Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Executive Lounge, Park Plaza London Victoria

During my recent trip to London, I stayed at the Park Plaza London Vitoria, conveniently located close to my office.

But of course, this is Julie's dining club, not a hotel review site, so I'm not actually here to review the hotel itself.  I stayed only two nights, but my room included executive lounge access, so I checked out the evening canapé selection both nights, and enjoyed my breakfast there each morning.

The evening canapés were less than impressive.  There was basic snack mix and finger sandwiches one night, spring rolls the other.  Not a single sweet treat!

I had low expectations for breakfast after the first night of canapés, and was pleasantly surprised.  The spread was extensive, including hot items, baked goods, fresh fruit, really good muesli, assorted yogurts, meats, cheeses, and more.  I gladly returned the second morning.
Little Tables.
Furnishings weren't luxurious, but they were good enough.  Padded chairs, wooden tables, and place settings laid out.
The first station had a machine for making espresso drinks, instant decaf coffee packets, and an assortment of Twinings tea, with a selection of sweeteners.  A good enough mix.

On my first visit, I was offered fresh coffee, so I didn't use this area, but on my second visit, even though I was greeted, no offer of coffee was made, so I used the machine instead to make an americano.  It was unremarkable.
Next was an assortment of cereals, plus some mix ins like banana chips, dried apricots, and raisins.  Certainly not my thing, so I skipped these.
Fruit, muesli, cheese, meats.
I was really impressed with the next section.  It contained several varieties of cold sliced meat, and a decent enough smoked salmon.  Only one variety of cheese, and it came in little packages, but I didn't expect to see any of these items in a simple buffet.

For fruit there was a fruit salad, mandarin orange segments, and chunks of pineapple, as well as a fruit coulis.

And muesli.  I love muesli, so I was thrilled to see this.  It was good muesli.  Creamy, well spiced, my style for sure.  I enjoyed a bowl each morning I was there.  The first day, I added the fruit coulis to it, but on my second visit, I decided it was good enough just on its own.  Highlight of the breakfast spread!
Watermelon, smoothies, yogurts, condiments.
The next area had ... WATERMELON!  I have no idea why the watermelon was on the side, rather than with the rest of the fruit.  But, since I have a deathly watermelon allergy, this made me quite happy.  I was actually able to eat the muesli from the previous station, and I would have needed to skip it if the watermelon was located inside the same serving area.

The yogurts were Loseley brand, not one I'm familiar with in the US, and came in an interesting assortment of flavors, including caramelized pear and fudge.  I obviously had to try that.
Caramelised Pear and Creamy Fudge Yogurt
Fudge? In yogurt? Caramelized fruit?  How could I NOT try this?

The yogurt had an ok creaminess, but was not as thick as Greek style yogurt.  I don’t actually like pear that much, but I was too intrigued by this flavor to not try it.  The pear bits were plentiful, in good size chunks.  They were sorta caramelized I guess.  But I didn't love them.

The fudge was the more interesting part.  I tasted chocolate.  But I never saw any.  No chunks, no swirls, no coloring to indicate cocoa.  I tried to find it, but I never could.  I tried to figure out if I was making up the fact that I could taste chocolate, thinking perhaps my brain was tricked because it read "fudge".  But, it was there, I swear.

Anyway, this was interesting, but not something I'd get again, only because I prefer a thicker yogurt, and, I don't like pears.  I'm glad I tried it though.
Hot Foods: scrambled eggs, bacon, beans, mushrooms, etc.
The hot buffet area had all the classic makings for a full British breakfast.  I didn't take notes, but I know there was at least scrambled eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, bacon, and sausage.  I think there were a few other items as well.

None of these were appealing to me, so I skipped them.
Danishes, muffins, rolls, fruit.
At the end, even more fruit, including whole bananas, oranges, apples.  A basket of sad looking rolls.  Mediocre looking danishes.

And a handful of muffins, none labelled.
 Finally, juices.  I didn't try any.
Pot of Coffee.
On my first visit, once I entered, I was greeted and offered fresh coffee.  Once I sat down, an entire individual pot was brought to me.  It was good enough, better than what I made in the machine.
Mini-Muffins, Day 2.
On the first day, the muffins were all full size, and were drizzled with something.  They didn't look like anything special, but they turned out to be absolutely delicious.  I wish I'd taken photos!

I started with one that seemed to be a carrot/raisin/pumpkin seed/cream cheese muffin.  It was moist.  It had a good carrot flavor, not overwhelming.  It was very well spiced.  It had a lot of plump raisins throughout.  I loved the crunch from the pumpkin seeds.  There were a lot of good things going on in the muffin, in terms of flavors and textures.  But the best part was the cream cheese.  A little was drizzled as icing on top, and then the center was stuffed with sweetened cream cheese.  I wasn't expecting to find it in the center, and it was a great surprise.  It added even more moisture and a bit of sweetness.  I really liked this muffin.

I liked it so much, that I went for another.  The next looked like a blueberry muffin, again with a little cream cheese drizzle on top.  Like the first one, it was nicely moist.  I liked the sweetness of the drizzle on top.  It was loaded with blueberries, all large size, juicy.  The muffin base wasn't particularly interesting, but only because I was comparing it to the carrot one, which was just loaded with so many goodies.  But again, the winning part was the cream cheese filling hidden within.  I just loved how much moisture it added.  My second favorite, but I still liked it quite a bit.

On the second day, I went rushing in for breakfast, very excited, only to find that my large muffins had been replaced with small muffins.  Not wanting to judge the muffins just based on size, since the first batch hadn't looked that great either, I tried two.  They weren't good at all.

They didn't have a cream cheese drizzle.  Or cream cheese lurking inside.  They were not moist.

The first one had a crunchy sugar topping that I liked, but it was a dry lemon flavored muffin, with lemon goo in place of my cream cheese filling.  I dislike sweet lemon desserts, and muffins are no different.

The next was blueberry, and the berries weren't large and juicy this time.  No cream cheese.

I have no idea how they could serve such radically different muffins.  It was like they came from two entirely different vendors.  One set was really quite impressive, the other, worthless.

Monday, October 20, 2014

IHOP ... again.

Several months ago I made my annual birthday pilgrimage to IHOP.  As you read about then, I was highly disappointed, and decided that I was never returning to the big IHOP in San Francisco on Beach Street.  But I still had so many memories of delicious IHOP pancakes, that I decided to give the smaller location on Lombard Street a try.  I'm not really sure why I'd always gone to the Beach Street location before anyway.

The Lombard Street location was a standard IHOP.  You can read all the general details about IHOP in my past reviews.  I'll focus this review only on the comparison with the other SF location.

First, it is smaller.  Much, much smaller.  Definitely less than half the size in terms of tables, plus no additional counter area.

It was still just as crowded as any IHOP.  I arrived at 10am, and the entire waiting area, and the outside sidewalk, were filled with people.  At the Beach Street location I can usually skip all of this and sit at the counter since I'm dining alone, or with one other person, but that was not an option here.  I put my name down ("July", I was called, and didn't bother correct), and waited about 15 minutes.

Since I wasn't going to be seated at a counter overlooking the kitchen, I used the waiting time as an opportunity to watch the front of house.  They seemed much more calm than Beach Street.  No one was rushing around like crazy.  Food didn't seem to sit in the window as long.  Decent signs.

My favorite part of the experience was people watching.  Normally I sit at the counter and entertain myself watching the chaos in the Beach Street kitchen, so this time I had the other patrons to amuse me instead.  The demographics of the clientele at IHOP are so shockingly different from what I encounter in my normal life.  Most were much older, including cute elderly couples out for their special breakfast together.  Many others wore baseball caps, T-shirts bearing the emblems of sports teams, and boots.  And by boots, I don't mean trendy women in leather boots, I mean 55 year old men in dirty, heavy work boots with thick treads.  Honestly, it was rather refreshing to see an entirely different subset of society.

The best people watching was the lady who was seated next to me, about 10 minutes after me.  I've always thought that IHOP's portions are ridiculous, particularly some of their combo meals that easily include enough food for 2-3 people.  Or, so I thought.  I never imagined any one person would finish a full single one themselves, let alone order multiple meals.  But ... this woman did.  She ordered: a Big Steak omelette (1260 calories), a short stack of 3 pancakes (470 calories, not including the mound of butter or syrup), AND strawberries and cream crepes (960 calories).  Her mounds of food arrived all at once, and she systematically worked through it all.  Starting with the crepes.  All 4 of them.  Followed by the huge omelette.  When I left, she was finishing off the stack of pancakes.  (I thought she consumed them in a strange order, I personally would start with the savory omelette, pair it with the pancakes, and save the crepes as my sweet finish.  And I'd ask to have the crepes arrive last so they wouldn't get cold.  There is no way her pancakes were still remotely warm by the time she got to them.  But, the order in which she ate them, or the methodical manner in which she did so, were really the least of the crazy things about watching that ordeal.)  Wow.
Standard IHOP Tables.
After about 10 minutes, my name, "July", was called out, and I was lead to my table.  Standard IHOP decor.  Everything was cleaner than the Beach Street location.

The host and cashier were both friendly, but my server was basically non-existent and didn't really speak to me.  She probably said fewer than 10 words to me the entire time I was there.  "Drink?" was all she said when she first stopped by to take my drink order.  When she returned with my drink, all I got was "Ready?" and a head tilt indicating that I should order, and  "Anything else?" once I'd ordered.  She said nothing when bringing my order to me, never checked in on me, and took a very, very long time to bring me the bill after I was clearly done eating.  I think she did say "Thank you" then.  She wasn't a bad server, just not very attentive.  Not that I needed anything.
Standard Syrups.
Speaking of cleanliness, the most shocking thing to me was when I picked up the syrups.  They weren't sticky!  What!??!

Sadly, this time, I didn't end up liking any of the syrups.  You may recall from my past reviews that I tend to like different syrups every time, but this time, I wasn't into any of them.

The blueberry was just sweet goo, the Old Fashioned tasted like corn syrup, and the Butter Pecan was too ... buttery?  Just a few weeks prior, I said I liked the butteriness to the Butter Pecan, and deemed it my favorite.  Do my tastes really change this much from week to week, or, are the IHOP syrups inconsistent?  The strawberry syrup was the only one I really liked, even though it clearly isn't maple syrup, the strawberry flavor really is quite good.

I also tried the sugar free syrup, and hated it.  It was bitter, and way too sticky and thick.
Harvest Grain 'N Nut Pancakes.  $8.99.
I went for my classic order: Harvest Grain 'N Nut pancakes.

As I've learned from past experience, I asked for the butter on the side.  I still use plenty of it, but prefer for it not to all soak in to the very center of the top pancake before they arrive.

My pancakes were sadly not really any better than my birthday visit at Beach Street a few weeks prior.  They were again small in diameter, and thin.  They arrived lukewarm.  They were kinda gummy, not at all fluffy.  What I love about IHOP pancakes is that they are usually huge, super fluffy, super moist inside, and crispy on the outside.  These lacked all of the defining characteristics.

I did still like the heartiness from the oats and the crunch from the walnuts and almonds, but, they weren't anything like they used to be.  As you read in my last review, I have pictures of the ones I got just a year prior, and they were radically different.  This isn't just my memory, I have photographic evidence!  But ... if both SF locations have changed the form of the pancakes, I wonder if that is a franchise-wide thing?  If so ... BOO!

The price of $8.99 was fine, and the same as the other location.

Overall, I found this IHOP to be a bit more on top of things and less insane, but, I have no reason to return there either.  Sadness.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mars Chocolates, the UK Edition

I've reviewed a bunch of classic Mars' Chocolates before.  You know these yourselves anyway.  3 Musketeers, Milky Ways, Snickers, Twix, M&Ms, etc ... yawn.

But, like most companies, Mars makes totally different products in the UK.  So when I was there on a recent trip, I obviously had to try an assortment.  Since duh, chocolate.

Celebrations (UK Edition)

When visiting my office in London, I found the microkitchens stocked with Mars' Celebrations: small, individually wrapped, chocolates.  Some were the same as what I'm used to in the US, such as Snickers and Milky Way, but many were unfamiliar. 
I had no idea what a "Bounty" chocolate was, so I had no idea what to expect.  The answer seemed to be chocolate covered coconut, which sounds great, except it was coated with poor quality chocolate and very meh coconut.  I expected to like this since I like chocolate and coconut, so this was a disappointment.
Next I moved on to Galaxy. It seemed to just be plain milk chocolate.  Fairly smooth and creamy, better than the milk chocolate they seem to use in most of their confections, but certainly not my style.  It reminded me of Cadbury.
And finally, Teasers.  This was my favorite of the items I tried.

Malteasers are standard malt balls produced by Mars, so "teasers" are these small chocolates included in the Celebrations lineup.  They are the same standard smooth creamy milk chocolate, with tiny little bits of malt ball inside for some crunch.

My favorite of the Celebrations, but not particularly remarkable.

Milky Way

Milky Way Crispy Rolls.
"Chocolate covered wafer rolls with a milk-cream filling".

I'm not really sure why these are part of the Milky Way product line, as they really don't have much in common with Milky Way at all.  Besides ... chocolate?

Creamy milk chocolate coating (the Mars milk chocolate in the UK is better than the version we get in the US!), surrounding a crunchy wafer, stuffed with a white filling.  I appreciated the somewhat decent chocolate, and the crunch from the wafer, but didn't really find the filling to be satisfying, and it was the dominant component.  It was just sweet, kinda like solid frosting.

This wasn't awful, but I didn't think it was particularly good.  Ojan enjoyed it however.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Sambazon Smoothies

You may recall me mentioning that for health related reasons I was on a liquids-only diet for several months a few years ago, and it left me pretty much never wanting another smoothie in my life.

So why am I reviewing smoothies today?  Well, sometimes, I get to try products, just because I write this blog.  Sambazon sent me coupons to try their smoothies, and I couldn't just let them go to waste, could I?

I also decided to share the wealth, and brought a large assortment of flavors to a brunch a friend hosted.  It was fun sampling them with all the participants at the brunch, and I gave out coupons for more to anyone who liked them.  My mom came to visit when my fridge was filled with these, so I also had a sampling party with her and Ojan, although their reviews were far from stellar.

Anyway, I tried products from Sambozon's entire smoothie product line, starting from their basic açaí juice, through their protein and energy enhanced ones.  I really did not like most of them, but did find one flavor that I did quite enjoy, and found very, very satisfying after a workout.  I probably wouldn't go buy more now that I've run out of coupons, but it was fun to try something new.  Sambazon also does make açaí powder and sorbet, but I didn't try either of those products.


The base of all of Sambazon's products is their açaí, so I started with the basic açaí drinks, available in original, or with Blueberry and Pomegranate added.
The Original.
"Our Original Amazon superfood juice has a delicious cocoa-berry flavor that’s bursting with powerful antioxidants and healthy omegas".

This is basically just sweetened açaí juice, with 1 gram protein, 28 grams sugar.  It was sweet.  A bit fruity.  And just totally not my thing.  Perhaps açaí isn't for everyone?

My mother and Ojan also did not like this.
Açaí with Blueberry + Pomegranate.
"Açaí berries, blueberry and pomegranate combine forces to bring you the ultimate antioxidant juice experience."

Next I moved on to one enhanced with blueberry + pomegranate.

It really just tasted like mixed fruit juice.  I didn't taste açaí distinctly, just lots of assorted fruit.  Apple and grape juice are listed in the ingredients before the promised blueberry or pomegranate, and I they really just made it taste like generic fruit juice.

So, not as bad as the original, but, no real reason to drink this.


Next I moved on to the protein enhanced drinks, still with an açaí base, but mixed with soy milk for protein, available in chocolate and vanilla.

Chocolate + Almond + Coconut Milk.
"Delicious blend of açaí berries (over 90 in there!) with chocolate, coconut milk and a hint of almond".

I really didn't like this one.  It was kinda gritty (from the almonds?) and the coconut flavor was too strong.  I like coconut, so it wasn't that, but for some reason the coconut cream was just cloying.  It did have 8 grams of protein from the soy milk, but also 22 grams of sugar, so I couldn't really force myself to drink it based on health reasons alone.  It was also very thick, which should be good, like a milkshake, but just seemed strange in this form.  It also just had a slight funk to it, that I can't really explain.

Chocolate, coconuts, and almonds sound like they should combine together well (Hello, Mounds Bar!), but here it just didn't work.  My least favorite of anything I tried.
Açaí + Vanilla.
"Delicious blend of açaí berries (over 100 in there!) with vanilla soymilk and hemp protein".

I'm starting to disagree with their whole "delicious blend" marketing.  I did not like this.  It was crazy sweet, 22 grams sugar to the 8 grams protein provided by the soymilk.  Maybe I don't like açaí?  I dunno.  It was thick and a strange texture, too sweet, and I didn't taste any vanilla.  I was hoping for something resembling a vanilla milkshake and this was sadly not it.

Ojan and my mother thought this was the best flavor they tried.  Ojan still didn't want more than two sips, but my mother took at least three (sips that is).


Next up, enhancing things further, is the energy line, with yerba mate added, along with the classic açaí base and soy milk.  Available in the mocha flavor I tried, but also in one with guarana, that I was never able to find, no matter how many different stores I checked.
Mocha Java: Açaí + Chocolate + Fair Trade Coffee.
"A powerful blend of chocolate soy milk, yerba mate, and fair trade coffee".

This was one of my favorites, and everyone at the brunch agreed.  The thick consistency reminded us of a milk shake, and was best when super cold.  The chocolate flavor overpowered the coffee, so I did taste more chocolate than "mocha", but the flavor was good.

This product lives up to its "Energy" name, with 80mg caffeine per bottle, as someone who doesn't drink much regular coffee, it provided me quite the jolt.  The caffeine comes from both the coffee and added yerba mate.  There is also the signature açaí juice in here, but I didn't really taste it as there were enough other ingredients to mask it.

Since I liked this so much at the brunch, I picked up this flavor a few more times.  I found it to work really well for post-workout recovery, helping me ride out that crash post-workout high, providing me some needed protein, sugar, and energy.  Each bottle has 7g protein, which isn't a ton but isn't bad, although it also contains 22g sugar.

I'd continue to get this flavor, and it turned out to be the only one I'd regularly purchase.

Blended Breakfast

You'd think that they couldn't add many more things to basic açaí juice, but, they can.  The final line is "blended breakfast", which mixes in grains and seeds, along with the açaí and soy milk.

[ No photo ]
Blended Breakfast: Strawberry + banana + chia + ancient grains.

"A delicious blend made from whole fruit, ancient grains, chia and non-gmo verified soy milk"

This was a strange one.  It reminded me of a liquid peanut butter and jelly, even though there is no peanut butter.  And, it turns out, liquid pb&j isn't actually a good thing.

Thick and gritty from the grains (quinoa and amaranth), and little bits of strawberry and banana, it was one of my least favorites, but the flavor was intriguing, so I did keep going back for more.  But I certainly wouldn't get another.


And finally, supergreens.  Only available in a single flavor.
Kale + Ginger.
Mostly a mix of juices, with apple, grape, ginger, and acerola juice, plus banana and mango purees, and of course, the supergreens: wheat grass, barley grass, alfalfa, spirulina, chlorella, and kale.

I didn't like this at all.  But then again, I'm just not in to juicing.  I tried it just to fully experience the entire product line Sambazon has to offer.

The consistency was strange.  The purees made it thick.  It was sweet and bitter at the same time.  The ginger was way too strong.  I absolutely did not like this.  I don't care how good for me it was!

Ojan and my mother both tried this, took a single sip, and got some priceless expressions on their faces.  My mother pondered if it was the last thing left on the planet to drink, if she'd really bring herself drink it.  Do you wonder where I get my dramatic side from?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mr. Holmes Bakehouse @ Coffee Cultures

Last week, I reviewed Epicenter Cafe, specifically to discuss the tasty scones from Sandbox Bakery.  This week, it is time to visit another cafe, Coffee Cultures, again to focus on the baked goods.  They are open only M-F, so I haven't had many opportunities to visit.

I did actually try the coffee (Counter Culture Coffee), and it was fine, but, you know me, I'm all about baked goods.

Coffee Cultures is unique in that they have a very curated set of baked goods from a variety of suppliers, rather than picking just one provider for all their items.  And, as you can probably imagine given this fact, they don't use City Baking, like seemingly everywhere else (like Prima Cafe, and many others).  Don't worry, a full review of all of City Baking's products will be coming soon.

But back to Coffee Cultures.  The baked goods all look amazing.  The croissants (plain, almond, chocolate, or ham and cheese) come from the famous Patisserie Philippe.  The cookies, from my favorite cookie place in the city: Anthony's Cookies.  And the muffins, which I was there to try, from Mr. Holmes Bakehouse.  This was my first time tasting goods from Mr. Holmes, and I assure you, it won't be my last!

I didn't try it, but they also serve Straus froyo.
Mr. Holmes Bakehouse Blueberry White Chocolate Muffin.  $3.50.
The first item I tried was a blueberry white chocolate muffin.

It sounded amazing.  Blueberry muffins are always decent, but then add in white chocolate to sweeten it up?  And, it looked to have a streusel topping?  Yes!

My first reaction upon tasting it was that it was more of a coffee cake than a muffin.  The streusel topping really pushed it in that direction.  But, it wasn't dry like a coffee cake.  It was more like a moist blueberry coffee cake.  Loaded up with really plump, juicy, flavorful berries. There were a few white chocolate chips, but they didn't sweeten it up quite as much as I hoped.

The whole hybrid coffee cake-muffin style did work for me, but it was a bit burnt on the edges.  If it wasn't burnt, I would have been pretty happy with it.

I shared my muffin with Ojan, who loves blueberry muffins, and his first comment was basically identical to mine, "this is half coffee cake, half muffin".  We both liked it, but wished it was slightly better than it was.

$3.50 was a bit pricey for a muffin, and the baked goods did not have prices listed at the cafe, which is a bit lame.
Mr. Holmes Bakehouse Gluten Free Raspberry Muffin.  $3.50.
On my next visit, I was again drawn to the pastry case.  Everything looked phenomenal, and, the selection was largely different from what was there last time.  I almost went for the ham and cheese croissant, or the almond croissant, from Patisserie Philippe.  They looked marvelous.

But, when the person behind the counter asked, "do you have any questions?"  I blurted out, "yes, which is the best?"  Without hesitation, he pointed at the Gluten Free Raspberry Muffin.  I wasn't even considering that one.  But if he said it was the best ...

It was a good muffin.  Dense, but not in a bad way.  Incredibly moist.  Unlike my previous muffin, it was perfectly cooked, no burnt edges.  It was loaded with raspberries, which added pops of even more moisture to the inside.  And to cap it all off, it was sprinkled with large chunks of sugar for a bit of extra crunch and sweetness.  It was very good, and I'd certainly never guess it was gluten free.  I also appreciated that although it was sweet, it was clearly a muffin, not a cake.

But ... I wouldn't get another.  Why?  You see, I hate seeds.  Remember last week's review of the blackberry scone?  I grew up with blackberry bushes in my yard, and my grandmother would make blackberry pies all summer long.  I'm sure they were great, except I never wanted anything to do with them, as I just can't stand the seeds.  They ruin anything for me.  And, although raspberries don't normally have seeds that bother me much, this did have more seeds than I could stand.

I had such a love-hate relationship with this muffin, as it really was good, but with every bite, I'd have a moment of joy, followed by the realization that there was a seed in between my teeth, which would ruin everything.  And then I'd see the sugary top staring back at me, and dig right back in.  Rinse and repeat.  So much potential, but alas, my own serious hatred of seeds will prevent me from getting another of these.

Again, $3.50 felt a bit pricey for a muffin, but Coffee Cultures selects products from fantastic bakers, and you are paying not only for the baked good itself, but also for that curation.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fearless Coffee

In my review of Red Dog Restaurant last week, I mentioned that the coffee I enjoyed came from their neighboring cafe, Fearless Coffee.

Fearless is the final installment in Chef Lauren Kiino's trio of establishments in the neighborhood.  Il Cane Rosso is the original, a fast-casual restaurant in the Ferry Building serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, which I reviewed a few weeks ago.  As I mentioned last week, Red Dog is a full service restaurant, open for lunch and dinner daily, and brunch on weekends.  Fearless is the most casual of them all, a coffee shop, open daily for breakfast and lunch.  Located next to Red Dog, but in a separate space, and with a totally different decor.

The fact that Fearless and Red Dog are actually open on weekends is their first selling point.  The neighborhood has seen rapid expansion, of housing particularly, yet the coffee shop and restaurant scene has really lagged behind.  As a resident of the neighborhood, I am thrilled to have more options available on a weekend, and casual ones at that.

The food philosophy at Fearless is the same as Chef Kiino's other establishments, with a focus on local, organic, fresh, seasonal cuisine.  At Fearless, there is an emphasis on grab-n-go items, as it is designed to be a quick option for office workers nearby, which makes sense, given the location inside an office park.  These items are available in coolers for self-service, and a few other things can be ordered at the registers.  They also have a small marketplace of assorted packaged goods from local vendors, including my favorite coconut chips (Dang!, which I just realized I have never reviewed.  I'll have to fix that soon!).

The breakfast menu includes a few breakfast sandwiches, a healthy quinoa bowl, and a couple items also featured at Il Cane Rosso or Red Dog, like their cinnamon toast or a yogurt parfait with housemade granola and fruit.  A few pastries round out the offerings, including a savory sausage roll, several types of muffins (strawberry-streusel, bluebery-meyer lemon, and banana pecan), and coffee cake (the muffins and coffee cake are available for brunch at Red Dog too).  For lunch, the menu is soups, salads, and sandwiches (hot or cold), which sounds similar to Il Cane Rosso, but the selection is much, much larger, but (gasp!), Fearless does not have the signature warm egg salad.  The most exciting part of the menu, for me at least, is the dessert selection, since, as you may recall, I was saddened by the fact that Il Cane Rosso has only a single cookie available.

On all my visits, service was friendly.  And they had samples of baked goods at the register, which is always a bonus for me, as I love trying everything.  I took my items to go, but they did have a few tables inside and out, along with plenty of seats around the fountains in the office park.
Decaf Iced Americano.  $2.25.
Since I was at a coffee shop, I had try the coffee, even if I was mostly eying the dessert.  It was a hot day, so I went for iced.  If I were a regular coffee drinker, they have special cold brew, but since I wanted decaf, an iced americano was my only option.

It was delicious.  I added just a hint of milk and sugar since I tend to like my iced coffee that way, but it didn't need it.  No decaf funk to it at all.  I can't wait to try the hot coffee next time.

$2.25 was a standard price for a quality americano, and I'd gladly get another.
Banana Pudding.  $4.
But I was there for the sweet treats.  You know I love desserts, and in particular, puddings.  After all, my blog has a label just for my reviews of puddings.
I was delighted to see that Fearless offers several pudding-style desserts, including a very tempting chocolate pudding with espresso whipped cream and a panna cotta, but I went for the banana pudding.

Pudding cups are a great idea for Fearless, since they focus on grab-n-go items, and this was easy to take with me.  Plus, homemade pudding is so much better than grocery store pudding, and most restaurants do not serve pudding, as it isn't upscale enough.  So, it is both convenient and fairly unique.
Top View.
The pudding cup was a layered creation.  The bottom layer was banana pudding, next came a few slices of banana, followed by whipped cream, and then, a crumble top.  It was like a banana cream pie, turned into a pudding cup.  Yes!

The pudding itself was thick and fairly creamy, although the consistency was a bit strange, it was almost gritty.  It wasn't just plain vanilla pudding though, it did have some banana flavor.

The slices of banana were just that, simple banana slices, but fresh, and not turning brown or anything.  My cup didn't have many though.

Next came the whipped cream, which sorta reminded me of Coolwhip.  I think that perhaps because it wasn't freshly applied, it deflated a bit?

And finally, the crumble top.  I'm not entirely sure what it was, it seemed perhaps like a crumbled oatmeal cookie?  I was going to say it was granola, since it had oats for sure, but, it was more sweet and buttery than granola usually is.  The crumble on top was my favorite part, I always enjoy a bit of crunch with my creamy desserts.

I loved the idea of this dessert, since I love puddings, and I love banana cream pie.  It didn't quite come together for me though.  The biggest issue was the ratios: the majority of the cup was the banana pudding, and I really wanted more whipped cream for that amount of pudding.  Just adding more whipped cream probably wouldn't work well though, because when eating out of a cup like this, if the whipped cream layer was thicker, then you'd get many spoonfuls of just the whipped cream.  So, maybe it would be better with multiple, thinner layers, parfait style?   I also would have liked more banana slices.

When I got a perfect bite of all the layers, I really quite enjoyed it, but, I was left with lots of extra pudding at the end.  Of course I devoured that too, but, I probably wouldn't pick this dessert again.

$4 was a fine price for the size of the dessert.  I'm very excited to see what else they add to the dessert menu!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Travelin' Tuesdays: London!

For the past few months, I've spent Tuesdays reviewing all the places I visited during my business trip in Tokyo, including my insane First Class Cathay Pacific Flight, 8 Michelin stars, and some indescribable experiences, like the Robot Restaurant.  You can read all about those adventures, and more, in my Travelin' Tuesdays: Tokyo series.

Now, it is time to travel again, on another business trip.  The trip was actually to Zurich, for a conference, and I (gasp!) decided to spend the time engaged with my co-workers, and not take dining notes.  Sorry!

To get to Zurich, we went by way of Mallorca, (which actually did make sense, I promise!), where we enjoyed a few days of sunshine, cocktails, and of course some Michelin star dining.  You can read all about those good times in my already published Mallorca Mondays series.

On our return journey, we went via London, since we were flying on British Airways and Heathrow is their home base.  We have an office there, so we opted to make a quick stop, rather than just breeze through.

After a few days off from blogging in Zurich, I was in full reviewing mode, so you'll get to read all about my time in London, starting with the breakfast in the executive lounge at my hotel, The Park Plaza.  I had only two meals in London, so I made them count, netting two more Michelin stars at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (I just HAD to compare to the Tokyo L'Atelier, right?), and seeking out indian food at Cafe Spice Nameste, since good indian cuisine is hard to come by in SF.  And of course, I'll review the airline lounges, including the Galleries Business Class Lounge, the Galleries First Class Lounge, and ... the Concorde room on my way out of town.  I'll conclude with the First Class flight back.

Stay tuned, starting next Tuesday!  London, here we come :)