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I didn’t know it at the start, but my day would take on a particularly English hue from morning to night last week. Between my liquid education in the morning and my burger at Ye Olde King’s Head Pub for dinner, everything was hinting at the old country. It wasn’t intentional but it might have been destiny as I was about to audition another highly recommended sandwich.

I started the day on “random,” having The Kinks be the first and last thing I heard as I ended my morning iTunes session before departing for my WSET course. I walked out the door with Preservation Act 1 in my hands, planning to learn the most about sweet wines and spirits. In my car I loaded the disc and not even three songs in I was at the Wine House ready to begin my five-hour class.

The WSET is an internationally recognized course that offers comprehensive education in wine and spirits. English in origin, the program affords participants/students the opportunity to master the finer parts of retailing, history and service while peppering Power Point slides with foreign spellings (flavours, ageing, etc.) and specific information as one works their way up, graduating, eventually, to the level of MW or Master of Wine. 

We sampled Eiswein, then transitioned into different types of Sherry (Fino and Oloroso) and Port as the first half of the course drew to a close. Back from the lunch we began the spirits portion where I became familiar with the different methods of distilling spirits, their origins and base materials. We tasted through Cognac, Scotch and ended on the truly English spirit Gin to feel the gist of the various methods in creating the spirits and recognizing the base ingredients in their taste, as we finished for the day.

With “Cricket” playing in the background, I was off to the English pub in Santa Monica. I was instructed to purchase a Crunchie next door for the barman (Raul), an insider’s tip by a friend before entering Ye Olde King’s Head. I was looking for “Raul” on arrival, but he had left a few hours before. The Crunchie would not be for naught. I met up with three friends at the back bar (“Bulldog Bar”), ordering a pint of Fullers London Pride; I fell in with them rather than having my druthers… wine.

Not too long after working on our brews we ordered. While others were inclined to go English, I avoided the bangers and mash, requesting the burger.

When the food hit the bar, I captured a few shots under dramatic lighting. It looked deceptive, a tad sloppy but I reserved judgment for my first few bites. The burger was also bigger than I’d anticipated. The meat was cooked to a flawless medium, but the texture of the patty was packed too tightly for it to be hand formed. The accompaniment, though disheveled in presentation, rescued the burger. The crunch of the raw red onion and the ripe tomato added a little depth to the under-seasoned patty. It definitely didn’t measure up to what I was hoping for. Serves me right for going domestic at an English pub.

My friends were happier with their selections and we all left full but this was another case of going in with elevated expectations. They weren’t met. I headed home to the sweet tune of “Sitting in the Midday Sun,” capping my average burger experience with a honeycomb treat. The chocolate bar and The Kinks helped me rebound from the unrealistic demands I placed on a pub that might be a better place to take in a traditional meal, a pint of beer, loft a dart or catch a game, rather than find the city’s best burger.

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