Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The new burger joint Brits should get to NOW (and it's not Shake Shack)

There's a quiet revolution happening, and Brits might not be aware.

The old rivalry, McDonalds versus Burger King, is over. There are two new pretenders to the throne. Wimpy is crying in the corner (Brits: Remember Wimpy? I love Wimpy).

This month two American hamburger joints opened their new flagship stores in London. The first is Shake Shack, wonderfully modern Americana hailing from the center of Manhattan, dishing out fine fast food and delectable milkshakes.

I've already seen Facebook chatter and instagram pics of this tasty place. But I'm not impressed. You see, to me, there is another. And it's right around the corner…

It's Five Guys: Less fancy, more basic, and dare I say, more American. And they proved that by opening the day before the London Shake Shack, on July 4th. What a statement to make to those pesky Brits, eh? Happy Independence day, have a burger!

The thing is, Shake Shack UK is currently beating Five Guys UK in Facebook likes. And I'm not happy about that. So here are some reasons you need to get yourself up, out and around the corner…

Oh, and just to let you know: This is NOT a sponsored post. The true story is this: I have driven past Five Guys almost every day for the past six months and have never been in. As soon as I heard that it opened in London, I had to get my burger-loving butt down to my own local branch to try it before all of my UK friends. Hence, a new love affair began.

1. Free freakin' peanuts!

Okay, let me just say first that if you're allergic to peanuts, you're going to have a bad time in this place. Stay away. If not, you'll love this. Free peanuts while you wait for your burger. Why? Because their food is cooked in peanut oil, and also, why not?

2. Big and Little Burgers!

I know Burger King's "Have it your way" was too much for us Brits to deal with, but you've got to make some choices. Five Guys happily provides different sizes of burger for different appetites. I'll choose the little bacon burger for a princely meal of 560 calories, whereas my husband may plump for (pun intended) the 920 calorie big bacon cheeseburger.

3. Free Toppings!

Yes, I know, more choices. But go for it, they're all free. You can have a pile of healthy stuff as big as you like. Oh, and the pickles/gherkins? Sweet and crunchy. Not the slimy token gesture other fast foodies try to get away with.


 Five Guys fries are a big deal for me. They are the only American 'fry' that comes anywhere close to a British 'chip', and that's including those paltry 'steak fries' offered in some restaurants. 

If you live in the UK you can pop down to your local chippy and they will almost always serve a better chip, but these are the best effort I've tasted in a US burger joint. 

Watch out though: A regular is for two people, and I swear the servers just free pour these fries into the bottom of your bag. That's a good thing - you get loads of them, and they're great.

If a regular fries is for two people, these must be the large.
And that's all I have to say really. I know I must sound a bit 'nuts' (sorry). Especially when I try so hard to convince you that American cuisine isn't always just burgers and fries. It's just that sometimes, just sometimes, American cuisine is just burgers and fries. And they do it so darned well.

Okay Brits, Americans, and everyone else, where's your favorite burger? And have you ever been to Wimpys?

Monday, 8 July 2013

Sunday Supplements (and Sunday Puppy too)

Here's a lesson in the stubbornness of English Bulldogs: They are very stubborn.

You want them to turn and face the camera? Well, that's going to take a bit of cajoling sometimes…
There's no treat here. We were just fooling her. She wasn't fooled. Anyway, here's what we've been up to this week…


How to make money without a job - For the first time in my life, I'm self-employed, and it's a whole new exciting world for me! This Forbes article is like a quick guide to earning money on your own terms. I'd love to hear from and meet other young professionals doing similar things.

How Philadelphia out-Portlands Portland - Haven't I been telling you for months that Philly is on the brink of becoming too cool for school? How can we compare?

Well now Yelp will do that for us! Here's Philadelphia's hipster heat map, and here's Portland's. Do you think they're accurate?


The five most clever redesigns of the Stars n Stripes - I enjoyed that good dose of American patriotism this holiday weekend. Here are some smart re-interpretations of the most famous piece of sewing the haberdasher Betsy Ross probably ever did.

My own handiwork! Here's a little known fact: As a student I was President (and founder) of the Glasgow University Stitch n' Bitch group. I was also Vice President of the Student Union, which had just launched a new coffee shop, and it was a great way to combine the two. The group helped drive traffic to the new meeting place, plus I like to think that I helped to make knitting cool on campus.

It'd been a long while since I brought out my knitting needles, but I recently made a pair of booties for a family friend's little cutie:
The pattern is based on Babystovler, a Danish bootie pattern from the 1940s. You know what I want to do now? I want to make an adult version. Hello friends, you're all getting slippers for Christmas. I just need the patience to make them all.

And speaking of patience, eventually this was the best our pooch was going to give the camera this week. "You want me to face the camera? Here you go. One shot. Where's my cookie for being so cute?"

Friday, 5 July 2013

Just a small town parade…

Last year we went to a teeny tiny parade in rural PA and then headed to Valley Forge, but this year I walked (yes! walked!) in a parade closer to the city. I was technically working though, taking photos of the parade, and of course I had to share some with you! These are from the warm-up just before all of these colorful characters marched through Smalltown USA, handing out candy and warm feelings to local onlookers.

July 4th is quickly becoming one of my favorite holidays, and I mean that in earnest, even as a UK expat! American patriotrism itself is so wonderfully earnest, it's hard not to appreciate.

In the evening we stayed home, ate wings and watched fireworks. We live on a hill and had a spectacular view of fireworks all across the county and beyond. The horizon was ablaze with large and tiny specks of light, and we had fun guessing which displays we could spot. We reckon saw fireworks from Philadelphia to Allentown, and even as far as New Jersey.

At the Philadelphia fireworks along the Parkway last night there seems to have been a gunfire hoax (mirroring a similar incident two years ago). If you headed to Penn's Landing, you would have missed that, but you would have also missed the fireworks.

By the way I have no idea who the dog is, but it sums up the day, don't you think? 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Happy July 4th, er July 2nd, wait… August 2nd, or 30th?

 John Adams wrote, and I quote:
 “the Second of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.”
Okay America, what's going on here? This time last year it was 90F and sunny. Last year I sat in the sun and watched the local July 4th parade go by, and  cultivated a nice tan in my first few weeks adjusting to my new home country.

Today it's almost 90F, cloudy and muggy as hell (is hell muggy? I'd guess so).

But wait a minute, now you're telling me that July 4th isn't actually Independence Day? What mockery is this? John Adams reckons it should be celebrated on the 2nd (actual vote of independence) but those pesky Brits didn't even know about US independence for another six weeks!

Philadelphia, where it all happened, didn't celebrate until July 8th, and that was just with a parade and some gun fire, not a whole boat load of fireworks.

Incidentally, I also found out from Emma at Philly Love Notes that every July 4th in Philadelphia thousands of people head down to the waterfront at Penn's Landing and wait for fireworks. And wait. And wait some more. Because there are none. They're on the other side of the city.

The mental image of hoards of people bemoaning a lack of firecrackers cracks me up almost as much as when fireworks prematurely explode.

I tested this out on my US family and asked when the last time they saw July 4th fireworks on the waterfront.

Them: Hmm, several years ago at least.
Me: At least thirteen.
Them: No, not that long.
Me: No, I'm telling you, they haven't had fireworks there for at least thirteen years.
Them: Really? No. They happen there every year. Do you want to go this year?
Me: Uuuhh…

Philadelphia seems to have this collective false memory about the location of their fireworks. Is this the plot of M Night Shyamalan's next movie? As Emma later tweeted:  How do you convince 1000s of people not to show up to a fireworks show that doesn't exist?

If you're planning to head down to Penn's Landing tomorrow and take photos/video of disappointed patriots, please share the photos with me. I'd love to see them. As for me? I'll be at another parade this year. I promise to share some photos with you.

What are you doing for this most red, white and blue of holidays?