Could you smell that fragrant smoke wafting from the New Mexico State Fair this afternoon? After a year’s hiatus, the Green Chile Cheeseburger Challenge was back, with twelve of New Mexico’s best burger businesses firing up grills. So who smoked the competition? A new upstart from Alamogordo, Rockin’ BZ Burgers (3005 White Sands Blvd.).
In business just 4 months, but obviously old hands at their craft, father-son team Rusty and Cody Childress, received the highest numerical score from the four judges. I was one of those fortunate four. We judge the entries “blind.” Entrants are scheduled with successive back-to-back time slots for judging. Each team rushed its burger up to the checkpoint at the prescribed minute. We judges don’t see who brings up the burgers. Our first look is a Miss America Pageant-worthy “walk” of the burger past the judges table, to tantalize us with aroma and presentation. Then, the burger is quartered and plated by our ace assistant, Robert.
We eat. (I’m not watching the evening news tonight because I don’t want to see myself with a huge ol’ burger bite in my mouth. The TV video guys love that stuff!) We savor the full melded burger flavor, and taste the individual elements, paying especially close attention to the burger itself and the chile. I complain when, in a few cases, the frequent tomato slice garnish is a pale imitation of what a September tomato should be.
Generally though, the quality of the ingredients and the finished burgers was high. The Rockin BZ burger included a serious sear on the surface of the freshly ground Angus chuck patty while the interior was kept juicy. The green chile, from Young Guns in Hatch, was tasty and plentiful without overwhelming the rest of the ingredients. Yum.
Governor Martinez kicked off the festivities mid-afternoon and, by 6 PM, it was all over except for the digesting. Other judges were Tourism Department Cabinet Secretary Monique Jacobson, a longtime fan of the specialty, James Ditmore, a heritage chile enthusiast at the Dept. of Agriculture, and Dennis Hogan, specialty crops marketing specialist for the Dept. of Agriculture.
The entrants did a bang-up job of showcasing New Mexico’s chile, beef, and other agricultural products. We’ve already heard that, because of the publicity surrounding the Challenge, business has been stronger than usual for many of the entrants. Let’s help keep that up. Every one of the entrants deserves our patronage: Ancient Way–Ramah, Badlands Burgers & Tortas–Grants (2010′s winner, back after a business hiatus), Burger Boy–Cedar Crest, Cowgirl BBQ–Santa Fe, El Bruno’s–ABQ, Mac’s Steak in the Rough–ABQ, De la Vega’s Pecan Grill–Las Cruces, Pasion Latin Fusion–ABQ, Plaza Southside–Santa Fe, Sparky’s–Hatch, and Taco Box–Clovis.