Friday, January 04, 2013


Q. Bel is a small company that produces treats without the use of HFCS, artificial ingredients, etc.  They offer several varieties, but all involve wafers and chocolate, either as rolls or bars.  I've tried some of the rolls, but lost my tasting notes on them, so below I have notes only on the wafer bars.

I really loved the sound of these products, but I didn't like them very much.  I appreciate the healthier spin on things, the use of quality ingredients and whole grain wafers, but the taste wasn't there for me.
Peanut Buttery Whole Grain Crispy Wafers.
Enrobed with 36% milk chocolate   These were sadly only ok.  I like chocolate and peanut butter, but these didn't totally do it for me.   It was kinda crappy chocolate, there was not enough peanut butter, and the wafer was boring.
Double Dark Chocolate Wafer Bars.
Enrobed with 70% dark chocolate. The wafer was again just a boring wafer.  The filling inside was creamy chocolate.  The entire thing was enrobed in dark chocolate.  This was ok, but not as good as it sounds.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Blissful Brownies

A co-worker received a shipment of Blissful Brownies.  They are mail order brownies, but fancy ones.  All made to order and then shipped out immediately.  Made from quality Guittard chocolate.

I tried several varieties, but didn't really love any of them.  Clearly steps above store bough packaged brownies, but for me, nothing really compares to a fresh out of the oven brownie, so I can't imagine ever really wanting them.
Individual Brownies, $4 each.
The brownies are all huge, 5 ounces each, wrapped up in individual bags, and tied with a string.  I tried several varieties:
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter: "A layer of creamy all natural peanut butter runs through the middle of this rich chocolate creation. "  Tasting notes: This was the first one I tried.  It had a very generous peanut butter ribbon inside, not just a little swirl.  I give it credit for delivering on the peanut butter, but it wasn't particularly creamy.  The brownie itself wasn't all that moist, fairly unremarkable, although I liked the chocolate chips in it.  I heated a second piece up in the toaster oven, and enjoyed it much more that way, as it got gooier, and I paired it with some ice cream.  Brownie sundae time!  Favorite of those I tried, and the only one Ojan liked.
  • German Chocolate: "Classic Chocolate brownies, topped with a rich, caramel crust that’s loaded with fresh coconut and pecans".  Tasting notes: I hated the topping.  It was crusty and strange.  I love coconut and pecans so I expected to love this, but I really really disliked it.  Least favorite by far.  Ojan wouldn't even take a second bite.
  • Peppermint Candy: Tasting notes: I liked the bits of peppermint, but these brownies just don't do it for me, particularly when cold.  I liked it more when I warmed it with ice cream of course.  Second favorite, but not notable.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Modern Thai

I've posted many times about GoPago, an application that allows you to order food in advance via your phone.  Since you do it before you arrive, you skip the lines and dealing with payment, and just get your food and go (go-pay-go, get it?).  They've run a number of campaigns with free credits in the system, and I've used these as inspiration to try out places I've never been before.  Between GoPago and LevelUp (a payment via phone app), I've discovered a bunch of new places in San Francisco.

Anyway, after living in Sydney for a few months, one cuisine I'm always craving, and still haven't found a good place for in San Francisco, is Thai.  I've had some decent enough meals, but still haven't found a place that really makes me want to go back.  I've kinda stopped trying new places, but I found that I'm willing to be more risky when there is less actual "cost" associated with trying a place.  If I hate it, and I haven't spent money on it, it somehow feels less bad.  And if I love it, awesome, I can add another place to my go-to list!  So, armed with Ojan and his GoPago credits, we set out to try a new Thai restaurant.  I researched every single Thai place listed in the app, and settled on Modern Thai.

We placed our order via Ojan's phone when we were about 10 minutes away, thinking that would be about the right amount of time for them to prepare the order.  I got nervous when we didn't get back the "Your order has been received" message.  Were they actually open?  It was New Year's Eve day after all, and many places were closed, and I'd run into problems in the past on holidays when GoPago systems were online, but businesses were closed.  By the time we reached the restaurant, we still hadn't received a confirmation, but their open sign was illuminated.  We walked in, and I said we'd placed an order via GoPago.  The cashier/bartender/server then went over to a machine, which was covered up.  It wasn't making the customary dinging noise.  She said she hadn't noticed the order come in.  Hmm, perhaps they don't get many GoPago orders?  This rather defeated the purpose of using GoPago, since we now had to wait.  She also had us sign a receipt, which I've never had to do before.  I'm glad this wasn't my first time using GoPago, as this experience turned out to be more annoying than beneficial.  I promised Ojan this wasn't normal.

Since we had to wait, I took the opportunity to take in the restaurant.  It was brightly decorated with lime green walls.  The bathroom and tables seemed clean enough.  Tables had little vases of fresh flowers, a surprising touch.  There were cloth tablecloths, but they were covered with plastic covers.  A paper napkin and lightweight fork were laid out for each place setting.  It was fairly empty, and the single server was running the entire place.  They also seemed to do a decent takeout business.

My favorite part was the music playing lightly in the background: piano versions of pop songs.  They had me with a classical version of "My Heart Will Go On".  I spent my entire wait looking forward to hearing what would come on next.

I'm glad I tried another Thai restaurant in San Francisco, but sadly, Modern Thai is going to go the way of pretty much everywhere else I've tried, filed away in the list of places I've been, and would go back to if someone really wanted to, but isn't remarkable enough to really warrant a return visit.  Still searching for good thai ...
Pad Se Ew, chicken: Stir fried flat rice noodles, egg, garlic, broccoli,  Chinese broccoli, carrots, and black bean sauce.  $9.
Since I was sharing with Ojan, and he can't have spicy food, we went for something that can be good even when not spicy: Pad Se Ew.  And since it was his credits we were using, I had him pick the protein.  We had the choice of chicken, beef, pork, or tofu (or shrimp for $2 more).  I'm not crazy about any of these, and he picked chicken.

I'm not sure when it happened exactly, but sometime in the past year, I've kinda started hating chicken.  I know, I know, chicken is so inoffensive, what is there to hate?  Sure, no one is crazy about chicken, but who hates it? Me.  I just can't stand its chicken-y taste.  Anyway, this chicken was good enough for chicken, tender white meat, but ugh, it was chicken.  I can't blame Modern Thai for this though.

For veggies there were unremarkable ripple cut carrots, broccoli chunks with longish stems, and a few tiny bits of Chinese broccoli.  I would have preferred no American broccoli and more Chinese brocoli, and perhaps some cabbage as well, but the veggies were decent enough, well cooked with the American broccoli and carrots being slightly al dente, and the Chinese broccoli nicely wilted.

The noodles were also decently executed, not too fried, not too mushy, not clumped together.  Not remarkable, but not bad.  There was also a bit of fried egg, which I liked, it wasn't too tough.

The sauce was on the weak side, without much flavor.  It was also a bit greasy.

It did arrive piping hot, clearly freshly made.  Bonus points for that.

Overall, this was fine, nothing to really complain about, but not great either.  The portion was quite sizable, and two of us couldn't even finish it.  For $9, it was a very generous serving.
Modern Thai on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

La Mar Cebicheria

I recently decided I wanted to explore more Peruvian food, as I've been in the mood for raw (or, raw-ish) light seafood dishes.  I started my journey at the closest place to my house with decent reviews: La Mar.

It is a beautiful space, right on the Embarcadero.  Prices are high, and unfortunately, not because they are serving quality food.  I think it falls in the category of expensive waterfront dining due to location alone.  Overall, probably not worth going back to.

The service was pretty horrible. We were seated a very long time (10 mins+?) and had no one pay any attention to us, even though waiters (different ones) came multiple times to the tables on either side.  In the end, we had to actually flag down someone, who wasn't our server, to finally pay attention to us.  At the end, once we had already asked for the check, another 10 mins or so went by, and then our waiter came by to ask if we wanted more food or dessert.  On the plus side, our water glasses were always refilled immediately.

Overall, I thought the seafood was pretty horrible, but the chips and sauces were good enough that I'd go back if others wanted to.  Perhaps just for drinks and chips.
"Chips and Salsa" . Complimentary.
After you order, you get their take on "chips and salsa".  This was all pretty tasty, and I do love chips and dip!

The chips were a mix of plantain, sweet potato, kennebec potato.   The sweet potato chips were definitely the highlight, with a really good sweet potato flavor.  The plantain ones were nice and crispy but lacking much flavor.  The potato chips were just decent fresh potato chips.

But the highlight was definitely the dipping sauces, housemade huancaina and rocoto sauces.  The rocoto sauce is the red one, made from rocoto peppers, onion, tomato, garlic, oil, and soda crackers.  It had a nice spicy kick to it and was pretty addicting.  The huancaina is a creamy yellow sauce made from ají amarillo, queso fresco, milk, and oil.  It was a little boring in comparison  but it quickly grew on me.  I couldn't stop eating these!

I almost want to go back, just for more of this! :)
Causa Tasting Platter.  $24.
These were interesting.  I'd never had causas before.  The bottom is a potato cake made from compressed mashed potatoes, oil, and peppers. It may look fairly solid, but it breaks down into mashed potato very easily.  They are then topped with assorted seafood fillings, and sauces.  The toppings weren't all that great, but again, the sauces were fantastic.

These sounded like something I would love: mashed potatoes, seafood, and great sauces? But I originally didn't really care for them.  I liked the mashed potato and the sauces obviously, but they just weren't coming together for me until I had a stroke of genius: use the appetizer chips as a scoop and these as a dip!  I'm sure I offended tons of Peruvians, but I really enjoyed it this way.  Yes, potato chips covered in mashed potato and dipping sauce with a little bit of seafood topping ... delicious!

I still wouldn't go out of my way for these again, and $24 seemed pretty pricy considering the fairly low quality of the seafood and the fact that we were mostly eating mashed potatoes ...

(From top left, clockwise)

Causa Limeña: "Dungeness crab on top of a yellow potato causa with avocado purée, quail egg, cherry tomatoes, ají amarillo Huancaína sauce and basil cilantro oil."  This was decent, but had too much mayo-like sauce mixed in with the crab that made it pretty impossible to even taste the crab.  I wanted to enjoy the crab!

Causa Camarón: "Sweet and spicy poached shrimp and fried onions on top of Rocoto potato with leche de tigre aioli."  Again, too much mixer stuff, so I didn't really taste the shrimp, or get shrimp consistency, or really notice it there at all.  The aoili was delicious though!

Causa Casera: "Yellow potato causa, artichokes, asparagus, avocado and tomato confit with basil cilantro oil."  The veggie mix was flavorful, and this one worked very, very well as a chip topping! The sauce was absolutely delicious.  My favorite of all of the causas.

Causa Nikei: "Tuna tartar and avocado purée, on top of Rocoto potato, with creamy rocoto Huancaína sauce topped with Japanese nori."  I could sorta taste the tuna, but it wasn't very good.

[ Not Pictured ]
Cebiche Mixto.  $15.

I have no idea what happened to the photo of this.  Whoops.

They offer a variety of cebiches, as it is the national dish of Peru, and their signature dish.

We picked the mixto, a mix of yellowtail from Mexico, calamari, and shrimp in ají amarillo leche de tigre with cilantro, red onion, habanero, with Peruvian corn and yam.  It was really bad.  The yellowtail was incredibly fishy and mealy, the calamari was rubbery, and the shrimp was chewy and fishy.  Ojan claims that he had some good bites and that the real issue here was just inconsistency.  I guess I'm just spoiled with sushi grade seafood regularly?  This was just not good at all!

I did like the yam in it, as it was very flavorful.  And the peruvian corn was interesting, I like it more than American corn.  But the quality of the seafood was so low, that I would never get this again, and can't believe it was $15 for a fairly small portion.  This dish alone made me not want to really go back.

[ Originally posted Jan 2, 2012 ]
La Mar Cebicheria Peruana on Urbanspoon