Friday, May 26, 2017

Skinny Dipped Almonds

Skinny Dipped Almonds.  Healthy, but satisfying, slightly indulgent, coated nuts.  "The new chocolate covered almond," the company promises.

Hmm.  I can't say that Skinny Dipped Almonds sounded particularly exciting to me when I first encountered them.
"Finally, a chocolate covered almond that is healthy and indulgent. Our almonds are roasted to perfection then skinny dipped in a thin layer of artisan dark chocolate and finished with a whisper of cocoa, espresso or pure raspberry."
I mean, I love to snack, I like having things to munch on, but these just didn't sound like my sort of go-to item.  Still, having nuts to munch on is always good for me as they have protein, and the flavors did sound slightly promising.

Skinny Dipped Almonds come in 3 flavors (raspberry, espresso, cocoa), all of which come dipped in chocolate, and portioned into little 70 calorie bags.  They really are trying to help you make a healthy choices, portion controlled, and only slightly indulgent.

But you have to set your expectations accordingly.  "A thin layer of artisan dark chocolate" means truly that.  A thin layer.  Actually, I'd barely call it a layer.  I'd barely call it chocolate.  Think of it as a dusting of cocoa perhaps, and then try these, else, you will be disappointed, as I was the first time I tried a bag.  Once I did reset my expectations though, I liked these more than expected, and ended up trying all 3 varieties.
Dark Chocolate Raspberry.
"Whole almonds skinny dipped in a thin layer of artisan dark chocolate and finished with a whisper of raspberry."

The first time I tried these, it didn't go well.

I picked the most unique sounding flavor to start: dark chocolate raspberry.  I knew to expect only a thin coat of chocolate, but this really was an incredibly thin layer.  I can't say I tasted it.  I did taste the raspberry though, and although raspberry and chocolate are a fine combination, they didn't do it for me.  The raspberry was just too tangy with the biter chocolate and nut.  The package was tiny, but I wasn't really interested in finishing it.

A couple months later, I tried again.  This time, I knew better what to expect, and I liked them much more.  I liked the crunchy almonds, nicely roasted.  I liked that they were slightly salty.  I could actually taste a little dark chocolate, and wow, yes, I could taste the dominant raspberry.  They certainly weren't an indulgent snack, not anything I'd consider a dessert, or use to satisfy a sweet tooth, but, compared to plain nuts, they were far more interesting.
Dark Chocolate Cocoa.
"Whole almonds skinny dipped in a thin layer of artisan dark chocolate and finished with a whisper of cocoa."

Since I wasn't entirely into the intense raspberry, the next time I went for the simple cocoa version.  These nuts were basically the same as the raspberry, just, uh, without the raspberry?  Which meant that they were fairly boring, just roasted almonds with a tiny bit of cocoa coating, resulting in a slightly bitter overall experience, that wasn't particularly satisfying in any way.  I wouldn't get this flavor again.
Dark Chocolate Espresso.
"Whole almonds skinny dipped in a thin layer of artisan dark chocolate and finished with a whisper of espresso."

The final variety I tried was the dark chocolate espresso, which shockingly turned out to be my favorite.  Still the same basic roasted almonds, with a thin layer of cocoa, but the espresso had an intense flavor, bitter, but, tasty.  I also liked the hint of salt.

Did I want more of them?  Nah.  But they were my favorite.
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Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Jelly Donut

Donuts are a big part of my life.  I have them at least once a week, usually more often.  It isn't that I seek out donuts though, donuts just seem to find me.  Particularly on Fridays.  When my office has donuts all over the place, and I can't help but have one.  Or two.  Or bring one home to waffle the next day.  It is a hard life.

Like one Friday, when I already had a full breakfast, and a co-worker sent out a message to our group chat: "Donuts on my desk!"  She called me out by name, knowing I'm a donut girl, which prompted a popup on my computer and my phone.  "They are from The Jelly Donut on 24th street," she continued.

I was delighted and sad at the same time.  I had never had a donut from The Jelly Donut before, but, it has certainly been on my radar for quite a while.  My understanding, not from visiting myself, is that The Jelly Donut is a total hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop, cash only, no-frills place.  They are known for throwing in some free donuts if you get a dozen, or free donut holes if you just get a donut or two.  Generally well regarded, and I was eager to try the donuts.  Except I was just not hungry at all.
Box-O Donuts.
I took my time making my way over to the box of donuts, sorta hoping that they'd all be gone, sorta hoping that I'd magically gain an appetite.  And by took my time, I mean that I finished the meeting I was in, and then arrived at the box of donuts about 6 minutes after the initial donut message went out.  For me, this is restraint.

Three of the donuts had been cut in half, and maybe one or two were missing, but, the box was still mostly full, with an assortment of donuts, including two large filled, glazed bars (one maple, one chocolate), two glazed old fashioned (again, one maple, one chocolate), a couple cake donuts (crumb, maple glazed with sprinkles), raised (chocolate glazed), a glazed buttermilk bar, and, a namesake jelly donut.

I had no choice but to try something.
Glazed Buttermilk Bar (half).
I opted for the glazed buttermilk bar, which had already been cut in half.  The chunk was still the size of a regular full size donut (which you can see better in the above photo), so it must have been quite massive in its full form.

I tried a few bites then, but saved the rest for after lunch.  It held up fine*.

It was a good buttermilk bar.  The glaze was thick and sweet, and I liked how it soaked into the donut.  The exterior was crispy just like I like, and inside it was nicely moist.  It didn't taste too fried or oily.

There was nothing earth shattering about this donut, but, it was a well executed classic.  I did wish for more buttermilk tang however.

*Note: buttermilk bars, and cake donuts in general, don't tend to hold up well past a few hours.  These really need to be consumed fresh.
Boston Cream Bar.
I walked by the donut box a while later, and there were still donuts remaining, including the massive Boston Cream bar, Ojan's favorite.  I had to get it for him, and, of course, try a bite myself on my way to deliver it.

The donut was a raised fluffy donut, light and airy.  The filling was vanilla custard, quite creamy, and it was well filled.  Good chocolate coating on top, although some of it broke off where the donut made contact with the maple sprinkle donut in the box.

Again, nothing earth shattering, but, well made and obviously fresh.
Maple Glazed Bar. 
I have one co-worker, who really loves donuts, but was not coming in to the office until lunch time.  He was sad to be missing out, so  I suggested that I save one for him, and picked the maple glazed for him.

It had lost nearly all its glaze though, from being against the edge of the box.  The Jelly Donut really could work on their boxing skills so as not to have all the donuts touching each other/the box and losing their toppings!  I used a knife to scoop all the glaze off the box and back onto the donut.  It didn't look very pretty, but hey, he got his glaze.

I didn't try this donut, but, he said it was great.
Jelly Donut.
I walked by the donut box again, after lunch.  (Hmm, maybe I do seek out donuts?)  There were still 3 full donuts left, including the jelly donut.  I don't understand how this was possible.  My co-workers clearly have more restraint than I.  There weren't that many donuts to begin with!

I still had most of my chunk of buttermilk bar waiting at my desk.  And I had carrot cake and a fun Filipino dessert at lunch already.  I surely didn't need more sweets.  But ... I knew that it would waffle great in the morning, so if I didn't manage to eat it during the day, I could save it for waffling purposes.  (Seriously, try waffling your leftover donuts, I promise, it is transformational!  My favorite waffled donut to date was a waffled jelly donut, so I knew this would work well.)

But of course I tried it fresh, for evaluation purposes.

Like the Boston Cream Bar, it was a fluffy, light, airy, raised donut.  It was not too fried.  The glaze on top was sweet and good, but it only covered the very top.

The best part was the filling though.  Sweet raspberry jelly.  Lots of it.  It was gooey and very flavorful.  I really liked the jelly.

Overall, a very good donut, but I actually prefer sugar coated jelly donuts over glazed.
Leftover Jelly Donut Panini!
I did save the rest of the donut until the next morning.  I took a bite of it then, day old, and, as expected it had gotten a bit stale.  So I turned on my handy Cuisinart Griller to waffle it ...

I realized once it was already heated up that I had the panini plates rather than the waffle iron plates in my Griddler.  Whoops.  I rarely use the panini plates, so I didn't even think to check.

Never one to back down from a crazy experiment, I just panini'ed it instead, and it was great too.  You'll be able to read all about that too, soon ...
Read More...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Waffling Leftovers: Mashed Potatoes & Potato Puree

Do you really need an intro to my Waffling Leftovers series at this point?  By now, you know what I do.  I reheat my leftovers, generally as is, in my waffle iron.  And I usually love the results.  I've covered Italian main dishes (lasagna, pizza, etc), I've covered casseroles (tuna noodle, shepherd's pie, etc), and now, its on to side dishes (like the crazy successful grits from last week).

Mashed/pureed potatoes: Will it Waffle?  Yes ... but, like mac and cheese, some crusting is required to maintain structural integrity.  Or ... make it opened faced.  More on that below ...

Mashed Potatoes

The ingredient I had in mind for this experiment was simple: leftover mashed potatoes. 

Mashed Potatoes.
The potatoes actually came from leftover shepherd's pie, so there was a bit of peas, carrots, and corn also in the mix, but, just go with it.

Inside the waffle maker ...
I thought the mashed potatoes would waffle up and get a crispy exterior, like a potato pancake.  It sorta did ... except, there was absolutely no structural integrity.

I left it cooking for quite a while longer, and it got slightly more crispy, but it was clear that there was no way I'd ever be able to extract it as a full waffle from the waffle iron.

Tasty, and I liked the crispy bits, but certainly not a waffle.
Crusted Mashed Potatoes.
I had a tiny bit left of the mashed potatoes, that I was planning to just heat up and eat as regular mashed potatoes, but I couldn't resist trying to improve on my failed experiment.

Remembering how adding a cornflake crust made waffled mac and cheese a success, I added a crushed cornflake crust to the mashed potato and made a tiny little crusted mashed potato patty and waffled it.

And ... it worked.  While this was a small test, it held together fine and got super crispy on the outside.  I didn't mind the slight cornflake contamination of my mashed potatoes either, although I certainly wouldn't think of combined the two normally.

Next time, I'd certainly go for a crust again, although I'd try breadcrumbs.

Potato Puree

A few months later, I again had leftover mashed potato.  Ok, technically, it was potato puree, not mashed potatoes. 
Potato Puree.
The puree was incredible, loaded up with soooo much butter and cream, plus chives for even more flavor.  It was crazy creamy, crazy decadent, and oh so delicious.

Thus, into the freezer the leftovers went.
Leftover Potato Puree.
I pulled out the leftovers, and heated one block up in the toaster oven.  It came out fine, and I was impressed at the texture of the potatoes, even when frozen and reheated.  I think because it was such a smooth puree, no strange texture resulted from the freezing, as usually happens with mashed potatoes.

But you know me, I wanted to waffle things, so, into the waffle iron the other chunk went.
Almost there ...
Except ... I forgot to read my previous post, and failed to crust it.  I remembered this when I opened the lid to check on it, but actually, it looked like it was holding its structure fine, just obviously not done yet.

So, I let it go a bit longer, so the two halves would bind together.
Done!
I waited a bit too long though, as the top got a bit burnt.  Somehow the bottom side didn't though, which upset me slightly, because it means that my waffle plates aren't the same temperature ...

Anyway, even without crusting, this was a success.  It held together nicely, was super crispy on the outside, and a bit creamy inside.  It was kinda like hashbrowns or fries even.  I really enjoyed it, even if slightly over done.

Mashed Potato - Open Faced?

Another day, another batch of mashed potatoes to waffle, but this time, something didn't go quite as planned ...
The Original: Silky Smooth Mashed Yukon Golds.
I started with some seriously good mashed potatoes.  Just mashed yukon golds, with the perfect amount of butter and milk.  Creamy, with a bit of texture from a few chunks.  They were really fantastic potatoes, somehow not too decadent, but also still very delicious.  I think there was likely more butter than I realized, but, hey, they were great.

They were great cold the next day.  They were great warmed up in the oven.  But, I had to try waffling them too.
Cooking Underway.
I did not crust the potatoes.  I set the waffle iron to 350°  fairly randomly.  I was having them for breakfast, so I was going for more of a thin crispy hashbrown style than a big potato pancake, so I spread it in fairly thin.

After a few minutes of cooking, things didn't look good.  After 5 more minutes, it still didn't look good.  Because I did it so thin, the top grill didn't make contact with the potatoes, so it looked like a pool of mush, not crisping up.  I thought it was going to be a disaster to remove.  I didn't take a photo, and decided it was likely a waste.  I put another batch of potatoes in the regular oven, and returned to the waffle iron to clean up.
Lightly Waffled Mashed Potatoes!
And then I realized my creation was actually fine.  The bottom was in contact with the plates.  It did crisp up, lightly, and it didn't burn.  The waffle extracted from the iron with no problem.  And the top (now underside once I flipped it out), was creamy and moist.  It was the best of both worlds.

I actually loved this creation, and it inspired me to think about more "open-faced" style waffles, where I only intentionally waffle the underside, either by doing it thin like this, or, by not closing the top.

The evolution continues ...
Read More...

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Delta Sky Club, SFO

Most of my travel has either been domestic with JetBlue or Virgin America (main cabin or first class), or international with OneWorld partners (like British Airways, Qantas, or Cathay Pacific (business class and first class).  However, this year, when I lost my status, I decided to take this opportunity to explore other airlines and options.

And thus, I flew on Delta for the first time ever, on a quick connection from SFO to LAX (before heading to Sydney on Virgin Australia ... stay tuned!)  Because I was flying international business class, this gave me access to the Delta Sky Club in SFO.

I don't have comparison points with other domestic Sky Clubs, but it was clean, modern, and well designed.  It was also barely occupied, likely because it is member's access only (aka, my First Class domestic ticket would not have given me access).

Setting

Vacant Entry Way.
Check-in for the lounge is located on the same floor as the gates, but the lounge is upstairs.  Once up there, there is another check in desk that wasn't staffed, and lots of vacant open space.  It felt a bit strange walking into such a deserted area.
Window Seating.
The open area along the windows was light filled and quite bright, with standard round tables and more comfortable arm chairs.  I was surprised that very few people choose this area, as it had all the views.
High Tables.
I choose to camp out at a high table so I could just stand (I'd be sitting enough soon!), but there were also individual work stations that seemed to be the most popular seating, which is funny, as this area was relatively dark and not welcoming.

Outlets were plentiful, even built into the high tables.

Local artwork hung on the walls.
Bar.
A fairly long bar has both complimentary basic drinks and a premium menu, plus food you could order (and pay for).

Bathroom.
The bathroom was particularly stunning, with red countertops and Malin + Goetz hand soap and lotion.  Showers were also available, which you could sign up for at the check in desk.  I imagine they were stunning as well, but I didn't investigate.

Food & Drink

The food lineup is buffet style, fairly basic, with some things to nibble on and a handful of hot options.

I wasn't really needing food while I was there, so I only nibbled on a few things, so, unfortunately, I can't tell you much about food quality.

I did appreciate that everything was well labelled and constantly refilled.
Snack mixes: ranch pretzel mix, unlabelled snack mix, roasted tomato popcorn.
Snack mixes are my favorite part of airline lounges, even when they are generally stale and not very good.  You know how much I love snacks!  I'm just a muncher, what can I say?

The ranch pretzel mix was mostly just seasoned assorted shapes of thin pretzels, with a few corn chips.  It was fine, but, I'm not really one for pretzels.

The tomato flavored popcorn tasted like plain popcorn to me, but, at least it wasn't stale.

The final mix was not labelled, and seemed to have all sorts of things in it.  Pretzels, corn chips, almonds, peanuts ...  It was salty and seasoned in some way.  Decent enough I guess, but I didn't find myself getting addicted to it in the way I do with American Airlines Admiral's Club snacks.
Cheese, Salad, Crudite, Dips.
Next up came some little cubes of assorted cheese, base for salad, and some veggies to dip, and hummus, caesar, and ranch dressing.

I didn't try these, but they seemed popular.
 Salads.
Next up was more veggies to dip/make salads with (cherry tomatoes and broccoli), and 3 prepared salads.

The options were Greek chicken and cucumber salad, Mediterranean bulgar and veggie salad, and ramen salad with kale and edamame.

I tried the ramen one.  It was ... ok, the noodles were not too mushy, but there wasn't much flavor to it.
Chicken Pho Base.
A novel unique element of the Delta line up was a Pho station, with bowls ready for the broth to be added.  There were plenty of instructions to ensure that people understood what this was all about.
Chicken pho broth, veggie chili, toppings.
The broth was next to a pot of veggie chili, and both had assorted toppings, like crunchy corn chips and shredded cheese.  And crispy french fried onions, which I was thrilled to see.  I didn't want the soup or chili, I just like fried onions!
Veggie Fried Rice.
 Next up was fried rice, two trays of the same thing.
Dark Chocolate Espresso Brownies.
The first dessert was brownies (using quality Guittard chocolate).
Chocolate Chunk and Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Fruit.
There were also jars of cookies and individually wrapped fruit.
Coffee Station.
The coffee station is Starbucks branded with drip coffee and a machine.  Decaf is offered in both.

I tried the drip decaf and it was only lukewarm.

The toppings were particularly impressive, several types of syrups (including pumpkin spice, because, November), chocolate powder, and mini marshmallows.
Tea.
Tea was from Harvey and Sons, a decent selection, but no rooibos

Assorted sweeteners and honey were on offer.
Infused Water, Iced Tea, Water.
I appreciated the sparkling water tap, except that I wanted a bottle of water to bring out the door with me.  Lemons were provided as well.

Other soft drinks were available at the bar, but, alas, no cans or bottles there either.
Read More...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Chaat Corner

I've walked by Chaat Corner more times than I can possibly count.

I used to live a block away.  I walked by it daily on my way to work.  I walked by it every night on the way home.  Yet I never went, even when it was the only place open in the neighborhood.  Chaat Corner is open every day, and that area does not have many options on Sundays.  They are open until midnight every night, and it certainly isn't an area with late night options.  They are open for lunch, starting as early as 11am.  Yet these things still never encouraged me to visit.

Even since I moved down the street, I still walk by several times a month.  It has managed to stay around for years now, which should be a sign of something.  And I still never visit.  Why?  I have no idea.  I like Indian cuisine, and I'm always looking for good indian food in the city.  But this place just never jumped out at me.

Chaat Corner recently opened a second location near Union Square.  That too should indicate that they are doing well.  But Yelp reviews are fairly mediocre.  No one I know has ever mentioned going there.  "Meh", I thought.

And then one day I was at home and really, really wanted salad.  And naan.  And something with spice.  I quickly looked online at menus of indian places nearby, and saw that the intersection of naan and salad is fairly limited, but Chaat Corner had several salads that sounded interesting (Indian ceasar? Grilled paneer topped salad?), and a huge assortment of breads, so, Chaat Corner it was.

I placed my order online, and headed the few blocks to pick it up.  My order was completed soon after I arrived.

Setting

Chaat Corner is really quite large.  I was shocked by how much seating and open space they had inside.  It was 5:15pm when I arrived, and it was mostly empty.

It isn't fancy.  It has basically no charm whatsoever.  I was glad to be getting takeout.
Cashier at Front.
Right inside the door is a cashier station, with a menu board on the wall.  This surprised me a bit as I thought this was a regular full service restaurant, so I think they must do a lot of takeout (unless tables order and pay up front too?)

On the side is also a cooler with canned/bottled drinks (do tables get cans too?)
Seating.
Decor is not particularly interesting, fairly low end, lots of shiny materials and faux stone.
Bar.
There is a small bar with counter seating, where I was invited to sit while I waited for my takeout.  I could have watched TV while I waited.

Food

The menu is large, all standard indian offerings.  I didn't explore it much, as I had my eyes on exactly two things: salad and bread.  That said, they had an extensive selection of pakora, and I almost threw some battered fried onions into the mix too ...
Sometimes, you just need 2 spoons and a fork?
Things started going downhill as I opened up my packaging.

I was provided a fork and 2 spoons.  No knife.  Luckily, I was bringing it home anyway.
Tandoori Roti. $1.99.
I'll admit, I was overwhelmed by the bread selection.  I thought I knew indian breads, but, once I started reading the list, I realized I'm still uncertain.  One section was titled naan, with 13 different options, including 10 types of naan (plain, butter, garlic, garlic pesto, paneer, cauliflower, potato, onion, chicken pesto, ground lamb), plus tava roti, bhatura, and tandoori roti.  Then, another section, labelled paranthas, with 8 more options (plain, laccha, potato, cheese, onion, cauliflower, ground lamb, chicken).  Why were the roti and bhatura listed as naan?  And what is tava roti vs tandoori roti?

I fairly randomly picked the tandoori roti, thinking that tandoori items are usually nicely smoky, and, I like roti.

It turned out to be basically ... whole wheat naan?  Hearty tasting, but, very boring.  Dry, no butter.  Crispy bottom.

I guess fine, but highly, highly boring, although I suspect it was supposed to be?
Chaat Salad. $6.99
"Romaine lettuce, lentil chips, spicy chickpea noodles, cilantro and spices tossed in
tamarind and mint sauces."

For salads, I could pick the interesting sounding caesar (zesty mint caesar dressing!) or the chaat salad (lentil chips and spicy chickpea noodles!).  I opted for the later, based entirely on the promise of fun crispy things on top.  Since I had other food at home to finish, I decided not to add a protein topping, but I could have added chicken breast, chicken kebab, tandoori salmon, shrimp, seekh kebab, or paneer on top.

Since I got it to go, my salad came disassembled.  I appreciated this so it wouldn't get soggy.  The dry toppings came in separate containers, and the wet sauces even came with an extra protective foil wrapped around them.  Points for this.
Chaat Salad: Lettuce.  $6.99.
I did have to laugh when I opened my box though.  It was ... lettuce.  Just lettuce.  It seemed freshly chopped, not wilted, very crisp.  A decent base.

The menu said there should be cilantro too, and other people seemed to have tomato and cucumber in theirs (in the photos I saw), but mine?  Just lettuce.
Lentil Chips, "Spicy Chickpea Noodles".
Things got more amusing as I opened my other containers.

I quickly discovered the "spicy chickpea noodles" were ... just chickpeas.  Not toasted, no spicing.  Just chickpeas.  They seemed like they came from a can.  I had seen photos of this salad from others, and they did have chickpea noodles.

Since I actually hate chickpeas, I tried one, recognized that it was watery, slimy, and like from a can, and threw these out.  Chickpea noodles would have been nice.

The lentil chips were tasty though.  While I don't like lentils, I do like lentil chips (and likely would have liked chickpea noodles!)  I really liked the crunchy element, and the promise of the crunchy things is what made me order this in the first place.

I added a bunch of the lentil chips, but it looked like there was a bunch of rubble left in the bottom of the cup.  It was only later that I realized this is where the spices were added.  Doh.  I missed out on a lot of spice and flavor by missing this.  Not their fault though.
Tamarind and Mint Sauces.
The dressing for the salad is a mix of standard tamarind and mint sauces, like you use to dip samosa.  It was pretty strange putting these onto my salad as if they were dressing, but, actually, the result was good.  Obviously, normally it comes dressed for you, which seems less ideal, as you can't get the right balance of flavor that way.  I liked that I could add different amounts of each to create my preferred flavor (heavier on the herby mint, less of the sweet tamarind).

Both sauces were pretty standard, though I doubt housemade.  They didn't have that kind of freshness about them.  Still, it was nice to have some left to dip my naan in.
Cafe Chaat Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Friday, May 19, 2017

9 Bar

9 Bar is a snack bar manufacturer from the UK, producing bars based on their "super-seed" base, of sunflower, pumpkin, sesame and hemp seeds.  They make 4 different product lines.

The "Original Lift" series I believe is the first line they made, and includes mix-ins like cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, and pumpkin.  Slightly more interesting is the "Carob Hit" line, again with a super-seed base, obviously carob, and other mix-ins like flax, pumpkin, apricots, dates, and chia.  I'm not quite sure what is breakfasty about the "Breakfast Boost" range, but these include dried fruits (apricot, strawberry, raspberry, raisins) and oats in the base.  I guess oats are for breakfast?  The most exciting line is "Cocoa Kick", available in 4 flavors: hazelnut, coconut, raspberry, and cashew, all of which have a super-seed base, cocoa mixed in, and a chocolate layer on top.  I went for the raspberry.
Cocoa Kick: Raspberry.
"The super-seed goodness of sunflower, pumpkin, sesame and hemp combined with indulgent cocoa and tangy raspberry with a delicious chocolate-flavoured topping."

I almost liked this bar.

The layer of chocolate on top was dark chocolate and seemed to be decent quality.  It was thick and generous, and didn't leave me wanting for more.  The seed mix had cocoa mixed in as well, so, this delivered in the chocolately department, I did indeed get my "cocoa kick".

The raspberry flavor went well with the chocolate, but, I really didn't care for the raspberry seeds.  I have this problem with raspberries and blackberries, I just can't stand the seeds when I eat the fruits, and here there was tons of raspberry seeds mixed in.  That was off-putting to me.

But finally, I just didn't like the flavor of the seed mix, predominantly sunflower seeds.  A bit bitter, and just not a taste I like.

So, not the bar for me.  If you like seeds (both sunflower AND raspberry), then perhaps this is the bar for you.
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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Red Dog Restaurant

Update Review, May 2017

I'll admit it, I totally forgot about Red Dog, even though I was excited when I heard it was opening several years ago.  I was familiar with the chef from her role at Il Cane Rosso, and I was really happy she was opening her own restaurant.  I went once to get takeout brunch , and then ... uh , I forgot about it.  Which is sad, given that it only a block from my house.

I think the restaurant is suffering from people forgetting about it, and is trying to get back in touch with the neighborhood, so they invited my apartment building for a party.  They reserved an entire private area for us, on a Saturday night, from 6:30pm-8:30pm.  They brought us tons of food, and unlimited drinks, free of charge.  I appreciated it, for sure, but, I couldn't help but wonder why they were doing this for us.

Red Dog is open every day for lunch and dinner, plus brunch on weekends.  They have Happy Hours every day of the week from 3pm-7pm.  My visit was a Saturday night, and the restaurant had only a handful of tables occupied in the main room during that entire time.  Maybe lunch is busy during the week with all the businesses nearby?  Maybe they do a good weekend brunch?  Otherwise, I really don't understand how they can still be open all these hours?
Food & Drinks.
The dinner menu is broken into 4 categories: "getting started", "vegetables", "house-made pasta", and "entrees".

At our event, we were served items from the first 3 categories, plus off-menu pizza and Happy Hour specials.  It was a nice spread, and everything was fairly good.  Well prepared, well seasoned, but mostly a bit uninteresting.  There was one standout dish however, that I would return for.
Live Band.
On Friday and Saturday nights, they feature a live jazz band starting at 7pm.  Again, I thought this was really nice, but, couldn't help but wonder about it.  How can they pay a band when there are only a handful of occupied tables?  It did make for a lovely atmosphere though.
Grayhound / Vodka / Grapefruit.
Our hosts had selected a sparkling, a white, and a red wine, a handful of beers, and a single cocktail for us to pick from.  I started with the cocktail, a grayhound.

It was good, simple, but well made, and nicely balanced.  I was impressed that it wasn't too tart, but the vodka also wasn't too strong.

I moved on to the red wine selection (grenache) and wasn't such a fan, and wished I had just stuck with the cocktail.  I'd love to try some of their signature cocktails next.
House-cut Kennebec Fries / Curry Ketchup / Spicy Aioli. $5.
The fries came from the "getting started" section of the menu.  It is the only dish we had from the "getting started" section, which I was a bit disappointed by, as I really wanted to try their most famous dish, the deviled ham scotch egg, and the signature house-made rustic beer bread with honey butter.  Alas, I'll need to return to order them myself sometime.

The fries were fine, crispy enough, skin on, but, not particularly interesting.

I did not try the curry ketchup, but the spicy aioli was good, it did indeed have a bit of a kick to it.

Overall, fine, but not remarkable fries.  My second to last pick of the night, and I wouldn't get them again.
Crispy Brussels Sprouts & Romenesco / taggiasca olives /  lemon / remoulade. $7.
Next we had crispy veggies, from the vegetables section of the menu.  This menu section featured items I'd consider first courses like soup and salads, plus dishes that seemed more like sides like sauteed swiss chard and grilled asparagus, and this, which really seemed like an appetizer.  It was the only veggie dish we received.

This dish was awesome.  Dish of the night, hands down.  I loved it, and was thrilled that they kept bringing us fresh orders.  I certainly uh, ate my vegetables this night.

But this was not a healthy veggie dish, obviously.  The veggies were fried, very fried.  They clearly soaked up a ton of oil.  But, that is what made them delicious.  I really enjoyed both the brussels (particularly the crispy leaves) and the romanesco (softer, more juicy).   I didn't particularly want the olives, but they were fine.

I loved the remoulade.  It was fantastic.  Seriously, really, really excellent remoulade.  I liked the bits in it, I appreciated the slightly spicy flavor, and it was just a wonderful compliment to the veggies, although, actually, the veggies were tasty enough that they didn't need it.

Was this a perfect dish?  Nah.  The veggies weren't actually that crispy, and they did have too much oil.  But I really liked it, regardless.  I'd get it again.
Chilaquiles Dip / refried beans / juanito’s salsa / poached egg / house-made chips. $6.
Chilaquiles is featured on the Happy Hour menu, with a larger version with multiple eggs is also on the brunch menu.

The housemade chips were ok, a bit oily, but they had a good flavor to them.

The dip itself was, well, beans, which I'm not particularly fond of.  I did like that it was mostly smooth but still had bits of beans for texture, and it was well spiced, a fairly complex flavor.  The poached egg seemed strange for a Happy Hour / appetizer item, although I think it would be fine for brunch.

I felt this dish didn't quite hit the mark and seemed a bit confused / trying to hard, but I know my opinion is tainted in that I don't like beans or eggs much.  My least favorite dish.
Off-Menu Flatbread.
Pizzas, er flatbreads, aren't on the regular menu anywhere, but, we had many of these brought out throughout the night.

It came topped with roasted cherry tomatoes, some kind of meat, melty cheese, and arugula on top.

It was decent pizza, crispy crust, flavorful toppings, and I really liked the fresh perfectly melty cheese.  It might have been crescenza, like showed up in the pasta dish?  I even liked the arugula on top for added freshness.

My second favorite dish, although I wouldn't necessarily get it again.
Rosemary Pappardelle / pork & cabbage sugo / piquillo peppers / crescenza cheese. $19.
The "house-made pasta" section contains only two items, a vegetarian farro spaghetti, and this pappardelle.  We had only this one.

It was pretty good.  The pasta seemed like fresh pasta, large sheets of egg noodles, decently cooked.  I love crescenza, so the big glob of cheese was most welcome, although it didn't really melt into the dish very well.  The pork was soft and tender.

Overall, this was fine, although it didn't have much flavor nor complexity to it.  Still, I appreciated fresh pasta and I did like the cheese.  My third pick, middle of the road, I wouldn't get it again.

Original Review, October 2014

Last week I reviewed Il Cane Rosso, the fast casual restaurant of chef Lauren Kiino, located on the Embarcadero, in the Ferry Building.  That establishment was originally part of the Daniel Patterson group, although I think chef Kiino was the head chef there from day one.  But this past year, she opened her own restaurant from scratch, down the street in the other direction from my house: Red Dog.  The astute reader may notice the naming: Cane Rosso/Red Dog.

Red Dog in many ways feels like a slightly more grown up version of Il Cane Rosso.  It is a full service restaurant, unlike Il Cane Rosso, but it is still comfortable and casual.  The focus on local, seasonal ingredients, and Californian cuisine is there, but this time, in an environment where the cuisine can be more refined.  They are open for lunch and dinner daily, and brunch on weekends (when they first opened, they were open for breakfast during the week too, which is when I visited).

Service very friendly.  I was there to get french toast to go, and when the waitress saw that I had a coffee in hand, she offered to fill my cup up for me.  I said no the first time, but when she came to check on me while I was waiting a few minutes later, she offered again.  I had already paid my bill, but I hesitantly said sure.  She really seemed to want to give me more coffee, chirping about how she  brews it fresh all morning long.  The coffee was actually great - deep, dark, rich.   I imagine it is the same coffee they use at Fearless, their coffee shop next door (review coming next week!)
Dining Area.
The space is beautiful, in a casual way.  Bright, light-filled, open, airy, with gorgeous wood tones throughout.  I can't even count how many different colors and styles of wood I saw; the table tops were made from blond, narrow planks, the chairs from a darker wood, and floors were made of wide, dark planks.   It was stunning, in a modern rustic way.
Bar Area.
The wood tones are carried through to the bar area, with the same lighter colored wood is used for the bar,  and darker tones used for the stools.
Small Griddled French Toast: l emon fromage blanc, pluot compote. $7.
After a short wait, and some excellent coffee, I was presented with my to go bag.

The packaging was nicely done - utensils included, plentiful high-quality napkins provided, all in a nice paper bag with handles.  I imagine given the location in an office park, with such nice seating areas around outside, that take out is fairly common.

I was a bit surprised when I opened the box.  I did not see any slices of bread, which is uh, what I think of as french toast.

Instead, it was more like bread pudding.  A very thick slice, moist inside, slightly eggy.  Moderate spicing, I detected at least a little cinnamon.  What I loved was the griddled aspect - it provided a smokiness, almost burnt, but not quite.  The griddle also gave a lovely crust.  Something I always care about with bread puddings is having a crispy exterior and a moist, custardy interior, and they nailed that in a unique way with this preparation.

On top was a good sized scoop of lemon fromage blanc.  At first I was a bit disappointed by it, as it was tangy, and not very sweetened.  In my mind, when I'm getting french toast, I somewhat expect it to be a sugar bomb, all drenched in maple syrup or sweet fruit sauces, topped with sweetened whipped cream.  But once I re-adjusted my expectations, I quickly fell in love with it.  The texture was a bit more like ricotta than a smooth cream, but the tang was remarkable, and really made it feel like I wasn't eating dessert for breakfast.  Not that I have a problem with dessert for breakfast, but it makes it more of an acceptable "everyday" dish.

On the side was fruit compote, made from pluots.  It provided some of the sweetness that I was looking for, but it was not overly sweet.  There was a generous amount of this provided as well.  The pluot compote and fromage blanc made for a lovely combination, almost reminding me of a yogurt and fruit parfait.

Overall, this is not at all what I was expecting from the name french toast, but I really did enjoy it.  I'd get it again, but would rather explore more of the menu first.

The $7 price was remarkably reasonable for a very well thought out dish.  This was the small size, it is also available as two "slices" for $12.
Red Dog Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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