Friday, November 12, 2010

Food Rearview: Five Guys

First off, I am an In-N-Out guy. I have probably eaten In-N-Out more often than any other fast food, but I've been hearing about Five Guys for a while and since Zagat said that they had the best burger (this year), I had to taste for myself.

I think the whole "our city/state/region makes a better burger/pizza/etc. than yours" thing is dumb, and I went into the whole thing with an open mouth and an open mind. Also, I don't know if this makes a difference but my first experience was at a random food court in D.C., and not a standalone shop.
I feel like there are two tiers of Burgers: gourmet burgers and fast-food burgers and I am reviewing Five Guys like a fast food burger.

The Packaging: I liked the paper bag and aluminum foil thing. It gave the spot a more down home feel.

The Burg: I got the Double Bacon Cheeseburger with grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, tomato, lettuce, mayo and ketchup. When I unwrapped it, it looked pretty messy and the bun looked kind of cheap. The messiness was a good thing, but sadly, the bun looked and tasted like those Van De Camp grocery store buns.

The insides of the burger were a lot better. The mushrooms tasted like they were canned, but they weren't terrible. The bacon was good and cooked perfectly, the grilled onions were good, the produce tasted fresh and the burger patties were really flavorful. Overall, it was a great fast food burger.

The Fries: Legit. I love fresh cut fries and these were cooked and salted perfectly. I went for the regular fries this time, but I will definitely try the Cajun next time.

Price/Value: Pricey for fast food. I paid almost $17 for a bacon cheeseburger, veggie sandwich, large fries and large drink. The fries were definitely big enough to share, but a fast food meal for two should be a little closer to $14.

Overall: I'm not going to say that Five Guys is overrated, but it was definitely a notch below In-N-Out. Where I would give In-N-Out a 9.5 on the fast-food scale, I would give Five Guys an 8.5. That's still a point ahead of any other fast food burger I can think of, but the ho-hum burger buns and the price were the difference makers. I would definitely eat a lot of Five Guys if I lived on the east coast. Five Guys makes some damn good food, but California just makes better fast-food burgers than the east coast.

Also, my fiance said the Veggie Sandwich sucked.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meaningless Stat of the Week: 37-16-2

USC Football's All-Time Record vs. Oregon 

Stats are a big deal. Historically, the home run chase or a quest for the triple crown take precedent over mid-season wild card chases for many baseball fans and writers. Gamblers love their stats too. Any gambler worth his salt makes sure he knows a team's record against the spread before he bets on them. I understand the importance of these types of stats - one makes an otherwise boring sport a little more interesting, and the other helps a gambler better gauge what the oddsmakers think of certain teams.

It's the historical stats between two teams that ESPN loves to throw out that bother me. Besides showing that one school is historically better (there are a lot of better stats to show that as well... Pac-10 championships, National Championships, etc.), these numbers have virtually no bearing on this weekend's outcome. Who cares who won this match-up in 1960? Or 2005 for that matter; none of the guys that played in that game will suit up on Saturday. It's just dumb.

Here's a better stat: 45-38.

The Ducks holds on to beat a tough Trojan team. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Public Relations, Pride and Superstars: The Benefits of a One-on-One Tournament During the NBA All-Star Break

Recently, Kobe Bryant not-so-subtly declared that he could beat LeBron James “in [his] sleep” in a one-on-one game. While that may or may not be true, a recent blurb from Cindy Boren of the Washington Post was pretty quick to concede that we would never know for sure. I’m a little more persistent. I’ve been throwing this idea around in sports bars, tailgates and living rooms for the last four or five years. NBA basketball is a game of superstars, and it has relied on the likes of Jordan, Bird, Magic, Shaq, Kobe, LeBron and Wade to reach the heights of worldwide popularity that it enjoys today. Why not take it one step further and find out who the best of the best is in a one-on-one format?
With the luster of the supplemental All-Star weekend events dulling every year, the NBA realizes that it needs to do something. They tried infusing some excitement with a pretty lackluster H.O.R.S.E. competition that turned into a three-point shootout last year, and players like Steve Nash have made the skill challenge occasionally fun to watch, but the primary supporting act for the All-Star game, the slam dunk competition, has been awful for ten years. Why not try something new? Something big.
The main reason not to try is probably fear of injury. Don’t get me wrong, this is a big hurdle to overcome, but there are lot of people who make a lot of money figuring out how to insure things from Troy Polomalu’s hair to Jennifer Lopez’s backside that would love a crack at insuring a big time event like this. Plus, you have top players competing in international events every other year that include more games and practices than an event like this would entail. Again, the injury risk is significant but maybe not totally prohibitive.
The easter egg in the idea that I’m proposing is the role that each player’s choice of charity would play. Game shows like Jeopardy lure B-list talent with the opportunity to showcase their pet charities, and while NBA superstars may not have the same motivation, the P.R benefits for players like LeBron and Gilbert Arenas can still be substantial. I mean, a donation to the Boys and Girls Club that is tied to a debacle like “The Decision” is one thing, but one tied to LeBron posterizing Kobe Bryant in a one-on-one tournament final is definitely worth a lot more public relations capital.
Pride will also need to play a major part for this event to work. While players like Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard have participated in the All-Star weekend events over the last few years, players like Kobe and LeBron have mostly watched from the sidelines. Hopefully the allure of the title of “One-on-One Champion” or “Best Individual Player” will be enough for them to compete. It’s a more substantial claim than that of best dunker or pure shooter and it’s a gauntlet that Kobe Bryant may have inadvertently just thrown down.
Here’s what it should look like:
The Format
Eight-participant, single elimination tournament. Quarterfinal rounds consist of half-court games with the first player to score 11 points advancing. Semi-final and final rounds will be played up to 21 points. In order to advance, players must win by 2  points.
Four participants are chosen by fan voting. They are ranked by the number of votes received and placed into separate brackets accordingly. The remaining slots are chosen by the NBA players, and also ranked and placed according to the number of votes received. The winner gets an automatic bid in the following year’s tournament, but seeding will still depend on percentage of votes received.
Standard NBA rules, except for scoring and fouls. Each basket is worth one point.  A shooting foul results in one free throw, and players are disqualified after three fouls in the quarterfinals and four fouls in the semi-finals and finals.
Each participant designates a charity to represent, and win or lose, the charity receives at least $100,000. The tournament winner gets $1,000,000 for the charity of his choice and second place gets $400,000. This ends up being a total of $2 million that the NBA donates to eight charities, but given the amount of press and excitement that this event will garner, consider it money well spent.
Here’s to dreaming. I put my money on the Black Mamba.