Friday, June 24, 2022


Update Review, 2022

It has been a while (9 years!) since I last had a Luna bar (see prior reviews), as they haven't ever been my favorites (but also, aren't *awful*).  So when I saw they had a product line I hadn't tried before, "Luna with Prebiotics", I had a Luna bar for the first time in ages.  

Luna with Prebiotics

"LUNA with prebiotics combines sweet, tart and fruity flavors with prebiotic fiber, which helps promote digestive health, for a snack that you can feel good about eating."
The prebiotic line I hadn't ever tried before.  Prebiotic bars are available in only two flavors: wild cherry or tangerine.  I guess they add in some form of prebiotic fiber?  But otherwise, they seemed like pretty normal Luna bars.
Wild Cherry.
"You'll go wild for the way this LUNA® Wild Cherry bar balances mouthwatering tart and sweet flavors. Plus, this craveworthy anytime snack has 2.5g of prebiotic fiber that feeds the good bacteria in your gut. Because when you feel good, you do great."

I could not distinguish this from a regular Luna bar, but that isn't a bad thing.  It had a good chew, but was very sweet, reminding me a bit of a rice crispy treat.  The base was the standard protein grain blend.  The first flavor I detected almost seemed lemon-ish, however, there was a light cherry flavor on the finish. Certainly subtle.

The bottom side was coated in a white substance, almost like white chocolate or yogurt, but I'm not quite sure what it was.  It was sweet, creamy, and I liked it.

Overall, this was pleasant enough, particularly for a bar with reasonable amount of protein and yay, prebiotics.  I think it could be good chopped up on ice cream or yogurt too ...


Original Review, 2013

Often, when you are out and about, you need a snack.  It can be a good excuse to stop and check out a new place, but sometimes, you just want to finish up your errands, or get to your destination, and just don't feel like stopping somewhere.  For such situations, I always have some kind of bar, or stash of nuts, in my purse.  Over the past few years, I've tried all sorts of these things, ranging from classic granola bars, to chocolate covered dessert-like bars, to meal replacement bars, to nutrition bars, and everything in between.  It seems I'm not alone in my need for a quick snack, as the market for these things is huge.

Of sports/nutrition bars, CLIF is probably the most famous.  The founders of CLIF also made a spin-off, designed just for women: LUNA.  I think it means they have some special vitamins added, for women's unique needs?  Or, they at least have prettier packaging.

The brand is made up of three product lines: the classic LUNA bars, high protein bars, and new fiber based bars.  The names make them all sounds delicious.  But ... they aren't.

Classic LUNA Bars

This is the base product line, the originals.

"LUNA® Whole Nutrition Bars are crafted to help keep you nourished throughout your busy day and give you the energy to break through. Each bar is a delicious, gluten-free snack that’s perfect between meals."
Available in a slew of tempting flavors, many of which I have tried.  All use their "Protein Grain Blend" as a base, with soy protein isolate, oats, rice flour, soy beans, soy flour, and flaxseed, with brown rice syrup as a sweetener, and a slew of other flavors, oils, and syrups.  Ingredient lists are ... long.
Chocolate Dipped Coconut.
"A deliciously decadent combination of toasted coconut and chocolate."

This wasn't horrible.  The bottom was a fairly thick layer of chocolate, the base was oats and LunaPro balls with coconut, and the top was drizzled with more chocolate.  It still had some funk from the LunaPro mix, but it didn't overwhelm like happens in most bars.  The coconut flavor was there, but I'd like more of it.  The chocolate was mediocre.

I almost liked this, since I do like coconut and chocolate, but, at the end of the day, it was still a nutrition bar.  I didn't really want to finish it.  **+.
White Chocolate Macadamia.
"Naturally sweet macadamias meet white chocolate creaminess." 

The base of this was the standard LUNA soy crisps, sorta like rice crispies, but with a strange aftertaste.  I like the flavor of soy, but I really didn't like this flavor.  I didn't really detect the macadamia, I think they were chopped up and mixed with the crispies.  The entire thing was drenched in white chocolate that was flavorless.  Meh! *+.

Update review: And then I had another, and liked it more.  It, much like the chocolate dipped coconut, was *almost* good. The macadamia flavor was there, little bits of nuts were great.  The white chocolate coating was creamy and sweet.

But.  And the big but, and thing that ruins all these bars for me, is the underlying base of strange protein isolates, the taste, and texture, just ruin them for me, no matter how good of other flavors are peaking in. **+.

[ No Photos ]
  • Caramel Nut Brownie: “Rich chocolate brownie drizzled with creamy caramel”. Tasting notes: Very chocolatey, subtle caramel, but sorta strange consistency from the soy crisps. ***.
  • Lemon Zest: "Luscious zing of lemon and zest with a smooth, creamy coating".  Tasting notes: Very sweet, strong lemon flavor. Not bad, would be good with some tea perhaps? [ Sweet and fake, but not that bad. ] **+.
  • Peanut Butter Cookie: "Peanut Buttery delight with hints of creaminess and a light peanut crunch."  Tasting notes: Nasty aftertaste.  Just dates and peanuts?  Meh. *+.
  • S'mores: "Marshmallow nuggets swirled with graham crackers, topped with dark chocolate."  Tasting notes: it was slightly expired, so that may have effected it.   This was mostly just like a stale/not very good rice crispy with some chocolate on top. MEH! *+.

LUNA fiber

LUNA's latest line is fiber bars.
LUNA fiber, Chocolate Raspberry.
"Raspberries wrapped in a soft baked chocolate crumble, strewn with decadent chocolate chips."

The description made it sound great.  Spoiler: it wasn't.

It was also coated on the bottom in some fiber flakes and on top with sea salt.

I would not have known it was raspberry flavor.  I'm not sure where the raspberry was, but I did detect some grittiness that could have been raspberry seeds. [ Note: I looked it up online after, and found the secret.  The "raspberry filling" had a fun ingredient listed: strawberry seeds! Not strawberry puree or flavor, just the seeds.  I have no idea why they added those, as I thought the seeds were really off putting, but they did make you think there might be real fruit in there.  The filling also had apple, which I did think I tasted, and red cabbage extract for color.  Lols.  Natural ingredients yes, but not exactly what you'd expect! ]  There were chocolate chips that were very mediocre, I wouldn't call them "decadent", but as I only found a couple, I guess they were "strewn" throughout as promised.  The cake was subtle chocolate flavored, and reminded me of a dried out brownie.  The salt on top was a nice touch, as I love the contrast of salt and chocolate.

I would not get again. *+.
LUNA fiber, Peanut Butter Strawberry.
Another one of the new fiber bars.  Even though I didn't like the first fiber bar I tried, I gave this one a chance.  Who doesn't love peanut butter and jelly?  Or, as they say, "Peanut Butter smoothes the way for Strawberry in this delicious ode to a classic."

It was sprinkled on top with some appealing sugar crystals, and on the bottom with fiber flakes.  Both added a bit of texture.  The cake part was pretty similar to the first one, kinda dry, fairly flavorless.  I think the peanut butter may have been in there?  The filling was mildly strawberry flavored, but there wasn't much of it.  It again had strawberry seeds in it, giving it a slight grittiness.  If you just gave me this, I'm not sure I could have identified that it was supposed to be peanut butter strawberry.

Better than the chocolate raspberry, but certainly not worth getting again. **.

Update: Except, I had another.  I was at a fitness class, and they handed them out at the end.  I remembered trying the bars before, but I didn't remember what I thought of them, so I went into trying it without any judgement.  I liked it more.  The cake part was soft, a bit hearty tasting, better than a Nutrigrain.  I liked the bran (?) flakes on the bottom and the slightly sweet sugar crystals on top.  Unlike my previous try, this one was more generously filled with the strawberry ... goo.  It wasn't really strawberry jam, and it included all sorts of other ingredients like date paste.  The filling was a bit too sweet for me.  And again, I never found the peanut butter.  The ingredients listed peanut butter "chips" way near the end of the list, so I guess they are in there somewhere, but I never found them.  Anyway, I didn't hate it, and I enjoyed it even more once I threw it in the toaster oven for a few minutes.  The exterior got a bit toasty, the whole thing nice and warm ... but still, overall to sweet, and no peanut butter.  Not worth seeking out. **.

LUNA Protein Bars

The latest line, jumping on the high protein trend.
"The power of protein keeps you feeling satisfied, so go ahead—indulge in the decadent, nougaty goodness of LUNA® Protein. Delicious and sustaining with 170-190 gluten-free calories."
These ditch the classic Luna base, but still use soy protein isolate, whey protein, and other "wholesome" ingredients, to deliver up higher protein numbers.
Lemon Vanilla.
"Zesty lemon with a creamy finish, our first non-chocolate protein bar."

I laughed when I opened this.  Big wrapper, little bar.

I had no expectation to like this, but, it was given to me at a fitness class, so I figured I'd try it out.  The aroma coming off it as I opened the wrapper was unmistakable: lemon.

The texture of the bar was really strange, sorta like a nougat.  The coating was sweet and very lemony, with a hint of fake vanilla.  I shouldn't have liked this, but it really grew on me.

Made from soy protein isolate for the 12 grams of protein, I really thought it would taste nasty, but the sweet coating and overwhelming lemon ensured that the soy flavor was masked.

I won't seek another out, but I was pleasantly surprised.  ***.
Chocolate Coconut Almond.
"Toasted coconut and chopped almonds wrapped in chocolate."

It looks like a candy bar.  It sounds like a candy bar.  Although, like all the protein bars, it boasts 12 grams of protein and 4 core nutrients.

Like all products made from soy protein isolate, I was ready to hate it.
Chocolate Coconut Almond: Inside.
As I bit in, I still expected to hate it.  The consistency inside was odd, just like the Lemon Vanilla one.  Sort of like a soft nougat.  Yet ... I didn't hate it.  There was a slight coconut flavor to it, perhaps an even slighter almond flavor.  Decent chocolate layer on the outside.

Yes, it did somewhat seem like a candy bar.  A candy bar that I could eat totally guilt free?

Again, I wouldn't seek another out, and it wasn't amazing, but far better than most products in this space, and I'd probably eat more if they appeared. ***.
Chocolate Peanut Butter.
“Peanut butter meets soft nougat and adds a delicate crunch.”

This was not very peanut buttery. The bar had a strange consistency,  clearly fake processed protein.  Unlike the lemon vanilla and chocolate coconut almond, the peanut butter and chocolate couldn't make up for that. Meh.  *+.

Update review: I tried another, drawn in by the promise of chocolate and peanut butter.  I again hated it.  The texture, the soy protein isolate, are just so unappealing.  *+.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Brave Robot Ice Cream

Ice cream.  One of my favorite elements of dessert (I say "element" because I'm not the type to generally just sit down and have a scoop of ice cream, but rather, I use it to pair with warm chocolate molten cake, with every type of crisp, crumble, and pie, heck, even with a warm cinnamon roll or donut).  So even though rarely a standalone dessert, ice cream is a big part of my diet, I literally have some at least once per day (frequently, twice, with lunch and dinner desserts).  

I have my regular favorites, but of course I like to try more brands, more flavors, basically all the time.  I was quite interested when I heard of Brave Robot, a unique offering, of vegan ice cream.

"Animal-Free, Planet-Positive Indulgence."

Yup, vegan ice cream.  But unlikely nearly every other non-dairy ice cream out there, this isn't made with alternative dairy like almond milk or coconut milk.  Nope, it is made with ... animal free dairy, that is, milk that is made from a whey protein (from fungus) that is molecularly identical to dairy protein.  

I was certainly intrigued.  Most non-dairy ice cream tends to be a second-class product, really, frequently icier, rarely quite as creamy, and often with a strange underlying taste.  But if this was identical, at the molecular level, to cow milk dairy ... the consistency and texture should be the same too, right?

Now of course, even if the non-animal dairy works out well, the ice cream still needs to be good.  After all, there is plenty of "meh" ice cream out there made with regular dairy.  

Brave Robot currently offers 8 flavors, including basic vanilla, "A Lot of Chocolate" with a chocolate base, chocolate fudge swirl, and chocolate chunks, Vanilla 'N Cookies for the cookies 'n cream fans, and more unique tempting sounding PB 'N Fudge and Blueberry Pie.  I eagerly sought out Brave Robot at retailers nearby, but had a hard time finding one that stocked it, even though Brave Robot's product locator suggested otherwise.

Finally, I found it, and, wow, I'm glad I did.  This is great ice cream, and yay, better for the environment too?  Win.

Hazelnut Chocolate Chunk.
"We're gonna go out on a hazelnut tree limb and guess you've never seen a hazelnut tree before.  Because if you had then you'd know it only grows out of dark chocolate chunks. Kidding of course, but if you ever try our delicious, creamy hazelnut with dark chocolate chunks flavor you'll understand how this was a match made in heaven. Or a hazelnut tree."

Oh, wow.

One bite in and I was sold on this ice cream.  It was soooo smooth.  So creamy.  So ... luxurious tasting.  The mouthfeel was just amazing.  Did it taste "non-dairy"?  No, not in any way I've ever experienced before, honestly, it was *better* than most dairy ice cream in the texture.

The flavor also was excellent - basically, a nutella-like base, with plenty of dark chocolate chunks.  Nutella chocolate chunk basically.  I loved the bits of seemingly good quality dark chocolate, and the combo with the hazelnut base was of course a winner.

This was totally delicious, but also quite rich.  I can't imagine eating a giant bowl of it alone, although it went great when topped with copious whipped cream, or, as I found I really loved it, paired with warm chocolate cake.

Given the base of coconut oil and hazelnut, it should come as no surprise that the nutrition stats are not light, with each serving clocking in 390 calores, 25g of fat, which is much higher than most ice cream, even premium ice cream.

Delicious, and I'll gladly get it again.



Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Restaurant Irmi, Munich

The last time I was in Munich was in 2016, and back then, the hotel I was staying at, Le Meridien, had a restaurant called Le Potager.  I remembered quite liking the breakfast buffet, although, to be fair, it was long before I had discovered just how good a breakfast buffet could be (I'm looking at you Feast @ The Sheraton Grand Sydney, or, really, any in Asia ...).

Fast forward to 2022, my first international travel since Covid, and I was back at Le Meridien.  Somewhere in the years since I had stayed there, the restaurant rebranded as Irmi, pivoted to being a “Modern Munich Kitchen” (in the evening), but still seemed to offer the same breakfast lineup, more or less.

I again did enjoy my breakfasts, and yes, ate far more meat at breakfast than I'm used to, but, some of the magic was lost this time around. Still, I'd happily eat it again, and even after 1.5 weeks, it didn't really get old.


Seating is available in a number of styles, small little tables, giant communal tables, high tables, bar seats, and even outdoor dining.  At breakfast, it is self-seating, in the evening it transitions to a more formal restaurant with reservations and a hostess.
High Tables.
I always opted for one of the high tables with stools, but I rarely had anyone else near me.  These weren't popular for morning diners it seemed.

Regular tables.

Most opted for the regular mid-size tables along the sunny windows.
When the weather is nice, there is also a considerable amount of seating available in the courtyard.  I didn't get to take advantage of this during my visit, as the morning springtime weather was a still a bit chilly.  In the evenings though, this area was lively.


Welcome Shots.
Every day features a fresh juice shot, located right at the check in register.  I'm not really one for juices, so I didn't try any (also, I have a severe melon allergy, and I never trust juicers to be cleaned between fruits!)
Sparkling Wine.
I wasn't up for it, but if you wanted to start your day (weekends only) with some sparkling wine or a mimosa, the making were there, self-serve.
Coffee Maker.
Staff sorta circulate the room asking if people want coffee, but most just come to the machines and do it themselves, which I did.

The espresso was actually pretty good.  I made an Americano every morning, double shot, and it was many notches above most hotel coffee.  No decaf available in the machines - I'm not sure if they had instant somewhere if you asked?
Tea Station.
The tea station featured Samova brand tea, decent lineup.  It was amusing watching people struggle with the hot water tap safety lock.


The buffet is quite extensive, with generous continental items to start.
Cereals, Dried Fruits, Nuts.
My favorite station most days ended up being the cereal station.  Very boring I know, but, something about jetlag in this direction just leaves me not hungry in the morning, and yet I know I need to eat breakfast to get my metabolism going and day set off right.  Cereal does the trick, and, I do enjoy trying cereal in other countries.

Soy, oat, and regular milk were on offer to go with cereal.  The milk was always kinda warm though (clearly, the buffet didn't keep it chilled all that well) so I asked for a cup of ice each morning to chill it down, while I assembled the rest of my breakfast.

I give one bonus point for the nice presentation too, so much more useful than those dispensers that never work!
Mixed Cereal.
The corn flakes and mini wheats I ignored, but I did enjoy making mixed bowls of muesli, granola, and whatever the fun chocolate based one of the day was (sometimes it had chocolate chunks, flecks, crispies other times it was large curved chocolate pieces like you see here, which I think is Choco Moons?). Sometimes the one with cocoa puffs got soggy fast though.  Some days I also mixed in nuts.

I really enjoyed my cereal creations.  ****.

I wished for fresh berries to add however, and after a few days, starting bringing my own.
There is a large lineup of rolls and bread you can slice yourself.  I found most of it pretty dry, not stale exactly, but just dry.  They say it is baked fresh daily.

There were some raisin and walnut rolls I really wanted to like, but, again, kinda hard and dry and had a sourdough taste to them.  *.
Pretzels, Spreads.
There are also pretzels, both regular and rolls, packets of Nutella and peanut butter, and a honeycomb to complete your roll.  No alternative nut butters.

The pretzels I actually like, strangely, and I like them more than most others I had in Germany both times I've visited.  They are soft, I like the crust, I like the flavor of the outside.  Just, decent, really.  ***.
Sweet Bread.
My second to last morning (Sunday), there was a new item in the bread station, a sweet looking bread.  I obviously snatched it up immediately.

It was better than the other breads, not quite as dry/hard, lightly fluffy, lightly sweet.  It had a few raisins in it, and almonds on the exterior.  It was very lightly glazed, but not really enough to make it as sweet as I hoped.

I nibbled a little alongside my coffee as I waited for my waffle and I suspect that toasted with copious butter & a drizzle of honey it would be good, but otherwise, it was not the sweet breakfast loaf I was hoping for.

Honey, Jams.
In addition to a fresh honeycomb to harvest honey from yourself, there are several fancier honeys, and a slew of jams.  The honeys are quite good, perfect to add to yogurt/granola or muesli.

I love these jams.  I am never sure exactly what flavor I am getting, but all are fruity and delightful.  I liked mixing them into my cereal, or on muesli or yogurt, or with sausage/meatloaf.

**** for this whole, quality station.
Pastries: Day 1.
I remember the baked goods not being great before.  I did nearly grab a donut hole, but I had plenty of treats in my room, so I mostly skipped this section the first day, taking only the iced top one of the right.

Iced thing:
I'm not sure what it was exactly, but it was a light base, with an odd taste to it that I didn't love, and, the icing on top.  Definitely not my thing. *+.

Pretzel croissant:
Another day I was drawn to the pretzel croissant. This was ok.  Slight pretzel quality to it, slight croissant quality, but basically less good than the pretzels and not laminated as well as a good croissant.  Eh.  **+.
Pastries: Day 2.
Another day there were some new additions to the pastry lineup, and I couldn't help myself from grabbing one of the tats in front, even though I don't usually like tarts, a tart is an odd item for 7:30am, and .... why the gooseberry on top?

The shell was very soft, and broke apart instantly.  Eh.  It was a tart shell.

The filling I couldn't quite figure out ... was it salted caramel?  Chocolate?  Smooth, creamy, sweet, but not distinctive.  Would be better with whipped cream, and the gooseberry was a bit of an odd thing to have perched on top.  Still, smooth and creamy, not bad.  ***.

I also grabbed a muffin.  I know, buffet muffins, buffet muffins I didn't like before, but the paler muffins had a glaze-like topping that looked interesting at least.  It was not interesting.  Just a plain muffin, kinda airy like the iced thing I had the day before, just, glazed.  Not very good.  **.
If at first you don't succeed ...

Or really, if you are Julie and you love pastries no matter how lackluster they seem to be ...  Yup, I tried the donut.  I hoped it was stuffed with something (it wasn't).

It was fine.  Soft, fluffy, nicely coated in sugar.  Fairly average.  Although it wasn't stuffed, I could easily do that myself with the amazing jam lineup, or Nutella had I been in the mood.  Definitely nothing special, but no bad, and probably my top pick if I wanted something sweet and carby.


When I later read my review from many years prior, it was exactly the same.
Chocolate Dipped Hazelnut Scone-eque.
One morning, there were these triangle shaped items, with chocolate along the edges and covering the base completely.  I have no idea why I grabbed one, but I'm glad I did!

This was actually pretty good.  The texture was almost like a scone, and it was heavily hazelnut flavored.  The chocolate coating was generous (the entire base was en-robed).

It did go great with a cup of coffee, as a breakfast pastry if you were in the mood, or equally well as a mid-morning coffee break snack.  I'd get it again if in the mood.

Raspberry Plait.
I remember not really caring for the danish style items last time, but one morning I woke up very late (phone crashed overnight, it is where my alarm was!) and the pickings for pastries were quite slim.  So I grabbed one of these.

I did like how crispy the top was, and it was stuffed generously with sweet raspberry filling, but, it wasn't a particularly great item.  Average buffet quality.

Almond (?) Snail.
I kept trying my way through the pastries, 1-2 a day, because, well, sometimes they were hits.

This one was not really.  The driest of the pastries I tried, not flaky.  It did have a nice glaze over the top, and seemed to have a little bit of almond paste between the folds, but, otherwise, dry and flavorless.  My least favorite.

Nutella Croissant.
The croissants looked reasonably flaky, and I was in the mood for chocolate, so I grabbed this one.  It turned out to be stuffed, very generously, with Nutella, not chocolate.  Smooth, rich, creamy Nutella.  The pastry itself was ok, a bit flaky, but not really all that well laminated.

Average buffet quality. ***.
Apricot Croissant.
On the weekend, there were considerably more pastries, and at least 5 kinds of croissants.  I took a gamble with the powdered sugar coated one, thinking it might have something interesting inside.

And ... it did!  Inside was sweet apricot jam.  I quite liked the jam.  The pastry was fine, again, not flaky fresh high end bakery quality, but slightly crisp, not spongy, not stale.  The powdered sugar on the outside was quite tasty.

One of the better items from the lineup, and honestly, better than the fresh donut I had the day before at the famed Schmalznudel Café Frischhut.

One day, there was a new item!  A turnover-danish thing!  I grabbed it out of excitement to see something new.  

It was ... eh.  Standard buffet quality.  Not particularly flaky nor great pastry, barely filled at all, just a little berry preserves, but nicely glazed on top.  Overall though, meh.

Full Size Muffin.
My final morning brought one novel item ... a full size muffin.  It looked plain, but, hey, I'd tried everything else at that point ....

It did have a nice glaze on top, but otherwise, yup, just a very, very, very plain muffin.  No flavor at all.  One of the worst baked goods they served. *.
Cold Cuts / Salmon.
The sliced cold cuts and cheeses lineup had quite a few choices, very European.  Only one kind of smoked salmon this year, previously there were several.

Nothing here was labelled, so not quite sure what all the meats were, but certainly ham, many styles of bologna-like loaf, prosciutto, salami ... I tried most of these, and found them all to be pretty decent quality.  The smoked salmon really had a deep smoky flavor, and the proschuitto was a regular favorite.  I don't really wake up craving sliced meats, but, I think I would like them in a pretzel roll, with cheese and mustard, at lunchtime.  Above average cold cuts, ****.

There were two kinds of sliced cheese.

On the side were lemons, seaweed salad, and horseradish.

I really appreciated the garnishes.  Again, seaweed salad not really what I want at 8am, but, I liked it all the same.  ***+.
Every morning the cheese platter was a bit different.  It usually had 5-6 cheeses to cut yourself.  They were rarely labelled.  There was two fresh cheeses, I think something feta like and something mozzarella like?  Sometimes it had dried fruit and nuts to garnish.  The cheeses, like the meats, were above average. ***+.

This section also had butters (including vegan) and cream cheese.
Fruit however was sad.

No berries.  Melons, stewed fruits, really not a great fruit line up.  Whole bananas and apples also available.

Several large format white yogurts were available.

The signs list natural yogurt, and quark, yet there were three different yogurts available.  I'm not sure which was which, but, I actually really liked them all. 

The thinner one I suspect was the "Natural", it was my least favorite just because I prefer thicker, but it was nicely tart.  All were clearly full fat yogurt, so creamy and rich.
I wish there were berries or better fruit to go with the yogurt though, although some fancy honey and granola from the cereal area made for a nice little treat.

Milk & Yogurt.
In addition there were soy and regular yogurt pots in several flavors, plus actually tasty bircher muesli that I liked.  It was loaded with shredded coconut and apple, and among the better bircher I had on this trip, although I really wished for berries to go with it. ***+.

The milk jugs contained soy, oat, and regular milk.  All full fat.
I remember really craving vegetables by the time I left Germany last time, and this station reminded me why.  This was the entirety of the salad station ... yup, no base greens at all, just cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers for fresh veggies.  There were pickles, olives, and hummus too.  I did really like the different pickles (they changed nearly every day), but, yeah, not much for veggies. ***.

Hot Food

The hot food selection was less impressive than the continental.  I found it interesting that a few cuisines were entirely missing - no hot carbs like waffles/pancakes/crepes/bread pudding, and also no Asian cuisine (congee, dim sum, etc).  The focus was basic American and German.  The German offersing however were pretty decent.
Hot Veggies.
First up, hot veggies: roast tomatoes, hash browns, mushrooms.

These never changed, and I never tried them.
German Meat.
Next up, meat.  Two kinds of sausages (traditional white are hiding inside the earthenware vessel), meatloaf, and meatballs.

I tried the regular breakfast sausage (not the German white one) and it was really greasy, kinda grisly, and not enjoyable.  *.

The white sausage I know is traditional, and it was much better, but it also wasn't my thing.  At least, not for breakfast.  It was juicy, plump, filled with herbs, flavorful, but, at least at the time, not what I wanted.  Still, a fine sausage. ***.

And finally, the meatball.  It was seared on the outside, which was nice, but that is about all I have positive to say about it.  It was dry, and it tasted like fake meat, not real meat.  It reminded me of seitan.  I really did not like this.  *.
I remember discovering the meatloaf late on my trip last time, so this time I was determined to try it early this time, as I had loved it before, particularly with a bit of sour cherry jam.

I still liked it, particularly the flavorful crust, but the magic was slightly lost.  **+.
American Station.
No chicken nuggets this time, just baked beans, chicken wings, bacon.  Again, never changed, and I never had any of these.
Not sure why, but I tried the scrambled eggs the first morning.  They were whatevs. **+.

Made to Order

There is also a made to order egg station featuring mostly omelettes, and, as I discovered far later into my stay, the ability order other items from the kitchen.
"1 Egg Over Medium with Mushroom & Onion".
I tried to order a poached egg.  "What is ... poached?" the egg chef asked.  So I said ... "No problem, how about over medium?"  He pointed at the sunny side up already fried eggs laid out in the buffet.  And then made a motion like flipping.  I thought he was on board with the "over medium" and said "yes!" Then he gestured at the toppings, asking if I'd like things.  I wasn't planning to get toppings, but, why not?  I thought I ordered mushroom and onion to go with my over medium egg.

What I got?  A ham & cheese omelette.  Lol.

I didn't like it at all (exactly the over cooked, tough, style of omelette that I don't ever like) and, um, totally not what I wanted.

"1 Poached Egg."
The next day, there was a different staff member working the egg station, so I tried again to order poached eggs.  He was *far* more helpful, and told me to just order those from a waitstaff, as they'd be prepared in the kitchen.  I found a staff member circulating the room, and asked for one poached egg.

A few minutes later, this was brought out.  I was expecting literally just a poached egg, but, got a little side salad, buttered toast (with crusts removed!), and two eggs ... quasi poached.

The salad was actually fine, just mixed baby greens and grape tomatoes, and not really what I crave at 8am, but given that they don't have any greens anywhere in the buffet, and my vegetable consumption, besides potatoes and white asparagus, was quite low on this trip, it was much appreciated.  It was heavily dressed with olive oil.

The toast was unexpected, but good.  Lol that removing the crusts, but, it was actually just lightly toasted, well buttered, simple but good white toast.  

The eggs though ... eh.  I'm not quite sure how they cooked them, but, not really poached as I was expecting.  The yolks were medium-set, a tiny bit of ooze to them.  I had hoped that the eggs would taste more like Australian eggs (where I love them!) but alas, they tasted no different than American eggs.

It all needed some salt & pepper, which strangely there is none of in the restaurant (not on tables, not in buffet).

I wouldn't get these again, but good to know there is the option.

Liege Waffle.
I remembered there being great liege waffles in the buffet one time during my last stay.  Every morning I was on the lookout for them.  And yet, I never saw they show up.  One morning, I saw one person with them at their table.  I hung around a while, hoping the buffet would be replenished with them, but alas, nope.  

On my second to last morning, I saw the chalkboard behind the omelet station said something about pancakes or waffles.  I tried to order one at the station, and was told to order from waitstaff.  I tracked one down, and did so.  He asked how I'd like it ... I asked options, and the only one I was given was "with some maple syrup on the side perhaps?"  I said sure.

I went to gather my other things, and when I returned, a waffle was waiting for me.  Liege style, just as I hoped. It was very coated in powdered sugar, and garnished with a single fresh raspberry.  Finally, berries! Er, berry.

It was a good, generic, liege waffle.  Nothing extraordinary, but, frozen and heated liege waffles can be plenty satisfying, and this was.  Crispy outside, good flavor, just, overall, good.  It was barely warm however.  

It didn't need syrup with it since so sweet from the powdered sugar, but I did really want whipped cream and fresh fruit with it.  I have no idea if that was an option?

Anyway, quite good, and I wished I had discovered it sooner during my stay.

Liege Waffle.
My final morning I ordered another waffle.  This one came without syrup (although there was a dot on the plate, not what looked like intentional plating ...), and tons of powdered sugar, no fruit garnish.

It was also very overcooked.  It didn't look it, but it was crispy to the point of being nearly impossible to eat, and, burnt (super dark) from the inside out.  I honestly don't know what they did to it to make it come out like that, as the exterior, while dark, didn't look quite a burnt as it really was.  This one also seemed to maybe have pockets of caramel or syrup baked in?  But so hard to tell as it was so burnt.

This let me down greatly, and I'm glad I at least got to experience one good waffle.  Had this been my first one, I certainly would not have ordered another.



Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Swiss Airlines First Class, LX 39

Flight Details:

  • Depart: San Francisco SFO 8:00pm (local time)
  • Arrival: Zürich ZRH 3:50pm (local time)
  • Aircraft 777-300
  • Seat: 2A
I didn't intend to fly First Class on this flight.  In fact, I had booked the flight specifically to try out one of the Swiss "privacy" seats in Business Class.  But ... a series of snafus (I blame United, as I booked through United and somehow wasn't properly ticketed, and I wound up the day of my flight without a seat, on an oversold flight.  I was offered "compensation" to downgrade to economy as business was fully sold out, or, I could upgrade to first, for an addition $959.  Sigh.

So, even though I wasn't planning it, I got to experience Swiss First Class out of San Francisco, for the first leg of my journey to Munich.

The flight itself was pleasant, and my flight attendants were very kind.  Our cabin of 8 passengers was full, but everyone did seem to get fairly customized service, which is a hallmark element of the service per Swiss's own branding.


Waiting at our seats when we arrived were amenity kits and slippers.  Pajamas were offered as we settled in.
Amenity Kit.
The amenity kit had a few cute touches, like the Riccola (because, Swiss), but otherwise was pretty expected (toothbrush, socks, eye mask, assorted hand/face/eye cream, etc).  It, um, lacked toothpaste however, which at first I thought I had just misplaced, but when I sheepishly asked if they had another, I was told I was the second person on the flight to ask about it, and it seems to just have been missed.  
La Prairie Products.
"And if you'd like to freshen up before landing, we have an amenity kit with La Prairie products for you."

All products were La Prairie, which seems to be high quality.  They had full size La Prairie items in the bathroom as well.
Zimmerli Pajamas.
"On night flights you'll be given some pyjamas that have been specially designed for SWISS by Zimmerli."

I was glad to see they actually had size small pajamas available, although they were still pretty large.  Decent pajamas, lightweight, pockets (only side) on the pants, and a cute little pocket on the chest of the top.

A small pillow was on the seat when we arrived, but no blanket.  It was a little chilly in the cabin, so I asked if they had a small blanket or anything, and a perfect weight throw blanket was provided.  Later on, when ready for bed, a thick mattress pad, bigger pillow, and fluffy duvet were provided.  The bedding was all quite comfortable, although the pillow got super soft really fast.  From what I understand, this was all a big step up from business class were people complain about the blankets.

So, overall, the amenity kits were not extraordinary, no partnerships with well known brands for the bedding for example, but, all reasonable.

Wifi is available on board, but, for a fee, and actually quite expensive, several options available.  No unlimited option, and I blew through my 50MB (provided free for First Class only), within the first hour of my flight, with very, very minimal usage.  This felt kinda stingy, given the flight cost.


"The seats in SWISS First offer more than first-class comfort. Each one is a personal First Class compartment that adapts entirely to your wishes – from the smoothly and continuously adjustable firmness of your seat to the horizontal bed above the clouds."
Seat Area.
The seat area looked pretty simple, but did have a lot to explore.  There were many bits and pieces to it that I found myself discovering throughout the flight, all of which were quite functional.
TV & Ottoman.
First, the tv screen.  Wowzer.  It was seriously big.  I didn't watch any movies on the flight, but it made me wish I did.  Honestly, such a ridiculously huge screen.  It was bigger than my tv at home (which, isn't saying much, but still).
"Versatile, elegant and generous: there is enough room on the veneered oak table in SWISS First for you to work on, but it is also ideal for spreading out a newspaper to read in comfort or for a fine dinner à deux. The ottoman can be changed into a seat for an additional guest or can be somewhere to put your feet up."
Below that screen was an ottoman, which my feet couldn't reach, so was useless to me while sitting. It was also a companion seat if I had a friend to dine with.  I was able to store things under it as well.
Door / Closet.
"The armchairs in SWISS First are a place for you to withdraw in peace thanks to the adjustable side panels and clever cabin layout. For truly relaxing hours in a mini suite above the clouds."

And then, let's talk about the ... doors-ish.  One wall could be built by pulling out a kinda-closet.  It had hangers, two little compartments (perfect for my eye mask and stuffs for sleeping, and my glasses!), and a mirror built in.  This was kinda cool, but also, when it was open and had stuff in it, felt kinda invasive.  I didn't want to sleep inside a closet!  It did create a private space though.
Lower Door / Drawer.
The rest of the enclosure could be built by extending a panel, operated easily with a button.  There was also a storage space near that where my laptop and menus could easily fit.  Really quite handy.
Window Ledge.
The other side of the seat, alongside the window, had a built in drink table, and just plenty of space to set things down.  It also housed the controller for the entertainment, a slew of seating controls, and places to plug things in.  The HUGE dining table also came out of one of these areas.  Below this was another small cubby, that turned out to be quite useful during the flight.  The dinner table could pull in as close as I wanted, or push all the way back.  Again, very functional.

Oh, and there was a classy, dimmable, lamp and window shades that operated with a button.  

It really was a well designed seat, and I found every cubby and storage area very handy.  It took ages to figure out seating controls though, the pictures didn't help, nor did fussing with them.  The seat itself was very well padded, it barely even needed the thick mattress pad for sleeping.  We also didn't have any control over air, no individual nozzels, which I would have liked.

It was comfortable sitting, comfortable dining, and comfortable sleeping, very, very wide, and nicely private.  Really one of the better all around seats I've flown in.

But overall, a comfortable space, and far better than it appeared at a glance.

Food & Drinks

"Guests in SWISS First can choose their own menus. We offer a selection of several starters, main courses and desserts as well as exclusive wines and champagne. The service is as it would be in a restaurant – you decide when we may serve you your meal."

Ok, time for restaurant dining in the sky!  My flight featured both dinner and breakfast, but I could have customized differently had I preferred.


Dinner was a fairly long drawn out experience.  It started with canapes before we even left the ground, and once air born, it took a full hour before the first row even got their starters.  I was in the second row (of only two rows), and seemingly served last (the other side and middle seats served before me).  It was 9:30pm before I got my starter, and let's just say, I was ready for it.  My neighbor seemed to have requested a faster option, opting only for a main dish (the pasta).  She had finished her pasta, and had chocolates and a pot of tea in front of her, before I got my starters.  She had already had her bed turned down before I got my main dish!  Clearly, she was on to something.


I was actually kinda excited for the food, as I thought Swiss was known for decent food on board.  But maybe that is more for catering out of Zurich, not San Francisco?  Overall, nothing really impressed me, and much of it, besides the plating, didn't seem better than most international business class offerings.
Canape: Warm spiced cashews.
Nuts were provided as I settled in to my seat, along with a pre-departure drink (I just had water).  They were served warm, a nice touch.

They were good, quite savory, lots of salt & pepper(?).  ***.
Canape: Crusted tuna with cheesy breadsticks.
The other canape presented as I settled in was a bread square, topped with crusted raw tuna, and a dot of some kind of creamy component under it.  It came with some crispy cheesy cracker-sticks.

Given that I don't particularly care for raw tuna, this was a bit lost on me, but if I had been really hungry, it would have been a nice touch.  The tuna seemed fine, but, the crusting was extensive, the bread part mushy, and overall, just not my thing.

I did like the savory, crispy breadsticks.


Dinner Menu.
After we settled into our seats, the dinner menu was presented.  Orders for the starter and main were taken before we got underway, our drinks not until airborn.
Main Menu.
The dinner menu had 5 options listed for first course, but you could select as many of these as you wanted.  When I originally selected just one, my flight attendant asked if I wanted anything else, and I heard her doing the same to others, "And would you like soup and salad as well?", after they ordered just 1-2 of the other starters.  I think I really could have asked for all 5!  The salmon is the signature item on Swiss, which I knew from my limited research, so I obviously had to get that, and also opted for the other seafood choice, a mixed seafood salad.  I skipped the "cold meat specialties", the salad, and the soup.

The main course section had 4 options, but I was told there was an additional off-menu item (short rib).  The lineup was a fairly standard beef, chicken, seafood, vegetarian pasta otherwise, although the choice of shrimp rather than a fish surprised me a bit. I almost selected the ravioli (cacio e pepe with Parmesan cream sauce and shimeji mushrooms and white asparagus!) as I love all the components, but I knew heavy cream sauces and asparagus were going to feature dominantly in my dining in Munich.  Thus, shrimp & grits it was.  My neighbor did get the pasta, and I'll admit, it looked pretty good (huge portion, tons of cream sauce, plenty of asparagus).
Cheese Menu.
Next up came cheeses, with their own dedicated menu page and two other desserts.  I was very pleased to see non-chocolate desserts (since I didn't want caffeine at night), and, swoon, you know how much I love puddings, and panna cotta in particular!  I was even able to look past the ice cream!
Place Setting.
Tables were set for fine dining, and I appreciated the full size salt and pepper grinders.

Did I mention, these tables are HUGE!  You really could easily have your dining companion with you and not feel crowded.
Bread Basket.
Rather than a single roll, or a bread basket where you select an item, Swiss gives each First Class passenger an entire bread basket, along with butter and olive oil.

The bread was served warm, but wasn't particularly remarkable, and got cold very fast, as it came long before my starter, and wasn't covered in any way.  There was one each of a white, dark, and seedy roll.  The olive oil was nice quality.  ***.
My starters came presented together on a platter.  It was interesting to see how every person had customized dishware, depending on which starters the person selected.  Those who opted for soup and salad as well had those served as separate courses.  These elements of service did feel like fine dining, and delivered a customized experience to each guest.

My server even asked if I'd like more salmon when she came to clear my dishes, and asked if I had decided I did want some salad or soup too.  They really were ready to serve us plenty of food!
First Course: Fillet of Balik Salmon.
"In addition to the Sprüngli chocolates, Swiss Birchermüsli other Swiss specialities, there is another delicacy that is served in SWISS First: Balik smoked salmon from Toggenburg. Today, tender back fillets are once again prepared by hand to an old tsarist recipe."

The Balik salmon is the Swiss Airlines signature starter.  Not caviar, sadly, but good quality salmon.  Always on the menu, and always recommended.  It seemed like nearly everyone got it.  

It was presented simply, with just a lemon to drizzle over and a scoop of what I think was creme fraiche (or maybe just sour cream?).  It was good though, clearly quality seafood, nice and firm texture.  I did enjoy it, although yes, I wished it was caviar (can you tell I was spoiled by Cathay Pacific, that serves both Balik salmon and caviar together in First?)!

First Course: Seafood Salad with lemon vinaigrette.

"Steamed purple potato and carrot shavings."

I had no idea what seafood would be in this, but, I like seafood, so, of course I wanted to try the "seafood salad" too.  It wasn't quite what I was picturing, as it had no greens.  It was light and refreshing though.  A single shrimp was on top, but underneath was bits of octopus and a single mussel.  The carrot curls on top gave it an elegant look.

The shrimp was nicely poached, but entirely uncleaned, and, um, this guy had a bit of a big poo, if you know what I mean.  Besides that off-putting section, good enough.
First Course: More seafood.
The rest was kinda ... eh.  The octopus bits were quite chewy.  The mussel was nicely briny.  The very light lemon vinaigrette worked well.  But, yeah, octopus not great, kinda exactly the kind of octopus people don't like.

Main Course: Pan-fried shrimps with smoked tomato ragout.
"Stone-ground grits with cheese."

I almost didn't actually get a main, as it was a very late very big meal already, but ... you only get to fly in First rarely, right?  Go big.

When it arrived, the aroma was strong.  Smoky, as described.  It smelt really, really good.

I'll admit I was expecting something more classic shrimp & grits ... a bowl of creamy grits topped with shrimp.  This, instead, was more of a polenta cake, although made with white grains, and thus I guess grits?

The grit cake was fine, but I didn't taste the cheese.  It was under-seasoned, but I had my own salt and pepper shakers to fix that.  I really wanted a bowl of creamy, cheesy, rich grits!

The shrimp were actually pretty good.  The portion of 5 was just right.  They were well cooked, not rubbery, and all but one were properly cleaned.  They did have a nice flavor to them, and I liked that they were served tail on. 

I don't really care for cooked tomato, so, while cute, the small roasted tomato was lost on me, and the smoky tomato ragout I didn't particularly like.  It was flavorful, and went well with the shrimp and grits, but just wasn't a flavor I'm particularly fond of.  I really just wanted some remoulade or aioli to drag my shrimp through.

Overall, this was a solid "fine".  Shrimp were good, rest was kinda eh, and seemed more like a business class dish really.  It didn't feel very premium.  Yes, I wished I had gotten the ravioli.

Dessert: Mango panna cotta with fresh berries.
I was thrilled to see panna cotta on the dessert menu. You know how much I love a good pudding, and in particular, panna cotta.

Um ... calling this a "panna cotta" definitely used a bit of creative license.  I was happy to see the ridiculous mound of whipped cream alongside though, as big as the main dessert itself, and some fresh berries.

The berries were pretty flavorless, but appreciated nonetheless, particularly with the whipped cream (which seemed fresh and fluffy, but not sweetened much, which was fine).

The "panna cotta"  actually had 3 layers, all about equal: a crumble base, the pudding layer, and a mango topping.  I ... did not care for the top layer, sorta mango like, but just kinda fake tasting mush.  I removed it.

The base too was rather unremarkable, sweet, crumbly, fine, good enough when combined with whipped cream and berries, but not actually very good.

And finally, the middle layer, the pudding layer, definitely the best element.  Creamy, smooth, lightly mango flavored.  I would have liked more of this.

Overall, this was also kinda "eh".  It didn't feel like a first class dessert - British Airways even wins on this front, and the lack of warm dessert option was notable.  


I actually had a considerably better panna cotta style dessert on my 40 min Swiss Airlines business class flight from Zurich to Munich (review coming soon!)
Sprüngli Chocolates: Round 1.
After the meal I was presented with a box of chocolates (Sprüngli), and I could take a few of my picking.  Several were missing already.  I picked one white, one milk, and one dark, but secretly really wanted them all.  I'll review these separately.


The drink menu, separate, was 5-6 pages long.  We had options, lots of options.
Drinks Part 1.
The drink menu offered standard soft drinks, sparkling water, beer, aperitifs, tea (Sirocco), coffee (Nespresso), and spirits. 
White Wine List.
The wine list, in addition to the necessary Laurent-Perrier "Grand Siècle", contained 3 whites (one each from Switzerland, France, and Italy), 3 reds (same lineup), and a dessert wine.
Red Wine List.
I focused on the red wines, all seemed to be around the $100 price point per bottle (except the Swiss wine, which was cheaper, but, kudos to them for including a Swiss wine?).

The Swiss wine (Brunner Weinmanufaktur, Pinot - Merlot, 2020) was the most appropriate for my seafood based meal, but I opted for the others.
Laurent-Perrier "Grand Siècle".
Ok, ok, so even though I don't really care for champagne, I got a small pour to go along with my starters.  Delicate seafood needed something light, and, it *is* pretty decent champagne.  It did pair nicely with my seafood, and I enjoyed my small pour.

I'd get it again, actually.  ***+.
France: Chateau Pontet-Canet, 2014.
65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot

Even though only recommended with meat (or cheese), I opted for the French red.  I hoped it wouldn't over power my delicate seafood.

It was a nice wine.  Not much tannin, no acid, smooth, kinda floral, but it did have some rich tones to it as well.  A very easy drinking wine, again, not super complex, but, good, and I enjoyed it.

Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos Hetzolo 2008
To go along with my dessert, I did have a little of the dessert wine.  It was a pretty classic tokaji, very sweet, and mostly made me crave some foie gras alongside, not the sweet fruity mango dessert.  Still, a solid offering.  ***.


Business class guests are given a breakfast card before dinner, and they fill out what they'd like, and it is delivered as they wake up in the morning.  In First, we were provided no such thing, nor even a menu of what was to come.  I really wanted to know what was in store for me next!

Before I went to bed I was asked if I'd like to be woken for breakfast, which I said yes to.  It turns out I didn't need to be intentionally woken, because, even with only 5 hours of sleep-ish, I was awake due to the clamor of clanking glassware about 2 hours before landing.

As I pulled myself together, my flight attendant asked if I'd like coffee or juice, and breakfast.  Again, no menu provided, and I inquired what the options were.  It was a big awkward, as she just rattled off some things .... "I have cereal, yogurts, and fruits, bircher muesli.  I can make eggs, or an omelette.  There is bacon and sausage too, some breads ... cheese ...".  I really wished to see a menu, but alas.  I guess this was considered more personal?

I asked for bircher muesli as I really enjoy it and it is far less common in the US, some fruit (if there was anything without melon due to my allergy), and asked if there were any pastries (not something she mentioned).  She told me she'd make up a fruit platter for me, and see what she could find for pastries.  I also asked what kind of yogurt, and was given the option of plain, and two fruity flavors, and I asked what brand it was, knowing it was likely Ciobanni, which I don't care for.  "Let me check, I know it is a US brand," she said.  I told her I'd like yogurt if it was not Ciobanni, and she came back sorta sympathetic and amused, confirming it was Ciobanni, and sharing her dislike of American yogurt too.  The cereal option seemed to be Corn Flakes.
Bircher Muesli.
The bircher muesli was fine, mushy, loaded with shredded apple and coconut, a few berries.  Fairly bitter, and I found myself wishing I had some jam, syrup, or fresh berries to add in.  It was fine, but, not particularly great. ***.
Pain Chocolate.
The pastries she came up with were two very sad pain chocolate.  They were served warm, but were totally shriveled up, gummy, and lacking in much chocolate.  Sorry Swiss Airlines, but these were kinda a disgrace!  I wonder if she took these from business class leftovers?

Fruit Platter: No Melons.
Finally, my fruit platter, which was freshly sliced apple, pear, banana, and some red grapes.  Not really what I wanted, but, I appreciated the effort to make me fruit that was without melons, as the fruit bowl, part of the breakfast lineup normally, looked vibrant and lovely and loaded with berries and citrus, but also had plenty of melon. **+.

Overall, the breakfast was kinda "eh", but, it was just 5.5 hours after my dinner, long before I normally eat breakfast, and I was headed for the lounges anyway.  My neighbor got an omelette that didn't look particularly interesting, and most others seemed to just get cheeses, fruit, and bircher muesli.
To go with my breakfast, I certainly wanted (needed?) a jolt of caffeine.  I got a black coffee, which was really just a Nespresso lungo, quite strong.  Fine, not great.  

I moved on to a decaf, which was better than most airline decaf as it too was Nespresso, not instant, and it too was quite strong.

Sprüngli Chocolates: Round 2.
I may or may not have asked for more chocolates to pair with my coffee too, which made up for the lack of good chocolate in my pastry.
Parting Gift: Sprüngli Chocolates.
After we finished our breakfast, my flight attendant, who clearly saw how much I liked the chocolates, brought me a little bag to take with me (clearly just using up the end of the box, but a really thoughtful touch).  Swiss really does nail the personalized service.