Friday, April 26, 2013

Retro Rad Recap: Augusta and Athens

By Dallas Duncan, Georgia Cattlemen's Association director of communications

Four burgers down, four to go.

Wednesday, the second day of Georgia Beef Board's Retro Rad Georgia Tour de Beef included stops at Sports Center in Augusta and Stuffed Burger in Athens, two restaurants that were declared "best burger" by their respecitve local publications. After an evening spent at Savannah's Thunderbird Inn, where Next Food Network Star finalist Emily Ellyn enjoyed a retro rad RC Cola and Moonpies, Ellyn and Georgia Beef Board staff were on the road to the Garden City.

"I have to say the Sports Center has been by far one of the best dining experiences I've ever had," Ellyn said. "The people are so amazing, so genuine, I can't say enough about it!"

And the burgers she tried were pretty tasty, too. Ellyn sampled Sports Center's classic cheeseburger and the "jacked up version" that included veggies and grilled onions. Both have been downtown Augusta staples for more than 30 years, owner Sandi Watkins said.

"They're made with lots of love. They're never frozen, always fresh. We make them every morning," Watkins said.

In addition to the homemade burgers, fries and onion rings, staff at Sports Center make a special sauce that gives their burgers a little kick -- Jim Hensley's Shotgun Spicy Mustard.

"It's really good. We make it and you have to wait three days to eat it so it will meld," Watkins said.

Ellyn called the burgers some of "the best cheeseburgers I've ever had," citing the classic flavor combinations and the kick of the Shotgun Spicy Mustard as her main reasons.

"You go in there and it's like a big ol' breath of fresh air, a warm hug," Ellyn said. "I am very blessed to have been a part of the burger tour now. We've had one of the best burgers. We've had the most creative, juicy, delicious burgers and we have had one of the most genuinely delicious dining experiences. I cannot wait to see where the fourth place takes us."

Georgia Beef Board staff made a quick pit stop on the way to the Athens restaurant at Double Bridges Farm, a state-of-the-art livestock facility owned by the University of Georgia Animal Science Department. Ellyn, who grew up on a Christmas tree and Texas Longhorn farm in Ohio, enjoyed getting back to her roots and seeing the university's teaching facility.

"I never thought I would see a Food Network chef on the farm," said Tyler Murray, facilities supervisor for Double Bridges and Georgia Cattlemen's Association member. "She was hilarious and I had a great time."

More Georgia Cattlemen's Association members and supporters joined Ellyn at Stuffed Burger for the final tour stop Wednesday evening. Stuffed Burger's concept is based on the Juicy Lucy restaurant featured on a Food Network episode of "Man vs. Food." In just two years of being open, the restaurant became so popular it's already had to move to a bigger location.

"We do all of our burgers stuffed. It keeps the burger very moist and juicy and gives a 'wow' factor," owner Hank Cheatham said. "You bite in and the cheese oozes out. It makes you want to take a picture of it."

Though the menu choices included a tater-tot-stuffed burger and one with a full breakfast inside, Ellyn chose to try the classic bacon-cheese-stuffed burger and one filled with roasted red peppers and pepper jack cheese. She gave them both thumbs-up and enjoyed the tater tots and ooey gooey milkshake as well.

"I loved them," she said of the Stuffed Burgers. "It's like, mindlessly simple. Why don't more people stuff a burger? The way that they do it, by putting a patty down and putting another patty on top of it causes it to not be a meatball. It's perfect."

The two-day tour was a different approach to the usual food events Ellyn attends, but she said she had a blast driving through Georgia and seeing all four of these burger joints.

"I was amazed at the amount of toppings everyone came up with. I really enjoyed seeing it wasn't just like, typical toppings, if you will," she said. "It was more like really tasty, creative, high-quality attention to detail. They were putting caramelized onions and goat cheese and eggs and really specialty farm bacon and pork. It wasn't just a burger. These people took pride in what they were serving and thought it out right to the bun."

See the rest of the tour photos on the Georgia Beef Board Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Retro Rad Recap: Macon and Savannah

By Dallas Duncan, Georgia Cattlemen's Association director of communications

This year for Beef Month, Georgia Beef Board is turning back the clock — to the 1950s, to be exact.

"I'm a Food Network chef and I am best known for my Next Food Network Star appearance. I take the retro and make it rad with all kinds of retro redos," said Emily Ellyn, finalist on the show. "There's nothing more retro rad than a classic American burger."

That was reason No. 1 Ellyn — who spent the day dressed in an "I Love Lucy"-esque navy blue polka-dot halter dress and a handmade hamburger fascinator — agreed to partner with Georgia Beef Board and Georgia Cattleman magazine to promote Beef Month on a Retro Rad Georgia Tour de Beef this week. Along with sampling and photographing burgers to feature in the June issue of Georgia Cattleman magazine, Ellyn signed a limited amount of custom recipe cards at each tour stop and took pictures with excited fans.

Ellyn made a quick pit stop Monday night to Nu-Way Weiners in Macon to brainstorm with Georgia Beef Board staff on what burgers to order at each of the restaurants.

"At first it was like, holy moley. It was like a book," Ellyn said, referring to the stack of menus she was presented to look through. "I was a bit overwhelmed at first, thinking, 'Oh my gosh, where am I going to start?'"

The tour visited Macon and Savannah on Tuesday and will tackle Augusta and Athens today. All four restaurants were selected "best of" burger winners in their respective cities by local publications.

The first stop on the tour was Rookery, a restaurant in downtown Macon, Ga., that patrons claim was a key player in revitalizing the city scene back in the 1970s. Recently Rookery staff chose to include a locally-sourced beef product on their menu, ground beef from Rocking Chair Ranch in Forsyth, Ga. Owner Joe Ezzard is a member of Georgia Cattlemen's Association and his beef is well-known in Macon as being the beef served by Rookery and several other area restaurants.

Georgia Beef Board staff and Ellyn tried two offerings on the Rookery menu, the Allman Burger and the Walden Greenback Burger.

The Allman Burger is topped with Swiss cheese and sautéed mushrooms, a homage to the Allman Brothers Band logo being a mushroom, said Roger Riddle, marketing director for Moonhanger Group.

"We're proud that we're able to say this is a burger that is definitely a Macon burger," Riddle said.

The Walden Greenback Burger has Macon roots, too. It's named after the Walden family, which included managers for Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers Band.

"It's got a fried green tomato on it, which is such a Southern thing," Riddle said. "This is another burger that screams 'home' when you say, 'Macon.'"

He advises consumers to watch carefully when cooking grass-finished beef, such as that used on Rookery burgers.

"These burgers are leaner. Be sure not to overcook them," Riddle said. "Once you get past medium, the grass-[finished] burger that's really lean starts to get a little dry. You don't want it on there too long to make sure you're getting the juiciest burger you can get."

Ellyn raved about both of Rookery's burger dishes, but proclaimed the Walden Greenback to be her favorite of the two.

"Do you get more Georgia than that? I loved it. It was absolutely divine," she said.

The two burgers she sampled at the next tour stop in Savannah received equally rave reviews. The Retro Rad tour took Green Truck Pub by storm Tuesday evening as Georgia Beef Board staff handed out recipes and freebies during the meat-and-greet. The beef distributors for the restaurant, Del and Debra Ferguson of Hunter Cattle Company, were able to come and promote beef
during the evening as well.

Ellyn dined on The Whole Farm Burger and Blue Ribbon Burger in Savannah. The first, owner Josh Yates said, is aptly named as it contains beef, pork bacon, an egg and cheese, plus vegetables, representing both livestock and crops on a farm.

"That's definitely one of the centerpieces on the menu," he said. "The Blue Ribbon is inspired by sort of a cordon bleu. We have the ham, a nice melty Swiss and a dijon. It's just a great flavor combination."

The secret ingredient to making a true Blue Ribbon burger? Berkshire ham. The Berkshire variety of pig is known for its marbling, similar to a high-choice or even prime grade of beef.

At Green Truck Pub, Ellyn couldn't pick a favorite — she devoured them both, including a veggie patty she added to the plate to make sure she got her vegetable side dish, she said — and even asked if it was possible to get another beef burger for dessert.

"I have to say, Green Truck Pub takes the burger championship when it comes to adorning their burgers in like, creative combos that are so delicious," Ellyn said. "I am full to the brim. It was totally satisfying."

Follow the Retro Rad Georgia Tour de Beef online. Visit the Georgia Beef Board Facebook page and Emily Ellyn's Facebook page for more information. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Retro Rad Georgia Tour de Beef: You're Invited!

The Georgia Beef Board is teaming up with 2012 Next Food Network Star finalist Emily Ellyn for a Retro Rad Georgia Tour de Beef this week to promote June Beef Month. Four hamburger restaurants in four cities were selected for this inaugural tour and will be featured in the upcoming June issue of Georgia Cattleman magazine.
"I'm looking forward to the Rad Tour de Beef - I know I will have a 'fabMOOlous' time on my quest to find the best burgers in Georgia," Ellyn says. "When asked to eat the best burgers around Georgia with the Georgia Beef Board and Georgia Cattleman magazine I replied, 'This is MOOsic to my ears!' How could I resist such a rad opportunity?"
The tour begins Tuesday, April 23, in Macon with lunch at The Rookery, followed by supper in Savannah at the Green Truck Pub. Wednesday includes lunch in Augusta at Sports Center and supper at Stuffed Burger in Athens. The public is encouraged to attend -- a limited number of autographed recipe cards will be given out at a meet-and-greet with Ellyn at each stop, and there will be plenty of beef recipes and freebies given out as well.
"Georgia Beef Board is excited to team up with Emily Ellyn for this tour," says Josh White, executive vice president of Georgia Beef Board. "Beef is an excellent source of 10 essential nutrients while only contributing 10 percent of your daily caloric intake. We are looking forward to the opportunity to share this and more information with consumers as they visit these burger restaurants with us."
The restaurants chosen are past winners of "best burger" contests put on by local publications.

Official Schedule


LUNCH: The Rookery
11:30 a.m.
543 Cherry Street Macon, Ga.

DINNER: Green Truck Pub
5:30 p.m.
2430 Habersham Street Savannah, Ga.


LUNCH: Sports Center
11:30 a.m.
594 Broad Street Augusta, Ga.

DINNER: Stuffed Burger
5:30 p.m.
1860 Barnett Shoals Road Athens, Ga.


Georgia Beef Board is one of 45 state beef councils funded by the Beef Checkoff. It is an organization working for Georgia's beef producers in areas of education, promotion and research. It is overseen by an 11-member board of dairy producers, beef producers, livestock market association members and Georgia Farm Bureau members. Georgia Beef Board is funded through the Beef Checkoff, where a mandatory $1 is collected for every head of cattle sold in the state. Visit Georgia Beef Board

Emily Ellyn is a celebrity chef based out of Orlando, Fla. She is the owner of Emily Ellyn Productions, Inc., and is a doctorate student in food service education at Rosen College. Visit Emily Ellyn

Georgia Cattleman magazine is the official monthly publication of Georgia Cattlemen's Association, the membership and policy organization for beef producers in Georgia. Visit the magazine page

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

GCA Convention Kicks Off with Forage Conference

By Dallas Duncan, Georgia Cattlemen's Association director of communications
The 52nd Annual Georgia Cattlemen's Association Convention kicked off today in Perry with the second annual forage conference, featuring expert speakers from around the Southeast.
"I'm really pleased with how it turned out this year," said Dennis Hancock, University of Georgia forage Extension specialist. "A couple of years ago [GCA Executive Vice President] Josh White and I were talking about opportunities to kind of encourage more participation in the cattlemen's convention. One of the things we really focused on was the ability to merge forage programming."
Topics in today's presentation included weed management in the hayfield, round bale silage management, insect management and a session on economics and risk management. Speakers included Patrick McCullough, Extension weed scientist, Extension entomologist Will Hudson, Extension animal scientist Lawton Stewart and Extension livestock economist Curt Lacy.
Producers who attended could earn up to 1.5 hours of Beef Quality Assurance credit during today's session.
"It's a great opportunity to learn about the current issues in forage production, which all the livestock producers in my county are very interested in," said Lucy Ray, Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in Morgan County. "I really enjoyed the talks on baleage. That's something that a lot of our producers are looking at, storing their own baleage, so that's information I can take back to the county."
Morgan County cattleman Alan Verner was one of many producers who attended today's conference. He said though many of the issues discussed have been issues for years, there is always new information to learn.
"If they don't hear it firsthand, they hear it secondhand or they don't hear it at all," Verner said. "It's best to hear it yourself and talk to the professionals and the people who really know the information well."
Compared to last year, Hancock says the 2013 Forage Conference was up 15 percent in attendance. He called the program "a resounding success."
"I think one of the big things is for us to recognize the cost of doing business and how much of that is owed to the forage production enterprises," he said. "A lot of our producers feel like they're in many ways grass farmers, taking grass and turning it into a meat product that is very desirable and very nutritious."
The 2013 Forage Conference continues tomorrow with presentations from Auburn University assistant professor Jennifer Johnson and University of Florida Ph.D candidate Kim Mullenix.