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.