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New Mexican mix: Blended Burger Project entry features green chile, other NM touches

Toltec Brewing Executive Chef David Ruiz is ready to show New York what New Mexico is made of when it comes to blended burgers.

The Blended Burger Project strives to make burgers better by blending ground meat or other selected proteins with chopped mushrooms. The idea is to create a menu item that is delicious, healthy and more sustainable for the planet. A panel of food experts selected by the James Beard Foundation will determine five winners from the top 20 entries with the most online votes. The judges will determine the top five winners based on most creative use of mushrooms, best flavor profile and presentation, according to the James Beard Blended Burger Project website. Winners will get the opportunity to cook at the historic James Beard House in New York City.

Ruiz thought entering the competition would be a good way to promote Toltec Brewing, which opened in early May. Ruiz entered his Toltec Royale and estimates there are at least 300 entries from around the country, including six from New Mexico. The Toltec Royale was in seventh place as of mid-June. People can vote once a day through July 31.

The name, Toltec Royale, was inspired by a “royale with cheese” reference in the movie “Pulp Fiction.” The Toltec Royale has been extremely popular with 672 sold in the first month of the brewery’s opening.

“It has local New Mexico beef, and it is blended with New Mexico brisket and ground beef, and I take roasted cremini (mushrooms) and fresh herbs and put it back into the patty itself,” Ruiz said of the Toltec Royale. “It comes with a green chile bun and ancho and herb mayo, an heirloom tomato, aged white cheddar cheese, thick-cut Young Guns green chile and a fried egg.”

Ruiz wanted something that would stand out from other chile cheeseburgers in the state. He did just that and keeping up with demand has been tough but rewarding.

“We hand-form all of our burgers,” he said. “It’s very important to us. We don’t pre-make them. I might have bit off more than I can chew.”

The Toltec Royale features an ancho chile mayonnaise that includes herbs, such as oregano, and lemon juice for a “citrus spice kick.” A burst of color and flavor is supplied by a thick slice of heirloom tomato grown in the state. The green chile bun, which is made fresh in-house, complements the burger’s many ingredients.

“It was a no-brainer to use New Mexico beef and support local New Mexico farmers,” Ruiz said. “I came across a sample of one that had brisket in it. It was really juicy even when cooked to well-done. I also was looking for mushrooms that were more local. Creminis grow here and up in Colorado, and I decided to use them in the patty. I love white cheddar, and I wanted to use something a little bit different. I used Young Guns green chile. It is one of the oldest green chile farms in southern New Mexico. I played with a few different ideas, and everyone thought it was amazing.”