Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Roostertail is a casual American food joint in Lower Pac Heights, serving up primarily rotisserie chicken and sides.  As you likely know by now, I don't like chicken, but I do love the sides that go along with bbq, so I was eager to check it out not only for my staple side dish of slaw, but also, for the cornbread I had read good things about.

I planned to return again to take photos of the interior to show you better, but, alas, when I saw Roostertail "is" a restaurant in Pac Heights, I need to correct that, as they just closed this past weekend (June 14).  So sadly, I won't get a chance to return to take photos of the stunning patio space hidden out back, and, you won't get a chance to try the food.

But I'll still tell you about it.

Like I said, the rotisserie chicken is the star dish (organic, free-range of course).  Along with basic roast chicken, they also had wings and chicken sandwiches, plus some other bbq classics like pulled pork and brisket.  The only thing I ever had eyes for were the sides, which included all the basics: fries, onion strings, baked beans, mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese, plus some token vegetables like broccoli and cheese, braised kale, and brussels and bacon.  Desserts sounded great too, like seasonal fruit crisp and Staus soft serve ice cream.  We need more legit soft serve ice cream in this town!
Jalapeño Cornbread, side, $4.
I started with the dish I read many great things about, the cornbread!

A side order of cornbread comes with 3 pieces, not traditional chunks of cornbread.  Instead, each piece is like a little madeline, shaped like an ear of corn.  Served warm, with honey butter on the side.

It was indeed good cornbread, with a pleasant grittiness to it, and a nice kick from the jalapeño.  And the best part?  The side of honey butter, always the right thing to pair with your cornbread.  The honey butter is whipped and fluffy, although, it did have less honey flavor than I'd prefer.

Update (several months later): I returned a second time to pick up some cornbread, as I had chili waiting for me at home, and I always love cornbread alongside my chili.  I of course had a bite when it was hot and fresh.  This time, I still really appreciated the jalapeño, but it seemed a bit more dried out, not quite as fresh tasting.  Slathering it in honey butter of course helped fix this, as did dunking it in my chili, so not a big deal, but the texture difference was notable.

Second Update (a few MORE months later): I went back again, with fond memories of the cornbread from that first time, but needing a third visit as a tie breaker.  And ... sadly, it seemed really dried out again.  And this time it wasn't even served warm.  Boo.  I'm done trying it.
Original Cole Slaw, side, $4.
As you know, I like to try out coleslaw all over town, from restaurants, delis, and fast food joints alike, like the duo of slaws from Cathead's BBQ, the inconsistent slaw from Prime Dip, the poppyseed dressing version from Deli &, the one with far too many red peppers from Cedar Hill, and the decent basic deli version at Bayside Market.  When I saw a photo of Roostertail's slaw, I had to try it.

I loved the look of the slaw, so colorful and vibrant, with both purple and green cabbage, and bright orange carrot shreds.  Reviewers also all commented on how it wasn't overly mayo-y or heavy.

I disagree.  It was way over-dressed for my taste.  The cabbage was very fresh and crisp however, and the flavor was good, but, too heavy for my liking.  There was also a fair amount of red onion, which was too harsh and made for some very strong bites.

I passed it off to Ojan, who gladly finished it, so again, I still can't figure out his type of ideal cole slaw, but it certainly seems to be whatever slaw I dislike, which is quite convenient!

$4 for a side dish was a reasonable price, although I think a similar quantity would be less at a deli.
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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Air New Zealand, AKL - SYD, Business Class

The second leg of our most recent journey to Sydney was aboard NZ 101, from Aukland to Sydney.  The flight departed at 7am local time, arriving at 8:35am local time, for a total flight of 3 hour 35 minutes.  Our connection time in Auckland was ambitiously short, but luckily our first flight (NZ 7 from SFO to Aukland) was early, there was literally no line at security, and the international transfer process in Auckland was shockingly simple, so we were even able to sneak in about 40 minutes in the lounge, where I enjoyed my second breakfast of the day.  I'm glad I did, as the flight breakfast left something to be desired, as you'll read about momentarily.
The seat was a fairly standard business class seat.

The controls were a bit primitive, but eventually I figured out how to recline slightly, and put out my foot rest.  I was comfortable enough, but wouldn’t want a long flight in this configuration.  Still, we were in actual business class, which is why we selected the flight, even though the connection time was risky.  No other Air New Zealand options between Aukland and Sydney offer full business class.

Provided at our seats was a blanket, pillow, and bottle of water.  The seat did have a pull out entertainment unit, which I never used, as I was busy writing up my trip reports!  It also had a usb port, which I thought would be great to continue charging my phone, but it didn’t work.  And a power plug, which also didn’t work.  When my battery ran out, I mentioned the power problems, and the FA offered to just reset the switch, which, actually worked.  Hurrah!  But ... it worked for all of 5 minutes before it stopped working.  Doh.
Welcome Drinks.
Prior to takeoff, we were offered standard orange juice, water, or sparkling wine, along with hot towels.  Newspapers and a really nice selection of magazines were then offered.  I was surprised to find trashy gossip magazines, but, I loved that they had something fun for me to read, which I did, cuz, what else did I have to do before turning on my laptop?
Sparkling Water.
Soon after takeoff, another round of drinks arrived, the "Refreshment drinks": juices, water, and mango and coconut smoothies.  If I wasn’t stuffed from full breakfast on my prior flight, and scarfing down tons of food in the lounge in my 40 min jaunt, I definitely would have gone for the smoothie, but I opted for simple water (sparkling of course).
Menus were provided at our seats, and they listed both breakfast and lunch options.  Given our <4 hour flight time, and our 7am departure, I was a bit confused, so I asked.  No, we didn’t get both meals, just breakfast.  They just use the same menu for multiple flights.  I was a bit jealous, because I still wanted to try the ice cream that was on the lunch menu.  Ojan was sad because we'd already had breakfast on our previous flight and in the lounge, and he was ready for lunch food.

The breakfast menu was formatted exactly like the breakfast menu on our longer flight, starting with "Refreshing drinks" of juices and smoothies that I previously mentioned, followed by “From the pantry” items, then “From the bakery”, and finally “From the stove”.

The "Pantry" offered the same basic items: fresh fruit salad, natural yogurt or fruit yogurt, fruit and grain muesli, or toasted cereal.  Same with the "Bakery": croissants, fruit Danish, Vogel’s or fruit toast with marmalade, strawberry jam, Vegemite, Marmite.  The "Stove" had only 3 options this time (opposed to four before, reducing the egg dishes down to one):
  • Corned beef croquettes with scrambled eggs, garlic roasted tomato, and horseradish cream
  • Cinnamon Hotcakes with rhubarb compote and brown sugar sour cream
  • Hot bacon roll - a warmed rolled, butter and filled with grilled bacon, offered with caramelized onion jam and barbecue sauce
As before, our main dish choices were taken in advance.
Breakfast Cart: "From the Pantry".
The first round, just like on our previous flight, came from a cart.  While the menu sounded nearly identical, it actually was served entirely differently.

This time, the yogurt came in individual sealed cartons rather than big vats, so I was able to see the brand.  It was Fresh 'n Fruity brand, and the choices were plain natural yogurt or apricot.

Likewise, the cereal was in individual packets (although poured into a bowl when served).  It was Serious Cereal brand (but packaged for Air New Zealand), and the choices were "Natural Muesli" or "Best Breakfast".
From the Pantry: Fruit, Muesli, Yogurt.
The fruit salad again contained melons so I skipped it, but Ojan got it.  Fresh enough looking fruit, although this time the strawberries were replaced with grapes and pineapple, so, less exciting.

The muesli was fine, full of nuts and seeds.  Served with a pitcher of milk on the side.  It sounds silly, but I really liked the milk.  I’m sure it was full cream milk, and it showed.  But also, I often find non-US milk tastier ... I wonder if it is any different?

The yogurt had a better texture and consistency than our previous flight, it was more creamy, but was still just basic low fat yogurt.  The little bits of apricot were nice enough.
From the Bakery: Danish.
A while later, a bread basket was passed around, with croissants and danishes, and two types of toast.  I’m wasn't sure what Vogel’s was, and I asked, and the reply was, “Vogel’s”.  I’m guessing this is a New Zealand brand that I should know?

I tried a danish, mostly out of boredom, as they certainly didn't look good.  The meal service was very slow and I was getting antsy.  Our tray tables were prepared really far in advance, and the seats were too cramped to use a laptop or do much with the tray table open.   I was eager to get on with other things.  I wasn’t hungry due to breakfast in the lounge and on the previous flight, so I planned to skip both the pantry and bakery courses, but the slow pace was kinda killing me.  So, more breakfast it was.

Anyway, the danish was soggy and as awful as it looked, but at least it was served warm?
Entree: Cinnamon Hotcakes.
“Cinnamon Hotcakes with rhubarb compote and brown sugar sour cream.”

Finally my entree arrived. Unlike our previous flight, they didn’t serve all of one entree, then all of another, then all of another, rather, they did it in more standard service order.  They started with the back of the plane, on the left hand aisle, moved up that aisle, and then went to the back of the right hand aisle, and up that side.  I was on the right hand side, row 2 (and no one was in row 1), so, last served.  Doh.

I again picked the sweet bready option, even though the french toast on my previous Air New Zealand flight was pretty bad.  I hoped this would make up for it.  It didn’t. 

The serving was 2 pancakes, each cut in half, so 4 slices total.  They were thin and flavorless, a bit spongy.  The pancakes on my similar Qantas flight were far more successful, at least texture wise, than these.

On top was tons of the rhubarb compote, with little chunks of rhubarb (that I would have never identified as rhubarb), plus some blueberries.  It was mushy and not tasty at all.  Qantas wins again here, with fresh raspberries.

The brown sugar sour cream was completely melted, but it was actually decent, a bit creamy, a bit sweet, although honestly it tasted more like cream than sour cream.  I didn’t detect much, if any, sour notes.

On the side was also a package of vanilla syrup.  I appreciated that they didn’t even try to pretend it was maple syrup, (or, perhaps vanilla syrup is a thing in New Zealand)?  It was sweet and sticky, but I’m not sure how I possibly could have used it, as my hotcakes were so entirely coated in compote and cream.  The Qantas pancakes came pre-drizzled with syrup, and not nearly enough, so, this was an improvement.

Overall, the breakfast was pretty bad, and I was very glad I had feasted in my quick lounge pit stop before.  The scrambled egg dish didn’t look much better, although the bacon roll may have been.  I’m not sure if this is the bacon roll that people rave about, since it was just butter and bacon, no cheese?

I also ordered decaf coffee.  Unlike my previous flight where I got a full size personal french press of decaf, this time I got a mug, likely instant, and really not good at all.  I had several more mugs full, loaded it up with sugar and milk, but still was never able to make it tasty.  Next time, I’d just give up on the coffee. 

Anyway, meal service was slow and not tasty.  I do not recommend breakfast on board their short haul business class.  The only thing that was really edible was the basic cereal.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Nation’s Giant Hamburgers & Great Pies

Nation's Giant Hamburgers & Great Pies.

I had never heard of this place, but it is a diner chain, with 28 locations, that has been around since the 1950s.  Started as a hot dog stand, expanded from there.  I guess pretty successful.

As you can guess from the name, they serve burgers.  Giant burgers.  The burgers are all 3/4 of a pound!  Along with regular hamburgers/cheeseburgers/bacon burgers, they also offer wild salmon, chicken, and meatless alternatives, plus hot dogs and grilled cheese.  Fries.  Shakes.  Pretty standard diner menu, plus all the breakfast classics (french toast, pancakes, eggs, toast, hash browns, etc).

Since the other half of the restaurant name is "& Great Pies", of course, they offer a slew of pies, including fruit pies (apple, berry, cherry, no sugar-added apple), classics (custard, pumpkin, pecan, lemon meringue), and a bunch of cream pies (banana creme, chocolate creme, coconut creme, lemon creme).  Pies are available whole, half, or by the slice, either a "regular" slice, aka a full 1/4 of a pie, or, perhaps more reasonable, a "small" slice that is only 1/6 of a pie.  Yes, finally, a place that understands "Parent family" slices!  It is still inconceivable to me that normal people think a pie can serve more than ~4 people.

I haven't actually visited any Nation's restaurants, but I got to try a pie when a co-worker brought one in.
Boysenberry Pie.  $9.95.
If you've read my posts about blackberries, and in particular, blackberry pie, you might know where this review is going.  I hate seeds.  And boysenberries have seeds.

But there was much more wrong with this pie than just my non-liking of seeds.

The filling reminded me of ... goo.  It sorta seemed like they just took a jar of jam and put it inside a pie.  It was sweet and well, gooey.  And, of course, loaded with seeds since it was boysenberry.  I really did not like the filling.

But the filling is only one component of a pie.  Even if a filling isn't good, I am more than happy to just devour crust, and this was a double crust pie.  As a crust lover, this made me excited.  Twice the goodness!

Except, the crust was really dry.  It wasn't decadently buttery, but rather oily instead.  I normally steal extra crust from others, and in this case, I didn't even want all of my crust.

So I didn't enjoy a single thing about this pie.  $9.95 for a whole fresh pie is a good price though.
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