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Big Bad Burger Contest is good eatin'

July 11, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- There probably was enough cholesterol being grilled at Saturday's Big Bad Burger Contest to clog New York's Holland Tunnel.

But the dozens of burgers concocted in the parking lot of Sunfire Hearth Patio and Spa on East Stephen Street were a hit with those tasting them.

The event is the brainchild of Selina Meehleib, owner of Mountain State Meats at 1948 Shepherdstown Road, and Jason Roach, Sunfire's general manager. The two met at a home show this spring and came up with the idea of establishing an annual charity fundraiser. Proceeds from Saturday's event will go to Hospice of the Panhandle.

Recipes fermented in the minds of the contestants followed an almost unimaginable range. They cooked hamburgers in a variety of shapes and sizes. The granddaddy was a three-pounder, a staple at Wallech family picnics at their home in Greencastle, Pa.

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Ken Wallech, the patriarch, was putting the whopper together on the home grill he brought with him Saturday. He also custom bakes the roll it sits on.

With Wallech Saturday were his son, Ken Jr., and granddaughters, Morgan and Mady.

This was his first hamburger contest.

"I heard about it on the radio," he said.

Behind the Wallechs under the main tent was the crew from Aflac, the insurance company promoted by a duck on television. They were making Air-Sea Burgers, a combination of duck, chicken and crabmeat. The burger was created by Peg Zeigler, whose husband, Mark, is an insurance agent with the company.

Across the way, Mike and Kresha Hornby, publishers of their newly minted magazine "Around the Panhandle," were grilling up apple butter burgers. Other ingredients, Kresha Hornby said, are cheddar cheese and onions, but it's the apple butter that flavors the meat.

"We tried them for the first time Wednesday," she said. "We just made it up."

Wayne "Bud" "Pop" Casto, who with his wife, Nan, owns Nan and Pop's Place in Pikeside, W.Va., were doling out samples of their veggie burgers. A black bean base is the foundation, and it is mixed with green onions, peppers and pimentos. Their Mountaineer Burger, seasoned in the middle with Swiss cheese and Spam, was another favorite Saturday.

Cindy Jenkins' Amore Burgers brought a taste of Italy to the contest. A combination of meat, fresh-grilled basil and scallions plus mozzarella and provolone cheese and roasted peppers is wrapped in foccacia bread.

The chefs at one tent wore T-shirts showing they belonged to the Martinsburger Team. Lindsey Atchley was chef-in-charge. She was offering pork burgers laced with applewood bacon and sharp cheddar cheese.

Travis and Dawn Barbee of Glengary, W.Va., were serving hamburgers made from their very own Jeffrey, the Angus steer who had been in the family since he moved in last summer until his recent demise in the slaughterhouse. He weighed about 800 pounds when he came to the family to assume his role as one-day-to-be-steak on the hoof.

"He was my cow and I wasn't supposed to name him, but when I fed him, I used to pat him on the head," Dawn Barbee said.

When Jeffrey headed to Mountain State Meats for his last roundup, he weighed about 1,600 pounds "on the hoof," Travis said.

Jeffery's life, unmercifully, was cut three weeks short.

"We had to send him early because we were going to Disneyland," Dawn said. "We didn't have anyone to feed him."

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