Friday, September 18, 2015

Pure Protein Bars

Pure Protein makes protein powders, bottled protein drinks, and protein bars, aimed at athletes. Certainly not the sort of products I seek out, as I usually find protein sources like this to be pretty awful tasting, and I'm not an elite athlete, so I have no need to eat things like this.

But ... I was at an expo, and they were giving out bars.  I'll try anything.  Spoiler: I wish I hadn't.  To be fair, I only tried one bar, and they make a slew of different varieties, some of which sound tempting, like S'mores, Peanut Butter Caramel, Chocolate Peanut Caramel, Chocolate Salted Caramel, or Dark Chocolate Coconut.  They also make canned shakes, in flavors that don't sound awful: chocolate, banana cream, strawberry creme, vanilla cream, and cookies 'n creme.  But ... I'm not about to go try any more of these products.
Strawberry Pure Protein Bar with Greek Yogurt Style Coating.
"These unique and delicious bars feature Greek Yogurt style coating and real pieces of strawberry for a truly amazing taste!"

For bars, Pure Protein makes three different product lines: the originals (made from a protein blend of whey and soy protein isolate), fruit & nut bars (these actually have real dried fruit and nuts in them), and Greek yogurt (coated in Greek yogurt).

I was given a Greek yogurt bar, certainly not what I would have picked, but, again, hey, I'll try anything.

Like most of their bars, the base is a "protein blend", made from whey protein.  Of course, there is soy protein isolate and soy crisps in there too.  These ingredients never turn out tasty, but, I tried it.

It was exactly the sort of bar that gives protein bars a bad reputation.  It tasted horrible.  The texture was horrible.  Shutter.

Yes, inside were little tiny bits that did taste like strawberry, but they couldn't mask all the protein stuff.  The "Greek Yogurt Style Coating", featuring maltitol and palm kernel oil, didn't really taste like anything, and certainly didn't add anything to the bar.  I appreciate that htey didn't even try to call it "Greek Yogurt", and opted for "Greek Yogurt Style" instead.

This was nasty.  I can't imagine a scenario under which I'd want to eat this.  There have to be better ways to get 20 grams of protein, if you really need it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Brickhouse Cafe

Brickhouse Cafe is a restaurant in South Beach open all day, that morphs throughout the day and throughout the week.  Although "cafe" is in the name, it most certainly isn't a traditional "cafe" at all.

For weekday breakfast, it is a very casual establishment.  You order at the register near the bar, and most people get their food to go, although there is seating.  They offer many different egg dishes, including a slew of variations on egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches, along with pastries and coffee drinks.  Plenty of folks just stopped in for a coffee, which I guess does make it rather cafe like.

Lunch is a sit-down affair with full table service, mostly featuring their extensive burger lineup.  Throughout the afternoon they stay open with a fairly expansive bar menu, including Happy Hour specials, and a slew of signature drinks.  Finally, there is dinner, which adds in more classic hearty entrees such as steak, salmon, and porkchops.  On the weekends, the first meal of the day is brunch, a hybrid of the breakfast and lunch menus, again with regular table service.  

Brickhouse Cafe has been around for a while, and I live nearby, but I hadn't ever visited until recently, when I saw that they accept payment via the Paypal app, and I was enjoying seeking out places with Paypal offers.

I only ever visited during the mornings, but I loved the biscuits enough to want to return for another meal service sometime.  In particular, I'm interested in their burgers, as the beef is sourced from the owner's own cattle ranch in Washington.  He also goes on annual salmon fishing expeditions and personally catches some of the seafood they serve.

The Space

Bar Area.
As I mentioned, they are open for continuous service all day long, so the bar I'm sure is a feature later in the day.  It was well stocked, and probably a great place for a happy hour drink and bite, but I've only visited in the morning when it was desserted
Seating is varied and casual.  The entire space is bright, open, and airy, with a rustic feel due to all the wood.  Very comfortable and inviting.

The center of the room contains a huge communal table with high stools.  Booths and small tables make up the sides.  I didn't venture upstairs, but there is an open loft area with additional seating.


Coffee Condiment Station.
The self-serve condiment station has all the classic sweeteners, including many types of non-sugar and sugar cubes, plus milk, but lacked any cinnamon or cocoa, which I always like to add in.
Decaf Coffee.  $3.
Coffee when you dine in is served in a huge metal mug.  It looked strange to me at first, but I quickly grew to love it.  I appreciated the heft of it, and the way it felt in my hand.

The coffee was fine, although it bad a bit of a strange sweetness to it, that I attribute to being rather stale decaf.  I'm guessing this is not a high volume item for them.

$3 for a cup of pre-brewed drip coffee was a bit high, even though the cup was large.  Interestingly, if you get it to go, it is only $2.50.  I would only get this again to compliment a meal, I certainly wouldn't seek it out.
Peppermint Mocha. $4.
Espresso beverages are also offered, but not in decaf.  So I "splurged", and went for the caffeine.  Since I was going all out, I made it a mocha.  And not just any mocha, a peppermint mocha.  Oh, and one topped with a fancy peppermint marshmallow.  Decadence.

Now, to step back, you probably know that I generally just drink black coffee or Americanos.  Milk and sugar are things I only add when the coffee tastes bad.  This style of milky drink, with extra flavors and sugars isn't really my style.  But it was cold out, and I wanted comfort, and decadence, in a cup.

It totally hit the spot.  I appreciated the generous amount of foam, although the bubbles were rather large, not exactly velvety smooth microfoam.  The drink was crazy sweet, and it would have been better with half as much peppermint and chocolate.  So the mocha itself ... not amazing, but I grew to appreciate it.

What was amazing however was the marshmallow.  I saw the barista pull it out, so I knew it was a Whole Foods brand peppermint marshmallow.  I've seen these by the registers at Whole Foods all winter, and I'm glad I got to try one.  Sweet, fluffy, and crazy minty.  I loved the marshmallow plain, but I really loved how it softened into the drink.

That said, I probably wouldn't get another of these, or if I did, I'd ask for it half sweet.  But really, I'd just ask for the Peppermint Mocha special, hold the mocha, just give me a cup of peppermint marshmallows.  Or I guess I could go buy them at Whole Foods myself.

$4 was a fine price for such a fancy drink.


Breakfast pastries (croissants, scones, morning buns) are displayed near the register.  They are not house-made, but I wasn't able to determine where they came from.
Morning Bun.  $2.50.
I wanted a breakfast pastry to go with my coffee.  My choices were  sad looking croissants, a single scone, or a morning bun.  The morning bun immediately caught my eye.

Sadly, it was awful.  The exterior was crunchy, but not a pleasant crispy, it was just dry.  As was the inside, not moist, even in the very center, where a great morning bun is often soft and doughy.  There was some cinnamon between the folds, but not nearly enough.  The dusting of sugar on the outside also did not save it.

It was not offered to have it warmed up, the only other way I could imagine salvaging it.  Sadly, I didn't bother finishing this.

All pastries are $2.50, which is a fine price, and they also sell day olds for only $1.  But, I wouldn't even pay $0.50 for this!


Granola & Greek Yogurt with Fresh Fruit. $7.
Ojan stopped by Brickhouse one day to grab a snack, and of course, I demanded a bite, even though yogurt, fruit, and granola parfait was perhaps the most boring thing he possibly could have picked.

The granola on top was just toasted oats, no clumps, no nuts, no seeds, no dried fruit.  Pretty boring.  The yogurt was standard greek yogurt.  The "fresh fruit" was cantaloupe and honeydew cubes, plus chunks of pineapple, and raspberries, all fresh enough.

Quite boring and uninspired, but, I would have never ordered this.  $7 price was fine for a large parfait.
Side Dish: Buttermillk Biscuits $2.
The breakfast and brunch menus feature biscuits with sausage gravy and eggs.  I've been addicted to biscuits and gravy lately, and if I was getting a full breakfast, I certainly would have gone for that.

But I stopped by for another reason.  I had some leftover really delicious cheese sauce at home that I wanted to smother something with (it originally was used with gnocchi, and reminded me a bit of cheesy gravy, if that makes any sense).  Somehow, smothering a biscuit in this cheese sauce, along with some sauteed spinach, seemed like a great idea.  So I ordered a side of biscuit to bring home and use later.

I was a little surprised that it took a while for my biscuit to be ready.  It turned out, they serve the biscuits warm (unlike the morning bun, grrr).  Whoops.  Since I wasn't intending to eat it right away, I didn't need it warm.  But when I opened my box I was even more surprised.  Two whole biscuits!  Score!

Since I had two biscuits, I decided to try one right away.  After all, it was warm!  It was warm and fresh, sliced in half, and a bit toasty on the outside.  I liked the bit of crispness to the toasted exterior, but it was still perfectly moist inside and not at all dried out.  The winning element however was the buttermilk tang.  Such a great tang.  It crumbled nicely too.

The woman who gave me the biscuits told me she doesn't even think they need gravy or anything, she loves them just with butter, and I can totally see why.  These are just great biscuits!  I choose to use some jam on the one I ate on the spot, like with an English scone, but, they only have Smucker's basic strawberry jam and grape jelly at Brickhouse, neither of which did the biscuits any justice.

I think these biscuits would be great warm with some of my mom's strawberry jam and a little clotted cream.  And I think they'd be great with butter.  Or smothered in the sausage gravy as Brickhouse serves them.  They were also delicious with my cheesey-gravy sauce too, and I'll definitely consider getting this again.

$2 for a side of two biscuits was crazy reasonable.  $1 each?  Unreal.
Brickhouse Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Breakfast Buffet at Mosiac Restaurant, Westin Sydney

As you mostly likely know by now, given my slew of Sydney restaurant reviews, I visited in Sydney for two weeks in May.  On this visit, I stayed at the Westin (where I had also spent a week in January).  In January, I had executive club access, where I had breakfast every morning.  It was nice to have breakfast right there at the hotel, but it was never that great.  The the yogurt and bircher muesli jars were pretty much the only things that were halfway decent.

So in May, when I knew I was staying for two weeks, and thought that just eating yogurt and muesli would get old very fast, I opted for a rate with full breakfast at the hotel restaurant, Mosiac, instead.

The space is nice: the entire hotel is located within the GPO (General Post Office), a historic building.  The restaurant itself is in an interior atrium, with a glass ceiling, and plenty of sunshine.

The included breakfast was the buffet, normally $42 per person, which, honestly, is just a bit crazy.

Overall, it was certainly an upgrade from the executive lounge, as there were plenty more options, but it really was just a superset of what the lounge had to offer.  The baked goods, hot foods, fruit, meats, and cheeses were all still pretty lackluster.  The made-to-order egg station is a nice addition to just a buffet, but it was highly inconsistent.  I still prefer the Sheraton on the Park executive lounge's breakfast spread, which is really quite impressive.


Some buffets offer table service for drinks, but here all drinks are self-serve, both hot and cold, located in the buffet area. This includes water, so you needed to get up to refill your own water glass.  I didn't mind, but for the price point, I'd expect water glasses, and perhaps coffee cups, to be refilled at the tables.
Water, Apple Juice, Orange Juice.
Basic juices seemed like they were from concentrate.
Cranberry Juice, Grapefruit Juice.
The cranberry and grapefruit were a bit better, but, I am still guessing none of it was fresh squeezed.
Fancy Juices/Smoothies.
Each day there was also always a fancier juice and smoothie, in pitchers.  Presumably these were fresh.

The After Eight, made from kiwi, pear, mint, and apple was super sweet, a bit thick though.  

The Mixed Berry Energizer,  made from berries, honey, yogurt, skim milk was far too yogurty for me, I didn't really taste the fruit at all.

I didn't really care for these, but I appreciated that they made the effort to have healthy juices in addition to the standard ones.
Hot drinks were also self serve.  Tea was in a basket, with a urn of hot water.  The selection was decent, and included English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Yellow Gold Oolong, Lychee Black Tea, Jasmine Pearls, Chai, Jade Sword Green Tea, and Peppermint.
Coffee Maker.
Coffee came from a robot machine that could make espresso, americanos, and milk based beverages (whole milk).  The beans were ground fresh for each cup, which I appreciated, particularly for decaf.  Many places just use instant for decaf.

The coffee was fine, not particularly notable.

Breads, Cereals

I'm not one for basic breads and cereals generally, but I was there for long enough that I finally checked these areas out.  All were basic and standard, nothing notable.
Gluten-free Station. 
The country of Australia does a really, really good job with gluten-free.  I'm not gluten sensitive, but I'm always shocked by how gluten-conscious everywhere is there.  Every restaurant has either a dedicated gluten-free menu, or clearly labels items.  Airline lounges, hotel buffets, etc all have separate stations.  It really is quite impressive.

The gluten-free area had its own bread and bagels, packaged cereals, and even muffins.  I tried the chocolate muffin, but it wasn't very good, very dry.
For the gluten-eaters, a decent selection of sliced bread and english muffins were available, with a standard conveyor belt toaster.

The english muffins were just standard english muffins, nothing special, but nice to use to make egg and cheese sandwiches, with fried eggs from the egg station.
Raisin Toast.
One morning, fairly late into my stay, I decided to give toast a try.  I was kinda out of other options, and the raisin toast looked decent.  It came as very thick slices, loaded up with raisins.  I slathered it with butter, and I think with some cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle on top it might have been decent enough.  But, it was just raisin toast.
Jams, Spreads.
To go along with the toast was a station with little bots of Hank's jams, in assorted flavors.  They didn't seem like the highest quality jams.

There was also Beerenberg honey, Kraft smooth peanut butter, butter, margarine, Nutella, and of course, vegemite.  I give them credit for the Nutella, even though it isn't something I really go for.
The cereal line up was standard Kellogg's choices, just like in the lounge.  Granola Oat Clusters, Natural Muesli, NutriGrain, Special K, Cornflakes Sultana Bran, Coco Pops.

I tried the granola and muesli, but I didn't like either.  Untoasted, not very flavorful.

These dispensers were also infuriating.  They were jammed more often than not, and when you'd finally get some cereal, it usually came pouring out.  They also crushed the cereal.  I don't understand how these dispensers are so popular, when they just fail to do their basic job!
Nuts, Seeds, Milk.
Next to the cereal were walnuts, hazelnuts, and pumpkin seeds, to jazz up your breakfast, plus milk for the cereal.

Continental Selection

The center of the buffet housed the continental selection, none of which was interesting.
Salad Station.
The salad area had mixed leaf salad, cucumbers, olives, cherry tomatoes, peppers.

The olives were fine, unremarkable.

There was no dressing.  I didn't ever see anyone take salad.  Do people eat salad for breakfast?
Smoked Salmon and Accompaniments.
The smoked salmon station always looked good, the platter always kept full full.  Alongside were cubes of cream cheese, thinly sliced red onion, capers, and lemon wedges.

Since the Sheraton on the Park executive lounge had such good smoked salmon, I decided to try this one day, when the rest of my breakfast consisted of piles of baked goods, and I knew I should have some protein.

It wasn't good.  Chewy and stringy, flavorless, not smoky.  This must be why it was always full?  No one ate it?  I at least liked the capers.
Meat and Cheese.
These mostly seemed the same as offered in the lounge in the evening.

The meats were all just sliced deli meat: salami, turkey, and ham.  They never looked tempting.

The sliced cheeses were equally boring, swiss and "low fat cheese".

The "real" cheeses were slightly better, the cheddar had a decent sharpness to it, but the brie was pretty flavorless.
Dried Superfruits.
Next to the cheeses was a "dried superfruits" station with apricots, apples, and cubes of mixed tropical fruit.

Most days I finished my meal with a handful of the sweet cubed tropical fruit. None of it was awesome, but, it was sweet and good enough.

Fruit and Yogurt

The other side of the main area was a mecca of fruit and yogurt.   Like in the lounge, this tended to be the best of the options.
Stewed Fruit, Fresh Fruit.
The fruit section started with stewed fruit (pears, plums, apricots, and prunes), along with fresh fruit (mixed fruit salad, watermelon, grapes, and rockmelon).

The fruit salad sometimes had persimmon, strawberries, and star fruit, which I got excited for every time I saw them, but none were particularly good.

The stewed fruits were my best bet for adding a little fruit sweetness to my yogurts, but, they were just super sweet.
Fresh Fruit, Packaged Yogurt.
The fresh fruit continued with passionfruit, orange segments, kiwi, and pineapple chunks.

I was always excited for the passionfruit and kiwi.

The passionfruit was actually quite good.  Maybe this was just novelty to me, as I don't get it frequently in the US, but I loved sweet and tart flavor.

The kiwi was the best of the fruit, most days it was pretty good.

For packaged yogurt, there was Chobani greek yogurt in fat free or regular and Nestle Ski De Light brand low fat yogurts in assorted flavors.  I tried several of the yogurts (passionfruit mango and blueberry).  They were just standard light yogurt, runny and not creamy, very fake fruit tasting.  They did have little bits of fruit in them though.
Potted Yogurt, Bircher Muesli, Juice Shots.
The final items were the same as we had in the lounge, potted yogurts, muesli, and juice shots.

The yogurts were natural unsweetened yoghurt with granola and berry compote added.  The yogurt was way too tangy for my taste, and the granola on top was always incredibly soggy.  This is so sad, because I do love Australian yogurt, just not this yogurt.
The bircher muesli quickly became my favorite item.  Mixed with shredded apple, the right amount of yogurt to make it pleasantly creamy, but not too tart.  I even liked the scattering of dried fruit and seeds on top, but I always added more, either more dried fruit, or stewed fruit from the fruit bar, or even fresh passionfruit.  My favorite was just drizzling more of the fruit syrup from one of the compotes on top.

On my final day, the muesli was actually different.  It had a lot more random fruit inside (bits of stewed prunes, apricots) and was garnished with a strawberry and seeds rather than the dried fruit.  It wasn't as sweet, and was thicker.  Sadness.  But the other days, this was a real winner.

The final item here was little juice shots, dubbed Carrot Ginger Zingers.  I tried it one day, and, well, yes, that was zinggy!  The ginger was crazy strong.

Hot Foods

The hot food selection never changed from day to day.  This was disappointing, as I was hoping to see some variety here, even if the rest of the buffet never changed.  Even the Sheraton on the Park executive lounge breakfast buffet changed out their hot foods, but alas, nothing ever changed here.

In particular, I'd love to see the simple pancakes alternated with other selections, like french toast, waffles, or even flavored pancakes.  Or some hot porridge?  The Westin executive lounge hot food buffet always included a subset of these items, and it did rotate somewhat, since it featured fewer items every day.

The hots foods here were just as unappealing as up in the executive lounge, although there were always more options.
Swiss Pork Veal Sausages, Bacon.

The first station of breakfast meats never looked worth trying.  Flabby bacon, and "Swiss Pork Veal Sausages".  I love breakfast sausage, but not this style.
Turkey Sausage, Turkey Bacon.
So, I don't like poultry.  Certainly not chicken, not roast turkey.  But ... turkey bacon I can sometimes really like.  I can't explain it.  So, again, several days into the buffet, I finally decided to try these things.

The sausage I really didn't like.  It was seared on the outside nicely, but, well, it tasted like turkey.  My own fault I guess.

The turkey bacon I had decent hopes for, given that, uh, I even like the turkey bacon at Starbucks (shh, don't judge!)  This I didn't like.  It was just kinda flappy, moist from being inside the steam tray, and not crispy.  Meh.
Poached Eggs, Scrambled Eggs.
Since the scrambled eggs in the executive lounge were so so strange, and these looked the same, I skipped them here too.

The poached eggs were decent, well poached with nice runny center, but I always found they weren't quite warm enough.  They did replenish this station frequently, so it was easy to watch and get one fresh (or, likely, fresh out of the water bath where they were being held).
Boiled Eggs.
And, more eggs.  Hard boiled.  I never tried these.

Pancakes with Maple Syrup.
Sure, buffet pancakes aren't generally very good, but, at the Sheraton on the Park executive lounge buffet they sometimes did a decent job.  Not here.

These were just gummy and flavorless.  And like most of the hot foods, strangely moist from being held in a steam tray.

I did appreciate the pot of maple syrup on the side, as I added it to most of my other food.  I know, I have a sugar problem, but, hash browns, bacon, eggs, etc are all just so much better with syrup!
Hash Browns, Roasted Potatoes.
The hash browns and roasted potatoes never looked good, but I saw Ojan take the hash browns several times, so I finally tried one.

Triangle style, shredded potato style.  It was not good.  Not really hot, and very, very oily.  Even slathered with maple syrup, I wasn't able to enjoy it, since all I tasted was oil.
Mushrooms, Roasted Tomatoes.
I never tried either of the first veggie selections, roasted mushrooms and tomatoes.
Green Beans, Baked Beans.
The next veggie station was ... beans, green and baked.

I never tried the green beans, since they really just don't seem like breakfast to me.

I did eventually try the baked beans.  There were several varieties of beans, they were not too mushy, and not too hard.  Decently cooked, but alas, I didn't care for the flavor of the sauce.
Soy Sauce, Sweet Chili Sauce.
The buffet also featured soy sauce and sweet chili sauce.

I love adding sauces to my food.  But ... I really couldn't ever find a use for soy sauce or sweet chili sauce on my breakfast items.  These seems like strange accompaniments, and I never saw anyone use them.

I did try the sweet chili sauce at once point, and it was exactly the kind I like - sweet, gooey.  But honestly, what was I supposed to use it with?

Made to Order Eggs

The buffet had a nice addition of a made to order egg station on the side, offering up omelets and eggs cooked however you wanted.

The quality of what you got however was highly inconsistent.  I tried an omelet one day, and it was really overcooked, super dry, and only had a tiny sprinkle of cheese.  Meh.
Egg Over Medium.
I'm not generally an egg eater, but I do like a good egg and cheese on english muffin.  So, one day, I threw an english muffin in the toaster, got some of the decent cheddar, and ordered an egg over medium to throw on it.

It certainly wasn't medium, the yolk was fully cooked.  The whites were really tough.  It was totally unseasoned, and just not very good at all.  The chef didn't even look to be paying attention while preparing it.

I tried again a few days later, with a different chefs.  I ordered two eggs over medium.  This time they were perfectly cooked, and I really should have taken a photo.  Stunning.  The whites were perfect, the yolk still a bit runny.  Since I knew the egg chef had the makings for omelets, I also asked for some spinach on top, and she took such care in sautéing up some spinach on the side, in a separate pan, and then laying it on top.  Really nicely done!
Egg Over Medium, topped with spinach, onion, mushroom.
Given the success of my second attempt, I tried a third time, again with toppings, but alas, this did not work.  The egg yolks were fully cooked, the whites rubbery, and the veggies drenched in oil.

Sorry I never got a photo of the decent eggs!

Pastry Station

I was excited to see an extensive baked goods area, since baked goods are always my favorite part of breakfast.  Sadly, the pastries looked exactly like the same ones I had encountered in the executive lounge, and they were truly dreadful.  And indeed, they were the same.  And they were again almost all dreadful.  Ugh.
Danishes, Croissants.
A sign on the side listed the varieties of pastry available, but wasn't really accurate.

Not listed anywhere was the item on the far left, jelly donuts!  I remembered these from the lounge  as perhaps the only baked good that wasn't horrible.  I had one again on my first day at this buffet.  Just like before, the donut itself was kinda stale tasting and fried, but, I liked the crispy outside (not that that is normally a feature of a donut) and the jam inside.  It, like before, was almost good.

Then I had one a few days later, and it was gross.  It tasted oily and old, and even all the sugar on the exterior couldn't save it.  The jelly inside was indeed good though.
Plain Croissant.
The croissant varieties listed on the signage were linseed, almond, ham and cheese, or mini plain.  I never saw the ham and cheese ones however, and there were also chocolate filled ones coated in powdered sugar and large plain ones that were not listed.

I started with the almond.  It was not flaky and not moist.  It was oily and not buttery.  It was chewy even.  Really, a gross croissant base, and this was consistent across all their croissants.  It had a dried out almond paste and sliced almonds on top.  Not a winner.

The long croissant with powdered sugar on top turned out to be chocolate, which wasn't listed on the menu as a croissant.  The croissant dough was again not flaky nor buttery, and inside was just a stick of chocolate.  Unremarkable.

Next I tried the other long one, assuming it would be the listed ham and cheese, since the other long one clearly had seeds in it, and must be the linseed.  But ... it didn't have any ham nor cheese in it, and seemed to just be plain.  It also turned out to be my favorite of the baked goods, and I was sad I didn't try it until my second to last day.  Perhaps I just lucked out, but the exterior was actually a bit flaky.  Inside was doughy.  No, it wasn't a perfect specimen of a flaky, buttery croissant.  But, for a buffet croissant, I actually really quite enjoyed it.  It had a pleasant sweetness and savoriness to it.  Good with jam, dunked in the yolk from a poached egg, or honestly, even just on its own.

The final day, I went back for the plain large croissant, and, it was again good!  I even enjoyed it plain, which is a testament, I normally slather my plain croissants in all sorts of toppings.  I really wish I had discovered these sooner, and it makes no sense to me that all the others were so awful, yet the plain were fine.

The mini plain croissant was not as good, and matched the other croissants - dry, stale, not flaky, not buttery, rather gross.

The linseed was just like the others, dry, not flaky, studded with seeds.
Guava Danish. Diamond Custard.
The danishes listed on the sign were: Apple Turnovers, Guava, Diamond Custard, Chocolate, Mixed Berry, Raisin Scroll, Chocolate Custard.

I never discovered the chocolate custard danish, and I'm guessing the chocolate croissant was what they were considering a chocolate danish?

I tried what must have been the guava danish.  This is the mystery danish that I wasn't able to identify when I had it in the Westin executive lounge.  I said it had a "a center filled with a reddish paste (jam?)".  I thought it might be quince.  It turned out to be guava I guess.

The pastry was again crappy, but I liked the sweet filling, so I extracted it and added it to my muesli.

The Diamond Custard had a custard filling that was really bad.  Warm custard is not a good thing.  And of course, the pastry base was gross.

The Mixed Berry danish again had the poor pastry base and some mediocre mixed berry jam/paste inside, with a lattice and drizzle of icing on top.  Not good.

The apple turnover however was the worst.  The pastry itself wasn't any worse than the others, and perhaps was even a bit flaky, but the filling was just a big pile of mush.  I really did not like it.
Muffins: Chocolate, Blueberry, Raspberry, Cinnamon Roll.
The sign didn't mention cinnamon rolls, but they were there every day.

I of course tried one, since, well, cinnamon rolls.  It was totally dried out.  Burnt even.  And it didn't have any cinnamon flavor.

Moving on to the muffins.  I knew that I hated the blueberry and raspberry muffins in the lounge, so this time I tried the chocolate.   It was not the worst thing ever, but was basically a chocolate cupcake or brownie.  Really not a breakfast item.  I liked the little chocolate chips strewn on top.  It was also strangely moist on top ... which works for a chocolately item.  It was  not a good muffin, but not the worst thing on offer.  I particularly liked it if I slathered it with peanut butter.  Because, well, chocolate and peanut butter.  I never said I was a healthy breakfast eater!

Of course, I tried the chocolate one again a few days later, and, it was drier, staler, and had a strange bitter funk to it.  I'm wondering if perhaps they actually only bake these off every couple days, and it depends how fresh you get them?  Next time, I'll have to collate my experiences with day of the week ...

I also tried a raspberry almond muffin in a fit of desperation (er, curiosity).  It was just as bad as I recalled: really strange base flavor, only one raspberry in the whole muffin, gross, gross.
The quickbread menu listed banana and carrot, but there was a third variety.  I tried it, and it was loaded up with nuts, seeds, and fruit.  I can't even list all the things I found in it, but it definitely contained dried apple, dried apricot, macadamias, and a bunch of seeds.  Perhaps I'd call it a muesli loaf?  It was ok but nothing special.

The banana bread was dry and not very tasty.

Not listed on a sign anywhere were some rolls in a basket next to the breads (not in this photo).  I thought that they would be sweet, perhaps the chocolate custard filled item I couldn't find before?  Nope.  They turned out to be ... a sundried tomato savory rolls.  Given that I thought it was going to be sweet chocolate, this was quite the surprise.  And, like everything, it was dry and totally stale tasting.  Sigh.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Milkshakes ... from Pinkberry?

You know me and birthday freebies, I can't resist!  Particularly when they are for awesome things like frozen yogurt at Pinkberry.  I really like Pinkberry, and you can read all about past Pinkberry froyo creations, such as my first ever visit when they opened in SF, my return visit a few weeks later,  my 2013 and 2014 Pinkberry birthday outings, and other visits.

So when my birthday rolled around this year, I picked the first hot day, and eagerly set off to Pinkberry, excited to see my 6 flavor choices.  And then ... I saw them.  Hmm.  Not exciting.  As always, they had classic tart and chocolate hazelnut, both pretty boring.  Next came two fruity flavors: blood orange and pear.  I tried the blood orange and it was crazy sweet, and not in a good way.  Pear was a seasonal offering, creamy, decent enough, but not really for me.  Next, dairy-free peach passion.  This had a decent flavor, but was just sorbet (sorry those who are dairy-free, but I'm all about the cream).  The final flavor was another seasonal one, pumpkin.  It too was decently creamy, but I didn't care for the spicing.

I was a bit dejected.  I didn't like any of the flavors.  The birthday freebee is only good for the month, and I was gone for most of August, so I had no more time.  I had to use it, or lose it.  And I couldn't lose my freebie!

Then, the helpful staff member who was taking my order chimed in, "you can also get a smoothie or shake if you want?  Anything that is the same price as a small with toppings ..."

I had no idea that Pinkberry even had these on the menu.  At one point they experimented with offering greek yogurt, but that didn't last long.  All anyone gets there is froyo with toppings.  But since I wasn't loving the froyo flavors, maybe a shake wasn't a bad idea?

I eyed the shakes and smoothies menu.  Smoothies are made with greek yogurt and fruit, all healthy sounding, and none of the exclusively fruity flavors jumped out at me.  The shakes however are made with froyo.  They have only three flavors: strawberry pomegranate, chocolate banana, and chocolate peanut butter.  Chocolate peanut butter you say?  Well, hmm.  Chocolate and peanut butter are always a great match in my book ...
Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake. $5.25.
"The perfect twist on a classic milkshake, made with the goodness of yogurt."

I felt bad as soon as I ordered it, and saw how much work my server had to do, compared to a standard froyo order.  A swirl of froyo, pack on a few toppings, done.  But a shake?  That took effort.  But she did volunteer the fact that I could get one, right?  Maybe it was nice to do something different?

My server immediately told me that she'd be back in a few minutes, and retreated to the back of the area.  She pulled out a gallon of milk and a tub of peanut butter.  She pulled out a blender.  And she got to work.

My shake was made with the chocolate hazelnut froyo, which she dispensed right from the froyo machine into the blender, plus milk (I think whole milk? I wasn't given a choice of milks, and I can't imagine they really have options), and a very generous amount of Peter Pan creamy peanut butter.  I'm pretty sure that is all that went into it.  

Anyway.  The consistency was really great.  Super thick, almost too thick to drink with a straw at first, but it melted quickly, so this wasn't actually a problem.  I also grabbed a spoon to enjoy a little that way as well.  The consistency was basically that of froyo, just slightly watered (er, milked?) down.  It reminded me of a Frosty from Wendy's, although I haven't had one of those in years.

The flavor was very, very rich.  It was too rich for me at first.  I love peanut butter, but I think she went overboard on how much she added.  As the shake melted it got a little less intense, plus, it grew on me as I became used to the richness.  But it would have certainly been better with slightly different ratios.  I had about half left when I got back to my office, and I quickly cut it with some soy milk, which worked wonders.

So overall, this was actually pretty good.  Clearly a different experience than getting a froyo loaded with toppings, but if you are in the mood for a shake, it turns out, Pinkberry can do a decent job.  I'm not sure why the shake menu is so limited though, as they do have plenty of ingredients with which they could make some awesome shakes.  I wonder if you could customize one?

I also really wanted whipped cream on top.  And I kinda wanted chocolate chips mixed in for some texture, like you can get in Starbucks frappucinos (another freebie I got for my birthday ... stay tuned!)

The regular $5.25 price seemed a big high, but it was a very large shake.  This is the same price as a small with toppings, and compared to that, a shake is a much greater value - it has far more froyo in it than a comparable small dish, and the server spends much more time mixing it up (and then cleaning the blender out).  I'd get it again in similar circumstances, but I wouldn't necessarily seek it out.