Jamba Juice put out a viral ad campaign recently by posting a YouTube video for the new "Cheeseburger Chill" smoothie. The ad was a fake, meant to mock McDonald's and its new line of fruit smoothies. But it also got me thinking: How bad could it be? So this morning, I tried it.
First off, we had to find a quality burger, so I called Guy Castellano, owner of Big City Dogs and Big City Dogs II, which New Times readers smartly picked as Best Burger in this year's Best Of Broward-Palm Beach readers' poll. Castellano sounded unfazed, really, when I asked him if he'd be willing to drop a burger
into a blender. He mainly just wanted to shore up the particulars. "Are you thinking," he asked, "of using juice or milk as the base?"
Good question. We went with milk, thinking it'd be something like when you take a bite of burger and then take a sip of milk. Not a bad mix, really. So Castellano picked up a bottle of milk, and we met him out at his location in Davie this morning.
First, Castellano had his cooks prepare a bacon cheeseburger with the works -- that's mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, pickle spears, grilled onions, bacon, cheese, bun, and a just-ground burger patty fortified with lard.
Figuring we couldn't just drop a whole burger into a blender, Castellano cut it up into quarters. He added about a cup of milk and then a quarter of the burger.
Blended, it was clear that we needed more burger. So we dropped in the other half. Still too thin, Castellano added some cornstarch to thicken. To create a smoothie consistency, he added a scoop of ice and blended it one more time.
In the blender, it looked like a salad dressing, with bits of lettuce that didn't get chopped up providing a parsley-like color and bits of bright green pickle skin suspended in the ooze.
It poured just like a smoothie, sort of thick and slightly chunky -- no big bits of burger like in the fake Jamba Juice ad.
The smell was undoubtedly burger, meaty and bacony, like a grill. Except in a cup. And the taste? The taste surprised the hell out of us.
"It tastes...," Castellano said, pausing for a minute. "It tastes like a fortified V8. It's not bad at all."
He was right. There was an underlying meat and bacon flavor, but the most prominent tastes were the onions, tomato, and pickle. Who would've guessed the vegetables would win out in a cheeseburger smoothie?
Feeling pretty surprised by our analysis, Castellano and I felt like we needed a second opinion. So he called his head cook, Maynor Escobar, into the front of the kitchen. Escobar hadn't heard about the Jamba Juice ad campaign, so he had no idea why we were dropping the burger he just assembled into a blender. He looked pretty suspicious.
He was an immediate convert. "It's good," he said, looking as surprised as we were. "I like it."
Feeling like we were on to something, Castellano called fellow grill man Saul Baress to come out and try this thing. Baress was convinced we were pulling something over on him, but he played along anyway and took a sip.
Baress might have liked it more than any of us. He took another sip, then another, and then just about finished off the thing. His only complaint was the texture, which left bits of things stuck between your gums and teeth. He also suggested that perhaps it should be a bit sweet.
Which got us thinking about how to improve it. The lettuce didn't add much to the equation besides bits that stuck in your teeth, so that could go. I suggested more mayo to improve the consistency, but Castellano worried that it may create an oily sheen on top. More ketchup or maybe even a V8 base instead of milk might work too.
"It's definitely sellable," Castellano said.
Suddenly, it sounded like Castellano was actually thinking about selling these. He hasn't added an item to his menu in 22 years, back in the days when he was pushing a hot dog cart on the streets of New York City. If the first item he added in two decades were a cheeseburger smoothie, that would be proof we had invented something good here.
So, I asked, would he be adding this to the menu?
He didn't hesitate to respond: "Don't kid yourself."
Probably a good call.