Friday, September 08, 2017

Mrs. Thinster's COOKIETHINS

Mrs. Thinster's is a snack food company that makes one product: COOKIETHINS.  Thin, snacky versions of cookies.  I love munchy snacks, but I don't like cookies, so I wasn't sure how these would go.

The thins are of course made with simple, real ingredients, non-GMO, no corn syrup, no artificial flavors/colors, no preservatives, yadda yadda.  The story behind them involves the baker using a teaspoon rather than a tablespoon to scoop out her cookies one day, and loving the result.  Anyway, the result is little crispy snackable cookies, available in 7 flavors, some fairly adventurous (like key lime pie and cake batter).  They are much like HannahMax cookie chips and Sheila G's brownie brittle in concept: thinner, crispier, mini versions of traditional items, stuffed into portion controlled snack size bags.

I tried only the chocolate chip, since I quickly realized that cookie thins aren't the product for me.
Chocolate Chip.
"Our #1 best-selling Cookie Thins, this classic flavor is jam-packed with great, rich, chocolate morsels that will have you reaching for a second bag—and another glass of milk! Perfect to eat alone or dunk into peanut butter, icing, or your favorite chocolate spread. Yep, we said it."

Each little snack bag was portioned into what perhaps could be a reasonable snack of a handful of the cookie-chips.  They were basically exactly like any other cookie chips I've tried before (e.g. HannahMax).  Thin.  Crispy.  I couldn't really taste the mini chocolate chips.  They aren't buttery or soft, the only aspects of cookies I ever like.

Eating these like chips is the concept they are aiming for, but it isn't a satisfying one for me.  It just felt ... incomplete?  Maybe I should have taken their advice to dunk into peanut butter or icing?  But, at that point, they become much less of a convenience snack.

My solution was to crumble them up and use as a topping on pudding one time, on ice cream another, and as layers of a parfait another.  But again, that is just using them as an ingredient, missing the point of the little snack packs entirely.

Not for me.
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Thursday, September 07, 2017

Frozen Yogurt from Prima Cafe

Update Review, September 2017

When "summer" hit San Francisco this fall, froyo was at the top of my agenda.  And luckily for me, Prima Cafe is located right near my office.  You may start with my original review if you want to read my initial raves about the quality yogurt.

I was quite happy with my recent creations.
Machines.
As with past visits, I was very impressed with the quality of the frozen yogurt (Honey Hill Farms).  It really is creamier than almost anywhere else I've tried in the city (the Westfield Mall location of Yoppi is probably second place).

They still have only 4 flavors at a time, 1 of which is always sorbet, and one of which is always classic tart, and a mix of non-fat and low-fat varieties, so, options are limited, but nearly every flavor I've tried has been wonderful.

Model is self-serve, pay-by-weight.
Toppings.
The toppings lineup is still quite limited, compared to most froyo shops.  This is it.  No fresh fruits.  No sauces, besides two squeeze bottles of chocolate syrup and caramel syrup.  ~12 other toppings, in a mix of jars and boxes (sprinkles, one type of chopped nut, one type of mochi, flaxseed (!), granola, a few interesting "crunches" (toffee, chocolate), standard crowd favorites (Oreo, Reese's, chocolate chips, pb chips, graham cracker crumbles), and lychee jellies.

But this is actually a cafe, not a froyo shop, so the selection is reasonable, and it all works well.  It does seem a shame not to have any fruit though, given the permanent place on the menu for classic tart!
Assorted Froyos w/ Toppings.  ~$2-3.
Pretty much every time I visit Prima, I am met with indecision, so, somehow, I wind up with nearly every flavor of froyo (thank goodness they only have 4 flavors at a time!)  I try to at least match my toppings with my creations, but, uh, I even fail at that pretty often.

Each of my creations was fairly small, and cost <$3.  Prima's per ounce rate is much lower than the big froyo shops, although they also add on a $0.25 cup fee.  I wonder if you brought your own if they'd take that away?

Froyo:
  • Cheesecake (non-fat): "Cheesecake lovers, have no fear. You can now succumb to your insatiable cheesecake cravings without sacrificing taste when you try our heavenly Nonfat Cheesecake yogurt. Made with real cheesecake bases, this yogurt tastes like a scrumptious slice of cheesecake straight from New York!" 
    • This was fairly creamy, but a bit icy.  I didn't taste anything cheesecake about it though, it just was kinda sweet and plain.
  • Classic Tart (non-fat): "This creamy, sweet yogurt is a must-try. Our Nonfat Classic Tart yogurt is perfectly tart with just a hint of citrus." 
    •  Fairly creamy for a tart style, subtle tartness, quite enjoyable.  Would be great with fresh fruit, and if I was in the mood for that style of froyo, I'd just bring my own since they don't have fruit toppings.
    • Really quite good simple tart yogurt.  I normally want plain tart with fruit, but this is sweeter than some tart, and perfectly fine with just some mochi and sprinkles.
  • Espresso (low-fat): "Need a boost but don’t feel like drinking another cup of joe? Down a few spoonfuls of our fantastic Low Fat Espresso yogurt! This tasty treat packs a punch of flavor that’s sure to jolt your taste buds!" 
    • Very creamy, nice coffee flavor.
    • This was very creamy, nice espresso flavor, but a sweet yogurt, not one where the espresso nature really shines through.
    • I didn't like it this time.  A bit grainy, and too sweet for espresso flavor.
  • Triple Chocolate (low-fat): "Let your senses drift off to Europe when you taste our delectable Low Fat Triple Chocolate yogurt. You may have to gobble up a few helpings of this luscious yogurt to believe it’s low fat! Rich European chocolate has never tasted so good!"
    •  Again, very creamy, nice mild chocolate flavor.  I think my favorite of the batch.
    • Very creamy, mild chocolate, very good for chocolate froyo.
  • Valencia Orange Sorbet (non-dairy): "Cool off with this perfect summertime treat! Our nonfat non-dairy Valencia Orange sorbet packs a punch of fresh, smooth orangey taste you’re sure to love!" 
    • Always fairly refreshing, but the sorbet is a bit icy.  Best swirled with the classic tart.
Toppings:
  • "Crunch Bits": 
    • I added these to both the espresso and chocolate. No idea what these really were, irregular little chunks of chocolate something. Even more fun to crunch than toffee bits. 
    • Added to both chocolate and espresso again.  I like these, whatever they are.  My favorite topping of that visit.
  • Lychee Jelly: 
    • I don't think I've ever had jellies on froyo before, but I was inspired after having them in bubble tea from Little Szchwuan and Home Plate Boba. They were sweet, and actually kinda fun to have on my froyo, even though it was a bit strange to have slimy things in my froyo. Went well with the tart/orange combo. 
  • Peanut Butter Chips:
    • Hard to go wrong here. Great peanut butter flavor. 
    • I added these to the chocolate froyo. They were just generic normal size peanut butter chips, but a good combination with the chocolate froyo. Next time though, I think I'd go for the crushed peanut butter cups instead, to get the same chocolate/pb combo, just with a better ingredient. 
  • Rainbow Mochi: 
    • Soft, pliable, not bad. 
    • Very soft, clearly fresh, better than the mochi at most froyo shops.  Nice with the tart froyo in lieu of having fruit.
  • Rainbow Sprinkles: 
    • Again, hard to go wrong. Colorful, fun.
    • Just for fun! Colorful standard sprinkles. 
    • I always add them.  Just sprinkles, but, color!
  • "Toffee Bits": 
    • Added to the espresso side.  Crispy, sweet, fun to crunch on. 
    • Added to chocolate and espresso.  I liked even better with chocolate froyo.

Original Review, August 2010

I love soft serve ice cream.  In a cone.  With sprinkles.  Best enjoyed in the sun, on a hot summer day.  Unfortunately, these things, while a part of my daily life when I grew up on the east coast, are pretty hard to come by in San Francisco.  So, I settle for soft serve frozen yogurt.

I eat a lot of frozen yogurt, usually at least one a day.  I somehow haven't written too many reviews yet, but I do have extensive tasting notes, so I'm sure I'll dig them out at some time point!

Frozen yogurt can take so many forms.  The hard kind I actively dislike.  I've never found one that tastes remotely good.  But soft serve can be pretty great, and can take you in whatever direction suites your mood.  Sometimes, I just want a tart flavor, topped with fresh fruit and granola.  Or sometimes, I want it sweet as can be, loaded up with candy and hot fudge, like an ice cream sundae.  Or sometimes, I want it just like my classic soft serve ice cream cones, rolled in sprinkles.

I prefer places that are self-serve, so I can get as much as I want.  Sometimes I just want a small one, and don't want to pay $5 for it!  I also like being able to add on whatever toppings, in whatever quantity, I feel like that day.  And I love to have lots of flavors to choose from.

But the most important aspect of a good froyo for me is how creamy it is.  I can't stand it when it is icy! Many places just get this wrong.  Or they are fine if you go on a standard day, but go on a day when they are low traffic, or go too early in the day, and it is icy.  Or go on a busy day, or late in the day, and its too runny.  Consistently creamy yogurt, that is what I value the most!

About a year ago, I had given up on finding a frozen yogurt place that consistently delivered.  Yoppi had its great flavors and great days, but also could be totally mediocre other days, even when having the same flavor, from the same store.  I thought I had visited every single place serving frozen yogurt, ranging from specialty shops, to random delis with froyo machines on the side, when I discovered a place that had been only open for a few months.  And ... it was just two blocks from my house.  Prima Cafe!

It turned out to be the best frozen yogurt I've found in San Francisco.  Repeatedly.  They are also a full cafe, serving breakfast goods, espresso drinks, smoothies, sandwiches, and soups.  But I've never had anything other than frozen yogurt.

They use a self serve, pay-by-weight model, and feature 4 flavors, rotating weekly.  You can always look up the flavors on the web site, although they aren't that meticulous about updating it: http://www.primacafesf.com/menu/frozen_yogurt.  One slot is reserved for the original tart, and it is always paired with something else fruity, either another tart flavor, or a sorbet.  The other two are usually sweet.  The yogurt comes from Honey Hill Farms and is the creamiest frozen yogurt I've ever had.  I suspect it is in large part due to the fact that most of it is not non-fat.  Some isn't even low-fat.  Fat really just makes things better, and creamier!  They also just don't get nearly as much traffic as somewhere like Yoppi, so the machines aren't ever stressed past their limits.

The yogurt really is fantastic.  They have my favorite of all frozen yogurts in the city, an amazingly flavorful, creamy, peanut butter.  When swirled with a chocolate flavor, it is just about the best thing ever!  But I also love their fruity tart flavors, or the sorbets, when swirled with the plain tart.  And I don't generally like chocolate yogurts, but they have the best I've ever had.  The only place they fall short is on the toppings, which are minimal, at best.

The staff are friendly, there is ample seating (since on most days, you don't actually want to venture out into the cold SF day to enjoy your frozen treat!), and the place is always clean.

I wish they were open better hours, as they are only open during the week, and until 5pm.  I would be a regular customer on weekends or evenings if they were ever open, but that is the curse of my neighborhood, so many good places, never open when I'm home and free!

They are also using all of the new payment hotness.  They were actually the first place I ever used LevelUp!  They seed your account with $1, but if you haven't signed up yet, and you use my code (101243), then you'll get an additional $5 to spend anywhere (and so will I).  And then you can also add another $5, to spend at SOMA locations.  Now that is a lot of froyo!  They also use GoPago, but the yogurt isn't an option on there.

Best yet, on Friday afternoons, they have Frozen Yogurt Happy Hour!  50% off from 3pm-5pm!
Free froyo from Scoutmob promo! Topped with S'mores, Cappuccino Crunch,  mixed nuts, chocolate sauce, lychee jelly.
They normally give you a much bigger cup for the froyo, but for the free Scoutmob one, they just used a regular coffee cup.  I loaded it up with all available flavors of froyo for the day, and all of the toppings.  I wouldn't normally add all of the toppings like this, but in the interests of research, I had to try them all out!

Below are my tasting notes of all of the assorted yogurts and toppings, from the past year or so.  As always, subsequent tastings are denoted in brackets.

Chocolatey
  • Chocolate Mint (nonfat, seasonal):  Tasting notes: delicious, creamy, probably the best chocolate froyo i’ve ever had.
  • German Chocolate Cake (unknown): Tasting notes: decent creamy and flavor but not amazing [ some weird aftertaste, not a big fan ] [ nice chocolate flavor, sweet, rich, great blended with candy cane ] [ very creamy, rich chocolate flavor, lots of pecan notes as well, a tiny bit fake tasting though. ]
  • Triple Chocolate (lowfat): Tasting notes: Creamy, amazing chocolate flavor. Best chocolate I’ve ever had. Amazing swirled with peanut butter to make a peanut butter cup!
Tart
  • Blueberry Tart (nonfat): made with real blueberry puree.  Tasting notes: little icey, decent flavor but could be stronger blueberry flavor, tartness is nice. [ kinda icy, sweet, meh ] [ not very strong blueberry flavor, not that tart, meh ]
  • Classic Tart (nonfat): Tasting notes:  kinda icy, decent flavor, but only had it swirled with sorbet so didn’t get full sense [ pretty nice tart flavor, a little icy, nice swirled with blueberry tart ] [ nice tart flavor, slightly icy, really great swirled with pink lemonade sorbet ] [ nice tart flavor, icy, good swirled with mango sorbet ] [ very icy, not very tart ] [ icy, tart, good combo with mango sorbet ] [ icy, tart, but good swirled with sorbet ] [ nice tartness, would be good with fresh fruit toppings, if they had them. ]
  • Raspberry Tart (unknown): Tasting notes: Really great raspberry flavor, nice tartness.  Very good.  Nice alone, or swirled with classic tart.  Very creamy.  My favorite of the tarts.
Sorbet
The sorbets are more icey than the froyo, not nearly as awesomely creamy.
  • Mango (nonfat): Made with real mango puree. Tasting notes: icy, but that is how sorbet is. [ Icy, subtle mango, goes well with tart ]
  • Pink Lemonade (nonfat): Tasting notes: sweet yet tart, tangy.  Slightly icy, but just in the way sorbet is.  Great swirled with the tart froyo [ icy, sweet, meh ] [ tart, icy, good flavor, good swirled with tart froyo ]
  • Valencia Orange (nonfat):  Tasting notes: really tasty! like a creamsicle when swirled with classic tart [ flavor good again, but icy this time ] [ very icey since sorbet, but not much orange flavor ] [ Very sweet, really needs to be swirled with regular tart to mute it a little. ]
Sweet
  • Birthday Cake (nonfat): Tasting notes: creamy, but far too sweet. 
  • Cookies and Cream(lowfat):  Contains real cookies. Tasting notes: very sweet, but not too much. really really tasted like oreos! [ no flavor, but nice and creamy ] [ ridiculously creamy, but no flavor ] [ Beautiful consistency, so creamy, but just not very flavorful ]
  • Espresso (lowfat): Tasting notes: sweet and kinda espresso flavored, a little watery [ espresso flavor too subtle ] [ creamy, but not super strong espresso flavor ] [ nice coffee flavor ]
  • Olde Fashion Candy Cane (nonfat, seasonal): Tasting notes: kinda fake tasting, kinda icy, but decent [ icy but nice mint flavor ] [ nice and minty, great blended with german chocolate cake ]
  • Old Fashioned Peanut Butter.  Made with real peanut butter.  Tasting notes: Creamy, fantastic strong peanut flavor. Not remotely fake tasting. Best peanut butter froyo I’ve ever had. Amazing swirled with triple chocolate.  [ Creamy, amazing peanut butter flavor.  Truly amazing.  Not lowfat, and totally worth it. ]
  • Island Coconut: I loved this!  Creamy, awesome coconut flavor.
  • Red Velvet Cupcake (lowfat): creamy, definitely red velvet flavor, would be good swirled with chocolate. [ Very, very creamy, sweet red velvet flavor ]
  • Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel (lowfat): Sweet, not very strong caramel flavor, strange pretzel taste. Interesting, but not that great.
  • Strawberry Sensations (lowfat):  Made with real strawberry puree.  Tasting notes: creamy, but sorta medicinal strawberry flavor [ crazy creamy, decent strawberry flavor ]
  • Tahitian Vanilla (nonfat):  Tasting notes: creamy, decent, vanilla not that strong [ creamy but not very vanilla flavored ]
  • White Chocolate Mousse (lowfat): Tasting notes: creamy but no real flavor [ creamy but no discernable flavor ]
Toppings
This is where Prima Cafe falls short.  They only have a few toppings, and none are very great.  On my first few visits, I thought I must just be coming too late in the day and that they had run out of most things, since there was a lot of empty space in the toppings bar, but I've never seen it have more than a few items in it.  There is never any fresh fruit, normally a staple at froyo shops!  Only one sauce, a few candies, and sprinkles.
  • Cappuccino crunch: I'm not entirely sure what this was.  Little bits of mostly chocolate, with subtle coffee flavor.  Nice crunch, went really well with espresso froyo. [ No longer offered ]
  • Ghirardeli chocolate sauce: thin, watery chocolate sauce, like Hersheys, but with more flavor.
  • Ghirardeli caramel sauce: thin, watery caramel, not really interesting.
  • Lychee jelly: Tiny little jelly cubes, very sweet, in sweet sauce.  No idea what this is made from, probably just corn syrup.
  • Mixed nuts: little chopped up nuts, mostly peanuts.  Add good crunch.
  • Peaches: these didn't look remotely fresh, just little cubes.  Didn't try.
  • Rainbow Mochi: Soft, fresh enough seeming, but no flavor.
  • Rainbow Sprinkles: Fairly generic.
  • S'mores: Another one that I don't really know what it was.  Mostly just sweet, crunchy, with a slight marshmallow flavor.
Prima Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Waffling Leftovers: Sweet Potato Mash

You've read about how I have waffled leftover mashed potatoes and potato puree.  How I've waffled leftover mashed taro.   It was only a matter of time before I waffled another mashed potato-like product, right?  This time: mashed sweet potatoes.
Waffled Mashed Sweet Potato Transformation.
As expected, the answer to the burning question is simple:

Leftover Mashed Sweet Potatoes: Will it Waffle?  Yes, just like regular mashed potato.

Which was overall, fine, but not any different from waffling regular mashed potato, and I preferred it traditionally heated in the toaster oven.
The Original: Mashed Sweet Potatoes.
The original was mashed (technically, whipped), sweet potatoes, loaded with plenty of milk and butter.  They were super creamy, flavorful, rich, and delicious.  Seasoned simply with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

Very good in the original form.
Leftover Mashed Sweet Potatoes.
And I had plenty leftover.

The mashed potatoes were tasty as cold leftovers even, and great reheated in the toaster oven.

I didn't need to experiment.
Into the Waffle Iron!
But I couldn't resist.  Into the waffle iron I put a glob, 350 degrees.

I know regular mashed potatoes waffle well, so I assumed these would too.
Cooking Along ...
They cooked fine.

I checked in midway, and they were getting nicely golden.  Even though I didn't crust them, they held form with no problem.  Extracted easily when it was time.

I did accidentally forget that I had something waffling though, and went to finish preparing the rest of my meal.  So ... they got a bit darker than I intended.

Still, this worked fine.

Slightly crisp exterior, fluffy soft interior.  I wanted something to put on top, some kind of sauce, or ideally, a flavored sour cream.

Fine, but, boring.
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Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Star Alliance Lounge, TBIT, LAX

As I mentioned in my review of the Delta Sky Club at SFO, I flew to Sydney on an airline that wasn't One World (Virgin Australia).  This meant that I also got to check out a different lounge at LAX: the Star Alliance lounge.

Overall, it was a lovely place to spend an hour, and I think I even preferred it to the Qantas lounge (the one in LAX that is, certainly not compared to the Sydney Qantas First Class lounge!)

Setting

The lounge is located in the same general area as the Qantas Business and First lounges I had visited before, but up one story.  I did not have access to the separate First Class lounge, only the business lounge, but I hear it has a la carte dining.

The regular business lounge however was plenty nice.  While it did not have a la carte dining, nor a spa, nor premium services like that, it was large, not crowded, had decent food selections, and, had an amazing outside terrace with fire pits.
Seating.
The space is large, but broken up in many different seating sections, with all your standard options of seating (hard chairs, soft chairs, tables, etc).

The wooden floors were stunning.
Media Room.
One of the many different distinct areas was a media room, with bucket seats and television.  I only ever saw 1-2 people using this space.
Open Lounge.
The bar is two-sided, but because it was so quite when I was there, only the interior side was in operation.  The back side is part of an deck of sorts, overlooking the restaurant below, with live music playing.  A lovely atmosphere.
Walkway to Terrace.
But the most impressive space was down the hall, following another stunning wooden floor.  Shower suites were located to the side, but the hall itself lead to the outside terrace ...
Terrace Seating.
The terrace was incredible.  Open air, overlooking the runway, with comfortable padded chairs and planters.  Most seats were clustered around fire pits.

Because it was Wednesday, they also had a taco party set up out here, where you could get made-to-order tacos and nachos.
Fire Bar!
Besides the comfortable lounge seating there was also a high counter with tools, and of course, more fire.

The terrace was an incredible oasis and escape from the terminal, a very unique touch.
Dining Area.
Back inside, adjacent to the buffet area, was more standard dining with tables, both high and low.
Bathroom.
The bathroom was clean and modern, with high quality amenities.

Food & Drink

Enough of the boring stuff, on to the food!

Besides the tacos out on the terrace, food was self-serve from a buffet.  There were several self-serve drinks stations in addition to the tended bar.
Snack Mix, Coffee, Tea.
Drink stations had coffee machines, tea, sparkling water, and juices.

One had snack mix, which I eagerly made a beeline for as I love snack mix, but, I was pretty sad to see that two of the three snacks were just goldfish crackers.

The final one was a mix, with pretzels, corn chips, nuts, cheese crackers, and rice crackers.  It wasn't particularly seasoned, beyond salty.  I liked the rice crackers, but otherwise, this wasn't an impressive snack showing.
Water Tap.
No bottles of water were available, but instead, water taps with still and sparkling water were located around the space.  I wished they had bottled sparkling water for me to grab and take with me!
Noodles: Wheat and Mung Bean.
Most of the food was in a central buffet, but around the corner was a DIY Vietnamese Noodle station.  You had the choice of two different types of noodles to start.
Mix Ins.
And then plenty of mix-ins, including proteins (krab, chicken, tofu), veggies (chard, green onions, bean sprouts), herbs (mint, basil, cilantro), and chili pepper.

I didn't make soup, but I did try the krab.  It was, well, standard krab stick.
Vietnamese Beef Broth, more toppings.
The broth was only beef, but there was a sign saying veggie was available.

Chopsticks and sauces finished this noodle station.
Buffet.
The rest of the food was in a long buffet, double sided, with an impressive wine bottle wall behind it.
Sandwiches, crudite, dip.
The first section had sandwiches (horseradish pastrami cheddar flatbread and a chicken gyro wrap), assorted raw veggies, and two types of hummus (artichoke, red pepper).
Salads.
Next came a bunch of composed salads.  I had them all, and they were all pretty good, although fairly overdressed, and thus the ones with greens were a bit limp.

First was rigatoni pasta salad, with roasted eggplant and sundried tomatoes.  The pasta was nicely cooked, not mushy, and overall it was pretty flavorful. The eggplant wasn't too slimy.

Next was caesar salad with anchovy dressing, standard croutons, romaine lettuce.  This was good flavor-wise, but was incredibly soggy.  Soggy lettuce is no fun.

Next came a "Winter harvest kale salad" with red wine vinaigrette, cubes of winter squash, kale, and pumpkin seeds.  This was the only salad with greens that wasn't incredibly mushy, and it was a fairly inspired salad, I liked the crunchy pumpkin seeds.  Very seasonally appropriate.

After that was asian napa salad with roasted chicken in a sesame ginger dressing.  I avoided the chicken, but the cabbage and dressing were quite tasty, and the cabbage remained relatively crisp.

Finally, not pictured because it was being replaced, was a spinach salad with candied walnuts, beets, and shallot vinaigrette.  This one was just as soggy as the caesar, even though I got a fresh batch, so clearly, it was all made up long in advance and was just sitting in the back.  If it wasn't for the sogginess, it would have been quite good, again, great flavors, and I really liked the candied walnuts.

They clearly put thought into these salads, but need to work on the freshness.
Cheese, Dried Fruit, Chips, Crackers.
I was fairly impressed with the cheese selection, piles and piles of cheese (English Sage Derby Cheese, Asiago Cheese, Holland Smoked Gouda, New Zealand Cheddar), crackers, dried fruits, pita chips, and kettle chips.

I tried a few cheeses and they were fine.  I did wish they had some charcuterie or compotes to go along with the cheese.
Hot Foods.
Finally, hot foods.: "wicked thai soup", garlic rosemary chicken with pan gravy, cumin citrus vegetables, oven roasted garlic potatoes. 

The soup had rice and bits of chicken in it, and I'm not sure what made it "wicked", but it was comforting and flavorful, coconut milk based.  Like the salads, I was impressed with the seasoning and fact that this food was not bland.

The cumin citrus vegetables were also a nice surprise, a seasonal mix of veggies including mushrooms, carrots, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, onions, cauliflower, and more.  Nicely roasted, a wide variety, and, well seasoned.
Desserts!
And finally, my favorite section: dessert!

I was really happy to see that they didn't just have cookies and brownies (and in fact, there were none of these).  The closest to cookie/brownies was a rice crispy treat, er, "rice and marshmallow chocolate square".  Other options were chocolate mousse garnished with an oreo cookie and pumpkin spice rice pudding.  I avoided the fruit section as it had watermelon which I'm allergic to, but there was also a mango peach smoothie, grapes, and fruit salad.

I went for the rice pudding, since I love pudding, but I did have to roll my eyes a bit at the "pumpkin spice".

It was decent rice pudding.  Kinda mushy, kinda gloopy, but, that works for rice pudding.  The spicing was actually fine, not too strong on the nutmeg, lots of cinnamon.  The only thing I didn't like was the rice crispies on top.  I get what they were going for, rice pudding and then crispy rice, but, they just tasted stale and strange.
Margarita.
At one point, the bartender came through with a tray of passed drinks, including a White Sangria, Salt-Rimmed Margaritas, and a "Tokyo Tea".

I had a margarita but it wasn't very good at all.  Way too sweet.
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Monday, September 04, 2017

Eatsa

Update Review, September 2017

Since my last visit to Eatsa a year ago, Eatsa has totally revamped the breakfast menu.  It was time for me to check it out again.
Breakfast by "Robots".
The setup is still the same, order from the app or from the tablets around the store, pick up from a cubby, never interact with a human.  You can read more about the concept behind Eatsa in my original review.

I didn't get much on this visit, just something to supplement the breakfast I had waiting for me at the office, but I was quite pleased with a few things, and I'll return again.
Pickup Cubbies.
I ordered from my phone, and was given a pickup time of 8:55am.  I was there waiting at 8:55am, but, alas, my food was not.

It took about 5 minutes past my specified time, which seemed to be the norm.  The waiting area was filled with people just waiting.

After what felt like "forever", I finally saw my name on the far left screen and was assigned a cubby.  After several more agonizing minutes, my order was delivered.

Tapping on the screen to have it magically open and reveal the contents (my order) was less novel this time around (my 5th visit), but, I'll admit it, still kinda fun.
Packaged Order.
My order came nicely packaged up and labelled, as expected.
Autumn Spice Coffee.  $3.95.
"A mixture of clove, cinnamon, and ginger."

Part of the menu re-vamp is entirely different coffee selections, which is a good thing, given that I didn't care for the light roast the first time I went for breakfast, and said I was giving up on coffee there after trying the medium roast the next time.

But ... they had new options, and I couldn't resist.  The light roast (and dark roast) are gone from the menu, with only a medium roast, or decaf, remaining, still only one very large size, still $1.95.  Creamer and sweetener are still something you specify when you order, and they are added to it, rather than on the side.

But they also had flavored coffee, and I was just feeling in the mood to try it.

Flavored coffee options were "Autumn Spice", Cinnamon Cardamom, Chai, Orange Bergamot, and Dark Chocolate.  I went for the most fascinating sounding, "Autumn Spice", glad that autumn didn't include pumpkin.  I opted for black, since I don't trust others to add the right amount of sugar/creamer, and still wish they would let me order at least sweetener on the side, or have a condiments station.

I had no idea how Eatsa flavored the coffees.  Since the nutritional info was the same as regular, it seemed that flavored syrups weren't the answer.  I assumed they just had flavored roasts.  No other option really occurred to me.

My coffee came with a strange little thing in a holster on the side.  I picked it up and played with it.  Was it a straw?  It kinda looked like a kazoo.  I decided it was just some kind of toy, I know Eatsa sometimes throws extras into their packaging.

I tried my coffee.  I didn't taste spices, and the coffee was pretty mild, although, not offensive.  Hot enough.  "Whatever", I thought.

As I went to leave, I decided to ask what the thing on the side was, still unable to figure out what my toy was.  Someone else intercepted the sole staff member though (mistake with her order), and the staff member dashed off.  I hesitated, and the other customer said, "Problem with your order too?"  I said no, and just told her I was trying to figure out what the toy on the side of my cup was.  She laughed and said, "You got a flavored coffee right?"  She proceeded to explain to me that this was the flavor infuser, and I was supposed to insert it into my coffee (via a hole in the cup lid) and let it steep to infuse it.  Woah.  She told me the chocolate one is particularly good, and that you can often re-use the infuser for a second cup.  Woah.

Ok, Eatsa is novel for many reasons, but this is the first time I've seen infused coffee.  I thanked my new friend, inserted my infuser, and waited a few minutes.

And ... it worked.  My coffee was spiced.  Pleasantly spiced.  No syrups.  No chemicals.  Um, wow?

I liked it.  Was it a $4 coffee?  That part is debatable.  But of all the things Eatsa has innovated on, this one is certainly the most successful to me.

Now, if they'd just start offering a smaller size coffee (that is too much regular coffee for me!) and add a condiment station ...
Truffled Egg with Pesto. $2.76.
Next up was my breakfast item.

Here Eatsa has entirely changed the menu.  My dear Yogurt Quinoa Parfait is gone.  Sadness.  The breakfast lineup is now bowl based, just like lunch, but with quinoa, potato hash, or salad greens as the base, and toppings like scrambled eggs.  They have one parfait, but it is yogurt and chia seeds.  Booo.

I don't like scrambled eggs.  I don't want greens for breakfast.  I don't want warm quinoa for breakfast.  I certainly don't want beans for breakfast.

But, I know people like the truffled egg (also available as topping at lunch), so I decided to build a bowl minus a base.  (And yes, before you judge, I know this isn't a full breakfast, I was headed to my office for the rest of my breakfast, which, uh, was a bacon mac and cheese waffle!)
Truffled Egg, Pesto.
I opted for just a truffled egg (regular egg is also an option, or scrambled eggs or whites).  But of course I wanted a sauce.  The sauce options at breakfast are a bit more limited, but pesto sounded like it would be good with an egg, plus, I remembered liking the pesto in the test breakfast I had on one visit.

The pesto was really good.  Great flavor, slightly chunky texture.  I brought the rest home and used it on a bagel melt the next day, and it was even better that way.

The egg was lukewarm.  A perfect round circle, clearly cooked in a little bowl, likely in a microwave?  It had a slight hint of truffle oil I guess, but was otherwise completely unseasoned.  It needed salt and pepper, and, of course, no condiments are available.  I slathered on more pesto.
Truffled Egg: Inside.
I'm not really an egg girl, but I had seen so many photos of these gooey perfect eggs at Eatsa.  Mine?  Not so perfect.

The yolk wasn't hard set, but it certainly didn't ooze out as I was hoping.  The whites were a bit slimy and rubbery.

It was just an egg.  Not a particularly good nor bad one I guess, but, meh.

Update Review, September 2016

Sometimes, I crave healthy.  It is a rare thing, but, it does happen.  And even more rarely, that time is at breakfast.  So, one morning, I decided to return to Eatsa, to improve upon my breakfast parfait from last time.  Since I've reviewed the unique setup before, I'll let you start with my original review for the background on the "robots" and lack of ordering counter.  The only thing to note is that they finally released an Android App, which is what actually inspired my visit.
My Cubby.
Since it was breakfast and not busy, my order was ready very quickly.  The app notified me that I'd be in cubby 19, and, moments later, it lit up with my name.  I tapped, it opened, there was my breakfast.
Yogurt Quinoa Parfait (with modifications) $4.45, Medium Roast Coffee $1.95.
"Smooth and balanced, with hints of cocoa and nut."

I also ordered coffee.

Since I really did not like the light roast coffee last time, I went for the medium roast this time.

It was ... marginally better.  A bit darker than the light roast as you'd expect, so a bit more going on, but it still had some funk to it, like generic Folgers, or something else not very fresh.  I also don't like that they only have this large size, it really is too much caffeine for me in the morning, but if I'm buying a coffee, I don't want to waste it.  And I got it black, since I don't trust others to put in my sugar/creamer for me, given how subjective "a little" is.  I wished they had a condiment station.

So, I think I'm doing trying to get coffee there.  I'm clearly not alone; when I was in the store, the other two guests were each holding cups of Peets coffee.  Peets, luckily, is right next door.
Yogurt Quinoa Parfait, Extra Berries, Add Agave. $4.45.
"Cool, refreshing parfait blended with a kick of coconut and honey."

I took my own advice from last time, and added extra berries and agave, in addition to the standard toppings of sliced almonds and some berries.

I again really liked the yogurt and quinoa base, which continues to amaze me.  I don't really like yogurt.  I don't generally like quinoa.  But ... it works.  It is creamy, the quinoa is a bit crunchy, for some reason, I like it.  The quinoa is a mix of both red and white quinoa.  I still did not taste any coconut nor honey.

The berries on top were sliced strawberries and blueberries.  They were fine, but, in this case, I think 2x the berries was too much.  It was hard to get to my quinoa, and I grew sick of the fruit.  Ok, so, next time, back to regular berries.

I again appreciated the crunch from the sliced almonds, but would prefer some other nut or seed choices, like walnuts or pumpkin seeds.  Wouldn't pumpkin seeds be the perfect fall touch?

And finally, the agave.  The agave is served in a little plastic container, on top of the parfait, inside the container.  I like that they don't mix it in, so I can drizzle as makes sense.  But ... it gets covered in yogurt.  You can't put it down on a counter without making a big mess.  It really should be on the side, not inside the container.  The agave was perfect, necessary to add the touch of sweetness that I really wanted.

My suggestion though?  Pumpkin seeds and honey, for a perfect fall treat ... maybe I'll just bring my own toppings next time :)

The base parfait with two toppings is only $2.95, which is an excellent value.  Each of my additions added $0.75 to the price, making this $4.45, a bit pricey.  But if I bring my own honey and seeds next time ... 

Original Review, Summer 2016

I remember when Eatsa first opened in my neighborhood.  There was a lot of hype.  I remember phrases like "your food is cooked by robots!" and "restaurant of the future!" being tossed around.  In reality, the press was confused.  The food is indeed not cooked by robots.  But, granted, the model is pretty unique.  For one, the "restaurant" is basically just a big room with cubbies and ipads.

And what do these non-robot humans create?  When they opened, Eatsa served lunch only, but they now offer breakfast as well.  The lunch dishes are all "bowls", mostly based around quinoa or salad greens.  Oh yeah, it is a healthy, entirely vegetarian, establishment, did I mention that?  Breakfast is also mostly bowls, egg scrambles, or warm porridge like quinoa.  Dishes are highly customizable, portions are great, and it is really moderately priced, particularly for the neighborhood.

There are two Eatsa locations in San Francisco now, plus one over in Berkeley, and one in SoCal somewhere.  Unfortunately, they are open only Mon-Fri, so I have little opportunity to visit, as I eat my meals in my office during the week.  I'm eagerly waiting for them to realize our neighborhood really does have people on the weekends, and to open at least on Saturdays.  Because, well, those non-robots do make some tasty bowls.  Yup, healthy food, and I liked it.

The Setup
Ordering Stations.
To order, you either order via your own phone (iphone only, sigh) or via an ipad at the front of the store.  No human interaction.  All digital payment.  I'm all for this, in particular, order ahead, but, without Android or even better, basic web support, I'm stuck using the ipads upon arrival.  Boo.

Your meal is assembled in the back somewhere by real people.  No robots, sorry.  When it is ready, it is delivered to a cubby, where you pick it up.  You can track your order status via the app and via screens in the room.

So yes, certainly different, although not quite as automated as the initial press lead me to believe.
Cubbies.
I had read about the pickup experience, but, it was still fascinating to see.  Cubbies of assorted sizes, all numbered, with text flashing on them.

When an order is ready, your name appears on the cubby.

On my second visit, I borrowed an iphone so I could see how that process worked.  Since I ordered through the app in advance, the app showed me my cubby number, and, sure enough, my name was displayed right on it, along with a flashing "Double tap" circle.  I could see my order through the transparent window.

I double tapped, and the face plate moved away so I could grab my order.  Magic ... ish.
Cutlery Dispenser.
No silverware is provided with your order, but you can get whatever you need over on the side.  They smartly double up on forks, the most commonly used utensil.

This area also has trash/compost/recycling and napkins.

This dispenser is also magic.  It doesn't look like it, but, once I grabbed a spoon, I heard the dispenser vending a new one.  I kinda assumed they were just stacked in there and would spit out naturally, but, nope, this was actually robotic.

Breakfast

The breakfast menu is broken into three sections: beverages, bowls, and sides.  The only side available is a fruit cup, also available during lunch.

Beverages

For breakfast, Eatsa offers 3 varieties of coffee (light, medium, and dark roast), 3 types of tea (breakfast, green, or mint), and water (sparkling, Smart Water, or house water).

No decaf coffee, no juices, so, minus a few points for that.
Light Roast Coffee.  $1.95.
"Mellow and flavorful, with bright citrus and rich chocolate notes."

I opted for the light roast.

When I ordered, I had the option to customize it by specifying my sugar level ("none", "light", "medium", or "sweet"), sugar type (regular or "low sugar blend"), milk level ("light", "medium", or "creamy", and milk type (soy, skim, half and half).  No upcharge for soy.  I went with black, assuming there would be a condiment station for me to use if I needed it.  I prefer black coffee, but, if the coffee isn't good, I'll add milk and sugar to make it bearable.

And ... the coffee wasn't very good.  It was fairly harsh, and I think just tasted rather old and over-brewed.  It was a light roast, but, yeah, not good.

And, there was not a condiment station, so, if you want to have the milk and sugar, you need to specify it when you order.  I understand that they want to streamline everything and not have a condiment station, but, I would have liked the ability to fix this bad coffee.  Instead, I brought it back to my office and added milk and sugar there, but, still, it wasn't ever very good.

Only one size is available.

Bowls

Breakfast bowls are available with three bases: yogurt parfait (cold), porridge (warm), or scrambled eggs (warm).  All include quinoa as a primary component.  As with lunch bowls, they have a few suggested pre-designed options, or you can make your own.  Since I don't like eggs, it was easy to rule out the scrambles.  Both the warm porridge and the chilled yogurt parfait sounded tempting.
Yogurt Quinoa Parfait. $2.95.
"Cool and refreshing parfait in a bowl blended with a kick of coconut and honey."

I opted for the chilled yogurt and quinoa parfait.  The standard recipe includes sliced almonds and fresh fruit on top, with a bit of honey, vanilla, and coconut miked in with the yogurt and quinoa.  To that you can add/sub dried cranberries, raisins, brown sugar, agave, and extra fruit and nuts.

I opted to double up on the fruit.  I pondered adding agave, but, when I looked at the nutrition stats, the base quinoa yogurt mix had 15 grams of sugar, so, I assumed it would be plenty sweet (plus, it said it had honey).

I opened up my bowl, and it looked pretty good.  Just the right amount of sliced almonds, and plenty of fresh fruit, strawberries and blueberries.  Doubling up on fruit was a good idea, I think half as much would have been a little weak.

The nuts were a good addition, and added a textural crunch.  The fruit was also pretty good, fresh enough, although I did wind up with a strawberry stem in my bowl.  Those "robots" could do a better job cleaning the fruit.

As for the quinoa-yogurt, I was a little surprised on my first bite.  It wasn't nearly as sweet as I was hoping.  The quinoa was a mix of both red and white quinoa, and had a bit of a crunch to it.  It was mixed with yogurt, slightly tangy, slightly creamy.  The overall result and texture was quite fascinating, creamy yet with a bit of grit, and I actually really liked it.  But, it was a little too un-sweet for my liking.

There was a large group of workers stationed around the room, so, I went and asked one if it was possible to get a little agave.  She said sure, and came back moments later with a little pot of agave.  Once I added agave, I really liked this.  It was creamy, it was crunchy, it had fresh fruit, and it satisfied my sweet tooth.

The portion was also good, fairly small at first glance, but the quinoa was filling, and it filled me up easily until lunch.  It felt healthy and satisfying, a rare combo for me, particularly for breakfast, as I usually go for more decedent options.

I'd gladly get this again, and my order would be double fruit, plus agave.

Breakfast Test Items

I stopped by Eatsa once when they were testing out some new items to consider for the breakfast menu.  Instead of bowls, they were trying out a really unique concept: savory biscuit-scones, topped with veggies and egg.  Not breakfast sandwiches exactly, as they were open faced.  The branding they were looked at was "egg in a scone" and "egg in a savory biscuit".  It didn't quite work, and as far as I can tell, this was a limited test that didn't ever get offered to the public.  Still, it was fascinating enough to share here, even if you can't try it yourself ...
Pesto and Tomato Test Item.
As I said, it was not quite a breakfast sandwich, as it was open faced.  I loved that they used a far more interesting base than just a standard english muffin.

So, let’s start with the base, the savory scone-biscuit. It was … ok.  I didn’t love the texture. Obviously, a classic crumbly scone texture wouldn’t work here, since you didn't want this to crumble, but it was a bit too dense.  It also had no tang that a good biscuit or scone does.  And the bottom was a bit hard, perhaps from whatever heating technique they used?  It had savory, flavorful herbs throughout.

Next, the egg.  It was … also just ok.  Clearly a fresh egg, not some strange microwaved patty creation that many fast food or fast-casual breakfast sandwiches tend to use.  But the white was a bit slimy.  The yolk was runnier than I prefer, but, that is just personal preference.

Next, my toppings.  I went for the tomato and pesto version.  The pesto was very flavorful, and slathered on in a nice amount.  The tomato was two slices of roma tomato, soft, warm, and nice flavor with the pesto.  On top was also a bit of melted cheese, but, not much.

Eating this item was a bit difficult. You lose the one handed easy eating nature of a breakfast sandwich due to the open faced format. You can sorta pick it up and eat it, but once you get into the runny yolk, that makes a pretty big mess and I don’t think one-handing can possibly work at that point.  So you resort to a fork, which then becomes strange too.  So, the format is fascinating, but, a bit hard to manage.

Overall, a very interesting idea and I’m curious to see where they go with it.  But, for now, my impression is that there is a reason we normally make our breakfast sandwiches closed on both sides, or, decide to put eggs inside our savory pastries (aka, Craftsman and Wolves egg-in-a-muffin).

Lunch

Lunch is the main focus for Eatsa.  The menu is all built around bowls, served hot or cold.  And yup, most involve quinoa.  All are vegetarian, many vegan.   There are only three side dishes: house made potato chips, chips and guac, and fruit salad.  No desserts.  Drinks are house made sparkling flavored sodas, like citrus, ginger lime, and mango guava, plus ice teas.  No cans of standard soda or bags of generic chips here.

As with breakfast, some recommended bowls are on the menu, but you can opt to create your own, or make any substitutions you want.  Bowls are all $6.95, but if you want to add additional items, then there are extra charges ($0.75 for most items, $1.95 for fancy add-ins).  A basic bowl comes with 1 choice of base, 1 sauce, 1 cheese, 1 crunchy, and 4 veggies/fruit.

The cold bowls are salads, using greens for the base (kale, mixed greens, arugula), with a huge assortment of options for toppings, ranging from raw veggies (jicama, tomato, cucumbers, cabbage slaw, green onion, avocado, green pico de gallo, salsa fresca, guacamole, assorted herbs like cilantro), to cooked and marinated veggies (roasted yams, pickled onions, roasted red peppers, portabello strips - bbq, miso, or asada, grilled corn, artichoke hearts, calamata olives, roasted potatoes), to proteins (garbanzo beans, tandori tofu, egg, chipotle black beans, seasoned pinto beans, edamame, truffled egg), to crispy things (tortilla strips, crispy onion strings, pita chips, crispy wontons - plain or curried, fried chickpeas, croutons, curried parsnip strips, pecans), cheeses (cotija, white cheddar, feta, queso mexicano, goat cheese), and of course, fun dressings (three types of ranch - roasted jalapeno, bbq ranch or house, creamy balsamic, citrus vinaigrette, chimichurri sauce, orange miso, creamy buffalo sauce ) and chilled quinoa (red, greek style, or lemon-herb).  The pre-created recipes are the Mexican "Cantina Kale Salad", a Southwestern "Smokehouse Salad", and a Greek "The Mediterranean".

Warm bowls have even more variety, based around warm quinoa (lemon-herb or stir fried with egg), and then all sorts of sauces and curries (dill yogurt sauce, cucumber raita, saag paneer, corn curry, teriyaki sauce, chili, red thai curry, teriyaki sauce, roasted garlic chili sauce, or even szechuan fire oil), plus any of the other toppings.  The recommended bowls are the Indian "Spice Market Bowl", a Mexican "Burrito Bowl", an Asian "Bento Bowl", another Indian "No Worry Curry", and "Chili con Quinoa".

Whatever variety of cuisine you are looking for, as long as it is healthy and based around a bowl, you can build.  So many possibilities!

I finally got a chance to try a bowl when I was headed to the airport, and wanted something tasty to bring on board.  This limited me to cold options only, but I can't wait to get to try one of the warm ones, I'm particularly eying the one with paneer!
Smokehouse Salad - with Modifications  $6.95.
"White Cheddar, Mixed Greens, Crispy Onion Strings, BBQ Portabello, Tomato, Grilled Corn, Cucumber, BBQ Ranch Dressing, Pickled Onions, Toasted Red Quinoa."

"No mixed greens, No cucumber, No tomato, No white cheddar, Add tender kale, Add cotija cheese, Add salsa fresca.  Add jicama."

I started with the base recipe of a Smokehouse Salad, but, did modify it by removing 4 items and replacing them with others, as my label clearly communicated, listing out the items I removed and added, and concluded with "and more ...".

Ordering through the app on the phone was easy, and it was clear to understand what I could substitute free of charge, and what would incur extra.  I ordered on the phone when I was a block or so away, and was given a 3 minute wait time, but, the final "1 minute" estimate remained for a good 5 minutes while I waited.  It kinda reminded me of Uber estimates, in the totally unreliable sense ...

My bowl came with my choice of green covering the entire base, and then my veggies, protein, cheese, and crunchy elements each in distinct piles around the outside, plus scoop of quinoa and my container of dressing in the center.  I liked that everything was kept separate so I could try each component individually, and then begin assembling and mixing as I wished.  I imagine this also would help it hold up for a little while if you needed, as the wet ingredients stay in one place and do not soggy up the others.

At the base, I replaced the "Mixed Greens" with "Tender Kale", as I just tend to like kale more than mixed greens (and both sounded better than just arugula, the other option).  The kale was fine, it was actually baby kale, which I wasn't expecting.  It was fresh enough, and a bit bitter, in a good way.  I didn't love it though, and I realized that what I really wanted was baby spinach, sadly, not an option.

I kept the "Toasted Red Quinoa" as my grain choice, as I wanted a cold bowl so the hot options were out, and red quinoa seemed more interesting than the white options of "Lemon-Herb Toasted Quinoa" or "Greek-Style Quinoa".  That said, I almost left the quinoa out entirely.  I can't say I'm a fan of quinoa, or grains in general, particularly in my salad.  However, I thought that the "toasted" quinoa might be a bit crunchy, and, I do appreciate some crunch in my salad.  I also hoped there wouldn't be too much quinoa, just enough to add some texture.  

It ended up being more quinoa than I really wanted, and, it was moist, not crispy like I hoped.  That said, there was nothing wrong with it, it was just quinoa.  I'd likely leave it out in the future, although it makes me feel bad, since quinoa is there main attraction.

For cheese, I went for cotija, since the included "White Cheddar" sounded kinda boring, and I do like the crumbly, salty nature of cotija.  I also considered the "Queso Mexicano", but I wasn't quite sure which Mexican cheese it really was.  Isn't cotija a Mexican cheese too?  Really, I wanted the saag paneer, but, that is served warm, and really made absolutely no sense with my bowl.  For next time.

I really did not like my cheese choice.  I like cotija, but, it was strangely very dry in this bowl.  It also just didn't have much flavor.  I regretted this choice more than any other, and certainly wouldn't get it again.  Maybe I should have stuck with the white cheddar?  Or gone for the vague "Queso Mexicano"?  I think that was a shredded option.

With the veggies, I stuck with the included grilled corn and the pickled onions, but replaced the cucumber with jicama and the tomato with salsa fresca.  I don't dislike cucumber or tomato, but, salsa fresca seemed like strictly an upgrade from just tomato, and I thought jicama would add a better crunch and similar juicy element as the cucumber.

The corn was a hit, as I love corn, and the slight grilling added a bit of char on it.  I wished my bowl had even more corn.  The pickled onions though I really didn't like, they were too tart, too slimy.  I wouldn't get these again.

The jicama came as little cubes, and didn't have much flavor, as expected, but added freshness.  It went really well with the dressing too.  Like the corn, I wanted more (by the way, you can double up on ingredients).  The salsa fresca was a bit disappointing, as the tomato cubes weren't very ripe.  Maybe I should have stuck with tomato.  Since tomato was in season, it was particular tragic to have such lifeless, not even red, tomato. 

The crispy topping was the hardest choice for me.  In the end, I left the included Crispy Onion Strings, but I really do love Crispy Wontons (although, hmm, they probably wouldn't go so well with my other choices in this rather southwestern style salad).  The Fried Chickpeas sounded really fun too.

The crispy onion strings were great, basically exactly what you'd expect, and I loved the generous portion.  I love that all bowls include a crunchy element.  I'd definitely get this again, or explore other options just to mix it up.

For my extra, I left the BBQ Portabello, but, I was tempted by the Miso Portabello instead (although again, probably not the best match for my theme) or the Truffled Egg (but, that is served hot).

The BBQ portabello was a complete shocker.  It was really good.  I know other reviewers all say this, but, I just didn't imagine mushroom would be that tasty.  I loved the smoky nature and the seasoning, and it was big, bold, and even a bit meaty.  Sure, it was slimy, and it was mushroom, but, it totally worked for me.  I wanted more of this too.

And lastly, the dressing.  I kept the BBQ Ranch, although, again, there were several others that sounded pretty good, like the Roasted Jalapeno Ranch and the Creamy Buffalo.  The dressing was good, creamy, smoky, flavorful.  I liked it, and would get it again, but, I'd also love to try some other options.

Overall I liked my creation, and everything in the bowl was well prepared, decent quality.  I didn't love it though, partially because I made some poor choices, and partially because I'm just unlikely to get all that excited about a salad and grain bowl in the first place.  For the most part, I was happy with my choices, but I clearly have some refinement to do.  If I wanted to stick with the southwest theme, I'd try a different cheese, double up the jicama, and try the regular tomato.  I think I'd leave out the quinoa, and stick with the suggested mixed greens.  But really, I'd like to try something else entirely, likely asian inspired, with the crispy wontons and miso portabello included.  Or, go in the hot curry direction, so I could have the saag paneer.  So many possibilities.

For <$7 a bowl, it won't break the bank to experiment some, and the portions are quite generous, my bowl was more than enough to fill me up.
Eatsa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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