Connecticut's presidential primary isn’t until April 26, but M&M Bistro in Hartford invites diners to vote early – with their palates.
Starting on Presidents' Day (Feb. 15,) the restaurant at the Hartford Hilton will serve four specialty burgers inspired by leading presidential candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Each burger candidate purchased results in a vote in M&M's "Presidential Burger Primary."
"We were brainstorming some ideas to take advantage of the hype of the presidential race," said the hotel's general manager Ron Wichowski. In just a few days, executive chef James King came up with the four recipes, incorporating culinary touches that match the candidates' backgrounds, roots and personalities.
Clinton's has grilled balsamic onions, bacon, smoked gouda and chipotle BBQ sauce - a "good old Arkansas barbecue" flavor profile, said King, that references her time as that state's First Lady. The tribute to Vermont senator Sanders encourages customers to "Feel the Bern" with roasted and pickled jalapeños, sweet pepper aioli and Vermont cheddar on a "New England" muffin.
On the GOP side, billionaire Trump's burger is stacked high "like Trump Tower," King said, with bacon, Camembert, lettuce arranged like a billfold, caramelized onion baconnaise - and a crown of fried onion strings "combed over to the right," representing his infamous coif. And for Ted Cruz, the Calgary-born Texas senator of Cuban heritage, there's a burger on Texas toast with fried Canadian bacon and salami, pickles, provolone, roasted garlic, citrus aioli and dijonnaise.
Each burger is $16, with choice of side, and includes a charitable donation to Shatterproof, a national organization committed to ending addiction. M&M Bistro plans to tabulate results based on the burgers' daily sales and will keep a running tally on its website. If the race changes - if new frontrunners emerge or another candidate tosses a hat into the ring - they'll come up with new recipes, Wichowski said.
The promotion will run through June 14, the date of the final primary in the District of Columbia. If interest continues, the restaurant may run the burger matchup through the general election, with two candidates.
Wichowski said he hopes some familiar faces stop into M&M Bistro on the campaign trail. "It'd be nice to see if we can get a couple of candidates to come here and have their own burger."
M&M Bistro, in the Hartford Hilton, is at 315 Trumbull Street. 860-240-7222, mandmbistro.com.