A kosher cheeseburger that tastes good? Impossible.
Not so for many of the 100 people who came to Kesher Israel in Washington on Sunday to get a taste of the Impossible Burger — a kosher vegetarian patty made from proteins that is billed as tasting similar to meat.
“It’s delicious, but I’m still processing,” said Washington resident Rafi Katz, sampling a burger topped with white cheddar cheese. Mixing meat and dairy are forbidden by Jewish law. But nothing says you can’t mix ersatz meat with real cheese.
The burger, made by the California-based company Impossible Foods, launched in 2016. In May, the Orthodox Union certified the patties kosher. The burgers, which are mainly available in American and Hong Kong restaurants, have gained a reputation for bleeding, just as beef patties do. The key ingredient is the protein heme, which gives it a meat-like texture.
At Kesher Israel, an Orthodox congregation in Georgetown, diners devoured the first batch in minutes. They crowded around the kitchen door, buns in hand, as synagogue staff grilled seconds.
Despite the burger’s limited availability, Kesher Israel congregant Bernie Gonik convinced Impossible Foods to send a shipment to the synagogue so that kosher-keeping Orthodox Jews could try the concoction. He said after the burger became certified kosher in May, no kosher restaurants in Washington started serving it. So he took it upon himself to introduce members of the Georgetown Orthodox congregation to the meatless wonder.
“The Impossible Burger folks and myself brainstormed together and I said, ‘I’ll tell you what. We’ll invite people into the shul. That way people can taste the product and get a sense of what it is,’” he said.
The burgers didn’t quite resemble the juicy, pinkish patties described by multiple media outlets. They were crunchy outside, with the texture of a beef patty. But the juiciness that normally accompanies a burger was missing.
Washington resident Michael Shvartsman, on the other hand, felt the Impossible Burger lived up to its potential.
“It’s a little crunchy, but it’s crunchy good,” he said.
For Washington resident Jonathan Leonard, the idea of a synagogue serving meatless kosher cheeseburgers was exotic enough to suggest to his friend Sylvia Kim that they attend as a first date.
“I combed the internet for all sorts of destinations. I gave her a whole bunch of options, and this is what she chose,” he said.
Kim said her logic behind choosing the Impossible Burger night was simple.
“There was food, and [Kesher Israel] was a place I hadn’t gone to,” she said.
Leonard and Kim agreed that the burger itself was “just OK.”
Washington resident Chaim Schramm, a vegetarian, said the burger did not make the cut among the meat substitute-based burgers he has eaten.
“I’m underwhelmed,” he said.
In the words of the Jeff Goldblum character Ian Malcom in Jurassic Park, “No cheese on mine, thanks.”