Friday, January 24, 2014

Peanut Butter & Co

Have I ever reviewed peanut butter before? No.  But I love the stuff.

I like peanut butter flavored everything, but even just a jar of peanut butter makes me pretty happy. There is so much you can do with it!  I love to dunk banana or plantain chips in it.  Or slather a fresh banana with it.  Or put it in a classic PB&J sandwich with my mom's homemade strawberry jam, or even better, in a grilled peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwich.  Or warm it up and drizzle over ice cream.  Or slather it on popcorn cakes with some honey.  The possibilities are endless!  Give me a tub of peanut butter, and I'll find a way to use it in crazy combinations with just about anything in my pantry.  Oh, have I mentioned warming up marshmallows and peanut butter and stirring them together? Delicious, and one of my favorite creations!

I usually just grind my own fresh peanut butter (or almond butter) at Whole Foods.  That way, I can get a small quantity, which keeps my crazy peanut butter consumption in check.  But I'd been hearing a lot about the peanut butters from Peanut Butter & Co, so I finally got a jar.

Peanut Butter & Co. started as a shop in New York.  They have a menu that centers around, you guessed it, peanut butter.  A huge section of the menu is devoted to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, in just about every variety you can imagine.  They start with classic pb&j, add on some Fluff or Nutella, but then move into "gourmet" sandwiches like a Thai satay inspired one with chicken and pineapple jam.  If you are looking for other childhood favorites, you can stray away from the PB and go for bologna and cheese or a tuna melt.  Or you can go straight for dessert, where peanut butter is always a star: peanut butter cookies, peanut butter brownies, peanut butter pie, or a slew of sundaes.

Anyway, I've never been to their shop, but they offer a bunch of peanut butter flavors in retail stores across the country.  They make it regular (creamy or crunchy of course), but also a bunch of interesting varieties: chocolatey, spicy, cinnamon raisin, or sweetened with things like honey or maple.

Spoiler: this is the best peanut butter I've ever had.  I'm shameless, and eat it by the spoonful.
White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter.
This is the flavor that I kept reading about.  Everyone raved about it.  I've never thought of combining white chocolate and peanut butter before, but I love the peanut butter and Fluff combo, so I thought it might be similar.

The peanut butter is creamy, with a tiny bit of grittiness.  It is sweet, but in an interesting way.  The most compelling component is the vanilla that comes through on the finish.

I love this peanut butter on just about everything.  I like dunking banana chips in it.  Or salty snacks, like the sea salt flavored Popcorners (I know this sounds weird, but I really like it).  One of my ultimates is making like sandwiches out of yogurt covered pretzels with this peanut butter in-between.  That is my ultimate late night indulgence!  It is also incredibly delicious just by the spoonful, out of the jar, no shame.  The only application I haven't loved it in is classic PB & J, since my mom's homemade jam is already so sweet it feels like overkill.

Anyway.  Best peanut butter ever.  Get it.  Now.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Vive la Tarte

I recently attended a morning event featuring baked goods and fruit from Vive la Tarte.  This was my first encounter with them.

A local SF bakery, they use all organic local ingredients, like butter from Straus Family Creamery, and milk, cream, eggs from Clover.  I enjoyed everything, and would love to try more of their products, particularly the very fascinating sounding sweet potato, pumpkin, and chestnut tart I saw on their menu!
Croissant Au Beurre, Pain au Chocolat. $3.25 
To start, croissants!

I didn't try the plain croissant au beurre, but it was golden and really flaky looking.

Instead I went for the pain au chocolat.  Why have a plain croissant when you can have a chocolate one? :)

Again, really golden on the outside, flaky on the inside.  Decent dark chocolate filling.  Not mind blowing, but good.

I don't know what these were called officially, but they were swirls of croissant dough, filled with raisins and a sweet filling, covered in powdered sugar.

This was my favorite.  Crispy, flaky croissant dough was standard enough, and I actually don't like raisins much, but I loved how the sweet filling spilled out and got somewhat caramelized.  Sweet and delicious overall.
Tropical Fruit Salad.  $3.75.
And, some fruit to make myself feel like I was actually getting SOME nutrients ...

"Freshly sliced organic fruits with a zest of lime and young mint leaves. "

The fruit was a mix of mango, kiwi, and pineapple.  They were all astonishingly good, really ripe, really fresh.  The little essence of lime and mint was nice too.  This was honestly some of the best fruit I've had in months, really surprisingly given that it was all tropical, not local, fruit.

Not pictured is the fresh squeezed orange juice.  It was also really good!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Another Try at Modern Thai

I really want to like Modern Thai.  I visited once about a year ago, drawn in by a promotion with the now defunct GoPago.  I had one of my favorites, pad se ew, and wasn't impressed.  It wasn't awful, but it wasn't that good.  I quickly forgot about the restaurant.

Then, I won a contest with, and had some credits to spend on takeout or delivery.  I don't normally do much research on takeout food, so I was a bit stumped.  As I looked at my options, I was again drawn in by Modern Thai, as they had decent reviews, and the menu sounded good.

So, I returned.  Alas, my visit went about the way of my first.  Everything was pretty mediocre, and I don't think I'll return.  I really wanted to like it though, as it is a cute place, and seems very family run.
Thai Iced Tea with Tapioca. $4.25.
I've recently been on a bubble tea craze.  I can't seem to get enough of it.  But ... my body hasn't been such a fan of soy lately (sorry, TMI, I know), so I've been looking for alternatives, since most bubble tea shops use non-dairy creamer, which is soy based.  So when I saw that Modern Thai allowed you to add tapioca to their Thai iced tea, I was all in.  I could still get a cold, creamy, sweet drink with tapioca (yes, this alone is what made me decide to order from Modern Thai, not the actual food).

I love Thai iced tea, particularly on a hot day, so it sounded perfect.  The tea itself was good, not too sweet, flavorful, pretty standard.  But, there wasn't nearly enough ice, and it melted within seconds, leaving me with not only no ice, but also with a barely lukewarm drink.  If I'd stayed to eat in the restaurant, I would have requested more ice.  I almost considered turning around and asking for more, but I was already a few blocks away before I realized how badly I needed it.

But I got this for the tapioca, not the tea itself.  There was a generous amount.  But ... far too soft.  And given the fact that the tea was warm, they stayed really soft.  I imagine if the drink had more ice in it, they may have firmed up a bit, and would have been fine.  Or, perhaps they were fine before the hot tea was added.  Either way, they were just soft and mushy, like the ones from Little Garden and I was highly disappointed.

Overall, decent tea, but the lack of ice and the mushy boba made it a non-winner.  I wouldn't get again.  $4.25 is a slightly high price for a drink too, even with tapioca (extra $1 for that).  I ordered on Seamless, but amusingly, the drink was listed as $3.95 on Eat24.  Not sure why the prices are different, and in this case it was a small amount, but read on for more crazy pricing ...
Coconut Shrimp.  $9.50.
A few weeks ago, I had coconut shrimp at an event, and I loved them.  I've been craving them ever since.  So, when I saw coconut shrimp on the menu, I knew what I was ordering.  Described as "deep-fried marinated shrimp coated with shredded coconut and served with sesame soy sauce."

So, I have a thing for wanting my food hot and fresh.  This is why I never get delivery.  Or takeout really.  But since I had credits on to use up, I had no choice.  So I set my pickup time, and arrived 20 minutes early.  I assumed this would mean that I'd be there the moment it came out of the kitchen, so it would be hot and fresh.  Unfortunately, when I arrived, my order was already ready, and it was lukewarm.  Sigh.

The order came as 6 shrimp, each on a skewer.  When I opened the box, all I could smell was oil.  They were sooo greasy.  I know they were deep fried, but they really didn't seem drained well enough. The oil flavor took over everything.  I know there was crispy coconut on the outside, but all I could taste was oil.  And, not good oil.  Quite the fail.

I did appreciate that the box had a hole poked in the lid so the steam would escape and the outside would remain crisp.  And the shrimp weren't rubbery or anything.  But the oil ... yeah.

The sauce was a simple sesame soy sauce, it was fine, but what I really wanted was sweet chili sauce.  This dish was more disappointing than the bubble tea, but partially my own fault, as I went into it with hopes that it would be something else.

$9.50 for 6 shrimp seemed a bit high, but like the tea, the price was lower on Eat24, only $8.50.  Why a full dollar cheaper there?  Does Eat24 take less of a cut perhaps?  I haven't seen inconsistent pricing like this before.  Anyway, wouldn't get again.
Black Sweet Rice with Mango. $7.
And finally, dessert.

You know by now that I'm a dessert girl.  And at Thai restaurants, my favorite is always mango with sticky rice.

It is a bit funny, as I don't like rice generally.  But sticky rice?  I love it.

The rice was still a little warm, nice and sticky.  Like Bang San Thai, they use a black rice rather than white, which I always like a bit more.  Decent enough.  Sprinkled on top with a generous amount of sesame seeds.

My mango half seemed like it had been freshly sliced, but it wasn't that ripe or flavorful.  Not that I expect good mango in the US anyway.

There was a tiny, tiny amount of coconut milk sauce.  You can see in the photo how little there was, and how it was very thin and watery.  This was the most disappointing aspect, as I usually love that component in my mango sticky rice desserts.

So, overall, best dish I've had from Modern Thai, but certainly not remarkable, and not worth returning for.  $7 price was a little high for the portion, and like everything else, it was inconstantly cheaper on Eat24, $6.50.  Bang San Thai's pretty equal version was only $4 and Thai House 530's much larger portion was also $7, for comparison.
Modern Thai on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 20, 2014

Taro Slush from Quickly

Ok, I admit it, I have an obsession.  I'm currently obsessed with taro bubble teas, in all variations.  It started a year or so ago with a simple taro milk tea with tapioca from Quickly, and then I upped the ante with a taro milk tea with taro pudding from Quickly, and then sorta forgot about taro teas, after a disappointing one from Out The Door.  But then I had the taro smoothie with tapioca from Miss Saigon, which was a creation entirely of its own, and delicious.  So I went back to standard taro bubble teas, trying a fairly mediocre one from Little Garden, and both hot and cold versions with assorted jellies from Chai Yo.  I crave them all the time now.

There are Quickly shops all over the city, always calling out at me with their bubbles teas.  This particular visit was my first to Dak Win, in the Mission, not exactly where one normally goes for bubble tea, I know.  Dak Win is actually a Chinese restaurant that seems to just happen to also carry Quickly products.  I don't know anything about the restaurant, I just know that they have Quickly, and they are available on Eat24, so you can order ahead and pick it up, or, if really needing your bubble tea fix, you could even have it delivered.  Seriously, Quickly delivered?  OMG.  Danger. Danger.

This time, I decided to mix it up again, and not just get a standard taro bubble tea.  No, I didn't just choose a different flavor of jelly or size of tapioca, I decided to try a "slush" rather than a bubble tea.  I've wondered the difference between a regular bubble tea, a slush, and a snow for a long time, but haven't wanted to mix it up, in fear that it would disappoint.  I knew that the slush would be more blended, but besides that, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into.  The description just said "Slush (icy)".  I also had no idea how it differed from the "snow", which unhelpfully said "Snow (soy smoothie)".  If you know the real definitions of these, please enlighten me!
Taro Slush, with Tapioca.  $3.
My order was ready promptly, in the standard Quickly packaging.  I selected my favorite straw color, and quickly made my way out into the sunshine to enjoy my icy drink.

As expected, it was basically just a blended up bubble tea.  The same taro powder, milk powder, and ice, only instead of ice cubes, it was pulverized.  Slightly less refreshing, more like a smoothie.  I honestly can't say which I'd prefer, I think if I wanted to drink it faster I'd want a bubble tea so I could gulp it, this was something I'd savor a bit more.

The taro flavor was great.  I continue to find Quickly's flavor to be the best of any I've tried.  However, everything else was a bit off - it was too sweet, and too creamy.  I waited for some of the ice to melt a little to help break the sweet, but it was still a bit too much for me, and I love sweet.  I am not sure if it was just bad luck, or if I should ask for less sweet next time.  The creaminess was also strange, it sorta coated the back of my throat in an unpleasant way.  But, the taro flavor was so good, that I was able to get past these less fortunate aspects.

The tapioca were large size, and at first I thought they were too soft, reminding me of the unfortunate one from Little Garden.  But, given just a few minutes, they hardened up after coming in contact with the icy bits, and became quite delightful.  A generous amount of boba were provided, but they never seemed like too much.

Overall, a success, and I'd certainly get another, although, perhaps ask for less sweet.

The base price was $2.50, plus another $0.50 for the tapioca.  More expensive than the other Quickly locations I've visited, but cheaper than any other shops.
Quickly Kobe Bento on Urbanspoon