay them a visit last month. Hopefully we’ll see some more collaborations between these to, or maybe the guys from Kuma’s Corner will surprise us with another Chicago-based brewery? Anyways, I’d be down. For sure.
Order yourself the BBQ Pork Fries topped with well… slow cooked pulled pork shoulder, BBQ sauce, shredded Monterey jack cheese and green onions for some extra BBQ pork madness and creamy cheese action. Ditch the usual fries and jalapeño-ketchup combo for the Summer Salad (spinach, roasted shallot and lime vinaigrette, watermelon, basil, frizzled ginger) – this should prove to be a nice little refreshing salad, which should be able to compliment the suggested beer pairing. Also, the watermelon will enhance the Southern theme that the Corrections House has going on.