Thursday, May 24, 2018

Milkie & Snowie, Pasadena

Asian desserts.  Not something I get to have a lot of as my normal stomping ground of San Francisco doesn't have many in my neighborhood, but I recently took a trip to Pasadena, and was OVERJOYED with my options.

So many.  I picked Milkie & Snowie because of the strong reviews, and most unique items.  It was also a chance to try something I've somehow not had before!  Snow!  I know its a thing, but it has never made it to the top of my list. Until now.

I'm glad I went.  I did appreciate trying new things.  The service was formal and strict in a strange way though, modifications and customization not accepted.  Not friendly, not engaging, just, "I'm here to make your thing, don't make this hard, kthxbye" is the vibe I got.  I probably won't return, but it was a memorable experience, and I'm glad I visited.

Setting

Not much curb appeal.
Milkie & Snowie is located in an alley between two of the main streets in Old Town.  It might look out of the way, but there are tons of other cafes, poke places, etc on the alley.

The other establishments all have outside seating on the sidewalk, but, Milkie & Snowie does not.  The only thing they have is a sign with pictures of their top creations.

I'm not sure I would have been drawn in if I weren't seeking it out already.
Interior.
No one else seemed to be either.  12:30pm and not a single guest.  I didn't take this as a good sign, but I still entered.

The interior was clean, wooden tables, metal stools and wooden benches, and an ordering station in front.  Self-serve water with plastic cups, paper napkins, and busing station on the side.
Picture Menu.
The menu of course is why I was there.  So many amazing things.

Asian toasts, with mochi inside and fun toppings.  Waffles, with mochi inside and fun toppings.  Fresh made-to-order taiyaki, with fillings (red bean, nutella, custard, etc), topped with ice cream.  Milk tea.  Coffee. Scoops of ice cream in great flavors.

And, the signature snow based bingsu.

So many options I'd gladly try, but, I had to narrow it down to one item, particularly as they are all large, and I was alone.  Which was fairly impossible.

I settled on bingsu, so I could try snow for the first time ever, while still getting to have fun toppings and great flavors of ice cream.  I resisted adding on a taiyaki (which is totally an option, and actually the most Instagram'ed creation there.  Cuz, you know, its entirely reasonable to *also* throw a filled waffle cone thing on top of all of this!)

Even just picking that I wanted bingsu was a hard enough decision, then I had to pick which one I wanted.  No option to build your own or customize much.  Which was a problem for me.

I wanted the black sesame one, with black sesame powder, red bean, mochi, black sesame ice cream, and more.  I wanted the taro one, also with red bean and mochi, but had taro powder in place of black sesame powder, red bean mochi instead of sesame mochi, and cereal instead of almonds. I wanted fresh mango.  I wanted some combination of these three.  But, I was told pretty clearly that wasn't an option, because, "it wouldn't follow the formula".

Food

In the end, I did get a slightly customized version of the black sesame Bingsu, with elements of the taro one, and elements from the mango one.  It was quasi-successful.
Black Sesame Bingsu (Sub Taro Ice Cream, -Almond Flakes, +Mango). $9.70.
"Shaved snow with layers of condensed milk, black sesame powder and red bean. Topped with mochi, black sesame ice cream and sliced almonds."

I modified mine to have taro ice cream instead of black sesame (because I really wanted to try the taro, not because I didn't also want the black sesame!), to leave off the sliced almonds, and add mango.  I actually just wanted to sub mango from almonds, but it was *not* an option to just replace the almonds, but I was told I could have them left off entirely.  And, I thought the mango would come as part of the dessert, but, instead, it came on the side.  Oh well.

It came on a tray, and the person making it walked it to a random table and put it down, which was a bit strange, given that I was there waiting to pick it up myself.  And I didn't want that table.  But, they clearly have a prescribed way of doing things.

No napkins were provided at the time though, and the spoon was placed directly on the tray.  I had to fetch my own napkins, and move to a table I actually wanted.  Anyway.
Modified Black Sesame Bingsu (close-up).
So, what was it?

In the cup, a base of sweetened red bean and black sesame powder, a layer of snow, another layer of red bean/black sesame, another layer of snow, another layer of red bean/sesame, another layer of snow, ANOTHER layer of red bean/black sesame (yes, 3 layers snow, 4 layers red bean/sesame), and then a big pile of the sweetened red bean, regular plain small mochi and sesame crusted larger mochi around the edge, a scoop of ice cream, and a garnish of two little mochi.

The ice cream comes from Fosselman's, a local creamery based in Alhambra, CA.  I've actually had some of their ice cream/sorbet before, I recall a particularly fruity peach sorbet I had at a party that I enjoyed far more than expected since I don't really care for sorbet.

I was interested in the black sesame, but, I'm a taro girl to the core, and so I swapped out the black sesame ice cream for the taro.  Really, I wanted both, but, the only way I could do that was if I just got ice cream (with toppings), rather than a snow.  And I wanted to experience the snow.

So, the Taro Ice Cream:
"Fresh taro root cooked to perfection creates the true flavor of the Pacific Rim."

The ice cream was the highlight of this entire creation.  Clearly premium ice cream, rich, creamy, and very taro flavored.  It melted beautifully, and the flavor even seemed to intensify as it did.  I really enjoyed the ice cream, and I'd gladly have more.  In fact, I rather wished I had just gotten ice cream with a topping or two instead ...

The "snow" was also fascinating though.  I hadn't ever had a snow before, and, well, I was blown away.  I knew it was going to be fluffy and everything, but, wow.  It was insanely fluffy!  I honestly thought it was coconut at first, I was really confused why my creation seemed to have very finely shredded coconut throughout.  And then I realized, that was the snow!  It was remarkable, actually.  And it somehow didn't melt?  Mind. Blown.  It was very refreshing, necessary against the heavier layers.

The red bean was fairly standard sweetened red bean.  I didn't have it removed because I thought the protein would be good for me, but, I keep not really liking sweet red bean these days, and that happened again.  It was sweet, it was mushy, it was eh.  And it dominated the creation.  With 4 layers and the additional mount on top, it was actually the most generous component, and the one I liked the least.  I mostly tried to eat around it, but that was difficult.

The black sesame powder was also a dominant element.  At first, I didn't really like it.  I was rather heartbroken, as that was impossible to avoid.  There was ... seriously, more than a cup of it on here total.  It was gritty, toasty, a very strong flavor.  And there was tons of it.  At first the textures just seemed all wrong to me ... light fluffy refreshing snow and then this pile of bitter dirt.  It was odd.  But it grew on me.  And then I discovered that if I added condensed milk, it complimented the sesame perfectly.  As did the mochi.  So I created some bites that were quite enjoyable, but it took me a while to settle there.

And finally, the mochi.  The little ones were totally standard froyo shop white mochi.  Soft, fresh enough, good enough.  The bigger ones I really liked though, the large size made the rice flavor stronger, and the mixed seed crust gave some crunch.

So overall, this was a mixed success.

I'm really glad I tried snow.  Its fascinating.  I loved the taro ice cream.  I learned to like black sesame powder.  But, this wasn't quite the item for me, and I don't see one on the menu that *would* be.  I do want a snow element, but, maybe just taro ice cream topped with sesame mochi is my thing?
Mango & Condensed Milk.
I intended the mango to be part of my creation, but, it was given on the side, since, "not part of the recipe". 

It was not very good.  A generous portion, sure, but it didn't seem like actual fresh fruit, it was ripe, but in a way that seemed like stewed peaches, if you know what I mean, sitting in a lot of syrup.  Mushy.  Just ... not great.  I guess I'm glad it was on the side, as I didn't finish it.

The condensed milk I think was intended for the snow?  Not really sure.  I did try drizzling it over mango, for a "mangos n cream" type of thing, but, it was all just sweet and that didn't work.  It did however work great with the bitter sesame powder, and once I got used to the sesame powder, I  enjoyed big spoonfuls of sesame powder tempered by some condensed milk.
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