The Food Guy, Steven Keith Eating his way through the state, plate by plate

Time to Upgrade Your Burger & Dog Toppings

We’re getting painfully close to Labor Day weekend, when a flurry of cookouts will celebrate the last hurrah of summer.

If your plans call for plain-jane burgers and dogs, consider jazzing them up a bit with these high-falutin’ condiments …

  • FLAVORED MAYO — Stir in a spoonful of pesto, olive tapenade, chopped chipotles, smoked paprika, curry or a little wasabi.
  • FRUIT RELISH — Chop up apricot preserves, apple jelly, a little horseradish, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves, to taste, and season with salt and pepper. Or just buy a jar of prepared chutney!
  • SPICY KETCHUP — Stir in a little Dijon mustard, roasted garlic, even a little vodka. Ooh-la-la!
  • CLASSY CONDIMENTS — Stack on curried pickles, wild boar bacon, caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms or roasted garlic.
  • FANCY CHEESE — Add a slice (maybe two?) of smoked Gouda, a sprinkling of crumbled bleu or an herbed chevre.

For those of you who caught last week’s blog post ( on ideas for “doctoring up” a plain ol’ hamburger, here are the tasty suggestions sent in by readers …

  • “Grilled portabella mushroom and smoked provolone” – Jim Ali
  • “I’m a blue cheese or guac girl myself. Fancy, that’s me.” – Kim Cooper
  • “I prefer black bean burgers, does that count? I like blue cheese and grilled onions as a topper.” – Andrea Bond
  • “BBQ sauce and Swiss cheese” – Lisa Graham Handley
  • “Avocado” – Chef Bill Dodson

Tomorrow (May 28) is National Hamburger Day (WOOF!) and it’s hard to top a good ol’ classic burger of meat, lettuce, tomato, mayo and/or ketchup and/or mustard.

Topped with a slice of Kraft American cheese, of course.

But since today’s a special occasion and all, why not elevate your burger with a fat slab of artisan cheese instead? Combine that change with subbing your traditional bun for specialty bread and – voila! – you’ve instantly created a new American classic!

What kind of cheese? There’s no wrong answer …

• Fresh mozzarella with a few leaves of basil.
• A creamy European-style cheese with sautéed mushrooms.
• Pepper jack with a smear of guacamole.
• Crumbled bleu … or feta … herbed chevre.