Friday, August 18, 2017

Tio Pepe's Churros

I realize that most people can not order products from food service distributors, or wholesale vendors.  So you might wonder why I have labels for these sorts of items on my blog, and why I bother review, if they aren't accessible to you.  The reason?  You likely eat these products yourselves, and you just don't know it.
Iconic Signage.
Like Tio Pepe's churros.  Have you ever had a churro at a beach boardwalk, carnival, amusement park, or from a street vendor?  One that wasn't made by them?  If so, chances are fairly high it was made by Tio Pepe's.  They kinda own this market.  It probably had a sign in the corner somewhere like the one above (which I spotted on the streets of San Francisco, on a churro cart).

Tio Pepe's is part of the J & J Snack Foods lineup of brands, which also includes Super Pretzels (coming soon!), Slush Puppies, ICEE, and much, more much.  They are carried by nearly ever large food service distributor who carries churros.  I have confirmation that these are the ones sold at Disneyland.  If you really want them, they are also carried by Smart & Final.

Tio Pepe's makes only one thing: frozen churros, in a variety of sizes and flavors.
"Tio Pepe’s authentic churros will have your taste buds going loco!"

Traditional churros are available in 3 sizes (5" mini, 10" traditional, 16" King Size), and several varieties: plain, bavarian creme filled, cinnamon sugar, double twisted, double twisted with cinnamon sugar), strawberry.  They also make 51% whole grain varieties, with more fruit filled options, like mango, guava, apple, raspberry.  They are called "Cinnamon waffle sticks" in some markets.

I don't claim to be a churro expert.  I barely even like them, to be honest, like the lackluster ones from Rubio's, which I've tried several times (although I did kinda like the one I had a Nick's Crispy Tacos).  The only churro I really recall liking before is the cream filled one from Phat Philly.  I wonder if that was from Tio Pepe's?

Anyway, these are solid classic churros.  Not fresh, not amazing, but they are what they are.

For foodservice distribution, they come frozen, plain.  Instructions to the distributor are pretty simple: bake in the oven for 4 minutes, or fry for 10-20 seconds.
Cinnamon Sugar Traditional.
"Churros are a straight donut-like Hispanic pastry. The traditional churro is rolled in a cinnamon-sugar mixture and served with a slightly crispy exterior and warm moist center. Its lightly sweet taste is enjoyed by children and adults alike."

All the churros come plain, packaged with a cinnamon sugar packet.  The distributor has instructions to roll in the provided cinnamon sugar mix.

I had a cinnamon sugar version, and it was heated in the oven.

It was a pretty classic churro, much like you'd get at any amusement park or street vendor (probably, literally).  It was crispy, not too greasy, and well coated in cinnamon and sugar.  I liked the cinnamon and sugar.

And beyond that?  Not much to say.  It wasn't as good as a fresh one.  It wasn't as good as a fried one.  It was what it was.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Petsi Pies, Boston

Petsi Pies is a bakery based in Somerville, MA, near Boston.  I have not visited myself, so I can't tell you much, except that they also have several cafes in nearby towns, and also serve sandwiches, soups, and other standard cafe fare.

I was introduced to Petsi Pies when visiting my Cambridge office, and a co-worker brought in a pie to an office party.
Pie Logo.
The sticker on the box with their logo caught my attention, when I came across the box sitting in the microkitchen.  It was bright, and unusual looking (I can't stop seeing a bird beak!), and then I realized there was pie within.  I had just finished lunch, with dessert, but, I couldn't resist.  I'm glad I didn't.  I was impressed.

Anyway, the company is named after the baker who started it, who has the nickname Petsi.  

The pie lineup comes in 3 sizes (5", 8", 10"), with a wide variety of fruit pies, cream pies, seasonal pies, and all the classics, along with savory pies.

I only tried the one, but I'd gladly try more.
Brown Butter Pecan Pie.
This was very good pie.

Pecan pie is a classic for me, as my mom has always made a (Karo syrup) based pecan pie that I adore.  I love pecan pie.

And this?  Better than my mom's pie, for sure.  It was sweet, but not cloyingly so, with more depth to it than just sweet.  I didn't necessarily taste brown butter, but I could tell there was more going on.  The goo layer was also more of a custard, or perhaps a caramel, than I am used to, richer, thicker, and again, more than just sweet.

The pecans were standard, pecan halves, on top of the sweet custard.

The crust was the only lackluster component.  It wasn't bad, but it didn't taste any better than a grocery store crust, not flaky, not buttery, not special.

But overall, a good pie, and I'd love to try more of their pies!

Petsi Pies Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Waffling Leftovers: Marinated Peaches

Today's waffling adventure is another rather, uh, nontraditional one.  If the concept of waffling things that aren't waffle batter is new to you, you might want to start with my master post, and then return here.
Marinated Peaches: Transformed!
Remember the time I waffled figs?  This was basically inspired by that, although rather than just starting with leftover fruit, I started with leftover marinated fruit,  originally part of a salad.  And rather than just having waffled fruit, I jazzed it up, inspired by my amazing waffled plantain sundae from the week before.

Will it Waffle: Leftover Marinated Peaches?  Yup, smoky, grilled, and totally saved them

Attempt #1: August 2017

The Original: Heirloom Tomato and Stone Fruit Salad with Burrata.
First, let's start with the original.  One of my favorite "salads".  Heirloom tomatoes and assorted stone fruit (peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots), drizzled with olive oil and a balsamic reduction, and topped with burrata.

Oh how I love this salad.  Think of a basic caprese, and then imagine something 100x better.  High quality assorted beautiful heirloom tomatoes, all incredibly flavorful on their own.  Never tried mixing in stone fruit?  Do it.  It works great, I promise.  Plenty of perfectly ripe, creamy burrata, obviously sooo much better than just fresh mozzarella.  Incredible balsamic drizzle.  Olive oil and salt to make all the flavors pop that much more.

Oh yes.
The Leftovers: Soggy Marinated Peaches.
But the leftovers?  Yeah.  As you can imagine, this salad has very short shelf life.  I separated out the burrata from the produce to try to make it last longer.

The next day, I salvaged all the heirloom tomatoes.  They had gotten a bit mealy from being in the fridge, but, when paired with leftover burrata (which did hold up fine), I didn't mind.  And they were even more flavorful from the balsamic, which was now not just a drizzle, but, a marinade.

The stone fruit was a mixed bag.  The plums lasted fine.  The softer fruit though got really mushy.  It just wasn't very good, even if the flavor was there.

We were going to throw it out, but, I decided that if I was going to throw it out, I might as well throw it on the waffle iron ...
Into the Waffle Iron...
So into the waffle iron the soggy slices went.  350 degrees.

They made a lot of noise at first, as all the moisture started cooking out.
Almost Done ...
Once the moisture was gone, the slices started grilling (er, waffling).  Once they had decent waffle marks, I pulled them off.

Sure, they didn't turn into a waffle, but, they did basically grill.  (I do wonder if I should have formed them into a mound and just tried to make a waffle patty out of them though ... next time!)
Waffled Marinated Peaches with Balsamic Basil Cream!
I plated them up with salted balsamic basil cream that I made while the peaches were cooking.  That sounds fancy right?  Ha.  I just mixed whipped cream with the rest of the marinade remaining in my container, and added a little fleur de sel.

The peaches were actually good.  Soft, slightly caramelized.  A bit smoky.  Totally edible in this form, and honestly, they were so mushy and off putting before waffling that they really were trash.  Waffling saves yet another item headed for the trash!

The cream was tasty too, but I found myself wanting a cold component, so I added Milk & Honey ice cream after the photo was taken.  I liked the cold ice cream with the hot fruit much better, and wished I had just plated it with the honey ice cream originally, and drizzled the balsamic reduction over it all (again, next time!).

So, overall, yes, a success.  The peaches were too soggy to really eat before, and transformed into a very tasty dessert.  I'd do this again, but, just go for ice cream.

Attempt #2: September 2017

The Original: Arugula salad, with stone fruit, burrata, and balsamic drizzle.
A few weeks later, we had another salad featuring stone fruit and burrata, this one a bit more traditional, with a base of peppery arugula.

It was great, and there was plenty leftover.  I saved a bunch of the white peaches and burrata, and tons of the balsamic marinade.
Peaches ready to waffle!
The peaches went into the iron, untreated.  350 degrees.
Grilled Peaches!
They grilled up beautifully.

The first few didn't even make it onto my waiting plate - they were hot, slightly caramelized, and totally delicious.  I also forgot to take a photo, I was too busy enjoying the amazingness.

With the rest, I made a spinach salad topped with both fresh and grilled peaches, burrata, and the balsamic drizzle (and some olive oil).  So simple, but so so good.

So, leftover marinated peaches, not only do they transform into a great dessert, they also work as a salad topper!  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Air New Zealand International Lounge, Auckland

My journey with Air New Zealand continued to the lounge in Auckland, after a fairly enjoyable flight from Sydney, and a visit to the brand new lounge in Sydney for incredible breakfast.

I had visited the Air New Zealand lounge in Auckland a few years ago, but, it must have been a different lounge, as the layout seemed totally different this time.

Overall, it was a large, but crowded, lounge, with lots of seating options, and poor buffet food.  Nothing particularly noteworthy.  The Sydney lounge was far superior, as was the previous Auckland lounge.


There were showers, but I didn't check them out.
Big Main Area.
The lounge opens into a large room with assorted, not very comfortable, chairs.  This area was packed though, it is clear that most people just settle into the first chairs they find. 
Window Seating.
But for those who venture further, the space is broken up into several areas, all with different styles of seating.  There were comfortable padded chairs and couches along a window.
High Table.
I quickly found a high table, and used it as a standing desk.  After sitting on my previous flight, and gearing up for a 12 hour flight, the last thing I wanted was to sit more (although most people did use the stools, I was the oddball standing here).
Swing Chairs!
The end of the room also had a few coveted swingy chairs, that I must admit, looked pretty awesome.  If only I wanted to sit.
The bar wasn't much of a hub of activity, although it did have some stools.  I think most people preferred to just use the self service drink stations.
The area closest to the food buffets had dining tables with chairs, plus another high table (this one with a different style of stool).
TV Lounge.
Near the front entrance was a media room, with a large screen TV, the only area that was relatively empty.


There were two self-serve drink stations, and a bar with alcohol and a barista.
Drink Station.
The drink station had juices (orange, apple, tomato), beer and cider in the fridge, basic liquors, and soda taps (including lemon lime of course).

There was also a water tap with hot, still, or sparkling water, and lemons and limes on the side.
Robot Coffee.
You could also opt to make your own coffee from the robot.  Decaf was instant.


Food is all located in a buffet area, along with a station with a made-to-order dish of the day.  Most of the buffet is duplicated, so it moves fairly efficiently.
Bhuja Mix, Pretzels.
Ok, I lied.  There is food in one other location, bar snacks at the bar.  You know me and my love of snacks.

I do love bhuja mix, so I was happy to see that, although I remembered liking the "Snippets - Honey & Dijon Snacks" before and was secretly hoping for that again.  The bhuja had little crispy peas, crispy chickpea sticks, and more, and was seasoned with curry spices.  Very munchable, which I appreciated.
The bar also had jars of wrapped candies and mints.
The buffet featured 4 salads, all vegetarian.  I skipped the first two.
  • Lentils with raisin and carrot
  • Iceberg with mint and vegetables (with unlabelled dressing)
  • Roasted cauliflower with honey and walnut
  • Tomato & basil farfalle, bocconcini, & parmesan
The cauliflower salad was ... not dressed?  Just leaves of spinach, raw walnuts, and roasted cauliflower.  Not sure where the promised honey was.  Not good.

The pasta salad was equally bad, very tangy, and I didn't see any cheese in it.
Cheese, Crackers, Scones.
I did try one of the darker crackers with the pear and fig chutney, and it was fairly tasty, a hearty cracker.

The final item was cranberry & orange scones, and they looked dry, and there was no whipped cream or anything to spread on, so I skipped.
Cheese, crackers,  muffins.
There were three types of muffins, the two here (double chocolate and golden corn), and a third, unlabelled muffin was added later.

I tried the unlabelled one, and it seemed to be trying to be healthy.  It had some kind of tiny seeds (chia? linseed?) and walnuts, wasn't sweet, and was fairly dry.  Not recommended.
Golden Cornmeal Muffin.
The Golden Cornmeal muffin was fascinating, and not at all what I was expecting.  It was savory, cheesy, and had huge chunks of corn in it.  More like a savory cornbread muffin.  It wasn't necessarily good though.

I gave up on the baked goods, the ones from the Sydney lounge were much better.
Soup, Rolls, Butter, Snacks.
The daily soup was tomato, there were several types of rolls with butter and margarine, and more of the same snacks from the bar.

Again, I only had eyes for the bhuja mix.
Besides snacks, I love one other thing from buffets: desserts!  A buffet means I get to try them all :)

The dessert lineup had two potted items and fruit salad.
 Raspberry  Crème Brûlée.
I was super excited to see crème brûlée, as my blog has an entire label devoted to it.  And then ... I tried it.  Not good.  Also, totally not crème brûlée.

No bruleed top, just thin caramel on top.  The raspberry was just a little puddle on top.  But neither of those things were really the problem.  The problem was that it was gritty and tasted horrible.
Apple Cream with Gingerbread.
This was slightly better, but only slightly.

The bottom was a soggy cake (I guess gingerbread), then a layer of cream (that didn't taste like apple), then an apple compote, then more cream, and topped with what seemed to be stewed raisins.  I don't really care for apple, so that is why I wasn't pleased with the flavor, but the cream also wasn't very good, just like the crème brûlée, it had a really strange taste to it, like it had gone bad, honestly.

I was sad, as both of there were dessert items that I should have liked.
Action Station: Pull Lamb Pappardelle.
During our visit to the Air New Zealand lounge in Sydney, the made to order chef station had crepes in the morning, but we weren't able to stay long enough to see what it transitioned to at lunch time.

Here, the station looked promising from a distance, I saw fresh pasta!  A chef making plates to order!  But ... the sauce had lamb.  Only lamb.  I don't like lamb.
Unfortunately for me, the lamb continued into the hot buffet.  The only protein option was lamb.  No seafood, no chicken, no beef.  Only lamb.  I know New Zealanders love their lamb, but, geez!
Herb Cous Cous.
It was served with herbed cous cous on the side, another item I'm not particularly fond of.
Green Curry Thai Vegetables.
The veggie entree was thai green curry, which I did try.  It was mushy and horribly overcooked.
Asparagus with Garlic Butter.
I skipped the asparagus swimming in garlic butter.