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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The French eat burgers? Mais d'accord!! But of course! Just like us.

Written to help celebrate National Burger Day 25th August 2016.

The French obsession with Le Burger. By Phil Lowe.

On August 1st 2016 the American burger franchise Five Guys opened its flagship French burger restaurant at 42 Court St. Emilion (Bercy Village) in the 12th Arrondisement of Paris. By 2017 they are planning to open their second Parisian branch at the Gare du Nord. Compared to its competition Five Guys are high end offering menus from fifteen to twenty euros. Oh la la! Customers can even make their burgers bespoke. According to their promotions Five Guys offers simplicity with pretty décor, and the burger meat is fresh top quality product and definitely not from frozen. USA President Barack Obama once claimed that Five Guys make the best burgers in the USA. Could we soon be hearing they are the best in France?

Hang on une second. Surely the nation that prizes quality food doesn't scoff the same amount of burgers as in the USA or UK do they? Well, apparently they are rather partial to le burger these days. In fact in 2015 the French wolfed down around 1.19 billion burgers and burgers have become a feature of even the most renowned eateries. To think that once upon a culinary time the humble hamburger would have been considered malbouffe which means rubbish food.

Of this blog subject – the love of burgers in France - I read a recent article in The Telegraph online today which said 'For the guardians of French gastronomy, the prospect of being served something as unsophisticated as a slab of mincemeat with a bap and slice of cheese would long have been considered sacrilegious.' These days however, the report claims that the tables have turned. The Telegraph continues (sic) 'In a culinary revolution, three quarters of French restaurants now sell hamburgers and 80% of these say it has become their top-selling dish, according to a new study...' Further on the Telegraph report also claims that the average time spent on eating a lunchtime meal in France has dropped from an hour and 20 minutes in 1975 to less than half an hour today.

Burger fact: The French website for Burger King states that in 2014 they created a special burger for a Gay Pride day. The name? Le Proud Whopper!

Before looking into all this for a blogpost on National Burger Day (25th August) I had never heard of Five Guys nor the fast food chain Quick. Quick was originally a Belgian chain of hamburger fast food restaurants and founded in 1971 by entrepreneur Baron François Vaxelaire. They have over 400 restaurants all over Europe. They are similar in theme to Burger King and looking at their online ( French language menus for burgers there appears to be a lot of English styling to the names of the dishes. Here are some examples Méga Giant, Long Fish burger, Cheeseburger, Suprême Chicken Barbecue Bacon, Giant, Quick 'n Toast, Burger sauce à la vache qui rit, Giant Max, Long Bacon, Suprême ClassiQ. Yes that is the spelling on the website – ClassiQ. Académie Française alert!!!! They missed out a u and a e!

The buns (pictured above) for the Quick Dark Vador burgers are dyed not burnt to a blackened crisp and the Star Wars promo launch was apparently very popular. Saying that, it would feel very odd to me to eating bread this colour. A bit like contemplating eating blue food.

So, we have our Quick hamburger therefore what can we have as accompagnements then? Aaah, food with silly names like Funny Carotte & Kiri, Funny Tomate. If we want to go all adulte then we can order La Petite Salade or Frites Plus ou moins salés: à vous de décider" (you put your own salt on if you decide to) or Frites Rustiques. Should you feel very hungry indeed and want a full salad with your burger meal then they offer three salads La Gourmande, La Savoureuse or something totally irresistible such as the aptly named, L'irresistible.

Over to another burger business in France – Big Fernand – who call themselves a French burger bistro. On their menus they also say “Being French we want you to be able to enjoy your meat however you want it, be it blue, rare, medium-rare, medium or well done. And we'll even try not to judge you if you opt for well done. They go on to warn that the Food Standards Agency warn that 'undercooked' meat may increase the risk of food-borne illness in some.

I had a lick of their menu look at their menu. The burger meals did sound a lot more appetising than the Quick menu. Just a personal choice. And so at Big Fernand the selection of burgers are:

Le Big Fernand (dry aged beef) with Tomme de Savoie cheese, sun dried tomatoes, flat parsley and a home made cocktail sauce.

Le Bartholomé (dry aged beef) with Raclette cheese, smoked streaky bacon, caramelised onions, chives, barbecue sauce.

Le Philibert (seasoned chicken burger) Tomme de Savoie cheese, grilled peppers, tarragon, home made mayo.

Le Victor (veal) Fourme d'Ambert blue cheese, caramelised onions, coriander, home made mayo.

L'Alphonse (lamb) Tomme de Savoie cheese, grilled aubergine, coriander, home made mayo.

Le Lucien (veggie) Portabello mushroom, Tomme de Savoie cheese, sun dried tomatoes, caramelised onions, chives and home made mayo.

The sides are fries or a salad of lamb's lettuce, sun dried tomatoes and chives. On top of all this you can also compose your own burger from all their ingredients!

Finally, if you happen to understand French you can follow two hip French guys called Dirty et Richie and their videos on Youtube. They appear to be going to lots of French hamburger joints in Paris and filming themselves eating burgers and commenting on the experience. They call the videos La recherche du meilleur hamburger de Paris. Each place they visit is named and hash tagged with a number comme ça #13.

Whatever you happen to be doing on National Burger Day (25th August) enjoy Les Burgers! Even if they are English. Lol.

Phil Lowe

Twitter: @PhilLowe7


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