Friday, December 19, 2014

South Beach Diet Bars

Remember when I reviewed Slimfast shakes a while ago, because they showed up at my house?  Well, it happened again, this time from South Beach Diet.  I did not seek these out, but, I might as well try them, right?

I've heard of the South Beach diet, but didn't realize that they made branded products too.  I thought it was just a diet to follow.  However, a guess diet itself can only sell a few books, so to really be profitable, the empire needs products, so it makes sense.   Thus, along with books and DVDs, they sell branded bottled smoothies, "sweet delights" (aka, chocolate covered nuts and seeds), and a vast array of bars.  They make full meal replacement bars (featuring everyone's favorite soy nuggets for protein), cereal bars (available with extra fiber, or gluten-free if you prefer), and snack bars (several varieties depending on what "phase" of the program you are on).  For those who really want to invest, they also do ready-to-eat meal delivery, bringing you all 21 meals you'll need for the week.

Only a snack bar showed up in the mail for me, and I wasn't about to seek more more of their products, just for the sake of this review.  Sorry, folks!
Chocolate Caramel Nut Snack Bar.
I was sent one of the standard snack bars.  All are only 100 calories, with 6 grams protein and fiber, available in 4 fairly tasty sounding varieties: Whipped Chocolate Almond, Whipped Peanut Butter, Fudgy Chocolate Mint, and Chocolate Caramel Nut.

I received the Chocolate Caramel Nut bar, "with real chewy caramel and crunchy peanuts covered in a delicious, chocolaty layer".

I laughed when I opened the package.  One way to keep calories in check is through portion size.  And ... portion controlled this was.  So tiny!
Inside the bar.
The chocolate coating was actually pretty decent, although, a very thin layer.  The top 1/3 of the bar was the caramel, also pretty decent, and really gooey, as you can see here.  But ... the other 2/3 of the bar.  Sigh.  Soy protein isolate.  Meh.  I can't stand the stuff.  It had a chewy texture that I also didn't enjoy.  I never found the promised peanuts, I think they were ground up inside the bar.

Clearly, not something I'd ever want, and, I didn't actually finish the bar, I just took all the caramel and chocolate off of it and used it over ice cream :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Churros from Phat Philly

Phat Philly, as you may recall from my past reviews, is a cheesesteak shop, with really good fries smothered in cheese and other goodness and decent onion rings.

They specialize in things from Philly, and at the register also sell Utz Chips for only $1 and for dessert they used to carry Tastykakes.  I stopped by so many times to discover these amazing Tastykakes, but but they have never, ever had them when I am there.

Thus, I thought I'd never have dessert at Phat Philly, even though I'm a dessert-o-holic.  Until, one day, when I stopped in hoping to snag some Tastykakes (fail!) and saw ... churros were added to the menu!

Phat Philly is located in the Mission, so they clearly know who their audience is.  Churros make sense in that regard.  But a cheesesteak shop selling churros?  This sounded dubious at best.

You may also recall that I don't ever really like churros.  I WANT to like them.  I mean, they are fried dough coated in cinnamon and sugar.  They should be something I love.  But ... I generally find them way too crispy, way too oily, and just rather gross (except once at Nick's Crispy Tacos, but, my followup one there was not good).  Even my beloved Rubio's has failed in the churro department.

But ... dessert.  You know me and dessert.  I can't resist, even if I expect to hate it.  So, I tried one.
Cream Filled Churro.  $2.
The menu listed two types of churros, regular or cream filled.  When cream filling is an option, is there any other choice?  I eagerly ordered and awaited my treat.

It took longer than I expected for my churro to be ready.  I almost started wondering if it had been forgotten.  I think though that perhaps it was actually fried to order?

Finally, it was handed over, all nicely wrapped up.  Piping hot.  So far, so good.

I apprehensively took a bite.  It was crispy on the outside, but not super oily like so many others. Inside was a bit moist and soft.  It had plenty of cinnamon and sugar on the outside, but not too much like the Rubio's ones.  Just the right amount.

And the cream filling.  OMG.  I think it was just a basic pastry cream, but it was warm, comforting, like a pudding.

Crispy fried dough.  Cinnamon and sugar.  Cream.  YES.

Now, to rewind a bit, I didn't grow up with churros.  We had "fried dough".  We had donuts.  The few churros I've had since moving to California have all been the plain variety, not filled.  I've had them a few times at fancier restaurants with chocolate or caramel sauces to dip them in.  But I had no idea filling was even an option.  But it makes sense, since they make filled donuts.  And we even had bavarian cream on our fried dough at the local fairs (I hear this is a regional thing, specific to the Boston area, à la Boston cream pie?)

Cream filling was the extra magic here, adding a creamy element to contrast the crispy exterior, keeping everything moist.  So. Good.

I want another, right now.  Obviously the best churro I've ever had.  I hope these stay on the menu.

$2 was a fine price, perhaps slightly more than local taquerias, but I think it was much fresher, and I'd return to get another in a heartbeat.
Phat Philly Cheesesteaks on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Club Europe, BA715, ZRH-LHR

As you've been reading about the past few weeks, I took a business trip to Zurich (via Mallorca!), and spent a few days in London on my return.  British Airways was my airline of choice, and as you know, I enjoyed my first class flight from SFO-LHR (particularly the waffles!). You'll get to read about the corresponding LHR-SFO return journey next week on Travelin' Tuesday.

But I also needed to get from Zurich to London for the return journey, and I accidentally forgot to publish this review sooner, so, please pardon the slight interruption in continuity, as I've already reviewed the Concorde room, the First Class Galleries Lounge, and the Business Class Galleries Lounge, without explaining HOW I got there in the first place.  Whoops!

The flight experience was fairly similar to the Club Europe journey from LHR-BCN.  The flight was fine, although we were delayed about 45 minutes before taking off, and had to fly around France because of a strike, but besides that, unremarkable.  Flight attendants were friendly and polite, and provided standard BA Club Europe service.
Wine Reserve de la Baume Colombard-Chardonnay.
I started with a white wine.  I had the choice of two, and went for the Chardonnay.  It was fairly drinkable.  Not harsh, a tiny bit buttery, but generally unremarkable.
Afternoon Tea Service.
My meal on this flight, just like my LHR-BCN flight, was tea service. After the last time, I was much less excited about this, as I knew what I had in store for me.  I’d also had lunch not long before, so I didn’t care much.

The tray setup was the same, although I was lacking milk this time, and none was offered with my coffee.

The trio of sandwiches was much better than my previous experience, and I actually ate parts of each of them.

The bread, just like before, was really dried out and stale however.  There really is no way to make sandwich bread not dry out, why do they even try?  I know tiny sandwiches are part of a proper tea service, but … yeah.  There is no way for this to work well.

I started with the vegetarian sando: egg salad on wheat bread.  The egg salad was actually decent.  Not drowning in mayo, but plenty to make it creamy.  While I don’t like sandwiches, I do like egg salad, and I would have gladly had a scoop of this in another form.  Instead, I just ate all the filling, discarding the dried out bread.  Much, much better than the cream cheese and bell pepper vegetarian offering on the last flight, and, I’d eat another of these (well, the filling at least).  Not that it was interestingly seasoned or anything, just standard egg salad, but, sometimes, egg salad is all you need.  My favorite of the trio.

Next I got adventurous, and went for the meat option in the middle.  It had sliced meat that looked particularly frightening.  Some kind of pork?  I didn’t try the meat, but ate the cheese and sliced pickles, because, well, pickles are tasty.  I wish I’d had the foresight to mix the pickles in with the egg salad.  Next time!  Certainly better than the ham offering on the previous flight, but, still not something I wanted again.

Finally, the seafood option, simple smoked salmon with cream cheese on a grainy bread.  The smoked salmon was actually fine, and the cream cheese went well with it.  My second favorite.

Scones were presented at the exact same time as the sandwiches.  This made me sad, as the scones were served warm, and I wanted to enjoy mine warm, but I also wanted the sandwiches first.  Savory before sweet!  And again, the basket of scones was put in front of me, no explanation, no serving utensils.

I again picked the fruit scone.  Last time, I detected a hint of orange, but this time, my scone actually had slivers of orange rind, amping up the flavor considerably.  I think the scone base was probably the same as before, but I was far less into it this time.  I still used up my entire thing of clotted cream, and appreciated the warm scone, the cream, and a bit of jam, but the scone really seemed unremarkable, as did the jam.  I wanted a fresher pastry, and my mom’s jam.

With my scone, I ordered decaf tea.  It turned out, they didn’t have any decaf tea, only regular, or herbal.  I asked which herbals they had, and one choice was given as Earl Gray.  I asked if that was decaf, since I knew BA serves decaf Earl Gray on longer flights, but was told no.  Note to BA: “herbal” and “earl grey” are not the same.  Instead I went for decaf coffee, because I wanted something to go with my scone and dessert.  It was the same strange instant coffee again, somehow chocolate tasting.  It did the trick, but, not something I particularly want more of.  I did again appreciate the lovely cup, with the city skyline on it.
Sweet Treat: Pistachio Madiera Cake.
And finally, another “Sweet Treat”.  I was hoping for a different selection this time, and thought I was in luck, as the shape of the box was different.  As before, the type of treat awaiting me was not revealed until I opened the box.   But alas, it was another pistachio madiera cake, just a smaller one this time.

Now, a reasonable person would recognize that they hated this thing last time and not bother trying it again.  But we all know I’m not a reasonable person.  I had a dessert in front of me, I had to try it, right?

I should have known better.  I mean, I did know better.  Just like last time, I could tell the moment I opened the plastic wrapper that it was horrible and moist and gummy and spongy.  But I still tried it.  It again was awful, tasted like pistachios and a bit like a madeline.  Ugh.  Don’t try these.

Monday, December 15, 2014

3-3-3 Truck

As you've been reading the past few weeks, my office has been bringing us food trucks for lunch.  This has been fun for me, since I love to try new things.  Sadly, none have been very good.

3-3-3 Truck serves 3 different cuisines, with 3 main ingredients per cuisine, and 3 preparations per main.  Thus, 3-3-3.  To be more concrete, they offer Korean, Mexican, or Indian food.  For Korean, you can pick from short ribs, bbq chicken, or a veggie mushroom tofu mix.  The Mexican choices are carne asada, pork chile verde, and chipotle chicken.  And finally, for indian, lamb curry, chicken tikka, or paneer tikka.  Each of those dishes is available as a taco, burrito, or rice bowl.
The Truck.
The paneer tikka sounded the most promising to me, but on my visit they had a reduced catering menu, rather than the standard menu.  Instead, they were offering only a vegetarian or fish taco.  This was no problem for me, since, as you may have noticed from my slew of Rubio's reviews, I have a thing for fish tacos.
Beer Battered Fish Taco.
This was a very simple fish taco.

The fish was super crispy, which was nice, except that it was just way too fried and oily.  The fish inside was fairly moist, but was not really the type of fish I like - I think it was rock cod?  I greatly prefer pretty much all the fish options at Rubio's, or the nice tilapia at Tropisueño.

It was garnished only with onions and tomatoes, although normally served with their signature "Green Sauce", which is made from fresh avocado, garlic, fresh citrus, and herbs.  Since I'm allergic to avocado, I had to skip that part, and there were no other options for me to add anything additional in.  The taco really needed some creaminess, even simple sour cream like the lackluster catfish taco from Tacqueria Mana was better than nothing.  I'd put this on par with the fish taco at Nick's Crispy Tacos.

The taco shell was a bit dried out, and seemed like it had been sitting out.  Flour tortilla only, I generally prefer the additional flavor of a corn shell.

Overall, very boring, and I certainly wouldn't get again.