Friday, November 20, 2020

Whittaker's Chocolate

I'm always eager to try new types of chocolate bars.  I'm not a major chocolate-o-holic, and usually don't opt for chocolate desserts, but a little piece of quality chocolate in the morning alongside my coffee always hits the spot.  Or in the afternoon, for a little pick-me-up.  So, on a recent flight to Sydney, when I saw a new brand of chocolate onboard my various Air New Zealand flights, I was happy to drive in.

The brand was Whittaker's, a New Zealand based company.  The company was founded in 1896 by J.H. Whittaker, when he moved to New Zealand.  Business took off, was passed down through the generations, etc, etc.  Still a family run company.

But you don't care about the history.  You care about the chocolate.  Whittaker's has several product lines, including standard bars (dubbed "Blocks"), fancier bars (the "artisan collection"), and then a bunch of other shapes: slabs, mini-slabs, chunks, squares, pips, and "sante".  The also make chocolate milk, ice cream, toffee, and "k-bars", a kind of toffee based confection.

Our flight had the sante bars, so that is the only product I tried.  I wasn't impressed.  They claim to be the premium chocolate maker not only of New Zealand, but of all of Australasia.  I hoped this isn't the best the region has to offer.

Since then, I've had the chance to try many other styles, as co-workers often bring it to the office as a "local" treat, picking ridiculous flavors.  These have been really fun, and actually much better.


"There is simply nothing like the snap of one of our pure chocolate sante bars.  Long, thin, and elegant, Sante means health - in a happy way.  These certainly make you feel happy".

Sante bars are just thin, um, bars of chocolate.

They come in 4 varieties: creamy milk, dark, dark peppermint, and dark ghana.  I tried the two that our flight offered.

I did like the Sante form factor, a thin bar, with a nice snap to it.  I'm not quite sure why I liked the form so much, maybe just because it was something different?  But, it worked.
35% Cocoa Creamy Milk Chocolate Bar.
I started with the milk chocolate, a 35% bar.

The chocolate was very nicely creamy.  So far, so good.  Nice form, good creaminess.

But ... the flavor was a bit odd.  There was a strange aftertaste to it, it reminded me of decaf coffee, in that way that decaf coffee sometimes has a bad funk to it.

I couldn't get past the aftertaste, which is sad, as it really was nice and creamy.
50% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Bar.
I moved on to the dark chocolate, only a 50%.

It was ... sweet.  It reminded me of a Hershey Special Dark.  Dark chocolate shouldn't be sweet like this.  It just wasn't at all what I was looking for, but the finish was smooth.


"Our slabs have long been one of our most loved products. It started with the peanut slab, made from “good, honest chocolate” as we like to say. Now there are 10 different slabs to choose from, each one better than any other. Honest."
Next up, Slabs.  As you might expect, these are, well, thick, heavy, um, slabs?
Hokey Pokey Slab.
"A single serve slab made from 33% cocoa, 5 Roll Refined Creamy Milk chocolate with a hint of caramel and filled with the classic kiwi taste of crunchy honeycomb ‘hokey pokey’ pieces."

Wow, can you get *any* more New Zealand than this?  Classic New Zealand brand of chocolate, filled with the most unique New Zealand sweet?

I enjoyed this bar.  The chocolate was the same decent creamy Whittaker's milk chocolate, as expected.  The hokey pokey bits were sweet crunchy pops.  They added a fun texture and additional sweetness.


"These generously sized blocks are designed to share with fellow chocolate lovers. But they’ll have to be quick, obviously."

And Blocks.  Yup, um, blocks of chocolate.  You know, "to share", easy to break off. 

Jelly Tip.
"The classic Kiwi ice-cream flavour reinvented in chocolate with our 28% cocoa sweet vanilla white chocolate on top, flowing raspberry jelly in the middle and 33% cocoa, smooth 5 Roll Refined Creamy Milk chocolate with a hint of caramel underneath, in our generous 250g block."

I need to admit that I clearly lack proper kiwi knowledge.  As I had no idea what "Jelly Tip" was.  I guess, an ice cream flavor?  Just when I thought I was figuring out New Zealand and Australian sweets ...

I needed to learn more.
"Whittaker’s has reinvented another Kiwi classic by teaming up with Tip Top to create the satisfyingly good Jelly Tip Block with Milk Chocolate. Whittaker’s has been making some of New Zealand’s favourite chocolates since 1896. Similarly Tip Top has also been making some of New Zealand’s favourite ice creams since 1936, so for these two iconic companies to come together to produce one super delicious treat. It is simply a match made in heaven! 
The Jelly Tip Block gets its name from Tip Top’s Jelly Tip ice cream, with its delicious raspberry jelly tip, creamy vanilla ice cream centre and crisp chocolate shell. Whittaker’s have done their own take on the iconic Jelly Tip with the Jelly Tip Block. A sweet oozing jelly tip centre is covered in a rich milk chocolate base and creamy vanilla white chocolate top. One bite and you’ll wonder why nobody thought about this delicious chocolate combination sooner! 
Raspberry flavoured jelly in white & milk chocolate, Whittaker’s Jelly Tip Block will surely satisfy!"
I must try this ice cream at some point.  But for now, the chocolate.

This was a fun bar.  The white chocolate creamy, smooth, and sweet.  And then, a fruity inside, with a hint of chocolate in the mix too.

Not what I reach for when I want *chocolate*, but a nice sweet, slightly fruity, alternative.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Johnny Doughnuts

Johnny Doughnuts has been on my radar for a while.  Because, well, I love donuts and always have my eye on places with good reviews.  I also semi-regularly have the need to provide donuts for my group at work for special occasions, and need to find places that can handle fairly large size orders, which, your average donut shop does not.

I had wanted to try Johnny Doughnuts many times, but, it was never a possibility.  For one, they are located in San Rafael, so, I never had a chance to just go myself in person to their shop,  But second, for delivery orders to San Francisco, they have a 2 dozen minimum, at $34 per dozen, plus a $50 delivery fee.  I haven't ever been able to arrange for this, as I just couldn't justify the higher costs compared to local options.

But finally, finally, we were able to order from Johnny Doughnuts for a team-wide all hands.  I was so excited to try them.  For that first order, we stuck with raised and old fashioned donuts (plus some fritters, because, um, my favorites), but Johnny Doughnuts also makes bismarks (filled with jams and custards), cro-doughs (croissant + donuts), cinnamon rolls and twists, and even vegan or gluten-free donuts, most of which I tried at subsequent events (keep reading!).

I still haven't visited the donut shop in San Rafael, but, it turns out they are opening one in San Francisco (in Hayes Valley), so, you can bet I'll check it out once they do.  They also proved great at handling catering orders (so we ordered from them for our next large team event too), and have multiple donut trucks that they can bring to your food truck party.  You'll find them at Off the Grid and other events around town too.

At both events I hosted with Johnny Doughnuts, the donuts were the best rated by the group, and, at this point, we have ordered donuts from a lot of places.  They blew trendy places like Dynamo out of the water.  They blew SF institutions like Bob's out of the water (stay tuned for review).  These are very good donuts, and I've never seen so many of my teammates go back for seconds.

The donuts are also huge.  On every single occasion we ordered them, most people immediately commented that they were too big.  And I'll admit, they kinda are.  I just saved part for later, knowing I'd want more, but most people took to hacking them up with knives to cut off reasonable size chunks.  This is one area where I do appreciate how Donut Savant makes the perfect size donuts, smaller than average, where these were much larger than average.  Even the donut holes were about 2x the size of normal!  But I'm not really complaining, who complains about too much donut?  And, obviously, if life gives you leftover donuts, waffle them the next morning (trust me).

Encounter #1, July 2016

We ordered several dozen assorted full size donuts, which included a mix of old fashioned, raised, and fritters.  Each box was different, and none were boring plain donuts.

We also ordered donut holes, to satisfy those who wanted a smaller treat.  The assortment was perfect.
Box #1: Dozen Assorted Donuts.  $34.00.
This box contained:
  • Old Fashioned: Maple Glazed, Chocolate Glazed, Vanilla Glazed, Chocolate Salted Caramel (1 each, back row and second row from back)
  • Raised: Blueberry, Classic Glazed, Sprinkly Guys (vanilla dipped with rainbow sprinkles). (1 each, middle rows)
  • Apple Fritters (2, second row) 
  • Blueberry Wheat-Free Fritter Thang (2, front row)
The raised donuts were good, the fritters were great, but, the old fashioned were absolutely insane.
Box #2: Dozen Assorted Donuts. $34.00.
The next box had a similar mix, but some differences:
  • Old Fashioned: Maple Glazed, Vanilla Glazed, Salted Caramel Chocolate (back row)
  • Raised: Classic Chocolate, Sprinkly Guys (chocolate dipped with sprinkles), Classic Glazed, Sugar Daddy, Lime Poppy Seed, Strawberry (middle rows).
  • Apple Fritter and Blueberry Wheat-Free Fritter Thang (1 each, front row)
We had several other boxes, all filled with similar mixes.  Combined, we received all varieties of raised donuts that they make other than the Zebra (glazed with chocolate drizzle) and all old fashioned except the plain non-glazed.

I really appreciated the thoughtful assortment.

Raised Donuts

So, let's start with the raised donuts.
"Our take on a “light and fluffy” doughnut. A Southern recipe dating back to the 1920’s, using fresh potato to the dough to give more of a bite.  The yeast in the recipe requires the dough to rise before being fried to give it that airy feel, hence the name – raised. Mix that unique dough with our unbelievably tasty homemade glazes and it’s a win-win every time."
These are available in 9 varieties, plus seasonal specialties:
  • Classic Glazed
  • Classic Chocolate
  • Lime Poppy Seed
  • Strawberry
  • Blueberry
  • Zebra (glazed with chocolate drizzle)
  • Sprinkly Guys (dipped in chocolate or vanilla and topped with sprinkles)
  • Sugar Daddy (rolled in sugar)
We had all but the Zebra.  They were all good, fluffy, raised donuts, massive in size.  The potato in the dough definitely gave them a little something extra.  The coatings were perfectly executed.

One co-worker had one of the dipped raised donuts, I forget which flavor, and said, "Well, I think that was honestly the best donut I've ever had!"  Victory!
Classic Glazed. $3.25.
I started with a classic glazed.  You can't judge the rest until you try a basic glazed donut, right?

It was a fine donut.  Very fluffy, massive.  Well coated in glaze on all sides.  Not too oily.  I think I sorta tasted the potato, not in a bad way though, just in a "hey, that dough has something a little more interesting about it" way, like if you ever have potato bread.  It was fresh tasting.  Not particularly earth shattering, but, unless it is hot and fresh out of the fryer, a classic glazed rarely is.
Sugar Daddy. $3.25.
On the basic side, I also tried the "Sugar Daddy", a sugar coated raised donut.  It was perfectly coated in sugar crystals, and tasty, but, sugar coated donuts always make me want them to be jelly filled (more on that soon).
I also tried the strawberry iced.  Like all the iced options, it was perfectly dipped in strawberry frosting, and the icing was  thick.  The donut was the same as all the other raised donuts, fluffy, raised, massive, but the glaze was incredible.  It tasted like fresh strawberries.  It tasted like summer.  It wasn't a fake strawberry taste at all.  Just ripe, juicy, perfect berries at their peak.  Incredible how much flavor was captured in that glaze.

I also tried the blueberry, equally fruity.
Lime Poppy Seed. $3.25.
The lime poppy seed caught me by surprise as I thought it was vanilla bean (with specs of vanilla bean, not poppy seeds), so it caught me off guard when it was tangy.  If you like lime though, by all means, this was likely a great thing.
Sprinkly Guys (Vanilla Version). $3.25.
Next I moved on to one that looked far more fun: the Sprinkly Guys.  These are available in two versions, chocolate or vanilla, referring to the flavor of glaze they are coated in.  I picked vanilla.

The base was the same huge, yeasty, fluffy donut.

I adore sprinkles, so, this was right up my alley.  It was ridiculously generously coated in colorful rainbow sprinkles.  They added a bit of crunch and more sweetness.  The vanilla glaze was more appealing to me than the standard glaze from the classic, as it was sweeter and thicker.  My favorite of the toppings.

Overall, a fun donut, but VERY sweet.  I can't imagine eating a full one in one sitting without being on a ridiculous sugar high.  This would be better served as a donut hole in my opinion (and then, all sides could have sprinkles!)
Sprinkly Guys (Vanilla, Holiday). (2018).
I had another, months later.  I didn't love it quite as much this time.  The vanilla glaze and sprinkles weren't as overwhelmingly sweet, and I tasted a lot more of the plain doughnut.  It was still a fine doughnut, but, it wasn't as magic for me as the first encounter.

And then I had this one, years later.  Back to being crazy sweet, loaded with glaze, loaded with sprinkles (holiday colored, because, December).  When you are in the mood for sweet, this donut delivers (or, overpowers, if you aren't).
Classic Chocolate Glazed.  $3.25.
I also grabbed a chocolate glazed for another co-worker.  I didn't try it, but, included the photo just to show you how well dipped it was in the chocolate.  It was pretty remarkable that the donuts didn't get messed up all in a box together, and transported all the way to us.

Donut Holes

Next up were the donut holes, ordered to accommodate those who just want "a little something."
"Our raised dough in easy-to-eat rounds of goodness. Available in Vanilla Glazed or Cinnamon Sugar."
We ordered a big box of vanilla glazed.
Vanilla Glazed Holes. $0.50/each.
When I think of donut holes, I think of Dunkin' Donuts Munchkins.  They were a big part of my formative years.  So, donut holes should be bite sized, in my mind.

But that is because the whole thing with donut holes is that they fill in the hole of the donut.  If the donut is ridiculously large, well, then the hole is ridiculous large, so, these holes were actually likely scaled accordingly.  They seemed about two times as big as any other donut hole I've encountered.

The donut holes were very similar to the full sized raised donuts.  Fluffy, well glazed.  The vanilla glaze was the same as what I had on the vanilla Sprinkly Guys.  These were actually a nice size for just wanting a donut, and not feeling overwhelmed.  The members of my group who had restraint actually just had one of these each, and said they were satisfied.

Old Fashioned

Johnny Doughnuts doesn't make basic cake donuts, but they make Old Fashioned, aka, non-yeasted cake donuts with jaggy edges.  As in, more interesting cake donuts.  At least, that is how I think of them.  They say:
"Combining recipes from the 1930’s we’ve come up with an Old Fashioned unlike any other. 
With seasonings like nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon in the dough - it’s no wonder these doughnuts are nicknamed The Life Changers. This cake-like doughnut has just enough crunch on the outside and moistness in the middle to truly make you wonder how you had ever gone without it."
Old Fashioned are available at Johnny Doughnuts in 5 varieties:
  • Classic (no glaze)
  • Vanilla Glazed
  • Maple Glazed
  • Salted Chocolate Caramel
  • Chocolate Maple Glazed
I was excited to see old fashioned donuts taken so seriously.  Often, old fashioned are only plain.  Why wouldn't you want the crunchy exterior of a old fashioned, plus the sweet deliciousness of glaze? Why do I need to pick?

Anyway, our assorted boxes had all but the plain ones.  The old fashioned turned out to be the best of our assortment.
Maple Glazed.  $3.25.
This was an incredible donut.  Let me just lead with that.  Like the raised donuts, it was also massive.

I'm not normally very excited about old fashioned donuts, so I took a chunk of one of these, just for purposes of reviewing really.  I was planning to gorge on fritters and raised donuts instead.  But, one bite into this, and I turned right back around and took more.

First, the texture was perfect.  Crunchy on the outside, dense and moist inside.  They also nailed the nooks and crannies and jaggy bits.

But that isn't what set this apart.  No, it was the flavor that set it apart.  The base dough was unlike anything I'd ever had before, spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.  Which, honestly, doesn't seem appealing to me.  I thought it would just taste like Pumpkin Spice Season, Christmas, or something, trendy but not great.  But here, the spices were strong enough to taste, for sure, but subtle enough to not scream spice cake.  I was fascinated by the flavor, and really enjoyed it.

The maple glaze was also phenomenal.  Sweet, maple-y, and crusty in all the right ways.  The sweetness complimented the slightly savory base nicely.

This donut was an absolute winner.  Sweet crusty glaze, crispy but not oily fried exterior, moist, dense flavorful interior.  Hands down the best old fashioned donut I've ever had.  I'd get another in a heartbeat, and I'd love to try some of the other flavor glazes too.
Chocolate Salted Caramel. $3.25.
I loved the maple glazed so much that I was excited to try the chocolate salted caramel version.  It sounded like a winner, and the visible caramel made me quite excited.

Interesting, I didn't like this.  The chocolate and caramel just really didn't go with the base flavor, at least to me.

I'd love to try the classic vanilla glazed old fashioned too, but I think the maple is likely the winner.


So, moving on.

Fritters tend to be my favorite donuts.  Does this surprise you in any way?  Take something already decadent, and make it even worse for you, and of course I'll want it.

Johnny Doughnuts makes a classic apple fritter, but they also make a blueberry caramel apple version (that I didn't get to try), and a "Blueberry Wheat-Free Fritter Thang", a gluten-free offering (although, they aren't a gluten-free facility, so, be careful if that matters to you).

Fritters are slightly more expensive than the regular donuts ($3.50 vs $3.25), and not included in the regular dozens, but, since I love fritters I asked that we order a few of those too.

The fritters were good, but, the old fashioned remained my favorite.
Blueberry Wheat-Free Fritter Thang. $3.50.
"The Fritter Thang is filled with chunks of fresh fruit, topped with vanilla glaze and heres the best part – it tastes like a doughnut should taste! With texture similar to our Old Fashioneds, this gem – a WHEAT FREE DOUGHNUT?! – is a rarity in the doughnut world, and loved by wheat-free and wheat-loving treatseekers alike."

I read many rave reviews about this, from gluten-free and non-gluten free folks.  It was actually the first thing I went for when our donuts arrived.  It was certainly the most unique.  It was also my least favorite.

It was a crazy looking thing, jagged and all over the place.  One of my co-workers said it looked like a chunk of coral.  It was coated in a thick layer of the tasty vanilla glaze.  I did like the crispy "legs" and the sweet glaze, but, I didn't really like the base flavor of the dough.  It tasted kinda like whole wheat to me (which is amusing given that it was wheat free).  Sorta too "healthy" tasting for me.  Inside the folds were juicy blueberries, a totally different sort of thing to put into a donut than the standard apple chunks.

My co-worker who really liked it said it was like a cross between a blueberry muffin and a fritter, which was a great description.  There is no reason not to combine these things, and I don't know why fritters are always apple.  Blueberries are better, and blueberry muffins are so standard, so, why not blueberries in donuts?

Anyway, I appreciated this for its uniqueness, but I wasn't really sold on the wheat-free base.  I would have happily consumed it, but, luckily, we had many other choices around, and I passed this off to someone else after I cut off a big chunk.
Apple Fritter. $3.50.
"Caramelized apple chunks folded into our raised dough in this rustic fritter."

And finally, the classic fritter.  The donut I always describe as "the king of donuts".  In a box of donuts, unless I'm in a really strange mood, it is the one I nearly always go for.

This was a very good, totally classic execution of a fritter.  It had plentiful chunks of soft, sweet apple, caramelized and nicely spiced.  The care put into the apple was unlike most fritters, as I don't think they are normally caramelized and spiced like this.  It was crazy moist inside, yet crispy outside.  It was a bit oily, but, that is true of most fritters.  It was big and dense, like a big ol' fritter should be.  While the other donuts all seemed super sized, this one seemed normal, but, that is because fritters are always freakishly huge.  It was perfectly coated in plenty of sweet glaze.

There was nothing unexpected here, but every aspect of it was spot on.  A very good fritter.  I'd gladly have another.

Encounter #2, October 2016

My office can be a wonderful place.  Like, when I get in on a Friday morning and there is an e-mail saying, "Whoops, we mis-ordered donuts, and have several extra dozen donuts today, from Johnny Donuts.  Come and get them."  Let's just say, I went running.

This group also ordered an assortment, including many of the raised and old fashioned donuts I had before, but also, they had a few new items: cinnamon rolls, cinnamon twists, and bismarks!

I was thrilled to get to try more items, but, my favorite this time around was the super sweet vanilla iced Sprinkly Guys.  I think I was just in a sweet mood.


"Cinnamon lovers rejoice!  With cinnamon wrapped, rolled and twisted into the abyss of this specialty raised dough, you’ll get the perfect cinnamon flavor in every bite. Not to mention, with their twists and turns they are really like doughnut art."
Cinnamon creations are available in 4 varieties: vanilla glazed or chocolate maple glazed cinnamon rolls, or cinnamon sugar or glazed cinnamon twists.
Vanilla Glazed Cinnamon Roll.
I opted to try a vanilla glazed cinnamon roll.  Like all the donuts, these were massive.

The cinnamon roll itself was fairly unremarkable, just in that it didn't break the mold in quite the same way as some of the other Johnny Doughnuts do.  The dough was moist, there was ample cinnamon between the folds, and it was good, and I liked the sweet vanilla glaze, slightly crusty, but not in a bad way.  But overall, it was just a good donut-style cinnamon roll, not a game changer.


And finally ... the ones I had been waiting for: bismarks!
"What is a bismark you say? To put it simply, they are the Holy Grail of filled doughnuts. With homemade jams and custards oozing out of them, they are what we call ‘serious doughnuts.’ We suggest having a napkin and a friend nearby, because you will feel compelled to share these beauties with the rest of the world."
Bismarks are available with fruit fillings (wild berry jam, strawberry peach jam, raspberry jam) or custards (lime mascarpone, chocolate glazed with vanilla cream).
Wild Berry Jam .
The fruit filled bismarks are all coated in sugar.

The dough was the same nice yeasty dough as the other raised donuts, as expected.
Wild Berry Jam: inside.
The filling was quite generous, no skimping here.  It was a sweet berry goo.  I have no real reason why, but I didn't like it.  It was just ... berry goo.

I had kinda over-done it with donuts by the time I tried this one though, so I think this was my own fault.  I'd like to try it again when I wasn't overwhelmed with donuts.

Encounter #3, November 2016

Another month, another donut party.  We again ordered dozens.
Dozen and dozens of donuts.
This time the person making the order went more traditional, picking 2 raised (classic glazed and sugar daddy), 2 old fashioned (maple glazed and chocolate salted caramel), and 2 bismarks (wild berry jam and lime mascarpone), rather than the assortments, ordering by the dozen each.

Over the course of the day, I tried almost all of the donuts.
Sugar Daddy Raised Dozen.
The raised donuts were as I remembered - large, puffy, fluffy, moist, not oily, decent raised donuts.  The sugar daddy and classic glazed were perhaps boring choices, but likely the crowd pleasers.  They are classics for a reason.

Of the raised donuts though, I still prefer the sprinkly guys, as I'm a sucker for icing and sprinkles.
Lime Mascarpone Bismark, Dozen.
I wasn't into the wild berry bismark before, so this time I tried the lime mascarpone.  I was excited for a cream filled donut, and for mascarpone in particular, but, I don't care for lime, so I was a bit hesitant.

And ... yeah, while the donut itself was the expected fluffy raised donut, the lime mascarpone was too eggy and limey for my taste.
Maple Glazed Old Fashioned Dozen.
The maple glazed old fashioned remained my absolute favorite, and I managed to consume an entire one in one sitting, which, if you saw how big these were, you would realize actually is a bit of an accomplishment.

I just love the texture of the cake donut inside, and the spicing that makes it taste almost hearty or even healthy.  The slightly crispy exterior is great too, and the insanely generous amount of very sweet, crusty, maple glaze is to die for.  The glaze is very sweet, but the base donut isn't, so it just combines perfectly.

I tried the chocolate salted caramel old fashioned again too, to give it another chance, and this time, I tried it first, before I had any possible donut fatigue.  But ... yeah, I didn't like it, that flavor combination just does't work for me.

Encounter #4, December 2016: The Truck!

One very chilly day in December, I was walking down the street, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but ... a Johnny Doughnut truck.  I was excited to see it in person, but it was closed up, and not open for business.  I assume it was just out doing deliveries, ducked into a store to check out a sale rack, and didn't give it another though (ok, that's a lie, I did wonder who the lucky recipient of the donuts was).  To my amazement, when I emerged from the store a mere 10 minutes later, the truck was set up and opening for business.  The better part?  Um, they were giving free donuts to customers of the store I had just left.  My morning was suddenly looking *much* better!
"The Newb"
Johnny Doughnuts actually has 3 different trucks, "The Original", a serious truck used for large events like Off the Grid, "The Butler", a van with an amazing doughnut display bolted on the outside, and, "The Newb", which is the one I encountered.
Doughnut Display.
As you can see, the side of the truck raises up to form an awning, and behind it, a doughnut display!  This truck has some serious curb appeal.

The window revealed an assortment of raised doughnuts (Lime Poppy Seed, Zebra, Strawberry, Blueberry, Classic Glazed, both types of Sprinkly Guys, and Classic Chocolate), plus the Wheat-Free Fritter Thangs and Crodoughs (my first sighting!).

Not pictured here, because he was still doing it after I took the photo, is the names of all the doughnuts, written onto the glass.
Ordering Area.
The ordering window next to the display had another display, with even more options: Assorted Old Fashioned (classic glazed, salted caramel chocolate), Caramel Apple Fritters, Maple Glazed Bars, Bismarks (Wild Berry Jam, Lime Mascarpone, and a seasonally decorated Chocolate Vanilla Cream., and Cinnamon Rolls.


When I encountered the truck, I had already tried nearly every doughnut they had on board.  I knew the raised doughnuts were solid, as were the fritters and cinnamon rolls, but that I really liked the Old Fashioned.  I knew the bismarks and fritter thangs were my least favorites.  But I also hadn't tried the crodough.  I didn't really have a choice, did I?

For the unfamiliar, the crodough is Johnny Doughnut's version of a Cronut, the trademarked famed croissant + doughnut hybrid of 2013 fame.  In the past 3 years, these sorts of items have been popping up everywhere, including the last place I ordered team donuts from, Donut Savant, where the cronut didn't impress, and even across the world in Sydney, where I had an ok version at Bécasse, and even at Dunkin' Donuts, where, yes, it is just as mediocre as you'd expect.

Johnny Doughnuts describes theirs as:
"This flaky piece of heaven! Our Crodough has laminated layers, just like a croissant. We let these unique doughnut-wanna-bes rise before gently placing them into the frier to become the doughnuts they so desperately want to be. Sometimes rolled in Cinnamon Sugar, or perhaps topped with Chocolate glaze, we make sure the custard is filled through every. Single. Layer."
I was very curious to see how a doughnut-croissant hybrid from a good place would be.  Spoiler: amazing, and my favorite Johnny Doughnut item so far (and it really isn't just because it is a hyped item, believe me, I've had a lot of mediocre cronuts!)
Cinnamon-Sugar Crodough.  $3.50.
Like all the Johnny Doughnuts, this thing was not for wimps.  While the other doughnuts are all massive in their diameter, this one is massive in its height!  Look at the thing!

It was absolutely coated in cinnamon and sugar, and the coating went perfectly with the crispy fried dough exterior.  I loved how it was slightly crisp on the outside from being fried.

It was a bit hard to just bite into as it was so tall, but I didn't mind ripping (and later, once I slowed down a bit, cutting) it into pieces.
Cinnamon-Sugar Crodough: Inside.
But the crodough isn't just a well fried hunk of doughnut dough rolled in cinnamon and sugar.  It was remarkable just in that way, like any good fried dough from a state fair, or a churro on the street, but this had more to give.

The dough was layered like a croissant, but, not flaky like one, as it is fried rather than baked.  It was dense, slightly sweet, and I liked the taste and texture of this dough more than the regular doughnuts event.

But it still had more to go.  Inside, was custard filling, a decent amount, all along the middle layer.  The cream distribution was pretty good, although you can see in this cross-section that the left-hand side didn't have any cream in this part.  The pastry cream inside was rich, creamy, vanilla custard, tasty on its own, and likely the same filling that goes into the chocolate glazed vanilla cream filled bismarks.

This was a winner all around.  I liked the crispy exterior and the dense interior.  I loved the cinnamon sugar coating.  The cream filling was quality.  If you like churros, state fair fried dough, boston cream doughnuts, or really, just tasty fried things, sugar, and cream, go for one of these, highly recommended.

Encounter #5, July 2017

Another day, another, "Hey, leftover donuts!" email at my office.  I know, hard life.  And, another one that offered up the vendor: Johnny Donuts.  I went running.  Only quasi figuratively.

The selection remaining was great, and I was able to snag not only a whole donut for myself (recall that these are MASSSIVE donuts!), but also cut off chunks of a few favorites that others had already broken into.

I again got to try the cakey maple old fashioned, still really well seasoned and flavorful, dense and moist inside, and crispy outside and perfectly crusted with glaze.  I also tried a chunk of a raised blueberry glazed donut, again, crazy lofted, yeasted, moist, and more interesting than your standard donut due to the potato base, with flavorful fruity glaze.  I was happy with both of those, but, I opted to take a full size cinnamon roll, try give that another chance.
Vanilla Glazed Cinnamon Roll.
I was again unimpressed with the cinnamon roll.

It was a fine cinnamon roll, don't get me wrong.  Fluffy, well risen dough, good cinnamon between the folds, totally covered in crusty sweet vanilla glaze.  The inner most ring was super moist, the outer layers more crisp, giving some contrast.  There were also some little raisins in there that I could do without, but, I guess added a bit more interest.

But it was just a cinnamon roll.  I again felt like it was a waste of a Johnny Donut opportunity, as their other offerings are far more unique than standard donuts, and this was just barely a step above a normal roll.  It was also much better when warmed up.

Now I know to go back to my favorites though, and not try another cinnamon roll.

Encounter #6, February 2018

Yup, another day, another "hey, extra Johnny Donuts!" email at my office.  After no one else claimed the rest, I ended up having ... uh, a few more ...
Maple Glazed Old Fashioned.
The maple glazed old fashioned is the one I first grabbed, and it continues to be my favorite.

I really love the texture and flavor of the base, and this one came even more generously coated in maple glaze than normal.  Score.
Sugar Daddy.
Doesn't the Sugar Daddy look smaller?  I am pretty sure it got smaller, at least in diameter.  It also didn't look that exciting I guess, as no one claimed it.  I put it out of its misery later in the day.

A nice, fluffy, raised donut, decent sugar coating, but yes, not particularly exciting.
Remember how my assorted box before didn't have the Zebra?  Well, now I had a chance to try it.  So when it was still there after a few calls to eat the donuts, you know I had to take it.

It was as I expected, the same fluffy raised potato base, the same sweet vanilla glaze, this time, just complimented by a bit of chocolate glaze.

I liked the glaze more than before, nicely sweet, and the chocolate helped balance it.
Wheat Free Fritter Thang.
Finally, I tried a chunk of the wheat free fritter thang.

I still don't really care for the flavor of these, but, they really are ridiculous looking creations.

Encounters #7 & #8: November & December 2018

Yup, my life is hard, as we had multiple days over several weeks with Johnny Doughnuts randomly showing up at my office.

I appreciated that many people were cutting them into pieces, so I could try a large variety of donuts.

I took chunks of at least 6 different donuts, and several full size for myself over these multiple occurrences.

Since photos of chunks aren't very exciting, and you've seen these all before, I'll let you imagine the ones I only "sampled".

The vanilla glazed old fashioned was fine, I still loved how fried and crispy the exterior of these donuts is, but the novelty of the different base style has worn off, and I found myself uninterested in the spicing.
Raised Holiday Sprinkly Guys.
I tried a few raised donuts as well, again pleased with how fluffy they were, really great bases for donuts.

The strawberry icing was again quite flavorful, and I was glad to take all the chunks that fell of of this.
Vanilla Glazed Vegan Raised Doughnut.
"With texture similar to our classic Raised doughnuts, our vegan recipe calls for Roasted Sweet Potatoes! This baby is glazed in either a Vanilla or Chocolate vegan-crafted glaze just to add to the awesomeness."

Ok, I lied about not sharing photos of chunks, here is a photo of just a chunk, of the vegan offering.  I'm not sure if you can tell, but it is actually quite orange in nature, due to the use of sweet potato in the base, rather than the white potatoes used in the regular raised donuts.  I wonder why they don't use sweet potatoes in the non-vegan ever?

Anyway, the texture was quite similar to the regular donuts, just as promised.  Light and fluffy.  And the flavor?  Yeah, you could taste sweet potato, which was not a bad thing.  It reminded me of my favorite sweet potato rolls.  In fact, given the time of year (November), it really just made it seem like a seasonal offering, much like pumpkin or butternut squash.  I could imagine this being even better crusted with pumpkin spice seasonings, or done bismark style with cranberry compote inside!

It was a good donut, and I'd really love to see them use sweet potato in a regular one too, although, honestly, I didn't detect anything strange and vegan about this, so I'd even just have a vegan one again ...
My favorite, hands down, was the crodough.  No question.

Fantastically crispy, not too fried, light and fluffy, well coated in cinnamon sugar, and I liked the custard filling, although, just like before, I felt it was a bit lacking in how well distributed it was, but the sections that had it had plenty.

This is the only one I went back for another big chunk of.  By which I mean ... I went and took a full one a bit later when there were still plenty left ...
Cinnamon Sugar Twist.
Then, I went for one that I hadn't tried before: the twist!  Available glazed or cinnamon sugar coated, I went for the later.

It, much like the cinnamon roll, let me down a bit.  Not because it wasn't good.  It was good.  Light fluffy dough just like all the raised donuts, perfectly coated in just the right amount of cinnamon sugar, and well formed.  Not too oily.  Really, this is as good as a cinnamon sugar twist is going to get.

So why let down?  Because it was just that.  As good as a cinnamon sugar twist is going to be.  It didn't rock my world.  But that crodough?  That did.
Strawberry Cake Doughnut.
Behold!  A ... cake doughnut from Johnny Doughnuts?  YES!

I knew Johnny Doughnuts made the assorted cake style old fashioned, but, I was unaware that they made assorted cake doughnuts as well.  Which could be because they used to be a weekend only special, and still are in most of their shops, but, now available daily in San Francisco!

And since I love the strawberry icing, I went for that.

This was a great doughnut.  It had everything I loved about the old fashioned - fantastically crispy exterior, fried but not greasy and off-putting, and very moist and dense inside - but without the spicing that I've grown a bit tired of.  The base did still have an interesting tang and depth of flavor. This makes sense, as it is the same base, just, sans nutmeg and friends.

I adored the base, better than the old fashioned, better than the raised, better than the assorted bars and fritters.  I still rank the crodough over the cake, but, they are entirely different. 

Then, the icing.  The glaze was … generous.  Extremely generous.  Extremely sweet.  Slightly fruity.  And totally delicious if you are in the mood for some serious sugar.

This was a good choice at room temperature, but I loved it even more when I warmed it up and topped it with vanilla ice cream, which helped balance out the sweet glaze (and, also, made the doughnuts last a second day with NO problem!)

Overall, I really liked this doughnut, my second favorite ever, and I’m glad that Johnny Doughnuts has expanded into traditional cake doughnuts as well.  I can't wait to try more.

Encounter #10: February 2019

Yup, another team All Hands, another excuse to order donuts.  We again got quite the selection, including crodoughs and fritters because I requested them, plus vegan and gluten-free offerings (although the later were forgotten by the delivery guy, doh!).  The one thing we really missed out on though was the cake doughnuts that I discovered last time ... I want to try those again!

As always, many people preferred to just have a small bite, so they brought out knives to cut them in chunks, so I was able to try many.
Box #1: Glazed Old Fashioned, Maple Glazed Old Fashioned
Sugar Daddy Cro-Dough, Raspberry Raised Glazed, Lime Poppyseed Raised Glazed.
This box had the good things! 

The majority of the box was a full dozen Cro-doughs (recall, the Johnny version of cronuts, custard filled, laminated, croissant doughnuts, coated in cinnamon and sugar).  My top choice usually for Johnny Doughnuts, and of course I ordered a full dozen of those.

I started with the Cro-dough, having half of one immediately alongside my morning coffee.  I liked it as always, but it seemed slightly different than usual.  I later realized what it was - I don't normally have them *that* fresh, and, strangely, I actually prefer them a few hours older, as the top gets crispier.  I of course discovered this because I had the second half later in the afternoon, and found that I liked it more.

I also took a maple glazed old fashioned, my old favorites (before I discovered the cro-doughs and cake donuts).  I found that I enjoyed it, loved the spicing and the sweet maple glaze, but when I went to have the second half later that night (warmed up, a la mode!), the spicing seemed too aggressive, which is how I felt one other time too.  I wonder if it intensifies as they get a bit older, or, if I really just need to be in the mood for the spicing?

I also tried a chunk from the bright pink one (raspberry), as I'd only ever had the strawberry and blueberry before, and this was still sitting there after our event.  Very fruity as well, but the raised ones just aren't my favorite.
Box #2: Classic Raised Glazed,  Sprinkly Guys (Valentine's Edition),
Caramel Apple Fritters,  Chocolate Maple Glazed Old Fashioned,
Vegan Sugar Daddy Sweet Potato, Strawberry Raised Glazed, Blueberry Raised Glazed.
The second box had more old fashioned (chocolate and maple glazed, the ones I never care for), fritters, and assorted other raised selections, including the vegan sweet potato donuts.

I didn't take anything from here initially, but when I circled back after the event, and there were still plenty remaining ... I sampled the strawberry and blueberry to see how the three fruity flavors compared (I'm not sure I had a favorite ... all sweet and fruity, but pretty similar), and I had a chunk of the caramel apple fritter just to see if my feelings changed on those (nope, still a very good fritter, but not different from other good fritters).
Sugar Daddy Vegan Sweet Potato.
And then I had a chunk of the vegan sweet potato raised sugar coated donut.  And I was floored.  I was walking away as I bit into the chunk I had taken (someone else had nicely cut it off already), and immediately turned right back around and took a full one (hey, there were plenty left, since they were vegan, kinda orange-hued, and seemed to scare people off?  Their loss, my gain!)

I adored it.  My previous encounter with this base was just a small chunk of a glazed vegan sweet potato one, and I had enjoyed that too, but here I was able to really appreciate it.  Such a unique flavor from the sweet potato, slightly savory, and really fluffy, airy, light ... for a fried item.

I really like these.  Where they rank compared to cro-doughs and maple glazed old fashioned really just depends on my mood however ... sometimes you want light and fluffy, sometimes you want decadent and stuffed with custard.

Encounter #11: February 2020

"Donuts in the micro kitchen!" Yup, one of my favorite phrases to hear.  Of course I went running (er, walking in a rushed, civilized fashion?)

Double delight to hear they were from Johnny Donuts, and ... many, many huge catering boxes were there.   Oh yes.
1 Box of MANY.
I counted 8 boxes in all, each this size, and each with >1 dozen left in them.  I was thrilled that people were cutting them up, so I just made myself a giant sampler plate.  As if I hadn't tried all the varieties before ...

For the most part, my opinions were unchanged.  The iced raised were good (yay potato in the base for creating that unique texture), but I'm not in love with fruity icing, and slightly prefer the very sweet vanilla iced with sprinkles, but I need to want sweet.  The standard glazed, also good, but I do prefer Stan's for a simple glazed.

I also tried a vegan vanilla iced roasted sweet potato one, and I certainly admire it for being just as airy and delicious as its non-vegan partners.  I didn't find the sweet potato flavor quite as striking as before, but still, it was good, and I certainly would have no qualms eating this and feeling like it was a "second class" donut.  No sacrifices here for vegans.

Even though I've never loved the caramel apple fritter, of course I took a chunk (because, fritters are usually my favorite!), and, yup, it is still a fine fritter, great chunks of apple, but, there just isn't anything remarkable about it.
Box # 2 ...
The Old Fashioned of course called out, and I opted for the maple glazed as always. Excellent spicing, great buttermilk tang, crispy crags, and just an excellent old fashioned donut.  I did find the maple glaze a bit too much, but perhaps I was over-doing it on the donuts at that point ...
Box #3 ...
From the next book I tried a chunk of a bismark, filled with Wild Berry Jam.  And ... yeah, I just don't like their jam, as I had noted before.  It was extremely generously stuffed though, so kudos on that.

I tried a bit of the Chocolate Vanilla Cream, and one bite of that cream and I knew exactly what donut I needed to select for my full size takeaway treat for "later".  OMG it was good.
That Fritter Thang. (Wheat Free).
"The Fritter Thang is filled with chunks of fresh fruit, topped with vanilla glaze and heres the best part – it tastes like a doughnut should taste! With texture similar to our Old Fashioneds, this gem – a WHEAT FREE DOUGHNUT?! – is a rarity in the doughnut world, and loved by wheat-free and wheat-loving treatseekers alike."

The gluten-free members of the group were very well cared for, with a huge box of the That Fritter Thangs.  As always, first-timers also just couldn't get past how insane they looked.

I took a chunk, and, just like the vegan selections, was really impressed.  It tastes just as good as a regular donut, no crazy texture things going on.  Interesting flavor, great glaze. 

I brought one to a gluten-free co-worker, who contacted me about 10 minutes later wanting to find out the name of the vendor.  She talked about the donut for days.  Let's just say, it left an impression.
Cinnamon Sugar Crodough.
"This flaky piece of heaven! Our Crodough has laminated layers, just like a croissant. We let these unique doughnut-wanna-bes rise before gently placing them into the frier to become the doughnuts they so desperately want to be. Sometimes rolled in Cinnamon Sugar, or perhaps topped with Chocolate glaze, we make sure the custard is filled through every. Single. Layer."

But who are we kidding.  There is one best Johnny doughnut ever, and I know it.  The crodough.

It was just as glorious as the first time I ever had it.  Just as life changing.  

A huge beast.  People look at these and make comments on the size.  Even I, knowing how much I love them, initially just cut off a chunk.  But you take a bite, and return for a full size one.  Or at least, I do.  And yes, I polished it off in just one sitting this time.  

Because it is simply glorious.  Lovely layers, not flaky like a croissant, but, distinct layers of fluffy, airy, risen doughnut goodness.  Crispy exterior, fried, but not greasy.  Absolutely coated in cinnamon sugar, like the very best state fair fried dough (that's a thing for other people too right?).  These elements alone create magic.  These elements alone would be enough to send my eyes rolling to the back of my head, and put me into a happy dance.

But there is more.  So much more.  Filled with custard.  Does it look like a custard filled donut?  Nope.  But it is.  And they do not skip.  Custard between the layers.  Custard throughout.  Yes, custard everywhere.  Thick, rich, luxurious custard.  I'd eat a bowl of it as pudding and be thrilled too.  And add it inside this already magical creation?  SO GOOD.

Seriously, just one of the best donuts of all time.  Get it.  Now.
Johnny Doughnuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, November 16, 2020

Milk Bar (Previously Momofuku Milk Bar): Soft Serve, CakeTruffles, and Milk Bar (Crack) Pie.

Update Review 2018 & 2019 Visits

I've posted previously about Milk Bar (previously Momofuku Milk Bar), a discovery of mine loooooong before Christina Tosi (owner, pastry chef) became, um, famous, looooong before their cookies were included on JetBlue Mint flights, etc.  I've been a fan since the "early days", and you've seen some prior posts covering the cookies, the signature Cereal Milk (and other) softserve and truffles, and even cake delivery from New York to San Francisco (quite easy actually, they sell direct online and through GoldBelly).  I've seen the rebranding, the pivots, the mass distribution, etc, and, although not frequently in New York, I've had the opportunity to try it several more times when I've visited.

October 2018

I didn't actually visit myself, but had a friend in New York, who was flying back direct to SF, whom I may or may not have convinced to swing by Milk Bar on his way to the airport ...

For Crack Pie.  Ok, now called, trademarked, "Milk Bar Pie", but when I got it in 2018 it was still Crack Pie.  For a reason.  Another signature dessert from Milk Bar with a cult following.
Crack Pie Packaging.
Have you ever had a slice of pie served like this?  Yeah, I think they get a point for this packaging, designed to fit a slice of pie, without crushing it.

I've had many versions of crack pie in the past few years, as nearly every pastry chef I know has wanted to do a version of this, but somehow I hadn't ever had the "real" one.  So when a friend was visiting Milk Bar I asked him to grab me a slice ...
Crack Pie.
"Milk Bar’s Crack Pie® is a fan favorite! With a toasted oat crust and a gooey butter filling, Crack Pie® is impossible to resist. Christina Tosi first made crack pie® for family meal at both wd~50 and Momofuku (before Milk Bar’s doors opened!) and the cooks named it right then and there! It’s been on our menu ever since!" -- Original Description

"The iconic dessert was a happy accident born in the kitchen of wd~50 when there wasn’t much in the fridge. When Tosi served the simple, gooey pie (inspired by southern Chess Pie) at staff dinner, she never anticipated the reaction it got — and a signature pie was born! With a sticky, buttery, salty-sweet filling in a hearty oat cookie crust, Milk Bar Pie has been a Tosi favorite since the beginning." -- 2020 Description of new branding

So ... how was it?

Eh.  It was ... fine.  Sweet.  Decadent.  Buttery.  But it really wasn't special to me in any way, and I think I prefer many other versions I've had of it.  It was just sweet rich filling in a hard oat crust.  It was what it was.

I'm not sure why I didn't love it.  I tried it chilled, I tried it room temp.  I didn't try it warm, as I didn't have an oven (staying at a hotel in NY).  I didn't try it with whipped cream or ice cream, which is what I thought it really needed, since I didn't have that either.

It mostly made me sad, because I wanted to love it, and have loved so many other versions of it, how could I not love the real thing?

July 2019

In the summer of 2019 I spent a week in New York, visiting every soft serve place, and loving the incredible quality of New York specialty soft serve.  I'd be hard pressed to tell you my favorite, my #1 pick, to be honest.  So many fantastic options, each with their own merit.  But special call outs to Big Gay Ice Cream and ZOMG Soft Swerve (for the incredible Halo Halo soft serve).

I also did swing by Milk Bar, as the seasonal flavor was one I hadn't tried yet: Compost Cookie soft serve, made from their signature Compost Cookies.
Compost Cookie Soft Serve.
"We swirled our kitchen-sink cookie into this silky smooth creation, and we can’t stop sneaking samples. This bad boy is sweet, salty and only a spoonful away from depositing dessert dreams right into your mouth. Try him topped with our Compost Cookie Crunch (pretzels, potato chips, graham crackers, coffee, oats, butterscotch) for creamy, crunchy perfection."

Well, I'm glad I asked to try this first.  And I was given a generous sample.

I like the compost cookies, I like sweet and salty, I like soft serve, and I thought this would be a winner.

But ... it just didn't translate into a good item for me.

It was gritty, a texture I didn't care for, and tasted like ... oatmeal cookies.   I didn't taste any of the other components really.  I didn't find the sweet and salty nature, that makes the compost cookies so addicting.  Sadness.

So I simply purchased more sprinkles, yes, literally, several sides of sprinkles, and the staff always love me for this.  They truly are the best sprinkles I've ever had, and have never found anything like them elsewhere.

Original Review, May 2017

Momofuku Milk Bar.  In person.  Finally.  I've reviewed Momofuku Milk bar previously, when I ordered a cake for overnight delivery, and when Christina Tosi brought the amazing cookies to a book tour stop I went to, but, my only other in-person visits were years ago, before I had a blog, before I felt compelled to take photos of my food and share it all with you.

On my recent trip to New York, I finally visited a Milk Bar again in person ... twice in as many days.  I've had tons of the cookies before (once at a party in NY when a friend brought them, and several times on Christina Tosi's book tour when she brought them), but I hadn't been to a Milk Bar in person in about 7 years.  It was a cold, rainy night the first evening, but this didn't deter us from visiting, for the soft serve ice cream in particular.

The Setting

I visited two Milk Bars on this trip, the first time to Midtown, and the second to the newly opened Chelsea location.

The Milk Bar located in midtown is tiny.  There is no seating.  There is no counter on the side to stand and eat your treats.  There is just a register, a blackboard with the menu, and a wall with shelves of self-serve items on it, plus a little station for condiments for hot drinks.  We didn't know this before we arrived, but luckily the place was empty, so we were able to mill around and eat our treats out of the rain, even though there wasn't really space to do so.

The Chelsea location isn't much bigger, although it did have a single bench to sit on inside.
Blackboard Menu.
The menu is on a colorful blackboard, thoughtfully arranged and colored to make the best things stick out.  The illustrations were cute.
Packaged Cookies, Tins, Mixes.
As I said, the midtown store is tiny, with a row of shelves with baskets of individually wrapped self-serve cookies, tins of cookies, and assorted baking mixes.
Display Case.
Near the midtown register is a display case with all of the baked goods: cookies, klossies (gluten-free and vegan cookies), truffles, bombs (savory items), and crack pie.  The Chelsea location has a similar display, along the wall.   It was useful to see the items to have a sense of size and clearly know what you were ordering.  The location of the display was a bit unfortunate though, because you didn't see it until you got to the register, and the Chelsea version was even less useful, as it was past the register, and quite easy to miss.
Prep Area.
The food prep area at the midtown location, as you guessed it, was tiny.  The single worker took our orders, rang us up, and also filled all orders.  For cold, packaged items, he just grabbed them, and cookies were already self serve, but all drinks, ice cream, and shakes required assembly and he had a very small area to work in.  This area packed in a microwave, toaster oven, milkshake mixer, and of course, the soft serve machine, Electoro-Freeze brand.  I think the toaster oven is used to warm up cookies?

One diner ordered a hot chocolate, which I assure you, was not a pre-made mix.  It was made in a milkshake container, and I saw lots of fudge going into it.  It was even mixed using the milkshake stick, which resulted in an incredibly frothy consistency.

Service was good, but, we were the only customers and I'm not sure how well this tiny space would possibly handle an actual crowd.

Soft Serve

Momofuku Milk Bar soft serve ice cream.  Oh, yes.  This is why I was there, and, clearly an item that I cannot get shipped to me in San Francisco.

Most of the Milk Bar stores sell two flavors of soft serve: cereal milk™ and a second rotating flavor.  It was Coke Float the first day I visited, but my second visited happened to be on "Menu Change Day", where it was replaced with Sweet Potato Pie.  Milk Bar does not offer cones and has only one size of ice cream available (4 ounces), served in a little cup (ok, they also sell pints).  You can add a few toppings (sprinkles or chocolate chips for 25 cents, fudge or cornflake crunch for $0.75).  Not tons of choices here, and surprisingly, no crazy sundaes.  I really thought Milk Bar would be all about the toppings ... it seems like any of the cookies could be crumbled on top, or the truffles, or even just the milk crumb ingredients for the cookies ... but they keep it simple.

If you want to go decadent and creative, Milk Bar also makes a ton of different milkshakes using cereal milk as the base, with cornflakes, hot fudge, or coffee blended in, or, if you are even more crazy, with any of the truffles blended in.  I saw someone get a shake and must have been so obviously drooling over it that when it was finished and placed on the counter, she hesitated in grabbing it and asked, "I'm sorry, was this yours? Did you order it too?"  It really looked incredible.  They also make floats with cream soda, orange soda, or coke topped with soft serve.

It was absolutely freezing when I visited, and I was soaking wet from the rain, when I visited the first night, but I couldn't resist getting the soft serve anyway.  It is the thing of legends, for good reason.  And two nights later?  Sure, it wasn't raining, but, I couldn't resist trying the new flavor.
Cereal Milk™ Soft Serve with Sprinkles. 4 oz. $5.25.
"Made with milk, cornflakes, brown sugar and a pinch of salt, it tastes just like the milk at the bottom of a bowl of cornflakes!"

The first day I went for the signature Cereal Milk.

I wanted a topping, and I opted for sprinkles since I really do love sprinkles on soft serve.  They had rainbow only, and coated the bottom half of the ice cream only, certainly a different application than I've seen before (usually ice cream shops just roll an entire cone in sprinkles ...).  This did allow me to try the ice cream on its own first though, and didn't overwhelm like can sometimes happen with sprinkles.

The ice cream was ... yup, cereal milk.  It really did taste like cornflakes and sugary milk.  It was sweet and a bit corny.  The ice cream was creamy and not icy.  It was very good, very satisfying.  While sweet, it wasn't overwhelming, but you certainly did want to eat it slowly.

The sprinkles were ... amazing.  The best $0.25 I've spent in a long time!  Seriously, I don't know what it was about them, but they are not standard sprinkles.  As my friend said, "These are not just corn syrup, they taste like real sugar!"  I quickly ran out of sprinkles.  I had a few bites of the remaining ice cream without sprinkles, and decided that I really did like it better with sprinkles.  Sure, the ice cream was great on its own, but, I could splurge for $0.25 more of sprinkles.  So I slunk back up the counter, and asked if I could buy more sprinkles.  The server didn't even flinch, just found a small container, and filled it up with sprinkles, easily 5x what I received originally.  I went to hand over my shiny quarter, and he laughed and said it was fine.  Score!  I loved the sprinkles.

The little cardboard cup was an interesting serving choice for the ice cream.  It had little pull out handles which I actually liked, since it was cold, and holding the cold ice cream didn't help with my cold fingers.  So I think I liked this.  The wooden paddle for a spoon though I didn't really like, although I see the whimsy, a throw back to the little wooden paddles that come in packaged ice cream.

Overall, this was very good, and very satisfying, even on a cold wet day.  I can only imagine how great it is when actually warm out.  The $5 price certainly is high for a small ice cream, and I'll admit, it looks pretty small when you first get it, but, the flavor is so intense that it really is plenty.  I'd certainly get this flavor and topping again.
Sweet Potato Pie & Cereal Milk Twist with Sprinkles. $5.25.
"The most delicious take on the classic spun into a soft serve ice cream, topped with graham cracker crust and charred marshmallows! available as a twist with cereal milk™ soft serve!"

My second visit took place after dinner Momofuku Nishi.  We certainly could have ordered dessert there, where they did have soy crème brûlée that sounded right up my alley, but, when we walked by Milk Bar, just a few doors down, I saw the sign advertising the brand new Sweet Potato Pie flavor, and, well, there was no competition.

I walked in, and immediately asked to try a sample.  I know better than to just blindly order a flavor.  It tasted *exactly* like a pumpkin pie, or, I guess, a sweet potato pie.  It was well spiced, sweet, and creamy, although a bit runny and softer than what I had the previous visit.

It was great, but I decided to go for a twist with Cereal Milk, as I suspected that the flavors would compliment each other well, which they did.  Both flavors are pretty intense and sweet on their own, but somehow they balanced each out out quite nicely.

For toppings, to go alongside the new ice cream flavor they were introducing graham cracker crust and charred marshmallows, but, they weren't available yet.  These seem like much more fitting toppings than the standard corn flakes, chocolate chips or fudge, or even sprinkles, to go with the sweet potato pie base flavor.  I got sprinkles as a fallback, and they were fine, but didn't quite go with the sweet potato, as I suspected.

This time the ice cream came in a large see through plastic cup, and the sprinkles were poured on top.  An entirely different presentation than what I had in midtown.  Interestingly, the model on display used the little paper cup and only coated the bottom of the ice cream, just like I had at the previous location.  I'm not complaining about getting a much larger portion, or about it being easier to eat from a bigger sized cup, but I'm not really sure why it was different, particularly when someone after me got the regular little cup ...

Anyway, the ice cream flavor was fantastic, and I was very happy with my twist, although I would prefer a different topping.

Cake Truffles

I've had my eye on the cake truffles for quite a while.  I don't like cake really, but ... I do like cake pops, as the cake consistency is much different when blended with frosting, and cake truffles sound like a similar concept, sorta.  The truffles are cake mixed with a flavored milk and formed in a ball, coated in white chocolate, and then coated in some kind of crumb, available in multiple flavors.

Three flavors were available when I visited: chocolate malt (chocolate cake with malted milk and malt milk crumbs), pumpkin pie (pumpkin cake with pumpkin milk and "spiced pie" and graham cracker crumbs), and the classic b'day (vanilla rainbow cake with vanilla milk and rainbow cake sand).
b'day truffles.  3 pack for $4.35.
Truffles are sold in 3 packs or dozens, but all must be of the same variety.  (Plea to Milk Bar: pretty please make a sampler?)

The cookies were all self-serve, but the truffles were not, which surprised me, until I looked at the packaging (uh, several hours later) to find that they said to keep refrigerated.  Oops.
b'day truffle.
"Vanilla rainbow cake mixed with vanilla infused milk, coated with white chocolate and rolled in rainbow cake crumbs – it’s a birthday party in a bite!"

I went for the b'day, mostly because I don't trust pumpkin spice and I didn't want chocolate.

These things were intense.  A friend took one bite and said that single bite was plenty for him.  And I'll admit, just popping one of these on its own was a bit too much.   Soooo sweet.

By the way, if you'd like to make these yourself, you can find the recipe, including the sub recipes for the cake, the vanilla milk, and the birthday cake sand all online here.
b'day truffle: inside.
The truffle was just a ball of sweet, it is hard to describe much more than that.  I didn't really detect the different layers, it all was just overwhelming sweetness.  I guess there was slightly more smooth sweetness near the exterior from the white chocolate shell?

The inside texture was also really strange, it crumbled apart fairly easily.  It certainly wasn't moist and light like cake, but wasn't like a cake pop either.  The outside was coated in birthday cake "sand", which I now actually understand.  If you imagine cake as sand ... this is what it would be like.  A bit gritty, but not unpleasant.  So strange.

Sorry, I really fail at describing this, but, really, I just don't know how to do better.

I enjoyed the truffles, but, I didn't feel compelled to eat the through the whole 3 pack in one sitting.

The next morning however, I may have snuck one with my morning coffee.  This was perfect!  I kept my coffee black, and the bitter coffee and sweet truffle paired fantastically.  I think these would also be great crumbled on top of ice cream.  Or, of course, in an milkshake (which Milk Bar does make, I can only imagine it ... Cereal Milk blended with 3 of these! OMG, sweet overload).

I wish the truffles were sold in singles, since 3 at a time is quite an undertaking, and they require refrigeration.
Packaging for a dozen truffles.
Truffles are also sold by the dozen, and come packaged in a box.

When I ordered a cake for delivery from Milk Bar, (yes, you can have their products overnight mailed to you!), I also threw in an order of truffles, just in case there wasn't enough cake, or in case it got damaged, and, well, because I wanted to try another variety of truffles?

My flavor choices again included b'day or chocolate malt, but the seasonal pumpkin pie was replaced with another seasonal option: grasshopper pie.  I eagerly ordered a dozen.
Grasshopper Pie Cake Truffles (dozen). $18.
Inside the box was a tray with a slot for each truffle.  The slots barely held the truffles, as they really are not petite items.
Grasshopper Pie Cake Truffle.
"Brand new for this holiday season! Chocolate chip cake mixed with mint cheesecake, coated in white chocolate and rolled in chocolate crumbs!"

This flavor excited me.  Chocolate chip.  Cheesecake.  Mint.  White chocolate.  Crumbs.  So many good things, and all ones that did sound like they'd combine pretty well.

The coating on this was much more extensive than on the b'day - a thicker layer of big chunks of chocolate crumb, compared to the rainbow cake crumbs, which were really more like a dust.  It kinda looked like crushed up Oreo, and tasted that way too.  I found the coating a bit too chalky for my taste, but, note, I don't really like Oreos.
Grasshopper Pie Cake Truffle: Inside.
Like with the b'day truffle, I couldn't really find the white chocolate layer, but I trust it was there.

Inside was not quite what I was expecting.  This looked much like the b'day, light brown, and I didn't see any chips.  Wasn't this supposed to be chocolate chip cake and mint cheesecake?  Hmmm.  I'm still not sure where the chips were.

The center was again a bit of a strange texture, but I was prepared for that this time.  And it was very sweet, again, I was prepared for that.  It was slightly minty, and I liked the minty contrast with the chocolate crumbs.  But ... I didn't detect anything cheesecake-like.  And obviously, no chocolate chips.  This seemed more like a mint blondie filling than anything else.

Overall, I didn't care for these.  I liked the mint, but, everything else didn't come together for me, and the generous chocolate cake crumb coating ruined the finish for me.
Momofuku Milk Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato