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Top of the burger


What is the perfect burger to pair with wine?

That's a question Sonoma restaurateur Carlo Cavallo has explored this spring while preparing to open a new restaurant, Burger & Vine, in the old Creamery building on the Sonoma Plaza.

Every Wednesday night at Meritage Martini Oyster Bar, his customers have been wrapping their mouths around juicy burger combos as a test run for Burger & Vine, expected to fire up the grill this summer.

"Burgers have never been out of style," said Cavallo, who is opening the restaurant with business partner Codi Binkley. "I call it gourmet junk food. It's very approachable, and it's comfort."

The wine theme will run like a stream through the entire restaurant, where the burgers will be cooked over oak barrel wine staves.

"It will have a winery feel," he said. "The stools and the bar will be made out of wine staves as well."

Those familiar with Cavallo's cuisine, inspired by the sunny, wine-growing region along the Mediterranean, won't be surprised to find some of their favorite flavor combinations in the burger line-up.

Cavallo likes to follow classic formulas with his toppings and sauces. In the Barcelona Burger, Manchego cheese dances with Romesco sauce. In the Caprese Burger, fresh mozzarella cavorts with an heirloom cherry tomato salad. In the Wine Country Burger, Cypress Grove's Truffle Tremor goat cheese flirts with a mixed green salad dressed with vinaigrette.

When you use classic flavor combination, it's quite easy to come up with wine pairings.

For the Barcelona Burger, for example, Cavallo would suggest serving a local tempranillo, a Spanish grape that exudes spicy, red fruit aromas and flavors.

For the Caprese Burger, which is drizzled with a balsamic glaze, you can't go wrong with a sangiovese, a medium-bodied Italian wine.

The Wine Country Burger, on the other hand, would go best with a pinot or cabernet sauvignon, he said.

For the Fourth of July, Cavallo suggests serving an all-American Codi Burger, named after his business partner.

The burger is topped with lightly dressed coleslaw, Vella Jack cheese and some house-made barbecue sauce. For a patriotic pairing, you can't go wrong with an all-American zinfandel.

"The finely chopped slaw goes well with our barbecue sauce, which is on the sweet side," he said. "You can also add some bacon on top."

Of course, it's important to make sure each burger component integrates well with the whole package and is prepared properly.

First off, there's the meat. Unless he's making an exotic burger like a Thai or Latin Burger, Cavallo uses plain meat that is simply seasoned with salt and pepper.

"We like to make our own patties, about ?-inch high and 5-inches wide," he said. "We take the lid off a 5-pound spice jar, line it with a piece of plastic, and that keeps the form."

At Burger & Vine, customers will have their choice of three types of hamburger: Certified Angus, grass-fed beef from Beltane Ranch in Glen Ellen or Wagyu Kobe Beef.

When cooking burgers, make sure your grill or your griddle is very hot before putting on the patty.

"You want a crust on the burger," Cavallo said. "Ours can often get done in three minutes a side."

For home chefs who want to use a meat thermometer, Cavallo suggested taking the burgers off at 150 to 160 degrees.

The bun is also a key player on the burger team.

"The bun is extremely important, but it depends on the burger," Cavallo said. "I like all buns to be toasted. Otherwise the juices penetrate them."

Some burgers, like the Caprese, pair well with a sturdy ciabatta roll. Others, like the Barcelona Burger, work best with a potato roll. The Wine Country Burger cries out for some toasted brioche.

Burger side dishes may range from healthy salads and slaws to decadent truffle and sweet potato fries. At Burger & Vine, Cavallo also plans to offer a mac'n'cheese bar with robust flavors like chipotle and bacon.

Once you've got your burgers and buns cooked, your toppings and sauces ready, your wines uncorked and your side dishes set, there's only one thing left to do.

Put out plenty of napkins.

"I like my burgers a little messy," Cavallo said. "At Burger & Vine, when you bite in and get messy, you'll get your photo on the Facebook burger cam."

The following recipes are from Cavallo.

Barcelona Burger

Makes 4 servings

For the Romesco sauce:

6 blanched almonds

5 hazelnuts

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 slice stale bread

1 ripe medium size tomato

1 large roasted red pepper (peeled and seeded)

? cup extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons sherry vinegar

For burger:

4 grass-fed beef burger patties, about 1/3 pound each

4 buns (preferably brioche, or potato)

4 slices of Manchego cheese (about 4-6 ounces total)

? cup of Romesco sauce (see recipe below)

1 red onion (sliced and caramelized in a saut?pan with olive oil)

For romesco sauce: Place almonds and hazelnuts into food processor and process until finely ground.

Pour a few tablespoons of virgin olive oil into a small frying pan, add the garlic and saut?for 2 minutes, add the bread and fry until both sides are browned. Remove from pan and allow to cool on a plate or paper towel.

Cut tomatoes into quarters and saut?in same pan, adding oil if needed. Saut?for 4-5 minutes. Remove pan from heat.

Once bread is cooled, tear into 6 pieces and process with the nuts. Add saut?d tomatoes and continue to process. Place roasted red peppers into the processor with the other ingredients and process until ingredients are a thick puree.

While processor is running, slowly drizzle in the oil and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Chili pepper can also be added at this point for some spice).

For burger: Cook your meat on high heat, preferably on a well-seasoned grill to get that crispy, char flavor. Add Manchego after the first flip of the beef. Toast your buns right before serving your burger, then spread the romesco on both sides of the bun and add the sauteed onions.

This burger is named after Codi Binkley, lead singer of the Whiskey Thieves band and partner in Burgers & Vine, coming soon to the Sonoma Plaza. This burger was developed to remind him of his Texas roots.

Codi Burger

Makes 4 servings

4 grass-fed beef burger patties, 1/3 pound each

4 ciabiatta buns

4 slices of Sonoma Creamery Chipotle Cheddar (about 4-6 ounces total)

? cup of BBQ sauce (preferable sweet'n'spicy flavor)

8 slices of crisp applewood bacon

8 onion rings

1 cup of coleslaw (made with vinaigrette, not mayo)

Cook your meat on high heat, preferably on a well-seasoned grill to get that crispy, char flavor.

Add Chipotle Cheddar after the first flip of the beef. Toast your buns right before serving your burger, then spread the barbecue sauce on both sides of the bun and add the onion rings, coleslaw and bacon.

Truffle Tremor cbeese from Cypress Grove and white truffle oil are available at upscale grocery stores like Pacific Market, Whole Foods and Oliver's.

Wine Country Burger

Makes 4 servings

4 grass-fed beef burger patties, 1/3 pound each

4 buns (preferably brioche, or potato)

4 slices of Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor (about 6 ounces total)

1 cup baby organic greens, dressed with 6 tablespoons Muscat binaigrette (see recipe below)

— Truffle mayonaisse (6 tablespoons mayonnaise mixed with 1 tablespoon white truffle oil)

For muscat vinaigrette: Mix tablespoons of muscat vinegar with 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook your meat on high heat, preferably on a well-seasoned grill to get that crispy, char flavor. Add Truffle Tremor after the first flip of the beef. Toast your buns right before serving your burger, then spread the truffle mayonnaise on both sides of the bun and add the dressed, organic greens.

You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com.