Friday, March 29, 2013

Gone Nuts!

As part of my recent snack foods addiction, I haven't just been gorging on chips and popcorn.  Ok, I kinda have, but every once in a while I also go for nuts, in attempt to have some protein.  I still haven't found any nuts I love as much as the Hail Merry ones, but these weren't bad.

Gone Nuts! makes a large variety of mixes, including all types of nuts and seeds: walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, brazil nuts, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, pepitas, and more.  The flavor variety is equally vast, ranging from spicy cajun lemon pepper to savory spinach pesto to balanced thai curry to sweeter varieties with chocolate and dried fruit.  Of course the sweet ones caught my eye.

The nuts are all either raw or sprouted, never roasted.  They are organic.  Sweetened with agave.  Those things don't matter as much to me as taste, but they are all positive attributes.

These didn't blow me away, but I'd consider trying some of their other varieties.
White Chocolate Cashews, Almonds & Cacao Nibs.
Of course these were the ones I went for.   Described as "Reminiscent of a white chocolate chip cookie" or a "decedent sweet and creamy flavor of raw cashews and sprouted almonds coated with premium clear agave nectar, coconut powder, cacao butter and mesquite pod meal."

There is nothing about these that reminded me of a white chocolate chip cookie.  They weren't bad, but I'd never imagine them that way.

The mix was primarily cashews, which I was disappointed by.  I don't hate cashews, but I don't love them.  I would guess that it was 80% cashews, with only a few almonds in my entire bag.  The nuts were all coated in a slightly sweet agave coating, but it was really minimally sweet.  The rest of the flavors were pretty interesting; I liked the coconut flavor, and the subtle cocoa flavor.  The crunch from the cocoa nibs added a little more texture.  But I really struggled to find any "white chocolate" flavor.

These really weren't anything like I was expecting, and I really hated them at first.  "Where is my white chocolate?" I thought, followed by, "Meh, cashews". I pretty quickly threw them into Ojan's snack pile.  But a few days later, they were still sitting there, so I tried them again.  And once I accepted them for what they were, I liked them much more.  And moved them back to my own pile belly.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Macarons from Sugarie

You know how much I love baked goods.  And I eat a lot of cookies.  Yet somehow, macarons have never been my favorite.  Not that I dislike them, but I usually would prefer something else, and I've never really understood why people obsess about them.

Until that is, I discovered Sugarie, at my local Williams-Sonoma's artisan's market.  These are by far the best macarons I've ever had in my life.  Far better than the much publicized ones from Top Chef: Just Dessert's winner Yigit Pura's Tout Sweet.  Better than the ones from the slew of La Boulange cafes all over the city.  But ... they are located in San Mateo, and don't have a storefront.  Luckily, I found out they are also sold at Cako in San Francisco.

Go get them.  Now.
Assorted Macarons.
These are the best macarons I've ever had.  In every variety I tried, the cookies were very good, the texture just right, delicate.  And all of the fillings are intensely flavorful.
  • Blueberry Champagne: Nice sweet filling, great blueberry flavor.
  • Black Sesame Banana: Strong banana flavor, sweet, good, nice pairing against the black sesame. [ Great banana flavor, not something I ever thought I'd want in a macaron, but perfect pairing. ]
  • Dark Chocolate Peppermint: Great mint flavor, nice dark chocolate.
  • Pecan Maple: Absolutely amazing flavor.  I love pecan pie.  I love maple syrup.  I was raised on those things :)  And this had all of those familiar flavors, packaged up into a perfect little bite.  So delicious.  My favorite.
  • Salted Caramel: Tons of salt, really great caramel flavor, very good.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Axis Cafe

Almost two years ago, I attended a friend's wedding reception at Axis Cafe.  Then I promptly completly forgot about the venue, until I saw that they were listed on LevelUp.  They operate as a regular cafe during the week, and are open for brunch on weekends, but then offer a private event space on weekend nights.

The space is fairly memorable, particularly the outdoor back garden.  A large area, complete with heat lamps, fairly unique in San Francisco.  They also have interesting seating inside, with a fireplace in the middle of the room, surrounded by couches.  On one visit, there were no tables available, so they seated us on the couches.  It was slightly awkward to eat at the couches, but a really fun, casual, atmosphere, almost like being in a friend's living room.

The LevelUp experience however was not good.  Their phone was not charged, and so we had to wait at least 5 minutes while they charged it up, powered it on, etc.  Had it been one of my first times using LevelUp, I would not be a repeat customer.  It is too bad, because it is not LevelUp's fault that businesses handle it so poorly.

Anyway.  The food wasn't very good at the wedding, nor on my other visits.  I won't be going back.
Mac & Cheese, side order,  take out. $4.
This was incredibly unremarkable mac and cheese.  Perhaps remarkable in how banal it was.  The macaroni was cooked well enough, a little over, but that seems more acceptable in mac and cheese than in a regular pasta dish.  There was melted orange (cheddar?) cheese on top, and the sauce was creamy and white.  It looked so promising.  But, there was no flavor to it at all.  There was clearly cheese there, but I honestly didn't taste it.  There was also no seasoning.  And no breadcrumbs or anything.  Totally and completely banal.

A decent portion size for $4, but I would not get this again.
Almond French Toast, Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese, Roasted Yellow Peach, Vermont Syrup. $10.
On another occasion, we chose to dine-in.

I'm a sucker for good french toast, but so often am disappointed   I want it to be thick slices, eggy and custardy on the inside, caramelized and crispy on the outside.  And bonus points for delicious compotes, sauces, fruits, nuts, etc to go with.  The most memorable version I've ever had still comes from Baker & Banker: a french toast bread pudding with stewed apples and quince, crème fraîche whipped cream, and candied pecans.  ZOMG that was good stuff.

Anyway, 7x7 recently published an article about the top 7 french toasts in San Francisco, and the Axis Cafe version was on there.  So I had to try it.

It was better than it looked, but not that great.

The bread was brioche, my favorite choice for french toast.  And it was thick slices, another winning point.  However, it wasn't very eggy and not at all custardy.  There was some subtle cinnamon spicing. It did have a lovely caramelized seared crust on the bottom, a good touch.

It was coated in almond slivers, which added some crunch and nice flavor. Then there were thin slices of roasted peaches.  They were soft and might have been nice, but were completely flavorless.  Peaches are not in season.  Why is anyone serving peaches in November?  They should have been switched out for pears, persimmons, or apple compote months ago.

Next was the vanilla bean cream cheese.  I wasn't a fan.  I love a cream component with my french toast.  Whipped cream, crème fraîche, crème anglaise ... bring it.  And I like cream cheese, and often lament that it is strangely reserved for bagels most of the time.  I use flavored cream cheeses on waffles all the time.  And cream cheese stuffed french toast can be pretty tasty.  But this just didn't work for me.  Perhaps it would be better if it was a whipped variety?  It just had a strange mouthfeel, no real vanilla flavor.  I think the dish would have been far more successful with something else in its place.

We were also provided with a little pitcher of real maple syrup.  Not high quality, but at least distinguishable from corn syrup based pancake syrup.

Overall, not horrible, but not worth getting again.  $10 price was fine.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Jamba Juice

A few years ago, for health reasons, I was forced onto a liquids-only diet for several months.  Let's just say I consumed a LOT of smoothies.  As a result, I kinda hate them.

Of course, during my time, I tried a bunch from the most famous smoothie chain around: Jamba Juice.  I didn't really like any, but, I also was pretty seriously hating on smoothies by that point.  I'm not sure I can give an unbiased opinion on this one ...
Peanut Butter Moo'd.  $4.45.
This is from the "Creamy Treats" section of the menu, made with vanilla frozen yogurt, chocolate, bananas, soy milk, and peanut butter.  Perhaps one of the most indulgent things on the menu, so of course it is what jumped out at me!

The consistency was decent, like a slightly-more-blended-than-usual milk shake.  It didn't separate or get weird as time passed.  It had a slight chocolate flavor, balanced out by some banana flavor, and some peanut butter than came through on the finish.  Overall though, the flavors didn't pop.  I really wanted to taste the chocolate, or the peanut butter, or even the banana more, they all just somewhat masked each other.

I got this as a "Last Days of Summer" promotion where all smoothies were $1, so that was very good price.  $4.45 seems a little pricy, but in line with all of their other drinks.  I wouldn't get this again.

[ No Photos ]


  • Banana Berry: "Bananas, Nonfat Frozen Yogurt, Blueberries, Raspberry Sherbet" :  Tasting notes: too sweet, too yogurty, too thick (with soy protein boost) [ Not too much banana, fairly refreshing, not bad ]
  • Berry Bitten (Special for Twilight promotion).  "Mixed berry juice, raspberry sherbet, strawberries, blueberries, frozen yogurt, ice."  Tasting notes: This was nicely balanced, sweet and tart, and fairly refreshing!
  • Mango Mantra Light: Tasting notes: My mom got this one, I tried a taste.  It was not as sweet as the others, kinda ok.  They seem to have discontinued it.
  • Orange Dream Machine: "Nonfat Frozen Yogurt, Soymilk, Orange sherbet."  Tasting notes: best so far, not a classic smoothie though (aka, no fruit, just juice/soy/yogurt/sherbet - indulgent!)  More of a dessert, for sure.  It was even decent put in cooler and finished later.  Reminded me of a creamsicle.
  • Peach Pleasure: "Orange Sherbert, Peaches, Bananas." Tasting notes: way too sweet, like most of their drinks. Do not like. [ Sweet, but not too sweet.  Decent flavors.  ]
  • Pomegranate Pick Me Up: "Blueberries, strawberries, pomegranate juice concentrate, raspberries, greek yogurt." Tasting notes: nice tarness to balance out the sweetness. [ Really nicely blended and icy, but way too sweet. ]
  • Pumpkin Smash (Seasonal).  "Real pumpkin blended with frozen yogurt and a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg".  Tasting notes: nicely blended, subtle pumpkin flavor, subtle soy.  Nutmeg really came through.  Not something I'd really want a full drink of, but tasty for a few sips.

Packaged Drinks

  • Tropical Mango O.N.E. Coconut Water: Tasting notes: blech. Do not like the mango flavor at all, can't taste the coconut water!


  • Brie, Apple & Sweet Fig Sandwich: "Brie Cheese, Apple Pieces and Fig Spread on Sliced Raisin Bread".  Tasting notes: The bread was mushy, and the brie was somehow flavorless.  I didn't taste the fig spread.  The apple was soft and the only part that tasted decent.
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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bees and Beans Chocolates

This year, as always, I attended the Good Food Awards Marketplace at the Ferry Building, where many of the artisans who won awards presented their winning goods.

The Good Food Awards span many delicious categories, including cheese, charcuterie, pickles, preserves, spirits, beer, coffee, confections, and a personal favorite of mine: chocolate.  Bees and Beans offered up my favorite chocolate, a mint bar.  I liked it so much, that I purchased one to bring home.  I'd say it was my favorite bite of the day, but I think that honor really goes to the delicious Bourbon Chicken Liver Mousse I discovered in the charcuterie section.  Drool.
Mint Bar.  $5.
Described as: "70% Dark chocolate shell filled with Oregon mint cream fondant".

Tasting notes from the event: The mint flavor was incredibly strong and the fondant was really creamy.  The dark chocolate shell was high quality.  It was everything you've ever wanted out of a mint and chocolate combination, better than any peppermint patty, Thin Mint, etc.

So, I bought this one, since I loved it so much at the tasting.  When I had the full size bar at home however, I didn't like it nearly as much.  The dark chocolate was ok, but not memorable.  The real change was the filling, it wasn't creamy at all, very thick.  It was still intensely mint flavored, but I wouldn't rave about it like I originally did.  Boo.  Not sure what was different, I ate it pretty immediately, so it isn't like it had gotten stale ...