We've been known to toss around a few adjectives here on Eat Arkansas, but I'll admit that I had a tough time coming up with anything adequate to describe the burgers that my co-conspirator Dan Walker and I ate late last week at Little Rock's palace of carnivorous comestibles, Hillcrest Artisan Meats. Brandon and the gang down at H.A.M. pop up here fairly often, and there's a good reason for it: they're always coming up with something new and exciting to eat. From beef cheeks to hand pies, with a bit of brick-pressed prosciutto and pimento cheese between, the little charcuterie shop on Kavanaugh has earned their reputation for quality.
All of which brings me to the burger in question: start with a thick, juicy slab of Ratchford Farms beef, lean and full of flavor, cooked to the perfect medium, then add fresh greens, sweet onions, ripe tomatoes, cloth-bound cheddar and savory aioli. Sounds good, right? Well, like the man said: "But wait, there's more." Top that burger patty with a thick slab of perfectly seared foie gras, the fatty duck liver prized for its delicate flavor and succulent texture — and the perfect luscious, earthy counterpart to the lean grass-fed beef. Then up the ante yet again by adding three paper-thin slices of jamón ibérico, the unctuous Spanish acorn-fed ham considered to be the best in the world. Serve the entire thing on a challah roll, and be prepared to have your mind blown.
This hamburger is the result of animals that were raised with care — beef that was grass-fed, ducks that live cage-free and have a longer life expectancy than most farm ducks, and ham that comes from free range pigs that are fed only the finest food. It's the result of farmers who know how to care for their livestock, insuring that their final products are of the highest, most delicate and delicious quality. It's the product of processors that understand how to bring food to market with skill and artistry. And it's about a local food seller who knows how to take these quality ingredients and arrange them in a way that brings joy to whomever has the privilege to eat them. This is a simple hamburger, elevated into something that goes beyond "gourmet" and becomes a true food experience. The play of flavor and texture, sight and scent is something that I'll remember for years to come. And the beauty of it all is this: if enough of you ask him, I'll guarantee that Brandon will do this all again, for each of us.
Last Friday, for about thirty minutes, the greatest, most decadent hamburgers on God's green earth were right here in Little Rock. Then Daniel Walker and I ate them.