Friday, May 11, 2018

Fran's Chocolates

Fran's Chocolates is a Seattle area chocolate maker, with several boutiques around there, plus retail distribution nationwide. Their specialties are salted caramels, dessert sauces, drinking chocolate, and "Gold Bars", although they also make truffles, bars, dripped fruits and nuts, and more.  They are certified Fairtrade and Organic.  Yadda yadda.

I've only tried the caramels, when I received a small gift box.
Gray Salt & Smoked Salt Caramels.
"Our best-selling and award-winning Gray and Smoked Salt Caramels feature a harmonious blend of complex flavors - rich dark and milk chocolate, soft buttery caramel and the unexpected boldness of the gray and smoked sea salts."

My box was a duo, two each of the dark chocolate with gray salt, one milk with smoked salt.

Since I prefer dark chocolate, that is the one I went for.

Gray Salt Caramel
"Slow-cooked, soft butter caramel is dipped in dark chocolate and finished with a sprinkling of gray sea salt harvested off the coast of Brittany."

It was ... fine.

The dark chocolate was decent quality, smooth, dark chocolate.  I did really like the pops of flavor from the salt.  Dark chocolate and salt are wonderful together.

The caramel, also fine.  Slightly chewy, decent flavor, the kind of caramel that is sorta stringy as you pull away from it.

It all went together fine.  It was like a nicer version of a Riesen.  Which just isn't my thing, but, the quality was obvious.

I left my box of chocolate unattended, and, uh, the others disapeared.  So I never got to try the smoked salt milk caramel, which was supposed to be the same soft caramel, this time dipped in milk chocolate, and finished with  "sea salt that has been lightly smoked over Welsh oak".  I think I'd love the smoked salt, but, milk chocolate is rarely my thing.

Read More...

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Mr. Holmes Bakehouse

Update Review, May 2018

"Hey Julie, we have pastries from Mr. Holmes, want any?"  You know I went running.  Fast.

Mr. Holmes Bakeshop is known for creative pastries, which I've reviewed before (below), but this one was certainly the most unique so far.
Twice Backed Coffee Stout Croissant.  $5.80.
"Brown sugar cake, stout beer cream, chocolate glaze, coffee crumb, dark chocolate brownie."

When I got this, I got it from an event where someone brought in Mr. Holmes goods, so I didn't know what it was.  I saw that it had chocolate glaze and some kind of crumble, and brownie chunks, and that was enough to draw me in.

It also was clearly split in half, so I expected some kind of filling (which, it had).

The toppings were a bit odd, to be honest.

Brownie chunks on top of a croissant?  I mean, they were fine brownie chunks, but, I didn't really want or need brownies with my croissant.  The dark chocolate glaze was good, thick like a ganache.  I didn't realize the crumb was coffee, I thought it was just chocolate or brownie, but I can see it in retrospect kinda, it did have a bitterness.

So, the toppings were ... interesting.  They certainly added flavors and textures, and looked crazy.

But what was inside confused me more.
Twice Baked Coffee Stout Croissant: Inside.
The croissant itself was fine.  Flaky.  Not too oily but clearly decadent.

But the filling confused me greatly.

It was a cream.  Or a paste.  It had a consistency of mushy banana.  But didn't really taste like banana.  But if you can imagine mushy banana, that is what it was like, not light like cream, not smooth like a custard, not exactly a pudding.  But it seemed to be cream based.

And it had a flavor to it.  I guessed rum.  Something boozy.  I couldn't pinpoint it, but it wasn't a simple flavor.  I still kept thinking "banana" due to the consistency, but it didn't seem quite right.  Banana rum cream filled croissant topped with chocolate sauce, brownies, and cake bits?  I was so confused, and clearly had to look it up.

It turned out to be "brown sugar cake and stout beer cream".  Uh, of course?  Clearly.  But I don't like beer.

Oh, but the thing is?  I LOVED the filling.  Yeah, the texture was strange, thick like a pudding, and the flavor I couldn't identify, but it was complex, and it was sweet from the brown sugar.  And there was tons of it.

I wanted a bowl of that filling, just like a pudding.  Who needed the croissant, and certainly, who needed those brownie bits?

Overall, fascinating, but, wow, that filling.  Wonderful, and it made the whole adventure with this pastry worthy it.

Update Review, February 2016

"Oh, Julie, what are you doing from 10:30-11:30?", was a greeting I received from a co-worker one morning.  I replied that I was headed to a meeting until 11.  She told me I should swing by an event she was hosting when I got out of my meeting, and then she added it to my calendar.  She promised tasty things.  I knew nothing more.

I had no idea what I was in for when I stepped into the room a little after 11, but was beyond thrilled when I saw the display from Mr. Holmes Bakehouse.  I had their goods once before at an event and I was pretty impressed, so I was eager to try more goods.  For more background on the insanity that is Mr. Holmes, go start with my previous review, and then return here.
Assorted Items, February 2017.
I didn't know what the items were exactly when I was at the event, but, I looked them up afterwards.  I was immediately sad that I didn't have the insider knowledge when I was selecting my treats, as I certainly would have grabbed different items.

Only a few of these were as simple as they looked.  The plain croissant, and the chocolate croissant, were exactly what they looked like.  But the other croissants were far more exciting, including a
churro croissant (I thought it was just cinnamon sugar coated, but, it was filled with dulce de leche cream!), ferrero rocher croissant (filled with hazelnut and dunked in chocolate coating), matcha croissant (matcha white chocolate coating), and seasonal fruit danish (with brown butter streusel and pastry cream).  The donut was rolled in cinnamon sugar and stuffed with white mocha raspberry cream.  And the cookie even was far more exciting than it looked, brown butter caramel with cornflakes! 

I first grabbed a giant bear claw (not pictured because I had already snagged it from the platter), but came back for more later in the morning.

Since someone had already cut into the ferrero rocher croissant, I too cut off a chunk and tried it.  It really was a quality croissant, perfectly layered, flaky, crispy on top, buttery, shiny.  When I saw the green dipped one remaining later, I hoped it was matcha, and grabbed that for myself.

The matcha croissant was also good, again, a great specimen of a croissant.  The inside folds were moist and buttery, the outside flaky and messy in all the right ways.  The white chocolate matcha coating was very well balanced, strongly matcha flavored but not bitter, and not overwhelming sweet from white chocolate either.  Very good, although a bit simple.
Cookie Dough Bear Claw / Cookie Dough Mousse. $4.50.
Like I said, I didn't know what anything was when I was at the event, and I just picked this one for myself as it was the biggest and most decadent looking.  You know how I roll.

It turned out to be a bear claw, stuffed with cookie dough mousse, topped with cookie dough crust, and drizzled in white chocolate.  It was massive, a real bear paw.  And I ate it.  All of it.

It was good.  It was very good.

Like the croissants, the pastry was fantastic.  Incredible layers, buttery, flaky, slightly crispy, just, perfect.  I liked breaking the fingers off one-by-one, and eating them as delicious croissant-bites.

The cookie dough coating on top was kinda fun, full of crunchy little cocoa nibs.  It reminded me of a pineapple bun from a Chinese bakery, you know, the kind that look like pineapples because they have the crunchy sweet sugar cookie topping?  It was good, but unnecessary on top of a bear claw that was also drizzled with white chocolate (yay, more sweet topping), AND stuffed with cookie dough mousse.
Cookie Dough Bear Claw: Inside.
Let's talk about that mousse.

I cut the claw in half to reveal the contents, and found it very generously stuffed with the pastry cream.  The cream was absolutely loaded up with mini chocolate chips, making it very chocolatey.  It was sweet, it was creamy, and had a nice texture from all the chips.  I didn't love the filling, but it was good.  There was so much of it that it was actually too much with just the main part of the claw, but I found that I could break a finger off and dunk it in the extra filling for a "perfect bite".  I also clearly enjoyed dissecting this thing as I devoured it.

Overall, this was very good.  I was a bit shocked to find that I ate the whole thing in one sitting, as it really was quite large.  But, such quality pastry, seriously, look at the layering here on the interior!
It was also a fairly fascinating item, so it held my interest.

Original Review, June 2016

A couple years ago, Mr. Holmes Bakehouse hit San Francisco by storm.  If you follow the bakery media at all, you certainly know about Mr. Holmes, for any one of several reasons.

Mr Holmes became a phenomenon instantly as they introduced the cruffin.  Yup, a croissant muffin hybrid, with a flavor that changes daily.  Limited to 2 per person.  They sell out ridiculous quickly.  The website has a countdown timer until the next morning when they'll be available.

They also became everyone's favorite Instagram place for something besides the food: their slogan, which is "I got baked in San Francisco".  It is printed all all their packaging, but, also, in huge neon letters in the store.

And then, finally, the scandal.  The bakery was broken into.  And the thief stole only one thing: recipes.  No cash.  Just the cruffin recipe.

You can't make this stuff up.  Trendy baked good.  Limited supply.  A robbery.  A silly slogan.  Their marketing department did well.  The place was known for crazy long lines, and the hype just grew and grew.  They now have a location in Los Angeles and in Seoul.

Since I love baked goods, you'd think I would have been all over this opening.  But, actually, it seemed like a lot of hype to me, and I just didn't feel like getting up at 6am to get in line for a cruffin.  So I waited, until I attended an event with Mr. Holmes baked goods.  Of course, that means I still haven't tried a cruffin, since you can't get more than 2, and they don't offer them for catering or delivery.

That said, their other items are no slouch.  Many others have made waves too, like the California croissant, stuffed with smoked salmon, ginger, wasabi, and nori.  They also have a kouign amann, a number of fascinating danishes, and even just their basic croissant has won awards.
Donuts: Chocolate & Coffee.
Most of the Mr. Holmes menu changes seasonally, like the danish fillings.  But the aforementioned cruffin changes daily, as does their donut.  They always offer two flavors of each, named Le Donut #1 and Le Donut #2.  Given how much I like donuts, I was thrilled when the event I attended had them.
Le Donut #1 (coffee). $3.50.
I started with Le Donut #1.  I was not sure what flavor it was.  I was told "pistachio" by the host, but I'm quite certain that was not right, as I didn't taste a hint of pistachio in here.  Ojan described his as "weird, I can't figure it out".  In the end, I thought it was mocha.  I followed up with the bakery the next day because I was really curious.  The answer?  Coffee.

The donut was ... ok.  Nicely coated in sugar, not too oily, stuffed very, very, very generously with the filling.  I think the part I didn't enjoy was the filling.  There was tons of it, it was very think, and kinda gritty, and I spent the whole time trying to figure out what it was.

The donut wasn't bad, but, really not worth raving about.  With a filling I liked though, I could imagine feeling differently ...
Le Donut #2 (chocolate). $3.50.
So, I took one of the other kind, and kept it "for later".

The second one was milk chocolate filled, with two little chocolate crunchy balls on top.

You can also guess about how much later, "later" really was.
Le Donut #2: Inside.
This one also was perfectly coated in sugar, and generously filled with cream.  Here you can see just how much filling was inside, they really aren't messing around with the filling.

Both Ojan and I liked this flavor much more, because the chocolate cream was smooth like a nice pudding, and not gritty like the filling in the coffee one.  I still didn't love the filling, but, sugar coated fried dough is always a good thing.

Ojan devoured his and asked me to get him another.  Yes, after eating 2 of these, he wanted another, stat!
Cookie: Chocolate, sea salt. $3.
You know I'm not really one for cookies, but, I got this for Ojan.

And as always, I took a bite.  And then, I went and got myself one.  For a cookie, this was great!

It had a generous sprinkle of large sea salt crystals on top, which really amped up the flavor.  It was still a hard, crispy cookie, so, not my favorite item, but, it was a good one.  The chocolate chunks in particular were really tasty.

It was also rather huge, a very hefty size for the $3 price.
Croissant. $3.50.
And finally, a basic croissant.  I wasn't able to try the crazy California croissant, but, this plain croissant has earned its place on many "Top 5 in San Francsico" lists.

It was a pretty decent croissant.

Crispy exterior, moist interior, very strong butter flavor, laminated.  Not mind blowing, but for a plain croissant, very solid, and on par with the best I had in Paris.

Ojan took one bite of his, and said, "hmm, this is a pretty good croissant!".  When I returned to the room a few minutes later, he further raved, "I don't normally like plain croissants, but this grew on me!"
Mr. Holmes Bakehouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Read More...

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Will it Waffle: Bauloy Samsee

I've waffled a lot of crazy things over the years, as you know (and if you don't know, rewind, go to my master post about my love of transforming leftovers via my waffle iron).
Bauloy Samsee: Transformed!
But this, this might be one of the most unique things I've waffled to date.  I waffled a thai dessert.  Because even though I didn't care for the original, I couldn't bring myself to throw it away.

So I did what I always do in this situation - I threw it in the waffle iron, and hoped it would create magic.

And this time, it did.  One of my biggest successes, and best transformations, to date.

Bauloy Samsee: Will it Waffle? is a resounding YES YES YES!
The Original: Bauloy Samsee.
The original was thai dessert from Bangkok Asia Cafe and Grocery in Lebanon, NH, where I took a gamble and picked up a thai dessert while visiting my family.

It was served warm, a thin coconut milk broth, with glutinous rice balls of three colors (green, orange, and white).  The rice balls were infused with pandan, sweet potato, and (I think coconut), but all were fairly flavorless.  The balls were very soft, and many were lumped together.  They just weren't very good.

The coconut milk was slightly sweet, and tasty enough actually, but, overall, it just wasn't enjoyable.

I really didn't want to waste it though, and, I really wanted a dessert to enjoy, so I decided to remove the rice dumplings, and, well, waffle them.  I actually thought this would work well, like a mochi waffle, why not?

My parents thought I was crazy (even though just the day before, they had watched me waffle leftover poutine to great success).
Rice Balls, Waffling ...
I pre-heated the waffle iron to my standard 350 degrees.

I started with a small batch to test.  I simply plucked a few of the dumpling balls from the broth, and put them into the waffle iron.  I didn't crust it, I didn't do anything really.  I barely bothered to make sure I grabbed a few of each color.  Just put them in, closed the lid, and walked away for about 5 minutes.
Waffled Rice Balls!
I checked halfway to see the balls mushing together to form a solid waffle.  Then they puffed up, and then got nicely crispy.

I was able to extract my waffle with zero effort.  Well, huh.

I tried a chunk.  It was perfectly crispy on the outside, yet crazy moist and gloopy in a good way inside.  I had made a mochi waffle.
The Result!
I drizzled the coconut milk sauce over the top, and added some whipped cream.

It was really, really good.  I loved the crispy exterior, I loved the soft inside.  The flavor even seemed better, and the coconut milk broth worked much better as a drizzle, particularly when combined with the thicker whipped cream.

I adored my creation, and immediately returned to waffle the remainder.  Not only did this salvage something that was lackluster, it was truly delicious, and honestly, I'd get the dessert again, just to do this.
Read More...

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Cat Cora's Kitchen, SFO

I often fly in and out of Terminal 2 at SFO, but I don't generally dine there.  I do of course grab tasty salads, snacks, and desserts from Napa Farms Market to bring on board, will frequently cruise through Pinkberry, and Natalie's Candy Jar is *always* on my agenda pre-flight, but actually eating a meal in the terminal?  Nah.

But on a recent flight, I was delayed, and arrived at SFO around 7pm.  I didn't have checked baggage, and I didn't want to deal with figuring out dinner once I finally got home, so, I decided to just eat at the airport, for literally the first time.

I almost just grabbed food at Napa Farms to bring home, but it was late, I was exhausted, and just having dinner seemed to make sense.  Plus, I had walked by Cat Cora's Kitchen so many times before ...

Cat Cora is known most for being an Iron Chef, but, she got in that position due to successful restaurants originally.  Her empire has expanded to include some casual bar and tapas style places, located in airports.  Like SFO.

Now, celebrity chef's airport locations are usually not worth checking out, but, I dunno, I decided to go.  I wish I had just grabbed a reliable Napa Farms Market salad and gone home.
Counter Seating.
Cat Cora's Kitchen is located inside the terminal, but it has a nice bar and counter area looking out into the terminal.  Power outlets are supplied.

The bar had all seats occupied, with patrons watching a game on the big screen TVs.  They looked happy to be hanging out there.

I sat at the counter on the side, in a quiet place, happy to decompress alone.
Menu.
The cocktail menu actually sounded great, but, I had wine (and lots of snacks) on my flight, and needed to work early in the morning, so, I just went for a light meal.

The menu did have some good sounding dishes, like lobster mac and cheese and sweet potato fries, but, I wasn't feeling something that heavy, so opted for something from the salad section (note, I don't say I had a salad ...).

The menu had only a single dessert, chocolate budino, which was disappointing as I don't have chocolate at night, but then I remembered that my partner had a slice of eggnog cheesecake waiting for me at home, so, I quickly got over my disapointment at the lack of dessert menu.
Grilled Octopus Salad. $16.
"Heart of palm, cucumber-tomato salad, crispy garbanzo, romesco."

I was impressed, visually, when my order was delivered.  It really did look quite good.  This was really airport dining?

Except ... it was.  It looked great, but, wasn't actually well prepared.

I'll start with the good.  The romesco.  It was very flavorful, and I actually loved it.  I coated all the lackluster veggies in it, and used my knife to scrape up every last bit.  The romesco was fantastic.

The crispy garbanzos were also quite good, well seasoned, crispy, nice crunch.

The cucumber, tomato, and hearts of palm, basically, the "salad" components, were all ... fine.  None of it seemed particularly fresh or ripe, and I don't really like cucumber in the first place.  The hearts of palm was the most disappointing, it seemed like jarred stuff.

But the real disappointment?  The octopus.

It did look pretty decent.  A huge piece.  Good color on it.  It looked grilled.  But ... it was soft.  Soggy.  Kinda rubbery.  I still don't really understand how it looked so grilled, yet seemed so soft.  It wasn't crispy anywhere, not even the thinest tail piece.  I tried bites from all sections, hoping to find a good piece, but alas, it just wasn't well prepared at all.

Overall, this was just not good.  Horrible octopus, kinda old tasting hearts of palm, mediocre veggies ... the flavorful romesco couldn't save it.

I also ordered it because I was craving some greens, and thought the "salad" would include some salad greens, but I realize now the menu never said that, so, that was my bad.  Still, this was poorly done enough that I wouldn't return.
Taro Chips (Side).
I love taro chips.  The menu had a ceviche served with taro chips, so I asked if it was possible to get just a side of taro chips.

My server happily said yes, commenting on how good they were, and how she didn't blame me.

The taro chips were ... fine.  Crispy.  Over-salted.  Not much taro flavor.  I don't think freshly made.

I'm glad I tried them, but not worth getting again.  I think my server didn't charge me for them ... my bill had them on as a "Special Prep", but, the price for the octopus was the same as the menu price, so, uh, score?
Read More...

Monday, May 07, 2018

Peet's Coffee & Tea

In celebration of Peet's 50 Anniversary, I'm updating my past reviews with a bunch of newer reviews.  Since these is a collection of a slew of visits, I've just added the new ones in the proper sections, and updated a bit of my intro.

To start, let's first make sure you know about Peet's.  Peet's is a nationwide coffee chain, but it started in the bay area, in Berkeley.  Locations aren't as prevalent as Starbucks of course, particularly on the East Coast where I grew up, but, it is a sizable chain.  They offer coffee, espresso drinks, blended drinks, and baked goods.

One unique aspect is that they partner with local wholesale bakeries to provide the baked goods, so the scones in Northern California are entirely different from those in Boston.  They also have a firm rule that no brewed coffee will ever be more than 30 minutes old, and they have timers they watch and actually pay attention to.  On more occasions than not, I'm given a freshly brewed cup!  In general, I've found Peet's to be higher quality than Starbucks or other large chains.

When I was forced to switch to decaf for health reasons, I declared Peet's Decaf Major Dickason's to be the most reliable decaf I could find.  I still feel that way now, even since I've switched back to regular.  Below is a culmination of a bunch of my tasting notes from the past few years, spanning their hot drinks, cold drinks, baked goods, and candies!

Much like Starbucks acquired Teavana, Peet's owns Mightly Leaf Tea, and have more recently also acquired Intelligentsia and Stumptown, two smaller "luxury" brands of coffee.  I haven't seen those brands rolled out into the shops in any way though.

The majority of the Peet's menu is hot drinks, including espresso based beverages and drip coffee, plus some teas, including matcha and chai.  They don't try to have any exotic offerings, and don't introduce specials constantly like Starbucks.

Summary: Still consistently the best drip decaf I have found (besides cup at a time local stuff - Four Barrel does some great decaf actually), excellent foaming skills from the baristas, surprisingly good chocolate, mediocre baked goods, and a mixed bag on their other drinks.

Hot Coffee

Drip

This is why I usually go to Peet's.  I've been very impressed with Peet's decaf drip coffee (this REALLY surprised me to be honest, but with the policy of not serving coffee more than 30 mins old and no one else ordering decaf, this means I usually get a fresh pot brewed when I order!  I love how seriously they take this rule. )

Another thing I like is that each cafe brews a different roast every day, and have the lineup listed, so you can pick when and where to go.
  • Decaf
    • Decaf Sumatra: My least favorite, acidic aftertaste. [ I've tried this many, many times, and never like it.  Too dark of a roast, too much acid. ]
    • Decaf Major Dickason's: Milder, always my favorite.
    • Decaf Holiday Blend: Decent.  Not super complex, but not bad.
  • Regular
    • Mocca Java: chocolatey, deeper flavor, not bad.
    • Holiday Blend: nothing special.
    • JR Reserve: decent, but fairly generic.
    • Peabody: yum!
    • New Guinea Gold: sweet, nice when hot but bad after taste as it cools.
    • Blue Batak: fairly complex, nice.

Brewed to Order

If you want hot coffee, but, not just the pre-brewed drip, you can also order a french press.  

Yes, did you know that Peet's will brew any coffee as a french press?  In multiple sizes?  I didn't either, until I started doing research on how to best utilize my birthday freebie.  Sounded like a good time to try it.

French press isn't listed anywhere on the menu, but I tentatively stepped up and asked the barista if they do french press, as I had read about it online.  "Yup, of course!  Any bean you'd like!", she quipped.
French Press Decaf Mocca-Java.
"Water-process decaffeination makes this rich, ancient blend of Java and Ethiopian Mocca a discerning decaf."

I used the opportunity to try one of the decafs I have never had before: Mocca-Java.  I was warned it would take time (which, it did, for sure).  But fresh brewed coffee is worth it, particularly for decaf, which can be so finicky.

It was ... good.  Certainly no decaf funk, but nothing particularly novel about it.  Decently complex for a decaf.  Decently smooth.  Not sure what I was expecting, but, I enjoyed it?

Hot Espresso Drinks

White Chocolate Mocha, Decaf, Soy.
"Rich espresso mixed with indulgent white chocolate, steamed milk."

Again, not something I normally order, but, I wanted something sweet, so, a white mocha was it.

There wasn't much coffee flavor to it, instead it was mostly just a sweet, warm, milky drink.

As I've come to expect from Peet's, the foam was nicely done.  I liked the sweet flavor, and it was a fairly comforting drink, but there wasn't a whole lot going.  I might not have known there was even coffee in it, easily mistaking it for just a sweet steamer.  And I couldn't have identified the sweet as white chocolate.  But well made.
White Chocolate Mocha, Decaf, Soy. $4.55.
"The traditional mocha’s blonde cousin. The sweet indulgence of white chocolate blends smoothly with espresso."

It was a cold, windy San Francisco day, and I wanted something creamy, sweet, and comforting, so I opted to try a white mocha again.  This quite fit the bill.

I'm always impressed with how well the Peet's baristas foam the milk, it doesn't seem to matter which cafe I visit, they all produce quality microfoam, and this was no exception, even though I opted for soy, which sometimes trips baristas up a bit.

It was about what I remembered, and about what I wanted.  Quite sweet, although nothing particularly tasted like "white chocolate", just, sweet, but not cloying.  The coffee taste was pretty much lost, but you could tell it was there making the whole drink not just sweet.

Overall, nicely made, decent white mocha, nothing earth shattering, but it warmed me up and satisfied my sweet tooth quite nicely.
Sea Salt Caramel Macchiato, Decaf, Soy, Large.
"Real, buttery caramel, a bit of vanilla, and a hint of French grey sea salt provides a salty-sweet balance to intense, yet sweet ristretto shots of fresh espresso."

I really have no idea why I ordered this one.  It was a cold day, and I wanted something to warm me up, and I felt like something more decadent that my standard black coffee.  But it was afternoon, so I didn't want caffeine, otherwise a matcha or chai would definitely have been in order.  So, decaf coffee, but ... in what form?  I was being really indecisive, and saw a sign with the lovely seasonal offerings on it, including the Sea Salt Carmamel Macchiato.  It looked so inviting in the photo.  Indecision won, so I randomly ordered it.

Since I love the flavor of soy milk, I splurged ($0.60) to use soy milk.  I took my first sip.  The caramel was very forward, and sweet.  And then, wow, there was the salt.  The flavor was really lovely.  The top of this was just ridiculously delicious, with the extra caramel and the sprinkle of salt too.
Plus whipped cream!
But ... the photo that inspired my order had whipped cream, and mine did not.  It was part of the decadent appeal.  So I went back, and asked for whipped cream.  I didn't realize it wasn't standard with the drink.

Overall, this was exactly what I wanted.  Did I get to taste and appreciate coffee?  Not at all.  The coffee was pretty much entirely masked by the rest of the drink.  But, I did really like the combo of salty and sweet, and it really was a perfect treat!

[ No photo ]
Cappuccino

"Our rich espresso poured with steamed milk and marbled to absolute perfection."

This was pretty bad. The milk was not properly steamed (but that is individual barista issue, not judging the entire chain on this ...), the bean taste wasn't great and was totally lost in the milk anyway. Very meh.

[ No photo ]
Pumpkin spice latte, whip. 

"Our rich espresso topped with steamed milk and a layer of foam, with pumpkin spice syrup."

Gross.  Not very well made latte, super sweet, not even nice flavor.

[ No photo ]
Godiva Caramel Pecan Mocha, skim.


This sounded amazing but, just tasted kinda burnt.  I didn’t get a real chocolate sense, nor caramel, nor pecan.  It was just kinda nasty, not sweet, nor bitter.  On a later encounter, I had sample size of the regular version of it, with whipped cream.  It was super sweet and really pretty tasty.  Not sure why it was so bad when I got the full size one.

[ No photo ]
Peppermint mocha, skim, whip.

Another one that sounded like it would be great, but was quite horrible.  Strong, bitter taste, not chocolatey, not pepperminty, just bitter and gross.  Really fake tasting.  But the whipped cream was really, really tasty and melted into the drink well.

[ No photo ]
Peppermint hot chocolate, whip.

Very sweet, but the peppermint flavor is nice.  Much better than the peppermint mocha.  Same great whipped cream.

Iced Espresso Drinks

The iced espresso drink lineup is again about what you'd expect.  The aspect that sets Peet's apart here is that they actually use foam even in their iced drinks.
Iced Cappuccino, Decaf, Skim, SF Vanilla.
 "Our freshly-pulled espresso and foam poured with cold milk and vanilla syrup over ice."

I really loved this.

Most places make iced lattes by combining ice, cold milk, and an espresso shot.  Peet's instead starts with cold foam, then adds the standard ingredients.  And they also offer a iced cappuccino, which is the same thing, but with additional cold foam on top.

I liked this more than any of the blended iced drinks.  It was sweet, but not too sweet.  The vanilla flavor here was stronger than in the vanilla caffe freddo.  The coffee flavor was also stronger.  The foam top is my favorite part of a standard cappuccino, and it was really fun to have that in a more refreshing, seasonally appropriate, iced drink as well.  I'd never seen it done before!

Would definitely order again, particularly instead of an iced coffee, which is what I normally go for when I want a cold coffee drink.

Tea Beverages

Of course, it is Peet's Coffee & Tea, so the other main part of the menu is tea based drinks.

Hot

Chai Latte, Soy, Medium. $4.10 + $0.60 for soy.
"Peet’s take on a traditional Indian cup. Our own blend of teas and spices, lightly sweetened, with steamed milk."

I'm not really a big chai drinker, but every once in a while, usually when it is very cold out, and usually after I've recently spent time with my mother (who does love chai), I want a chai. So, I tried out Peet's version.
The milk was nicely steamed, a good frothy top. Peet's usually does a nice job with the foam.
It comes pre-sweetened, so no ability to modify sweetness (it isn’t just simple syrup like in other drinks). It was a tad bit too sweet for me, but maybe because I got soy milk, since the soy was also sweetened.

The spicing was quite nice, lots of spices, but none dominant. Very nicely balanced.

It was very comforting on a dreary day, and satisfied my random chai craving. I don't really feel the need for another though.
Large Matcha Latte, Soy Milk, No Simple Syrup, 3 Pumps SF Vanilla.
"Pure Matcha Green Tea, freshly steamed milk, and sweet vanilla syrup."

At first I just ordered a matcha green tea latte, soy, since I really love the flavor combination of soy and matcha.  The person taking my order asked, "Sweetened or unsweetened?"  I was overjoyed!  In the past, I thought Peet's had only a pre-sweetened mix, and so I had no option here.  I quickly said unsweetened, and I saw "no simple syrup" flash by on the screen.  I didn't actually want it super bitter, so I asked to have sugar free vanilla syrup added instead.  Vanilla, matcha, and soy are such a good combination.  I was told it normally has 5 pumps in a large, I asked for only 3, since I did really want to taste my matcha, not just the sweetness.

The result was certainly a success. I could taste the matcha, I could taste the soy, and it was all just slightly sweet.  Comforting and satisfying, with the perfect amount of caffeine as long as I drank it slowly.

The only thing I'd change is to do it more cappuccino style rather than latte, I actually love foam, not hot milk.
Matcha Latte, Soy, No SS, 2 Pumps SF Vanilla, Coconut Whip. $5.55.
Another matcha, similar recipe as my others - soy, no simple syrup, and 2 pumps of SF vanilla.  This time I got crazy, and added coconut whipped cream at the last minute, when I saw it on the menu. 

The matcha was good, decently strong flavor, and my 2 pumps of vanilla syrup left it not too sweet (actually, I wished I had asked for 3).  I again liked my choices of both soy and vanilla mixed in.  Soy + vanilla + matcha is just a great combination.  And again, amazing foam.  They really make the best foam of anywhere I've been, very consistently.

Now, about that topping.  A matcha latte doesn't normally have whipped cream, coconut or otherwise.  I have no problem with regular dairy, and only pick soy milk in my matcha because I love the taste.  So, uh, why did I add coconut whipped cream?  I don't know.  It was an impulse.  Did I need whipped cream at 8am?  Absolutely not.  But, the fact that they have coconut whipped cream was novel, and so, I added it.  I wished I hadn't.  I thought it would taste coconuty, and that would be a nice flavor with my matcha.  It didn't really taste like coconut, and it had a strange mouth feel.  Oops.  I think regular whipped cream would have been tasty, but, again, entirely unnecessary, particularly given how great their foam is.

Iced

Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte, Soy, Naturally Sweetened, Small.  $2.95.
"Pure Matcha Green Tea and milk poured over ice. Available unsweetened or sweetened with simple syrup."

I heard many great things about Peet's matcha green tea lattes, and everyone in front of me seemed to be getting them. Plus, they were a crazy fun green color.  I joined the crowds, and went for one too.

The Matcha Green Tea Latte comes in 3 varieties: unsweetened, "naturally sweetened", or vanilla.  It is also available hot or iced, with all the usual milk choices.

I told the very friendly person taking my order that I'd never had one before, but was eager to try it.  I asked how she liked hers.  Without hesitation, she said "iced, soy milk, naturally sweetened".  I was actually thinking that it was a shame that I'd picked a hot sunny afternoon to go in, so making it iced was a perfect suggestion, I hadn't even thought of that.  And I love soy flavor, and was already thinking I'd go that way.  As for the sweetness, I really couldn't pick, so I went with her suggestion.

I loved it.  The matcha flavor was just great, and it went really well with soy.  It was refreshing yet creamy, just absolutely what I was in the mood for.  It was also frothy, which I loved (they threw it in the blender to froth it up).  I'd gladly get another!
 Iced Soy Matcha, No simple syrup, 2 pumps SF Vanilla.  $5.10.
A few years later, I had another.

It was still good.  I thought I remembered Peet's making their iced drinks slightly more frothy than this, but perhaps it was just because I used soy that made it less frothy?  Anyway, the matcha flavor was strong, the soy flavor was good, and I sucked this down in, oh, approximately 3 minutes.  I’m not joking.

I went for a large, which seemed huge at first, but given the amount of ice it really wasn’t too much at all.  I originally asked for 1 pump of syrup, since I knew that the soy milk itself was sweetened, and assumed the matcha base was too.  But 1 pump for such a large drink wasn’t quite sufficient, so I upped it to 2 pumps, which was absolutely perfect.  I was told that the drink normally has 5 pumps of simple syrup!  Woah.

Anyway, this was pretty much exactly what I wanted on a hot day.  Refreshing, a bit creamy, perfect jolt of caffeine.  That said, $5.10 is kinda pricey for what is basically a large cup of ice, some soy milk, a few squirts of syrup, and a bit of matcha powder ($0.60 was just to upgrade to soy milk).  If I was feeling splurgy, I’d certainly get another, although I’m curious to try the blended version (Javiva).
Hibiscus Breeze Tea Cooler.
"Our Hibiscus C Blend (a caffeine-free blend of hibiscus flowers, chamomile, and cinnamon) brewed with lemonade over ice."


I wanted to try something other than coffee, so I went for the only ice tea offering without caffeine.  It was really sweet.  The flavor was fairly complex, almost interesting, with some tartness from the lemonade.  But ... just too sweet overall, and really not refreshing at all.  I likely would not order again.

Blended Beverages

Freddos

Freddos no longer exist, but they were Peet's version of an icy, creamy, blended beverage, like a frappucino from Starbucks, a coolatta from Dunkin' Donuts, etc.  These have been replaced with Javivas, and honestly, I'm not sure what is different.
Dark Chocolate Mocha Freddo, Decaf, Skim, Whip.
"A delicious chocolatey beverage. Luxurious Scharffen Berger cocoa and coffee, topped with whipped cream and Scharffen Berger chocolate shavings."

I actually ordered a chocolate and caramel swirl freddo, but received this instead.  Given how crazy the lines were, I decided to just try it out.  I didn't like it at all.  It did have a rich dark chocolate flavor, but it wasn't a particularly good one, and it had a strange mouthfeel.  Blended decently, not too icy.  It was very bitter overall.  Mine did not having chocolate shavings.

The whipped cream was pretty good.  They make fresh whipped cream in house, not just generic canned stuff.

Least favorite freddo I tried, would not get again.
Matcha Green Tea Freddo, Soy, Whip.
 "A distinctively refreshing beverage handcrafted with the highest quality Japanese matcha green tea and milk, topped with whipped cream."

I really liked this at first and thought it had really great flavors.  Good matcha flavor, just enough to give it flavor, but not overpower the soy.  Great combination.  It was really nicely blended.  But ... after a few sips I got really sick of it, and the flavor seemed to just disappear.  The whipped cream was again tasty, and went well with it.  Tasting notes from an earlier encounter seem to agree: flavor pretty subtle, in fact, just not much flavor.

Second to least favorite of the freddos, probably wouldn't get again.
Matcha Green Tea Freddo, Vanilla, Soy, Whip.
The next time, I had vanilla syrup added, because I've been drinking matcha lattes with a little vanilla syrup in them lately, and I decided I like the flavor combination.  I again got soy because I love how soy and matcha taste together.

I liked this more, and really appreciate how strong the matcha is in the Peet's drinks.  I like that it tastes a bit bitter, and really like matcha, rather than ridiculously sweet like Starbuck's Matcha Frappucinos.  And it was again expertly blended.

I still got fairly sick of it halfway through, and was going to throw it out, but decided to just give it a few minutes and then resume.  It was half-hearted enjoyment at best for the second half though.  Medium is the smallest size they come in, I wish they were offered in small, or maybe I just need to find someone to split one with me ...
Chocolate Freddo, Soy, Whip.
This was one of their coffee-free freddos.  It had a good chocolate flavor (much better than the dark chocolate freddo), but it also let the soy flavor come through.  This was a nice combination of chocolate and soy.  It was nicely blended, almost like a chocolate milk shake, although more icy.  The whipped cream was definitely necessary on this one.

Third favorite of the freddos I tried, and if I wanted something chocolately and cold and I was there, I'd order it, but otherwise, I'd just go for a real milkshake.

I really want to try the vanilla coffee-free freddo next!
Caramel Caffè Freddo, Decaf, Skim, Whip.
"Smooth coffee taste with Pure Caramel for a subtly sweet treat, topped with whipped cream."

I'm not really sure where they got "subtle sweet" from, this thing was super sweet!  It had a great caramel flavor, was not bitter at all, and the coffee flavor was fairly subtle.  It was very tasty, well blended, and quite a treat, but very, very sweet and not really much of a coffee drink.

By far my favorite of the freddos, would order again if I wanted something just sweet and delicious.
Vanilla Caffè Freddo, Light, Decaf.
"Madagascar Vanilla combined with coffee, blended with ice for a deliciously sweet treat. "

After all those crazy sweet drinks loaded with whipped cream, I wanted to at least give the "light" product line a try.  The light drinks are made with skim milk, do not have whipped cream, and use syrups and powders with less sugar than the standard versions.

This was the best blended freddo I had, very, very frothy.  It had a really nice coffee flavor, with a subtle vanilla flavor, not too sweet.

Second pick of the freddos, and I'd order again if I wanted something that highlighted coffee flavors a little more.
Vanilla Freddo, Soy, Whip.  $4.30.
I finally got a chance to try the last freddo I had wanted, the plain vanilla, san coffee, version.  I was hoping it would be like a delicious milkshake.  I love the flavor of soy and vanilla together, so I picked soy milk.

This did have a nice soy flavor, but there wasn't much vanilla to it.  It was kinda just sweet soy milk, blended with ice.  It was really nicely blended.  It also came with the most generous serving of whipped cream that I've ever received.  I couldn't get a lid on it.  The whipped cream was the same standard, but good, whipped cream.

I wouldn't get one of these again, as it really offered nothing.  It also seemed really expensive: $4.90 with tax ... for basically some soy milk and ice?  Meh.

Javiva

As I said, Freddos were discontinued.  And replaced by Javivas.  They seem to be the same thing, ice blended drinks topped with whipped cream.  I'm going to guess this was a marketing move?
Matcha Javiva, Soy, Small $4.10 + $0.60 for soy.
"Pure Japanese Matcha green tea finds a creamy complement in cold milk and ice. Topped off with a cloud of whipped cream."

Unlike the old freddos, this came pre-sweetened, so, like the chai, no ability to modify sweetness. I could pick my dairy, unlike Starbucks frappuccinos though.  Into it went sScoops of matcha powder, and scoops of some other powder, which I'm guessing is some kind of Javiva base?

It was nicely blended, with tiny tiny tiny bits of ice.  Great matcha flavor, probably the best matcha flavor I’ve had in a drink.

Baked Goods

One of the Peet's locations that I most often visit regularly has samples of their baked goods out.  I'm a bit of a baked goods snob, and wouldn't normally ever order these, but I'm incapable of resisting a sample, so I've gotten to try a bunch of things!  As always, subsequent tastings noted in brackets.
  • Cookies
    • Chocolate Chip: kinda greasy, hard, nothing worth repeating.
    • Peanut Butter: hard, flavorless, not good.
    • Sugar: buttery, classic sugar cookie taste, huge sugar crystals on top are nice crunch, cookie itself is moist, basically a good classic sugar cookie. [ Nice and buttery, topped with large sugar crystals, yummy. ]
    • Vegan Oatmeal Raisin: nice buttery flavor, plentiful raisins, fairly chewy, nice! [ Meh, not great flavor, too crispy. ] [ Soft, plentiful raisins, really great flavor, buttery, maple flavor in there too. ]
    • Spicy Ginger: nice chunks of candied ginger inside, great ginger flavor.
  • Cakes
    • Gingerbread Loaf Cake with cream cheese frosting: pretty good! flavors are very strong -  gingerbread flavor is very strong in the cake, cream cheese frosting is very creamy cheesy, although I could do without the frosting. [ Cake was fairly moist but nothing special.  Cream cheese frosting had candied ginger pieces, the candied ginger gave a nice zing.  But overall, generic and forgettable. ]
    • Lemon Pound Cake: just sweet, boring, dry, meh.
    • Classic Coffee Cake: cake pretty boring, heavy brown sugar topping, not very flavorful, meh.
  • Other
    • Pumpkin Pie Bar: Pumpkin pie layer on top of shortbread crust.  Crust really has no flavor or anything.  Pumpkin pie layer is lacking in spices.  Generic and forgettable. [ Flavorless pumpkin layer, flavorless shortbread crust layer, really quite gross. ]
    • Peppermint Cute Cake by Donsuemor: “marriage of cupcakes and petits fours”.  "A chocolate cake with peppermint infused white chocolate topping and sprinkles".  The cake is kinda dry and forgettable, but the peppermint topping was nice.  [ Agreed on second try, cake is kinda dry, peppermint topping is good. ]
    • Red Velvet Whoopie Pie: dry flavorless cake, cream cheese filling ok.

Chocolates

During the Christmas holidays, Peet's was often sampling some of their chocolates.  Again, not somewhere I'd normally purchase such things, but theirs were surprisingly good!
  • Jo’s Almond Bark: Milk chocolate base, dark chocolate swirl, pieces and whole chunks of almond.  Surprisingly good.  Milk chocolate is nice and creamy, dark chocolate adds nice component, almonds have good flavor. [ Agreed, milk chocolate is really surprisingly nice and creamy. ] [ Agreed, not amazing milk chocolate, but pretty creamy.] [ Agreed again, nice flavor in almond, chocolate so creamy.]
  • Jo’s Chocolate Covered Pretzel: milk chocolate covered pretzel stick. Generic, meh, neither component interesting.
  • Chocolate Covered Cherries: milk chocolate covered bing cherry with cherry flavored layer.  Very flavorful, cherry itself has good flavor, milk chocolate kinda standard, cherry layer fairly thin, doesn’t add a lot. [ Milk chocolate layer very thin, cherry chocolate layer is very thick, 2x thicker than cherry itself.  Overall really flavorful. ] [  Layer of cherry flavored chocolate, layer of milk chocolate, dried cherry in center.  Pretty tasty.  Cherry chocolate layer is super flavorful, and chocolate and cherry are great flavor combo. ]
  • Jo’s Peppermint Bark: Dark chocolate thin base layer, lots of white chocolate, candycane topping.  Candycane nice, dark chocolate layer is totally lost in the white chocolate, white chocolate just kinda a lot of sweet but if you are in the mood for it it isn’t bad [ Not very minty, dark chocolate you don’t taste at all, white chocolate isn’t too sweet, but overall, this is pretty lackluster. ]
  • Chocolate Toffee Almond: Almond coated with butter toffee, chocolate, and powdered sugar. Very nice, better than most other versions I've had of this.  Butter toffee layer is subtle and adds just a nice salty/sweet layer, perfect amount of chocolate (not too much so you lose taste of almond, which happens with many).
Read More...