All posts by Kirsten

McDonald’s UK Tastes of America Week 3: The Arizona Nacho Grande

McDonald's UK Tastes of America Logo and Arizona Nacho Grande Logo Box[Kelley’s Note: We are joined again by Kirsten for this review of the uniquely UK phenomenon that is McDonald’s Tastes of America. Check out her review of Week 2’s burger here. As with before, I will be adding some tidbits from an American’s point of view. Enjoy!]

So, here we are at the third week of McDonald’s UK’s Tastes Of America. This week is the Arizona Nacho Grande. Big nachos? I’ve had a few. Huh. Actually, I’ve not had ANY in Arizona. Maybe next time, eh?

Time to fess up – I don’t really know Spanish. If we were talking coffee language, grande would mean medium, but through the generic way we all absorb media and television, I can make a good guess at what they’re getting at.

There is a place in AZ called Casa Grande, I know that. Maybe they thought it was a cute play on it- you know, pick somewhere off a map? No? No? Okay, we’ll stick with the Spanish thing. Or well, Mexican thing I guess.

[Kelley’s Note: Poor Kirsten. Having lived in the southwest (or South-West) all my life, my mind baffles at the idea that someone would not know that grande means “large” in Spanish. Then again, I had to have Kirsten explain the definition of “quid” to me just a few days ago, so I guess we’re even.]

AZ is South-West. In the UK, South-West is Cornwall, where the Cornish Pasty comes from. It was invented for miners. Why is there no pasty in Minecraft? I had a pasty in Phoenix, AZ once. That was pretty unexpected. All the way over there, 3 billion miles, just to sit in a desert eating foods from my homeland? Bah! An Arizonan sure wouldn’t have that eating the Arizona Nacho Grande. Now I regret not being in Cornwall to eat one, that’d show them. That’d show you all, HAH!


Had I not holidayed in Arizona the last two years, I’d have been hard-pressed to guess at the cuisine of the State. As is, ‘TexMex’ is insulting because AZ is not Texas, but still conjures up that shared love of meat, spicy food, and Mexican flavours. Arizona was where I first discovered pulled pork. I haven’t been the same since. I came back 2 months later hoping for more (and also to attend a wedding [the wedding of the pulled pork dealer]).

Had my first taste of Arizona been this burger, I’d have no idea what I could even have begun to expect.

McDonald's UK Tastes of America Week 3 The Arizona Nacho Grande

From McDonald’s: “Treat yourself to the taste of Arizona. 100% beef patty topped with nacho-style sauce, shredded lettuce, pepperoni, crunchy nacho chips and cheese with peppers, all in a sesame topped bun.”

[Kelley’s Note: I feel like I can chime in here with some authority, having lived in Arizona for about ten years now. I find this burger most adorable. “Nacho-style sauce” fills me with doubts. I guess the chips make sense. But you know what I like most on my nachos? Pepperoni. Nothing says Arizona and nachos like pepperoni. Forget jalapeños, or poblano chiles…pepperoni is pure Arizona.]

As I predicted, we’re talking about the same dimensions and ratio of patty to bun as the Chicago Supreme. Big patties. The Nacho Grande just has a plain old, no-nonsense sesame topping on the split top. No messing around there. It keeps its fancy secrets on the inside, keeping things closer to its chest.

McDonald's UK Tastes of America Week 3 The Arizona Nacho Grande Top Bun

Looking inside, there was no way to differentiate between the ‘nacho sauce’ and the peppered cheese. And that’s the bell pepper kind, not the cracked black stuff. Just a mountain of cheesy goo. I dug in.

McDonald's UK Tastes of America Week 3 The Arizona Nacho Grande Half

I can’t imagine anything finer will ever be created at McDonald’s. Taking a big bite, you get that soft, perfect beef patty, chewy tangy pepperoni, the crunch of the nacho chips, the gooey cheese and the subtly palate-refreshing shredded lettuce. It’s a mouthful of sheer flavour and texture.

McDonald's UK Tastes of America Week 3 The Arizona Nacho Grande Inside

The ingredients on their own are a little ordinary (I would consider the nacho tasted stale outside of the ensemble) but in combination they have created something that means I will leave a tiny offering to the junk food deities in hopes that it returns again next year.

McDonald's UK Tastes of America Week 3 The Arizona Nacho Grande Inside Close

I ate one on Thursday on the way to work. I was so hungry that I didn’t pause to study it enough, so I ate one the next day for breakfast. Just for you. It was magnificent.

The Nacho Grande is a thing of wonder. I will say here and now, I don’t expect the remaining TOA burgers to live up to its glory and majesty. It will live on, past this week, in my heart forever (probably literally, lining my arteries).

[Kelley’s Note: As with the Chicago burger, Arizona gets its own little wonderful gif-filled tribute on McDonald’s UK website. I’ll take it from here.]

I’ll admit, there are a lot of preconceptions about the Grand Canyon State that I can understand. Heck, when I moved here ten years ago from sunny Southern California, I was amazed that people actually had lawns. I thought it was all rocks and cacti. And, admittedly, there are a lot of cacti. And rocks. And kokopelli.

If you go off of crime dramas, movies, and pretty much any media, Arizona is where every serial killer, rapist, and kidnapper runs to to hide from the police. Just a whooooooole state full of reprobates.

I had a friend from Australia who literally thought everyone in Arizona rode around on horses carrying lassos and guns. McDonald’s UK’s website is not too far removed from that.

We start with the music, which is some serious honky-tonk banjo playin’ business accompanied by a one-dude-eight-gifs wearing a cowboy hat and playing a guitar, which is funny because I do not hear any guitar in the music. I swear, just hearing it makes me want to shout “YEE-HAW!” and say “y’all” about twenty times.

The background image is a neverending stretch of desolate highway with nothing but dirt surrounding it, which is actually pretty accurate if you’ve ever driven anywhere outside of the Valley. There’s also some red rocks, which is fair, because we do have those. So, okay, two points in favor of McDonald’s UK.

…And now I’m going to immediately take those two points away for the two big-rig flatbeds zooming in a loop on the neverending highway. Really? A whole state full of fairly iconic crap, and you pick trucks. What is that trying to convey, even? “Arizona – so damn full of big trucks!” That’s just weird and mildly insulting.

Next to pop up is a cactus (fair) and then a row of Route 66 signs.

Now I’m just getting nitpicky. Route 66 runs through Arizona. It also runs through, like, seven other states, and stretches over 2,000 miles of the US. We’ve now brought the highway-related images for the Arizona burger up to three. Is that how the UK views Arizona? “Just driving through.”

Actually, I think that’s how most Americans view this state, too. Man, Arizona sucks.

All is redeemed at the last second, however, with what might be one of my favorite gifs ever created. Two giant bald eagle heads suddenly appear, bobbing their heads in a loop that I could probably watch forever. Words do it no justice. It’s so random, and the eagles look so serious, and…it’s just great. Go there.

I love you, bald eagle gifs. I love you so much.

Okay, back to Kirsten. Let’s wrap this thing up!

McDonald’s UK Tastes Of America: Arizona Nacho Grande

  • Score: 5 out of 5 head bangin’, wing flappin’, boot scootin’ eagles.
  • Price: £3.49
  • Size: Just the burger, ma’am.
  • Purchased at: McDonald’s – Leeds 2
  • Nutritional Quirks: Plain on the outside, party on the inside. Both kindsa cheese, sliced and molten. Completely irrelevant to its namesake state.

McDonald’s UK Tastes of America Week 2: The Chicago Supreme and Crisscut Fries

McDonald's UK Tastes of America Logo and Chicago Supreme Logo Box[Kelley’s Note: Boy do I wish I lived in the UK right now. Fortunately, guest reviewer Kirsten (of Pizza Hut Hot Dog Stuffed Crust Pizza fame) does, and she has done me the favor of reviewing one of the McDonald’s Tastes of America burgers. We’ve done a little bit of collaborating, since she’s tasting America and I’m living here, so expect me to chime in every once in a while for some insight from the States.]

Every year in the UK, or at least for as long as I can remember paying attention, McDonald’s UK has run a summer promotion called TASTES OF AMERICA, whereby 5 State-‘inspired’ burgers are presented at a rate of one per week for 5 weeks, offering us Brits the chance to glimpse at the wonders of America in burger form. Sadly, I missed the first burger ‘Louisiana BBQ’ by a mere DAY, and grovel for your forgiveness. Instead, I present WEEK 2: CHICAGO.

When I think Chicago food, I think of pizza. That’s it, really. I got briefly confused about cheese curds, but that’s Wisconsin, apparently. Also, I am told that the Chicago Dog is the more prominent food association with Chicago. Clue’s in the name, I guess. I blame Chicago Town Pizzas. Whaddaya gonna do?

Anyway, a Chicago Dog is not at all what I expected. I dig the big bit of pickle in it (we don’t do pickle enough over here) but really it just seems like a Classic Hamburger set up, with a hot dog instead. I am not convinced at all. That is also completely nothing like the T.O.A: Chicago burger.

Here is McDonald’s UK’s description of The Chicago Supreme: “Experience the supreme taste of the Windy City. 100% beef patty, shredded lettuce, bacon, onions, cheese slices, spicy tomato salsa and cool mayo, all in a chilli, chive and sesame topped bun.”

[Kelley’s Note: I actually had to explain what a Chicago Dog is to Kirsten. She had never heard of such a thing. I also explained to her that, even in the States, if you’re going to make something “quintessentially Chicago”, you’re probably going to try to emulate a Chicago Dog. (If you don’t know what one consists of, read the first paragraph of this. It sums it up pretty perfectly.)

I was very amused by the UK’s version of “Chicago”. Not to make too much fun, but…salsa? Oh well, all they’re missing is the pickle. And the mustard. And the…okay, it’s pretty much missing everything. I’d be curious to see what the citizens of Chicago have to say about this burger representing their city.

Okay, back to Kirsten, who actually ate the burger.]

McDonald's UK Tastes of America Week 2 The Chicago Supreme

The burger is a big burger. I’d say it’s about 1.5 times the length of a Big Mac. It’s an ovoid. The bun is also a fancy split-top bun, sprinkled with the chilli, chive and sesame. The bun itself was light and soft, though I found it hard to tell if the chilli and chive topping added anything because of the spicy salsa heat.

McDonald's UK Tastes of America Week 2 The Chicago Supreme Inside

The mayo and onion were plentiful. The patty meat was perfect, beefy and flavoursomely charred, just the right side of crumbly, not tough or chewy at all. The sheer amount of sauces in combination gave good flavour but really just meant the patty was trying to escape the buns. My patty had too much lubrication. Now I see why they didn’t spread the load by adding any to the lower bun. Does anywhere do that? I think I’ve found salad there before.

McDonald's UK Tastes of America Week 2 The Chicago Supreme Close-Up

There was a good amount of bacon, but at first I wondered if I’d imagined there was meant to be any – there was no bacon in sight. It only emerged after I’d bitten in, and was indeed pinned within, smothered by the heavy quantity of cheese slices and disguised by the nonchalant shredded lettuce, an accomplice to bacon obfuscation. It was the Thomas Crown Affair of burger bacon.

McDonald's UK Tastes of America Week 2 The Chicago Supreme Half

There was a lot of mayo. I’m not a big fan of mayo (in or out of burgers) but it didn’t ruin it for me, and just meant it was like an oddly creamy but tasty salsa, like a spicy prawn cocktail sauce. Y’all do that too right? With the ketchup and mayo, or ketchup and salad cream and then you get Marie Rose sauce or whatever? I like it with brandy in. There was no brandy in this burger. Good job, I don’t think that’s what it needed.

[Kelley’s Note: I had to look up “Marie Rose sauce” – it is indeed a synonym of seafood or cocktail sauce, but, at least to me, sounds more like Thousand Island dressing. My definition of cocktail sauce contains stuff like horseradish and Worcestershire.]

The salsa was great, I’d like to see that back in another burger, maybe as a dip.

McDonald's Tastes of America Crisscut Fries Box

A dip, hey! That would have been real good with the special edition TOA: Crisscut fries I got too! I didn’t really like them. They were that kind of mashed and reformed potato shape and reminded me of potato waffles, a thing I have only had once in my life and avoided ever since. I still only eat hash browns when I’m desperately hungry.

McDonald's Tastes of America Crisscut Fries

They came with a sour cream and chive packet of dip which I gave a miss as I’m not eating any sour cream that doesn’t come from a fridge. I want to say the Crisscuts taste reminded me of Alphabites ((does that translate?)) but had a slightly spiced coating, which according to the website was onion powder and yeast extract. I won’t be ordering them again.

[Kelley’s Note: This did not, in fact, translate for me. I was pretty sure Kirsten wasn’t talking about the cereal. Luckily I found this, so now I know she was talking about a letter-shaped frozen potato product.]

In Hull, fries come with a coating of ‘chip spice’ (because we call fries ‘chips’, and chips ‘crisps’) which is more or less the same thing but with paprika and salt thrown in and I do not like that either. I did not know this when I first ordered fries in Hull, and have been scarred ever since. Consider this a PSA for if you ever find yourself there.

The TOA: Chicago burger was tasty but not as gourmet as I think it wanted to be. I think the oversized patty will continue to be an issue in the upcoming weeks, but I can’t fault them for being generous; it was good meat and cooked well.

Really, the TOA: Chicago was just a big ol’ Bacon Cheeseburger in a fancy bun, and whilst it was a good enough eat, I won’t be missing it from the menu a month down the line.

I am totally not ordering the TOA:Crisscuts again though, even though I think regular McD’s fries will serve to make the burger look even more enormous. One point to the Crisscuts – they are proportionally sized for the TOA burgers.

[Kelley’s Note: Kirsten turned me on to McDonald’s UK’s Tastes of America website. We both agreed that it was an amazing feat of marketing. She let me take the reins on this one, so you’ll be hearing from me from here until the roundup at the end of the review.]

Oh, McDonald’s UK Tastes of America. You’ve already given us so much. But once Kirsten showed me your website, I felt I had been given a special gift from the marketing gods.

While I’d love to break down each and every “Tastes” page, that would probably take up the length of an entire review, and we’re talkin’ about Chicago here, so let’s focus on that.

First off, every Tastes of America “tribute” page is an amazing feat of music and bizarre gifs. It’s like someone with a current knowledge of graphic artistry was instructed to make them look like a 1996 Geocities website. It is strange and mesmerizing at the same time.

I will give the UK this: Chicago is the longest-running American musical in the history of Broadway. Looking at the States from the outside in, this would be a pretty easy choice to encapsulate the spirit of the city. However, the Tastes of America takes it a little too far. The music is va-va-voom, the background is reminiscent of a Broadway marquee, and there’s attractive ladies wearing sexy tuxedos dancing around with canes.

Correction: one sexy lady, multiplied by eight. GIFS!

There are also two mirror-image limos thrusting in and out of the background in a way that makes me mildly uncomfortable.

The icing on the cake for me is the introduction of a jumble of red-clad basketball player gifs, obviously meant to represent the Chicago Bulls. I have some sad news for you, Britain: the iconic era of Michael Jordan and the Bulls’ dominance in the NBA ended in the 1990s. I’m sorry.

So what crazy gifs would I use to represent Chicago? Well, I’ve never even been to the Windy City, but here are some of my suggestions:

Lots of Tommy guns shooting with the sound of automatic fire as your music

One guy in a three-piece pinstripe suit repeated eight times making threatening gestures

A corrupt government official repeatedly signing a check and handing it to a shady character

Crates of bootleg alcohol dancing around


It’s obvious I’m also not intimately familiar with Chicago, but I still feel mine is a closer representation of the city than McDonald’s UK’s. Regardless, all of the Tastes of America pages are priceless, and I highly encourage you click on the link I posted above.

Okay, enough of my blathering. Here’s Kirsten’s round-up. A big thanks to her for the guest review!

McDonald’s UK Tastes Of America Chicago Supreme

  • Score: 4 out of 5 dancing gifs
  • Price: £4.89 plus £0.40 Crisscut upgrade (~$7 USD)
  • Size: Regular meal with Chicago Supreme, Crisscut fries and drink
  • Purchased at: McDonald’s – Leeds 2
  • Nutritional Quirks: Nothing like a Chicago Dog, but at least there’s lots of protein?

McDonald’s UK Tastes Of America Crisscut Fries

  • Score: 2 out of 5 potato Alphabites (NOT the cereal)
  • Size:8 lattices
  • Purchased at: McDonald’s – Leeds 2
  • Nutritional Quirks: Say no to chip spice.


Pizza Hut Hot Dog Stuffed Crust Pizza

Please enjoy this special guest review by Kirsten, a friend of mine who resides in the UK and thus had the opportunity to try Pizza Hut’s new Hot Dog Stuffed Crust Pizza, a luxury (or curse, depending) that Americans do not have. My thanks to her for going out of her way to try this…thing, and review it for me!

The hot dog stuffed crust pizza (let’s just go with HDSC) comes with a ‘mustard drizzle’ which initially caused some concern as to whether they’d undertake the drizzling or I’d be allowed the honour myself. In preparation for the former, I went for the ‘Super Supreme’ option – Spicy pork sausage, pepperoni, spicy minced beef, red onions, whole black olives, ham, mushrooms, mixed peppers (plus pineapple, personal preference) which seems to be standard for US Pizza Huts too – on the basis that it’d work fine if they did offer the HDSC. I kinda wish there was a chilli/sloppy giuseppe version – who wouldn’t jump at the chance of a chilli-dog-pizzatrocity?

Comparing the US/UK Pizza Hut menus shows quite a difference between the two. I hear the US PH is more delivery-centric, whereas here in the UK the restaurants get equal push – marketed to families as a special kid-favourite treat.

The UK menus differ between restaurant and delivery joints, the restaurants serving ‘posh’ options such as ‘Creamy Blue’ (Blue cheese and mozzarella on a Béchamel base with sliced mushrooms and finished with a sweet balsamic drizzle) and the cringingly named ‘Shrimply Delicious’ (King prawns, fresh spinach, mozzarella cheese and mixed peppers.) If you’re eating in, you can even have wine with your meal.

[Editor’s note: I could not get over UK Pizza Hut’s “posh” pizza menu. Béchamel and balsamic drizzle?! Most Americans probably don’t even know what Béchamel is, let alone putting it on a pizza! Crazy.]

We get pasta dishes (“a foot long!”) but you get cinnamon breadsticks, so I know who wins that one.

[Editor’s note: I also could not get over the idea of foot-long pasta. What does that even mean? Who measures pasta by the foot? I’m just saying.]

Delivery offers the ‘Classic’ menu (same as the US options) plus a few more types for variety, and usually a Flavour of the Month. Last year we had A-Team themed ones (each character had a different wackily-named combination of toppings) but usually it’s simply a new combination of meats or flavoured meat.

The pizzas arrived reassuringly hot, and to my relief I was handed two sticks of the mustard drizzle – an oil and mustard dressing, basically.

In retrospect, I would have preferred a more dunkable dip vessel. Maybe I should have just applied it to the crusts somehow, but it said drizzle, and I drizzled. Liberally. Everywhere.

I ordered two pizzas, one for myself and one for my pizza friend, Dan. I only managed 1/3 of mine, whereas he managed 2/3 of his. Toppings were fairly irrelevant in the end, simply being what you worked through to get to the crust. They were incredibly filling, each of us usually able to finish a large pizza in a sitting (perhaps a slice left for breakfast).

Construction wise, it’s pretty much the same as a regular cheese stuffed crust, but on this order the dogs weren’t always covered by the dough.

The crust held firm and was surprisingly non-greasy. UK hot dogs are typically pork-based and these seem to be no exception (though no nutritional information on this is available on the website). Anything more flavourful, like Vienna franks, would have totally overpowered it in my opinion.

The mustard drizzle was a great and in keeping addition to the pizza, though I’m not sure I’ll be fetching the French’s every time I order out from now. It worked well with the Super Supreme topping, and the hot dog stuffed crust, but I wouldn’t recommend it with any of the BBQ sauce bases.

The hot dogs in the crust made for a change from the usual and made the pizza a lot more filling. For the extra £2.50, it stretched the pizza out to two meals worth (or two sharing, I guess) and that is good news in my book. I’d happily order again, if the website didn’t say they’d sold out…

Pizza Hut Hot Dog Stuffed Crust Pizza

  • Score: 4 out of 5 Drizzle Sticks
  • Price: £18.49 (~$30)
  • Size: 14” (only size available)
  • Purchased at: Pizza Hut Delivery, Crookes, Sheffield (UK)
  • Nutritional Quirks: There’s hot dogs in the crust, isn’t that enough?