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Victoria wins best burger!

Victoria Connolly, owner of Victoria’s Delights, poses with her “Best Burger” award. Below is her creation “The Michigander.” (click for larger version)
May 18, 2011 - And the title of Best Hamburger in Oxford goes to . . . Victoria's Delights?

That's right, in a town filled with bars and restaurants each claiming to serve the best burger around, it was the charming little bistro that came out of nowhere to take home the gold Saturday at the first-ever Hamburger Festival.

"I'm thrilled. This is a big deal to me," said Victoria Connolly, chef and proprietor of Victoria's Delights at 12 S. Washington St.

Connolly's "The Michigander" burger scored 34.5 out of a possible 40 points.

For her efforts, she won the traveling trophy, which consists of a ceramic burger, fries and pickle on a plate (created by Jeff Garett, of the Flint Institute of Arts) encased in a shadowbox frame provided by Art Capsule Gallery and Frame (formerly Margot's) located at 5 S. Washington St.

(click for larger version)
Connolly beat out well-known competitors Red Knapp's American Grill, the 24th Street Sports Tavern , the Ox Bar & Grill, the Oxford Tap and 'Wiches.

"It means a lot (to win) because I have some pretty stiff competition in this town," she said. "(Oxford's) known for having a host of restaurants that have great burgers, so I'm flattered. I am not known for burgers."

Anyone who's dined at Victoria's Delights knows its menu revolves around gourmet dishes, vegetarian specialities and lighter fare. It's definitely not a burger-and-fries type of joint.

But that didn't stop Connolly from tossing her chef's hat onto the burger battlefield.

"I think if you're a good chef, you can adapt your flavors to different cuisines, whether it's something as casual as a burger or extravagant as veal," she said.

"The Michigander" burger Connolly created used fresh hamburger with ground Lelanau cherries in it purchased from Pleva's Meats, a speciality meat market located in Cedar, Michigan.

"The fruit in the burger's supposed to help keep it moist," Connolly said. "It really doesn't have that much of a cherry flavor."

Exactly how fresh was the meat she used?

"The cattle are roaming (in a pasture) on the west side of the state two hours before they go to slaughter," Connolly said.

Connolly topped her homegrown burger with a demi-glace she made using morel mushrooms, cherry wine and dried cherries.

She then added thin-cut french-fried onions, field greens and some goat cheese mixed with fresh thyme, chives and parsley, all of which were grown in the little herb garden right behind her restaurant.

For the finishing touch, Connolly's burger was served on a housemade wholewheat bun.

Connolly indicated she made the burger special for the competition. When asked if she planned to add it to her bistro's menu, she replied, "Of course we will feature it. I think it's a good representation of our state."

The judges absolutely loved it.

"The thing that we liked best about Victoria's burger was even though it had a lot of gourmet ingredients, it was still a very accessible burger," said Judge Steve Kempner. "Anybody could eat it. It was really quite tasty."

"It was unexpected – morel mushrooms and goat cheese on a burger, but I must agree with Steve," said Judge Jason Smith. "Even if you're not turned on to the idea of a cherry burger, you've got to give this one a try. It's really delicious. The cherries kind of round it all out and make it a really balanced, delicious sandwich."

"The cherries, I think, really brought it together," said Judge Bob Perye. "None of the flavors competed with each other. It was just an overall harmonious dish. I can't wait to get a second (one)."

Although the Ox Bar & Grill's burger didn't win, the judges felt it necessary to note that it was a very, very close second.

In fact, the Ox was only a half-point behind Victoria's with its burger topped with jalapeno peppers, bacon and sharp white cheddar. "The presentation of the Ox Bar & Grill sandwich was really striking," Smith said. "It really caught your attention and made you want to dive into it."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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