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All-Beef Party: Toronto’s 25 best burgers ranked in order of heart-stopping, messy magnificence

25 BEST BURGERS

Nine years ago, Mark McEwan scandalized Torontonians with his $35 truffled Bymark burger. That was before words like “grass-fed,” “heritage” and “dry-aged” entered into the burger lexicon. The city is now crammed with craft burgers, and carnivores no longer flinch at steep price tags. Competitive chefs bring in whole cows from nearby farms, bake their own buns, smoke their own bacon (twice), replace ketchup with tomato chutney and source the most pungent cheeses they can get their patty-flipping hands on. Thankfully, the mom-and-pop shops haven’t been artisinalled out of business—there are still plenty of sublime greasy-bag burgers around, as well as a few new-school diners ironically replicating them. Here, the very best of the city’s boundless burgerdom.

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Totally Recalled: Another day, another E. coli warning

The products: Ground Beef—Fresh (9.07 kg package) and Country Fried Style Breaded Beef Steak Chopped and Formed (3.90 kg package)

Establishment numbers: 761 and 530, respectively

Product codes: 55362 and 50988, respectively

Production date codes: 11 JL 01–12 FE 16 and 08 SEP 11–17 FEB 12

The details: Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you probably already know the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is in the midst of an investigation into beef contamination that just keeps getting bigger. The latest recall: fresh ground beef made primarily for burger chain Five Guys, and breaded steak, which was sold to various hotels, restaurants and other institutions.

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Long E. coli blacklist gets slightly shorter with the removal of three popular brands

Now that the simple pleasure of a good old-fashioned PC Thick and Juicy comes with the risk of contracting an E. coli infection, news of any bacteria-free burger is something of a blessing. The gastronomic sleuths at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have removed three products from the E. coli blacklist:

• Lick’s Beef Burger: 612 g, UPC 0 29345 70037 2

• Lick’s Homeburger Beef Burger: 9.18 kg, product code 55255

• PC Thick and Juicy Sirloin Burger: 1.13 kg, UPC 0 60383 64238 9

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New Food Classics, the company behind the E. coli recalls, in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings 

Lost in much of the talk about E. coli-laced burgers (and confusion over what, exactly, a steakette is), was the news that New Food Classics, the Burlington meat processor behind the recall, is in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings. While many of the company’s products have been flagged for potential contamination, that’s only a small portion of what they’re struggling with. The Hamilton Spectator reports that the company has closed an office in Calgary and plants in St. Catharines and Saskatoon, and sought creditor protection before looking for a buyer to bail it out. Of the 22 would-be bidders, only one actually made an offer after seeing the company’s statements. So is it just the bad meat that’s dragging the company down? Hardly. The Spectator says bankruptcy documents indicate that “the company was hobbling as its beef and energy costs climbed in 2010 and 2011 while it was locked into price contracts with customers such as Loblaw, Metro, Sobeys, Walmart and food supply giant Sysco Canada.” In case that doesn’t make the situation clear enough, when the Spec sought comment from NFC yesterday, they didn’t hear back. The phones lines might have been busy all day—but they might have simply been disconnected. Read the entire story [The Hamilton Spectator] »

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Totally Recalled: more potentially contaminated burgers, this time sold, ahem, as Best Value

The product: Best Value–brand 10 Beef Burgers and 20 Beef Burgers

The UPCs: 0 71212 88103 8 and 0 71212 88104 5, respectively

The details: Another day, another case of E. coli–contaminated beef from the good folks at New Food Classics. This time, it’s Best Value–brand burgers that, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, have been distributed to Giant Tiger and Northern Canada stores in several provinces and territories—including Ontario. The symptoms are the same as last time—abdominal pain, diarrhea, etc.—and there has only been one reported illness. The CFIA is now warning that “underlying issues” may be to blame for widespread contamination, and it’s working with Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada on an ongoing investigation. Again, we shouldn’t like to monger fear—but please grill responsibly. [CFIA]

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Totally Recalled: No Name beef that could be brimming with E. coli

(Images: CFIA)

The product: No Name Club Pack Beef Steakettes and No Name Beef Burgers

The UPC: 0 60383 01321 9 and 0 60383 37333 7, respectively

The details: Sure, the yellow packaging on those No Name burgers and steakettes may be unassuming, and “steakettes” may sound like some delightful beef-themed dance troupe, but these products could be contaminated with E. coli. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is warning that consuming either of these products “may cause serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses.” The symptoms? Abdominal pain, diarrhea and death, among others. There’s only been one reported illness so far, and we don’t want to fear-monger, but if you’re planning your first barbecue of the season, might we suggest you serve some other brand of nondescript beef? [CFIA]

The Dish

Restaurants

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Burger of the Year: how The Burger’s Priest makes its delicious, gut-busting Vatican City

Burger of the Year

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Drinks

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A gourmand’s guide to haute dogs for the grill

Innovative butchers are digging up old family recipes and mixing exotic meats with offbeat flavourings

Links

(Image: Christopher Stevenson)

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Restaurants

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DIY Barbecue Guide: Cowbell’s Mark Cutrara on the perfect patty

A great barbecued hamburger doesn’t taste like chipotle or paprika or horseradish. It tastes like beef. Cowbell chef Mark Cutrara’s burger, made with grass-fed beef from Dingo Farms, is one of the best in the city for good reason: it’s all about the meat. Here’s how he does it.

Three steps to the perfect patty

(Image: Joel Kimmel)

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DIY Barbecue Guide: Peter Sanagan’s favourite cuts of beef for the barbecue

High Steaks

(Image: Joel Kimmel)

Peter Sanagan, the young chef-turned-butcher and owner of Sanagan’s Meat Locker in Kensington Market, shares his favourite cuts for the ’cue

Click on a cut to see where it comes from and learn why Sanagan loves it, or start the slideshow »

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Features

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Best New Restaurants 2011

Oysters from Frank's Kitchen

This year’s crop of restaurants, from a million-dollar dining room to a brazen burger joint, pushed Toronto’s culinary culture in creative, comforting and blessedly cheap directions. Here, the 10 new spots that are redefining the way we eat, drink and play in the city

See the list »

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The Dish

Features

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Sloppy, drippy, salty, meaty, fruity, earthy and cheesy: Chris Nuttall-Smith takes on M:brgr’s $100 burger

The $100 brgr and its associated finery (Image: Colin Griffin, M:brgr)

I ate two Kobe beef patties for lunch yesterday, plus a couple slices of bacon, a wedge of foie gras, an ounce of gloopy brie, a slick of fig jam, a stack of really fabulous grilled pear slices, four asparagus spears, piave del vecchio cheese, garlic-roasted ham (effing delish), porcini mushrooms (I’m thinking they weren’t porcini, but that’s what the menu said), three white bread buns, an olive, and a side each of black truffle slices and honey truffle aïoli. All this cost me $100, plus tax and tip, and the burger—yes, it was a burger—was so tall that it took several tries and a near-miss nasal-labial injury to get an honest bite of the thing into my mouth.

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Openings

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Introducing: Stout Irish Pub, the Cabbagetown tavern with a serious beer list

(Image: Signe Langford)

The traditional gold lettering set against a black wall might bring to mind Foxes, Fiddles and Firkins, but this is no cookie-cutter ye olde pub. Behind the simple black doors is a serious chef, 20 local craft and imported beers on tap, another 30 by the bottle, fat leather wingbacks and the welcoming aroma of smouldering peat.

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Restaurants

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Weekly Lunch Pick: the $12 jerk meat loaf at Harlem

Now that we’re wearing toques, it’s hard to deny that winter has arrived. Fight the chill by cozying up in Harlem, where rich woods and red fabrics set the mood for a homey meal of soul food. We skip the collard greens, mac-and-cheese and ribs that Harlem is known for in favour of the quintessential comfort food dish: meat loaf. This isn’t the drab, dry slice you once dreaded as a child. Harlem’s jerk-spiced beef version is moist, vibrant and topped with red peppers and gravy. It’s served over basmati rice and succeeds in doing what few meat loaves have done before: look good on a plate.

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People

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Former Vertical chef Tawfik Shehata brings locavorism to new downtown bowling alley

Chef Tawfik Shehata was supposed to be taking it easy after he threw in the apron at Vertical, but the ambitious owners of The Ballroom—a new leisure complex opening in mid-December in the former Montana’s space on Richmond—made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. They want him to create a menu of local, sustainable, serious and seriously whimsical bowling alley food (yes, there will be actual bowling, too). We’re talking suburban classics, like hot dogs and burgers made from cuts of local beef, all ground in-house.

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