Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Waffling Leftovers: Ravioli in Parmesan Cream Sauce

Today's waffling leftovers adventure was inspired by my past successes with pasta dishes, like lasagna, cheesy pasta, tuna noodle casserole, and of course, mac and cheese.

Unfortunately, this story doesn't end quite as well, mostly (entirely?), my fault.
Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Parmesan Cheese Sauce Transformation.
This "transformation" took some beautiful pasta and yielded a burnt mess.  Oops.

Leftover ravioli in parmesan cream sauce: Will it Waffle?  Noooooo.

Cream sauce does not waffle.  It just burns.  And smokes.  And makes a mess.  The ravioli itself probably would be fine ...
The Original: Wild Mushroom Ravioli in Parmesan Cream Sauce.
The original dish was wild mushroom stuffed ravioli, cooked in an absolutely incredible parmesan cream sauce, loaded with leek, onions, and sage, in addition to the cream and cheese of course.

The pasta was good, and the sauce, just, incredible.  I wanted to coat anything and everything in in, and wished I had a loaf of bread just to dunk in it.
Leftover Parmesan Cream Sauce (with wild mushroom ravioli hiding ...).
I saved all the leftovers, and in particular, all the sauce that somehow others didn't claim.   Who just fishes out the ravioli from that decadence?

I had some of the leftovers just heated up on the stovetop, and it was fine.  I had some cold, because, well, I like cold leftover pasta.  It was better that way than re-heated.  I used a bunch of the extra sauce to make creamed spinach (ok, that was amazing).

But I also had something else in mind ...
Into the Waffle Iron.
I took a single patty, and stuck it into the waffle iron, 350 degrees.  I'm glad I started with only one.

The waffle iron immediately started to smoke, dramatically.  I rarely have that happen.  This didn't bode well.

It was then that I thought about the fact that I had not bothered to scrape off the sauce, and that was likely just running out and burning off.  I knew better.
Waffled Leftover Ravioli Burnt Mess.
When I opened the lid to examine the situation, well, what can I say.  I had a bit of a mess on my hands.  A very burnt mess.

It tasted, well, burnt.
Waffled Leftover Ravioli: Other side.
The top side was better, since the cream sauce ran off into the bottom grill, so I got a sense of what this could be like, but, it would only work with unsauced ravioli to start, and then I think it actually would be great, super crispy.

Next time.  I know better.
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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Cypress Lounge Breakfast Buffet, Westin Bellevue

Another day, another hotel breakfast buffet.

This one?  Highly mediocre, one of the worst I've had this year.  Skip it.

Setting

Cypress "lounge" is a very casual restaurant.

There is no host stand, you seat yourself.
Seating.
Tables are basic wooden tables, salt and pepper, sweetener on the table, cloth napkins, basic silverware.

Food & Drink

I'll sum this one up easily.  This is not a very good buffet.
Menu
The menu is a full page, but, looks are deceiving.

The menu has exactly two options: a cold buffet for $17 or a full hot breakfast for $23.  Each includes basic coffee, water, juice, but the rest of the menu is dedicated to "elevating your coffee", but upgrading to espresso beverages, or adding on cocktails.

Cold Creations - $17.

Enjoy a selection of cold items including endless fresh fruit, seasonal berries,charcuterie, savory cheeses, smoked salmon, breakfast breads & pastries. Includes Westin Fresh by the Juicery & coffee or tea.
The cold continental buffet is included with the full buffet, and honestly, was better than the full buffet. 
Coffee.
Coffee is ordered from your server when you sit.

It is Starbucks brand, but really not very good.  Very harsh, very acidic.  I think it had been brewed far in advance. At least I was given a carafe full at my table to refill my cup as I wished, however, I didn't wish for more of this.

Sweeteners are provided on the table.

I opted for a decaf after this, and it was an americano basically, made from a robot machine.  Much, much better.
Fruit, Cereal, Milk.
First up was the least healthy selection of cereal I've seen in a long time, Kellogg's brand individual boxes.  Almost all sugar cereals!  Frosted Flakes, Apple Jacks, Frosted Mini Wheats ... ok, ok, they had Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes, and Special K Red Berries as well.

Milk (regular, soy, skim) was on the side, plus whole fruit (apples, bananas), granola bars, and granola.

I skipped this section.

[ No Photo ]
Yogurt, Cheese, Smoked Salmon

Next came some basic individual pots of yogurt, smoked salmon with traditional accompaniments, a couple cheeses, and hard boiled eggs.

I tried the cheese curds, and they were decent.
Fruit & Pastries.
Next up is the "Assorted seasonal fruit": blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, cut melons, and pineapple chunks.  The berries really were shockingly good.

On top was some very lackluster baked goods.

Slices of basic white and wheat bread.  Plain bagels only.  Soft looking croissants.  A couple fruit danishes that looked visibly stale.  Little cranberry muffins that looked sticky on top.  Blueberry muffins that were larger but looked no better.

Since I love baked goods, I couldn't resist trying a few at least, although, wow, they looked bad.

And they were basically as they looked.  The blueberry muffin had some nice big berries in it, but it was soggy overall and had no real flavor.

They *did* have a pecan danish that I've seen at other properties before and enjoyed (like at the Element Seaport in Boston), and this was no different.  It certainly wasn't a fresh nice pastry by any means, but, the filling is sorta like a maple-y pecan pie, gooey with bits of nuts, and I enjoyed the flavor of it.  The pastry isn't light, flaky, or buttery, but its a bit crunchy, and ok-ish.
Toasters, Butter, Jams.
To jazz up your bread/bagel were basic toasters, butter (no margarine), assorted Dickinson's jams, Smucker's peanut butter, and maple syrup (for the upcoming pancakes).

Full Breakfast Buffet. $23.

Enjoy our cook-to-order omelet station, eggs prepared your favorite way and endless fresh fruit, seasonal berries, charcuterie, breakfast meats,savory cheeses, smoked salmon, breakfast breads & pastries. Includes Westin Fresh by the Juicery &  coffee or tea.
For  $6 more, you can upgrade to the full hot breakfast buffet.  Save your money, unless you really like eggs.

The hot breakfast includes very basic buffet style hot foods, plus an egg station.
Pancakes, Chicken Sausage.
First up, the single hot carb: pancakes, and chicken sausage.
Buttermilk Pancake.
This was everything you expect from a horrible buffet pancake.

Thin.  Soggy.  Flavorless.

Why did I bother try it?  Well, because I was at the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles the week before, and they had shockingly good pancakes in the breakfast buffet (stay tuned for that review!).  Plus, I thought some real syrup could save it?

It didn't.  It was not good at all.
Pork Sausage, Bacon.
Two more breakfast meat options came next, pork sausage and bacon.
Breakfast Potatoes, Toppings.
The final option is breakfast potatoes, followed by a standard condiment section of ketchup and hot sauces.
Breakfast Potatoes.
I also tried the breakfast potatoes, again because the Westin Bonaventure had shocked me with their insanely good hash browns.

But these were awful.

Cold, soggy, overcooked cubes of potato.  Some seasoning I couldn't identify.  Maple syrup didn't save these either.
Oatmeal.
The final element was oatmeal, with brown sugar, walnuts, and raisins available to mix in.
Egg Station.
The egg station is the big attraction, although there is not a chef posted there, and you order from your seat from the server.
Egg Order Form.
The egg order form is actually a nice idea, it allows you to specify exactly what you want, survey the options, etc.

But I don't really like eggs.
Custom Veggie & Cheese Soft Scramble.
I still ordered eggs one morning, because, well, there was just nothing else I wanted.

I went for whole eggs, soft scrambled, with swiss cheese, onions, peppers, spinach, basil, mushrooms.

The eggs were pretty basic, I believe not really whole eggs, but rather, that scrambled egg/omelet mix places use.  The mushrooms were slimy canned variety.  Everything else was standard.

The only thing I really liked was the flavorful swiss cheese, which I was able to extract because it didn't really melt in.  A feature for me, but, not likely what they were going for.

This lacked all seasoning, but salt and pepper were available at my table.
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Monday, January 15, 2018

Desserts from The Cheesecake Factory

I probably don't need to write an intro the The Cheesecake Factory.

The quick background though, it is not, in fact, just a cheesecake producer.  It is a restaurant chain, started in 1978, with several hundred locations.  And they do everything ... big.

No matter what your thoughts are on The Cheesecake Factory, there are some things about it that do impress me.   In some ways, I feel like it is the perfect place to send visitors to the US to, as it matches just about every stereotype imaginable.  Its also a good place to go with a group that has just way too many preferences, as they serve any type of cuisine you could possibly want.

The menu has 250 items on it.  That is ... insane.   There are small plates, appetizers, flatbreads, pizza, burgers, sandwiches, chicken entrees, meatloaf, tacos, burritos, pasta, seafood entrees, steaks, chops, sides, and of course, desserts.  Seriously, everything.  And they run the gamut of every cuisine imaginable, from Italian, to Thai, to Chinese, to Mexican.  They serve brunch, lunch, dinner, and dessert.  There are some healthy options (kale salad!) and many ridiculously unhealthy, and, um, I'm not just talking about the cheesecake.  The Cheesecake Factory regularly "wins" for most extreme calorific content in dishes.  More than 100 menu items are over 1500 calories.  Some go over 2000.  Yes, in a single portion.   Even the chicken caesar salad has 1,450 calories!  (yes, you read that correctly).

And, well, the place is really popular.  On the rare occasions when I peek into a Cheesecake Factory, there is always a wait.  And the restaurants tend to be huge themselves.  Something about the place appeals to people.

And I kinda understand it.  I remember the first time I went to a Cheesecake Factory very vividly.  I was a teenager.  It was in Boston, the first city I ever visited.  My cousin from California was visiting us, and she wanted to go there.  It was a big deal to be in Boston in the first place, and, no one else in my family had heard of the Cheesecake Factory.  We were also entirely unfamiliar with so many of the cuisines served.  We didn't know what many items were.  But my cousin educated us, and helped us order.

We got the Thai lettuce wraps on that visit, an appetizer (that could easily be a meal, for multiple people).  I remember it because it was so different from anything I had ever had before.  A DIY-style dish, where you were provided with leaves of lettuce, bean sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, strips of chicken, curry noodles, and 3 dipping sauces.  The sauces were Thai-style, one peanut, one sweet red chili, and one other.  She showed us how to make our wraps, and eat with our hands.  I thought it was fun, but, the most vivid part of the memory is the sauces.  There was so much flavor!  Peanut sauce!  Sweet chili sauce!  Where had these been my entire life!

Since then, I've returned a few times over the years, usually for big group birthday parties, or, while at a mall.  I've gotten the wraps, and enjoyed them.  I remember trying a few other dishes, chicken, pasta, and more, and thinking it really was fine.  But, the last time I had food at the Cheesecake Factory was at least 10 years ago.

Until this past year, when I started exploring just the desserts.

Restaurant Delivery

Every Cheesecake Factory also has a very large area devoted to takeout desserts, with all 30 or so cheesecakes on display, plus the other cakes and whatnot.  I think most people can't ever actually order dessert after such ridiculous portion sizes for meals, but feel they "need" to get the cheesecake since they are there, and thus, you get it to go.

Or, you just go to pick up cheesecake, which I've had friends do several times.  I never took any photos or notes during these times though, when they showed up at parties with Cheesecake Factory cheesecake.  I do remember always being excited, the slices look incredible (also, huge), the flavors are ridiculous, but, I don't think I was ever impressed.

So, why would I get cheesecake from there?  Well, they were doing a free delivery promotion, and you know how much I like to use freebies as a good excuse to try something I wouldn't normally do.
Red Velvet.
"Moist layers of Red Velvet Cake and our Original Cheesecake covered with our special Cheesecake Factory cream cheese frosting."

I ordered the amazing sounding carrot cake.  I got red velvet instead.  It was warm.  Warm cheesecake is not appealing.  It clearly suffered getting to me via the delivery service.

But I still tried it.

It was ... well, kinda rich cheesecake and fairly generic red velvet cake, thick layers of each, topped with mushy cream cheese frosting.  Generic whipped cream on the side.

Any single layer of this was a full dessert on its own, combined sky high like this, it was just a massive undertaking.

It is hard to evaluate though as the warmth and resulting texture were just too off putting.

So I put it in the fridge overnight and tried it the next day.  Now, it was at least the proper serving temperature.

But it still was just nothing special.  The cheesecake was mediocre.  Creamy, smooth, but not particularly flavorful.  The cake wasn't too dry, but it also didn't have much going on.  The best parts were the cream cheese icing (a delightfully thick layer) and the white chocolate shavings on the back.

Maybe other flavors are better, but, this about matches my memories.

Wholesale - The Cheesecake Factory Bakery

A lesser known fact is that the Cheesecake Factory also operates a wholesale bakery, The Cheesecake Factory Bakery.  They sell cheesecakes, but, also layer cakes and cupcakes.

Shockingly good cupcakes.  This inspires me to try some of the non-cheesecake desserts at the restaurants.
Blackout Cupcake.
"The ultimate chocolate experience in a cupcake! Decadent chocolate pudding cake with a hint of chocolate liqueur, topped with sinful layers of chocolate frosting and dark chocolate curls."

This was a shockingly good cupcake.

The cake was crazy moist, crazy rich, some of the best chocolate cake I've ever had.  The frosting was light and fluffy, sweet, and totally delicious.  I loved the dark chocolate curls on top.

This was just a winner, all around.  Incredible for a frozen product.
Blackout Cake Bite.
"Dark chocolate cake topped with chocolate cream cheese icing."

They also make cupcakes in mini size, known as "Cake Bites".

The look was slightly different from the full size Blackout, the frosting darker.  But it was equally delicious.

The chocolate cake was moist, great chocolate flavor.  The frosting, a thicker style, was rich and fudge-y, with the fascinating cream cheese undertone.  I loved the dark chocolate curls.

Again, another shockingly good cupcake.
Vanilla Bean Cake Bite.
"Moist vanilla cake topped with vanilla bean cream cheese icing."

Much like the chocolate version, the vanilla bean one doesn't just have vanilla frosting on top, but rather, vanilla bean cream cheese icing.  Infusing the whole cheesecake thing into the cupcakes even.

The frosting was sweet, fluffy, and did have vanilla bean flavor to it.  The cake was decently moist, and had a lovely buttery sweet flavor to it.

Overall, a solid little cupcake.
Red Velvet Cake Bite.

"Moist traditional red velvet cake topped with rich cream cheese icing."

This was my least favorite of the cupcakes, although I know red velvet is often a crowd pleaser.

The cake was moist and fine, but, boring red velvet cake.  The frosting, also fine, thick, rich, cream cheesy, but, fairly boring.

This was a fine cupcake, but, compared to the extra special touches of the Blackout and the vanilla bean (e.g. crazy good chocolate frosting, surprising vanilla bean cream cheese frosting), this one was just a bit pedestrian.

The full size red velvet cupcake comes garnished with dark chocolate curls, but the mini goes for white chocolate curls instead, I'm not sure why.
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Friday, January 12, 2018

Joe & Seph's Popcorn

Joe & Seph's is a gourmet popcorn manufacturer in the UK.  I discovered their products on my first trip to London a few years ago, and I'm always eager to try their new flavors, as, well, the range is extensive.

For example, consider cheesy popcorn.  They don't just make cheddar cheese popcorn ... no, they have blue cheese with walnut & celery. Or goat cheese & black pepper.  Or Olive oil, mozzarella, & tomato.  Or camembert. The list goes on.

But the cheesy popcorns are nothing compared to other options in the savory range, as it includes options like madras curry, black onion seed & lime.  Or Thai style peanut satay.  

And then there are the sweet options, which go far beyond the standard caramel corn (which, of course, they do have too).  But you can also get that caramel corn with mirin, soya, & sesame.  Or with coconut & cinnamon.

Or you can go fruity, opting for toffee apple & cinnamon.  Or lemon poppyseed.  Or orange marmalade.  Or how about orange chocolate?  Or strawberries & cream ... yes, in a popcorn.  

Want something more dessert like?  How about strawberry cheesecake?  White chocolate & raspberry?  Gingerbread?  Gingerbread latte?  Mince pie?

Nutty?  Yup, maple syrup & roasted pecan?  Honey roasted sesame? 

The most crazy sounding product line to me is the cocktail collection, with ... gin & tonic (yes, popcorn).  Fruity cosmopolitan. Refreshing mojito.  Zingy margarita.  Brandy butter.  Irish coffee liqueur with white chocolate caramel. Espresso martini.

Chocolate lovers have options.  Nut lovers have options.  Booze lovers have options.  Those who want it caffeinated have options.  Some sound amazing.  Some don't.  I wanted to try them all.

My first encounter with Joe & Seph's was actually on a British Airways flight, and, I think they just had the basic caramel corn.  I remember trying it, and thinking it was fine, but I didn't write a review.

And then, on my next flight, things got more interesting.  The marmite showed up.
Marmine Popcorn.
"We're thrilled to be working with one of Britain's most iconic brands to add another unique flavour to our popcorn range!  Our Marmite Popcorn has been air-popped and generously coated in our smooth caramel and delicious Marmite, for a sweet and salty snack."

I knew this was going to be either something I loved, or hated.  I love sweet and salty combinations though, particularly with popcorn (I often alternate between sweet caramel corn and savory cheesy corn by the handful), so, this had potential.

I'll start with the positive.  The popcorn was large kernels, fresh, all well coated.

I think the caramel layer was decent too, but it is a bit hard to evaluate as ... well, that marmite.  Wow.

Such a strong, strange, strange flavor.  I tried to like it, tried to get past the unfamiliarity, but ... it made me want to gag, nearly every bite.  And that aftertaste ... shutter.  I just couldn't do it.

Well made popcorn, but, clearly not the the flavor for me.
Coconut & Chia Seed Popcorn.
"New for the Summer, our delicious Coconut & Chia seed popcorn is a beautiful blend of smooth caramel, with desiccated coconut and crunchy chia seeds."

The next flavor I tried was equally fascinating.  Not a flavor I would have ever picked as I hate chia seeds, but, it was what British Airways had to offer on the flight.

It wasn't immediately obviously good nor bad.  The popcorn was well coated in caramel, again, nice large kernels.  Sweet.  Crisp. And then it had vague coconut flavor in the background, which actually went nicely with the caramel.

And then the chia seeds.  They ... weren't offensive.  They actually tasted a bit like sesame seeds to me.  They added crunch.  And a bit of nuttiness.

In the end, I think I liked it. 
Read More...

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Häagen-Dazs

Update Review, January 2018

I've reviewed Häagen-Dazs flavors before, so these are just a few updates.
Chocolate Peanut Butter.
"We start with our legendary chocolate ice cream and swirl in ribbons of creamy, smooth peanut butter.  The experience is an irresistible blend of flavors in every delicious mouthful."

Well, this was delicious.  Rich and indulgent.

I'm not normally a huge lover of chocolate based ice cream, but, the peanut butter and chocolate combination is one that is hard to resist.  The ice cream was smooth and creamy, and the chocolate flavor fairly deep and rich.  A very good base.

The peanut butter swirl was excellent.  Very creamy, strong peanut butter flavor, smooth, and, most importantly, it came in very big globs.  

This also melted nicely, and it helped to make it melt a little so the peanut butter also softened.

Overall, very good, and I'd gladly have it again.
Peppermint Bark (Limited Edition).
"Celebrate the season with our rendition of this holiday classic. rich white chocolate ice cream is blended with crunchy chocolaty peppermint bark and peppermint candy pieces."

I didn't know this was white chocolate ice cream until I looked up the description later.  I thought it was a vanilla base.  Which tells you about how, uh, white chocolately it was.

I did like the bits of peppermint bark and peppermint candy though, so I got a scoop.  That said, it had a "fake mint" taste to it that I couldn't quite get past.

Overall, ok, but I wouldn't get again.

[ No Photo ]
Caramel Cone.

"We balance a creamy blend of caramel ice cream and rich caramel swirls with the sweet crunch of chocolaty cone pieces to create a sweet, harmonious bite."

This sounded far more exciting than it was.  It was just kinda sweet with a few assorted bits of chocolate covered slightly crispy cone chunks.  Better than Americone Dream from Ben & Jerry's because the waffle cone pieces weren't soggy at least?

I should have read my notes from last time, because, well, my opinion didn't change.

[ No Photo ]
Pralines & Cream.

"Ribbons of golden caramel and sweet nutty praline pecans swirled into our signature vanilla ice cream."

 This was very sweet, but about as promised.  Lots of caramel, lots of sweet covered pecans.  Fine, but you certainly needed to want sweet to enjoy it.

Again, I should have read my notes from before, because my opinion is the same.

Original Review, November 2013

As you may have noticed, I like ice cream.  Particularly when it is part of an elaborate sundae.  Or when served alongside warm pie.  Or soft serve, in a cone, with sprinkles.  But for the occasions when the ice cream craving hits and I'm at home, I always have my freezer stocked.  I have some favorite local brands of store bought ice cream from back in New Hampshire, but I haven't really found any here in San Francisco.  So I've been exploring all the widely known "premium" brands, like Ben and Jerry's, Baskin-Robbins, and now, Häagen-Dazs.  I'm not impressed.  This seems as generic as any other store brand ...
  • Caramel Cone: “This creamy blend of caramel ice cream with rich caramel swirls balances the sweet crunch of chocolaty-covered cone pieces for a harmonious bite”. Tasting notes: Decent sweet caramel ice cream, nice crunchy chocolate cone pieces.  Better than the Ben & Jerry's version of something similar.
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough: "Chunks of buttery cookie dough and sweet fudge chips blended with our finest pure vanilla ice cream." Tasting notes: it was loaded up with generous chunks of cookie dough, but they weren't particularly good, and the ice cream wasn't very creamy.  Meh. [ Generous amount and size of chunks of cookie dough, good flavor. ]
  • Praline and Cream: “Ribbons of golden caramel along with sweet and nutty praline pecans swirled into our signature vanilla ice cream.” Tasting notes: super sweet, too much sweet.
  • Salted Caramel Truffle: “Smooth, sweet-cream ice cream, ribbons of rich salted caramel, and decadent chocolaty truffles”. Tasting notes: Not very caramely or salty.  Meh. [ Has little chocolate truffles in it, but not very creamy or interesting. ]
  • Spiced Caramel Biscuit: “Crumbles of sugary, crunchy cinnamon-sparked biscuits blended into velvety caramel ice cream.”  Tasting notes: Biscuit pieces give a nice crunch, but otherwise boring and forgettable.
  • Strawberry Cheesecake: Tasting notes: just sweet, not good.
  • Vanilla: Tasting notes: This was probably my favorite of theirs, which is crazy, because it is so plain.  But it is a decently creamy ice cream with good enough vanilla flavor.  I don't ever want a bowl of it plain, but alongside some pie, or topped with berries and whipped cream, it can hit the spot!
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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Waffling Leftovers: Asparagus

This one feels almost too easy.  And boring.

So I'll keep it short.

Leftover steamed asparagus: Will it waffle?  (Wait, what am I talking about? Start here, for my adventures in re-purposing leftovers via my waffle iron)

Of course.  It is just like grilling, but with more contact points.  That is, even better.
The Original: Steamed Asparagus
The original was just simple steamed asparagus, with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Very tasty, fresh, young asparagus.

It was also good cold the next day, chopped up and thrown onto salad.  Or just munched on by the spear.

But of course I had other ideas.
Waffling Leftover Asparagus.
I threw just a few pieces into the waffle iron alongside other items I was waffling.

They grilled up perfectly, just as I expected.

I loved the slight char from where the waffle iron plates touched.  You could let them go for a long time and get super crispy too.

Basically, just grilled asparagus with a few extra contact points, certainly worth the effort if I want it some way other than cold.
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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Main Cabin Dining on Virgin America

Update Reviews, January 2018

These are from all my flights in 2017.  I'm skipping the general review of Virgin America, and just focusing on the items I ordered, since I've reviewed Virgin America many times now (all below).
Granola and Yogurt.
"Blueberry Greek yogurt served with Udi's gluten-free granola and a mixed fresh fruit salad of pineapple, grapes, mango, orange, and strawberry"

My flight was a morning flight, so I went for the single breakfast option: yogurt, granola, and fruit.  The packaging was interesting - the granola and fruit were each in their own individual containers, but then everything was held together in an extra black plastic box.  I’m not really sure why it had such a nice extra box, this seems wasteful, as I don’t think I was expected to mix them together *in* that box, and there must be better ways to hold the three items together that use less packaging.  There was also no way to actually make it into a parfait, so you could alternate between a spoonful of yogurt, and a spoonful of granola, but that was about it.  Slightly awkward packaging.

The yogurt was Chobani blueberry non-fat Greek yogurt, different from what I had several years ago when I got the yogurt/granola/fruit option, but, no better.  Sorta thick and creamy, which was fine, but the flavor was awful.  Sooo sickeningly fake sweet.  I did not like the yogurt at all.
The fruit was fairly decent, a mix of pineapple cubes, mango, grapes, strawberry, and orange.  The distribution wasn’t great though, a single segment of orange and a single chunk of strawberry, and only two grapes.  Mostly pineapple, which was sadly my least favorite element, just very sweet.  The strawberry was watery and disappointing.  The mango however was surprisingly good, ripe, fresh, and better than most mango I have in the US, and certainly better than expected for being on a flight.

Finally, the granola, Udi’s Crunchy Original Granola, just like my previous experience, gluten-free if that matters for you.  I again *really* liked it.  I think I might need to buy this for myself sometime.  Crunchy, sweet, and loaded with fun things like dried banana chips, and bits of nuts (walnuts, pistachios, cashews, and almonds), sweetened with honey.  It isn’t the style of granola I normally go for, as it has no clusters, but, I still liked it a lot.  Negative marks for the hard as a rock raisins though.

Overall, this was a mixed bag, since I couldn’t stay the yogurt.  Dry granola and fruit isn’t very enjoyable on its own, and I wished I had milk or something to at least have it like cereal.  Still, I really do like the granola, and the fruit was far better than expected.
Spanish Veggie Wrap.
"Black bean hummus, grilled zucchini, roasted yukon gold potatoes, romesco sauce, roasted yellow peppers, sliced tomatoes, Manchego cheese, and arugula. Wrapped in a roasted red pepper tortilla and served with a Spanish fruit salad of orange, kiwi, lime zest, strawberry, and olive oil."

Later on in the flight, I went for a lunch item.  My choices, besides the snack boxes, cheese plate, or protein platter, were three sandwiches: PB&J, turkey, or veggie wrap.  So, even though the veggie wrap didn't sound up my alley (hummus, meh!), it seemed the best of the bunch, and it came with (another) fruit salad.

The wrap was ... interesting.  The red pepper wrap itself was pretty awful, totally soggy and mushy.  That part was certainly not successful, and didn't hold up against the moisture of the ingredients inside at all.
Wrap: Inside.
The stuff inside was pretty good though, and I see why they call this a "Spanish Veggie Wrap", as it certainly had lots of "Spanish" flavor and was quite flavorful.  Inside was large cubes of potato, smaller cubes of red tomato and yellow bell peppers, very large slices of zucchini, large shreds of manchego, and a few pieces of arugula, all coated in romesco sauce, with a tiny bit of the hummus against the wrap itself.  The potato was al dente, which I don't think was necessarily intentional, and didn't work great inside the wrap, but, as I pulled it out to be more of a salad was really good, just as I like my potato salad.  Since I'm not a huge fan of bell peppers, the plentiful cubes of yellow peppers weren't very desirable, but the cubes of tomato were fairly fresh tasting.  There were literally three pieces of arugula inside the wrap, so barely noticeable, particularly as they were extremely wilted.  The zucchini was dominating, huge, huge slices, also a bit al dente.  I didn't like the zucchini.  Everything was coated in romesco, which was very flavorful, and the hummus was contained to being attached to the wrap itself, so, very easy to avoid, and honestly, there wasn't much of it.

So, was this successful?  Well no.  The soggy wrap was horrible, the veggies weren't well cooked, and if you actually wanted hummus, this would not have satisfied.  However, I extracted all the potato, tomatoes, and cheese, coated in flavorful romesco, and made a quite tasty potato salad out of it, so i was fairly satisfied with it as a side dish.
Spanish Fruit Salad.
The fruit salad was different from the breakfast yogurt and granola, it still had orange (2 segments this time) and strawberry (still just one chunk), but had a single slice of kiwi instead of mango and pineapple, and was I guess drizzled with olive oil and lime zest?  The strawberry was even worse than the breakfast one, extremely soggy.  The kiwi was a bit hard.  I didn't taste olive oil, but it was clear that it was coated in something.  I did get a touch of lime that was nice.  Overall not good though.
Winter salad.
"Israeli cous cous, roasted acorn squash, arugula, radicchio, and herb roasted chicken breast. Garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds, grape tomatoes, and ricotta salata cheese, and served with a maple-Dijon vinaigrette."

Back when I first started flying with Virgin America, I really liked the salads (like the tuna niçoise on my first flight or roasted pear on the next).   Since then, every time I fly, I look forward to the salads, but alas, they never seem to have any available (besides the soba, which I didn't care for).

I was thrilled when on a recent flight they did finally have a salad, a "winter salad", filled with some ingredients that really appealed (acorn squash! radicchio! pumpkin seeds!).

The salad was a mixed bag.

The radicchio and arugula were not the base, rather, more like a side to a cous cous salad.  I was hoping the cous cous would be more like a crunchy topping, rather than the main attraction.  The greens were rather wilted, but, the concept was good, I like both types and the bitterness worked well.  If only they were crisp.

The cous cous was ... not good.  Large Israeli style pearl cous cous, which I actually like, but ... it was mushy.  So mushy.  I really didn't care for it.  Mixed in with the cous cous was little bits of red pepper, the pumpkin seeds, and ... pine nuts.  Ooph.  Pine nuts were not listed on the menu, and, after suffering pine nut syndrome last year (go read about it, its horrible, really), I've sworn off pine nuts.  They were unavoidable since already mixed in, but, once I realized the cous cous wasn't good anyway, made it easy for me to decide to skip entirely.  Instead, I picked out the pumpkin seeds, and happily added them to my arugula and radicchio salad, appreciating the crunch.

The acorn squash was also disappointing.  The skin was bitter, the squash stringy.  Not well prepared.  This was particularly sad, since I really like acorn squash.  The portion was one half moon.

Also in the mix was segments of date, which I really liked.  They were sweet and soft, and a nice compliment with the pumpkin seeds.  The ricotta salata was a good choice, shredded and on top, although, there really wasn't much of it.

The chicken I gave to my companion, since I don't like chicken.

Finally, the dressing, really quite tasty.  Maple-dijion vinaigrette, very flavorful, sweet, a nice compliment to the biter greens.  I saved the extra and happily used it on salad at home the next day.

So overall ... very mixed.  If better executed, it would be amazing, the concept was all right.  And I did like the small side salad I cobbled together, but, the cous cous was just so mushy it did pretty much ruin it.

Update Review, January 2017

Another day, another flight on Virgin America.  Start with my many previous reviews (below) of Main Cabin or First Class for more background.

I was flying Main Cabin Select, which meant I had "free" food and drinks.  Unfortunately, I honestly do not like a single snack they have on-board.  I love snack foods, so this is surprising, but really, they just have nothing I ever want.

The meals used to fare much better, and I still fondly remember the salads I had the first few times I flew with Virgin America in Main Cabin Select.  But I haven't seen a salad on the on-board menu in years, despite them always being listed on the website.
Mediterranean Veggie Wrap with Cannellini Bean Salad.
"Salad of lemon pesto bulgur wheat, hummus, grilled eggplant, caramelized onions, Persian cucumber, baby spinach, feta cheese, and roasted tomatoes, all wrapped in a sundried tomato tortilla. Served with a marinated cannellini bean, red onion, and oregano salad. "

My choices, besides the cheese platter and snack boxes, were a turkey sandwich or a veggie wrap.  I half-heatedly selected the veggie wrap, hoping I could at least dissect it and get a few tasty bites.  I did not expect to like it in any way, since I don't like sandwiches or wraps, I don't like hummus, I don't really like cucumbers, feta, or roasted tomatoes, and that just left bulgur, grilled eggplant, spinach, and caramelized onions.  Oh, and a side salad of beans?  Yeah right, I never like beans.

But, I liked this.  I don't understand it.  I mean, I didn't *love* it, but I enjoyed it far more than I thought possible.

The wrap wasn't mushy or soggy.  Nor was it dried out.  I liked the sundried tomato flavor.  Well, huh.

The filling was also far better than I expected.  I did push aside the cucumbers, feta, and roasted tomatoes after a first bite, but, the bulgar with lemon pesto, the hummus, and the slices of roasted eggplant were really quite tasty.  The spinach was fresh and crispy and the caramelized onions had a good flavor.  There were even plump, juicy, golden raisins in the mix, a strange ingredient, but, I really liked the sweetness.  There really was a lot of flavor and good textures in the wrap, and it was far more fresh tasting than I thought possible.

The only problem with this wrap was the fact that it included avocado cubes, not listed in the menu description.  I'm allergic to avocado.  I'm curious why they didn't include this ingredient in the description, since it seems like it would draw in more people?

Update Review, Summer 2016

Another day, another flight on Virgin America from Boston to San Francisco (or, vice versa).  This is the route I always take to visit my family.  As a Silver member, I got upgraded to Main Cabin Select, so I was able to sample some food for free.

Normally I'm not particularly excited about domestic airline food, as it is all sandwiches and salads, but, I've had some really good salads on Virgin America flights in the past.  Sadly, this was not one of those times.
Ginger Chicken Soba Noodles. $8.50.
"Grilled sliced chicken breast, soba noodles, julienne red bell peppers, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, sliced scallions, edamame soy beans, sliced English cucumbers, cilantro sprig, and ponzu ginger sesame vinaigrette."

Since I didn't want any of the sandwiches, and had good luck with salads in the past, I went for the salad, even though it contained chicken, an ingredient I loathe.

The garnish on it was amusing, a very substantial sprig, er, branch, of parsley extending the entire length of the tray.  Seriously, wat?

The chicken portion was 3 slices of rather scary looking chicken.  Scary in how ... fake it looked.  All white meat, with perfect grill marks that looked painted on.  Really ... fascinating.  I didn't try it.

The soba noodles were really mushy and all stuck together.  And kinda dry.  The veggies were all unremarkable. Shredded carrot, slices of red pepper, chunks of cucumber and mushroom, too much green onion, more parsley.  None of it was very good.

The dressing on the side was a solid mass, thick and gloopy.  It seemed to be oil and lemon?

I really didn't like anything about this salad.  The woman next to me also ordered it, took a few bites of hers, and said, "Wow, this is kinda awful, isn't it?"

Clearly not a winner.  Neither of us really made a dent in our salads, and our flight attendant didn't seem surprised when she came to collect trash and we both tossed them.  I didn't even bother try to get Ojan to try it.  I can't imagine anyone would find this appealing.

Update Review, Summer 2015

I've reviewed the food served on Virgin America several times, so, I'll skip all general intro this time around.  Please go read my other reviews of the Main Cabin dining from December 2013 and December 2012 below if you are interested, or, about my First Class experiences, and then return here for the latest updates.

The following are my reviews from several flights over the summer of 2015, don't worry, I didn't eat all of these on one single domestic flight :)

Sandwiches

Veggie Wrap
"Lemon cilantro tortilla with black rice, farro, edamame bean salad dressed with soy yuzu vinaigrette, roasted slivered almonds, edamame hummus, roasted red peppers, sliced cucumbers, arugula lettuce, and cilantro leaves."

I know, I don't like sandwiches.  I don't like rice.  I don't like edamame.  I don't like hummus.  But ... there really was nothing on the menu I wanted.  They got rid of the salads, which I really did enjoy.

Plus, the description said "soy yuzu vinaigrette", which did sound promising.

I didn't know the wrap would come with a mini fruit cup on the side, but that was the highlight.  A single grape, some fresh enough pineapple, bits of mango, and a single strawberry.  Awesome fruit? Nah, but it was fine, and I particularly appreciated the mango.
Veggie Wrap: Inside!
The wrap however, had nothing redeeming in it for me.  I never tasted any soy, nor yuzu, which was the only part I was looking forward to.

The whole thing was really quite dry.  The tortilla wasn't dried out at least, but the fillings were all just sooo drying.  No creamy sauce, just hummus.  And all the grains.  Dry, dry, dry.

I never should have ordered this, as it clearly wasn't going to be something I liked.  I'll say the good parts: the cucumbers were crispy, the roasted red peppers quite flavorful.  But ugh, not my thing.  I wish they would bring back my salads!  At least it was only half a wrap?
Roast Beef and Cheddar Sandwich
Ojan ordered the roast beef sandwich on his flight a few days prior, and told me he didn't like it (I wasn't with him to steal a bite!), but, alas, I was still hungry after the lackluster wrap.  So, I didn't heed his advice, and ordered it anyway.

I was surprised when it arrived, as it was a full size sandwich, two halves.  I thought that it would be like the veggie wrap and just half a sandwich.  Whoops.  I wasn't THAT hungry.

It didn't come with fruit salad on the side like the wrap, but instead included a small Dean and Deluca chocolate. Even better!
Roast Beef: Inside.
"Ciabatta bread, mesclun mix lettuce, sliced roast beef, mild cheddar cheese, sliced Roma tomato, sauteed pepper medley, balsamic glaze, and lowfat mayonnaise."

Ojan warned me that the sandwich was horrible.  He said the bread was soggy, the meat bad.  I didn't quite agree.

Ok, so the bread wasn't good.  It wasn't soggy exactly, but it surely wasn't good.  "Ciabatta"?  I dunno, it wasn't what I think of as ciabatta.  It certainly didn't taste fresh.

The top piece of bread contained a little bit of the balsamic glaze. It soaked into the bread, so was otherwise lost.  The bottom contained the mayo, a very thin layer, but, I do love mayo.  I mostly discarded the bread, and just scraped the mayo off.

The mesclun mix was fine, the sauteed pepper medley I really didn't like though, but mostly because I don't really like peppers. The roma tomato was rather mealy.

But, the core components, the roast beef and cheddar ... weren't bad.  Sure, the cheddar was just slices of pretty generic yellow cheese.  It didn't exactly have much flavor, so yes, "mild" it was.  But the roast beef was decent enough.  Not fatty, not chewy, just fine.

I did enjoy the roast beef, plus cheese, plus mayo.  Obviously I wouldn't highly recommend this due to the lackluster bread, but the parts that mattered were high enough quality, and if you like peppers, you probably would have found the peppers nice as well.
PB & J Sandwich.
"Sliced wheat bread topped with creamy peanut butter and strawberry jam served with Tasty Brand Fruit Snacks."

The pb & j is likely intended for kids but ... when all the other options don't sound great, what's an adult to do?  Plus, seriously, who doesn't like a pb & j from time to time?

The serving is only a half sandwich, like the veggie wrap.

The bread was very thickly sliced wheat bread.  It was highly unremarkable, except in its thickness.  While there was plenty of both peanut butter and jelly inside, it was really hard for anything to stand up to this quantity of bread.  It was slightly dried out, as you'd expect, but at least it wasn't soggy (although, sometimes, I really do like the soggy nature of a pb&j ...)

The peanut butter was smooth, creamy style, with a good peanut flavor.  Basic peanut butter, but certainly good enough.

The jelly was strawberry jam, not a smooth jelly, but also without any distinct berry bits.  Sweet.  Again, basic, good enough.

The most notable thing about the fillings is that they use two layers of peanut butter, one on each slice of bread, with the jam in the middle.  This helps prevent the bread from getting soggy, and really amps up the pb flavor.  Smart move, Virgin.

Overall, a decent, basic sandwich.  When all else fails, it works.
Chicken Mozzarella with Pesto Sandwich.
"Ciabatta bread, arugula lettuce, basil leaves, sliced fresh mozzarella slices, sliced chicken breast, sliced Roma tomatoes, lemon pesto, and balsamic glaze."

Now, I obviously don't like chicken, but the other components of this sandwich sounded great, so I figured I could just remove the chicken.  A tomato and fresh mozzarella sando with pesto sounded fantastic to me!
Chicken Mozzarella with Pesto Sandwich: Inside.
I was curious how the sandwich was composed, so I opened it up.

The bread was the same ciabatta we saw with the roast beef sandwich.  A bit stale, a bit dry, but also a bit soggy.  Not great.

The top side of the bread had the balsamic glaze soaked in, so, in order to taste balsamic, you had to go for the bread.

The bottom slice had the lemon pesto, really quite flavorful and delicious, and the winning element of the sandwich.  On top of that was the lettuce, basic lettuce, and the sliced roma tomatoes.  The tomatoes were fine, but really there wasn't much tomato.  Since I was intending to remove the chicken, this left a more meager sandwich than I was expecting.  More tomato please!

Speaking of the chicken, it came next, and was slices of deli chicken, rather than a piece of grilled breast like I expected for some reason.  There was tons of it.  Doh.  But at least they were generous with their protein?

Next came the slices of fresh mozzarella.  Decent enough, soft, but not particularly remarkable.  On top was a basil leaf.

Overall, the bread was clearly the worst aspect, and the other fillings good enough.  I really liked the pesto, but I'm really never a sandwich girl.

Boxes

Protein Box.
"This protein-packed meal combines Bumble Bee lemon pepper tuna, La panzanella rosemary crackers, Heritage roasted red pepper hummus, Crunchmaster multi seed crackers, Emerald's natural walnuts & almonds, and Happytimes veggie pals chews."

One one flight, I went for one of the snack boxes, rather than trying more sandwiches.  None of them were REALLY what I wanted, like a couple with boring cheeses (munster? who eats munster?) or featuring hard boiled eggs or sliced turkey.  I went for the "protein box" because I vaguely remembered liking at least the crackers before.
Crunchmaster Multi-Seed Crackers.
The multi-seed crackers were again decent.  Salty, crispy, flavorful.  But I wanted something to dunk them in.  I know that is likely what I was supposed to use the hummus for, but, I don't like hummus and didn't want it.

I could have topped them with tuna, and actually would do that next time, except that I'd bring mayo.  Tuna without mayo just seems ... wrong.

I also really love the La Panzanella rosemary crackers.  A bit of a strange thing for me to like so much because I don't generally get excited about crackers, and I often find rosemary too strong, but, these are strangely addicting, and quite fine on their own (although I'm sure they'd be better with cheese).  The rosemary flavor is not overwhelming, and the crackers are thin and crispy.  I'd gladly eat more of these!

Update Review, December 2013

As I mentioned last Tuesday, I recently did some traveling, and I'll be devoting Tuesdays for the next few weeks to Travelin' Tuesdays!  And what is a big part of travel for me?  The culinary experience (uh, I mean, seeing my friends and family of course!).

Last week, I started the review of my journeys with snacks in the Admiral's Club.  Not extraordinary.  I was eager to get aboard my Virgin America flight.  I was flying Main Cabin Select, which is always such a treat.  Not only do you have the normal Virgin America perks of in-flight wifi, tv, movies, and food ordering at your seat, you get unlimited food and drinks.  And, completely unlike any other domestic airline, this is food you actually would like to eat!  I normally pack myself meals for flights since I know what I bring with me will be far better than anything they have on the plane, but the last time I flew on Virgin America I was so impressed with the tuna niçoise salad that I risked it this time, and decided to go for the airplane food.  I'm so glad I did!

I was again blown away by the freshness and quality of their food.  It makes me wish I could fly Main Cabin Select every time :)  I'll be back on Virgin America for the Christmas holidays, but holiday pricing led me to stick with regular Main Cabin.  As I write this up, I'm slightly regretting that choice!  I again really enjoyed the food, and continue to be very impressed.  Virgin America really sets the standard here.
Udi’s Granola with Fruit and Yogurt.
"Fresh fruit salad of pineapple, mango, and red seedless grapes, served with Udi’s gluten-free granola and fruit yogurt. "

Since my flight left in the morning, I started with the only breakfast selection: the granola, fruit, and yogurt.

The yogurt was Upstate Farms brand, strawberry flavor, nonfat.  It really had no flavor at all.  I would have never known it was supposed to be strawberry.  Not that I like flavored yogurts anyway.  It was basically just generic, runny, sorta sweet yogurt.  The type I stopped eating years ago.  I had a little of this, tried mixing in the fruit and granola, but really didn't care for it.

I was more hopeful for the fruit, since I've had some very good fruit on Virgin America flights in the past.  The first time I ever flew on Virgin America, I ordered the cheese plate, and it came with assorted fresh fruit.  I was blown away by the quality of both the fruit and the cheese then (I've had it again more recently, and I've been less impressed, the cheese selection more mundane, the fruit dried instead of fresh).  But anyway.

The fruit was indeed good.  My bowl contained four chunks of mango, sweet, and ripe.  Really quite good for mango in the United State, and impressive for something pre-cut and served on a plane.  There were also four red grapes, standard.  The majority of the dish was pineapple, which was slightly overripe, but not bad.  It was very juicy.  Overall, I was impressed with my fruit, and quickly gobbled up the whole bowl.

The granola however was my favorite part of the assortment.  I had heard of Udi's before, but I hadn't ever had their granola.  I've been missing out!  It was really flavorful, and contained fun ingredients like banana chips.  Since I didn't like the yogurt, I ended up just munching on the granola alongside my coffee, and I was a happy camper.  I've tried, and reviewed, many granolas over the years, and this was some of the best I've encountered.  I'd gladly seek it out again.

Overall, this was a nice breakfast for the plane, and I'd get it again  I just wish they'd swap out the yogurt.
Arugula and Roasted Pear Salad.
"Crisp romaine and baby arugula salad tossed with red seedless grapes and toasted slivered almonds, topped with pears roasted in fig mustard, and served with olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette, and diced brie cheese on the side."

A few hours later, it was time for lunch.  I looked at the Virgin America website prior to my flight, and had a few meals picked out that I wanted to try.  There was a Vegetable and Plantain Salad that I was really eager to try, as I love plantains.  And there was a Tomato and Mozzarella Sandwich, with sundried tomato and basil pesto on a cornbread baguette!  Or, an interesting set of "Flight Bites", a collection of salads and chocolate mousse!  I wanted them all.  I was a bit torn between what to pick.  But alas, I never had to solve that problem, as none were available.  I even double checked with the flight attendant to make sure all the meals were indeed loading into the system.  He had never heard of either of these choices before, and thought perhaps they were an upcoming menu that hasn't rolled out yet.  Sadness.

Instead, my meal choices were the standard snack boxes (hearty meal, protein meal, jet set kid's pack), the standard unappealing sandwiches (pb&j, veggie wrap, chicken sandwich), or this salad.  Since I was really pleasantly surprised by my tuna salad last time, and I really just didn't want any of the others, at all, I went for the salad.

Like the tuna salad, it far exceeded my expectations.

The greens were a mix of romaine and baby arugula.  As always, Virgin America impressed me with the freshness of the product in their meals.  Both types of lettuce were incredibly crispy and fresh.  The romaine was juicy and succulent.  The arugula even a bit spicy.

There were a few slivered almonds, which added some additional crunch and flavor when I got some, but there weren't many in the salad at all.  The grapes were same as in the granola/yogurt dish, standard red grapes, juicy and fresh.  These all added up to be a decent base for a salad.

The pears were the part I was excited for, since I do like roasted pears, and fig mustard sounded flavorful and tasty.  But they were the only aspect of the salad that wasn’t good at all.  The flavor was just … bad.  I didn’t taste mustard.  Or fig.  And the pears were mushy.  Just old tasting, completely unlike anything else Virgin America served.  Just not good.  But, there were only 4 slices.  Had I liked them, this would have made me sad, but as it was, it wasn’t a problem.

The brie was in tiny chunks, in a separate container.  It was standard brie, not particularly good nor bad.  Probably the same as on their cheese platter?  The chunks did all stick together and required some work to separate, but it was nice that they weren’t on the salad originally.

But the best part was the dressing.  I really can’t say what it was, but I got addicted.  At first I thought it was too thick, but once I used it more as a dipping sauce rather than a dressing, I couldn’t stop.  It was tangy, it was sweet, and well, it was great.  It was sweeter than I’d normally want for an entree salad though.  Usually, I finish a meal and immediately want dessert.  After this, I had no desire for more sweets.  So, good for them in taming my sweet tooth?  I did enjoy it, don’t get me wrong, but I think the sweetness maybe needed some taming.

Overall, another impressive salad from Virgin America.  Is it the selection I wanted? No.  Was I still a bit sad that the more interesting choices weren't available? Yes.  But, I was satisfied and finished everything but the nasty pears, so, it was a winner.  If I was flying with the same menu again, I'd get it, but I hope they change up the selections before I fly again!
35° South Chardonnay Reserva 2012.
I wanted something to pair with my salad, and thought that the red wine would be too over-powering, so I went for the white.  I forgot that I'd had it last time.  It wasn't great. I like a buttery chardonnay, and this was just a bit too harsh.  Given no other option, it is ok, it did go well with my salad, and I did indeed finish it, but I'd pick the red next time, regardless of the pairing.

Original Review, December 2012

For the holidays, I travelled home to New Hampshire.  I had the pleasure of flying on Virgin America, always my favorite domestic airline.  I know I shouldn't be impressed with it at this point, but wifi on the plane still sorta blows my mind.  The time just flies by (yes, pun intended).

The first time I flew on Virgin America, I remember saying that it was like being on the couch at home, but better.  Comfortable recliners, internet, satellite tv (I don't even have cable at home!), movies on demand, and food and drink brought to me with the press of a button?  Yes, please!

My recent trip was just as I remembered, and really quite enjoyable.  I sat in Main Cabin Select, which gave me an unlimited supply of food and drinks, which I of course indulged in.  I was honestly quite pleasantly surprised by the quality of the fresh prepared food.
Tuna Niçoise Salad.  Romaine and mesclun topped with green beans, albacore tuna, potatoes, tomatoes, hardboiled eggs, and kalamata olives, exclusively by Gilt Taste.  Served with balsamic and olive oil dressing.
This was an honest surprise.  I did not expect a salad on an airplane to be remotely decent.  I had even less high hopes for seafood.  But I'm a brave girl, it was free, and as much as I love snack food, I wanted something else too.

The base of the salad was mixed greens, a nice assortment, all crisp.  The tomato came in tiny cubes, and was the most surprising part, as it is winter, and tomato is so often watery, flavorless, and not even red, and this stuff was decent.  Not a fresh ripe heirloom tomato obviously, but so much better than I ever expected.  The green beans were my least favorite element, more cooked than I liked.  They weren't bad, but I would have liked them more al dente, with a bit of snap to them.  The signature niçoise olives and hard boiled egg were unremarkable, decent, but nothing notable.  The tuna, as I hinted at above, was a surprise.  There was a generous amount of it, and it was all pretty good.  Not fishy, no dark meat, just decent.  There were also some chunks of cooked potato, that I originally thought were jicama.  Jicama made no sense to me in this salad, but that is what they looked like.  It took a while for me to identify them as potato.  They weren't very good.  The dressing was provided on the side, so as to not make it soggy.  It was good, flavorful, and complimented all of the greens.

Overall, I was just really impressed with it.  Not Michelin star restaurant quality, but honestly, on par with what you'd get at any decent restaurant in the wintertime.  And on an airplane.

[ Not Pictured ]
Protein Meal, $7.

I also tried out the "protein" meal, although this was mostly for Ojan, I just tried a bite of everything.  It was an interesting assortment, but a disappointment compared to the salad.  It was just a bunch of packaged foods:
  • Bumble Bee Lemon Pepper Tuna: I didn't try this, but I think it was just a can of generic tuna.  Ojan wasn't a fan, as he didn't like the lemon pepper flavor.
  • Emerald's Natural Almond: I also didn't try these, but they were just generic almonds.
  • Wild Garden Sundried Tomato Hummus: This came in a strange tube.  I didn't taste any sundried tomato, just lots of hummus flavor.  I don't really like hummus.
  • Multi-seed crackers: These were my favorite item.  A nice mix of seeds, crispy, and well salted.  I thought they were tasty just on their own, but also ate them with some cheese.
  • Partner's Traditional Crackers: Plain crackers, not remarkable.
  • Happy Times Veggie Pals, Carrot Orange Apple Chews: These were super strange.  They had carrot juice and some fruit juices.  They were chewy, but otherwise, not very good.
35º South Chardonnay Reserva, 2012.
This was better than I expected.  It wasn't good, but it wasn't offensive.  Not bad for generic white wine, and it paired well with my salad.
35º South Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, 2012.
Again, better than expected.  Not all that complex, but pretty drinkable and enjoyable for airplane wine.
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