Thursday, November 21, 2013

More Cookies from Arizmendi Bakery

I've reviewed baked goods from Arizmendi before, so I'll keep this short and sweet.  I still fondly remember their muffins and scones, but the cookies are still just cookies.  Good cookies, but never the thing I really go to.
Spicy Chocolate Shortbread.
Wow, this packed some heat!  I know it said spicy chocolate, but I didn't expect it to have SOOO much intensity.

Anyway, it was a classic shortbread, with crunchy chocolate bits, and uh, something spicy.  Like Mexican chocolate, but in a shortbread.  I really enjoyed it paired with my coffee.
Cinnamon Anise Shortbread.
This is the one I expected to have the more intense flavor, as it featured both cinnamon and anise.  The top was brushed with cinnamon, and there were little bites of anise in it.  The flavors were subtle though, which was fine, just not what I expected.  Or maybe my taste buds were just blown from the spicy chocolate!  I appreciated the crunch from the anise bits.
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Delivery from Little Star Pizza

A few weeks ago, I had the task of providing dinner for a group of co-workers.  This happens every few months or so when our regular catering is unable to provide our meals.  I've had fun with this task, finding decently suitable takeout food like cold Vietnamese salads and desserts from Miss Saigon and spring rolls from Freshroll.  Or going totally non-standard, and getting a delicious takeout meal from Zare at Fly Trap.  But this time around, I decided to be simple, and go for the most common type of delivery imaginable ... PIZZA!

Of course, I have strong opinions on pizza, like most things, and my favorite place in San Francisco is Little Star ... and they don't deliver.  And my last visit there wasn't that great.  But, if I was getting pizza, I wanted my favorite!

Thus, I was thrilled to discover a service called Caviar, that partners with just a handful of restaurants (generally better than your standard delivery options available through Seamless, Delivery.com, Eat24, etc), including Little Star!  The ordering process is much nicer than any other I've used, with a fully illustrated menu.  They also provide GPS tracking of your delivery and e-mail notifications.  Of course, it comes at a price, a flat rate of $9.99 per order.

The only negative thing I have to say about Caviar is that my pizza and cheesecake came together in the same insulated bag.  Given that pizza should be hot and cheesecake chilled, this wasn't ideal.  The pizza boxes were still hot to the touch, but I definitely wanted to stick my pizza in the toaster oven to warm it up further once it arrived.  The delivery guy was friendly.

Next time I actually get delivery, I'll definitely consider Caviar again, as I greatly prefer their more curated list of restaurants!
Little Star, Deep Dish, Large.  $28.25.
Whenever I go to Little Star, I can never decide which of the "Little Star" or the "Classic" I like best.  I like them both, but my favorite varies from visit to visit.  Tonight, my favorite varied from bite to bite!

I started with the Little Star, a vegetarian pizza of "spinach blended with ricotta and feta, mushrooms, onions, and garlic".

The crust wasn't nearly as crispy as I remember, but I'm guessing that this is due to the fact that it was delivery.  Even once I re-toaster oven warmed it, it still wasn't crisp.  It was hearty though, and I always really enjoy the cornmeal texture and flavor.

Like all of their deep dish pizzas, this is not a light pizza.  Not only is it very thick deep dish, and the slices are huge, but the amount of filling is considerable.  The pizzas all have a very thick layer of mozzarella, then the selected toppings, and then an insane layer of tomato sauce.  In this case, that meant a lot of cheese layers, since our toppings layer also included cheese, so we had the base mozzarella cheese layer, then ricotta/feta layer with the veggies, and then some parmesan sprinkled on top to finish it off.  Eating a few slices of this always causes pain.  But, I never learn.

Anyway, back to the pizza.  The mozzarella layer was fine, nicely melted cheese.  But the part of the Little Star that I always like is the ricotta/feta/spinach blend.  It reminds me of the filling my mom used to make for her stuffed shells.  The mushrooms and onions add a little something more, but for me, it is really all about those first ingredients.

The tomato sauce on top is slightly sweet, and has large chunks of tomato.  I always think the layer of tomato sauce is too thick, masking some of the other flavors in the pizza.  But, then I always want that sauce to sorta dunk/top my crust with.  So I scrape off a little of the tomato sauce (or, just let it fall off, which inevitably happens), and then use it to finish off my crusts.  I guess I'm not really upset about the amount of sauce, but ideally, there would be a little less, but I'd get some extra sauce on the side for dunking purposes :)

Anyway, this was a good pizza.  By the end of the meal, it was my favorite, and of course is one I'll order again.

The $28.25 price is higher than at the restaurant, where it is $24.50.  Still, for such a filling pizza, the price seems fine.
Classic, Deep Dish, Large.  $28.25.
My other favorite pizza at Little Star is the aptly named "Classic".  Made with "sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green bells".

Most elements were pretty much the same as the Little Star, in that the crust wasn't quite as crisp as I remembered, the mozzarella layer was a little too much but well melted, and the tomato sauce on top was again a little too much, but then wanted for my crusts.

What differed is the filling.  In this case, mushrooms, onions, green bell peppers, and sausage.  I was really impressed with the large amount of toppings, that were well distributed.  On my last visit to Little Star, I was unhappy with the fact that my slice only had 2 tiny pieces of sausage on it, this time, that was certainly not the case.  Every bite was loaded up with toppings, which is just how I remember it being back in the glory days.  I'm glad to see my last experience was a fluke!

This was my favorite when I started eating the pizzas, but by the end, I flip-flopped and decided I liked the Little Star more.  But again, a good pizza, and one I'd order again.  The mix of veggies and sausage is, well, classic.  You can't turn it down!

Price was the same as the Little Star, again, a decent price for such a substantial pizza.
Mama's Ricotta Cheesecake.  $6.75/slice.
If you read my previous review of Little Star, you know that I was devastated when they were out of cheesecake, because they made my absolute favorite cheesecake in the whole world.  Well, it gets more traumatic!  Little Star topped making their own cheesecake!!!

They now get their cheesecake from San Francisco Cheesecake Company.  Now, I like SF Cheesecake, and I've reviewed them before.  But, it isn't my darling Little Star cheesecake.  Yes, I like the pizza at Little Star, but I always liked the cheesecake even more than the pizza.  So, even though I like SF Cheesecake, this is still a bit of a tragedy to me.

Anyway.  The location I ordered from had only one kind of cheesecake available, the "Mama's Ricotta Cheesecake".  Apparently their other location has the Vanilla Sour Cream and the Cappuccino.

The "Mama's" is described as "our version of New York cheesecake with rich ricotta, sour cream and a hint of lemon over our graham cracker crust. "  I hadn't ever had this one before, as I tend to go for their more interesting flavors, but I eagerly dug in (ok, I dug in a while later, after I finished digesting all the pizza ... as excited as I was for the cheesecake, I was way, way too full to consider a slice right away!)

It was a good cheesecake, don't me wrong.  The crust wasn't too thick, slightly buttery crumble style.  The cheesecake itself was very creamy, and had a nice tang from the sour cream.  But if I was selecting a cheesecake from SF Cheesecake, I wouldn't pick this flavor, and would go for their amazing butterscotch version instead.  Or one of the fun seasonal ones.  Overall, this was good, and I'll get it again if at Little Star, but I'm still in mourning over the loss of the original Little Star cheesecake.

I had an extra slice and had it the next night.  Cheesecake normally keeps fine for a day, but I really wasn't into it on the second day.  I'm not quite sure why.  The consistency didn't seem quite right, it was too fluffy for me.  Maybe I was just sick of cheesecake?

Like the pizza, the price is higher via Caviar, $6.75 rather than $5.25.  While that price doesn't seem crazy for cheesecake served in a restaurant, it did seem a bit crazy once I realized how much we paid for our 7 slices of cheesecake.  And, in a restaurant, it would be garnished with some sauce and whipped cream.
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Another Try at Nick's Crispy Tacos

I first went to Nick's Crispy Tacos a year ago, when I discovered them on LevelUp.  I wasn't impressed, and said I probably wouldn't return.  But a few months later they ran an even better LevelUp promotion, enabling me to get what I really wanted, for free!  Even then, I didn't like it, and said I wouldn't return.  Yet I did.

They keep drawing me in with freebies!  This time, it was a $5 credit for my birthday.  Aww, thanks Nick's!  I liked my food much more on this visit, but I think that is because I stopped trying the tacos.  Turns out, Nick's Crispy Tacos does a nice job, with non-tacos!
Elote.  $3.25.
Since the tacos really hadn't done it for me before, this time around I decided to go for the other thing the Yelpers all flip out about: the elote.  I grew up eating a lot of corn on the cob, and still love it.  Theirs is served Mexican style of course, slathered with queso fresco, chili powder, and the lime mayo that they use on the fish tacos.  Wrapped up in foil, it almost looked like a burrito when it was handed over to me.

It was decent corn.  Corn season just ended, so I wasn't expecting much of the corn itself, but it was nicely cooked.  Not too overcooked, not mushy, just nicely done.  I liked the heat from the generous amount of chili powder they added.  There was also a TON of cheese, I'm assuming queso fresco, on it.  I didn't care for it.  It added a salty component, and I always put salt on my corn, but I just wasn't a fan of the cheese itself.  There was also some lime mayo.  I didn't taste the lime, but I liked the creaminess.  Although, I'm not sure I really needed mayo on my corn.

I was also handed containers of each of the red and green salsa with this.  I'm really not sure what I would have done with that on my corn.

Overall, it was better than the tacos for sure, but I didn't really want another.  Maybe during corn season it is better?

I only ate half of it when I got it, and brought the other half home for Ojan.  However, he wasn't interested, so I ended up eating it, cold.  I actually really liked it that way.  I cut it off the cob, and it was basically like a mayo-y corn salad.  Not bad at all.  It really surprised me, and by this point, I changed my mind, and said I'd gladly get it again.  Only, I'd just bring it home, stick it in the fridge, and have it as corn salad :)

The price was $3.25, but I was charged $3.66.  I remembered that last time I was confused with the final price as well, as it always comes out higher than just standard tax.  Not sure what they are up to.  An ear of corn, even when covered in stuff, doesn't really seem worth that price.

Update:  And ... I went back to try out my corn salad idea again.  Of course I tried a bite when it was hot and fresh.  My ear of corn was much smaller this time, pale yellow, barely yellow at all.  It was again perfectly cooked though, not mushy.  I again didn't like the cheese, and thought the mayo was really off-putting.

But my plan was to bring it home, serve it cold, off the cob, as a salad.  I didn't like it that way either this time around.  Hmm.  I guess this is what I get for having corn in November :)
Churro.  $1.95.
On another visit, I decided to satisfy my sweet tooth, and ordered a churro to go along with the coffee I had just picked up.  I was basically craving a donut, and thought this would suffice.

I had no idea what to expect, I sorta assumed it would be lackluster since I hadn't liked any of the food there before, besides the corn.  I assumed it was going to be pre-made and just warmed up.  I figured I'd take a bite or two, and bring it to Ojan.

So I was a bit annoyed when it seemed to take forever.  Yes, Nick's was busy, but how long would my little churro take?  Finally, it was handed over, wrapped in foil.

I took a bite and quickly discovered why it took so long.  I'm pretty sure it was freshly fried to order!  It was piping hot.  As in, I actually burnt the interior of my mouth piping hot.

It was crispy on the outside.  Moist on the inside.  Nicely fried.  Great amount of cinnamon and sugar on it.  In short, it was good.  It was the best churro I've ever had.  It put the crappy one from Rubio's to shame.  They weren't even comparable.

Well Nick's, you've done it.  You finally made something I really, really liked :)

At $1.95, it was more expensive than the Rubio's one, but I think the price was very good for a freshly fried item.  Of course, it rang up as $2.20.  I'm convinced at this point that they must include tax + healthy SF fee?

Update: I went back for another, and this time, it was not nearly as good.  While it still took forever to prepare (longer than the burritos, etc from those who ordered after me), it wasn't piping hot.  It was more warm than hot.  It also seemed like it had been over-fried, very crispy, not doughy at all.  And it tasted like oil.  Not enough cinnamon nor sugar.  If this had been my first churro from Nick's I would have never returned.  Consistency does not seem to be their best attribute!

I also tried the horchata again, because I do sometimes love horchata, and was hoping that the previous batch I had was just a fluky bad batch.  Sadly, I still didn't like it.  Just too thick and ricey, although it was nicely seasoned and not too sweet.
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