Thursday, May 26, 2016

Tartine Bakery

Update Reviews, 2019 - 2020

Ah, Tartine.  San Francisco bakery darling.  For good reason, really.  They make some very textbook, essentially perfect, items.  This update includes my indulging from 2019 & 2020, but see my original review, or 2016 update for prior information and reviews.

Croissants / Morning Buns

Tartine is well known for many items, but, the morning bun is certainly one of the most highly regarded.  I personally think they make the best croissants I've ever had, and they offer the standard variety: plain, frangipane, pain au chocolat, pain au jambon.  They are all massive, and $$$, but, delicious.
Morning Bun. $4.75. (April 2019).
"Cinnamon sugar, candied orange."

Yup, the Tartine morning bun.  I finally got to have one WARM.

I'll admit that I've never been totally crazy about the morning bun. I know it is, literally, Tartine's most prized item, but for me it is just good, not, amazing.

The dough is beautifully moist inside, flaky and crispy on the outside, although, I find it a bit too crispy at times.  I loved the generous cinnamon and sugar coating, but the essence of orange is what detracts for me.  I just ... don't go for citrus like this.

It was good, don't get me wrong, but certainly not my first choice of item.
Morning Bun. $4.75. (October 2019)
I seem unable to resist trying these, even though I know how I feel about them.  They just look *so* good, and I know everyone else loves them.

I again recognize how well made it is, crispy exterior, perfectly coated in cinnamon sugar, but ... the citrus element, and the type of dough, just ... well, it isn't for me.  Luckily, my partner loves these, so I take my bite, and hand it off to a happy recipient.
Croissant. $4.75. (April 2019).
The Tartine croissant is a thing of ... well, perfection.  As textbook as it gets.  Very simple, and not what I generally want to just eat on its own (e.g. no filling), but, its as good as a croissant will ever be.

Incredibly flaky exterior, moist and buttery interior, just, gorgeous.  I was able to experience one warm, and, wow, what a treat.  

That said, for me, I wanted a spread to put on it, perhaps something like Nutella, but really, I wanted a pandan jam or something with a bit of flavor.
Pain Au Jambon. $6.50. (October 2019).
"Smoked ham, gruyère."

As good as the classic croissant is, the pain au jambon is ... well, another step up, if you want a more savory, and substantial item.

And substantial it is.  I wish I had a reference point, but ... this thing is honestly a meal.  Cut it in half, and perhaps it is a reasonable morning item, or it is perfect paired with a salad.  I can't imagine eating a full one in one sitting, as glorious as it is.  (But of course I will save the other half to warm up later!).

It really is just as perfect as can be.  Flaky, crispy, golden brown exterior.  Laminated, buttery, textbook layers.  Loaded with melted gruyère and sliced smoked ham, both of which are flavor powerhouses.

It is fantastic even just at room temperature, and I love the crispy bits of cheese that often are attached to the outside, crisped up after melting out and baking.  I often like it warm too, with melty cheese inside instead, but both ways, it is a winner.

Yes, $6.50 is pricey for a croissant, but consider it a sandwich, and that is totally reasonable.  And really, the quality cannot be beat.
Pain Au Jambon. $6.50. (January 2020).
Perfection.  Utter perfection.

I don't really have any other words or ways to describe the Tartine pain au jambon.  Getting one feels like winning the lottery.  A massive lottery.
Pain Au Jambon: Cross Section.
When it is fresh, I adore it at room temperature, with the perfectly flaky exterior, and incredibly flavorful gruyère and smoked ham inside.  Pair it with a salad, and it is an easy meal.

Warm it up, and the cheese gets melty, the inside more moist.  Also excellent, and a great way to devour the second half a few hours later, if you manage to restrain yourself from eating the whole thing at first.

These are just, well, amazing pastries.  I'll gladly get one, anytime.

Scones / Biscuits / Gougère

Tartine has more savory options than many bakeries.

They make exactly one type of sweet scone, and it never rotates with the seasons.  They make one type of savory scone, and I think it sometimes changes.  In addition, other savory treats include a (massive) gougère, that is always a visual stunner.
Buttermilk Scone. $4.25.
"Currants, candied orange zest."

This is the one sweet scone, and even with that, I'd say its not particularly sweet, although I do love the large pearl sugar on top.

I also lost my update review of this one, but I do recall feeling kinda "eh" about it, as it is just a scone of a variety that I don't tend to gravitate towards (eh to currants, eh to citrus).

Update January 2020: Yup, this scone isn't for me.  I'm just not into the currants or citrus.
Savory Scone. $4.75. (April 2019).
"Bacon, gruyère, fromage blanc."

I had this scone.  I wrote a full review.  And ... somehow Blogger lost it.   When I came to write update reviews, only the photo was here.  So, I present you the April savory scone, which I think I liked, but honestly, I don't remember.
Savory Scone. $4.75. (May 2019)
"Pickled fresno chili, cheddar, corn."

The May savory scone sounded like a winner to me - cheese!  corn! Chili!  And although a savory scone is never what I go for as a morning pastry, it made an excellent pairing with a salad later in the day.

It was a good scone.  Nice texture, a bit crumbly, moist enough but dry as a scone should be.  Not a ton of base flavor, but a nice backdrop of cheddar, a pop of heat from the fresno chili, and tons of texture from actual kernels of corn.  I was very appreciative of the whole pieces of corn, rather than cornmeal as I thought it might be.

A nice savory scone, and yes, it paired well with a salad.
Savory Scone. $5.25. (January 2020).
"Bacon, gruyère, formage blanc, herbs, salt"

Oh, man, this was a great scone.  Savory scones aren't something I normally seek out, but when I see one from Tartine, I go running straight for it.

It is a firm style, biscuit like, great crumble and texture.  Hard on the outside, moist but not too moist inside, and, much like the pain au jambon, just loaded with flavor.  Bacon and gruyère FTW, and plenty of herbs too.  

I've never even managed to try heating one of these up, as I devour them instantly.  I think they would be wonderful with some country style gravy, akin to biscuits and gravy, but I never get that far.  More of a lunch item for me, paired with a simple salad.

I'll gladly get one of these anytime, and it remains a toss up just based on my mood if I prefer this, or the pain au jambon.
Gougère. $4.50. (April 2019).
"Gruyère, black pepper, thyme."

I've had these before, and always find them pleasant enough.  Large, fluffy, flavorful from the gruyère, pepper, and thyme, but not generally the most exciting item to me.

Update (January 2020): Crowds love these, comments abound about the size, but, they really aren't the thing for me.  A bit too ... eggy inside.


Tartine makes individual 4" starts, or larger 9" tarts (to serve 8).  I am not really into tarts, and mostly have ignored these, but someday I really want to seek out the banana cream tart, as Iv'e heard it is much like bannoffee pie, which I really, really love (it has caramel and chocolate layers!)
Chocolate Hazelnut Tart. 4". $8. (October 2019).
"Sweet pastry shell, guanaja, orange."

So, yeah, I never really like tarts, but one morning we had these, when I was particularly craving chocolate.  Yes, a chocolate tart for breakfast.  Don't judge.

I ... well, really didn't like it.  The tart shell was a standard tart shell, just crispy, and plain, and uninteresting to me.

The filling was kinda like a brownie, but a bit dry, and not interesting either.  I liked the hazelnuts on top for crunch, but yeah ... this was very ... bland, dry, and not what I would have expected from Tartine.

Gluten Free / Vegan

Tartine may not be where you'd think of for gluten-free items, but they do make a few gluten-free items, including breakfast pastries.  They always have a vegan crumb cake too.

Spoiler: the muffins are *amaze*.
Seasonal Muffin (Blueberry). Wheat-Free. $5.
"Almond, oat and rice flour, walnut, crumble."

Um, wow.  I can't say I expect *anything* of gluten-free, baked goods of all things, but this was, hands down, the best gluten-free baked good I've ever had.  It was one of my favorite Tartine items at all, in fact.

Yes, really.

It was shockingly good.  Super moist, bursting with flavor from the generous amount of fruit, and I loved the texture from the walnuts inside.  And I loved the crumble on top.  Maybe not the blueberry muffin for someone who wants a simple white base and just blueberries inside, but for me, this was as good as a blueberry muffin can be, almost like a blueberry crisp or crumble, in muffin form.

Loved it.  Would gladly devour another, anytime.
Seasonal Muffin (Peach & Currant?). Wheat-Free. $5.25. (October 2019).
The muffin changes frequently, but is always just listed as "seasonal".  It always features fruit, a crumble top, and some kind of nut.  This one trended far more into the dessert fruit crumble direction than morning muffin really, which didn't bother me at all.

The crumble top on this was my favorite part.  Sweet oats, crispy pecans, and I'm not sure what else.  It basically turned this into a dessert.  Great textures.

The base had a nice flavor from the mix of flours, clearly not a regular muffin, and it crumbled apart nearly immediately, but it was moist, and I liked the rice flour in particular, it almost made it taste like ... mochi?
Seasonal Peach + Currant Muffin: Inside.
Inside was big chunks of I think peaches (maybe nectarines?), little currants, and pecans.  I was pleased to see the stone fruit so late into October!  

The fruit was super juicy, and surrounded by pockets of moisture.  Fantastic, again, making this mostly a fruit crumble, not a muffin.  I hated the currants, as I really just can't stand them, and wish Tartine was less excited about them (the sweet scone is *always* currant.  Boo!).  They didn't ruin this, but, they certainly detracted from my experience.

I warmed this up, and topped with whipped cream, and had it as a dessert, and I loved it.
Vegan Crumb Cake. $4.75.
I tried this just for completeness.

It was very, very meh.  The cake had no real flavor, and was a bit gummy.  Even the crumb topping was kinda flavorless.  Certainly not an item I wanted a second bite of even.
Orange Sesame Tea Cake (GF, V).  $5.25. (January 2020).
This was a strange one, gluten-free and vegan, and really, really, really moist.  And dense.  Dense and moist.  Very different.  I was not into the texture, nor to the orange flavor that prevailed, but I did like the generous crust of sesame seeds on top.

Cookies & Confections

The final bakery menu section is cookies & confections, including chocolate pudding that I'd love to try sometime.
Eclair. (January 2020). $6.50.
"Vanilla cream, Valhrona glaze."

Wow.  Another #textbook item.

Seriously, textbook.

I will admit however that I'm not a fan of choux pastry, so eclairs and cream puffs are never really my thing, but I couldn't resist trying the version from Tartine, particularly once I saw it.
Eclair: Inside.
The choux pastry was as I expected, light, eggy, and not a flavor I like.  But I know how well made it was, how perfectly piped.

It was also perfectly filled, filled to the brim with INCREDIBLE vanilla cream filling.  It was a looser style than many others, it ran out, it made a huge mess, but I didn't care.  Incredible flavor in that cream.  Seriously good cream.

And finally, the gorgeous shiny chocolate glaze, made from high quality dark Valhrona chocolate, intensely chocolately.  I wished I could have more of it, and less pastry, but they had the ratio right for those who actually like the pastry.

I likely won't get another eclair, but such a well made item, and, swoon, that cream.

[ No Photo ]
  • Coco Nib Rocher, $0.75.  Basically a meringue filled with cocoa nibs.  Nice crunch from nibs, very nice cloudlike consistency, a little too sweet.  Not really my thing.  Good price though.
  • Mexican Wedding Cookie, $0.85.  Covered in powdered sugar.  Not my thing, but another good price.
  • Toasted Almond Rocher, $0.75. Sweet, really nice almond, better than nib version, favorite of the cookies I've tried.

Update Review, April 2016

Morning Bun.  $4.20.
"Cinnamon sugar, candied orange."

Ah, the famous Tartine morning bun.  I've had a few of these in my life, to mixed success. I haven't ever disliked them, but haven't necessarily understood the hype.

This time was no different.  It was very, very crispy on the outside, but not in that nice caramelized way.  One edge, the left side here, was actually really burnt and dried out.

The entire thing did have a nice sugar coating, and the dough was decent, but, it certainly wasn't magical in any way.  It also did finally taste like orange, something I always noted before that was lacking (but, actually, I prefer to not taste the orange ...).

So, it was fine, and I'd eat another if it showed up, but, I wouldn't seek this out.  I still really want to try their bread pudding though!

Two years ago, I published my original Tartine review, and, a morning bun was $3.85.  I guess, inflation?

Original Review, March 2014

If you live in San Francisco, and have any friends who reside anywhere near the Mission, you've inevitably been to Tartine.  Or seen the lines on a weekend morning.  Or at least had someone enthusiastically show up at a party with some of their goods.  It is definitely an institution.  Even my mom, who lives in New Hampshire, called me up one day asking me if I'd been, as she read something about it somewhere.

I don't live in the Mission, I don't go there often these days, and quite honestly I don't get the Tartine hype.  I much prefer getting bread from Acme, and while the croissants are indeed pretty awesome at Tartine, the other things I've tried (particularly the cookies), haven't been all that memorable, and there are plenty of other places to get good baked goods in the city.  That said, they do have an absolutely incredible sounding banana cream tart, with caramel and chocolate layers, that I really, really want to try sometime.  If you are looking for a way to bribe me for any reason, please bring me a slice of that :)


Morning Bun.  $3.85.
This is perhaps Tartine's most famous treat.  Made with croissant dough, and loaded up with butter, sugar, cinnamon, and some subtle orange flavor.  It is crispy on the outside, doughy on the inside, and ridiculously sweet.  And delicious.  Apparently even better if you get it fresh out of the oven in the morning.  Famous, and hyped, for a reason.

Update: I love all the cinnamon and sugar and the crunchy exterior, but the inside is not as moist as I recall, and I don’t really taste the orange (not that I want to).  It didn't live up to my memory, but it was still a nice sugary treat.
Pain Au Jambon. $6.25.
"Smoked ham, gruyère."

A savory item.  Yes, I went for a savory item.

These things are massive-tastic.  The croissant dough is flaky, crispy, buttery, and perfectly browned. Filled with ham and gruyere.

High price, but it is basically a meal :)  My favorite of their goods.
Pain au jambon: Inside.
This photo shows less than half of one.

The gruyere in here is just so good.  It combines perfectly with ham.  And damn, Tartine really just does make the best croissants!

I've found that this thing is even more amazing if you warm it up in a toaster oven.  The cheese gets so melty, and the layers of croissant dough get a bit moist.  Absolutely amazingly delicious.
Frangipane Croissant. $4.50.
"Almond cream."

This was my least favorite, by far.  I'm not sure if you can see in the picture, but it was sadly burnt.  I hoped it wouldn't effect the taste, but it did.  I tasted ... soot, and it was fairly dry.

That said, it was the same buttery, delicious croissant dough, and was filled with frangipane and sliced almonds, topped with more sliced almonds and powdered sugar.  If it hadn't been over-cooked, it would have been quite good.

Like all of their pastries, it was hugetastic.

Update review (June 2015):

I had another of these when someone brought in a bunch to work.  It too looked burnt, and I was initially put off.  But, I came around to it. I think this must just be Tartine style.

Yes, it was very crispy.  It leaned almost too far in the burnt category, but managed to stay on the caramelized and crispy side of the scale instead.  I loved the crispy actually.  Inside was dense and obviously very buttery, but not quite as flaky as I was expecting.

The almond frangipane filling wasn't very generous either.

So, hard to call it amazing, when there are plenty of things I criticize about it, but, the quality of the croissant dough is certainly there.
Croissant. $4.20.
Buttery, flaky, delicious.  Crispy on the outside, moist on the inside.  Definitely one of the best croissants I've ever had, but pricy at $4.20 each.  This is the same base that they use for the other filled varieties.

Update: Very textbook croissant, large size, easy to split with someone, incredibly flaky exterior.  Quiet messy, as flakes get everywhere!  But a bit boring to just eat plain.  I’d want jam with it, or I prefer the almond or chocolate ones.


Passion Fruit Lime Bavarian.
    • Passion Fruit Lime Bavarian. “Lime-moistened genoise with passion fruit Bavarian. Topped with sweetened cream and coconut. "  Tasting notes: Light and fluffy genoise, but pretty boring as a cake layer, and I didn’t taste the lime.  The cream was intensely passion fruit flavored, but far more tart than I was expecting, not sweet at all.  Perhaps some of the lime in the cake is what I was tasting here?  The outside had sweetened whipped cream and coconut flakes, both things I like, but the whipped cream was very masked by the strong flavors of the passionfruit, and the coconut flakes were not toasted.
    • Tres Leches Cake, $5.50 slice. "Sweet coconut milk moistened chiffon, layered with cajeta and crema".  Tasting notes: A friend brought this to a party.  It did not look like anything special, not like something from a professional bakery, and certainly not from somewhere as famous as Tartine.  Many people kept asking if she had made it.  While it didn't win any beauty awards, it was obvious fairly quickly upon tasting it that this was not just a home cook's little cake.  First, it was unlike any tres leches cake I've ever had.  The bottom crust seemed to be made from their croissant dough?  The layers were moist and flavorful, with pastry cream in between them, and topped with whipped cream.  It somehow wasn't too sweet.  A nicely made cake, but the flaky croissant-like crust is really what made it something special.

Other Baked Goods

Lemon Cream Tart.  $6.75.
“Sweet pastry shell filled with rich lemon cream, topped with unsweetened cream”.  

Standard tart shell, hard style, not particularly interesting.  The filling was very tart, and lemon, which is not ever something that I like.  The whipped cream was not sweetened, quite rare, and so it tasted like … cream.  Fluffy cream.  Nothing wrong with that!

Definitely not something I care for, and the $6.75 price tag seemed high for a small individual size tart.

Buttermilk Scone. $4.25.
"Currants, candied orange zest."

This was good enough, but nothing amazing, hard style. Rolled in giant sugar crystals.

Previous tasting notes:  I really liked the buttermilk tang to it.  Did not hold up at all to a second day, got very soggy. I don't blame them though, no scones really keep!
Gougère, $3.50. 

This was HUGE! Decent flaky dough, decent cheese inside, but somehow just not that interesting overall. Not bad, but not great.

Update: Very light and airy, cheesy, not bad.
Tartine Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Waffle Iron Cooking: Quesadillas

I adore my waffle iron.  I use it to "cook" most meals.  As you know, my love of the waffle iron started with realizing it is the perfect way to re-heat so many things, as I've shared with you in my waffling leftovers series (what? You haven't read those?  Drop everything, and go read about waffling leftovers first, it will change your world!)

But I've advanced past just waffling leftovers.  Now, I create from scratch in my waffle iron too.  Last week, I shared how to make french toast in the waffle iron.  This week?  Quesadillas.

Quesadillas: Will if waffle?  Yup, easily, but, this one is subject to personal opinion.
Assembled Quesadilla.
Instructions for assembly are pretty simple.

Take a flour tortilla.  Put shredded cheese and whatever else you want inside (I used steak chunks in one, rotisserie chicken in another, and random veggies in another.  This is a great way to use up leftovers!)  Top with another flour tortilla.  Simple.

You could then take your quesadilla and cook it in any number of ways.  When I was a kid, I'd throw them in the microwave.  Slightly more advanced is baking in the oven or toaster oven.  In a pan on the stove top also works.  As does a panini press or grill.  Or, um, a waffle iron.
Waffled Quesadilla!
The cooking was simple too.

I slid it into the waffle iron, at 350° (a random choice, it just happened to be the previous setting), and cooked for about 5 minutes.  It got lovely waffle marks on it and was easy to remove from the waffle iron (unlike so many other creations!)

It was also super easy to cut into the requisite triangles, since the iron marks already divided it into quadrants.

I thought the waffle method of preparation was great.  It was cute, and I liked having the slightly soft areas and crispy bits where the iron touched, but Ojan was not a fan.  He said it was fine actually, but, not a quesadilla, and he wanted a quesadilla.  Since I could only fit one in the waffle iron at a time, I also put one on the George Foreman grill at the same time.  That one came out crispier since more surface area of the tortilla touched the grill, and he was much happier with it.  (I do wonder if I'd cranked up the heat more if this would have gotten crispier ...  but, I guess it will always have the problem of not having every surface touch the iron, so, if you want all crispy, you won't get it with a waffle iron).

So, super simple, I thought it worked, but, to each their own ...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney

Update Review, February 2016

Last week, I updated my review of the First Class Qantas lounge in Sydney, hands down, my favorite airline lounge.  Go there, read about the phenomenal food and massages, and then return here as as comparison point.

I've also reviewed the business class lounge before, so feel free to start there, and then return here for a quick 2016 update.

After we had our delicious main dishes, it was time for Ojan’s massage, and I had a half hour to explore before mine.  I wandered over to the business class lounge, just to take a peak (ok, who are we kidding, of course I was going for the food!)  As always, the staff noted my status and let me know that I really would be more comfortable over in the First Class lounge.  I told them I just wanted to check it out, and I was welcomed in.

The business lounge was much, much more crowded, a very different feel than the calm, serene First Class lounge.  I immediately understood why they warned me.
Salad Buffet (Business Lounge).
In the business class side, there is one “dish of the day”, and beyond that, the food is served at a buffet, a stark contrast to the full restaurant in the First Class lounge.

The buffet had one hot entree with sides (chicken, potatoes, carrots), a hot soup, and a selection of salads.  I recalled the salads being great before, so I went for them again.  And ... they were great!

From right:
 “Edamame vegetables”
The big bowl was the not-very-descriptively named  “Edamame vegetables”, which was actually delicious.  Now, I don’t care for edamame, but the sliced radishes and carrots were crunchy and refreshing.  I loved the dressing, and the crunch from the sunflower seeds.  Really, an excellent salad.

“Salt baked beetroot”
I didn’t try the beets, since I don’t really like beets, but, I know my mom would have liked this.  I almost tried them in her honor, but, I knew I should save my stomach space.

“Roasted sweet potato”
The roasted sweet potato wedges were quite nice, really nicely roasted and slightly caramelized.  I was hoping the white stuff on them would be an aioli of sorts, but, it was more like a tart yogurt.

“Rocket leaves”
I skipped the simple rocket (arugula).

“Tomato, feta, and basil”
Since I wanted one last taste of summer, I went for the tomato salad.  The tomatoes were delicious!  Ahh, summer.  I liked the slight saltiness and creaminess from the feta too.

Overall, the salads were excellent, and I have to say, I could have been quite happy just making a big, healthy meal of these.  But of course, I had the fish burger, pasta, and sashimi already, and had my eyes on dessert next …
 Baked Lemon Cheesecake, Raspberry Lamington (Business Lounge).
The dessert selection in the buffet had cheesecake, lamingtons, and flourless chocolate brownies.  Of course I planned to go back to order a plated dessert in the First Class lounge, but … cheesecake!  I couldn't resist the smallest slice.

I’m so glad I took a slice, as it was really, really good.  Creamy cheesecake, with just a hint of lemon.  The crust was buttery, sugary, and really good.

I wasn’t remotely hungry, but then … this cheesecake happened.  I was powerless.  Devoured.
Gelato & Sorbet (Business Lounge).
At that point, since I was already stuffed and clearly in “eat all the things!” mode, I swung by the gelato and sorbet stand.  Just to “look”.  The sorbet choices were strawberry, pink grapefruit, and pineapple.  For gelato, green apple, coffee, and panna cotta.  It was hopeless.  Of course I needed the panna cotta gelato.  I mean, my blog has a label for panna cotta, and another for ice cream.  I love these items, and combined together? I had to try.

It was really quite good, the flavor a bit hard to describe, sorta ... buttermilky?  It was a smooth, creamy gelato.  I really enjoyed it.

Also near the gelato area was a barista bar with soft, fluffy marshmallows and white chocolate disks (both delicious) and candy jars full of layered licorice.

On a sugar high, and absolutely stuffed, I headed back to the First Class lounge for my massage, and then to meet Ojan for … more dessert.  Mission accomplished.

Original Review, February 2015

Ahh, the Sydney Qantas lounges.  As you read about last week, I really, really enjoyed my time in the Qantas First Class lounge.  If you ever have the opportunity, I highly recommend spending as much time there as you possibly can.  The food is better than most restaurants in Sydney itself, the spa actually offers real massages, the seating is comfortable, the staff is friendly ... my accolades can go on and on.

But of course, I'm a curious girl, so after having lunch in the First Class lounge, I needed to go on a journey to check out the business class side, just to compare.  I didn't spend all that much time in the business lounge though, so this is mostly just a photo tour with a slight narrative, for informational purposes, rather than an in-depth review.

Overall, it is a nice lounge for sure, although not nearly as premium as in the First Class lounge.  The salads in the buffet were particularly impressive, and, just like the First Class lounge, compared to the Qantas Business Lounge in LAX, the Sydney one is a league above.


Lounge Style Seating.
The seating was not nearly as plush nor fabulous as the First Class area, but was still comfortable.
Apparently some strange creatures exist who travel without computers, so there is a row of workstations set up, overlooking the runways.
Long Bar.
The center of the room contains a long bar with seating all along it, plus a barista station, where they make fancy hot chocolate, using real chocolate, garnished with fancy marshmallows.
Right next to the barista station is ... a gelato shop!  Yes, seriously.  I obviously would have gone for this, except I was planning to return to the First Class area to order at least one, if not two, desserts from the restaurant there, so I had to use restraint.  The placement next to the barista however is perfect for an affagado, a trick I discovered with glee in the British Airways Galleries lounge at Heathrow.
The bar also had meringues set out, but they were the hard style, and not something I've ever tempted by, even when I'm not anticipating other desserts.  One point for me resisting a dessert!
Spa Water.
The very far end of the bar houses spa water, self-serve, which I really appreciated.  Hydration during travel is very important.
Self-Serve Beverages.
For other sorts of hydration, a self-serve beverage station is at one end of the room, with several beers on tap, a handful of wines and spirits, and a soda machine.

The alcohol selection here was obviously greatly reduced from the rather impressive full bar and nice wine list in the First Lounge, but even just the soft drink selection was lower quality, with a soda machine rather than individual bottles, and no sparkling water.  The horrors.
Hot Drinks.
A robot coffee machine and tea selection completed the drink offerings.  The decaf coffee was pretty decent, the machine ground it to order, but of course, you could order from the barista with the full espresso machine too.

The tea selection, like the drink selection, was again lower-tier, here they just had Dilmah brand tea, and not a large assortment, whereas in the First Class lounge they had T2 tea, our Australian favorite.
Assorted Composed Salads.
Next came the food. The salad line-up was impressive, with 8 salads, fresh and not limp looking, with all sorts of interesting ingredients.  This really put the basic potato salad and brown lettuce from the Qantas Business Lounge in LA to shame.  Also, unlike the LAX lounge, everything here was clearly labelled.  The salad lineup:
  • Rocket and parmesan
  • Bean salad dressed in hazelnut and orange
  • Poached chicken pasta salad with olive tapenade
  • Cos lettuce with proscuitto
  • Panzanella with mozzarella
  • Beetroot and mint with cherry dressing
  • Potato, pea, and egg with cashew pesto
  • Spinach, feta and quinoa
  • Roasted pumpkin with chickpeas and preserved lemon
I had just eaten a full, wonderful lunch in the First Class lounge, but I couldn't resist trying a few things.  The beauty of buffets is that I could try just a bite!

I started with the panzenella.  I love panzenella, which is funny because I don't really like bread that much.  But make bread soggy, or turn it into bread pudding, and I'm sold!

The panzenella was quite good, perfectly soggy bread that soaked up all the tomato juices, plus fresh, ripe tomato, and quality mozzarella.  It was nicely seasoned too.  If I was looking for some food, I would have been quite happy with this.

I also had proscuitto and cheese from the cos salad, and it was salty and tasty, again, good quality, and really satisfying for lounge food.
Desserts! Fruit salad, flourless chocolate cake, lamingtons.
And of course, there were desserts.  I know, I know, I was just saying that there was dessert waiting for me next door in the First Class lounge, but ... dessert!  I had to try something.  I don't care for lamingtons and the fruit salad contained watermelon, so it was an easy choice: chocolate cake!

It was a decent flourless chocolate cake, very rich, very fudgy, particularly the top layer.  But chocolate-loving Ojan wasn't very impressed.
Hot Foods, Soup.
The hot dishes of the day were Hungarian beef goulash and butter and herb pasta.  The soup of the day was potato and garlic, with crusty rolls on the side.

We didn't try any of this, but I saw a number of people with big bowls of goulash, who really did look quite happy.


I poked my head into the shower suites, just to see.  They had a sink, large counter, and toilet, along with a rainfall shower.
Just like in the First Lounge, they provided Aspar products

Monday, May 23, 2016

Juice Shop

Juice Shop is one of many juice shops that has sprung up all over San Francisco, with several locations.  As a frugal gal, I'm certainly not one to go around spending $10 on a juice, so I haven't really been into this trend.  Also, um, as you can likely tell, I'm much more into baked goods than I am fruits and vegetables.

Anyway, I recently attended an event sponsored by Juice Shop, and then several other events that served the juices, so I got to finally see what all the fuss is about.  You can find these juices at Juice Shop's several locations around town (and they also seem to also run a pretty large delivery program).

I'm guessing the delivery program is mostly for folks doing full cleanses, ranging from the "Beginner Cleanse" to the "Advanced Cleanse", all consisting of about 6 juices and 2 elixirs, for $61 per day.  My mind is still blown that people actually do this, not only for the expense, but also, really, just drinking juice?  I can't imagine feeling remotely satisfied.

But anyway.  On to the juices!

Cold Pressed Raw Juice

The juices are all raw, unpasteurized, and cold-pressed, meaning they must be kept refrigerated, and have a very short shelf life (3 days max).  They come in beautiful 16 ounce glass bottles (for which you also pay an additional $2 deposit).  The bottles really are lovely.

The cheapest juices are $8, such as the simple coconut water or lemon-aid.  Most are $9-10, blends of different greens (celery, cucumber, romaine, kale, spinach, parsley, sprouts, dandelion greens), citrus (lemon), roots (ginger), fruits (apples, pineapple, grapefruit, pears, strawberries, bananas), and other vegetables (carrots, beets).  Plus some seeds (hemp, chia, flax, pumpkin) and spices (turmeric, salt, vanilla).  Oh, and some mix in extras like algae.  The most expensive option is the nut milk.

Each blend is designed with a specific purpose, such as improving liver function, oxygenation, digestion, or even your body's pH.  I decided to pick solely based on what sounded the most likely to taste good, not for its additional benefits.
Pineapple Pear Chia: Pineapple / Pear / Filtered Water / Chia Seed. $9 + deposit. (2015)
"This juice has a large spectrum of powerful qualities. In a nutshell: Pineapple contains bromelain, an anti-inflammatory digestive enzyme. Nutrient-dense chia seeds, rich in omega-3 fatty acids and absorbable protein, clean you out and keep you regular. And because they can absorb up to 30 times its weight in water, chia seeds are a natural stamina enhancer, acting as a time-release of sustained energy and hydration."

Ingredients: pineapple*, pear*, filtered water, chia seed*

I started with the pineapple pear chia.  While I've never been one for chia seeds, pineapple seemed like one of the more friendly options, since most of the others were loaded with greens and vegetables.  The whole drinking your vegetables thing hasn't ever struck me as something I'd like to do, so I wanted to stick more fruit based.  I'm new to this.

It really was a good juice.  The pineapple was sweet and a bit refreshing.  The pear surprised me, it sorta seemed like sophisticated apple juice, if that makes any sense.  The two fruits were actually really well balanced, no one dominating.  It was a bit crazy how one moment I could really taste pineapple, and another, pear, depending on how I focused.

The chia seeds were a shocker.  I really didn't think I'd like them.  But the soft texture was almost like having boba in my drink.  I had to keep putting the lid on and shaking though, as they settled down to the bottom basically immediately.  This definitely should have been consumed with a straw.

Overall, much better than I expected, and actually pretty enjoyable, although a bit too sweet for me.  I'd never pay $9 for it, but I'm glad I got to try it.
Citrus Gold: Orange / Carrot / Grapefruit / Turmeric. $9 + deposit. (2015)
"A combination of citrus fruit and turmeric root, this tangy formula is exceptionally high in vitamin C and anti-inflammatory properties. Both the carrot and grapefruit provides a strong detoxifying effect on the body, and collectively the ingredients raise the whole body's immunity response."

Next I got a bit adventurous with the Citrus Gold.  I was really curious how the citrus fruit would balance out the carrot, and actually, I really randomly decide that I love carrot juice sometimes (usually when I'm not feeling well).

This was also really good juice, but again the flavor so complex it is hard to describe.  The citrus was strong for sure, particularly the tart acidic nature of the grapefruit.  But the carrot was also there.  It was rather refreshing, and definitely not too sweet.  I was shocked when I looked down to realize that I had consumed half the bottle in literally a few seconds.  Whoops!

Citrus Gold. $9. (2016)
Ingredients: orange*, carrot*, grapefruit*, turmeric*

I'm not convinced this was actually Citrus Gold.  It tasted like plain orange juice to me, although  a bit more bitter, which I guess could have been the grapefruit.  And I've had the Citrus Gold before, and I tasted carrot then.  I did not taste carrot this time.

It also was a darker, more orange color this time.

Anyway, this tasted like fresh squeezed orange juice.  Excellent juice, but I really didn't detect the carrot.  Not sure if somehow I got a plain orange juice?  But they don't even make plain orange juice?  So confused.
Beta Beet. $9. (2016)
Ingredients: celery*, carrot*, beets*, ginger*, lemon*

I was feeling ... healthy.  Or something.  I'm honestly not quite sure what got into me.  I actually had a box of fresh donuts sitting a few feet away, and instead, I wanted ... juice?  I think I'd been over doing it on sweets and carbs and my body knew it.  So, when I had the option to grab some juice, I did.

This juice totally matched the mood I was in.  It was fresh, clean, refreshing.  It tasted like beets.  And greens (I guess the celery?)  It tasted healthy.  Mmm, vegetables.

I can't say this is something I'd normally want, but, well, it was at the time.

Raw Smoothies

Maca Malt. $10. (2016)
Ingredients: maca*, cacao ariba*, banana*, sprouted almonds*, coconut water*, vanilla bean, himalayan salt, filtered water

This one wasn't labeled, so the first time I tried it, I actually had no idea what it was.  It looked like a mocha, or chocolate milk, so I expected something chocolately, milky, and perhaps a bit bitter from some coffee.

I was shocked when I took my first sip and tasted banana.  It was also much thicker than I anticipated, more like a milkshake.  What?!  So I looked it up, and quickly identified it as the Maca Malt.

With my expectations reset, I tried it again.  It was sorta like a thick chocolate milk, which could be a good thing, except it had a lot of banana on the finish.  I don't hate banana, but I certainly don't love it, and I just didn't really want to taste so much banana.  The banana probably did add to the thickness, which I did like, but, it was too dominant of a taste.

If it weren’t for the banana, I’d like this.  This was definitely more of a smoothie than a juice.
Almond Drink. $10. (2016)
"We believe our almond drink stands apart from the rest. Light and creamy, we simply use coconut water to avoid added sweeteners. And by sprouting our almonds, we unlock the nut's dormant nutrients."

Ingredients: raw almonds*, filtered water, coconut water*, vanilla bean, himalayan salt.

So, um, this was delicious.  "Almond drink" sounds so boring and unpretentious.  But, this was not boring.

I loved it, which really shocked me.  It was almond milk … with coconut water.  Which I know doesn’t sound like it should be good at all, but I thought it was fantastic.  It was creamy but watery enough to refreshing.  Light but satisfying.  Sweet but not too sweet.  Um, almond-y and coconut-y.  I can’t explain this, but I really liked it.


While the majority of the menu is the large bottles of juice, they also make a few "elixirs", small shots designed to cure what ails you.  One is just blue algae, another is a aloe and coconut water blend, and the final is designed for "Immunity", which is the one I tried. 
Immunity Shot: Ginger / Lemon / Oregano Oil / Garlic. $3 + deposit. (2015)
"This elixir is antibacterial, antifungal, anti-parasitic, and antiviral. A jolt to your immune system, the super potent combo of garlic, lemon, ginger, and oregano oil has natural antibiotic-like effects."

I saw others trying these, and the reaction on their faces was priceless.  There was choking.  Gasping.  Lunges for the nearest water bottle.  Many comments of "don't sip that!  Definitely do it as a shot!"

Still, I made the mistake of sipping it.  Woah.  A punch in the face, for sure.  I had a couple sips, as I was really trying to evaluate it, but, wow.  The description of "super potent" is right.  So much garlic.  So much ginger.  So many very strong competing flavors.  I wanted nothing to do with this.

Definitely for the hard core who believe in the effects of this stuff, not for the taste.
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