Friday, July 13, 2018

Love Corn

Crunchy snack foods?  If you read my blog, you how I feel about these things.  Snacky-snacks!  Yes!
"Nice to meet you.  We are LOVE CORN the first Premium Roasted Corn brand. 
Our mission is to make our customers smile and make roasted corn your favorite snack, one kernel at a time. 
We tick all the boxes- good fiber, vegan, gluten & sugar free!"
Uh, ok.  That's quite the mission, making roasted corn my favorite snack?  Not really possible, given my love of popcorn.  But I'll play along.

I don't know much about LOVE CORN, besides their interesting marketing approach.  And they make basically corn nuts, in a variety of flavors.
Packaging.
"LOVE CORN's delicious, crunchy roasted corn kernels are packed with flavor, have the perfect crunch and fun, iconic packaging is loved by adults and kids."

The products all come in individual packages.  I can't really say it was "fun, iconic packaging" that I "loved" though.

Unfortunately, I didn't care for their style of corn nut.
Sea Salt.
"You look like you enjoy the simple things in life. Well, we’ve just decked ourselves out in the most delicious sea salt and we’re feeling classically cool and a bit James Dean. Let’s be honest, sometimes less is more."

I started basic: sea salt.

It was ... basic?  A bit salty, yes, crunchy, but small kernels, and not really the style of corn nuts I prefer, it always seems over roasted.
Habanero Chili.
"Where we come from, we like it hot – the sunshine and the food. We love roasting in the best habanero spices, it gets us all hot and bothered. Forgive us for our spicy ways."

Next up I went for the most interesting sounding: habanero chili.

It ... wasn't really that spicy, nor interesting.  The same base salted small kernel corn, a bit too roasted for me, with a spicing I didn't really care for.  Meh.
Smoked BBQ.
"Y’all ready for some BBQ goodness?  Smothered in smokin’ hickory, it’s all done nice and slow… you just don’t rush into something this good. Y’all better be kickin’ off those boots and stayin’ awhile."
And last, bbq.

These were my favorite, as they actually had some flavor to them, but the corn style was still not one I prefer.
Read More...

Thursday, July 12, 2018

my/mo mochi

I like desserts.  I like frozen desserts.  I like ice cream.  I like mochi.  I like mochi ice cream.  I was excited to try mochi ice cream from my/mo.
"Pinch it. Poke it. Squeeze it. Stack ‘em. Roll one to a friend. Sink your teeth in. Wipe the powder from your lips. Feel the sensation changing with every bite. It’s sweet and cool and gooey and great. It’s creamy meets chewy, silky meets soft, delightful meets delectable. It’s a riddle only a tongue can unravel. It’s luscious ice cream wrapped up inside deliciously squishy mochi dough. It’s My/Mo."
my/mo makes basically one product: mochi ice cream.  They offer a slew of flavors, including vegan options.  They are http://juliesdiningclub.blogspot.com/search/label/gluten-free.

But ... I didn't like my/mo mochi ice cream.

To be fair, the ice cream was decent, but one essential element, the mochi, just, wasn't.
Boxes.
The mochi ice cream comes in boxes of 6.
Green Tea Mochi Tray.
Inside each box is a tray of mochi, not individually wrapped, so, once you open the box, you should eat them all or they'll dry out.
Green Tea Mochi.
"Green Tea My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream is an invitation to exotic. Velvety green tea ice cream inside wrapped in masterfully crafted mochi dough."

I started with the green tea mochi, as it is my top choice of flavor they make.

I took one bite and withdrew.  Uh, what?  The texture of the mochi wrapper was quite unlike any mochi I've had before, and, not in a good way.
Green Tea Mochi: Inside.
It was ... grainy.  Mealy.  Icy.  Awful.

The green tea ice cream inside was ok, good green tea flavor actually, but wow, that mochi was just horrible.

We all removed it, and just ate the ice cream center.  The green tea ice cream was enjoyable.
Ripe Strawberry.
"Made with real fruit, and bursting with sweet bits of strawberry love. Premium strawberry ice cream is wrapped in a pillowy layer of chewy mochi dough."

I don't like strawberry ice cream in general, but, thinking that perhaps the other box had just been ruined, I tried the strawberry when a friend offered.

It was exactly the same.  Super strange grainy wrapper.  Horrible.  The ice cream inside was nicely creamy, and fairly generic strawberry flavored, so not my thing.
Vanilla Bean.
"Vanilla Bean My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream is made using real vanilla beans, creating a new kind of yum in a snack. Classic, premium vanilla ice cream surrounded by melt-in-your-mouth mochi dough. My/Mo vanilla bean – it’s not for the vanilla at heart."

The first two varieties we tried came from a single trip to Whole Foods.  Still thinking that perhaps something had just gone wrong at Whole Foods in their freezers, or maybe in my own when we stored them at home, I tried another flavor, just simple vanilla, when a friend had it at their house.

And it was different this time.  The mochi was not all icy and grainy.  But instead it was just strangely soft and gummy.  Differently bad.  But still bad.

The vanilla bean ice cream inside was fine, with specs of vanilla bean, but just fairly generic vanilla ice cream.
Read More...

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic, SFO-LHR

Flight Details: VS 42, SFO-LHR, 9:10pm departure.

This was my first time flying with Virgin Atlantic.

My journey started in the Clubhouse, where I had a lovely meal, and then we proceeded to the gate.  As I noted, the Clubhouse is landslide, so we had to leave the lounge with ample time to deal with security, which turned out to be frustratingly slow, even though we had Priority.  We wound up with no extra time on the other side, and boarded immediately.
Upper Class Cabin.
This was also my first time, finally, on a Dreamliner!  I was impressed with how spacious the cabin was, the ceiling so high, even though I've been on many huge aircraft before.

Amenities

Amenity Kit.
Boarding was relatively quick and easy.  Waiting at my seat was an amenity kit, with standard crappy earplugs and eye mask, pen, toothbrush and paste, socks, and some lotions.  As I settled in, pre-takeoff drinks were offered (orange juice, sparkling, water).  The seat had a little tray that pulled out for drinks, very convenient.

Soon after, I was offered a “sleeping suit”, pants and long sleeve shirt.  The long sleeve shirt was a pretty standard t-shirt, cotton, slight v-neck.  The pants were … interesting.  Drawstring waist, pocked on one side only, and, uh, drawstrings at the ankles.  Mine ended up being way too short, but I imagine that actually being kinda nice, so your pant legs don’t ride up?
Bathroom.
The bathroom was fairly standard, nothing was particularly interesting about it.  It wasn’t strangely large, it had the basics and nothing more.  Paper towels were paper, not cloth.
Bar.
One flagship feature of the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class brand is the bar.  Yes, they devote a fair amount of floor space to a bar, where you can wander up and order a drink or grab a snack, or just socialize with other guests.  It has bar stools.

I was amused when I looked up and saw that a few people choose to actually have their dinners there.  I mean, why not?  It was likely more comfortable than our seats, and then you had no risk of making a mess at your seat.  Hmm.  Next time.

At some point, very late in the night as they weren’t there the first few times I checked, a snack basket and fruit basket appeared.  Fruit was apples, pears, bananas, grapes, and a few other things.

Snacks included assorted chocolate bars, crisps, caramel corn, shortbread biscuits, granola bars, olives, and assorted lollies.  No nuts.

The Seat

Seat 7A.
The cabin layout is ridiculously spacious, single seats along the windows, with a single row down the center.  All seats thus have aisle access and feel extremely private.  I was in seat 7A, on the even more private side of the cabin, since the middle row faced away from me, so the wall that was the back of their seats is all that I could see.

The seat was a little narrow, not a problem for me while sitting, but I could imagine it feeling claustrophobic if I were bigger.  

USB and regular power ports were available, the seat had a little cubby for water/glasses/whatever, a slot of magazines, and general nice touches around.  The lighting however was awful.  Maybe I just didn’t find another lighting control, but the single light above really failed to illuminate.

At the foot of the seat is an ottoman, and we were allowed to stow bags under it, a fact I appreciated.  Overhead storage bins were huge and spacious.  Seriously, we could have brought all our bags on board if allowed!

The ottoman doubled as a seat for a dining companion, if you wanted to do that.

For dining, a large tray table pulled out, and it slid forward and back far enough that you could push it back to get in and out of your seat while it was still down. One point for that.

The seat wasn’t particularly comfortable to eat at.  Sitting upright at a a table was bit awkward.  I wondered if it would actually be better to sit on the ottoman.

It also wasn’t particularly comfortable for lounging, as it didn’t really recline nicely.

For sleep … also not great.  It did convert to a fully flat bed, like those on Air New Zealand (which I've reviewed many different times).  As a bed, it was sturdy, but, it was really, really hard.  And still very narrow.  On the plus side, the little tray for drinks doubled as a perfect bedside table for my glasses, and the other cubbies were all within reach.  Water bottles were provided.

For bedding, we had a very thin mattress pad, a blanket, and a single pillow.  As always I asked for extra, and was able to get a very small thin extra pillow.

Overall, having pajamas, a full blanket, a big pillow, and a real bed in business class is obviously great, but this wasn’t the most comfortable.
Entertainment Center.
The entertainment center featured movies, music, tv, games, and more.  It was easy to use and I had no problems navigating it or interacting with it, which, I can’t say is normal.

Next to that you can see my drink table, very handy throughout the flight.

There was wifi on the plane, at least, there was supposed to be.  And, i could connect to the access point.  I was never able to login however, as I got an error page every single time I tried.  I’m not sure if it was the fault of some corporate setting on my laptop blocking everything.
Fancy Windows.
Another feature of the Dreamliner is the fancy windows.  Rather than shades you lower and raise, they dim.

The Drinks

Drink?

The menu is two sided.  From one side, it opens up to show the drink menu, cutely labelled “Drink?”.

For wine options, there is a single sparkling, 3 red, and 3 white.  As in the Clubhouse, I was drawn to the cocktail menu, although all the cocktails were quite fruity.  They even had a non-alcoholic mango/lime/lemonade/cranberry selection.  There were also standard bar selections, soft drinks, juices, tea, and coffee.

Our drink order was quickly taken once underway (oh, pre-takeoff we were offered water, orange juice, and sparkling, as standard.
Creole Sour Smash, Sparkling Water.
“Made with Gentleman Jack, a taste of Tennessee meets the tropics in this sour blend.”

I was pretty surprised by how sweet and fruity this was.  I guess it did say “meets the tropics”, but, this was really just fruit juice, mango I think, mixed with some alcohol that was way too strong.  I just really didn’t like it at all.  I kept accidentally trying to drink out of the pretty purple swizzle stick.

The sparkling water was fine.  We were also provided water bottle in a little cubby in the seat.
2013 Cotes de Beaune Villages, Domaine Joseph Drouin, Burgundy, France.
“Light in color but certainly not in flavor, this Pinot Noir is crafted by family owned house of Joseph Drouin from sixteen different vineyard sites around the city of Beaune.  Delicate violet-like red fruits combine with a wonderful harmony of flavors on the palate.  An all time food favorite.”

Since I hated the cocktail, I moved on to wine, and asked for a small pour.  It was fine, inoffensive red wine, not too tannic, very drinkable.

The Food

Dinner

Hello you.
Flipping the menu over to the “Hello you” side I found the food menu.

Since I ate a full meal in the lounge, I didn’t want a second full dinner, but, I knew I’d get puckish before breakfast.  I opted for just a starter and dessert, since I skipped dessert in the lounge.

Options for starters were a soup, a salad, and a timbale.  “What’s a timbale?”, my companion asked.  I laughed, as the only place I ever see these is on flights.  A selection of 3 warm breads was offered next.

Had I wanted a main, choice were beef fillet, chicken, vegetarian ravioli, or a salmon salad.

I had my eyes on dessert, er, pudding, of course, and both options sounded good, a complete contrast to the lounge.  I had him order me the second one.

Finally, a selection of cheeses, that all did sound pretty good, but, I skipped.
Seasoned Chips.
After drink orders were taken, we were offered hot, scented towels.

Alongside our drinks, some “crisps” were offered.  They were seasoned, I think sour cream and onion.  I really enjoyed them, flavorful, and nice and crispy.
Table Setting.
After a short lull, a FA came through to prepare our tables, setting them with a tablecloth.  Soon after, a trolly came down the aisle offering additional beverages and hot rolls.  At this time, my table was set with silverware and little airplane salt and pepper shakers.  Our side was served last.
Starter: Crab Timbale.
“Timbale of crab with soba seaweed noodles and caviar - a light and indulgent treat”.

Starters were delivered one by one as they were ready.

Presentation-wise, this was lovely.  A tower of crab, topped with a little seaweed salad, and the tiniest little mound of soba noodles.  On the side was a couple pieces of frisee, a tiny bit more seaweed, and a tiny bit more soba, along with two little piles of bright green “caviar”.  The base of the timbale was a yellow pickled daikon.

The seaweed salad was good.  The soba was fine.  I liked the crunchy daikon.  But … the crab was fishy and I didn’t like it at all.  Good thing I wasn’t really hungry.
Main: Four Cheese Ravioli.
“Fresh pasta pockets packed with a four cheese filling and sautéed spinach, topped with a roasted tomato sauce and shavings of Italian cheese.”

My companion ordered the ravioli, and I of course got the first bite.  He offered!

It was … fine.  The pasta was a bit al dente in the “baked too long in the oven” sort of way, and it was kinda slimy.  Not awful, but, clearly not freshly cooked pasta.  The spinach was a mound on top, actually pretty good, nice flavorful, tender spinach.  It was all coated in the light red roasted tomato sauce, a kinda salty tomato sauce, with a slightly roasted flavor I guess.  The cheese on top was good.

Overall, fine, but, I didn’t feel like I missed out.
Pudding: Cherry Cheesecake.
“Luxurious, decadent cheesecake with a lovely cherry tang.  New York style cheesecake at it’s best”.

I ordered my dessert back when I ordered the starter an drinks.  As others around me finished their entrees, I assumed my dessert would come.  I watched tables get cleared, and person after person get dessert or cheese.  No dessert was coming my way.  My companion had also ordered dessert when main orders were taken, and after his tray was cleared, he was asked if he wanted dessert.  He repeated his order of the cheesecake.  Moments later, it was delivered.  I interrupted, asking for the sticky toffy pudding.  Around me, everyone else got dessert.  Still none for me.

Luckily, he ordered the cheesecake for me anyway, since I wanted both desserts.  He took one bite, and handed it over.
Cherry Cheesecake: Side View.
It was not quite what I expected, I think I thought the cherry component would be 1) red and 2) perhaps on top.  Instead, the cherry bits were actually located throughout the cheesecake and were mostly yellow cherries, although the cheesecake had a pink hue, which may have also been cherry?  There was subtle cherry flavor throughout.  The cherries were kinda mushy.

It had a somewhat strange consistency, not bad exactly, but not thick and luxurious.  The base wasn’t a graham cracker crust, instead it was a thin layer of sponge, I think lemon flavored?  Mushy, and not what I’d expect as a crust.  Not, uh, “New York style”.

On the side was a tiny bit of whipped cream, from a can.

This, like the ravioli, was fine.  Not good, not bad, but, fine.
Pudding: Sticky Toffee Pudding.
“A wonderful simple pudding, gloriously sweet and sticky perfectly paired with a spoonful of cream. Go on. No one’s watching.”

I waited a very long time for that sticky toffee pudding.  At some point, I decided that it must be served warm, so that is why it was taking so much longer.  Around me, everyone was having their seats converted into beds.  I was still waiting.  Finally, finally, it came.

It was indeed served warm, well, warmish.  Not exactly hot.

I took one bite.  WOAH.  Sweet.

Let’s rewind.  I’ve only had sticky toffee pudding a handful of times in my life.  Never in the UK.  And I’ve never liked it.  I wasn’t really prepared for this level of sweetness.  It took a few tentative bites before I really got into it.  At first, it was just too much.

The cake was not particularly interesting, molasses based I think.  The very, very center wasn’t covered in the sticky sauce, and it was kinda dry.  But the rest?  Absolutely soaked in sweet, sweet, sweet, sauce.  Thus, crazy moist.  Did I mention, sweet?  On top was also one single nut, I think a pecan, but it was gone before I knew it.

The base of the bowl was a pudding of cream, and, more sweet sauce.

I think I liked this in the end, but, it was about 100x sweeter than even I wanted.  I needed to alternate bites with the cheesecake.  It would have been glorious with some vanilla ice cream, and, if it was actually hot.

At this point, overindulgence + sugar coma + wine/cocktails coma set in.  I guess that meant it was time for bed?

[ Side note: I recently learned that the Sticky Toffee Pudding Company makes these puddings!  If that name looks familiar to you, it is because you can buy them in Whole Foods.  Which you should.  And serve them warm.  With ice cream.  You are welcome.  I've since had them *many* more times, and I adore them.  Reviews coming soon of course.  They also make a fabulous ginger version! ]

Breakfast

Breakfast Card.
Located inside our dinner menu was a breakfast card, to fill out in advance.  Options here were fairly extensive, starting with “Cereals/Fruit: A Good Start” with cereals (classic Kellogg’s, plus hot oatmeal, plus muesli), yogurt and fruit.  Next was the “Bakery” with croissants and hazelnut chocolate twists), and hot options of “The full works”, a full english breakfast, the “Smaller appetite? Why not try:”  bacon butty, or “Something lite”, aka, crepes.  You could pick and choose any individual components, which I thought was a nice touch.

Breakfast was delivered one by one, starting from the front of the cabin, as the crew worked to turn the beds back into seats.  They started about 2 hours out from London, which, given the short flight length, was a little sad.  Dinner finished 2 hours 45 minutes into the just over 9 hour flight, so, that left only 4 hours for sleep.  Oooh.  We were all done eating with more than an hour to go.
Breakfast: Muesli, Hazelnut Chocolate Twist Croissant, Peach Creepes, Coffee.
A little round doily was set on my tray first, and all my items arrived at once.  My order wasn’t quite accurate.  My crepes came with bacon on the side, which I didn’t order, and my coffee cake with milk, which I didn’t order.

Muesli

Muesli is something that I sometimes love.  This … I did not love.  It was regular cereal style muesli, not bircher.  On the plus side, it had a mix of all sorts of things, oats, rice puffs, a ton of different seeds, bits of nuts, dried apples, dried raisins. But, it was just a pile of mush.  I have no idea when the milk was added, but it was clearly in advance.  I did not like.

My companion opted for the porridge, which arrived well after his meal.  I didn’t get a photo, but took a bite.  It was actually pretty good, not standard oatmeal, short grains, nicely cooked, not too mushy, and with plenty of brown sugar mixed in.

Hazelnut chocolate twist croissant

My bakery item was served slightly warm, so it had that going for it.  But the pastry was not buttery, it was not flaky, and it was spongy and pretty gross.  You know me and baked goods, but still, this wasn't good.

The warm chocolate hazelnut filling however was tasty, and I extracted as much as I could.

Peach crepes

Interestingly, the crepes had a second option, “With streaky bacon”.  I thought it odd to have that explicit as a side, when you could opt for bacon or sausage from the English breakfast above.  Anyway.  I didn’t opt for the bacon, but I got it anyway.  It was almost crispy, but mostly just greasy.

The crepes were not very good.  Lukewarm.  The edges dried out and crispy.  I’m not sure who thinks crepes would be successful reheated on a plane?

The peaches were slightly spiced with cinnamon I think (and maybe nutmeg?)  I would have preferred without the spices, but, I imagine most folks would want this.  They were not fresh peaches, more like canned, but at least they weren’t in a sickly sweet compote.

On the plus side, there was a scoop of clotted cream not mentioned on the menu, and that was tasty.

So, overall, not so good.  I salvaged the peaches, cream, and chocolate hazelnut filling, and some nuts and pumpkin seeds from the muesli, but good thing it was 5am in my world and I wasn’t actually hungry.  

Coffee

My coffee was rather cold and light brown.  Hmm.  I ordered it black.  I inquired, “does this have milk in it?”  My FA said yes.  I asked for black.  He came back with a black coffee, this one piping hot, and much better.  Good coffee?  Nah.  But it was drinkable.

Later on I opted for a decaf, and it was clearly instant, but again, not bad.

I liked the large size mug.
Bacon Butty with Brown Sauce.
My companion went for the Bacon Butty.  He has had some great breakfast sandwiches on flights before, so I was eager to try it.  The roll was spongy and soggy and greasy, the bacon was flabby style, and I don’t like brown sauce.  Glad I didn’t get this, and, he was probably glad I didn’t want to steal it.
Read More...

Monday, July 09, 2018

Poke from Poke Origin

I'll spare you the preamble.

Yes, I've join the swarm of people who are obsessed with poke.  You can read all my poke reviews here.

For me, my poke obsession started as a easy delivery or takeout option when I was traveling a lot for work and got sick of eating in restaurants constantly.  And for me ... uh, poke isn't about the raw fish.  Or a rice base.  I don't get either of those usually.  For me, it is about the toppings.  The crunchy things.  Oh, and of course, crab salad.  Even imitation crab.  Love the stuff.

Poke Origin is in San Francisco, far from my house and office, and not available for delivery from nearly any of the delivery services since it is too far away.  I've wanted to try it forever, but, just not generally accessible to me without a lot of effort.  But, Postmates came to our rescue when my work group wanted to order poke, and since we were a large group, the extra delivery fee was worth it.  Particularly for the options.

Oh, the options.  What sets Poke Origin apart, and why I was interested, is the options.  18 kinds of protein ... including non-standard items like lobster tail (!), spam, and three types of crab.  More than 20 toppings.  We were in.

Overall, I was quite pleased, and most of us really appreciated the large variety of toppings and options.  As someone who *doesn't* go for the raw fish, it worked great.  But ... everyone who did get raw fish felt the quality of the seafood was lacking.  Most said it didn't matter as much because of the great sauces and toppings, but, I can't recommend Poke Origin for quality seafood exactly.

I'd still order again.
Large Poke. $13.99.
"Five scoops of protein and your choice of base, toppings, and sauce."

Like many poke places, the concept is to design-your-own, with different selections for each step.  Bowls come in 2 sizes, regular (up to 3 proteins) or large (up to 5 proteins).

The steps:

Base (1):
  • Sushi White Rice
  • Brown Rice
  • Mixed Greens
  • Kale
  • Nachos
  • Kelp Noodles
The base options are a good indicator of how Poke Origin excels.  Two choices for rice, two choices for greens, and even nachos or kelp noodles, if you are feeling really different.

Many places allow for 2, it was interesting that they only allowed a single choice.

I went with kale, given my recent strange kale obsession.

Next, Add-ons (0 - 5).
  • Cucumber
  • Sweet Corn
  • Carrot
  • Jalapeno
  • Red Onion
These were pretty basic, I only added sweet corn and jalapeno.


Protein (0 - 5 for large, 0-3 for regular):
  • Ahi Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Spicy Tuna
  • Scallop
  • Escolar
  • Albacore
  • Tofu
  • Crab
  • Spicy Crab
  • Shrimp
  • Spam
  • Octopus
  • Seared Albacore +$2.00
  • Marinated Big Eye Tuna +$2.00
  • Hamachi +$2.00
  • Snow Crab +$2.00
  • Unagi +$2.00
  • Seared Lobster Tail (Limited) +$6.50
Ok, um, wow?  This is where Poke Origin blows all other establishments away.  The number of choices, and selection, is just insane.

Want tuna?  You can have ahi, spicy, albacore, marinated big eye, or even seared albacore.  Want crab?  THREE CHOICES (imitation, spicy, or snow crab).  Um, they have spam.  And ... lobster tail??!

Yes, this is why I picked Poke Origin, as I adore crab, and it is my poke of choice, and I was thrilled to see so many options.  I got all three.

Note that some items (like lobster tail, obviously, carry a surcharge).  Additional scoops are available for $2 more as well.

Sauce (0 - 3)
  • Mild House Poke Sauce
  • Spicy House Poke Sauce
  • Spicy Aioli
  • Creamy Wasabi
  • Kimchee Sauce
  • Sesame Aioli
  • Unagi Sauce
  • Honey Avocado
  • Miso Sauce
  • Yuzu Citrus
The sauce options were also plentiful, creamy, spicy, mild, light, and everything in-between.  I'll dock them a point for only allowing 3, although you could add more for $0.50 charge.

I went for 6 different sauces, all on the side.  Honestly, I wanted them all (except the honey avocado since I'm allergic), but I was trying to be reasonable.

Toppings (Unlimited)
  • Seaweed Salad
  • Edamame
  • Jelly Fish
  • Kimchee
  • Oshinko
  • Green Onion
  • Cilantro
  • Ginger
  • Wasabi
  • Massago
  • Furikake
  • Sesame Seed
  • Minced Garlic
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Tamago +$0.50
  • Mango +$0.50
  • Pineapple +$0.50
  • Avocado +$0.50
And then, yup, tons of toppings, fruits, veggies, seasoning, crunchy stuff, and, uh, jellyfish?

Unlimited, although many premium ingredients had surcharges.

I added oshinko, green onion, ginger, wasabi, massago, furikake, sesame seeds, minced garlic, macadamia nuts, tamago, mango, and pineapple.  I was just so excited for all these choices!
Create Your Own Bowl (Large).
Top Layer: Tamago, Wasabi, Mango, Pineapple, Green Onion, Oshinko.
Digging into my bowl was a feat, as it was just so loaded up.  It was also HUGE.  Seriously, huge.  Large is easily multiple meals, or at least, it was in my case given the distribution of ingredients.  This was NOT a bowl of filler kale!

So, starting on top.

I haven't ever seen tamago at a poke shop before, and I was happy to pay a little extra for this.  The portion was a single slice.  It certainly wasn't fine sushi restaurant quality or anything, but, I enjoyed it.  Firm, slightly sweet.  I always get tamago at sushi restaurants for "dessert", and it worked similarly here, particularly with some sweet mango!

Speaking of mango, another premium ingredient, but done nicely here.  Large portion, super ripe and juicy.  The pineapple wasn't really worth the upcharge, it was literally just a little canned chunks of pineapple.  I was hoping it might be roasted?  Not sure what I was thinking really, likely just excited to see something different.  There was much less pineapple than mango, which was fine with me.

The wasabi, ginger, and green onion were not notable, all applied in reasonable portion.  My bowl was missing masago, which I ordered, and expect should have been on this top layer, as others in my group had it there.

My final ingredient here was oshinko, one of my favorite things.  I had exactly two small pieces.  TWO.  I know my bowl was loaded up, so I think this was the last thing to be added, and they just ran out of room?  I was still quite sad, as my co-workers (like the bowl pictured above), all had generous portions.
Middle Layer: Spicy Crab, Snow Crab, Imitation Crab, Sesame Seed, Furikake, Macademia Nuts.
Under that layer was the good stuff.  All the crabs, plus the "sprinkles".

I'll admit that I was pretty sad by the lack of quantity of the furikake, sesame seeds, and macademia nuts, as I adore those things.  It was easily fixed because I had my own at home, but still.  I also seemed to be missing the minced garlic, but it might have been in there and just minimal?

But the crab.  Um, wow.  You can't see it in this photo, but this was an insane amount of crab.  2-3 scoops of each of the three varieties.  I don't understand, actually.  My bowl had more proteins than any other, by far (of course, the others had more traditional, cubed, choices).  I'm not upset, but, it was an insane amount, honestly.

The spicy imitation crab was my favorite, standard imitation crab, shredded style, mixed with what I think was just the spicy aioli (which I had on the side too).  I liked it quite a bit, my favorite of the crabs.

The imitation crab was also good though, very standard imitation crab.  I enjoyed it, as I always do, particularly pairing and playing with different sauces (more on these soon).  It worked equally well with creamy sauces (creamy wasabi, spicy aioli, etc) and with lighter sauces (poke sauce, miso citrus, yuzu).  It also worked great as a "dip" for my taro chips (more on that soon too).  My second favorite of the crabs.

The one that shocked me though ... the snow crab.  The real crab.  The one I paid extra for.  It ... was just fishy and mushy.  I hated it, and discarded it.

Next time: I'm trying the spam, the seared albacore, and the lobster tail!
Lobster Tail..
One of my co-workers did get the lobster tail.  It came on the side, in its own box.  An actual poached lobster tail, in the shell and everything.

Crazy!
Bottom Layers: Kale, Sweet Corn, Jalapeno.
And then, once I extracted the pounds of crab, the base.

Normally bowls are filled up with the base, lots of rice, lots of greens, you know, the cheap filler.  For me?  Not much actually.  I *wanted* a bunch of kale, so this was a bit disappointing, but, again, they gave me so much crab I can't really be upset.

The kale was curly kale, and a bit strange actually.  It was very moist, in a way that almost seemed marinated.  I think this was just from all the toppings and juices running through.  I liked it though.

The jalapeno slices had some kick, great to pair with the crab.

And the strange winner?  Yeah, the sweet corn.  I'm nearly certain this was the kind from a can, honestly, nothing special at all, yet I really liked it.
Sauces: Creamy Wasabi, Sesame Aioli, Spicy Aioli, Miso Sauce, Spicy House Poke Sauce, Yuzu Citrus. (Top Left, Clockwise).
And then, sauces.  Normally mixed with your proteins and mix-ins, but I requested on the side so I could try independently, and mix and combine as I pleased.  And so I could dunk my taro chips!

I tried 6 of the 10 choices, and would gladly try all the rest.  They were all winners.

Starting from top left, clockwise:
Creamy Wasabi: This was good, I think actually a cream not mayo base, with a nice wasabi kick.  It didn't quite go with my selections, but I gladly saved it for later use, and, for the taro chips (which was a quasi successful pairing).  It worked great with some roasted plantains I had later!

Sesame Aioli: This was great! Nice flavor, creamy mayo base.  Interestingly, not a very full portion compared to the others.  Nice to dip the taro chips.

Spicy Aioli: Also good, creamy mayo based spicy aioli, like you'd use in spicy tuna or spicy crab, and I suspect they use to do so.  Not the best I've had, but totally fine.

Miso Sauce: This was fascinating.  I selected it because I like miso and I had no idea what to expect.  The miso flavor was there, which was nice, but it was also fairly oily.  I think it would make a great dressing mixed with some mayo.  Which I plan to use it for.

Spicy House Poke Sauce: Standard poke sauce, soy based, light, but, spicy (since I got the spicy one).  Nice heat.  Good with the crab instead of a creamy sauce for lighter option.

Yuzu Citrus:  Another light soy base, citrusy.  Fine, but my least favorite.

3 were included, the others were +$0.50 each extra.

Sides

It always makes me sad that most poke places to do not have side dishes for the most part.  Maybe some miso soup or bag of "Hawaiian" chips.  But Poke Origin, much like the plentiful options for proteins and toppings, has plentiful options for sides.  
Taro Chips. $2.
Ok, those taro chips I keep talking about.  They came in a little paper bag.  A little *greasy* paper bag.

They were just ok, honestly.  Over fried, as you can tell from the dark color.  Definitely too oily.  But the grease bag was a good sign, in that I think they were fairly freshly made?

I appreciated the option, and did gladly dunk them in my sauces, and use as scoops for my crabs.
Seaweed Salad. $3.50.
As I said, sometimes I like seaweed salad.  Sometimes I don't.  So, instead of having it as a topping on my bowl, where it could potentially "contaminate" everything else, I got it as a side.  

And ... it was the style I don't really like.  I still can't identify why I sometimes do and sometimes don't like seaweed salad.  It makes no sense, as it looks, and sounds, the same.  But it was just too slimy, got too stuck in my teeth, and didn't have great flavor.
Read More...

Friday, July 06, 2018

gr8nola

Yes, most granola is not exactly healthy, even though its easy to think it is.  Grains, nuts, fruits, its good for you right?  Uh-huh.  Look at the nutrition stats and serving sizes, and realized that your "health food" isn't exactly that.

There are a slew of companies trying to make healthier granola though, less sugar added, not loaded with oils, non-GMO, etc.  gr8nola is one of those companies.
"We're redefining granola for the modern, health-conscious consumer. Discover the gr8ness inside every bite!"
gr8nola uses whole grain oats, extra virgin coconut oil, and other goodies like flaxseed (fiber! omega-3s!), sunflower seeds (vitamin E!), coconut (unsweetened of course, for iron and fiber!), turmeric (anti-inflammatory!), etc, etc.  All good things, but, I'm kinda more about taste than uber focused on nutrition.

I didn't actually know this, but gr8nola launched into success back in 2014, when invited to the Google microkitchen fair (where employees trial products and vote on what to have in our little micro kitchens).  I'm not sure if I attended that year, or if I tried the granola, but, it won, and has been featured in some of our campus since (not the one I work in though).  Yadda, yadda, scaled up production, now at lots of Bay Area campus, etc, etc.
Individual Portion.
But none of that is how I discovered gr8nola.  I recently won a contest (!) and little bags of gr8nola were part of my winnings.

I do sometimes get really, really hooked on granola (like the kind they have at the Sheraton on the Park in Sydney, I'm seriously obsessed!), so I was eager to try it out.

The granola now comes in 4 varieties: origina, "coco cacao", golden turmeric, and matcha green tea, I was provided with only the original.  I appreciated the portion controlled, re-sealable packaging.

All varieties lack clusters.  I know this is a style thing, but since I like to use granola as a finger snack food, I like having clusters.  This style was more suited for sprinkling on top of yogurt.
The Original.
"Our signature flavor. Whole grain oats, heart-healthy almonds, ground flaxseed and delectable honey for the perfect touch of sweetness. Whether eaten with milk, on top of yogurt, smoothies or straight out of the bag, gr8nola is a smart, simple way to add crunch, flavor, fiber and nutrition to your diet."

I didn't find this very munchable from the bag.  First, as I said, no clusters, but also, it just was very ... homogeneous.  No large chunks of nuts, seeds, or fruits to go for.

The flavor wasn't plain however, it was heavily cinnamon spiced.  A bit much, really.  I'm personally not a fan of sunflower nor flax seeds, which were also in the mix.

But the dominant flavor?  Stevia.  It tasted artificially sweetened.  I know the goal is low sugar, and I use artificial sweetener myself, but, this was too much.

I tried with milk, and it was better, but I think it would be best suited for a topping on a fruit crumble, where the cinnamon would be a more natural element.  Even then though, you need to want the Stevia taste.
Read More...

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Enlightened Ice Cream

Healthy ice cream.  One of the latest food trends.  One I've had very little interest in.

Years ago, I did go through a "healthy" phase, where I did care about fats and calorie counts, and I remember discovering Arctic Zero (it was brand new on the market at the time), and I was so excited.  It sounded too good to be true.  200-400 calories in ... an entire pint?!  Full of protein?  OMG.  And then I tried it.  It was not creamy, it didn't really resemble ice cream, and, well, I didn't try any other products in this market for years, even though it has been a hot market.

I like creamy, high fat, actually tasty ice cream just too much.

But I was given the opportunity to try Enlightened bars, so I figured I'd give the concept another try.

Enlightened makes "Good-for-you" ice cream, available in pints and novelty bars.  Same concept at Halo Top and the like, <100 calories per serving / 400 calories per pint, high protein, low sugar.  In Enlightened's case, it is actually made with dairy.  And I'll be honest, some of the flavors, particularly for pints, sound great: "Movie Night", popcorn ice cream with chocolate bits and caramel swirl? Marshmallow Peanut Butter? French Toast? Glazed Donut? Bananas Foster?  Yes, please!  They also, of course, make all your classics, chocolate, vanilla, etc, etc, and all the "modern classics" like sea salt caramel, birthday cake, cold brew coffee, and more.  Plus bars, in many of the same flavors.

It was a bar I was able to try, along with many co-workers.

We were decently impressed, but I still won't go purchase these.

Packaging.
The bars come 4 to a box, individually wrapped.  We tried the Sea Salt Caramel flavor.
Sea Salt Caramel.
"Salty this ice cream is prettier than you’ll ever be? One bite and all will be forgiven. Silky ribbons of caramel swirl threaded through sea salt caramel ice cream."

At first glance, it fared pretty well.  It did have a lovely swirl on it!

It was actually better than I imagined, although it was more finicky than regular ice cream, texture wise.  You definitely needed to let it soften up, more than normal ice cream (which is always *better* soft, but isn't necessary).  You also needed to lick it rather than bite it, again, more than regular ice cream, as biting into it made it come across as grainy.  But when it was melty, and soft, and you licked it, it was creamy and smooth, nearly like normal ice cream.

The ice cream had a slight sweetness to it, more interesting than a plain vanilla, but not strong in the caramel.  The caramel ribbons were really tasty, sweet, and gooey, in a way that added some interesting contrast.

It wasn't a decadent normal ice cream at all, but for 80 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 5 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of protein it would be crazy to pass this up if you are concerned with reasonable ice cream choices!
Read More...

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, SFO

I normally fly with One World airlines when I do international travel from SFO, but for a recent trip through London, I went with Virgin Atlantic, because it was much more affordable (and, honestly, I wanted to try something new).

This was my first time flying with Virgin Atlantic, and my first time visiting any of their lounges, er, Clubhouses.

I must say, I was impressed.  It wasn't anything like the ridiculous Cathay Pacific lounges in Hong Kong or the Qantas First Class lounge in Sydney, but, it blows every other lounge in SFO away, in nearly every dimension: comfort, decor, not too busy, good food (made to order), great drinks ... the only downside?  It is landside.  Ooph.

The Setting

Ojan and I arrived around 6:30pm for our 9:10pm flight.  We knew this was early, but, we wanted to have a nice relaxed meal in the lounge at a more normal hour, so we could mostly skip the meal on board, knowing it would be served close to 11pm, and that there is no way it would be as good as the made-to-order cuisine served in the Clubhouse.  Yup, full service restaurant in the SFO Clubhouse, radically better than anything other SFO based lounges offer (I'm looking at you crappy One World lounges with only pre-made sandwiches!

Since the lounge is landside, we needed to allow even more time to visit the lounge, in addition to wanting time for a full meal.  So, we just went on the early side, planning to not rush, eat a full meal, get some work done, and then eventually head through security.  This turned out to be a lovely plan, as the lounge had only a handful of other guests when we arrived.

It very quickly filled up, as guests clearly like to take advantage of the Clubhouse, pre-security and all.  They did make an announcement before our boarding time to warn those who wanted to purchase anything inside security that they should leave then, which we did, so we could grab some gum and take our time.  Given that we didn't have TSA-Pre for this flight, it was a good thing, as security took a while, and we basically just walked onto the plane moments after purchasing our gum.

Anyway, the lounge had a great vibe to it, was light filled, had a plethora of seating options, and was full of color.
Assorted Seating.
Anyway, back to the lounge.  Seating was quite varied, with regular square dining tables and chairs, or more comfortable living-room style chairs arranged around round coffee tables.  The living room feel continued with the floor lambs and small side tables.

There were vases with fresh flowers on most tables.
Runway Views.
The large windows had comfy looking red wing chairs along them, which quickly became full.  By the time we finished our meal at a regular table and set out to relocate to somewhere more comfortable, they were all full.
Bar.
The bar was stunning, and featured counter stools for seating for those who wished a higher perch.
Round Table Dining Area.
The final area was more dining area, this time with round tables, comfy white leather chairs, and a wooden bench all along the wall.

You really had your choice of any style of seating you preferred.

Here you can see the colored glass windows, with panes tinted shades of blue and purple.

Business Center.
The totally unused business center had a couple computers and a printer, and was located in a little alcove on the side.

Food & Drinks

Menus.
Food and drinks are all ordered from servers, who circulate the room regularly.  There is no buffet, no snack station, not even little nibbles on the side.  You can order from any of the seating areas, and menus are located on every table.

Local Shoutouts.
The first page of the menu calls out their unique partnerships with local establishments, like Whitechapel for the food, and Bourbon & Branch for the cocktails.

Drinks

The drink menu is impressive, matching the grandeur of the bar itself.  They partner with a local bar, Bourbon & Branch, for the cocktails, and feature tons of local beers and wines.

There was a wine list  (including Mumm! and 4 different dessert wines), local beers (21st Amendment and Anchor Brewing Company), juices, smoothies, soft drinks, and ... a huge cocktail menu.  The cocktail menu had at least 20 cocktails, half of which are Bourbon & Branch classics, the others are standard cocktails (tom collins, bloody mary, dirty martini, etc), and finally a few Virgin Atlantic classics.

It was hard to pick one, and my server was full of recommendations.  Amusingly, she told me that the cucumber gimlet was very popular.  When I said, "hmm, I don't really like cucumber drinks", she got very animated, and told me she totally agreed, but had to recommend it because it is so popular.  She said she cringed whenever people order it.  Lols.  She quickly started pointing me towards the bourbon section of the menu, her favorites.
Frank Lloyd Wright.
"Buffalo Trace, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, walnut & pear liqueur bitters.  Stirred."

This drink is on the menu at Bourbon & Branch, and mentioned on "The Big Drink SF" list too.

It was lovely.  A mellow drink to sip, really well balanced, smooth, and *way* too drinkable for a drink that was entirely bourbon, whiskey, and liquor.  I finished it way too quickly, and opted not to go for another cocktail, for my own good.  But I really enjoyed it.  My notes read, "yum!"

Food

Like the drink menu, the food offerings have a local touch too, with some items from Whitechapel.

The menu is broken into starters, mains, salads, and desserts.  There were a slew of dishes that sounded good, it was hard to narrow it down to just a few selections, particularly as we knew we'd have a full meal on the flight soon.

We opted for one starter, one salad, and two entrees.  Sadly, the dessert menu only had fruit salad, a cheese platter, sorbet, and a chocolate pot de creme, none of which I wanted.  Perhaps they saved me from myself, its not like I went hungry.
Starter: Bitterballen.
"Crispy dutch bar snack, slow and low pork, pickle and spicy brown mustarD." (sic)

For a starter, we went with the Bitterballen, mostly because it sounded the most unique.  This was a Whitechapel dish.

Other options were a cream of artichoke soup (meh), sweet pea bruschetta (maybe good), and "Henge fries", another Whitechapel dish that I certainly would have ordered if  I needed something more, as it included green garlic and serrano aioli.

I was pretty blown away when it was delivered to our table.  I wasn’t expecting presentation like this in a lounge!  The wooden board, with a slot in it for the little bowl of mustard with cornichons, and a slot for the copper (?) pot with the fried balls inside.

The order came with 3 balls, all super hot, freshly fried.  Ojan took the first one as I was taking notes, bit in, and told me it was hot.  I was glad I waited a few minutes.  He also told me I wouldn’t like it.

He was right.  On the plus side, it was super crispy, and I liked how crunchy it was.  But, it was just too porky for me.

Great presentation, unique dish, but, not for me.  Interestingly, Ojan didn’t like it either, and when I asked why, he said that he just didn’t like anything about it.
Clubhouse Burger, with Cheese, Chips.
“Toasted brioche bread, marinated plum tomato, lettuce, dill pickle, and chips.”

One minute after the Bitterballen arrived came Ojan’s main dish, the burger.  It was offered with regular or sweet potato fries.  We ordered sweet potato, and received regular.  No option for level of doneness was offered.  He was asked if he wanted cheese, but, it wasn’t clear what kind.

Presentation was again quite nice, served on a wooden platter, the fries in a metal pot.  The pickle was a full spear, staked on top.

The burger wasn’t quite as described.  I lifted the bun to add ketchup and discovered that it had some kind of special sauce.  I won’t complain about mayo sauce on a burger, so that was great, but, interesting that it wasn’t listed on the menu.  But even more interesting?  Two onion rings, also right under the bun top.  I grabbed one immediately, Ojan scowled at me.  I shouldn’t have grabbed it, as it was …. cold.  And a bit soggy.  Why did this burger have cold soggy onion rings on top?

The burger was crazy well done, as in, way too cooked.  Or, as Ojan put it, “cardboard level of overcooked.”  The patty was thin, not juicy, not seasoned, and really didn’t taste like anything.  The cheese was nicely melted.  The tomato looked a bit anemic.  The special sauce was tasty enough.

Overall, not a good burger, and after a couple bites, Ojan pushed it aside.

The fries error turned out to be in Ojan’s favor, as he wanted the regular ones anyway, it was me who wanted the sweet potato fries.  A little bowl of ketchup was served on the side.

I still snagged a fry while I waited for my entree, assuming it was coming soon.  The fries were thick, crispy, and ridiculously hot.  Clearly very fresh.  They maintained their heat for an incredibly long time.  Ojan loved them, I thought they were ok, but, not really what I wanted.
Starter: Greek Salad.
"Crispy red onion and black olive tapanade."

Ojan also wanted a salad.  Salads are available as starter size, or main courses, topped with proteins like chicken.  Other choices were a green salad with truffle dressing, caesar, and "shaved summer salad".  He loves Greek salads though, so, that is what he ordered.

It arrived after his burger, a good 5 minutes later.  The timing and pacing of this meal was very strange.  The starter came quickly.  The burger not long behind.  It took at least 10 minutes however for my entree to show up, and the salad came after the burger?

As with all the dishes, presentation was quite nice.

This was most certainly not a classic Greek salad.  The description did mention that it would have “crispy red onion” and “black olive tapenade”, which should have been an indicator that it wasn’t going to be quite as expected.

Anyway, what did we have here?  An assortment of greens, including frisee and arugula.  Shaved fennel.  Shaved cucumber ribbons.  Confit tomatoes.  Yes, it did have olives and feta, which were about the only elements recognizable as a Greek salad.

Since I don’t actually care for Greek salad, this seemed like an improvement to me over the classic, so, even though I didn’t plan to have any, I tried a few bites.  Mostly out of boredom, as my food was yet to arrive, and I didn’t like the other starter.  I liked the confit tomatoes, flavorful, soft, likely slow roasted.  I may have stolen most of them.  I also immediately stole one of the two crispy red onions on top, only to realize that, like in the burger, well, stone cold onion rings aren’t tasty.  They weren’t really crispy either, they were battered, and had been fried at some point, but were really just cold old onion rings.  Not a winning element.

Ojan wasn’t very excited about this fancy Greek salad.  “I wanted a normal Greek salad!”, he pouted.
Sweet Potato Fries.
When I pointed out to the server that we had ordered sweet potato fries, we were asked if we still wanted them.  Given that I didn’t like the starter, I quickly said yes, even though Ojan didn’t want them.  They arrived 10 minutes later.

I’m very glad I asked for them.  They were awesome.  Like the regular fries, they were delivered piping hot and fresh.  Seriously, right out of the fryer!  They really did a great job delivering fried items as soon as they were ready.

Unlike the regular fries, these were a thin style.  They were super crispy, I think battered in some way?  They had a nice sweet potato flavor.  They were served with ketchup, and I would have liked something else, like a honey mustard, or even the special sauce from the burger, but, still, very good.  I devoured the entire pot.  Ojan didn’t even get one.  He was done eating at this point anyway.

These were really, truly great sweet potato fries, and the best I’ve had in years.
Farmer's Cheese and Naan.
“Turmeric chili oil, roasted carrots, coriander.”

Finally, finally, 10 minutes after Ojan’s, my dish arrived.  It was … really unique.  Presentation-wise,  on the plus side, it too was served on a wooden plater, with a special area for the hot cast iron with the cheese inside.  But, on the minus side the “naan” was strangely torn into chunks along the side.  I felt my inner Gordon Ramsey coming out, thinking it looked like something someone else discarded.  It really was not appealing.

Anyway, the “naan” also wasn’t really naan.  It was almost really good though, a bit dense and doughy, a bit crispy, nice grilled flavor, slight char on top.  But it was crazy oily.  The greasy level ruined it unfortunately.

The cheese was unique.  I expected cubes of fresh cheese, like paneer, since it was called “Farmer’s cheese” and served with naan, but instead it was a soft cheese, and served hot.  It didn’t have much flavor itself, but, it was nice to spread on the naan.  It did make me wish it was burrata though, or a nice herbed ricotta …

The chili oil was fascinating.  It was very spicy.  This dish had some serious kick.  And there was tons of the oil.  At first, I’ll admit, it looked crazy.  Cheese in a big pool of oil?  But, the oil worked as a dip for the bread, and I found myself dipping the already greasy bread into the oil and almost enjoying it.  It really would have been better if the bread wasn’t as greasy!  I also enjoyed dipping the sweet potato fries into the spicy oil.

And finally, uh, carrots.  Disks of carrot, nicely cooked, not mushy. They were charred and had a nice smokiness.  The cheese was also charred on top. 

This was a really fascinating dish.  Grilled naan, soft cheese, spicy oil, and charred carrots?  It didn’t make sense, but, it almost really worked.  Good flavors, good textures.  I liked many aspects of it, and really, had the bread just not been as greasy, I really would have loved it.  Still, very unique, and not at all what I’d expect in an airline lounge.  Not quite a main dish, but, with our food, and an upcoming meal on the flight, it was more than enough.
Read More...