Friday, June 06, 2014

The Better Chip

As you know, I love trying new snack foods, and in particular, chips.

Sometimes I go for classics, like those from Frito Lay,  and sometimes I try out ones that are supposed to be slightly better for you, like the ones from Food Should Taste Good.

As you can probably guess from the name, The Better Chip makes ones in the later category: "Unlike any other chip, The Better Chip puts flavor inside with fresh diced vegetables. Made from 100% natural and non-GMO ingredients."

They aim to make chips that are enjoyable for snacking, yet a bit less guilt inducing. Available in corn, jalapeño, spinach & kale, beet, and chipotle varieties, all made with corn masa, making them more like tortilla chips than classic chips. Since I dislike tortilla chips, this didn't bode well for me.
Red Pepper
The first flavor I tried was red pepper with salsa fresca.

The chips were very spiced, but the flavor reminded me a bit too much of Doritos, which I don't like.  They were almost good, and I went back and tried them many more times, hoping to like them.  A bit more in the salsa direction and less in the Doritos direction, and I would have liked them.  The flavor was so strong that they could act as a standalone chip, your chips and salsa all in one, no dip needed, although I bet they'd be good with some sort of cream cheese dip too.

They were very crispy, and I did like the hearty taste from the whole grain corn masa.

When I went to the web site to pull up the description, I found out that they no longer make the red pepper variety, so, perhaps I'm not alone in not caring for this flavor.
Spinach and Kale.
Corn masa chip, loaded with spinach and kale.

Wow, I really did not like these. I don't tend to like tortilla chips in general, and these were clearly tortilla chips. Except they tasted like spinach and kale. Now, I like spinach and kale, but it just really didn't work here. Just bitter. Meh.
And finally, jalapeño.

I *almost* liked these. They had a delightful kick from the jalapeño. They were salty. They were crunchy. But, at the end of the day, they were still tortilla chips, and, I just don't like tortilla chips!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Ramen at Beehive, Tokyo

On our first day in Tokyo, one of my work colleagues proposed going out to lunch as a group, to get ramen.  I'm not normally a soup fan, but when I visited Tokyo a few years ago, I did really enjoy the ramen.  When I was in Tokyo before, the aspect of the ramen experience that I liked the most was how quirky it was - we had to purchase a ticket from a vending machine first!  I assumed we were going somewhere like that.

Instead, we were lead to a totally non-traditional ramen shop.  Well, first, it wasn't a ramen shop.  It was a music hall, that serves ramen at lunch time.  For seating, there were a few counter seats, a few tables, and an area with couches.  Since we were a large group, the only place we'd fit was the couches.

The menu was entirely in Japanese, but our hosts explained that there were three choices: chicken, pork, or fish.  Since I dislike chicken and pork, this was an easy choice.  I'd clearly get the fish.  They warned me that it was very traditional, and double checked several times to make sure it was really what I wanted.  I was a bit unnerved, but, I really, really don't like chicken or pork, so I went with it.  Everyone else in the group, our hosts and all other visitors included, just got the pork one.

The only other option was the size, "normal" or large.  Almost everyone else got large, at the encouragement of our hosts.  They told us that normal was very small.  I still got normal.
Fish Ramen.  ¥730.
The ramen arrived at the table slowly, one or two at a time.  It became obvious very quickly that if we were to wait for the whole group to receive their ramen, that the first ones would be cold.  Our hosts, very polite gentlemen in general, started digging in as soon as their arrived, so we did the same.

I was very confused when mine arrived, as it was topped with several large pieces of pork.  I ordered the fish because I didn't want pork ...

Then it was explained that really the choice of chicken, pork, or fish was referring to the broth, not the toppings.  Hmm, ok.  I could easily push the fatty, nasty pork aside.  My broth was thin and very, very oily.  Everyone else had a really frothy, creamy looking broth.

I was also confused because my bowl was giant, and really didn't seem any smaller than anyone else's.  But they insisted this was the smaller size.  I still don't understand that part.

I was further confused by my noodles, wide noodles, not what I expected for ramen.  Everyone else had thinner, more traditional noodles.  Apparently I wasn't just picking the broth, but also the noodle style when I ordered the fish one?  I didn't like the noodles, they were a bit mushy, and didn't seem any better than any other noodles I've had.  Isn't fresh ramen supposed to be about the noodles?

The only other ingredients in my bowl were woody bamboo and an egg.  Everyone else has additional toppings like seaweed.  The egg however was quite good.  I love the eggs in Japan.  As you can see, jidori eggs have larger, more intensely yellow yolks, which always seem more custardy, more flavorful.

I really didn't like this meal, and I had a bit of jealousy over the version that everyone else got, but I know I didn't really want pork broth, and I doubt their noodles were any better, just different.

Not recommended.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Naked Fish Sushi

I haven't actually been to Naked Fish.  Well, that isn't true, I have been to the restaurant, but I haven't dined there.  Instead, I did something a bit risky.  I got takeout sushi.  Certainly not something I normally do.  But, Ojan has been craving sushi, and isn't able to go out to restaurants, so, I decided to bring sushi to him.

I did hedge my bets however.  I had to make good decisions on what to order.  I knew nigiri wouldn't be a great idea.  Thus my order was quite different than what I'd get if I went to eat at a sushi restaurant, I added plenty of "safe" items, like miso soup, seaweed salad, and vegetarian items.  It was all ... highly mediocre.  Not awful or anything, but not very good, and I see no reason to return.

If you do want to get takeout sushi, I continue to say, get it from Roka Akor.  I really don't think you can do better.
Tofu Miso Soup.
Sushi meals must begin with either miso or edamame right?

The miso was basic, with a few bits of tofu, and a few bits of seaweed.  Salty, comforting, but nothing special.  Ojan enjoyed the soup, and commented that he really missed miso.

Chopsticks were provided in my togo bag, but no spoon.  Sipping from a cute little miso bowl in a sushi restaurant is one thing, drinking out of this was a bit strange though.

Normally $2, but included as part of the lunch combo I ordered.
Wakame Salad.  $5.00.
I wanted something to fall back on, in case the sushi wasn't very good, so I ordered a side of seaweed salad.

It was very standard, basic seaweed salad.  A mix of seaweeds, a little seasoning, sprinkling of sesame seeds on top.  It seemed under-dressed.  Of course it got stuck in my teeth.

It wasn't particularly good, nor bad, and the $5 price seemed high for the portion.  When I saw the price, I assumed it was going to be a really large portion, or at least have more interesting seaweeds in it, but it was the same as you can get basically anywhere, for more like $2.50.  Not worth $5, and I wouldn't get it again.
California Roll & Spicy Tuna Roll. $7.95.
Ojan asked for a California roll and a Spicy Tuna Roll, so I was happy to see them offered together as a lunch combo (which included the miso).  Each roll came with 6 pieces.

The California roll was a simple classic, with snow crab and avocado.  The crab meat tasted fresh enough, and there was a generous amount in each piece.  I had to avoid the avocado due to my (non-life threatening) allergy.

The Spicy Tuna I really didn't like, although, I'm starting to think I just don't really like red tuna very much.  It was mushy, and not at all spicy.  No one would criticize them for having too much mayo in their spicy tuna, in fact, I'm not sure it had any.  It did have cucumber.  Really, this seemed like a cucumber and tuna roll, not a spicy tuna.  Ojan commented, "I see why you didn't like this".  He likes tuna, and thought this wasn't tasty (not that it had gone bad or anything).

The rice in both the rolls was disappointing.  Slightly sticky, but not well seasoned, and mushy.

Wasabi and ginger were included, both in tiny portions, not nearly enough for the rolls in the box, and, no more was provided with the additional pieces I ordered.  Far too little of each, although both were just standard.  Soy sauce came in little containers, which didn't seal tightly and thus spilled all over my bag, but were nice to dunk into.  I never know what to do with just soy sauce packets in takeout sushi, since you want to dunk!  Ideally, you'd get an empty container, and a packet of soy sauce.  Or, a container that actually seals ...

At Naked Fish, California roll is normally $6 and the spicy tuna is normally $5, but the lunch combo was $7.95, a great price for two rolls.  I wouldn't get either again though.
Tamago Nigiri, Inari Nigiri. $3.00 each.
And finally, two of my favorite choices when I go to not-high-end sushi restaurants: tamago and inari.  At nicer places I'm all about the fish, but, for mid-range sushi, I do enjoy inari and tamago.  Even at a fancy sushi restaurant, I normally order tamago as my "dessert".

The inari was pretty standard, slightly sweetened bean curd.  Like the rolls, the rice was not very good.  They also seemed to add sesame seeds to everything.  I liked the sweet wrapper, but, the rice really ruined this.

The tamago was better than I expected, you could actually see some layering action.  It was slightly sweetened.  My favorite piece of the entire meal.

Neither of these came with any additional wasabi or ginger.

Each pair was $3, which seems about standard.
Naked Fish on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 02, 2014

Club Europe, BA486, LHR-BCN

Last week, you read about my flight from San Francisco to London, First Class, on British Airways.  That was just the first of the three flights necessary to get to my final destination: a beachfront villa in Mallorca!

Next, we had to get from London to Barcelona.  Within Europe, BA does not offer first class, so we had to fly business class, on this flight instead, known as "Club Europe".  It was a short flight, so it didn't matter much, but this was a serious downgrade from our international first class experience.
Mini Seat.
The seating layout was novel to me.  On one side on the plane there are still three seats, yet the middle seat cannot be booked.  On the other, there are two seats, with a mini seat-like thing between them.  Not big enough even for a child, but good for storing a few items during the flight (like, my purse, as pictured above).  Besides this, the seats are the same as the rest of the cabin.
Basic Seat.
The seats are quite basic.  No in-flight power, no entertainment screens.  The fascinating thing is how the cabins are divided between economy and business class.  They can actually re-configure it based on how many seats they sell in business.  The curtain separating the areas is moveable, and, on the side with the mini seat-thing, they can actually turn a crank to adjust the seats back to three normal seats.  So crazy.

The bathroom was standard, with regular paper towels (not cloth like in first class), and a faucet that is pushbutton on and off.

Meal service began with an offer of a hot towel, a good touch for business class.  Due the afternoon departure time, our meal service was "afternoon tea".

Soon after the hot towel, a cart rolled through.  “Would you like afternoon tea?”, I was asked.  “Yes”, I said.  A platter was placed in front of me, no menu provided, no description given.  This became a mystery dining experience.  I was also offered tea or coffee, and anything from the bar, but again, no idea what the options were as there was no menu or list provided.  I ordered a decaf coffee.  Emil later told me that they have a single champagne (that he finds vile), 2 reds (merlot and pinotage), and 2 whites, along with standard bar offerings.
Afternoon Tea.
On the tray was a silverware packet wrapped in plastic, that also contained salt and pepper, sugar, and a moist towelette. There was also an individual serving of whole milk and clotted cream.  No other sweeteners or add-ons were available for the coffee.

Speaking of the coffee.  I ordered decaf, which I’m quite sure was instant, as she had to go back and get it.  It was lukewarm, and tasted like cocoa.  Seriously, like cocoa.  So strange.  But it was served in a really cute cup, with photos of the London skyline on it.

I was dehydrated and had just been drinking over lunch in the Concorde room, so I went with sparkling water and didn't investigate any of the other beverage options.

The rest of my tray was a complete mystery.  3 tea sandwiches.  Since we had no menu, and no description, I honestly don’t know what they were.

The closest to me was on some kind of grainy bread, with cream cheese and bell peppers in assorted colors (yellow, green, red).  I tried this.  The bread was dry and stale tasting, the peppers slimy.  If I had a paper napkin, I probably would have spit this out.

After that first bite, I decided not to try the others.  I don’t like sandwiches anyway, and had just had lunch in the Concorde room.  The middle one seemed to be white bread, with perhaps ham, mustard, and mayo?  And arugula in between the layers of ham.  I’m not sure.

The furthest was wheat bread with chicken? curry with iceberg lettuce.

Tea sandwiches sound cute, but, these were quite dreadful.
Fruit Scone.
As I was examining my sandwiches, the attendant came back with a basket of “scones”.  She held it out asking if I’d like one.  There seemed to be two types of scones, so I asked if they were the same.  I was told one was plain and one was “fruit”.  At this point I realized I was supposed to just grab one, with my hand.  Strange.  I expected her to serve it to me, or for there to be tongs to use.  Um, ok.

The “scones” were warm, and more like a roll than what I’d consider a scone.  I’m still not sure what kind of “fruit” was in mine, but it did indeed have a few pieces of fruit.  There was also a fairly pleasant tang to it, something mildly orange-like.  On my tray was an individual clotted cream, and, as I was wondering about jam, a basket of jars of Wilkin & Sons jam was held out to me.  All jars were the same, strawberry.  I don’t really understand why the clotted cream was already on the tray, but the jam was passed afterwards?

Anyway, the scone was fine, but certainly nothing special, and it cooled down quite quickly.  The strawberry jam was very sweet, and didn’t have any noticeable fruit in it, but then again, I’m spoiled by my mother’s homemade jam, so no commercial jam rarely satisfies me.  Warm scones, cream, and jam aren't a bad thing, but these weren’t particularly interesting.

My water and coffee both ran out quickly, but luckily a refill was offered soon after.
Sweet Treat: Pistachio Madiera Cake.
The final item on my tray was a box labelled “sweet treat”, by Do & Co. It had absolutely no other information on it.  Once I opened the box, another label was visible: “Pistachio Madeira Cake”, it said.  This really, really did not look like a “treat”.  I couldn’t even tell which was the top and which was the bottom.

But for you dear readers, I persevered.  If I could handle the sandwiches, at least for a bite, I could try this.  And, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, right?  I’m known to try just about any dessert anyway, so, I bravely faced this thing.

It was as bad as it looked.  As I broke off a piece, I could tell it was going to be horrible.  It was strangely moist and spongy.  It was all one consistency.  It had no actual pistachio chunks inside, but the flavor did taste like pistachio.  I wish I could tell you more, but this was as much as I was willing to try.

So, overall, afternoon tea was … different.  I expected more.  Isn’t afternoon tea a serious thing for the British?  I didn’t expect to really want the sandwiches, since I don’t like sandwiches even when freshly made, but the dessert was a major disappointment.  The scone was at least something I was willing to eat.  If I had been relying on this for a meal, I would have been a bit upset, even if I had eaten all the components, as it really was just a pile of bread and sweets.