23 May 2008

[nw_life] The Way Burgerville Does Things

1571. We were intrigued by the article in The Big O today about Burgerville pulling NW legend Gardenburger for a variety of reasons.

Of course, we knew that Gardenburger wasn't an Oregon resident anymore. The company did start here, though, with the ungainly-but-charming name of Wholesome & Hearty Foods. They were in the right place at the right time. As awareness about healthy food choices rose during the late 90's, so did Gardenburger's fortunes; being a local product, it was a natural for Burgerville's product line.

Just like every local celebrity who goes to the top though, it wasn't so long until Wholesome & Hearty moved to the Cali and married a bigwig. W&H was eventually acquired by Kellogg's, and Burgerville probably continued to carry it because of loyalty and brand recognition.

But just like our food hero, Gordon Ramsay, Burgerville and The Holland (the company that actually owns BV) have high standards. And when they opened a recent shipment of Gardenburgers, they noticed right away that something was amiss. From The Big O:

The changeover was set into motion last Friday, when restaurant employees opened a box of Gardenburgers and became concerned about the look and texture of the product, Burgerville spokeswoman Ursula Herrick said.

"No customers said to us, 'This tastes different,' " she said.

This is one reason we love BV. They give a damn about the things that go into their meals. They check these things out.

Call in the understudy ... who didn't realize they were an understudy. Again, The Big O:

Weeks ago, a representative for Burgerville, a chain of 39 restaurants with a reputation for offering local products, tasted Osmunson's patties at an area grocery store. Tuesday afternoon, a Burgerville official told Osmunson, "I think we're going to want some product."

"I'm sure we can get things together," Osmunson replied.

The Osmunson named is Marie Osmunson of Chez Gourmet, a local supplier based in Lake O. From thier page about thier own patty product:

Good taste is more than flavor alone. Chez Gourmet patties feel good in your mouth. The wonderful nutty, chewy texture enhances the pleasure of eating our patties ... a reminder of the natural things it's made of.

This company knows what it's talking about. While we're more of the gourmand than they gourmet, we understand enough about dining to know that, even in the most humble of dishes, that enjoying what you eat is more than just taste. Anyone who knows about that strange term mouthfeel and what it means knows what we're getting at here. Just think about the time you chewed on your favorite food, whatever it was. You not only dug on the taste, you dug on the way it crunched, or was smooth, or was slightly rough against the palette. It all goes into the eating experience. It's probably why there are gourmets.

The Kellogg's response has been typically corporate and "oh, well ... what're ya gonna do?" and surprises our jaded view not at all. Again, The O:

Kellogg blamed the problem on construction work where Gardenburgers are produced.

"While not presenting a food safety concern for consumers," said the statement, issued by Kellogg spokeswoman Susanne Norwitz, the Gardenburgers "may not have been produced under conditions that meet our high quality standards. Therefore we asked our distribution network partners to return to us certain Gardenburger products."

Haven't you people heard of drop cloths? I mean, c'mon!

But at least it won't kill you! Eat away!

The Holland says no to that, and yes, to a tryout for Chez Gourmet. Of course, it's gotten pretty intense. From a one day production run, BV is going to need 3,000 to 6,000 patties per day. So this will be the acid test for them. But we're pulling for them, and we're once again made proud by Vancouver-based The Holland/Burgerville, who understands what they're doing locally and for whom "buy local" and "quality" are more than just cute marketing buzzwords ... they're a way of life.

Given the choice between any other restaurant and BV, we typically to for the BV when available. And we suggest everyone else do the same.

If this seems like a big love note to Burgerville ... well, we guess it is.

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Dale said...

I love Burgerville -- great coffee, great smoothies. I even like the sweet potato fries, although about one order a year is enough.

The thought of losing Gardenburgers is more than troubling -- I'd just about starve without Gardenburgers. I wish I hadn't found out they were owned by Kellogg's, but our time in Eden is always too short, right?

I'll be trying out Chez Gourmet's offering soon. I suspec it's going to be quite good.

Alan Bluehole said...

I'm a huge fan of the Burgerville Gardenburger. They know how to take something seemingly healthy and goop it up enough to rival a Big Mac. That said, I'm not a big fan of saw dust, aluminum filings, and sandblasting sand in my Gardenburgers, so maybe it's time for something new.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Well, whenever I enthuse about BV to my MickeyD's consuming friends, they always ask me why I'd spend so much for a burger, and usually end it with a little eye roll.

This is the reason. This right here.

Also, anyone can go to McD's!