I stared into the plate, delivered to my beckoning lap by a slick server in grey and black, as I sat in the plushy depths of an armchair in the low-lit lounge of San Francisco’s Jardiniere restaurant. Before me the greasy meat patty oozed into the guacamole, mixing with the dijonaise before finally dripping over the edge of the plump bun and onto the plate.
I was about to bite into my first taste of beef in more than 14 years.
In honor of my partner’s birthday we arrived at Jardiniere restaurant to try the brand new Impossible Burger, an entirely vegan hamburger said to bleed like actual animal flesh and fool even the heartiest of carnivores into mistaking it for real, ground up cow.
Established in 2011 by Stanford biochemist Patrick O. Brown and a few of his genius buddies in the Silicon Valley, the Impossible Burger blends wheat proteins, coconut oil, and potatoes (with a few other key ingredients) into a vegan meat patty that uses leghemoglobin, or plant blood, to lend that indescribably delicious “meat” flavor 99% of the population craves.
And now, meat eaters and vegans alike can enjoy a truly cruelty-free, animal-slaughter-free, beef burger experience.
Due to the limited availability of these faux meat phenomenons, one does not simply order an Impossible Burger. No–one must be determined and also possess an AA degree–at least–in business administration to make it happen.
Three days before we arrived I called the restaurant hoping to make a reservation and was informed that at Jardieniere, the Impossible Burger is only available after 7:30pm, served only in the bar or lounge areas, and you must obtain a voucher beforehand to reserve your burger.
I furiously wrote down these clues in my notes.
Suddenly I’m Frodo embarking on a quest to discover The One Burger to Rule Them All.
“Vouchers are available first come, first served, starting at 5pm sharp,” said the host through the phone. “I recommend arriving as early as 4:45pm to get in line.”
Almost immediately we were joined by a motley crew of people who looked delightfully out of place at such an esteemed French restaurant. Nose and ear piercings, visible tattoos, beanies, skinny jeans….the vegans had arrived!
By the time the doors opened at 5pm, we walked straight to the host and asked for vouchers. He handed us small, square plasticized pieces of paper with a single digit number and “IMPOSSIBLE” written on them in bold lettering. His downcast eyes, set behind nose-pinching spectacles, barely acknowledged the gravity of our imminent culinary experience.
Were we lining up for burgers or space travel? It was hard to tell at that point.
We busied ourselves at the bar–Old Fashioned for him, something quirky and non-alc for her–and then moved onto a boba tea house (tapioca starch pearls!!), Ritual coffee, and a stroll through upscale clothing shops because what else is one to do while waiting for the Rapture?
7:45 rolled around and we walked through the sleek glass doors of Jardiniere to see countless couples already tucking into their Impossible burgers. As we were seated in the lounge, I strained with all my might to catch their reactions after that first bite. One omnivore man with his vegetarian girlfriend–whom I spoke to–was completely and utterly convinced that the burger was actual beef.
“There’s no way I could tell the difference,” he said. His girlfriend leaned over to me, away from her boyfriend, and confessed she hoped it would help him eat less meat.
The set menu promised an Impossible Burger adorned with avocado, caramelized onions, little gem lettuce, dijonaise, pommes frites, and a pickle for the price of $16. Ever-cautious vegan that I am, when we actually placed our orders for the burgers I asked the server if the dijonaise–spicy mustard mixed with mayo–was also vegan. He smirked and said, “the whole thing is vegan.”
Ah, music to my ears.
The waiter’s mild amusement made me feel like I was silly for asking such a question, which made me feel very relieved.
So when the Impossible Burgers landed on our low-slung table, I braced myself. How could this texture, the color gradient from rare red to grilled grease, the smell–how could this possibly be vegan?
My mind kept playing the sounds of screaming animals in slaughterhouses as I stared at it glistening on my plate. But then I quickly forced a jump-shot to golden fields of wheat and sunshine to counter it. This was a vegan beef hamburger made from wheat proteins and spices!
And then I took a bite. The burger mushed into the bun, mixing with the tart pickle and buttery avocado. Delicate rivulets of oily juices ran down my hands, seasoning my sea salt french fries below.
My partner Conor (also vegan, but with actual memories of beef burgers) assured me that to achieve this quality from animal flesh would require the chef to cook the burgers “dangerously rare,” something beef lovers accept with a twinge of fear in their bowels as salmonella and e. Coli threaten from within those fleshy patties.
I took a few more bites, sensing Conor had disappeared into a rapturous myopia where all he could see was the Impossible Burger. He just kept saying, “unbelievable,” over and over.
As I continued eating, my thoughts turned away from the initial excitement to a bizarre combination of…meh and what’s for dessert?
I did not finish my Impossible Burger, instead gladly handing it over to Conor who ate my remaining half with fervor. I looked forward more to the apple pear sorbet with berry coulis and wished somewhat that I had simply ordered three of those for dinner instead of the burger.
You see, after years spent not craving animal flesh, I no longer wanted vegan food that mimics animal bodies.
After six or seven bites of the Impossible Burger, I had had enough to know what I needed to know…that the Impossible Burger is not necessarily targeting whole foods, plant based vegans who would rather sun salutation their way into a monomeal of citrus before riding their bikes 25 miles.
Only 1-3% of the population identifies as vegan, and an even smaller percentage than that identifies as a health-, eco-, animal-conscious, whole foods plant based low fat vegan. In other words, the Impossible Burger caters to the 99% of people on this planet who choose to eat animals for their taste.
Because the Impossible Burger so successfully mimics the taste, texture, and aroma of beef, there’s hope people will realize true flavor and satisfaction at mealtime comes from plants–in all their various forms, whole or burgerized.
And thanks to this realization, I was more excited than ever about the Impossible Burger. This is the vegan burger meant to help meat eaters and anyone craving animal flesh. This isn’t a low fat bean burger that struggles to taste anything like beef.
This is a beef burger, made from plants, that tastes and acts like beef.
The Impossible Burger is exactly what this world needs. We need non-animal products that taste exactly like animal products. We need everyone to want them, crave them, and then choose to purchase and eat them. And we need this to happen as soon as possible.
To find the Impossible Burger, visit Impossible Foods online and check out the locations now serving. If your city is not listed, get in touch with the team and let them know how much you want to try it!
**This just in: I was not paid or compensated in any way, other than with the pleasure of this experience, to promote or discuss the Impossible Burger. I recommend all people, especially non-vegans, check out this incredible feat of food production for themselves…and then go vegan as soon as possible.**