Thursday, May 11, 2006

Welcome to the Cheese Burger Challenge

If you happen to be one of those people that has to travels frequently for business you know the constant headache is always food. Finding a place worth the wait, convenient, reasonably priced, worth the effort, having edible food, bla bla bla… these are but a few of the many questions a business traveler faces each night on the road. In my experience the landscape surrounding business travel is often filled with big corporate box restaurants where profit far out ways taste. Thanks to this fact (or shall I say no thanks) I’ve eaten at more RUI establishments then I care to admit. Basically, when on the road get use to big chain restaurants.

This isn’t to say the food isn’t good (or should I say edible); rather the food is better described as nothing special. When I think about large corporate chain restaurants the words predictable, sterile, basic come to mind. In city after city across the US one can expect a consistent experience that at times makes it hard to remember where you are, much less where you are eating. In short, business travel become a monotonous task, void of the romance usually conquered up by the once beautiful word travel. It was this experience of forgettable food that led to the development of “The Cheese Burger Challenge”. If you can’t enjoy the food at least you can enjoy the wine.

The Cheese Burger Challenge is really quite simple. A cheese burger (the all American staple, rich in flavor and hard to screw-up) serves as home, our baseline. Basically it’s the constant that one can count on no matter where you find yourself, weahter on the road or in paradise. Please burger lovers don’t miss understand me, like any food there are glorious exceptions and I do have my personal favorite. But when in comes to bland box restaurants the cheese burger becomes the most bland. So to make the meal on the road exciting, I invite competitors to the challenge. Competitors comes in the form of two glass of hearty red wine. Bite for bite, sip for sip we compare which wine holds up against Americas most recognizable food. French, Italian, California, where ever, wines of any region are eligible to compete. You might be surprised how well wines pairs with a cheese burger and which wines varietals you end-up enjoy the most.

In my most recent competition, fate matched Crosspoint Pinot Noir vs. Concannon Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon. One of the great feature of the Cheese Burger Challenge is you are left to choose from only the wine carried by the restaurants. It’s always interesting to explore the cellars of these only for profit establishments.

Crosspoint Pinot Noir is characterized by aromas of cherry jam, rhubarb and stewed strawberries with a faint touch of sage underbrush spiciness. Overall it is a soft, fruit flavored, spicy wine. In contrast Concannon Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon is full bodied, rich and fruitful. The wine is a complex California Cabernet with black cherry and vanilla-oak flavors followed by a rich, smooth finish.

Overall each wine had its moment. Alone I felt the Concannon Cabernet Sauvignon would be more to my liking. However, in the context of the Cheese Burger Challenge I was surprised to find I enjoyed the Crosspoint Pinot Noir much more, which is exactly the point of the entire competition.

The Cheese Burger Challenge has nothing to do with measuring quality, developing ones palate or even taking wine serious. No, the Cheese Burger Challenge is only about entertainment, which is the reason we drink wine in the first place. Wine was created to bring enjoyment, no matter what the situation. The Cheese Burger Challenge is meant to bring wine back to its roots, enjoyment. So remember, don’t get too caught up in the formality of wine and which wine goes with what, and what occasion one can or can’t enjoy wine. Instead, relax; enjoy a glass of wine and laugh, because anyone who is eating a burger and drinking wine (much less two glasses) has plenty to laugh about.

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