Saturday, April 30, 2011

Foodie Review: Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Though on the list of the to be avoided sins, I tend to overlook the "thou shall not be gluttonous" request because as my motto goes, life's short-eat a cookie...or a burger in this case.

The buzz around Five Guys Burgers and Fries coming to town has been strong the past few months. They are strategically located near the university, on State College and Chapman, near other greats such as Chipotle, Starbucks, Yogurtland, Panera, and Office Depot of course.

I'm not sure how any Southern Californian could write a review of a new burger joint without the holy grail of burger chains-In 'n Out. A #2 with a lemon-up would probably be present at my last meal. For the record, I did go into Five Guys with an open mind and a starving stomach.

On Friday, April 29, the restaurant held their soft opening, and Scott and I went for dinner. The place was packed. My coworker had gone earlier in the day and by noon they'd already served 100 customers opening at 11 a.m. Needless to say, at 8 p.m. it was still going strong. They were well staffed with very friendly worker bees-the cashier happy to explain the menu, the bussers offering to refill drinks even though it was a self-serve machine.

We both ordered the "little" hamburger variety. For novices like ourselves, the regular is actually a double patty, the little a single. I had the little bacon cheeseburger with sauteed mushrooms and Scott the little bacon hamburger with grilled onions, pickles and mustard. We split an order of Cajun fries and holy mother of junk food-they have Cherry Coke on the fountain. It's my one soda indulgence and I'm glad to add them to the tally (along with Rubio's who offers Vanilla Coke for anyone interested.) While we waited for our order, we snacked on peanuts on the patio outside.

Now about those Cajun fries. I'd snuck a few earlier in the day when my coworker brought some back for the office, and wow-they have some zip. That night, because the portions are large, we split a regular order and could not finish it. They were just too spicy and over powering. Try them, but it will be a regular for us next time.

I had been craving a burger for a week when talk of this chain really began buzzing about their soft opening. And, like In-n-Out, they use the freshest produce and meats-no trans fat, grill in peanut oil, and nothing is ever frozen. You can read more here. Makes me feel a bit better about the burger indulgence.

The first bite-pretty darn good. First words that came to mind-homestyle. Good texture as well-soft bun, crispy bacon, melted cheese, meaty mushrooms, and a well executed burger. Seasonings were subtle and flavor enhancing. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't doing the In-n-Out comparison, because I was. There is such a distinct flavor that has come to be the burger benchmark it can be hard to have the self conversation of "it's ok, it doesn't have to taste that way." And by the way, it's not the spread-not a fan, I have it without.

Back to the burger-it was the perfect size. If you are a burger fiend, try the regular, but the entire meal was satisfying. We spent $14 for the two burgers,and shared fries and soda. Will we go back? Definitely. My overall impressions were that the staff (of nearly 20 on hand) did great with the first day, especially with the speedy delivery even with a packed restaurant. I believe that fresh products prepared with pure cooking methods equates to a truly happy meal.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

If I were Kate

Today I was trying to imagine what Kate Middleton must be feeling on the eve of her wedding. I don't doubt the romance between her and Will, but their wedding really is a dog and pony show for the world. The intimacy is lost when you have 1200 guests from the Queen Mother to Lady Gaga to me at home fast forwarding through my DVR'd Lara Spencer's babbling to get to the good stuff.

Don't get me wrong-I am infatuated with the proceedings and the historical event that is this wedding. Part of me is sad for them-and it could be unnecessarily so-that they won't have a wedding attended by those near and dear, but a political who's-who affair full of dignitaries. Yes, Kate knew what she was signing up for-a public life with a public wedding. I'm sure she's been prepping herself for this day upon their initial courtship.

We all know the English are far more cultured than us Americans and there is likely no garter toss (though I'd love to see the Queen Mother's face during that) and we all know there is no beer. I sincerely hope it's a memorable day for the pair and that they can truly enjoy it, without having to follow 18th century orders during the entire day.

Cheers Will and Kate-I wish you nothing but happiness and I hope you stick to your household sans help and stock the fridge with plenty of Newcastle to make up for the absence on your wedding day.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunday Confessions

It's been a while. But seeing as today is Easter and this blog is about almost full disclosure, here goes.

Well I made it 32 days.

Scott was gone last weekend and my to-do list could not be accomplished anywhere else all together, and I did not have time for multiple stops. Where else can you refill your prescription, get allergy meds, buy cat food, candles, deodorant, paper towels, toilet paper, Brita filter replacements, Febreze, and cleaning wipes? Yes, probably WalMart or the Piggly Wiggly but we have neither of those (in location or a state I want to visit.)

So, I did not make the full 40 days of Lent, but the way I see it, it was longer than I'd ever gone before between Target runs, and of course it was a great homecoming returning. I wish I could have scheduled the employees to do an applause and balloon drop.

The conclusion: I don't want to live in a world without Target.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Visiting the Classics

I'm not sure what has taken me so long to see these movies, but better late than never. And thank goodness for Netflix.

How fun is this musical? Antebellum America narrated by Judy Garland in song. The days of men in suits at midnight, ladies who have a set of clothing dedicated to dinner...I could go on and on. Where has the class in this country gone?

This is a thriller I can watch alone at night. Suspenseful, zero gore, Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart, and creepy music.

Keeping with the classic movie theme I also rented:

We've actually seen this movie many times. It's a favored book. So favored we named our first cat after steadfast Atticus. I love each one of these characters, the message, everything. It was also my favorite read of all high school literature. (I hope this movie is never remade with Dakota Fanning as Scout. Granted she'd be like 16 but she really was the go-to child actor for a while.)

And finally, another revisit:

Street Car Named Desire is one of the only Tennessee Williams plays I enjoy. In the movie version, you get early Marlon Brando who is quite easy on the eyes, and the gorgeous Vivien Leigh (who really is a better brunette) and the result is a pretty fiery.

Whiskey sour please

Whiskey sour please, and deal me in.

I have officially crossed into crazy cat lady territory.

Friday, April 15, 2011

There is a first for everything

Today I mowed the lawn.

Not a huge milestone in life, but the fist time I did the task on my own. I realize that women do this and carry water for miles on their heads every day, but I grew up in more of an indoor chore environment.

Scott gave me a quick tutorial in the garage last night and obviously it looked simple enough. I got a few rows in and then the engine started smoking. This was a dilemma. I wanted to finish the task and not have some wonky half mown lawn, yet didn't exactly want to meet my maker via lawn mower explosion. So I did what any sensible girl does. I called my husband. None of my man neighbors were around to help, so I did feel slightly the failure, but hey, I had a smoking lawn mower on the grass-direction was needed. At his direction, I let it sit for about 4 minutes and investigated the situation and found what I believe to be the problem. Fixed it, felt like I should win some kind of blue ribbon and finished.

While its not necessarily a military lawn mow, it suits and will provide a nice foundation for my tenants who are having a garage sale tomorrow.

No photos were taken so as not to increase the dork factor of this experience.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Say hello to my little friend.

He's been a long time in the making.

Gnomes are pretty expensive. I was really surprised when I realized you could be spending upwards of $50 for a piece of folklore pottery.

So, my bargain bum went to Michael's and found this guy for $1.50:
Thirty minutes later after some acrylic paint, we have our own Winkelbottom.

Someone in the Haselton home is not going to be pleased. Neener neener neener.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Goal setting is not my forte.

I have a tendency to make lofty goals and give up after 5% of effort is given. Examples of this behavior include my New Year's resolution to learn the guitar (hurt my fingers too much), building Trash Can Terrace (Scott is doing an excellent job-my contribution is buying the supplies and hauling them home), and assembling any sort of Ikea furniture (which I start and he finishes.)

I am well aware of this flaw in my persona and really want to change it. Therefore, I only take on one project at one time as project manager. Currently, this project is giving some Craig's List patio furniture a face lift. When that is completed this weekend, I am going to learn to sew. I have made this proclamation several times now and even signed up for a class through extended education that was $5 for the whole semester. Well it met on Monday nights from 6-9 p.m. in Yorba Linda which is not far, but it felt like Egypt after a 9 hour work day on a Monday and at that time I lived in South OC and thus it really was a bit of a drive home at that hour. I dropped out. And yes I make excuses like an addict.

So, I am starting the search now, today, the eve of my sewing bonanza, to find classes. Naturally they are all in LA which might as well be Mars compared to Yorba Linda. Scott is a firm believer in YouTube how-to's but at this point in technology I'm sure that the instructor's hand cannot exactly reach out and fix the machine for me when it's jammed.

Sewing will open up an entirely new project category for me. Currently my "sewing" includes fabric gluing hems when needed or pawning off projects to my mom. I'm pretty sure she doesn't want to take on a set of four custom patio chair covers...or does she :) Of course if and when we have kids, I want to be able to sew Halloween costumes and other crafts.

Here is the beauty:

Thanks Grandma!

Monday, April 4, 2011

I have a new friend.

His name is Ruben and he works in the paint department at Lowe's.

I recently purchased patio furniture on Craig's List and am currently giving the items a face lift.

Now I have been to Lowe's about 3 times a month for the past year and somehow I only met Ruben yesterday. Maybe he's new. I didn't want to inquire.

He was very helpful in answering some questions for me, and looking past my tunnel vision when I couldn't spot the primer that was right in front of me. When it came time for me to depart, he said "I just know you are going to have a good day-you have such a good attitude!" I thought that was really sweet.

I returned today because I bought every last bottle of Rustoleum's Metallic Copper spray paint and was hoping it had been restocked. Low and behold Ruben was working again and even remembered me. He was very complimentary and told me how nice I looked (which I did, I had new dress on for our biggest business event of the year. Probably looked a little out of place at Lowe's.) And it was in stark contrast to my usual home improvement weekend look of stained jeans, t-shirt and no makeup. I had also left my name tag on so he was eager to learn what I did at my job and to have a name with the sometimes bare/sometimes made up face.

Ruben was so happy to see me he made me promise to come find him and say hello next time I was in. Which will likely be Friday when my spray paint is expected to arrive, or I can jet over to a neighboring city where he looked up that two cans were in stock. But no Ruben at that store!

Just like my time with the best pharmacist ever, Ruben was the epitome of customer service. And I have to guess he liked me so much because I was not a crazy, demanding customer. It was refreshing to see someone so helpful and genuinely nice who cared about my project and was interested to know how day 1 went.

Selfishly, I filled out two surveys for Lowe's to win $5k (which I also do at Target-someday I'll win something) and was hoping for a fill in the blank comments section where I could call Ruben out and hopefully earn him employee of the month, but sadly, no such deal. I'll send the manager a nice note instead.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Good Reads

One of my favorite referrals in life besides a great new wine or DIY project I think I'll get to is a good book. My mom and Kerri did not disappoint this month. I now pass this on to you (besides Kerri and my mom who have read 2/3 or 1/3 of these books, respectively) because it can be overwhelming to declare you want to read something and not know where to start. Plus there are only so many times one can read the Harry Potter series.

The Pioneer Woman: From Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, by Ree Drummond
For those who may not know, The Pioneer Woman is a blogging sensation. I read recently that it's estimated she makes approximately $1 million in sponsor ads on her website. In true Erin form, I don't remember the reference, so just believe me. She is one of the few with a simple story and a way with words (and food-which also translated into a cookbook) which now sounds like a pretty good income next to her husband's cattle ranch.

The book chronicles the love story with her "Marlboro Man" (but I did do research here-I wanted to know his real name. It's Ladd.) up to the point of their wedding and first year of their marriage. It's a lighthearted read, filled with her trademark quips, anecdotes, and recipes.

Kerri is her number one fan and hopes to win one of her contests to go to her ranch someday. I would write her every recommendation letter required, citing her perfectly executed Sloppy Joe's and Proscuitto Pizza.

Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes, by Diane Chamberlain
Suffice to say I devoured this book. I found it completely intriguing and with a story line I had not read before.

From the book itself: "CeeCee Wilkes knows how Genevieve Russell died, because she was there. And she also knows what happened to the missing infant, because two decades ago she made the devastating choice to raise the baby as her own. Now Timothy Gleason is facing the death penalty, and she has another choice to make. Tell the truth, and destroy her family. Or let an innocent man die in order to protect a lifetime of lies…"

It is part mystery, part mistaken identity, and entirely suspenseful.

Winter Garden, by Kristin Hannah
My mom raved about this book. Twice to me. I think she forgot about the first time because she was so excited. It was definitely a good read, but it took about 2/3 of the book to get there. I found the set up entirely too long and repetitive to achieve the time length desired. That aside, once the book got to the point, I really enjoyed the tale and I think I even shed a few tears.

Next up, I'm giving Gone with the Wind a second go. I started a few years ago but was interrupted and it's high time Katie Scarlett and I met again.