Recently, I discovered a local eatery offering the “Impossible Burger” as a vegetarian option on its menu and today I dragged the family over there at lunch time so I could try it out. Before we get to my impressions though, let’s look at what this impossible burger is, and why it is being hyped.
The goal of this first product from Impossible Foods was to be a plant-based burger that non-vegetarians would enjoy as much as one made from cows. That means the taste, the texture, the look all had to be as close to a regular beef patty as possible. Why do this? It turns out that raising cattle for food is pretty bad for the planet in several ways: it takes a large amount of water to raise cattle (think about their food needing water too), it takes a large space (which is often land cleared to make space), and perhaps most surprisingly, it generates a lot of greenhouse gases (think climate change). In fact, Impossible Foods claims each quarter pound burger swapped for one of theirs is equivalent to saving the water from a ten minute shower, 75 square feet of land for wildlife and the greenhouse gases from 18 miles of driving (presumably in an ICE car).
One of the channels we watch regularly is Fully Charged, and in a recent episode from Los Angeles show host Robert Llewellyn visits an Umami Burger restaurant to try an Impossible Burger. Watch his reaction, as a non-vegetarian, here:
It is apparently now available at the San Francisco location we occasionally visit for lunch, but last week I discovered it was on the menu at Scolari’s at the Point here in Alameda. Aside from being much closer, their menu is a little more diverse than Umami’s too, which helps when feeding young kids.
The initial impression was that it looked like a regular burger; enough for me to confirm with the server that it really was the Impossible one as it looked near identical to the regular beef burger they serve.
The taste was OK – it has been a long time (around 30 years) since I last ate meat, so I’m probably not best qualified to judge how close it was to the taste of beef. Sadly, I was a little disappointed in the texture, and I am willing to believe it might have been caused by the preparation, but it was rather dry, and certainly did not have the pink inside color that I’ve seen other places talk about.
While Impossible would like everybody to think they’re alone in this space, they’re not, and the other burger that tries to be meat like can be bought in Safeway, Whole Foods Market and other supermarkets. You find it in the meat aisle, next to the other fresh beef patties (that is part of their agreement with the stores). It is the Beyond Burger from Beyond Meat.
The first time I cooked one, I think I made the same mistake and the result was, while still edible, not much different to any other veggie burger, and dry. The second time though, I was more daring and cooked it for far less time resulting in a much better experience. As a result of that initial mistake, I am willing to give the Impossible another try, perhaps at Umami, but right now my preference would be the Beyond Burger. I can cook them at home too, and get 6 patties from Safeway for the price of one Impossible burger from Scolari’s. For those non-vegetarians trying to do the Meatless Monday, or folks trying to add a vegetarian option to a barbecue event, the Beyond Burger is a great option – just don’t overcook them!