By Jeni Marinucci
There is almost no ingredient that chefs around the world haven’t managed to turn into a burger of some sort; adventurous restaurant-goers willingly eat anything served between two delicious halves of a roll. There’s the old standard, beef or beef mixtures, or veggies/grain mixes, and even Portobello mushroom caps. Culinary creativity knows no bounds when it comes to this hand-held favourite, and adding to its allure is the food’s portability and generally quick preparation time. Is it any wonder then that new developments in the burger world are always popping up? Enter alpaca burgers.
Yes, you can now enjoy the newest in lean meat burgers at a Toronto restaurant, so long as the cute and somewhat exotic look of the animal itself doesn’t hinder your taste buds. (Few people think chickens are adorable, especially if they’ve ever come up against one in a barnyard.) And with the growing numbers of alpaca farms in both Ontario and Quebec, supply is not an issue.
The Peruvian-themed Mochica, located on College Street in Toronto, is featuring the lean meat in burger form in their “Hamburguesa de Alpaca” and so far, it’s been a success, selling dozens each week. Chef Martin Ore, a Cordon Bleu alum tells the Toronto Star, “Torontonians like to discover new textures, new flavours, new spice.” He adds, simply, “It’s different.”
Hamburguesa de Alpaca is reasonably priced at $16 and served with cassava fries and a salad. But don’t expect the usual suspects in ways of burger toppings on this newcomer; instead, all condiments are as unique as the burger itself and include cilantro and a red onion slaw.
Ore says that in his native Peru, alpaca meat is generally reserved for special occasions and holidays, but that the many benefits may be helping increase its local popularity: alpaca meat is mild-flavoured and very tender, and is lower in cholesterol than pork or beef, other typical burger ingredients. The success seems to reinforce the point that customers are always looking to expand their already global palette and reasonably priced and delicious, healthy options contribute to the seeming trifecta win of this menu item.