When “Bizarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmern is playing tourist at Walt Disney World, his favorite tools of the trade are a turkey leg in one hand and a Dole whip in the other.
Zimmern was the special guest and welcoming host at the very first Rockin’ Burger Block Party, a new event held during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
Zimmern, who has bitten into and apparently even consumed such exotic items as bamboo rat and cow placenta, has become a permanent fixture on the Travel Channel. His popular Bizarre Foods show will celebrate its 200th episode this month.
There was nothing that bizarre or exotic at the Rockin’ Burger Block Party, a tasty-go-round of about 14 burgers last Friday night at Epcot’s World Showcase Pavilion. Prepared by Disney chefs, the burgers ran the gamut to fairly traditional to Chef Carlos’ Smooth Burger, an unlikely combination of ground turkey, grape jelly with cheddar cheese, bacon and smooth peanut butter on a toasted bun.
Don’t laugh. It actually was quite good and one of the best burgers served up, with its very subtle grape flavor, mixed in with that hint of peanut butter as well as the cheese and bacon.
Zimmern has already had a lifetime of experiences in his 54 years, including all of his round the world escapades in search of bizarre foods, as well as a rock bottom period in the early 1990s when he was homeless due to severe drug and alcohol addiction. It is something he readily talks about, and he says his service to others with addiction problems now takes up about half of his time.
But Friday night was all about eating, and Zimmern managed to sample a few of the burger/slider offerings when he wasn’t talking about food.
Despite all the many offerings at the Rockin’ Burger event, Zimmern confessed to a much more simpler pleasure when it comes to his favorite hamburger: a nicely-grilled patty served on a buttered, toasted bun.
Of course, there was burger, or two or three, to suit just about every taste at the burger event, and several of them did not contain beef or even meat for that matter.
There were several stand outs including the Chef Hanson Oklahoma Burger, featuring a grass fed burger topped with barbecue pulled pork, cheddar cheese and onion fries on a toasted parker house bun. The burgers were almost always served with a side, and in this case it was spicy pickled cauliflower.
And, yes, if you were wondering if there was something really nice and refreshing to go with all the burgers, the answer is an emphatic yes. Each burger station featured a “Sips” station with beer, wine and especially spirits.
For the Oklahoma Burger, the recommended Sips were Hanson Brothers Beer Company from Oklahoma with its Mmmhops Pale Ale; The Boston Beer Company with Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Samuel Adams Seasonal and Samuel Adams Rebel IPA.
Those Sips also were recommended for two of the night’s other burger selections: Chef Judi’s Truck Stop Burger (mixed grill burger topped with fried egg, bacon grease fries and nacho cheese sauce on griddled bun with side of corn tortilla strips) and Chef Melissa’s Thai Shellfish Burger (shrimp and scallop burger topped with spicy Thai slaw and cilantro lime mayo on sesame bun, with side of smoked sea salted fried edamame.
These are only sliders, mini-burgers, but 14 burgers, plus a finger foods station, a dessert station, and beer, wine and spirits quickly adds up to a pretty delicious, but very filling night.
With so many burger options, it can get pretty confusing, but don’t be shy. If you find one that doesn’t appeal to your individual taste, just move onto the next station. You may not be able to eat all 14 sliders, but it is nice to say you were able to try them all. Plus, if you have a favorite, your menu/guide, features an attached Rockin’ Burger Block Party guitar pick (in keeping with the music theme and there is a DJ) and you can use your pick to vote for your favorite burger of the night.
Moving on to all those burgers there is Chef Mikko’s Bourbon Burger (Bourbon BBQ Burger topped with cheddar cheese, fried onions and chipotle aioli on a Parker House bun, with barrel braised beans on the side); Chef Marianne’s Sicilian Burger (pan seared Branzino patty topped with pecorino cheese, blood orange, raisin, onion jam and dried prosciutto on a griddled bun, with a said of pasta caponata salad); The Chew Burger (all beef sirloin, shortrib and brisket patty, cheddar cheese, carmelized onion mustard and sweet hot pickles on mayo toasted sesame bun, served with a side of green apple slices and Chef Jarrod’s Backwoods Burger (featuring a grilled cervena patty topped with Black Diamond Cheddar, fried onions and Juniper Port Wine Ketchup on a toasted bun, served with maple sugar sweet potato chips.
Recommended Sips: Jim Beam Burbon (Devil’s Cut Bourn, Kentucky Fire Bourbon, Apple Bourbon and Sauza 901 Tequila.
Chef Reynold’s Chicago Burger (grass fed patty topped with all-beef hot dog, relish and Havarti cheese sauce on a poppyseed bun and side of bacon potato salad; Chef Keith’s Cali Veggie Cheese Burger (Morningstar Farms Black Bean burger topped with vegan cheese, marinated avocado and sirachi heirloom tomato ketchup on vegan buttered bun, side of oven dried kale chips.
Recommended sips: Margaritaville Brewing Co. (Landshark Lager); The Dreaming Tree Wines from California.
Still more burgers: Chef Nanor’s Middle Eastern Burger (spiced lamb and feta cheese burger topped with pickled watermelon rind, side of arulula, cucumber and red onion slaw; Chef Eggie’s Mallorcan Burger (coffee-crusted beef short burger, topped with smoked gouda, garlic potato strings and sangria ketchup on Medianoche roll; Chef Dale’s Asian Cheese Burger (Chicken duck burger topped with butterkase chese, Bulqogi braised pork belly and sweet thai sauce on sesame bun with side of kim chi slaw.
And finally, Chef Tony’s Grouper Burger (grilled grouper patty topped with butter lettuce, vined ripened tomato and lime aioli on a griddled bun.
If you still have room, check out the finger foods station with its cheeseburger spring rolls, with curry dipping sauce; spicy sticky pig wings; vegetable pot stickers with ponzu sauce and lentil samosa with cucumber yogurt sauce.
There are several more “sip” options like Voli Vodka, Casa Noble Tequila; and Sammy Beach Bar Rum.
And don’t forget that dessert bar.
The next Rockin’ Burger Block Party will be held Oct. 8 with the cast of ABC TV’s The Chew and it ends with “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro, Nov. 6.
The party is held at the World Showcase Pavilion at Epcot from 7 to 9 p.m. The cost is $99. An early admission, $119 reserved table admission also is available as well as the Nosh Pit seating, with private reserved table, early admission and premium bar for $199. Separate admission to Epcot also is required. For more information or to reserve a table go to Disneyworld.disney.go.com