Sunday, October 09, 2011

Eat Like a Local on the Big Island of Hawaii: Ultimate Burger

Did you know that the largest cattle ranch in the United States is located in Hawaii? Thousands of head of cattle are raised right here on the mountains of The Big Island. But even though these cows start out eating fresh green grass and roaming hills with premium ocean views, more than 90% of these animals are shipped to the mainland to be fattened on feedlot corn before their final trip to the slaughterhouse. It's a shame given the premium price free-range, grass-fed beef commands, (and the way animals are treated in these lots. Did you see Food Inc.?) but this island doesn't have the proper meat processing facilities, and the local market is not yet large enough to support the industry.

Ultimate Burger may be the restaurant to help change that. This local burger joint serves up 100% locally raised, grass-fed beef. You can definitely taste the difference in the freshness of the meat. The texture is crumbly and tender- not tough and greasy like other fast food burgers. These burgers taste like red meat should taste- irony, rich, but also clean and healthy.

You can choose from a wide array of toppings for your burger; from bleu cheese crumbles to caramelized onions and pineapple slices, something will definitely hit the spot. And of course, such a beautiful burger needs a worthy bun. These are buttery, freshly baked and lightly toasted to really bring out the best in all the ingredients.

The fries are the real reason I keep going back however. Local potatoes are cut into superfine shoestrings, fried into the perfect marriage between crisp and squishy and then laced with generous sprinklings of fresh thyme, pepper, garlic and salt. They are served with an aioli dipping sauce (sour cream and cayenne pepper is my guess) that is totally decadent. I've found myself ordering fries and some of their perfectly tart, never overly sweet lemonade and nothing else on more than one occasion. (Ask for their punch card- after 10 orders of fries you get one free! If you're just visiting, start one anyway and send it my way. I guarantee it won't go to waste.)

What's the best burger joint in your neighborhood? What makes it so delicious?

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