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By Laura Stec

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About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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The Impossible Burger

Uploaded: Nov 2, 2016

Things have been aligning lately. The highly improbable seems closer than ever.

For instance, it’s still impossible to taste the Impossible Burger on the Peninsula, but a quick hike north offers promise. Lucky me, Redwood City-based Impossible Foods recently hosted a few lucky tongues to grok it’s essence. Founder Patrick Brown, M.D., Ph.D. told his-story of the all-plant-but-looks-acts-and-sounds-like-beef burger. Brown is a former biochemistry professor, and Howard Medical Institute Investigator at Stanford University.

“I am professor turned meat-maker,” said Brown. “During my sabbatical from Stanford, I imagined where I might have the next best effect. I thought how eating less meat dramatically frees up resources to feed the world, and land for wildlife and biodiversity, and wondered if there’s really a difference between plant-based meat, and meat made from plants. Meat is already made from plants. In our current system, animals transform plants into meat. It works pretty well, but cows aren’t actually designed to do this. I knew we could do better.”

Brown and his team went on to crack the code of how plants turn into meat. Displayed at the tasting were four categories of ingredients in their burger:



Fat, which includes grated coconut, a substance so light and fluffy it flew away / vanished when sprinkled into my mouth.

And aroma. “Getting the correct meat smell while cooking is the tricky part,” said Brown. Heme is the secret ingredient. A building block of all life, heme is abundant in animal muscle; responsible for it’s pink color and meaty taste (by the spoonful, it tasted like minerals). Used in making Belgium beer, heme is described as “beer plant blood.” Like beer, Impossible Foods produces heme by fermentation, not by cow.

While Dr. Brown expands on why the magic of meat is the smell, “a perfect combination of things found in nature,” San Francisco chefs Traci Des Jardins (Jardiniere), and Chris Cosentino (Cockscomb) combine the heme with wheat protein, super secret seasonings, and other ingredients, into a mix that looks like ground beef.

They begin cooking the patties, and sure enough, the crackle from the skillet, the bubble on the pan, that signature aroma… all moo-through as we listen to more of the story.

Compared to cow, Impossible Burger uses about a quarter of the water (equal to a 10-minute shower), 5% of the land, and contributes only 13% of the greenhouse-gas emissions (equal to 18 miles of driving). They project a graphic of two teenage boys munching down on Impossible with the caption, “Wow, did you know they used to make these things from animals?” This is Urban Cuisine.

I bite in. Yeow. Juicy, spongy…the flavor and texture are darn close. So much so, I don’t even know if I like it. It was kinda freaky - the texture a little too much like meat for this ol’-almost-still-vegetarian.

So go test it out for yourself. Impossible Burgers aren’t available in stores yet, but make a night of it with dinner at Cockscomb or Jardiniere, both in San Francisco.

But how about that impossible bun?

Whatever your burger pleasure, if your preferred buns are gluten-free, we’ve been Food Partying with a few new products that might help your search.

BFree Foods is a new company to me, making gluten free rolls, tortillas and bagels, in styles like quinoa and chia seed with teff and flax ($5.49-6.99). I find GF tortillas break easily, but these handle quite well. I really enjoy the rolls most of all; light and moist. Perfect for a sandwich, burger, or your Thanksgiving table. Look for the product at Nob Hill Foods, Lucky Supermarket, Save Mart or a location near you.

Blends by Orly For the bakers out there, check out this new, gluten-free flour line. It’s a complete 1:1 replacement of wheat flour, cheaper than classic Cup 4 Cup. I’ve used it to replace all-purpose flour in old cookie and cake recipes. I also created a new recipe for CUESA with the Manhattan Blend - Sage Pumpkin Galette with Spiced Pepitas and Vegan Jerky (recipe soon to a Food Party! near you), and it worked perfectly! Experiment with the blends in holiday cookies; I’m surprised how well the flours transition my old favorites into the new trends. Thanks Orly.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Random Internet Guy, a resident of another community,
on Nov 2, 2016 at 7:47 am

I'm curious to try this, but the prices need to come down before it's an affordable regular option for typical people.

Ground beef is not just one thing, it varies due to cut, fat content, freshness, quality (prime, choice, etc.) as well as the animal itself (breed, location, diet: corn fed vs. grass fed) so it would be interesting to see where the Impossible Burger compares.

From a health perspective, the Impossible Burger doesn't appear to have many advantages. I looked at the nutritional chart (on the Impossible Foods website) when it came out, and if I recall correctly, the Impossible Burger is *LOADED* with sodium, so the current iteration of the product is not something one would want to consume on a regular basis at this time.

Still an interesting concept. Not sure about my enthusiasm about a product created in a lab, but then again, I'm not much for prepackaged foods. However, if you're already eating veggie burgers from the frozen foods section, sure, why not give it a try?

Posted by Random Internet Guy, a resident of another community,
on Nov 3, 2016 at 9:50 am

Food blog Serious Eats has a thoughtful review of the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger (the latter is available in stores).

Web Link

The author Kenji has some interesting comments about the role and types of fats present in meat versus vegetable oils used in these new vegetarian burgers.

He also points out that these veggie burgers must be cooked to medium-rare to retain appeal and that the Impossible Burger was terrible when presented in one of the more thoroughly cooked stages.

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of another community,
on Nov 4, 2016 at 8:45 am

Thanks Random Internet Guy! Though I am not for food from a lab, I do believe that meat is an exception to that. We just can't produce enough of it to feed the masses. Everyone - stay tuned. Today is the start of reThink Food at the Culinary Institute of America, up in St. Helena. You know, that ol, big, cool looking Franciscan monk building you always wanted to stop at. If you haven't, you should! Should be a good conference. Web Link

Posted by Random Internet Guy, a resident of another community,
on Nov 4, 2016 at 9:06 am

Sorry, I can't make the conference, got a paycheck to earn, bills to pay, keep the lights on, you know.

I hope the conference panelists address the topics of portion control and responsible consumption.

In general, Americans eat way too much, the notion of what a "normal" portion size has exploded since the Fifties. Today about half of all food produced in the USA goes uneaten. Much of the strain on the meat industry could be reduced if people ate smaller portions. Do you really need to eat two jumbo eggs sunny-side up and four strips of bacon? What about one large egg, one strip of bacon, and some beans instead?

Anyhow, much of the world's food problems need some help from individual consumers, in changing eating habits, diet, etc. Clearly, there are some populations that are much healthier around the world (Americans have the worst diets and lowest life expectancies of all industrialized nations), so it's not like it can't be done.

The biggest problem is that the typical American simply doesn't care.

They just want to stuff their pieholes full of over-processed, cheap commercial swill, soft drinks, sugar-and-fat ladened gut busters, and push themselves away from the table with their bellies ready to explode, with mountains of uneaten leftovers heaped on gargantuan platters (all of which gets tossed in the trash).

Interesting topic, but not one that will be solved by food scientists, horticulturists, climatologists, or agricultural economists, or supply chain/food distribution experts.

The American public needs to care and right now, the vast majority of them do not.

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