Friday, May 12, 2017

Bite Box Snacks, Germany

I'm a snacker.  I prefer to just munch on things continuously throughout the day, rather than eat big meals.  Or even if I do eat meals like a normal person, I still like to snack all evening.  Granted, this is probably a bad habit I should get out of sooner rather than later, but, alas, it provides me lots of material for review, as I'm constantly trying new snacks, particularly when I travel.

When I was in Munich visiting my office there, I of course did what I always do - I explored the snacks.  Their little microkitchens were stocked with products from Bite Box, a company that seems to specialize in individually packaged snack foods for offices.

Their product line is huge, ranging from sweet to savory, healthy to decadent, fruity to chocolatey, and everything in between.  This include all sorts of dried fruits, coated nuts, and trail mixes, savory crackers, sweet cookies, and chocolate coated nibbles.  The products names are an amusing mix of English and non-English, like "Mac Daddy" (macadamia nuts), "Coffee To Go" (dark chocolate covered espresso beans and cappuccino almonds), and "Waasssup?!" (wasabi peanut), alongside "Asien Rundfahrt" (Asian rice cracker mix), "Holzfäller" (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts), and "Kolbenresser"(corn nuts).

Since I didn't have Google translate built into my brain, for most of these, I tried them without knowing what they were, and only looked them up later.

I enjoyed my adventures into the unknown, and found a few I really liked.

Tasty Mixes

This category was called "Tasty Mixes", which, the best I could tell, just meant it was the least healthy and most sweet items, mostly made up of assorted types of cookies (ranging from biscotti to stoopwafels), and chocolate coated items.
Coffee to Go.
On my first day in Munich, I discovered these.  The English name gave me a clue that this might be caffeinated, which sounded good to me.

Given my jetlag, this was a welcome first find, dark chocolate covered espresso beans and white chocolate cappuccino covered almonds, both of which gave me a bit of uplift.

I really loved the almonds, the creamy coating was quite enjoyable, and they had a nice crunch.  The chocolate covered espresso beans were pretty standard, crunchy, bitter, fine.  A handful of each was a nice mix, but, I really preferred the cappuccino almonds on their own.

My favorite of everything I tried.
Ka Rammel.
These were adorable little mini stroopwafels.  Except, I don't really like stroopwafels, like the locally made ones I totally failed at using properly by Rip Van Wafels or the "Award Winning" version by Lady Walton.  But, I still tried these, hoping I'd finally find a stroopwafel I liked, as everyone else loves these things.

And?  Yup, just stroopwafels.  The cookie was sorta like a chewy graham cracker, and the filling was chewy caramel.  Nothing particularly interesting here.
Kokosnasen.
"Coconut Biscuits with Spelt Flour."

"Kokosnasen", aka, "Coconuts", were small little hard style coconut cookies.  I liked them far more than I expected, given that they were 1) cookies 2) made with spelt flour.  They were crunchy, but the coconut flavor was good, and I didn't taste spelt.  I didn't really want to eat them plain, but I made mini ice cream sandwiches out of them with some snickerdoodle ice cream, and they were great that way.

Ojan also almost liked them, but proclaimed that they were "like coconut macaroons, but, not as good".

Dried Fruit

The dried fruit category includes everything from single dried fruits (mango, apricots, pineapple) to mixes (strawberry and pineapple, apple and cranberry, raisins and bananas).  Some of these were quite tasty.
Strandperlen.
Many of the mixes had English names, but, alas, this one did not.  What was it?  I had no clue, besides that it seemed to be dehydrated fruits.

I easily identified the big chunks of dehydrated pineapple, and little chunks of apple, but I had no idea what the other objects were.  I kinda thought they were dehydrated figs, but, that didn't seem quite right.

When I looked it up online after, the ingredients said "Physalis".  That still didn't help me.  A few internet searches later, and I learned that I know them as Cape gooseberries, you know, the little yellow-orange tomato things with the strange wrapper around them?

Anyway, the apple chunks I didn't care for since I don't like apple, and I wished they didn't make up 50% of the mix.  I liked the size of the pineapple chunks, and they were pretty sweet.  But I loved the physalis.  Super crunchy, just the right amount of sweet.  I'd gladly just eat a big box of those.

Overall, a decent mix for fruit, and, the dehydration was nicely done, more enjoyable that standard dried fruit.
Pure Lime - Kiwischeiben.
Dried kiwi ... with lime?

I didn't like this.

The kiwi was super chewy, more like jerky than crunchy dried fruit.  That was fine actually, but what wasn't fine was the lime.  The result was crazy tart, way too tart for my liking.

Hearty

Bite Box dubs this category "Hearty", but I didn't think they were especially hearty, just, that they are savory.  Included in this range is asian rice cracker mixes, coated corn nuts, wasabi peanuts, and veggie chips, among a few others.  I tried several of the asian mixes, when I was looking for something not sweet.
Black Pepper.
Next I went for something savory, rice crackers, coated in soy sauce and black pepper.
The crackers were pretty standard rice crackers, crunchy, good to snack on.  The soy sauce was also pretty standard for asian style rice crackers.  But the black pepper gave it some kick.  I'm not sure I wanted that kind of kick, but, it was interesting at least.

Overall though, uh, a bit too peppery for me, not quite the flavor I was looking for.
Asien Rundfahrt.
The "Asien Rundfahrt", "Asian Tour", was another asian inspired rice cracker mix, this time with coated peanuts and seaweed elements mixed in.

It was a pretty standard mix of Asian rice crackers, most with a slightly sweet soy sauce coating.  I liked the coated peanuts the best, but, my "Tour" only included 2 in the box.

Overall, fine to munch on, but not particularly exciting.
Read More...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar

Update Review, May 2017

By now you know that in October, I visited New York, where I experienced much that the Momofuku empire has to offer: dinner at Nishi (swoon, those butter noodles!) followed by soft serve and cake truffles at Milk Bar (seriously, the best sprinkles ever!).  We also each snag a cookie to take with us, for, uh, breakfast.  I've reviewed these cookies before, so, this is just an update.  
Blueberry & Cream Cookie. $2.25.
"Sugar cookie dough, bits of milk crumbs and morsels of dried blueberries transform into a cookie that tastes just like the top of a blueberry muffin!"

Yeah, oops, I took a bite first.  Sometimes even I forget to snap a photo before I dig in ...

In general, I do not like cookies.  Momofuku Milk Bar cookies however are an exception.  These things are so buttery, so sweet, so rich ... that they just aren't "cookies".  I had this in a hotel room, so I wasn't able to warm it up and make it slighly soft and gooey, but I can only imagine how much better it is that way.

So, the cookie.  Very sugary, buttery base.  The sweetness isn't *just* sweet though ... accented with brown sugar and white chocolate for a more complex experience.  The little bits of dried blueberry momentarily convince your brain that it is totally ok to eat one of these for breakfast, since, uh, its like a blueberry muffin?

I enjoyed my cookie (perhaps for breakfast) quite a bit, but I wished I had been able to warm it up, or crumble it on top of ice cream ...
Confetti Cookie. $2.25.
"Just like the milk bar b’day truffles and layer cake, this sugar cookie is full of birthday sprinkles, birthday crumbs and that familiar old fashioned vanilla flavor!"

The confetti cookie was the seasonal selection while we were in New York, and Ojan snatched it up for himself to try something new.

He may have beat me to it (ahem!), but at least he saved me a bite?  And a very, very good bite it was.

It may not sound like a very exciting cooking, particularly when compared with the other creative options, but I think it was actually my favorite.  A sweet, buttery, sugar cookie base.  Crunchy little sprinkles.  And then .... the birthday crumbs mixed in!  The crumbs were just fantastic and kicked it up a zillion notches.

I was pretty sad not to get more than a single bite though.

Original Review, November 2015

Many years ago, at least ... 6? 7?  I visited New York, and learned about Momofuku Milk Bar.  Being a dessert girl, I was drawn in by the creative offerings, including a pie that everyone raved about (crack pie), and soft serve ice cream made from the sweet milk left in the bottom of your cereal bowl (cereal milk).  These signature items from Momofuku Milk Bar are ridiculously well known at this point, but they were just becoming a rage at the time.

I don't recall exactly what we got on that visit, but I do remember both Ojan and I loving the cereal milk soft serve, and I was smitten by the cake truffles.  I didn't write a blog then, but I did rave about it to a friend over IM, saying, "Basically, everything I had a Momofuku Milk Bar was incredible.  If you are ever in New York, you definitely need to go!!!"

A few days later, we were at a party at a friend's house (still in New York), and someone brought Momofuku Milk Bar cookies.  I remember trying the blueberry and cream cookie and being blown away.  You may recall, I'm not really that big of a cookie person, but these were something else.

Flash forward a few years, to 2011.  Christina Tosi, the pastry chef, published a cook book, and went a book tour, stopping in SF.  I went to one of her talks, and found her to be really engaging.  She told so many stories about her work in the kitchen, how she crafted recipes, etc.  Her love of baking was infectious.  I really enjoyed her talk, per personality, and obviously, her treats.  She brought samples. 

The interesting thing is she didn't just bring finished products, she also brought "crumbs".  Crumbs are building blocks to many of her recipes, and the cookbook includes recipes for a number of types of crumbs.  You'll find the crumbs on top of, and in between layers of, her epic layer cakes.  You'll find them inside the cookies.  The cake truffles are rolled in them.

I started with the plain milk crumbs.  These are used for the "cream" element in the blueberry and cream cookies.  They were really tasty to just snack on, basically like buttery shortbread, with a milky, creamy taste.

I moved on to the cornflake crumbs.  These weren't as good to just eat on their own, but I see how they have their purpose in the cornflake cookies.

And finally, the birthday crumbs, like the milk crumbs, but, with rainbow sprinkles inside.  Ridiculously tasty just to nom on.

I was pretty hooked at this point.  And then I had the Crack Pie for the first time.  My world changed.  Seriously, stop what you are doing now, if you somehow haven't had Crack Pie, go get some.  If you are in New York/Washington DC/Toronto, go to Milk Bar.  If you are elsewhere in the US, order it online.  Pay the ridiculous overnight delivery fee.  It is worth it.  It is an earth shattering pie, aptly named.

Anyway, I don't claim to have discovered Milk Bar early, but, it was long before they shipped nationwide, before Christina Tosi was on Masterchef, and before you could buy the cookie mix at Williams-Sonoma.  I loved it then, I still love it now, so I dug up these notes to share with you.

Oh, and if anyone is interested in sending me a cake, I've never had any of Momofuku's Milk Bar's cakes, but the Birthday and Dulce de Leche Cakes look like the best versions ever of these classics.  (I'd settle for a Crack Pie or any of the cake truffles too).

Cookies

The cookie menu at Momofuku Milk Bar has not changed in years.  The selection of 5 I tried on my visit many years ago is exactly what is still offered today.  They came up with some winning recipes, and haven't messed with them.

As I've said in many other reviews, I'm not normally a big fan of cookies, but these are truly great cookies.  The soft, gooey textures, the amazing flavors, just set them apart from all other cookies.

They are pricey at $2.25 each at the shop, but they are large, and, some of the most unique flavors I've ever had.  You can also order online for delivery nationwide, and, the cookies do seem to freeze pretty well.  Williams-Sonoma also carried cookies mixes for some flavors, although they seem unavailable now.
Compost Cookie®.
"Packed with pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch and chocolate chips, this cookie strikes the perfect balance between salty & sweet."

The Compost Cookie® may be Milk Bar's most famous, or at least, the name sure is (so much so that they registered it).  Does it sound appealing?  Well, not if you stop reading at "compost".  But if you read on to "salty & sweet", then, yes!

The base is ridiculously buttery, ridiculously sweet, ridiculously gooey.  It is a thin, gigantic cookie.  That alone is great, but then it is loaded up with chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coffee grounds, graham crumbs, pretzels, and chips.  Yes, all of that.

Unfortunately, I didn't detect any chips or pretzels in mine, which resulted in it being more of a sweet overload.  I needed the salty, I wanted the crunch.  It was still pretty tasty, but you need to be in the mood for serious amounts of butter and sugar to enjoy it.  Coffee grounds did add a nice bitter component.  My 3rd favorite overall, and one I'd eat again, but not as special as some of the others. 

I froze several of these, but they were not as good post-freezing, as they lost their soft gooeyness.  In general, cookies freeze well, but this one I wouldn't recommend freezing.  The sugar and butter delicious flavor is still there, but the lovely softness is lost.
 Cornflake-Marshmallow-Chocolate-Chip Cookie.
"Our play on the classic chocolate chip cookie with crunchy cornflakes, gooey marshmallows & mini chocolate chips!"

There is a reason butter is the first ingredient listed for this one.

Another thin cookie, ridiculously buttery, ridiculously sweet, ridiculously gooey.  The base seems very similar to the Compost Cookie.

I liked it as a chocolate chip cookie, and I loved the addition of the marshmallow, it gave a really nice flavor and texture.  But, I hated the cornflake!  It was a super strange texture to have in the cookie, as it was kinda soggy, and flavor-wise it totally didn't work for me.  My least favorite of all the cookies.
Chocolate Chocolate Cookie.
"Chocolate cookie dough with cocoa powder, 55% chocolate, chocolate crumbs and a hint of salt- a cookie that’s dense and fudgy like a brownie and very, very chocolate-y!"

This was a thicker cookie, not thin like the first two, but still very soft and gooey.  I think the texture of the cookies is my favorite aspect of Milk Bar's cookies, and I'm sure it is due to the butter content.

This one, like the others, was very buttery.  Ir reminds me more of a brownie than a cookie. The  chocolate flavor was not very intense though, which surprised me given all the chocolate used, and the deep brown color.

I tried these a few more times, and always remarked on how the chocolate flavor just wasn't that strong.  They did freeze well, and were good, but just not amazing, and not really my thing.  4th pick of the 5, and not one I really wanted more of.
Corn Cookie.
"A milk bar cult favorite – the familiar flavors from cornbread transform into a sweet, buttery cookie!"

This was the thickest cookie, not nearly as soft, more crunchy.  In fact, not gooey at all.  It tasted like ... cornbread or a corn muffin.  Except a cookie.  And very buttery cornbread at that.

It was not very sweet.  It had a smaller diameter than others due to the thickness, but was still a massive cookie overall, and weighed a ton.  It was really strange to have cornbread as a cookie, but it was very flavorful.

It took a while, but this cookie totally grew on me.  Think of all the goodness of buttery corn bread or a corn muffin, but ... as a cookie.  Strange, but it totally works.  My second favorite, and I'd gladly eat more of these.  The thicker style, and less gooey, made it more amenable for freezing too.
Blueberry & Cream Cookie™
"A cookie that tastes like the top of a blueberry muffin- we take our sugar cookie dough, add bits of milk crumbs & morsel of dried blueberries!"

Speaking of muffins, the Blueberry & Cream Cookie™, like the corn cookie, is also muffin inspired.

This one was thicker than the Compost and Cornflake cookies, but thinner than the Double Chocolate and Corn, somewhere right in the middle.  Same with the texture, not as gooey as the thin ones, not as crisp as the thicker ones.

It had little dried blueberries and the signature milk crumbs throughout, as various size chunks.  I loved the chunks of milk crumb, and the intense pops of blueberry flavor.

This was like a blueberry pie or blueberry muffin ... but as a cookie.  Just like the corn cookie, it isn't how you traditionally expect to taste these flavors, but, it works.  Why NOT turn delicious things into cookies?

I loved this one, my favorite overall.  It was not as sweet or gooey as the Compost or Cornflake, but that just made it possible to eat more of it, and it was still plenty sweet and gooey.

But, like the other softer styles, it was not as good after freezing, as it lost some soft goeyness.
Momofuku Milk Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Read More...

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

JetBlue Flight 615, JFK-SFO, Mint

As you read last week, I flew JetBlue Mint class for the first time from San Francisco to Boston, and I was ruined.  It was so amazing that I booked it again a few months later when I traveled home for the holidays.  You can read those two reviews here first.

For my return flight to San Francisco, from New York (yes, I flew to Boston, but returned from New York), I got to experience JetBlue Mint for the second time.  And this time, in an even better way.  I had seat 2A, one of the single suites.  I thought the experience was great the first time, but this was even more insane.  I'm really, really ruined for all domestic air travel now.

My flight was a daytime flight again, this time departing at 11:50am, so lunch was the main service.  Crew were friendly as always on JetBlue.

The Seat and Amenities

The cabin is 3 rows of pairs, plus 2 rows of single "suites", all of which sell first-come, first-serve.
My Seat, 2A.
This time, I was able to snag one of the coveted single suites

As you can see, it had ample space on either side, which I'll get more into in a moment ...
Right Side.
The right hand side of my seat was the same as before, with a power outlet (with USB), a light, a bottle of water waiting for me, a remote control for TV, and a perfect little pocket for my phone.
Extra Storage and Bigger Side Tray.
But the suites also have an additional area on the right, with another net area to fit little things, a much bigger storage compartment (which fit my purse and additional beverages I brought on board), and a much bigger area for drinks and other things to set down.

The paired seat I had on the first flight was fine, but these are clearly enhancements, particularly having the extra space for all my drinks, and not needing to share with a neighbor.
Door!
The singles not only don't have someone next to them, but they also come with a private door (!!!), which I could close once I was underway.  Necessary?  Nah.  But wow, it really was private.  I haven't even had that experience in international Business or First Class, much less domestic!
Large Side Area with more plugs.
Along the window was a huge area next to the seat to place more things, like my laptop when my tray table was out.  It reminded me of the extra space next to upper deck seats of a 747, but even more usable since it was actually flat and intended for things to be set on it.  The downside however is that it isn't an additional storage area inside, not that it was really needed.

This area also had 2 more outlets, with power and USB.  So yes, my seat had 3 full outlets and an incredible amount of space to set down basically anything.
Hayward Amenity Kit.
Once underway, our amenity kits were distributed.  I flew on Nov 2, the second day of the new partnership with Hayward, rather than BirchBox.

While less exciting, this selection made a lot more sense for being on an airplane.  It had an eye mask, ear plugs, little scented towelette, a mint, lip balm, a cloth to wipe my screen, and a card describing the curated contents.  Like I said, not nearly as interesting as the BirchBox, but more relevant, particularly for an overnight flight.

Also at our seats were the large blankets and pillows, and I was able to ask for headphones, this time they got delivered before we even took off.

Food & Drinks

Pre-departure

As on my previous flight, as I settled into my seat the FA stopped by to introduce me to the seat, this time only telling me about the additional features in my single suite, since I had flown on Mint before.  She also offered the signature cocktail, and provided me the menu.
RefreshMint (with Vodka).
I gladly accepted the signature drink, with vodka.  Just like before, I really liked it.  Refreshing and really so much better than standard sparkling wine.

Menu

As before, the menu was available online on JetBlue's website (the menu changes monthly).   I appreciated this, as if I really didn't like the selections on the main menu, I could pre-order a special one if I choose (which I didn't).
Food Menu.
The wine and other drinks did not change, and the format was the same as my past flight: appetizer, choice of 3 "delish dishes" out of 5, and ice cream and fruit for dessert.

The full menu:

Welcome Taste
It’s app-y hour!
Caramelized eggplant tartare with roasted red pepper & toast points.

Delish Dishes
Step up to the plate(s) & choose three. Please note: The first two dishes listed below are chilled. 
  • Grilled ahi tuna with quinoa salad, pickled fennel, pickled red onions & cherry tomatoes
  • Grilled escarole salad with baby gem, sourdough croutons, parmesan cheese & garlic aioli dressing 
  • Asparagus & artichoke risotto with salsa verde, goat cheese & fresh parsley
  • Pumpkin soup with confit chicken, caramelized apples & amaretto biscuits
  • Braised beef stew & black bean rice with olives, capers, roasted peppers & stewed tomatoes 
Sweet Bites
Don’t desert dessert—enjoy both options, along with a hot espresso drink.
  • Seasonal fruit salad
  • Organic ice cream: Blue Marble Ice Cream, Brooklyn, New York
  • Cappuccino & espresso: Brooklyn Roasting Company, Brooklyn, New York
When You Re-Treat
An edible parting gift – worth the wait!
Freshly made confections: Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery | A Colicchio Discovery, New York, New York

It was again easy for me to pick two of my options (the grilled ahi salad and the escarole salad), and the third was a bit harder.  Since I don't like goat cheese I ruled out the otherwise decent sounding risotto, and since I don't really like rice and beans I ruled out the beef stew, so the pumpkin soup was sorta all that was left, which sounded good, minus the chicken of course.

Welcome Taste: It’s app-y hour!

The "Welcome Taste" was delivered with our drinks.  As before, no option here, besides if you wanted it or not.
Failla Pinot Noir, 2014, Sonoma Coast.
"Ehren Jordan makes some of California’s most sought-after Pinot Noirs, including this blend from some of the most exclusive vineyards on Sonoma’s far coast. The quintessence of modern Pinot Noir, with subtle berry fruit, a tea-like spice and a cool, piney tinge reminiscent of the coastal forest."

The wine was ... fine.  It was a bit acidic, a bit harsh for my tastes though.
Caramelized eggplant tartare with roasted red pepper & toast points.
This was shockingly good.  I didn't like the eggplant mousse from last time and only liked the taro chips, so I didn't expect to like this at all.  I was sad that the taro chips had been replaced with toast points, and had little hope for the eggplant element.

But ... the eggplant tartare was delicious!  Chunks of eggplant, mixed with pine nuts (which I don't normally like), really well seasoned and flavored with perhaps some citrus?  It was very oily, the eggplant was slimy, and I don't normally like pine nuts or citrus, but ... yeah, for some reason I really enjoyed it.

The toast points were better than I expected.  They were cold, dry pieces of toast, but, they reminded me of some toast crackers I used to eat.  Certainly not great, and I greatly preferred the taro chips, but these weren't awful.

My favorite dish of the flight.

Delish Dishes

And as before, lunch service is designed as small plates.  The menu again had 5 options: 2 cold, 3 hot, two vegetarian, one chicken, one seafood, one beef.  I could pick up to 3.  Which of course, I did. 
Grilled Ahi, Grilled Escarole Salad, Pumpkin Soup, Bread, Oil, Salt & Pepper.
All were served together, along with the same bread and oil as last time.  The bread was again not very good, cold, stale.
Grilled ahi tuna with quinoa salad, pickled fennel, pickled red onions & cherry tomatoes.
This had 3 very large slices of grilled ahi on top, with a few chunks of each of the promised veggies, over chilled quinoa.

The pickled red onions were much like those from the cauliflower salad I had on my last flight, tart, fine.  I liked the pickled fennel even more, a fairly unique element.  The cherry tomatoes weren't particularly ripe.

I didn't care for the multicolor quinoa salad, chilled, mushy, with some golden raisins mixed in.

The tuna itself was ... fine.  I'm not really one for seared/grilled ahi though.

My least favorite of my savories.
Grilled escarole salad with baby gem, sourdough croutons, parmesan cheese & garlic aioli dressing.
This reminded me of the baby gem caesar from my previous flight, although I liked it less.

The baby gems were about the same, fresh, crispy, but just lettuce.  The large shreds of Parmesan were also the same.

This time, the breadcrumbs were replaced by more standard croutons.  The menu said sourdough, but, luckily, as I don't like it, I didn't taste sourdough.  They were fantastically garlicky though, and nice and crunchy, my favorite part of the salad.

The grilled escarole was interesting.  It had a nice smoky nature, but, it was relatively slimy, and kinda looked like wilted, brown lettuce.  I liked it, but, it certainly wasn't appealing.

And finally, the dressing.  I didn't taste the garlic in here, and it wasn't really like an aioli to me.  The dressing was thin and kinda just flavorless, but there was plenty of it (the salad wasn't overdressed necessarily, but, lots of dressing).  

I like the cute little 3 small plates serving style, but this was a bit difficult to eat inside the small container.

My second to least favorite of the savories.
Pumpkin soup with confit chicken, caramelized apples & amaretto biscuits.
And finally, the soup, the item I kinda randomly picked.  It was certainly different from what I was expecting.

On top were 3 chunks that looked like croutons, but were the amaretto biscuits.  They were sweet and yup, basically a amaretto cookie.  The flavor did go well with the soup but they quickly got soggy.

The soup itself was kinda bland, but to be fair, I didn't eat the sliced apples or little bits of confit chicken, since I don't like those things, but they probably added quite a bit to it.

Overall, a warm, comforting, light option, with the interesting elements of apples and amaretto.  My favorite of the main small plates, second favorite savory overall.

Sweet Bites

As before, we were offered ice cream and fruit salad, and I skipped the fruit due to melon.  I do love the ice cream on the flight, but I wish they would mix it up in some way, perhaps offering a topping of the month?
Pumpkin Blue Marble Ice Cream.
"Celebrate the holiday season with some Blue Marble Pumpkin. This sweet and spicy treat is packed with real pumpkin and a warm blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves."

I loved the sea salt ice cream last time, and was worried I'd get only vanilla or chocolate this time.  But ... seasonally appropriate, we had pumpkin.  Now, I'm not really one for "pumpkin spice all the things!", but, pumpkin sounded much better than the more plain vanilla/chocolate options.

It was served very hard, so it took a lot of willpower to let it melt, but I knew I'd enjoy it much more once it was more melted.

The ice cream was good, but, again, I'm not a huge pumpkin fan.  The spicing was aggressive but not bad, all the spices were balanced, and it didn't suffer from too much nutmeg, resulting in a soapy taste which can happen with pumpkin spice too often.

Overall, good, but, I preferred the salted caramel.
Dunkin' Donuts Decaf Coffee.
The coffee was ... fine.  Not remarkable in any way, although I did appreciate the mug.

When You Re-Treat

My parting gift was the exact same as my previous flight, a packaged blondie and cookie from Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery.
Read More...

Monday, May 08, 2017

The Bagel Bakery

The Bagel Bakery is a totally nondescript bagel shop/cafe located on a random street in SOMA.  It is open only Monday - Friday, only for breakfast and lunch, and is closed for all holidays.  I normally eat those meals at my office, so, I passed by this little place, without a second glance, for years.

The first time I ventured there was because I was on a mission to find a good bagel for someone.  Yelpers claim The Bagel Bakery is the only authentic NY style bagels (aka, boiled then baked) on the West Coast.  It averages 4 stars.  People rave about the bagels, the egg and cheese breakfast bagels in the morning, and the bagel sandwiches at lunch.

When I stopped in to procure the bagel, I got a bagel for myself as well (I mean, I had to try one if they are the best, even if I'm not a bagel person, right?), and a muffin ... cuz I couldn't resist, and a mocha.  I figured it would be my only visit, so I needed to try a bunch of stuff!  I did end up returning a few more times to get more bagels for said bagel-lover, and tried a few more baked goods.  The baked goods are clearly not their specialty, but, the bagels are pretty good, if you are in the market for an authentic bagel.

Setting

Bagels, cookies, scones, hamentoshen.
Inside is not large, with only a few small tables to sit, a counter displaying the bagels and baked goods, and a self-serve coffee station on the side.

On all my visits, it was fairly busy, a steady stream of folks grabbing their breakfast items to go.  The patrons were a funny assortment of constructor workers wearing reflective vests and carrying hard hats, techies in hoodies, and business folks in suits.  Reflective of the neighborhood, I suppose.

Service was friendly enough and efficient, clearly used to moving the line along.

Bagels

Bagels are the specialty, and occupy most of the counter space.  They are available with a large variety of spreads (including tons of housemade flavored cream cheese), but most folks, at least in the morning, were going for the bagel omelets: bagels toasted, buttered, and stuffed with huge fluffy omelets, choice of cheese, and meats.

The bagel selection is extensive: plain, egg, whole wheat, rye, pumperknickle, onion, garlic, poppy, sesame, all-in-one, multiseed, sundried tomato, cinnamon raisin, chocolate chip, and probably others I just didn't see.
All-in-One Bagel.  $1 plain/$3.25 with flavored cream cheese.
Since I was picking one bagel, there was only one choice - the all-in-one!

I thought it was interesting that they also offered "everything seed", which had the same poppy and sesame seeds, but no salt, garlic, or onion.  I suppose, those are the polarizing things on most everything bagels, so, it kinda makes sense.

The bagel had a decent distribution of toppings.  It had a soft interior, and a flexible exterior, just a slight crust.  It seemed legit to me.

A bagel itself is just $1, which seems fine, but if you want flavored cream cheese, the price skyrockets to $3.25 (plain cream cheese was $2.95).  That seemed ... steep.
Date and Walnut Cream Cheese (extra $2.25 with a bagel).
The cream cheese lineup was as extensive as the bagels, and it was hard to pick one.  I settled on the date and walnut.

It was really delicious.  The highlight of anything I got from The Bagel Bakery, actually.  Sweet from the dates, bit of crunch from the walnuts, rich and creamy.  I could eat it by the spoonful and pretend it was cheesecake.

The cream cheese is available on a bagel, or in tubs to bring home.  I'm not sure of the price of this in a large tub, but with a bagel (usually on it), it adds $2.25 to the price, which seems high for a single serving of cream cheese.

Other Pastries

The other pastries are not their specialty, but, baked goods are much more my thing, so I had to try them anyway.  The Bagel Bakery confirmed that do bake them off fresh every day at the store, but, are made from mixes from a wholesale supplier.

Muffins

I started with a muffin.  The full lineup includes blueberry, lemon crumble, apple cinnamon, banana walnut, chocolate, and almond poppyseed.  They were large and fresh looking, fairly tempting, actually.
Lemon Crumble Muffin. $1.95.
The astute reader will recall that I don't really like lemon flavored things.  Yet I picked a lemon muffin.  My other choices that day were just were banana walnut, almond poppyseed, or chocolate, none of which are my favorites.

But I'll be honest - the real draw for this one was the sugar topping.  When I ordered my muffin, I didn't just ask for a lemon one, I asked for THIS lemon one, as it had the most generous topping!

The muffin was ... ok.  It looked much better than it tasted.  Not particularly moist, but not exactly dry either.  Nice lemon tang (yes, I said it).  Crisp top, loaded up with sugar.  I was hoping the topping was going to have more to it than just sugar, but, white granulated sugar is all it was.  Which is fine, but ... not exciting.

The muffin was also HUGE.  Think Costco muffin size.  I'm sure if it were a packaged product, it would say serving size: 2 or more.  $1.95 was a great price for a muffin, but I wouldn't get this flavor again.
Banana Walnut Muffin. $1.95.
On my next visit, I went for a different flavor, hoping it would be better.  Sadly, they still didn't have most of the varieties I wanted to try, and the other muffins all looked a bit dry, so I went for banana nut, even though I'm not generally a fan of banana muffins either.

It was pretty much exactly the same as the lemon muffin: highly mediocre.  It wasn't moist, but it wasn't dry.  It wasn't burnt.  It wasn't stale.  It had just the right number of bits of walnut strewn throughout.  Some banana flavor.  And not much else.  No other spicing to make it interesting in any way.  No crispy top, moist or dough interior, or any interesting texture.  It just was.

It was also again massive, although it is hard to see in this photo.  I felt a lump in my gut after eating only half, I can't imagine what it would do to you if you ate the whole thing.  I think the oil content in particular was quite high.

I would not get this again, and dodn't bother trying any more of their muffin varieties after this second strike.

Scones

So what's a baked goods loving girl to do?  Move on to scones.  The scone lineup was more limited, just blueberry, raspberry, and pumpkin (seasonal special).  These too are baked off at the shop in the morning, but come from a mix.
Pumpkin Scone. $2.25.
Now, I wasn't excited about the pumpkin aspect of this, but, much like the sugar crumble topping on the muffin, you can probably guess what drew me in: the icing!  The other scones did not have any icing.

The white icing layer was very crusty, solid, quite sweet.  On top of that was an additional icing drizzle, spiced with standard pumpkin pie spices.  Well, I wanted sweet sugar topping, so, I got it.

The scone itself was pumpkin flavored.  Also spiced with classic pumpkin spicing.  It was a bit dry, but not burnt.

Just like the muffin, there was nothing really wrong with this scone, it was just ... boring.  There was nothing to fault exactly, it just wasn't awesome.  And, just like the muffin, it was pretty huge.  2 servings for sure.

$2.25 price was pretty standard for a scone.

Beverages

Along the wall is a cooler with bottled cold drinks, but most folks were going for coffee in the morning.  I'm pretty sure every person I saw had a coffee cup in hand, either simple brewed coffee, or espresso beverages.  I couldn't resist on my first visit, and joined in.
Self-Serve Coffee.
The Bagel Bakery offers 3-4 varieties of pre-brewed drip coffee (no decaf), along with a great condiment station complete with a slew of varieties of sweetener, half and half or milk, plus cinnamon and cocoa.  I always appreciate the addition of spices to top off my coffee.
Decaf Skim White Chocolate Mocha. $2.XX.
Since it was a rather cold day, I was looking for a warm, sweet treat to cheer me up, so I ordered a White Chocolate Mocha, not a drink I get often.  I most commonly drink regular coffee, or na americano, and generally black.  I only add milk to my coffee when I dislike the taste, and never go for drinks like lattes (so much milk!), so a white chocolate mocha was certainly out of character.  But it was what was I craving.

It was well made.  A generous amount of well prepared foam.  It was sweet, milky, creamy, pretty much exactly what I wanted in this strange mood.  I didn't really taste the espresso, but that was kinda the point.

Strange craving satisfied, and if the mood ever struck me again, I'd get another.  More likely, I'd try a regular cappuccino, since the foaming skill of the barista was obvious in this drink, so I trust she'd do that well too.

The sub-$3 price tag was shocking for a made to order espresso drink, with additional flavoring.  This place really is quite reasonable price wise, except that cream cheese ....
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