The James Beard Blended Burger Project is back, and Mark Hayes is Johnny-on-the-spot with a new entry in this year's contest.

What's a Blended Burger Project, you ask? It's your best attempt to fortify a burger with delicious, nutritious mushrooms. Mushrooms are a popular meat alternative in veggie burgers, and they make sense as an additive to beef because they infuse it with moisture and a "meaty" flavor.

Contest rules specify that the patty blend must contain at least 25 percent fresh-chopped, cultivated mushrooms. It's a way to eat healthier and more sustainable meals that cut calories and sodium and still taste delicious.

This isn't the first try by Hayes, director of dining and hospitality services at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Last year, his culinary team's Sweet Home Colorado Burger took second place out of 13 Colorado competitors. This year, his staff has created The Peak, which they've been serving at Clyde's Gastropub on the UCCS campus.

"The burger patty is a blend of Colorado Aspen Ridge beef, Colorado Hazel Dell organic cremini mushrooms and Colorado concho corn," he wrote in an email. "The challah bun is from Denver- based Harvest Moon Baking Co. (and) spread with chipotle mayo. Fixings include pickled red onions, roasted tomato, Pueblo jack cheese, baby kale and arugula."

Fans can vote once a day for their favorite burgers by visiting burgerproject between May 29 and July 31. The five chefs with the most votes will get the opportunity to prepare their blended burger at the James Beard House in New York City.

But before you vote, try the burger! The Peak is $9 at Clyde's Gastropub, 1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway, in University Center.

In addition to Clyde's, three other Colorado eateries entered the blended burger battle: beast + bottle in Denver, Door 222 Food & Drink in Loveland and Ryno's Pub and Pizzeria in Aspen. Visit the James Beard site often to keep up with who's signing up to gain bragging rights.

And if eating the burgers or voting for them is not enough, you can toss around this hashtag - #Blended BurgerProject - on your social media outlets to create buzz. Take photos and post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Details: 255-3502, Pub.

Food editor

Food writer for features life section and columnist for Go! Entertainment - Table Talk column

Load comments