I Recently Found The Best Veggie Burger Ever

My editorial career started in Portland, Oregon in the early 1990s. The soundtrack was noisy yet melodic punk rock (don't call it grunge). We drank microbrews (calling them craft beers at that point would have implied drinking and quilting or something). And a few blocks from the office of the alternative paper I started with some friends was a factory that provided the olfactory soundtrack, if you will: Gardenburger.

I can't say it was a pleasant smell, and I felt badly getting my veggie burger fix when I had the mental image of my sullen-looking work neighbors in their hair nets, taking smoke breaks. But there weren't many alternatives to pre-packaged meat-free burgers in that era, and I actually liked the flavor and texture of Gardenburgers, the original kind at least. Which is a reaaaaaalllllly roundabout way for me to tell you about the best veggie patty I've ever had, which I recently tasted in upstate New York. It's from Hilary's Eat Well, a Kansas company that seems to be run by sweet, grass-fed Midwesterners, and who responded to my email inquiries about why their product is so awesome by sending me coupons and answering my questions as a team rather than a corporate entity (or in the voice of namesake founder and president, Hilary Brown).

I don't usually stump for products like this, but Hilary's is like a manifestation of the early '90s Portland dream of sustainability, eco-friendliness and vegan-ish living that has now become like a thing. Which is to say, they're doing the right thing in just about every way I can think of — short of coming to your home and making the veggie burger with locally grown seasonal vegetables. So I'm letting them tell their story here, and I'm advising you to try either of their two products, the green chili and cumin adzuki bean burger, and the rightly boastful "World's Best" veggie burger. Take it away Hilary's people (and after, stay for the veggie burger porn)...

There are a lot of meatless burger products out there. What sets Hilary's Eat Well products apart?

Well, three things really: taste, taste, and taste! Seriously though, in addition to being delicious, we're one of the only veggie burgers on the market that's certified gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, yeast-free, soy-free, corn-free, sugar-free, nut-free and certified vegan. Plus, we're non-GMO verified! We make our real-food burgers from healthy ingredients like coconut oil, Real Salt®, and organic grains and vegetables. Our ingredients demonstrate our commitment to the health of the people and the planet, and so does our packaging. It's minimal, biodegradable and recyclable plastic.

What are some reasons people should eat less meat, from Hilary's Eat Well's perspective?

Hilary believes that we should eat foods that are grown or raised in ways that nourish our bodies and our environment. Although Hilary is an advocate of sustainably raised meat proteins, the reality is that our culture's large-scale, factory-style meat production does not support the environment, animal health or human nutrition— in large part due to the diet of the animals. Genetically modified crops are being fed to animals and we are ingesting those when we eat the animals. It also takes more water and other resources to raise meat, and many meat production facilities harm the ecosystems around them.

When Hilary first developed the veggie burger in 2005, she was aware that we are part of the Earth, but not separate from it. Biodiversity is one key to a healthy ecosystem, but our current food policy supports growing large mono-crops of soybeans, wheat, and corn. There are other grains that could be better suited to the soil and water conditions. Our veggie burgers contain millet, a gluten-free grain that is tough and requires minimal water, making it a great grain to grow in ever-common drought conditions.

Many of us at Hilary's Eat Well are passionate vegans, but we respect other diet choices too. We know food is a very personal thing for people. Our goal is make it easier to find real food that's also convenient and sustainable. Hilary's veggie burgers can be enjoyed by almost all people, from vegans to omnivores to people with food allergies or intolerances.

Can you tell us about the different types of products you offer and which ones are for which types of eater?

We currently have two products: The World's Best Veggie Burger and the Adzuki Bean Burger. Both products are perfect for people with food allergies or sensitivities, who often feel like they don't have tasty options when it comes to prepared food. Customers everywhere love the convenience. The frozen burger can be put directly in a toaster, and they come out perfect and crispy every time. We're big with vegetarians and vegans for obvious reasons, but even our most carnivorous friends love these burgers. Kids love them, too! Because we're beyond gluten-free and made with high-quality, non-GMO ingredients, there aren't many diets that we can't accommodate.

Any recipe tips, like does the spicy bean burger work with any cheese/bun combo?

The Adzuki Bean Burger has a smoky flavor from the cumin and chipotle, but it's a warm, mild flavor that many people don't consider "spicy" at all. Both varieties work in many different recipes. Sometimes, it's best to avoid a traditional bun route and create new recipes with the patties. One customer told us she uses them as the bread! (We called it a "veggie burger double down"!) You can crumble them up and use them in place of ground meat, use them when stuffing peppers, zucchini and squashes, or eat them in wraps, in tacos, on top of pizzas — the list goes on and on. We have an ever-growing recipe section on our website at www.hilaryseatwell.com/recipes if you want to see some of our creations or submit your own!

Any more info about ingredients and how you source them?

We find ingredients by looking for companies that specialize in organics and have similar values. We source from wonderful companies that Hilary has worked with in the past at her restaurant, Local Burger, and by networking with farmers and people involved in food systems.

We're passionate about the transparency of our ingredients. Our website, www.hilaryseatwell.com goes over every ingredient we use. We tell you exactly what's in our products and where it came from. You can feel good about loving our products, because you know they love you (and our world) back!

The veggie burger can be outfitted with any number of condiments and additions. [/caption]
No cardboard box, two patties per package. Good thinking![/caption]
Veggie tacos? What?![/caption]

The Sloppy Joanna. We'd ask her on a date.[/caption]