Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Breakfast at Zephyr on The Charles, Hyatt Regency, Cambridge

Zephyr on the Charles is the restaurant located at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge, MA.  As a Hyatt Diamond member, I had breakfast included in my rate, so, I checked it out.

I had a lot of hope for Zephyr on the Charles.  At some level, I should know better, as it is a hotel restaurant.  Hotel guests tend to be rather captive audiences.  But, on another, I've had some incredible hotel breakfasts.  The SLS Beverley Hills makes the most incredible dessert-like yogurt parfaits I'eve ever had, with excellent pastries to boot.  The executive lounge at the Sheraton on the Park in Sydney has some pretty amazing selections (swoon, the waffles).  Le Meridien in Munich has a crazy extensive, high quality buffet (stay tuned).  Of course, I've had plenty of low points too.

Zephyr on the Charles *sounds* like it should be good too, right?  Or maybe it just sounds pretentious?  Take your pick.  The menu says thing that also lead one to believe that the food will be excellent:
"At Zephyr on The Charles the quality of our food is second to none. We pride ourselves on using the freshest ingredients sourced from local suppliers, and capitalizing on all that New England’s bounty has to offer. Whether it’s our sustainably fished seafood from Foley’s, fished right off of our coasts, or the exciting produce grown right here in Massachusetts by Jansal Valley Farms, we are committed to providing you with the best product available. We work closely with our suppliers and they too share our passion for local, sustainable foods."
The verdict? It was ... a mixed bag.  Certainly not worth raving about, or going to if you aren't a hotel guest, but, I did find a few hits.

Setting

Tables overlooking the Charles.
The setting, if you are able to sit inside the restaurant, is lovely, overlooking the Charles river.  There are also tables in the interior hotel atrium, a bit dark, dreary, and noisy, but also closer to the buffet.

I was given the choice of a nice view or closer access to the buffet, and, contrary to what you may have guessed, I went for the view.

Tables were set with cloth napkins, a coffee mug and juice cup, and silverware.  The juice cups regularly had fingerprints all over them.

Service was fairly prompt, but I didn't really need anything, so I can't comment much on that.
Jams, Honey.
An assortment of sugars, honey, and jam were on the tables.

The selection varied per table.  On my first day, I had only honey and one type of jam.  The next day, I had all unique jams, including strawberry, raspberry, cherry, orange, and apricot rose.  Another day, I couldn't find the cherry jam on any tables.  Very inconsistent stocking.

Drinks

Coffee.  $2. (Or included with buffet).
The first day I tried the regular coffee.  It was crazy strong, and not particularly good.

The next day, I opted for decaf.  It tasted just the same as the regular.  Strong, not very good, although not offensive in a way I could pinpoint.

I was offered milk or cream alongside, but, I turned them down.  Standard sweeteners were available on the tables.
Orange Juice. $3. (Included in buffet).
Ojan asked for orange juice one morning when I got our buffets to go.  So I tried it.  It was ... generic orange juice, not fresh squeezed.

Buffet

As a Diamond member, I had the choice of an a la carte entree or buffet.  On the first morning, unable to make decisions, I just went for the buffet.  I ate in the restaurant, and of course took several trips back and forth to the buffet.  The second morning, I ordered a la carte, again dining in the restaurant.  The third day, I opted for the full buffet again, but that time, I took it to go, after observing others do so.  I had a big suite upstairs, complete with dining table, so, why sit less comfortably in the restaurant?
Takeaway Full Buffet Feast (for 2).  $21.95 each.
I really appreciated the to go option for the buffet.  I was provided a large cardboard box with multiple compartments, a small plastic box, and my choice of drinks, plus a bag and silverware.  They had to-go items all ready up at the bar, so I think this was a fairly common request, and one they easily handled.

The buffet includes coffee (Torrefazione Italia) or tea (Tazo) and juice as well.

The buffet was fairly extensive, but not really the highest quality.  The full buffet does include a few standouts however: the egg chef (Roe), the whipped cream, and the scones.  More on all this soon.  Besides the eggs/whip/scone though, this was not a high quality buffet, and the eggs shown only because of the amazing personality and care of the egg chef.

Continental Buffet

You can opt for just the continental buffet for $14.95, or, the continental is included with the full buffet.
Fruit, Charcuterie, Cheese.
The buffet starts with fruit, sliced strawberries, pineapple, and melon.  None of it looked that great, so, I skipped it.  Ojan said the strawberries were good though.

Next was some equally mediocre looking charcuterie and cheese, all fairly standard sliced deli meats and cheeses that got limp and soft from sitting out too long.  No smoked salmon.  I tried what looked like brie, or some other triple cream, and it was highly unremarkable.

Definitely meager offerings compared to many of the fruit, charcuterie, and cheese offerings I've had at other buffets, like the amazing mango and lychee at the Sheraton on the Park, or the ridiculous selection of cheeses at Le Meridien Munich.

Fruit, Pastries.
Next was more fruit, whole bananas and apples, and the pastries.

Of course, the baked goods were of the most interest to me.

On the top row was what looked like apple filled turnovers and raisin braids.  Next came raspberry and lemon danishes, and iced cinnamon rolls. On the bottom were muffins.

None of this actually looked good, but, you know I can't resist my breakfast pastries.  I skipped the apple turnovers, raisin braids, and lemon danishes, as I don't generally like those things.

I started with the raspberry danish.  It tasted about as good as it looked.  As in, not.  The croissant dough was not flaky, it was not buttery, it was not laminated.  The raspberry filling was just goo.  Meh.  Definitely not worth a second bite.

The cinnamon roll had slightly more potential, as it had icing on top at least, and the center of any cinnamon roll is usually pretty delicious.  The outside layer was dried out as I expected, and the inside was slightly softer, but, not ooey-gooey.  It did have cinnamon between the layers, but, the cinnamon filling wasn't very flavorful.  The icing was sweet, but, it couldn't really do much to save this cinnamon roll.  Overall, highly mediocre.

I think all the muffins were the same kind.  At least, I couldn't tell from inspection any difference between them.  They looked dried out and even burnt on top.  One morning, I tried the muffin, which I think was banana nut (ok, I got one for Ojan, and he discarded it after one bite, so, I of course tried it).  It was as bad as it seemed, hard and dry on top, not moist inside, and without any particular good flavor.

I did not try the items from the top row.  (See, sometimes even I don't try all the pastries when they are so obviously bad!)
Cinnamon Scone.
The final morning however, the pastry display had a new item: scones!  Now, the scones didn't necessarily look that much better than the other items that I had already deemed not worth a second glance.  I still grabbed one.  I'm not sure why, except that I was getting the buffet to go, and figured I should hedge my bets in case I didn't like the other items I selected.  And, worse case, I figured I'd save it for my flight later in the day.

It turned out to be really good.  Not just better than the other items (low bar), but, actually good.  Even though I had a full meal, I still devoured more than half of it with my breakfast.  I forced myself to save the rest for the flight.

The scone turned out to be a cinnamon scone, studded with little cinnamon bits, flavorful little pops.  The top was coated in sugar and cinnamon, and formed a slightly caramelized layer.  The texture of the entire thing was good, not exactly crumbly, certainly not dry.  The base had a nice tang to it too.

It was quite good just on its own.  It was even better when I dunked it in the whipped cream that I loved.  The chunk I saved for my later flight held up fine.

Really, this was quite good, the highlight of all my trips to the buffet and restaurant.  I really wish they had them earlier in the week.  I'd clearly get one again.
Cereal and Yogurt.
Next came the cereal and yogurt.  Raisin bran, cheerios, fruit loops, and corn flakes for cereal, plain, nonfat, and strawberry for yogurt.

I moved right on.
Breads.
After that was the bread selection, with sliced breads, bagels (including cinnamon raisin), and croissants, along with packaged cream cheese and peanut butter.

I pondered getting a croissant to make a breakfast sandwich, but, decided not to given the quality of the other baked goods.
Toasters, Toppings.
The final section of the continental buffet had toasters and some toppings.  The toppings included assorted nuts (sliced almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios) and dried fruits (apples, raisins, cranberries), along with brown sugar and granola.  You could use this with oatmeal or yogurt as you wished.

I got some granola to make a fruit crumble on the side, and it was fine, not remarkable, mostly kinda crushed and powdery.

Hot Buffet

The hot buffet is fairly extensive, with multiple hot sides and entrees, waffles, and eggs cooked to order for $21.95.  Still pricey, but, actually, more reasonable than most hotel breakfast buffets.
Hot Line, Part One.
The hot buffet began with some goopy looking oatmeal, chicken sausage and regular sausage, bacon, and flabby thin buttermilk pancakes.  The next day, the pancakes turned into equally poor looking french toast.

The only notable element was the warm maple syrup, which I tried, but I don't think was real maple syrup anyway.
Apple Crisp.
On my third morning, the pancake/french toast slot was replaced with apple crisp.  Oh, be still my heart.  Dessert for breakfast?  Yes!  (I mean really though, how different is apple crisp than a decadent danish, french toast slathered in toppings, etc?)

Anyway, it actually wasn't great.  It was mostly just chunks of apple, with a little mushy crisp topping.  There were a few plump golden raisins and cranberries in the mix too, but, that was about it.  Not much spicing.  Not much flavor.  Since the topping was mushy, nothing for crunch or contrast either.  It needed nuts, or thicker, crispier topping.

They do get points for having fruit crisp in the buffet in the first place, and for serving it warm, and with plenty of whipped cream on the side, but, alas, not a winner.
Hot Line, Part Two.
The final chafing dishes held uninspired scrambled eggs and decent looking breakfast potatoes, cubed, with onions and peppers.

But after that, things got interesting.  Waffles!  There was a cook next to the waffle maker, with a bowl of batter.  I really wanted to just ask for a fresh waffle, but, it was clear I was supposed to take one from the pile sitting under the heat lamp.

The waffle was ... ok.  It was light and crispy.  But lukewarm.  Really, mediocre quality, not really better than a frozen waffle.

But, the waffle toppings?  Fantastic!

On the side was a bowl of mixed fruit, mostly strawberries and blueberries, but I found some blackberries in there too.  The fruit was soft and covered in goo, likely sweetened.  Was it fresh, perfectly ripe, amazing fruit?  Nah.  But, it satisfied my sweet tooth.  The fruit was the same the second morning, and I again enjoyed the sweet gooey fruit with whipped cream (stolen from Ojan's buffet, since I actually ordered a la carte that day).  The third morning however, the fruit turned into a bowl of fresh berries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries.  While I missed the super sweet ooey-gooey mixed berries, I'll admit, it was nice to have fresh fruit.

Particularly when I combined it with ... WHIPPED CREAM!  Next to the fruit was a huge, huge bowl of fluffy whipped cream, topped with fresh blueberries.  It was not from a can.  It was really incredible whipped cream.  The whipped cream is what made my every meal.  I put it on the fruit, on the scones, on the crisp, on the waffles ... even in my coffee.  I ate it by the spoonful.  I know I sound ridiculous, but really, it was shockingly good whipped cream.

While I didn't care for the waffles, nor most of the baked goods, a large pile of the stewed berries, topped with way too much whipped cream, and some granola on top made for a wonderful treat.  Yes, dessert, but, quite tasty, and I balanced it by the next station ...
Egg Station.
The last area was a made-to-order egg station, offering eggs any way you wanted.  The cook had a big bowl of eggs in front of her, plus omelet base, and a slew of toppings to mix in.

She also had an incredible personality and really, really cared about her job.  I've never seen a buffet egg chef do such a fantastic job.  She was personable, and greeted everyone.  She asked your name, and called you by name, and also introduced herself.  If you wanted to go sit, she'd come find you with your order.

But she didn't just have personality.  She also cared about the product she was creating.  I watched her make an omelet, making sure to keep tilting the skillet to allow more egg to run under it, cooking it all properly.

After watching her make some other dishes, I decided to get eggs, even though I'm not really an egg person.  I don't like omelets or scrambles.  I do like fried eggs, but only over medium (I don't like totally runny yolks and I don't like cooked yolks).  But I think fried eggs are boring, and do want some veggies and cheese.  So, I tried my order, the one I do whenever I do get eggs to order, and rarely get anything successful.
Eggs Over Medium, with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Cheese.
My order?   Eggs over medium (aka, yolk not runny, but not totally hard), plus spinach and mushroom, plus cheese of course.

Usually when I order this, egg chefs look at me and don't quite know what to do.  They'll cook a fried egg, maybe flip it over once, and then throw some raw spinach, mushroom, and cheese on top and hand it over.  The egg is rarely actually done medium, the veggies usually not cooked, and the cheese unmelted.

But Roe delivered.  Perfect execution of every component, even though it looked like a crazy mess.

First, she cooked the spinach and mushrooms, wilting the spinach, cooking the mushrooms.  She asked if I wanted seasoning, and added the salt and pepper with a flourish, and, I think I even heard a "bam!", Emeril-style.  Next, the eggs.  She kept a watchful eye on them, making sure they cooked perfectly.  And finally, cheese.  A VERY generous sprinkle of cheese on top, made with a comment about "You can't ever have too little cheese".  After the cheese was added, she covered the skillet with a plate to melt it.  After a few moments, she slid the whole thing onto a plate with a "Boo-yah!" and handed it over.

Honestly, I think that even if I didn't like the eggs, I would have liked the experience of ordering them enough to be happy.  But the result, as un-pretty as it was, was delicious.

I actually ordered "one egg over medium", but, she made two.  Given that I was planning only one day at the buffet, and had a second plate with multiple baked goods, a waffle, a pile of whipped cream, and fruit, I really didn't want two.  But then I tasted the creation, and, well, it was too good not to finish.

The eggs were exactly as I wanted.  The whites didn't get too rubbery, but were just a bit crispy on the edges.  The yolks had some ooze to them, but were certainly set.  Excellent.  (Egg-cellent?) The veggies were also perfectly cooked, and well seasoned.  And the cheese, although slightly under-melted when handed over to me, was fully melted by the time I got to my table.

The eggs were really egg-cellent, and were the first time in recent memory that I've actually enjoyed eggs.  But, this was certainly not a healthy item, even though I did have the veggies.  She used a very generous amount of oil on the veggies and eggs, and, there was a LOT of cheese.  It felt very heavy, although, delicious.
Eggs Over Medium, Mushrooms, Spinach, Caramelized Onions. (Missing CHEESE!)
After my egg success on the first day, on my final day, I ordered nearly the same thing as I did on the first, only this time, I added caramelized onions too.  And I got it to go.

Clearly, takeaway presentation isn't anything to write home about, but, wow, it looked really bad.  Also, um, seriously oily.  Do you see the pools of oil in here?  I'm not sure what went wrong, because it was my same wonderful egg cook as the first day.

The veggies were just too oily to really enjoy.  Spinach absolutely soaked in oil is not enjoyable.  The onions were super flavorful though, and sweet.  I'd certainly go for the spinach, onion, mushroom combo again.

The eggs were nicely done, perfectly over-medium as I requested.  I liked the egg parts, when I could extract them from the oily puddle.

Besides the oil though, there was another problem.  Where was my cheese?  Doh.  She forgot my cheese, which really made a difference last time.

So, nicely cooked eggs, but the veggies were ruined by oil, and the cheese was missing.  Sadness.

A La Carte

A La Carte Menu - July 2016.
The a la carte breakfast menu is broken into three rather strange categories: Regional, Comfort, and Alternatives.   Those names all sound fairly normal, but, they didn't seem quite accurate to describe what was on the sections.

For example, "Regional" included Cranberry Pecan French Toast, which I guess highlights Cape Cod Cranberries, and a Maine Lobster Benedict, featuring well, Maine lobster, but what about the Classic Eggs Benedict?  Nothing really regional about that.  This section also seemed like it hadn't been updated with the seasons.  The aforementioned french toast was cranberry french toast, with apple chutney on top.  Doesn't that scream fall or even winter to you?  The waffle was a pumpkin waffle, with cranberry chutney.  Again, fall flavors.  I also found the "New England Breakfast Wrap" rather amusing, as it was filled with eggs, potatoes, Portuguese sausage, avocado, sweet onion, and Vermont cheddar.  Besides the cheddar, uh, what is New England about that?  Certainly not the Portuguese sausage or the likely-California-grown avocado.

Anyway.  The "Comfort" section really was just a bunch of classics, not really comfort foods.  If anything, the "Regional" section had more comfort items, as it had pancakes, french toast, and waffles.  The "Comfort" section had basics like eggs any style, corned beef hash, steak and eggs, omelets, a healthy frittata, and oatmeal.  Nearly all these items were available at the buffet as well and seemed highly uninspired.

Finally, the "Alternatives" were even more basic, and really should have just been labelled as sides: sausage, bacon, corned beef hash, granola, cereal, yogurt, and smoothies.

A la carte beverages (coffee, tea, espresso, juice) rounded out the menu.

Ordering a la carte took ... forever.  Nearly 30 minutes from the time I placed my order until my french toast arrived.
Cranberry Pecan French Toast. $14.
"Locally baked cranberry pecan bread, apple chutney, maple syrup, butter."

I'll admit that I was rather disappointed when my order finally arrived.  It didn't look particularly good.  Thin slices of bread.  Regular dried cranberries on top.  Some very uninspired apple "chutney".  And why serve butter on the side?

Sure, it basically matched the description, and I realize that what I'd actually want is french toast with summer berries, as it was July after all, and uh, some whipped cream on the side.  I quickly asked for the whipped cream.

And then I tried the french toast.  The toppings were as horrible as I suspected.  The cranberries were just cranberries, something I never like.  The apple stuff was just chunks of apple, slightly spiced, both mushy and firm at the same time, and just totally not what I wanted in July.  Maybe in the fall?  I didn't use the butter.  Do people really use butter on french toast?

The french toast itself was actually pretty good.  The bread wasn't at all what I expected though.  "Locally baked cranberry pecan bread" made me expect thick slices of artisanal bread or something.  This was thin slices, but at least they weren't standard sandwich bread.  I also, uh, expected pecans?  There were certainly no pecans in here.  The bread did have a few chunks of dried cranberry in it (although, really, I kinda think they were raisins ... without the menu description, I would have called this cinnamon raisin bread, not cranberry pecan bread).  But the bread was really well soaked, had nice cinnamon flavor, and was well cooked.  It was perfectly moist, but not too eggy, and the edges were a bit crisp.  The little bit of powdered sugar on top was really complimentary.

Without the topping though, it was still a bit plain.  However, dunked in maple syrup , it was quite enjoyable.  The whipped cream I asked for came quickly, but, it was a bowl of whipped cream clearly from a can.  This was really surprising to me, as the buffet had such high quality fresh whipped cream, and that is really what I wanted.

In the end, I pushed the toppings aside, and kinda devoured the french toast, slathered with plenty of syrup.  I enjoyed it.  If I was staying in the hotel longer, I'd probably get it another day (leaving out the cranberries and apple chutney, and asking for fruit instead) but, it wasn't something I wanted two days in a row, and I tried it on my second of three days.  The portion was crazy huge for $14.
Zephyr on the Charles Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Monday, July 25, 2016

Taj-E-India, White River Junction, Vermont

As you've been reading for a few weeks now, I often visit my family in the north east.  Since moving away, and becoming more of a "foodie", I've had a progression of experiences in dining every time I return.  For a while, I wanted to visit all the places I remembered loving, except, well, I realized that, for the most part, they really weren't very good (except, Sabo's Subs, iceberg lettuce and all!).  Then, my family members went through a phase where they wanted me to try all their favorite places, telling me constantly that a place was amazing and dragging me there (Dear sister, I'm sorry, The Flying Goose is awful).  Then I did a bunch of research, and sought out new destinations (like the amazing, but now shuttered, Home Hill Inn).  Eventually I gave up,  and stopped going out to eat there (except to get my daily ice cream at my favorite place, Dairy Twirl, or to diners for breakfast).

This worked fine, until my family members actually wanted restaurant food, and my mom didn't want to cook.  I was cramping their style.  So I went back to the drawing board.  I knew that I didn't want something that I get a better version of in San Francisco.  At some point, the idea of indian cuisine struck me.  I love Indian food, but, San Francisco really doesn't have Indian food that I like.  My parent's town doesn't have any Indian restaurants of course, but, a few towns over, there is a place that serves Indian food.  It isn't exactly a restaurant, but, more on that in a minute.  Now, I realize, that if San Francisco doesn't have Indian food I like, a little town in Vermont is even less likely to.  But ... local Yelpers love it.

So I tried to convince my family that we should get Indian food, which is when I hit a hurdle.  My parents had never eaten Indian food before.  They had no idea if they would like it and no real idea what to expect.  My mom was worried it would be spicy.  My dad really doesn't like trying new things and has a pretty limited set of foods he eats.  I was pretty sure that it would appeal to both of them, as long as they could get over the fact that it was an unknown.

In the end, I was able to convince them, and then began the process of figuring out what we should order, taking their preferences into account, and trying to describe the different dishes.  Like ... paneer.  Imagine trying to explain paneer to someone who has never encountered anything like it before.  "You don't understand, the cheese IS the main ingredient, just like chicken in that other dish ..." or "no, no, it isn't cheese like pizza cheese, it doesn't melt."  Yeah, it was kinda funny actually.

Anyway, the Indian establishment in question was Taj-E-India, a couple towns over, in White River Junction, Vermont.  I say establishment, not restaurant, as, it isn't a restaurant.  They don't have any seating.  It is take-out only, and sorta seems to operate out of someone's house.  Oh, and they don't just serve Indian cuisine, they also have Chinese food.  The menu has 92 items on it (!!!)

Yup, a Chinese-Indian combination takeout shop, with far too large of a menu, in Vermont.  I was in for an adventure.

Overall, it actually wasn't *bad*, but it was pretty unremarkable and was seriously lacking spicing.  If it was in San Francisco, I certainly wouldn't return a second time.  But given the lack of options in the Lebanon area though, after my first visit in summer 2014, I decided to return again in the summer of 2015.  I liked it even less that time, so, I doubt I'll return a third time.

Setting

Taj-E-India is a takeout only establishment, with absolutely no seating.

Everyone picks up food and drives away with it (or, if they are like me, perhaps sneak a bite in the car).  The food was ridiculously hot and fresh.  I actually burnt myself when I took a bite immediately, and it was still all reasonably warm when I got to my parent's house, 20 minutes away.

Since it is a takeout only shop, they know how to package the food well.  Curries come in plastic containers, rice in Chinese takeout style boxes, breads wrapped in foil, and the whole thing inside a paper bag, inside a plastic bag with handles.  You do need to ask for plates and silverware if you want them.
Picnic Table.
Ok, they do however have one lone picnic table in the parking lot, so if it happens to be a nice day, and you manage to be the only one with the thought, you can dine there.  Don't count on it.

Counter to order, pickup, and pay.
Once you venture inside the house, there is a counter where you pick up your food and pay.  Behind the counter was a TV playing Bollywood videos.  It was staffed only when an order was ready.
Waiting area.
The waiting area was literally just this one little sofa.  On my second visit, there were about 8 of us waiting to pick up food, and we couldn't all fit inside.  Four people seems to be about the max.  I told you it was tiny!

Appetizers

The first time I ordered from Taj-E-India, I stuck to the curries, rice, and bread, as I thought they would be the most familiar items to my family.

The second time though, I got more adventurous and decided to introduce my family to Indian food appetizers.  The menu had several types of pakora, samosas, and chaat.  They also had Chinese food appetizers, like deep fried spring rolls, if you wanted to try the Chinese food, either in combination with your Indian or not.
Vegetable Pakora.  $2.49.
"Deep fried assorted vegetable fritters."

I went for the veggie pakora, hoping it would be the most friendly option.

My mom thought it was interesting to have the bits of different vegetables all stuck together, but no one really seemed excited by these.  No one took a second one.

I tried them right when they were hot and fresh when I picked up the food, and even then, I thought they weren't great .  Kinda soggy, kinda oily, meh.  None of us would get these again.

$2.49 price for the portion was good though.

Breads

The bread section of the menu is impressive, featuring both leavened and unleavened varieties, including roti, poori, and multiple types of paratha, naan, and kulcha.  I tried different breads on each visit, but was never quite happy with any of them.  Pretty sure they do not have a tandoori oven.

Like everything, I tried the breads immediately upon receiving my orders, since I wanted to be able to fairly evaluate them, and I knew that waiting the 20 minute drive home would likely compromise the quality.  While Indian food generally holds up well to a little time, bread is the exception.  However, the breads were all pretty soggy and never crisp, even when fresh.  This is a case where leftovers were better than fresh, as I was able to crisp the breads up a bit in the toaster oven when I got home.
Garlic Naan. $2.49.
"Naan stuffed with fresh garlic and herbs."

I started with the bread I figured would be the most friendly to those unfamiliar with Indian food: naan.  And garlic naan, because garlic naan is clearly the superior naan.

Unfortunately, it was disappointing.  It was thin, too moist, and not at all crispy or charred.  The garlic flavor was nice though, and my parents and Ojan all quite liked it.

$2.49 for a single naan was a little high, particularly given how small it was.  You can't tell from the photo, but this is the smallest piece of naan I've ever seen.  And it was thin, not cut, and didn't actually seem to have been cooked in a tandoor.  Meh.
Roti. $1.99. 
"Whole Wheat Bread."

Alongside the naan, I also got roti to show my family an unleavened style in comparison.

The roti was thin, and a bit gummy, and again, not crisp.  The whole wheat flavor was nice, but otherwise, it really failed to impress.

$1.99 price for a small size single roti was ok, but perhaps a bit higher than I'd expect.
Onion Kulcha.  $2.49.
"Fine flour bread stuffed with onion and herbs."

The second time, I moved on to a stuffed bread, onion kulcha (in addition to another order of garlic naan, since my mom had liked it on the first visit.  I remained unimpressed.).

Again, I figured the leavened bread would be more comfortable for them, and knew onions are generally crowd pleasers.

The kulcha, like the previous breads, wasn't crispy, and was a bit flimsy.  It was studded with plentiful chunks of red onion and herbs, making it probably my favorite of the breads, just because it had some flavor.

The others weren't too impressed.  The $2.49 price was in line with the other stuffed bread pricing.
Paratha. $2.49.
"Whole wheat bread with butter."

And finally, paratha, again just to show another type of whole wheat bread.

It was thin and oily, quite dense.  It didn't have any noticeable layers and didn't seem much different from the roti.  I did like the whole wheat flavor though.

Flavorwise, it was my second favorite, but, the bread itself just wasn't very good.

Curries

Like most Indian restaurants, the majority of the menu is curries, vegetable, chicken, lamb, or seafood.  Since my family doesn't eat seafood or lamb, and my dad and I don't like chicken, we mostly went for vegetarian options, although Ojan and my mom split a chicken curry.

The rest of the menu is rounded out by tandori meats and biryanis, none of which we tried.
Saag Paneer.  $9.99.
"Chunks of homemade cheese in creamed spinach and fresh spices."

I'll admit it, much of the reason I like Indian food is because of paneer.  I just adore it.  I'm certainly not a vegetarian, but when eating Indian food, I go for paneer whenever possible.  I also gravitate towards cream/butter style sauces, but I actually wanted one dish that wasn't quite as heavy, so, the first time I ordered, I went for the saag, to throw in some token veggies.

The style of the saag was very creamy, sort of the opposite of what I was intending.  I actually prefer less cream, more spices, and larger bits of spinach, but I know this is just a preference thing.  For this style of saag, it was fine.  But I wanted to actually taste spinach more than cream.  The spicing was ok.

There was a reasonable amount of paneer, in batons, but the cheese was pretty unremarkable.  Not seared or crusted in any way, but not too rubbery either.  Just kinda there.  It didn't make me want to try more of their paneer dishes.

Overall, this was fine, but pretty mediocre.  My mother really liked it.  My dad said he could tolerate it, but it was "eh", and he only had a single bite.  I tried some leftover the next day, and liked it even less.

$9.99 price was fine for the portion size.
Malai Kofta Kashmiri.  $9.99.
"Garden vegetables & homemade cheeseballs cooked in a rich sauce with nuts & cream."

Since I didn't want just two dishes of paneer, and I dislike chickpeas and lentils, I had pretty much only one choice for a second dish the first time we ordered, the malai kofta.

There were I think three large balls.  I never really know what veggies go into kofta, but in these, the veggies seemed a bit more obvious than usual, and there was clearly spinach and potato.  I didn't taste the cheese, but I know there was ground up paneer in there too.

The balls didn't seem really fried, which was nice, but I do like to have a bit of a crust on the kofta.  These fell apart the moment a fork approached them, and broke down into mush.  Flavorful mush, but still, mush.

The sauce was unremarkable.  Besides my love for paneer, the other reason I love Indian food is for the sauces.  I'm such a sauce girl, and Indian cuisine is often filled with amazing complex sauces.  This wasn't bad, but it wasn't particularly well spiced, so, it fell a bit flat.  I enjoyed combining it with some saag and chutney, but, it was a bit lacking on its own.  My mom didn't like it.  Also in the sauce was slivered almonds and plump raisins.

I had some of this for leftovers the next day, cold.  I think I actually liked it better this way.  My favorite of anything I tried.

$9.99 price was again fine for the portion.
Channa Masala. $8.99.
"Flavored chickpeas with tempered ginger."

Finding a dish for my father was hard.  He doesn't eat chicken, lamb, or any seafood, so I had to go vegetarian.  But he also doesn't eat eggplant, cauliflower, or peas.  And he was scared of paneer.

This left very few options, even given how extensive Taj-E-India's menu was.

He does like beans though, so even though I hate beans, and particularly chickpeas, I figured this would please him.

He did like it, and when we ordered food the second time, I asked him if he'd like it again, and he said yes.  That is success in my book.

I tried it, but, well, it was chickpeas, so there really was nothing here for me.  I guess I can say that they were nicely cooked, not too mushy, not too hard?  It was Ojan's favorite dish.
Paneer Shahi Korma. $9.99.
"Tender chunks of homemade cheese, cooked with nuts & cream in fresh herbs and spices."

On my second visit, I still went for paneer dish, even though I wasn't thrilled with it the first time.  Since I didn't want the spinach again, and my dad vetoed peas, that left tikka masala or shahi korma.  I flipped a coin and went for the shahi korma.

Like before, the paneer was just there.  I really wish it was seared slightly.

The sauce was pretty boring.  I even ordered it medium-hot, and there just wasn't much flavor to it at all.  One of the key things I like about Indian food is the spicing, but it was lost here.  It was creamy, and I liked having sauce for the bread, but ... no.

I didn't even want more of this when I had extra bread to use up.
Chicken Tikka Masala. $10.99.
"Tandoori chicken tikka in a tomato and butter sauce."

For Ojan and my mom, the chicken eaters, we got the chicken tikka masala.  I knew I wouldn't want the chicken, but I would gladly use the sauce for my bread.  The chunks of chicken looked good though, moist, and large.

Like the other dishes, it really just lacked flavor.  It was creamy, it was saucy, but there was just no spicing.  And again, I ordered it medium-hot.  The only real flavor was tomato, and it seemed not cooked down well enough, a bit too acidic.

Again, I didn't even want more of this to use up my bread, but my mom and Ojan both had seconds.
Dalmakhani. $8.99.
"Black lentils and beans, cooked in onions with tomatoes and cream."

And finally, on my second visit, I threw in another dish for my dad to try.  He hadn't ever had lentils before, but I described them as "little beans" and he was amenable to trying it.

I loathe lentils, but I tried a bit out of curiosity.  Again, no real spicing, again I ordered medium-hot.  The lentils were ... lentils.  My mom said she doesn't like lentils generally, but she liked this more than expected, so I guess it was a hit in some sense.

Sides

All curries and tandoori items are served with rice and chutneys on the side, which I really appreciated (well, not the rice, I don't ever eat rice with Indian food, I'm all about using the breads to soak up sauces), but having chutneys included was much appreciated.


Boiled basmati rice.
Since I don't like rice, I didn't try the basmati rice.  It nice that they included rice, but I always like to use naan instead of rice.  We had far more rice than we needed on both visits, but, at least they weren't stingy.
Chutneys: onion, mint, tamarind.
All dishes come with a trio of chutneys, which I really appreciated.  I'm such a sauce girl, and I always want to add chutneys to Indian food.  I just get grumpy that I usually have to add them on as an extra charge.

The mint and tamarind were both a bit sweet, a good to compliment the food.  The onion one on the other hand was quite spicy, which my dad liked, since he was able to use it to amp up the spice level in his dish.  On my second visit, when I didn't really like my curries, I ended up loading my bread up with the onion chutney, to at least have some flavor.

Overall, there was nothing notable about the chutney, besides the fact that they were included, which I do give major bonus points for.

Dessert

Ah, yes, dessert.  Of course this is the part I was excited for.  The dessert menu had kulfee, gulab jamun, ice cream, and kheer.
Kheer. $1.99.
"Traditional Indian rice pudding flavored with cardamom and raisins."

Since I love puddings, this was a no brainer.

The kheer was included inside my bag of food, alongside all the hot foods.  Minus a point for that, as it made it strangely warm.

The pudding was ... fine.  Pretty boring.  A bit thin and watery, the rice cooked ok but not remarkable, a sprinkle of pistachio just on top.  Not much flavor.

It wasn't bad, but I see no reason to get it again.

$1.99 price was great for a decent size container.
Taj E India Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Friday, July 22, 2016

Drake's Cakes

Growing up, on the rare occasions when I had packaged sweet snacks (my mom nearly always had a full cookie jar of fresh baked goods, so, why go for packaged?), I was team Little Debbie all the way.  I LOVED the Nutty Bars (because, chocolate and peanut butter!).  The nut topped Fudge Brownies, warmed up with a scoop of ice cream was a favorite treat.  I enjoyed unraveling the Pecan Spinwheels and eating them center-out.  I even liked the Oatmeal Cream Pies.  It turns out, I still have a fondness for most of the Little Debbie products that I've re-tried more recently as an adult.

But my dad was team Drake's.  Specifically, Devil Dogs.  I never liked them.  I still don't.  But on a recent visit, I found that he had expanded his repertoire.  His snack shelf now included another Drake's product: coffee cakes.  These sounded more promising.

Oh, to back up, I was assuming you are familiar with Drake's Cakes and Little Debbie.  They both make a variety of packaged baked goods, the kind that get slipped into lunch boxes or lunch pails.  In our family, they were backups for when the cookie jar ran empty.  I think Drake's is more limited to the east coast, and is smaller distribution than Little Debbie and Hostess.
Coffee Cake.
"There's only one Drake's Coffee Cake. Classic round Drake's coffee cake topped with plenty of sweet, cinnamon-flavored streusel."

I sometimes really get in the mood for coffee cake.  Its a strange craving for sure, as I don't really like cake in general, and particularly not cake without amazing frosting, but, every once in a while I really want coffee cake.  Now, to be fair, what I likely want is streusel topping, not cake.

So when I saw my dad had a box of these, I uh, helped myself to one.

The cakes were fairly thin, hard to tell from this angle.  The cake was very very generic white pound cake.  It wasn't moist nor dry.  It had no flavor.  It was just ... there.  Totally inoffensive, but also, totally uninteresting.  At least it didn't taste like plastic?

The streusel was ok.  Crumbles of brown sugar.  I liked the slight crunch it provided, and I liked the sweetness and flavor.  I wanted to just scrape it off and eat it, leaving the boring cake behind, just like when I got coffee cake at Panera.

The coffee cakes come two to a pack.  If you were having them for breakfast, one is certainly not enough.  Or if you really liked them I suppose, one is not enough.  But since I wasn't that into them, I only wanted one.

I guess I'm glad I tried one, but, I won't find myself stealing one of these again.
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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ice Cream Fore-U, New Hampshire

Summertime, in the north east, is about ice cream.  Sometimes froyo.  When I go visit, I manage to get ice cream basically daily.  I'm a bad influence on everyone around me, but, my visits are usually scoped to two weeks or less.  And I take full advantage of that time.

Last week, you read about my absolute favorite place for soft serve ice cream, Dairy Twirl, in Lebanon, NH.  Earlier this week you read about my favorite soft serve froyo and sundaes at the Boston area chain JP Licks.  Today brings a review of the other ice cream stand near my home town: Ice Cream Fore-U.

The Setting

Like Dairy Twirl, Fore-U is open only seasonally, generally Memorial Day through Labor Day.  Like Dairy Twirl, it is just an ice cream stand, not a restaurant, although it is located adjacent to a facility with mini-golf course, driving range, and batting cages, hence the name Fore-U.
The Stand.
The stand is more attractive than Dairy Twirl, as it is a nice wooden structure with multiple spread out windows to order at.  They have plenty of picnic tables under a roofed area and even a bathroom.

They also *always* have a line.  I have been there at 11am when they open, I've been there at 9pm at night.  In the rain.  In the heat.  In the cold.  It doesn't matter.  The line is always really, really long.  And it isn't because service is slow.  The place is just that popular, serving far more people than Dairy Twirl.  I suspect this is due to the location on the main strip in West Lebanon.

The Ice Cream

Just like Dairy Twirl, they offer Gifford's hard serve ice cream, and Hood soft serve ice cream.  The menu also has shakes, malts, smoothies, and sundaes, plus a few extra items like hot dogs and chips.  And coffee. A bigger selection the Dairy Twirl for sure.

Soft serve is always what I go for.  Fore-U offers up 4 flavors at a time: chocolate, vanilla, and black raspberry, plus a flavor that changes weekly.  Contrast this with Dairy Twirl, with 6 flavors at a time, including the same vanilla/chocolate/black raspberry, plus coffee, and two more that rotate.   (Side note: is the prevalence of black raspberry a thing in other areas?  I don't really feel like I've seen as much black raspberry anywhere but NH ...)

Fore-U also offers up an additional 40 or so more flavors through an infusion system, where they inject a syrup into the ice cream.  So even if a base flavor, or the weekly special, isn't your thing, there are tons of choices here.

Like Dairy Twirl, I've tried a ton of flavors of ice cream at Fore-U, and, none of the flavors are ever as intense as Dairy Twirl.  You would think that since the base is Hood in both locations, that it would be nearly the same.  But ... it just isn't.  I believe Hood only makes vanilla and chocolate, so, all flavors are done by the shops themselves with a mix-in.  The core flavors are certainly more flavorful than the infusion systems, but, still, Dairy Twirl is overall more flavorful.  Hood also makes their base in several different milk fat percentages (5%, 10%), and I'm not sure what either place uses.  I'm guessing 10%, as they are both quite creamy.

The one area that Fore-U really does win however is the price.  When I started taking notes a couple years ago, the size cone I got was $1.  $1!!!  

And speaking of those sizes.  Sizes range from baby, to x-small, small, medium, large, then pint or quart.  Yes, they have not one, but two sizes smaller than a small.  And, um, they are very, very generous sizes.  I've accidentally ordered the x-small a few times, forgetting that baby is actually the smallest, and it really is too much for me.  A baby size of hard ice cream is two full scoops.  An x-small is three.  And so on.  You can pick any two flavors to have in a cone, layers, or, if they are on the same machine, swirled.  They only do a single layer, not multiple like Dairy Twirl.

Prices are the same for both hard and soft serve, unlike Dairy Twirl that gives a discount for soft serve.  If you choose a flavor infusion, it is more expensive, I think $0.50 more, as they have to individually prepare the flavor for you.

Anyway, based on value alone, I pick Fore-U.  Prices have gone up slightly, but, just several years ago, I could get a cone, larger than I wanted even, for $1.  It now is $1.50 (plus 10 cents for my sprinkles/dip), so, still better than Dairy Twirl's $1.75 + $0.50, but, the flavors really are better at Dairy Twirl, so, it is where I generally head.  I won't say no to swinging by Fore-U when I'm in the area though!
Vanilla with Rainbow Sprinkles, Baby. $1.50 + $0.10.
As basic as it gets: vanilla with rainbow sprinkles, always a classic choice, and one I order often when I don't feel inspiration for a particular flavor.

The vanilla at Fore-U tends to be nicely creamy, with a decent vanilla flavor.  My numerous tasting notes say things like, "Creamy, nice flavor, pretty good", or "Nice creamy decent flavor", or "Creamy, subtle vanilla" and so on.  I regularly note how creamy it is.

Sprinkles are available in rainbow or chocolate, and are always well applied.

This is always a solid choice at Fore-U, particularly given that I get disappointed by the flavors.

Here you can also see the baby cone size.  This is a decent size ice cream, nothing really "baby about it.
Black Raspberry with Chocolate Sprinkles, Baby, $1.50 + $0.10.
Black Raspberry is the only flavor, besides vanilla and chocolate, that is always offered.

It is decently creamy, just like the vanilla, but, the black raspberry flavor is very subtle.  It doesn't necessarily taste like raspberry, just, some subtle fruitiness.

I have ordered this flavor more times than I can count, because I always want to like it, but, alas, it never has enough flavor for me.  Dairy Twirl has a much, much better black raspberry.

I always pair my black raspberry with chocolate sprinkles.

[ No Photo ]
Other Weekly Flavors

I've tired the weekly special nearly every time I have visited, but I rarely pick them, as the flavors just fail to impress.  All are nicely creamy though.  Some tasting notes:
  • Banana: creamy, banana-y, but uh, meh.
  • Chocolate: creamy, but I don’t like this chocolate flavor [ I just don’t like chocolate ice cream ]
  • Coconut: creamy, nice coconut flavor
  • Espresso: Creamy, but not much flavor at all [ Creamy, decent coffee flavor ]
  • Orange: Fake, sweet, meh. [ Creamy, good flavor, would have liked swirled with vanilla ]

Flavor Infusions

As I mentioned, you can get basically any flavor you want, via the Wadden Systems infusions.  Fore-U has multiple extra flavor cards, literally, at least 40 more options.  These are made by injecting the syrup into a vanilla base.

Choices are basically every fruity flavor you could imagine (apricot, banana, blueberry, black cherry, blackberry, lemon, orange, peach, pina colada, raspberry, strawberry, etc), plus boozy options (amaretto, rum), or sweet (caramel, butter pecan, maple nut, cheesecake), and more.  I've tried a bunch over the years, but, since you can't taste test these before you order (since they mix them up individually, you have to commit without trying, something I'm always hesitant to do).

I'm glad they offer so many options, but, the flavors just aren't nearly as intense as I'd like.

Maple Nut (bottom) Peanut Butter (top) with Rainbow Sprinkles, Extra Small.  $2.50 + $0.25.
On one visit, I didn't like the weekly flavor, and I was sick of regular vanilla, and grumpy at the flavorless black raspberry, so, I opted to go for flavor infusions, not just one, but, two.  Hedge my bets.

I accidentally ordered an Extra Small, as the person in front of me (my mom) ordered an Extra Small, and I accidentally repeated what she said.  Plus, um, doesn't that sound like it should be the smallest one?  What I meant to order was a Baby cone of course, the option *smaller* than the extra small.  Doh.  It might not be obvious in this photo, but, they actually use a bigger cone for the x-small than the baby.

It really was more ice cream than I wanted at the time.  I love ice cream, but, I just wasn't in the mood for this quantity.  It was night time, not very warm, and I'd just had a big dinner.  I just wanted a final sweet treat, not a massive commitment.  My bad.   (Side note: I really can't imagine getting an actual small.  Or medium.  Or large.  Or extra-large.  I mean, REALLY?!)

The ice cream was fine, fairly creamy, but not remarkable.

The peanut butter flavor infusion didn't have much peanut butter flavor to it at all.  It was very, very subtle if anything.  Honestly, it tasted like vanilla.  This matches my notes from all the other times I tried it, where I note that the peanut butter flavor is good, but, too hard to detect in the ice cream, particularly if you add sprinkles.

The Maple Nut was a bit better, as I could actually taste something besides vanilla.  It had a nice sweetness to it.

Overall, this was all just fine.  It wasn't icy, it was creamy, but it wasn't anything special.

The sprinkles were ... too generously applied.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but, I actually ended up scraping some off, because in this quantity, it was just way too many sprinkles.

[ No Photo ]
More Infusions.
  • Butter Pecan: very sweet, enjoyable, but I wouldn’t get again.
  • Creme de Menthe: Minty but kinda fake tasting, not very good.
  • Coconut: a bit coconuty but not remarkable.
  • White Chocolate: did not like.  Way too sweet, not good flavor.

Toppings

Fore-U is better at pricing than Dairy Twirl for toppings.  At Dairy Twirl, all toppings are $0.50, no matter if you get the smallest cone or the largest, and no matter if that topping is sprinkles or if it is peanut butter cups.   At Fore-U, sprinkles and dips are only $0.10 for baby cones, $0.25 for everything else, and other toppings are $0.25/$0.50 accordingly.  This makes so much more sense, and, I always do get a bit grumpy spending an extra $0.50 to add some cheap sprinkles on my cone at Dairy Twirl (of course, JP Licks wins this one, always offering sprinkles for free).

The topping selection is pretty classic and decently extensive, with all sorts of candy and sauce toppings, but, I always go for sprinkles or dip.  Sprinkles are available in rainbow or chocolate, dip in cherry, chocolate, or butterscotch.

Sprinkles are always applied generously, sometimes almost too generously.  I've only ever had the chocolate dip, but, I've never cared for it.  It never seemed to harden as much as the dip at Dairy Twirl, not creating the same kind of shell, and, it had no flavor at all.
Ice Cream Fore-U Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Scollay Square, Boston

Back in December, I visited the East Coast to see my family and to work from our Cambridge office.  On my last night there, I met up with a couple friends from college for dinner.

We needed somewhere fairly central, as they were both coming into Boston to meet me from the commuter rail that leads to their respective suburbs.  This meant they'd arrive at North Station, and they suggested going out somewhere near there, near Faneuil Hall ... not exactly an area known for its culinary scene.  I managed to convince them to walk a little further and go the other direction, towards Boston Common.

We selected Scollay Square as our destination, a restaurant I found with good reviews, located just a block off the Common, with a great cocktail program and seafood focused menu (things that matter to me!), but casual atmosphere, which seemed perfect for our group.  We'd all be coming straight from our respective offices, and didn't want to have to get dressed up, and didn't want somewhere too pricey.  And, to relive our college days a bit, we obviously wanted cocktails!

It was a good choice, and met our needs well.  The food was good, although not outstanding, and prices reasonable.  Service was good, but the server was very busy, and wasn't able to pay basic attention to us to do things like refill water glasses or bring us a dessert menu.  I'd return, but wouldn't go out of my way for it.

The Space

Inside.
The restaurant has a bar all the way deep inside, and a small seating section near the front door.  It isn't very large overall, and it is a bit hard to get to the bar just to hang out before being seated since you have to walk through the entire space to reach it.

The furnishings seem very ... well, very Boston to me, slightly older style, elegant, but not stuffy.  Tables are wood, and there are lots of wood accents are around the room.  The walls are covered in large, artsy photographs.  The lighting adds to the ambiance, with lamps on the walls that look like old fashioned street lamps, and candles on the tables.

Tables are set with placemats and black cloth napkins wrapping the silverware.

Drinks 

We started our evening at the bar, with cocktails.  As you'll see with all sections of the menu, the drink selection was quite large

One friend went for a simple dirty martini, and she was happy with her selection, although she moved on to a glass of brut next.  The other went for a daily special with a sweet fruit jam inside of it.  She didn't stop at just one, so, I think it was a success.
Grapefruit Basil Martini: Hendricks / Fresh Basil /  Squeezed Grapefruit / Soda. $12
I opted for the grapefruit basil martini.  I do like gin, and it sounded quite refreshing.  It wasn't really.  The grapefruit was incredibly bitter, and I don't think they really added any sugar to balance it.  I didn't want a sweet drink, but, the grapefruit and the gin together without anything to balance was just too harsh.  I also didn't taste any basil.

Really, I wanted this to be like the delicious "Rising Sun" I had a Legal Crossing a few days prior, a gin and yuzu based drink, that was actually balanced and refreshing.

I diluted it a bit, and liked it more, but, it just wasn't refreshing as I wanted, and it wasn't balanced enough. $12 is more than I want to pay for a basic cocktail, but seems in line with Boston pricing.

Appetizers 

In addition to a very extensive soup and salad menu (including entree sized salads), and grilled flatbreads, there is a huge assortment of "smaller" plates available to start your meal.  Largely seafood focused, with several shrimp options (poached or fried), several ahi options (tacos, a napoleon), scallops, calamari, and more.  For meat lovers, kobe beef shows up as sliders or meatballs, and vegetarians have a lot to choose from as well, including some very tempting looking tempura fried green beans with a dipping sauce.
Block Island Calamari / Grape Tomatoes / Scallion Threads / Red Peppers / Sriracha Aioli. $11.50.
I really wanted fried seafood.  I had two options, fried calamari or "screaming rooster" rock shrimp.  I almost went for the rock shrimp, but the waitress told me she preferred the calamari.

The calamari was actually really nicely prepared.  The batter was flavorful, it was crispy, and not at all oily.  Really nicely seasoned, salty in a good way.  Most of the portion was rings, just one full body with tentacles in the middle of the plate.  It wasn't rubbery, or fishy.  Just really nice.

What I didn't like was the vegetables served with it.  The grape tomatoes were out of season (it was December), served raw, and just kinda mushy and flavorless.  The red pepper was extensive, there was tons of it, and it was just raw.  So many raw peppers, they overwhelmed everything.  Why not fry these too?  Or have little sweet peppers?  Anything, but boring, raw, plain red peppers, taking over the dish.

Also taking over the dish was the scallion threads, again, tons of them.  I liked that they were trying to add freshness, but, this just didn't work.

I did like the sriracha aioli, spicy, creamy, but drizzled over the top.  I wanted to be able to dunk into it, and, I wanted more.

One complaint I have is with the plating itself.  There was so much piled onto this awkward plate that it was impossible to get a piece without pushing something off the far side of the platter.  No matter how careful I was, I kept having things sliding off the far side.

I wish I'd gone for the rock shrimp, as it came with napa cabbage, which sounds much better than the veggies that came with this.   Still, the tempera batter and frying job was great.  I'd love to try the rock shrimp, or the fish and chips, next time.  This was good, but had enough issues that I certainly wouldn't rave about it.

Mains

The menu for mains is incredibly extensive, like every other section of the menu.  Numerous seafood options, like rare tuna, bronzed swordfish, roasted haddock, glazed salmon, and several lobster dishes.  For the non-seafood eaters, there is chicken, pork tenderloin, beef short ribs, steak frites, and a single vegetarian pasta.  The full bar food menu is also available in the dining room, so if you want a burger (hamburger, lamb burger, or tuna burger), or comfort food like steak tips, mac and cheese, stir fry, or fish and chips, those are also all options.

One diner opted for the steak tips from the pub menu, and really enjoyed it, particularly with the "potato lasagna" on the side, a delicious layered, cheesy creation that was like au gratin potatoes meets lasagna, sans pasta.
Pan Seared Day Boat Scallops / Bacon studded rainbow chard / Mashed / Beurre Blanc / Chive Oil. $22.
Mmm, scallops.  Besides local, fresh Dungeness crab, scallops are certainly my favorite seafood.  I love them seared, medium-rare.

The menu at Scollay Square drew me in for many reasons, but one is that they have not one, not two, but three different scallop preparations.  One is on the pub menu, the most casual option, broiled scallops with crumbs and garlic butter, served with fries and slaw.  Another is on the small plates menu, blackened day boat scallops with horseradish marmalade, a smaller portion, for only $11.50.  The final is a full entree, and what we opted for.

The mashed potato was kinda lumpy and not great, really just generic mash.  The bacon studded rainbow chard was amazing though, fresh greens, and delicious bits of salty, crispy bacon.  The bacon also complimented the scallops well.

The scallops were nicely cooked.  They didn't have the hard sear I prefer, and weren't mid-rare, but they were fully medium, and not rubbery, not fishy.  So, for the style of scallops, nicely done, well seasoned, and enjoyable.

I wished for a little more of the beurre blanc, which seemed to just be a dot on each of the 6 scallops. The $22 price was good for a entree, and this was a nicely sized meal.  I'd definitely get the scallops, or delicious bacon chard, again.

Dessert

Our server was good, but, very busy.  We sat a very long time after our plates had been cleared, with no offer of dessert.  She rushed by several times, never looking our way.  Finally, I flagged her down, because I really can't skip dessert, and, I knew from looking online how amazing their dessert menu was.  They had wwo selections for the chocolate lovers (flourless chocolate cake or a chocolate dacquioise duo, both gluten free too), plus a fun sounding "s'mored sticks" with toasted marshmallows, melted chocolate, peanut butter sauce, and graham cracker crumbs.  But I had my eyes on one thing: the puddings.
Decaf Coffee.
Of course, I wanted coffee to go with my dessert.  It wasn't listed on the menu, but I asked for it anyway.  Sadly, it arrived long after my dessert, because the waitress had to brew a fresh pot.

It was ... fine.  Not particularly good, not particularly bad.  Obviously hot and fresh.  I'm not sure the price, as the waitress realized after we'd paid that she forgot to put it on the bill.  I just tipped her a bit extra, even though we weren't given particularly good service due to her busyness.
Butterscotch Pudding / Handcrafted Caramelized Sugar / Local Butter / Cream / Fresh Vanilla Bean / Whipped Cream. $8.
So, pudding.  I adore pudding.  Such a comfort food for me.  I like pretty much all forms of pudding, ranging from set custards like crème brûlée, to jiggly panna cotta, to rice or bread puddings too.  So to say I was excited when I saw pudding on the menu is an understatement.  And butterscotch pudding is a favorite of mine, something my grandmother always made.

This was a very good pudding.  It was kinda loose and runny, so the consistency wasn't amazing, but the flavor was.  It wasn't a classic butterscotch flavor, more like a maple flavor, but it was delicious.

The whipped cream on top was kinda sad, not fluffy, totally fallen.  But, I appreciated the whipped cream.

So, was this amazing?  Well, no.  The pudding could have been set better, the whipped cream was laughable, and I wished for some crunch on top, but I really did enjoy this, and the $8 price was quite reasonable.
Bread Pudding / Raspberry & White Chocolate Custard / Vanilla Sauce / Whipped Cream. $8.
The other dessert I had my eye on was the other "pudding", the bread pudding.  It wasn't as successful as the butterscotch.

It was served piping hot, so points for that.  But the top wasn't crispy, the interior just kinda soggy, no real flavor to it.  There was mushy, seedy, raspberries mixed in, which I didn't like, due to the seeds.  It was covered in cinnamon, and the cinnamon and raspberry didn't go together very well for me.  On top was more whipped cream, again, deflated.

Overall, this disappointed in every dimension.  I also never found "white chocolate custard" nor "vanilla sauce".

After a few bites of this, I just went back to the butterscotch.  This went unfinished.  Again, $8 price was good though.
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