Friday, August 19, 2016

King's Delicious

King's Delicious is a supplier of nuts and other packaged snacks for airlines, supermarkets, convenience stores, etc.  If you've had a packaged snack on Delta, American, United, Southwest, Alaska, Hawaiian, Spirit, Asiana, JetBlue, and more, you've likley had the products.  And if you haven't remembered the experience, well, that is because they are highly unremarkable.  At least I thought so.
Fancy Nut Mix.
"A Premium Blend of Roasted and Salted Cashews, Blanched Almonds, Natural Almonds and Honey Roasted Sesame Sticks."

The cashews were standard cashews, although smaller size than I’m used to.  Slightly salted.  My entire bag had exactly 3 cashews.  Not even distribution of components.

The almonds were skin-on, over-roasted and not very flavorful.  Again, generic.

The honey roasted sesame sticks had a good sesame flavor, and were crunchy, but did not have much flavor and weren't sweet enough for me.  They were my favorite element however.

This mix made me sad, as it was all things I should have liked, but was highly unremarkable.  It was sweet and salty, but not in a way that combined into the magic it should have.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Dinner @ Cafe Jacqueline

Update Review, March 2016

Cafe Jacqueline is one of the most unique dining experiences in the city.  If you haven't ever been, please drop everything and go now.  Well, first, read my earlier review, and then this update review, so you'll be well poised to optimize your experience there (short version: go with people you don't mind spending a lot of time with, get the soup, and save plenty of room for dessert).

Since I have reviewed before, I'm skipping the general details this time around. 

This particular visit was in honor of my parents, who came from the east coast for a very quick four day trip to help me with some home repairs.  We didn't end up going out to eat any other times during their visit, but, both of my parents made it very clear that they'd really, really, really like to go to Cafe Jacqueline.  It made an impression last time they visited.  So, literally the moment they booked their flights, I called for a reservation, Saturday night, 5:30pm, right when they opened.  I knew the meal would be long, and my parents were on east coast time, so, earlier was better.

We took a different approach on this visit.  We decided to skip the savory souffles entirely, and just have soup and dessert soufle.  This might sound crazy, but, I think it was a great idea, as the savory soufles are always my least favorite part of the meal, and it allowed us to double (er, triple) up on dessert.  And before you totally judge us, think about all the eggs in souffle ... plenty of protein, we were totally reasonable!  (Perhaps this gives you a little insight into my dessert loving nature?)

The Space

Cafe Jacqueline is ... tiny.  Along the walls are tables for two, and in the center is tables for 4.  I think there are 3 in each row (so, 6 2-tops, 3 4-tops).  
The decor is simple.  Wooden tables and chairs, sturdy, timeless.  White table clothes, white cloth napkins, white plates.
The Kitchen.
If you take a journey to the bathroom, which I recommend you do, you'll walk through the kitchen, where Jacqueline, the sole chef, is working away whipping up souffles.  You'll see her epic bowl of eggs and all her whisks.  It is a sight to behold, and she always has a smile to give.

The Savory Food

The menu at Cafe Jacqueline has not really changed in the years that I have visited.  It starts with two soups, one is always french onion soup (vegetarian), and the other is a vegetable soup that changes daily.  Then there are some very basic salads, and three appetizers that I've never seen ordered (caviar, escargot, and figs wrapped in prosciutto).

Most visitors get a soup or salad to entertain themselves while they settle in for the wait for entree souffles, available in a whopping 18 different varieties, ranging from a simple gruyere ($40) to decadent lobster ($60), with many other vegetable and cheese options along the way.  Each main souffle is designed to serve two people, so, not a place for solo diners, or those who can't agree on what to share.

The final section of the menu is the dessert souffles, bigger than the entree soufles, and designed to serve 2-4 people (or, uh, 1-2 people in my family.  More on that soon).
Bread and Butter.
Unlike some restaurants where table bread is brought out immediately after you order, the bread service at Cafe Jacqueline is like the rest of the meal ... it isn't in any rush.

Eventually, once you have settled in, drank some wine, and really started relaxing, a basket of warm, crusty bread is delivered, with a pat of butter.

I've never found the bread notable in any way.  Yes, it is warm, and it is crusty, but, given all the glory that lies ahead, it really isn't worth diving into, no matter how hungry you are, and no matter that it is the only thing in front of you for quite a while.
Watercress Salad.  $15.00.
This is the first time we ever ordered a salad.  Normally, I see no reason to, but since we were skipping entree souffle, I decided to throw a salad into our order, just to have something else savory.

None of the salads really sounded exciting, but my parents hadn't ever had watercress before, so, I picked that one so they could experience something new.  And ... it was a watercress salad.  Just watercress, in a light dressing.  The greens were fresh and crisp, and the watercress was bitter and peppery, but, that was about all there was to it.

At $15, this seemed very high for a small salad with one ingredient and dressing.  I wouldn't get a salad again.
Soup De Jour: Leek and Cauliflower Puree. $13.
The soup of the day is usually one of my absolute favorite dishes at Cafe Jacqueline.  And that is saying a lot, given that everything else is souffle!

I've been absolutely stunned by the soup of the day on every prior visit.  The soup is always a vegetarian puree (vegan if you leave out the creme fraiche on top), and it always sounds incredibly boring.  I think the first one I ever got was "red bell pepper puree", which sounded beyond boring but was incredibly flavorful.  Last time I really enjoyed my tomato puree. So, even though leek and cauliflower puree didn't sound particularly good, I still ordered it.

And ... I really, really didn't like it.  It tasted, well, like cauliflower.  It is hard to see in this photo (due to the dim lighting), but, it was green from the leek.  I didn't taste much leek however, and tasted a lot of cauliflower.  Now, I like cauliflower ... roasted, caramelized cauliflower, but, I don't ever really like cauliflower mash or puree.  I'm not sure why, since I do like cauliflower flavor and I do usually like mashes.

In the center was a very generous glob of crème fraîche that melted in, and that aspect I did like.

Anyway, I didn't like my soup, and it was most certainly my fault for ordering cauliflower puree.  Ojan also opted for this soup, and he devoured his, and repeated several times how good it was.   I swapped soup with my mother, and she said this was good, but, she did prefer her original order of the onion soup.
Onion Soup. $15.
Which brings us to the onion soup.  My parents both opted for the onion soup.  It is always a stunner, topped off with tons of melted cheese and crispy croutons.  It is also always piping hot, with the cheese and bread on top trapping in the heat.  I'm pretty sure someone I'm with burns themselves on it every time.

After I didn't like my cauliflower puree, my very generous mother offered to swap with me, so I got this instead, basically untouched since it was still too hot for her to consume.  It was fantastic.  The depth of flavor in the broth is incredible, particularly given that this is a fully vegetarian soup.  The onions are super cooked down, sweet, and just the right level of mushy.  But, the winning element is certainly the gruyere, so flavorful, so perfectly melty.  Seriously delicious.  And tons of cheese, Jacqueline does not skimp.

Everybody at the table agreed that this was the better soup, but, it is a very heavy offering, a meal itself, seriously, so, if you are planning on savory and sweet souffle, the lighter vegetable puree is probably a better choice.  Or split a onion soup with someone.  Of course, if you are skipping the savory souffle, by all means, dig in to this as your entree!

Dessert Souffle

Dessert is, well, souffle.  They don't have anything except souffle on the dessert menu, for good reason.  Your choices range from simple citrus (lemon or lime, $35) to boozy Grand Marnier ($50), to favorites like chocolate and seasonal fruit ($40).  The desserts take just as long as the savory souffles to make, and are ordered at the start of the meal.

According to the menu, each dessert souffle serves 2-4 people.  We were a group of 4.  We ordered two ... to start.

When we arrived at Cafe Jacqueline, I had our plan established: we'd get the seasonal fruit souffle, whatever it was, because it is always our favorite.  And, we'd try the white chocolate one finally, since none of us are crazy about citrus, and the chocolate always disappoints me.

I was about to eagerly ask what the seasonal fruit was, when the server broke the very bad news.  They had no seasonal fruit souffle.  Doh.  Our group kinda sadly decided to get the Grand Mariner and White Chocolate.  They were both fine, but not nearly as good as the seasonal flavors have always been.

Some members of the table somewhat jokingly suggested we order a third one ... AFTER we had finished the previous two.  Again, each dessert souffle is supposed to serve 2-4 people.  We were all full at this point.  And it would take another 45 minutes at least to make another.  But, we were all kinda unsatisfied by our dessert souffles, and, when a quick poll was taken, everyone at the table said they wanted the chocolate one (everyone except me ... I just never like the chocolate one).  But, 3 votes meant it happened.  So we told the server we "had a problem" and "needed another souffle" and he happily obliged.  It was the right move, as everyone loved the chocolate souffle and left very happy.  As the server said on our way out, "if only all problems in life were so easily solved!"
Grand Marnier Souffle. $50.
The first souffle to arrive was the grand mariner.  This was our first time having it at Cafe Jacqueline.

Like all her dessert souffles, it was a beauty.  So fluffy, and perfectly risen.  Coated on top in confectioner's sugar, which, somehow we did all avoid chocking on, for the first time ever.  We are getting to be pros at souffle eating!

Anyway, the souffle.  It was light and fluffy as always.  It had a subtle orange flavor to it.

I didn't really love it though, since, again, I don't like citrus.  I'd pick this over lemon or lime, but, still not for me.  My mother, father, and Ojan all preferred this to the white chocolate, but greatly preferred the chocolate.  It was my last pick.

At $50, it is the priciest of the dessert souffles, and, honestly, does seem a bit high.  But, Jacqueline is a master of her craft, and, I'm willing to pay it.
White Chocolate Souffle. $45.
Moments after the Grand Marnier souffle arrived, the white chocolate followed suit.

Another gorgeous, huge, fluffy souffle, topped with not only powdered sugar, but also disks of white chocolate.  I really liked the white chocolate on top, as it melted in quickly when it made contact with the hot souffle, and created a big pocket of melty sweetness.

It was good, and my favorite of the souffles, but, compared to the seasonal fruit ones that we normally get, it just lacked some oomph.  It wasn't ... exciting.  "It needs fruit!", declared Ojan.  "Too sweet for me", said my mom.  And thus, we placed the order for the chocolate souffle.

At $45, this was more expensive than the others (besides the Grand Marnier), which surprised me a bit.  Is white chocolate pricey?
Chocolate Souffle. $40.
And finally, the chocolate souffle.

This one was actually a different consistency than the others, the middle was more liquid-y.  I actually quite liked the liquidy center, but didn't care for the edges and the rest of it that was cooked normal.  It was just ... kinda like chocolate cake.  The chocolate flavor wasn't that intense.  It made me want whipped cream.

But everyone else loved the chocolate flavor.  They were full, and devoured it.  They all said over and over that it was their favorite.  It was my second favorite, for the liquidy center alone.  But none of these souffles quite did it for me.  I miss the seasonal fruit one, and, well, I guess I have to go back now.

Original Review, April 2012

Cafe Jacqueline is one of my favorite places to bring visitors, as it is such a unique experience.  The short version is that it is a charming french cafe, serving basically only souffle (savory and sweet).  But that doesn't really do it justice.  Cafe Jacqueline is one place, that no matter how hard I try to describe it, you won't really understand it unless you go visit yourself.  Which you should do!

The restaurant is tiny - 6 (maybe 8?) tables for two line the outer edges, each set with white cloth tablecloths and adorned with white roses.  They are usually filled with couples holding hands and gazing longingly into each others eyes.  This is, very much, a perfect date place.  Running down the center of the room are 3 tables for larger groups (4-5 people maximum).  I've been to Cafe Jaqueline many times, in a variety of group sizes, ranging from two to five people.  I think that the ultimate group size is three, as the portions aren't quite right for two people (you cannot really finish both a savory and sweet souffle, even if you skip appetizers), and then four has the same problem (you want more than one of each, but two of each would be two much).  Tonight we had five people, and that actually worked pretty well.

The menu has a few appetizers on it, mostly completely forgettable salads.  Don't bother with these.  You will also be served warm crusty bread and butter, neither of which are notable.  Don't be tempted to fill up on this, it just isn't that good, and you will want the space for souffle!  It also has two soups: a french onion and a soup du jour.  The French onion is loaded up with gruyere and a crouton, is crazy heavy and decadent, and absolutely delicious.  The soup du jour  changes constantly, and is always an absolutely amazingly flavorful vegetable puree.  These soups continue to surprise me, no matter how many times I visit.  The waiter will tell me the type of soup, and it will sound totally boring, like "red pepper", yet somehow turns out to be this ridiculously light, flavorful, delight.  Depending on your mood, you should order one of these soups, as they are not only fantastic, but you'll want something to tide you over for the hour or so it will take before your souffle arrives.

And yes, it will take a least an hour before your savory souffle comes.  This is a long meal, which is part of what makes the experience.  When I say it is a great date place, I certainly don't mean a first date.  You will be there for several hours, and unlike doing a tasting menu you won't be interrupted by food, so you sure better have something to talk about!  Order some amazing wine, enjoy your soup, and just sit back, relax, and wait for more delicious things to come your way.  The waiter/sommelier will help guide you to a wine that makes you happy, whether it be by the glass or the bottle.  The wines are all very reasonably priced, and the sommelier really does want you to find one you are happy with.  Again, a big part of the experience for me!

A final part of the experience is going to use the restroom.  Not for the bathroom itself, but for getting to it.  You must walk through the kitchen, where you instantly see exactly why it takes so long for the food to arrive.  There is a single person in the kitchen: Jacqueline.  An absolutely adorable older French woman, working her butt off making each and every souffle by hand.  She stands behind the largest bowl of eggs you will ever see, whisking away, and cooking each souffle in a single oven.  She'll smile at you if you make eye contact, and in a thick french accent direct you to the bathroom.  You'll want to run over and give her a hug.

I love this place.  If you ever want a lovely, long, drawn out meal with people you really want to talk to, go here.  But first, do make a reservation!
Soup Du Jour: tomato puree with cream.  $8.50.
This soup was exactly what I expected.  Like all of the soup du jours I have had here, it was a delicious, intensely vegetabley, slightly chunky puree.  Served nice and hot, you didn't feel like you needed to rush to eat it before it cooled down too quickly.

The tomato flavor was intense and really quite good.  The puree was the perfect consistency, not too runny, not too thick, and with a little texture to it.  It was incredibly light and refreshing, and you really felt like you were just eating some amazingly fresh tomato.  The cream on top added some richness and creaminess, without weighing it down.  It was slightly too salty for my taste, but just barely.

I highly recommend the soup du jour when you are in the mood for a light start to the meal.  But you do need to like vegetables, because you certainly will taste them here!
French Onion Soup: gruyere, bread.  $10.50.
And on the other end of the spectrum is the french onion soup.  This is quite certainly NOT a light soup.  Coated in a very thick layer of melty, insanely flavorful, gruyere cheese.  Under the cheese is a slice of bread.  And under all that, are some caramelized onions in a salty, flavorful broth.  Surprisingly, this is a vegetarian soup, so the broth doesn't contain classic beef stock, yet it is still very flavorful.

And a word of caution.  This is served HOT.  Very hot.  And the cheese traps in that heat.  I was warned by others how hot it was, and still managed to burn the roof of my mouth so badly that I got a blister.  Doh.
Gruyere and Leek Souffle.  $33.  Or  Gruyere, White Corn, Ginger & Garlic Souffle.  $38.
I only took a photo of one of the two savory souffles we ordered, and I'm not sure which this was.  All of the souffles on the menu are made with gruyere, with the exception of the roquefort and the brie and broccoli.  The menu has a variety of souffles each featuring a vegetable and the gruyere, with the vegetable chopped up and mixed into the souffle.  They also have a couple options with meat or seafood, where they are used as toppings rather than integrated into the souffle.  I haven't ever really cared for those ones.

Both souffles we had used the same cheesy base.  They had a good crisp crust on them, and were moist and eggy on the inside.  I liked the texture changes from the outside edges to the inside.  The base did seem a little too salty for me.  Maybe I was just being really salt sensitive this evening, as I felt the same way about the soups.

The leek souffle was a little boring to me.  It did have plentiful leek integrated into it, and it was flavorful, but at the end the day, it kinda just seemed like a quiche.  I generally feel this way about the simple vegetable and cheese souffles though.

The one I suggested ordering was the corn, ginger, and garlic, and, as I expected, I liked this one much more.  The ginger and garlic added a lot more flavor and there was just a lot more going on in this one. The corn was slightly crisp, giving more texture and fun in every bite.
Initial serving of each souffle.
The waiter always serves you a portion of each souffle to get started.  I'm sure this is because he has the technique down, and we'd all just deflate our souffles instantly and make a mess.  You can see the plentiful amount of corn inside here.  Yum!
Fresh seasonal fruit souffle: strawberry.  $35.
And, my favorite part of the evening.  Dessert!  I was so glad to come with a bigger group, as we got to order not one, but two dessert souffles!  It is always a toss up on which one to get - I know that the grand marnier tends to disappoint, but how do you resist a classic chocolate souffle?  And I have still never tried the lemon or lime ones, which everyone says are very good.

The fresh seasonal souffle is the one I order almost every time.  And yet again, it was fantastic.  The souffle itself is actually just a plain, sweet souffle.  The fruit is only in the topping.  Most times I have visited the fruit has been strawberry, and today was no exception, although the waiter did tell us that once stone fruit season arrives, it will switch over to peach, and that that peach is even better!

The souffle was moist and just delicious.  The outer edges were crispy, and inside the bowl were nice bits of sugary, sweet, crust that you could scrape off.  Which we did.  There wasn't a spec remaining.  Soooo good.  The strawberries were sweet and delicious, and given how early in the season it is, I'm guessing had been marinated in some additional sugar to make them so.

This souffle is just one of the absolute best things in life.  Always amazingly delicious.  Even my father, who I have never seen be excited by food in his life, seemed to have a life changing moment when he ate this when I brought him a few years ago.

I will continue to always order this souffle.  I only half jokingly tried to get everyone else to agree to order a second one, even though we were all pretty full.  No one else was willing :(
Chocolate souffle: $33.
I'm glad we ordered this, as it is always tempting, and I always have a bit of angst about which one to order (usually there with fewer people, and must choose just one).  Now I know for sure, the fruit one is the one to get!  This was a fine souffle, a lot fluffier and less moist than the fruit one, with decent chocolate flavor.  But it just didn't compare to the amazingness of the fruit one.

Another warning: these have a big layer of powdered sugar on them.  Why does this matter?  Because you will inhale it, and choke on it :)  We warned everyone at the table.  And amusingly, of course, someone still did it.  More times than not, this happens, and someone else at the table starts laughing at the person choking on it, and then starts choking themselves, setting off a chain reaction.  Good times.  You've been warned. 
Cafe Jacqueline Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Travelin' Tuesdays: The Northeast US

A year or so ago, I wrote up a master post to dining in the Boston area.  Or at least, what I thought would be a master post.  I'm not sure why I thought that would be the extent of my posts, given that my family lives in New Hampshire, and I travel through Boston all the time.

Of course, I headed back to the East Coast for a few weeks this summer, so, I devoted my blog to the Northeast for a few weeks in honor of my trip.  This post is a pointer into all my dining adventures.  Future trips to the Northeast will just have entries added here.

Boston (and suburbs)

Southern NH / MA

Lebanon, NH (and surrounding area)


Flights / Airport / Hotels

Monday, August 15, 2016

Vegetarian Tacos at Rubio's

Rubio's, Rubio's, Rubio's.  I <3 Rubio's.  And I realize how ridiculous this is.  I don't really like Mexican cuisine.  I'm kinda a snob so "fast casual" concepts rarely impress.  Yet, I love Rubio's.  I reviewed the place so many times, I added label to my blog for it.  If you somehow haven't discovered the magic of Rubio's and have no idea what I'm talking about, go read my other posts first.  I'm skipping all the generic details this time around.

This visit was inspired in the same way as my first visit to Rubio's: a freebie.  I'm a member of Rubio's "Beach Club", so, for my birthday, I get a free taco.  I couldn't wait to go redeem my coupon.

I decided to really mix things up this time, and get a non-seafood taco, the veggie version of the Grilled Gourmet Taco.  My choice was not a reflection on Rubio's seafood in any way; I genuinely enjoy most of their seafood (basically, everything but the salmon), but, I was really desiring vegetables.  Plus, I'd had the roasted veggies on the salad before, so I knew how good the roasted veggies are.
Grilled Gourmet Taco with Veggies, no avocado, plus bacon.
"Grilled sweet peppers, onions, zucchini and squash served on a warm stone-ground corn tortilla with toasted cheese and topped with buttery Hass Avocado slices, our roasted chipotle salsa, our creamy chipotle sauce and cilantro/onion mix."

I was not disappointed by my choice, although, at a first glance, it looked pretty horrible.  My heart sank when it was delivered to my table.  The tortilla was glistening, it looked crazy oily and soggy, and the bacon seemed to have been thrown on top at last minute, and it too was all flabby and soggy looking.  My memories of past Grilled Gourmet Tacos were of a slightly grilled corn tortilla, coated in perfectly melty crispy cheese, with the bacon mixed in and crisp too.

A bit heartbroken, I picked it up, and took a bite.  My fears were instantly erased.  Execution flaws aside, it was delicious.

The mix of veggies was red, yellow, and green peppers, all diced, along with onions, and bigger batons of zucchini.  The veggies were all soft and tender, really well seasoned (I believe they marinate in garlic and lemon), and had a decent grilled flavor to them.  There was tons of veggies inside, my taco was a bit hard to fold up and eat without veggies spilling out everywhere.

Although it wasn't listed in the description, I also found some of their fire-roasted corn inside, which was a bonus surprise that I was happy to find, as I've always liked the corn.

The roasted chipotle salsa and creamy chipotle sauce were flavorful as always, and, even though I wanted to load my taco up with stuff from the toppings bar, it was perfect as it was.  I loved how the creamy sauce complimented the spicy salsa.  I really adore the sauces at Rubio's.

Since I'm allergic I left out the avocado, and, since I'm not actually vegetarian, I had the bacon added back in (bacon is included on all the other Grilled Gourmet tacos, just, not the veggie one).  I think this may have confused someone, because I know that the bacon is usually baked on to the tortilla with the cheese, and mine was just thrown on top.  I *almost* said something, but, decided to not be a pain.  Still, the flabby bacon on top was not great, and I'd leave it off in the future.

The final element was a little bit of the onion/cilantro mix, really, a meager amount, but the salsa bar has more if you want it, but I didn't feel the need.

Overall, was it perfect?  No.  The tortilla *was* soggy and oily, the bacon *was* flabby and thrown on top, and the cheese, while melted, wasn't crunchy like I wanted.  But, the great flavors and textures made up for all of these shortcomings, and I really enjoyed it anyway.

Rubio's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato