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Shake Shack, Bobby Flay Win at NYCWFF Burger Bash

The Thrill of Victory: Shake Shack wins!
The Thrill of Victory: Shake Shack wins!

The unseasonably warm morning air and a light breeze from the East River has dissipated the thick cloud of meaty smoke that once hung heavy over the Tobacco Factory in DUMBO, home of last night's Burger Bash 2010. Or rather, known by its formal name, last night's The 2010 Blue Moon Burger Battle presented by Pat LaFrieda Meats and hosted by Rachael Ray. No opportunity for brand sponsorship missed nor burger left untouched. Through the fog of time, the cloud of blue smoke and a Blue Moon-sponsored hangover, our rememberings.

The night began before dusk at the James Beard House in the rare non-NYWFF related event: the 40th anniversary of All-Clad. I showed up half-way through a celebratory video featuring a montage of Ming Tsai and others using All-Clad pots and pans. A woman approached Ming Tsai, standing next to me, "You're in the video," she said. "Asian quota," he replied. The Franks, Falcinelli and Castronovo, hung out in the back garden, still bearded, still handsome, near an ice sculpture of an All Clad pan. René Redzepi chatted to Daniel Humm, fresh from a panel at Keens. "I don't get the local thing," Humm said, "I mean, growing vegetables on rooftops in Manhattan?" Gavin Keysen chatted with Dan Barber. Jeffrey Steingarten and Alan Richman stood in the kitchen, eminences grises et rotunds Anyway, it got late and I had burgers to attend to. Ming Tsai was heading out too so we took the F train but, you know, the walk from the W. 12th and 6th Avenue entrance to the F train platform is a good twenty minutes. Ming Tsai and I discussed Rocco di Spirito. A lot. The entire way to Brooklyn.

Brooklyn: Dusty DUMBO, the smell of burgers stretching to the York Street station. Buses line Front Street for blocks, symbol of how large and wooly the festival has become.

Inside the Tobacco Warehouse, Sutter Homes provides attendees — who have paid $225 to enter — with wine glasses attached with straps to their necks like horse feed bags.

The Touch, best cover band ever, performs. The lead singer has frosted tips. The lead guitarist is wearing a double breasted shawl collar sweater. Probably from H&M.

Lee Schrager takes the stage. "Marty Markowitz, where are you?" Marty Markowitz takes the stage. "The only thing Rachel Ray doesn't have is a Brooklyn address." Then he introduces Mayor Bloomberg. "He may be richer. He may be taller. But I'm better looking," riffs Markowitz. Bloomberg, standing off stage and thinking no one can see him, rolls his eyes. Duly he takes the stage. "I'd like to thank Marty. The best borough mayor we've had since 2002." That's funny, a couple of old AK's from the Borscht Belt. Interestingly, Bloomie says, "I don't trust anyone who doesn't drink."

Brett Riechler and the folks at Bill's Bar and Burger are giving away little foam stress reducing burger toys. They kind of squeak when squeezed and make you feel good. They're also a little trashy. Similarities with Rachel Ray abound.

Spike Mendelssohn is back, wearing a crown, acting a clown. I stopped by his stand when the King was out. His personal charisma is what gives his burgers their umami. Without him, there's nothing but tits and marketing.

In one corner, all that is good and all that is questionable about the Burger Bash: Shake Shack next to a Regent Seven Seas Cruise company next to the Minetta Tavern. A cruise company, really?

Giant Heinz 57 bottles on the table. Best way to ensure a photo will be taken of you is to grab one. The event photographers clearly have a mandate.

Ben Leventhal working as a sous chef at Mo Koyfman's booth, both in double-breasted black chef's jackets. (Impressively, as the only amateur in the competition, Koyfman pulled off a tie for second place.)

Andrew Carmellini is actually at the booth of The Dutch.

Here's the fundamental flaw in judging burger competitions: As one fills up on burgers, the bar gets higher and higher as the actual enjoyment of eating is replaced with a sickening feeling of fullness. Therefore, the first burger — tasted when starving — is inevitably remembered more fondly than the last burger, no matter how high the quality, eaten when feeling gassy and gross and contemplating the line at the Port-a-Johns. Perhaps the judges shouldn't eat ensemble but vary the order of burgers eaten between themselves to mitigate this tendency.

There was a raffle "proudly sponsored" by "our proud sponsors at Delta": two round trip tickets anywhere in the world. Winner was 169, announced by Rachel Ray. The sad motherfucker never claimed his or her prize. Waiting in line perhaps at the toilets. Perhaps headed home. If you are reading this 169, rue this morning, regret last night and every time you sit on an airplane, tell this story to your seatmate.

Shake Shack won the big trophy, awarded in a muffed speech by Mark Pastore. "The winner of this year's Meatball Madness," he said, "is Shake Shack!" General ecstasy ensued. Bobby Flay won the people's choice award, given by some dude from Blue Moon. Rachel Ray was hilarious: "Now you can fly anywhere in the world courtesy of Blue Moon." "I'm going to Blue Moon!" said Flay.

The Touch played their customary last song — Don't Stop Believing — and we all went home.
· All Hangover Observations on Eater [-E-]
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