A blog about my life and travels...



Sunday, January 31, 2016

Healthy Eating: The Good, The Bad, and the Fruity

So I am now wrapping up my eat clean week and I must say what a week its been-- full of tears, tupperware, and tribulations. One thing it was not full of was hunger! I must say the entire week I felt pretty great energy wise, and when I finally did have some starch (in the form of toast) I was pretty meh about it. However, it was when I had a beigel on Friday that I truly understood the necessity of starch ^_^

Having meat (chicken or beef) was more of a treat as I didn't eat it every day. Friday's Korean BBQ Steak bowl was my first beef in a week so it was fantastic!

So let's break it down:

Sunday
Dinner -> Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Parmesan Mushrooms

This was a pretty fantastic dish. I wish I had the right kind of mushrooms (baby bella) as they would have been able to hold their own much better than the button ones. I also wanted to add more Parmesan cheese to it but held out, which turned out OK as once incorporated you could really taste it. Easy to make (thanks to Tesco having pre-made spiralised spaghetti squash) and trust me, you don't miss the meat at all!

Monday
Dinner -> Drunken Zucchini Noodles with Honey Chicken

Even after the Great Sweet Potato Debacle where I thought "I don't have a spiraliser, but don't worry grating should be fine" turned out to be disastrous in the kitchen, I found the sweet potato dish to be very delicious. I added some raisins into it as well, and thought it was a great addition to the dish, providing little bursts of sweetness. I don't think I made enough sauce, but that was my own fault as I did not know how much grated sweet potato I would have (and I had a ton leftover). Never one to just throw out food, I made some pancakes (utterly fantastic with maple syrup) and a smoothie (would not make again, no flavour) with the extra.

Dinner was pretty delicious, and I remember thinking how sad I was I did not have leftovers. Just be careful as the zucchini (courgette) gets very watery and I had a wonderful accident with most of the liquid on my work trousers. YAY MONDAY. I also could eat roasted peanuts every day. So. Fantastic.

This dish probably had the most "ugh will I ever use this again ingredients associated with it". But if you enjoy Thai/Indian cooking you should have no issues here!



Tuesday
Breakfast -> Breakfast Burrito
Dinner -> Healthy Chicken Parm

I do not have a photo of the breakfast burrito but let me tell you it was quite fantastic. Just enough cheese to pass muster (you can always add more) and the egg whites help to bulk it up without add too much fat. I almost wanted to add olives to it, but had none on hand. I still have a burrito wrapped in the freezer for next week!

Again the courgettes get very watery when you cook them (this should not be surprising to me, buy hey ho) so either quickly flash cook them or take it into account when cooking with them. I would almost have left 'raw' and let the chicken 'cook' them on the plate. The chicken cooked up beautifully and the breadcrumbs did not fall off, and the mixture of panko and normal with some Parmesan cheese worked beautifully. Could have really gone nuts with the mozzarella but maintained discipline. This dish does NOT make good leftovers!

I also tried one of my cashew/date energy bites and ooohhhh mama these things are fabulous! Just the right amount of sweet to satisfy your craving and if you portion them right, makes a lovely elevenses treat. Also great if you have a morning run but want something to nibble on beforehand! I was thinking how amazing this would be substituting coconut for cacao nibs and orange flavouring. The possibilities could be endless (guess that's what Bounce thought as well!)

Thursday (cheat day)
I had Pokē for lunch (raw fish salad) and curry with coworkers at a restaurant in the City for dinner. Tried to be good and only had naan rather than naan + rice. Had pancakes for breakfast- was a good day.

Friday
Breakfast -> Salmon + Cream Cheese Beigel
Lunch + Dinner -> Korean BBQ Steak Bowl

I am trying to make it a habit of running with the Advent Running crew who do a Beigel Run every Friday morning. This requires me waking up about 2 hours earlier than I normally would to get up to Brick Lane, run about a 10k, and then get back to the office for a shower around 0830. However, the reward is a sweet sweet Beigel from Beigel Bake on Brick Lane. AND the smug satisfaction of having a great run in before people even are getting into the office. WIN.

I bulked up the steak bowl with some spiralised carrots and this really took the dish to a whole new level. It was fabulous. Good amount of heat and was incredibly filling, yet still left you wanting more. Hence why I had it for dinner as well. I was pleasantly surprised that the amount of beef I used was so satisfying. I cut most pieces down to smaller portions, so I had some tasty beef with almost every bite. Much better than having only a few larger pieces and then being left with nothing.

What a way to end the work week!



Looking Ahead
I felt like Sunday was just full of prep for the entire week, it was very tiring. I couldn't make everything as I was running out of tupperware and fridge space so I needed to make some lunches during the week as well. However it was mostly over with by Tuesday so Wednesday onward was smooth sailing. I doff my cap to people who can plan meals for the entire week in advance, it took a lot of effort. 

I may try and do a starchless dinner 3x a week and meatless days 2x a week. Its doable but it requires more planning than I normally put into food prep. Challenges are fun but its also good to be spontaneous too!

I can already say I have eat more carbs this weekend than I have all week. I don't think that is good. So there is still some work to do. Just because its the weekend does not mean I should go all out-- couple of treat here and there but no need to ruin the hard work of the last few days. 

Of course the pizza I ordered today at NY Fold after my race was 100% me. I have no regrets.







Sunday, January 24, 2016

Week of Healthy Eating: Prep

So today I can unveil my ambitious meal plan for this week. You can see it all in Google Doc glory and also grab the recipes.

So... Why? It's an effort to take part in more clean eating while also not going out as much  (when you have no idea what goes into your food generally). I also wanted to see if these meals can also taste good in the process :)

Today was crazy prep day. I started around 1600 and finally closed the kitchen at about 2100, taking an hour out to eat dinner... OK and maybe a few more to follow UKRunChat Hour.
  • Made the banana bread (for when the sweet tooth hits)
  • Made the edamame snacks (4 portions)
  • Made the energy ball snacks (~14 pieces)
  • Made two breakfast burritos (to use up the leftover mushrooms and the eggs I may have accidentally cracked)
  • Made lunch for tomorrow (sweet potato with cashew sauce)
  • Made dinner
Colourful Butternut Squash & Mushroom
Dinner consisted of butternut squash "pasta" with mushrooms and parmesan. Pretty simple to whip up and even with the recipe halved it still resulted in a lovely amount of parmesan to mix in. I tried to be as precise as possible in an effort to keep portion control in check (hooray electronic scales!) and am satisfied with the results. Wish I had the right kind of mushrooms as I lost some of the meatiness that would come from baby bellas. Still-- quite pleased with the taste!

I am looking forward to lunch tomorrow with a bit of trepidation as well... the sweet potato is supposed to be spiralised. However, I do not yet own a spiraliser-- so I figured one could simply grate and get similar results.... the answer is a resounding NO. The final product is more shaved sweet potato, and the issue of course being no uniformity. The garlic dressing tasted pretty good and whilst mixing in with the spinach and potato I also decided to add sultanas, figuring they will add a hit of sweetness. Too much sweetness though? Will find out tomorrow!

Another side affect of the 'Great Sweet Potato Debacle of 2016' is now I have a TON of leftover shaved sweet potato. I am sure I will figure out something to do with them, but currently they are sitting in a bowl of water covered up. I am almost thinking like sweet potato crisps in the oven??



Not surprisingly-- VERY much looking forward to the banana bread and energy ball snacks ^_^

I also have my workout schedule all figured out as well--Look at me so on the organised! I am also wondering if this diet will affect my running/workouts. I figure as long as I am still getting the calories I need (albeit what I imagine to be healthier ones than normal!) I should be pretty OK.

Here is hoping I do not fall off the wagon, or if I do, I can gracefully pull myself up again. 




Thursday, January 21, 2016

Running With Purpose: GoodGym

A common thing people never seem to have time for (or say they never do) is volunteering. Living in London, it can be sometimes hard to volunteer through your job as it costs money, with the premise of it being used as a corporate outreach. Fair enough.  Or it may just be too darn popular (city farms anyone?). Also, a lot of places want you to commit to x number of weeks to show up, which is hard for people with a variable work schedule. So you end up not volunteering at all, more dejected than hopeful.

Then in comes GoodGym- a brilliant idea that was born out of frustration with gyms. It all started back in 2008 with one borough, but now its has blossomed to over 12 and even has groups in Bath and Bristol.

How does it work? Well it's quite simple and its right on their website:
We do three things:
  1. We run in groups to do manual labour for community organisations.
  2. We run to make social visits to isolated older people who we call our 'coaches' because they motivated us to keep going.
  3. We run missions for vulnerable people; clearing gardens, changing lightbulbs and doing odd-jobs for people who struggle to do them alone. 
We are supported by some of the best personal trainers and running coaches in the UK. They come on our group sessions and help us keep our fitness and technique on track.
I went along to their inaugural Southwark GoodGym event on Wednesday. Everyone was very friendly and there were many 'newbies' so striking up a conversation was easy. Jo, who is also a personal trainer, got us warmed up and we set off on a very leisurely run to the Wilderness Center. When I say leisurely, I mean between 10-11 minute miles. Bringing up the rear was Adele, who made sure no one got left behind or lost. It was fun to spend a couple of minutes just chatting away only to realise you were at your destination!

Getting Tasked...
I never knew Galleywall Nature Reserve existed until then, which to be honest I am a bit ashamed about as it is not too far from where I live. It looks like a great places to bring the young ones, with plenty of snails, bug huts, and green space to have a quick dash about. We got split into groups and I was put into compost detail. There was four of us so we ended up taking turns of turning compost and removing twigs. Apparently sticks are the bane of the compost world-- who knew?

After about 30 minutes or so it was time to head back. Jo had us skip to the next street corner to get us thoroughly warmed up again, then offered a 'challenge' to have people sprint to Old Kent Road and back. I did not hear the and back bit and only realised as I was huffing away and saw people coming back... Oops! Still, managed to get the heart rate moving.

Verdict: I would not call GoodGym an intense workout- nor do I think it is meant to be. It's meant to get you outside and into your community while sneaking in some exercise. It's also meant to be fun- one thing many people do not describe running as (myself not included). I will say that it makes a great recovery day. Light on pace while adding a bit of strength. Sign me up!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Sick Day Post: Last Week's Progress

Hooray sick day! Not really, but in an effort to keep myself occupied between the sneezing and nose blowing I figure a blog post may be in order :)

Exercise

As the Tromsø Polar Night Half was the previous Saturday I was keeping running minimal while doing other workouts such as Body Combat and Strength Training via the CustomFit app by FitnessFirst. I concede that strength workouts are quite important and also vital if I want to get rid of the muffin top 'side fat' I cannot seem to lose. Body Combat is such a fun workout you almost forget your are working out :)

I did mange a 10k run on Friday afternoon and boy was it lovely! Although it was chilly the sun was out in full force so it felt amazing. At that point I realised how happy I was that I didn't force myself out of bed for a morning run,  else I would have missed out.  

I find it very hard to run in London and NOT stop and snap a few photos, especially when I can potentially get an angle that is different from the countless thousands taken every day along the Thames Path. With the tide being low, I was able to go to the 'shore' and find some more unique shots. It also helped that it was so sunny I was not too keen to get back to the office!

So case in point: Don't beat yourself up if you hit the snooze button for your AM run, just fit it in later (commit to it!)

Food

I am happy to report I have tried some pretty tasty smoothies and starch-less lunches this past week! 

Caramel Apple Smoothie (via PopSugar): This was our dessert one night after dinner. It was very easy to whip up and I found all the ingredients at my local Tesco Metro.  had to swap out almond milk for coconut milk due to nut allergies in the Moose house. Still tastes delicious. Clever idea using the dates to simulate the caramel flavour. Husband approved as well so another big bonus there. Made two large glasses + a little left over I brought into the office next day as a snack. 

Carrot Cake Smoothie (via PopSugar): Not a vegan but of course a delicious recipe for those that are. I was able to buy a small package of protein powder at a Holland & Barrett, which is good because protein powder is expensive and I am not sure if I need 2 tons of it. Again I used coconut milk which I think detracted a bit from the desired flavour, but all in all it still tasted pretty delicious. This was a breakfast substitute. Made one serving as stated. 

 I have a bit of powder leftover so I have been adding bits to my porridge in the morning.

This one also made me realise if I wanted to really get involved making more smoothies I would have to invest in a proper blender. The stick blender was doing a wonderful job, but is was still leaving 'chunks' so it made the smoothie experience more of a bumpy experience. Live and learn!

Ribboned Carrot Salad (via PopSugar): This was our lunch for two days (so four servings) and boy was it fantastic. I still do not have a spiraliser but Tesco is hip to the trend (and eager to capitalise) so they have pre-spiralised carrots and courgettes available for purchase. I also bulked out the salad by adding broccoli and chicken, but you could substitute pretty much anything that you would normally put in a stir-fry (sugar snap peas, tofu, baby corn). As all the spiralising was done for me, the hardest bit was cooking the chicken and shredding it into the salad. 

Very filling and satisfying for lunch. I recommend letting your portion sit out for about 5-10 minutes prior to eating as sometimes cold cooked chicken can have a weird texture right out of the fridge.   

I was getting some curious co-workers ambling over to see what I had, that NEVER happens with a sandwich!

Nusa Kitchen: This place has some amazing soups (there salads look fantastic as well) and the best thing is you can choose to have it with rice or without. It can also come with a nice dollop of yogurt or a healthy sprinkling of coriander. If you do not want rice, you can opt for a free piece of fruit instead. Their menu is changing weekly but if you see vietnamese chicken with sweet potato soup- get it. You will not be disappointed. Don't be scared of the queue which seems to never end, it goes quick! 

Present Conundrum

We -still- have sweets leftover from Christmas. What do I do with them? I can't freeze them all, and refuse to throw them out. I am wondering if 'a treat a week' will work... at this rate will have Twinkies for like 2 months :(

Friday, January 15, 2016

New Year: New Goals

Yes its that time of the year again. A whole new year full of hopeful wishes that are generally dashed or forgotten by June. I am hoping this year I can set more reasonable goals, as most of my 'big' goals are already signed up for. So I am hoping to make smaller changes which hopefully become natural over time.

First, the 'big' goals:
  • Prudential RideLondon: Not sure why I thought a bike ride would be a good idea, considering I have not gone on a bike ride really since 2013. But here we are. Training starts in May. 
  • A marathon: Still not sure which one yet, but it will be in the Fall, after the big bike ride. 
And now, my bigger challenges, the smaller ones!
  • Cut back on carbs: This will probably be the hardest. I don't really have a 'number goal' per se but I am going to try and keep my starches to one meal a day or make little cuts here and there (e.g. open faced sandwiches)
  • Up veggies: I almost put down 'cut back on meat' but I thought better of it. This actually pairs well with the first one as now we have the crazy spiralised vegetable fad which substitutes pasta/rice for veg. 
  • Swap processed snacks for healthy, natural ones: Sitting in an office means the temptation for snacking is high. If I am going to do so, I will try and ensure its something more natural than Oreos. I will not give them up entirely, as typically doing so results in a break down of disastrous proportions. Also, I am not crazy.
  • Try to join (and stick) with a running club: I do not know why I have such a hard time getting myself to these. There are quite a few very close to my office and home. I still really like running on my own terms, but I think these would really come in handy for interval/hill repeats. Like most things, it's going enough to where it become habit. 
  • CharityMiles.org: Seriously everyone should be doing this. CharityMiles racks up your distance run/walked and donates money based on distance to a charity of your choosing. It's not a lot (I have racked up $5.81 over the course of 23.3 miles in January), but every little helps. I will also be matching my donations over the course of a month to the charity I have chose for that month. For my first month I chose GirlUp. My issue is I keep forgetting to turn the darn thing on before a run :)
So the blog this year will focus on these goals. Eating better, training better, and just feeling better! 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Polar Night Half Marathon Tromsø - Race Review

It would be very strange waking up in darkness. I knew this would be the case. However, it was even more strange running a half marathon in the dark-- at 3pm. 

It was -8° C and I was jogging in place at the starting line. I was eager to get moving, every minute felt like it was getting colder. I looked down at my trusty running shoes, looking a bit more like a Transformer with its new running ice spikes purchased that day. 

No, the Tromsø Polar Night Half Marathon is not your normal half marathon. And I definitely wanted it that way. This is not your typical half, it not difficult in terms of terrain but weather wise it is definitely one for the books! 

Pre-Race

Entering the race was very easy, and there were no issues at all. Got my race number via email a week or so before the race and given further instructions on where to pick up my bib. Tromsø itself is quite small and everyone is very friendly so finding your way is no issue!

I arrived late Friday night so could not attend the pasta party, however we had our own carb-load at Casa Inferno. Definitely use the daylight hour or so before the race to snap some photos of the harbour! I am not joking, its about an hour of daylight with about and hour of dusk/dawn light. 

Race

The race itself was a there and back route from the center of Tromsø to the airport. They had candles lit all along the route, but to be honest it was well marshalled so there really was no point where I was nervous about getting lost. 

Obviously there were more people in Tromsø cheering us on than along the route, but those that were sprinkled around made up for it with the enthusiasm. I remembered high-fiving two little children somewhere around mile 4/8 who kept chanting "Hey ya!" (well thats what is sounded like to me!)

On the loop back the wind started to pick up, which along the water was very chilling. It was at that point that I wished I wore wool gloves instead of my fancy synthetic ones! 

I had no dreams of a PB on the race, I was simply wanting to keep below a 2-hour time. I was using other runners for pace, including one of them a Northern Runner. I figure if anyone was used to this kind of temperature running, it would be one of them!




Post-Race

Upon finishing, I got my medal, space blanket (yay!) and half banana and shuffled quickly to change.

Sadly I cannot talk about the award ceremony and party as we needed to leave Tromsø shortly there after to get to our cabin. 

Overall

Norway is an amazing backdrop for a race. The scenery is stunning, although maybe not during the race itself. However, had we been graced by the Northern Lights, my opinion about the race scenery would have changed dramatically. Heck-- I would have even stopped to try and snap a photo ;)

If you decide to register for this race and if you can, test out running with spikes in case you need to on the day. My first run with spikes was the race, I am sure I lost some time trying to get used to the feel of them. My right arch was sore but it went away overnight. 

This race is for you if:
  • you love a challenge (unless you live in the Arctic Circle, the weather is something fierce!)
  • you need an excuse to travel to Norway
  • you want to see the Northern Lights
  • you want to go dog sledding
  • you want to see moose (we saw four!)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

TimeOut Christmas Burger Challenge

TimeOut London released a posting titled the 'The Best Christmas Burgers in London' and I knew I found a challenge worth doing. I needed to come up with a scoring system that highlighted not only the taste of the burger but also how "Christmass-y" it was. All will be out of 10. The final score will be an average of all 5 sections.

Note: Now that I have finished this challenge, I am debating my scoring system. The 'worth the commute' really only applies to me, so why do you guys care about that? My thoughts on price also varied based on if I was at a location for lunch or dinner. All-Star Lanes for example, I think £14 for dinner to be quite acceptable. I almost feel the main thing people would care about is taste with maybe price being a secondary factor.

TLDR -> Here are my rankings for the Christmas Burger Challenge. Ranked from worst (10) to best (1). #5 and onwards are all tied for 9/10 in terms of taste, so I based the rankings from there based on Christmas factor. Don't let that stop you from trying them all though-- every single one had something that made it fantastic.

9. Reindeer Burger at Lucky Chip
8. Christmas Burger at Bobo Social
7. XXXMas Burger at Meat Market
6. Turkey Dinner Burger at All-Star Lanes
5. Crimbo Burger at Bird
4. Christmas Special at Honest Burger
3. Christmas Burger at Hawksmoor
2. Christmas Special at BurgerShack
1. Christmas Burger at Haché

Rules for Rating

  • Price: These things do matter
  • Worth the Commute: Traveling an hour for a sub-optimal burger is depressing
  • Major Ingredients: What's in this bad boy?
  • Taste: Obvious
  • Christmas Factor: Ho ho or humbug?

Burger #1 of 9: Crimbo Burger at Bird (7.8/10)

Price: £12 (with parsnip crisps)
     Score: 7/10
The 'green' is one of my five a day....
Worth the Commute: Working in the City made this about a 15 minute walk from the office.  Good as it helps to walk off some of dinner.
     Score: 8/10
Major Ingredients: Fried chicken breast with cranberry glaze, sage and onion stuffing, deep fried brie, and topped with bacon wrapped jalepeños.
     Score: 9/10
Taste: Out of this world. The deep fried brie paired with the cranberry glaze really takes this sandwich to another level. The chicken was incredibly crispy but the meat still maintained it's juiciness. It is quite a beast to devour so go easy on the appetisers- but don't NOT get chicken wings, definitely do. They are fantastic.
     Score: 9/10
Christmas Factor: Well-- the cranberry sauce is definitely Christmas, but chicken is not. Parsnips are fall/winter but again-- is that enough? To be fair I barely tasted the stuffing within all the cranberry and brie goodness. Not sure how Christmas works in your house, but bacon wrapped jalepeños is typically not on our menu.
     Score: 6/10


Burger #2 of 9: XXXmas Burger at Meat Market (7.6/10)

This ain't a beauty contest... and it shows!
Price: £8.50 (no sides)
     Score: 8/10
Worth the Commute: This worked well as we needed to do some Christmas Shopping around Covent Garden. Do not fear though, the Meat * enterprise has multiple locations dotted around London (just may want to check they have this before trudging over there.
     Score: 7/10
Major Ingredients: Sliced turkey, sausage & sage stuffing, cranberry sauce, bacon, gravy.
     Score: 8/10
Taste: The turkey was a tad dry (dangers of sliced turkey), however the
cranberry sauce and gravy offset that quite well. I can see the gravy being a bit dangerous as adding too much would sacrifice the structural integrity of the burger. Maybe offering some on the side in case people wanted a bit more would not go amiss. The stuffing was also quite moist and savoury, it came through quite well in the burger. I am not sure how they made a round piece of bacon-- but they did and it was wonderful. I kept thinking it would make a brilliant breakfast sandwich...
     Score: 7/10
Christmas Factor: We got turkey, stuffing, and cranberry, and no pretension of health. Deck the halls!
     Score: 8/10


Burger #3 of 9: Christmas Burger at Haché  (8.6/10)

Note-- This was a substitution from the Byron Burger listed on the Time Out article. As it even mentions, there is nothing extremely Christmass-y at all about it, and after seeing Haché's one being advertised, would make a solid contender. 

Price: £10.95 (no sides)
     Score: 8/10
This will make anyone love sprouts...
Worth the Commute: There are quite a few Haché's around (but none in my neck of the woods but
there is one quasi close to work is neighbor Shoreditch) but its worth the commute for sure.
     Score: 8/10
Major Ingredients: Fried turkey patty (not ground, think like a chicken burger but turkey), pork and sage stuffing patty, pigs in blankets, Cranberry sauce,grilled Brussel sprouts 
     Score: 8/10
Taste: Oh me oh my-- this was fantastic. The fried turkey was moist, with the sprouts adding a bit of crunch to the entire burger. A nice slathering of cranberry sauce (more like a jam) and a flavourful stuffing patty, not dry one bit. The pigs in the blanket were just a happy bonus to make my eyes twinkle like the Star of Bethlehem. Quite filling even without sides, although the Truffle Fries did sound fantastic.
     Score: 9/10
Christmas Factor: This ticks all the boxes.  Although I do not do fried turkey for my holiday, I feel they are definitely in the spirit of the thing. Also, deep fried turkey is delicious and this is simply a smaller scale of that. If I was Saint Nick-- this would be a great way to break up the monotony of cookies and milk being left out for me.
     Score: 10/10


Burger #4 of 9: Reindeer Burger at Lucky Chip (6.4/10)

Price: £11.50 (no sides)
Pretty bad picture, and a pretty bad burger IMO
     Score: 6/10
Worth the Commute: I would not call Islington 'close' to our flat, but we happened to be in the area for watching a film. And let's be honest, its much easier to get to than Stoke Newington (where another Lucky Chip resides)
     Score: 6/10
Major Ingredients: Reindeer, (yes you read that right) Applewood smoked bacon, stilton, blueberry and blackberry gin jam, and aioli on rocket
     Score: 7/10 (-3 for taste mismatch)
Taste: This should have been the winner. In fact, starting this challenge up I was almost sure of it. I was so excited to try this burger. However, the issue with stilton is its saltiness-- and paired with the bacon pushed it well over the top for me. The gin jam added an extra taste sensation, well I would have imagined it would if not overpowered so completely by the cheese. The ONE time I would say cheese did not fit.     
    Score: 3/10
Christmas Factor: Again this ticks the boxes, its freaking reindeer. Shame it tasted so bad.
     Score: 10/10


Burger #5 of 9: Christmas Special at Honest Burger (8.0/10)

Taste perfection
Price: £12 (with rosemary chips)
     Score: 8/10
Worth the Commute: Cheated a bit here as I had it delivered to my office, but its pretty much on the other side of Liverpool Street station-- a brisk 10 minute London pace from the office.
     Score: 8/10
Major Ingredients: Beef patty, deep fried brie, bacon, cranberry sauce, rocket
     Score: 8/10 
Taste: This class, is the proper use of cheese on a burger. Bird and HB are on track with the winning taste combo of deep fried brie and cranberry. This burger sang to me. The meat was just fantastic; moist and well cooked.      
    Score: 9/10
Christmas Factor: Like Bird, I am not sure how Christmass-y a beef burger is. If you would have made this a reindeer burger it would have probably won hands down.  An extra point over its competitor though as it least it kept with the central theme (no bacon wrapped jalepeños).
     Score: 7/10


Burger #6 of 9: Turkey Dinner Burger at All-Star Lanes (7.8/10)

That gravy for dipping!!
Price: £14.00 (with sweet potato fries)
     Score: 6/10 
Worth the Commute: Just a bit too far from the office for a sub hour lunch break. Required massive power walking, which was good because I did just eat deep fried turkey.
     Score: 7/10
Major Ingredients: Fried turkey burger, stuffing, Monterey Jack cheese, treacle-cured bacon, cranberry, skewered with a pig in a blanket. Served with French dip gravy
     Score: 9/10 
Taste: After gawking at the price (my fault for doing it during lunch), this burger was pretty epic. They molded the turkey burger with the stuffing to form one patty, ensuring seamless integration and delight to the taste buds with every bite. Again, the cranberry did an excellent job of adding a bit of bite to the burger. To be honest, didn't even taste the cheese. Serving with gravy is a stroke of genius.
    Score: 8/10
Christmas Factor: Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry, AND a pig in a blanket. Jingle my bells!
     Score: 9/10


Burger #7 of 9: Christmas Special at Burger Shack in the Royal Oak (7.8/10)

Don't judge a book by its cover!!
Price: £10 (no sides)
     Score: 7/10
Worth the Commute: Quite the commute for me no matter how you slice it. I feel this place is worth the trip. I also managed to pair a Christmas Run near the pub so it was not so bad. I really like this pub anyways, great selection of beer and friendly staff. If you live near Baker Street/Marylebone, this lovely drinking/eating establishment should be a firm favourite.
     Score: 6/10
Major Ingredients: Turkey patty, pork/sage/onion patty, bacon, crispy fried onions, bread sauce and topped with cranberry/port ketchup. The only burger place to have the balls to use sloppy bread sauce. This burger will not win any beauty pageants-- but no one should care about that.
     Score: 9/10
Taste: Once again, Burger Shack does not fail to please. Even after my run-- this filled me up quite nicely. The bread sauce made the burger start to fall apart-- but you know what, that did not bug me at all. I just scooped that all up as it was too delicious to leave. The fried onions were a fantastic touch, it actually reminded me more of Thanksgiving than Christmas.
     Score: 9/10
Christmas Factor: The bread sauce puts this burger squarely in the Christmas quadrant. I am sure Santa would not be upset if this was left for him in lieu of cookies.
     Score: 8/10


Burger #8 of 9: Christmas Burger at Bobo Social (6.0/10)

Price: £13 (no sides)
An artform does not a Christmas burger make...
     Score: 5/10
Worth the Commute: Goodge street? Ugh. Wrong side of the Northern Line for me and bit of a pain even from work.
     Score: 5/10
Major Ingredients: Beef burger stuffed with stilton and roasted chestnuts, and topped with poached pear. This bad boy definitely raised an eyebrow.
     Score: 8/10
Taste: After the Lucky Chip debacle, I was wary about the Stilton. However, the poached pear did exactly what it should and provide a sweet offset to the salty yet wonderfully smooth cheese. A very buttery brioche nestled everything together. I only mention it because it was quite pronounced. A very tidy burger. Did not taste the chestnuts. Would probably not order it again, but they had some much tastier sounding burgers on their main menu.
     Score: 7/10
Christmas Factor: Well, considering I couldn't taste the main Christmas foodstuff, chestnuts, I guess in the end this turns out to be an interesting, posh, expensive burger.
     Score: 5/10


Burger #9 of 9: Christmas Burger at Hawksmoor (7.4/10)

Price: £14 (no sides)
     Score: 4/10
Worth the Commute: This burger is only available at the Spitalfields (after 1730) or Knightsbridge (lunch onwards) but luckily the Spitalfields branch is close to the office!
     Score: 8/10
Major Ingredients: Two patties, one turkey and one ginger pig, cheese, cranberry ketchup, sausage gravy for dipping. Allegedly there was supposed to be bacon and sprouts, but neither myself or my burger co-hort tasted this. We did not care.
     Score: 9/10
Taste: Let's be honest, we knew this was going to be expensive and delicious. I definitely went nuts with the gravy. I lost structural integrity about 2/3 of the way and resorted to fork. The was fine because I could get more gravy that way. I was slightly miffed the gravy did not have sausage chunks as everyone else seemed to talk about in their reviews. It was still slurp-able. The sausage patty has a wonderful heat to it, really pairing well with the smooth cheese and tangy cranberry ketchup.
     Score: 9/10
Christmas Factor: If I was Santa, I would never restrict this burger to just Christmas.
     Score: 7/10