Thursday, January 04, 2018

Friendly's Ice Cream

I grew up in a town with few restaurants, but we had a Friendly's.  We didn't go out to eat that often, but when we did, and particularly when we were going for a treat, Friendly's was on the list.

Why?  For the ice cream sundaes.  I honestly don't remember the food at all.  I know we got meals, but, I have zero recollection of what I ever had there.  What I do remember?  The peg games on the table, and, the ice cream sundaes.  While many of my friends always talked about the Fribbles (milkshakes), I had eyes only for the sundaes.  But not the one that all the other kids went for, the signature "Cone Head" sundae with a sugar cone upside down on top like a hat and a face, no, I went for the Reese's® Peanut Butter Cup Sundae.  Every single time.  It just used vanilla ice cream as a base (although I often swapped that out), but it was smothered in warm peanut butter sauce and hot fudge, topped with a mount of whipped cream, and garnished with sprinkles, a cherry, and of course, a peanut butter cup.  On really rare occasions I'd mix it up and get the Reese's Pieces version instead, with, well, pieces instead of pb cups, but this was my constant goto.  I just loved the chocolate and peanut butter.  The sundaes are huge, but, you could add a reasonably size "Happy Ending" one on to any meal, which was always my move.

Friendly's has long been in the ice cream business, a featured part of their menu for 80+ years.  Sadly for me, the restaurant shut down in the town long ago, and no where I have lived since has one.  Since then I know they expanded, offering soft serve, Friend-z (mix-in versions),   But they do make ice cream (gallons and novelties) sold in grocery stores everywhere, so, I finally got inspired to try them out, and see if they measured up.

Sundae Cups

I see this in grocery stores everywhere in New England.  The stores sell them 10 for $10, as in, literally, $1 each, which is a bit mind blowing to me.
"Our Sundae Cups come in a perfect personal size for when you just need a sundae all to yourself."
Friendy's individual sized sundae cups come in basically every variety of sundae they serve at the restaurants, and then some.  Which means, they do have a peanut butter cup sundae.  One really unique offering they make is an ice cream cake sundae cup, literally the layers of vanilla and chocolate ice cream they use in the ice cream cakes, layered with the same chocolate crunchies, and topped with the whipped topping and confetti sprinkles.  If you like their ice cream cake, but don't have an occasion to celebrate, just get the sundae!

But back to the peanut butter cup sundae.  The sundae cup version uses peanut butter ice cream, and the fudge and peanut butter sauces on top are obviously not warm.  And no whipped cream.  Same with the Reese's pieces version.  This just didn't feel right to me, so I went for something different.
Crayola™ Color Me Sundae Cup.
 "Enjoy an ice cream masterpiece of green vanilla flavored ice cream topped with a layer of yellow vanilla flavored ice cream, topped with blue marshmallow, whipped topping and primary colored sprinkles—all in a perfectly personal size sundae cup!"

So yeah.  I went for the ridiculous Crayola™ Color Me Sundae Cup, clearly designed for kids.  The reason was fairly simple, I was having it in the evening, and so I had to rule out all the chocolate based ones.  Every single option, besides a strawberry one, had chocolate, either in the fudge sauce on top, or chips in the ice cream.  So, this was it.  It sounded a lot like the ice cream cake, just minus the chocolate layers.

I did laugh when I opened the lid.  They weren't joking about the colors.

Bright blue marshmallow topping.  Colorful sprinkles.  Yellow ice cream poking out.

I dug in.

The whipped cream was pretty standard, as were the sprinkles.  The blue marshmallow topping was sweet and fluffy, just like on their ice cream cakes.  I liked it.
Crayola™ Color Me Sundae Cup: Inside.
Under that all was, well, yellow and green ice cream.

It was a bit confusing to the brain to eat yellow and green ice cream, and have them taste like vanilla.  They didn't taste distinct.  They really were vanilla.  They just looked like Playdoh.

Overall, this was clearly fairly simple, but, I liked it.  The ice cream was decent, the marshmallow topping and whipped cream exactly what I remembered from their ice cream cakes.

I don't think I'd get this again, as it was a bit too simple, but, I enjoyed it.  Next time, I'd get the ice cream cake one, or maybe try the peanut butter one, knowing it is nothing like the beloved version served in restaurants.

Ice Cream Cake

I grew up in an ice cream cake family.  Every birthday.  Every year.  Without fail.  However, Friendly's was not our ice cream cake maker.  It was Carvel.  Always.

When I was younger, Carvel had a store in the town, and we had custom made cakes.  It closed when I was probably 8 or 10 years old, forever ago, but luckily, grocery stores still carry Carvel cakes.  Until one year, when my Mom couldn't find them anywhere.  I think she looked in nearly every store to no avail.  She sent my dad on a last minute job to try a final store, and he came back with something that sure looked like a Carvel cake, except ... it was Friendly's.

It wasn't the same.  But, that doesn't mean it was bad.
Celebration Ice Cream Cake.
"Friendly's ice cream cakes are lovingly handmade to transform any occasion into a happy occasion!"

Friendly's ice cream cakes are much like the Carvel ones - layers of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, chocolate crunchies in-between, fluffier whipped forsting on the outside. Available in different shapes and sizes.with the classic one having blue frosting border and some confetti sprinkles. They also make a Oreo version (Oreo ice cream layers, crushed Oreos in the center, fudge and Oreo topping), a Reese's version (peanut butter ice cream layers, chopped pb cups in the center, chocolate truffle frosting), and now, a trendy Salted Caramel Truffle one (salted caramel ice cream, caramel chocolate truffles, caramel sauce, fudge, etc).

But we had the classic.
Leftover Celebration Cake.
"Every big (and little) celebration deserves ice cream cake! Lovingly handmade layers of premium chocolate and vanilla ice cream, separated by chocolaty crunchies, are topped with freshly whipped ice cream and decorations. "

Of course, we all immediately compared this to Carvel.  Most of the family refused to even consider that it might be better in some ways.  But it was.

The ice cream was higher quality.  Sorry, Carvel.  It was creamier, less icy.  Just, better.  The ice cream was in reverse order: chocolate on top, vanilla on bottom.

The crispies weren't as good though, they were softer, not as crunchy, not quite the same magic.

The whipped topping was sweet, fluffy, and good.

Overall, it was a fine replacement for a Carvel cake, and, if you actually care about the ice cream, a better choice.
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Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Waffling Leftovers: Agadashi Tofu

Another day, another adventure waffling my leftovers.

This one started with an item I can imagine most people have never considered putting into their waffle irons: leftover agadashi tofu.  Yup, really.
Transforming Agadashi Tofu.
The burning question: leftover agadashi tofu: Will it Waffle? Absolutely.

Waffled fried tofu needs to become a thing.
The Original: Agadashi Tofu.
The original was agadashi tofu, assemble-your-own style.

Fried cubes of silken tofu, coated in potato starch.  Perfectly crispy exterior, soft pudding-like interior.  Excellent stuff, and really, I don't like tofu, but this I not only tolerate, I genuinely love.

The broth was a flavorful, salty mix of mirin, sake, tamari, kombu, and shiitake, delightful and comforting.

I enjoyed the tofu both just as fried nuggets, and assembled with the broth and green onions.
Leftover Cold Agadashi Tofu.
We had tons leftover, so I saved some, with one thing in mind: my waffle iron.

I did try a piece cold from the fridge, just curious, but it wasn't good at all.  The perfectly crispy crust from the night before was now soggy, and it lost all its luster.

I could have just roasted it in the oven to crisp it back up, but of course I had other plans.
Waffling, step 1.
Since it was already crusted, this was easy to throw into the waffle iron without modification.

I knew I wanted a good sear on it, so I put it in at 400 degrees, a bit higher than my standard 350.
Getting Crispy.
It waffled like a charm, crisping up quite nicely.  It also extracted easily, always a bonus, since it had the nice shell on the outside already.  Super easy.

I loved the results.  It was super crispy on the outside but still soft inside.  A perfect appetizer of crispy fried tofu to dunk into various sauces.  Or, when I did it the next day, crispy fried tofu bits to throw on top of a salad, like croutons-ish!

Absolutely a success.
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Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Travelin' Tuesdays: Tokyo!

Update Reviews, 2017 Visit

As you've been reading for the past few months, I took a trip to Tokyo in 2017 that featured a very different style of dining than my previous visit.  Far fewer Michelin stars.  More focus on unique, niche experiences.  Lots of dining at convenience stores (yes, really!).  And a whole ton of soft serve ice cream.

This is just a master reference, to provide easy access to the slew of reviews, and, share some highlights.

Convenience Stores

  • 7-Eleven, for salads in pouches that I really did like
  • Tasty egg sandwiches, not so tasty fried chicken, from Lawson Station ... another convenience store
  • Even convenience stores have soft serve ice cream machines, like Ministop
  • Yes, Family Mart convenience stores have good desserts

Japanese

Other Restaurants

  • An interesting concept, pairing food to wine (rather than the other way around), with a fantastic foie gras ice cream sandwich, at Cork
  • Longrain, one of my Sydney thai favorites, just opened a legit Tokyo outpost

Ice Cream & Desserts

  • TOP PICK: Fascinating ice cream parfait creations, with the second best soft serve we had in Tokyo, at Mother Farm Milk Bar (top pick because it was more interesting overall)
  • TOP PICK: The actual best soft serve, Cremia, from Silkream (10 years of development paid off ... the richest, creamiest soft serve I've ever had)
  • Mediocre ice cream stuffed melonpan, from Sekai de Niban-me ni Oishii Melonpan
  • Really good packaged vanilla ice cream, from Dean & Deluca (only in Japan)
  • Good soft serve covered in crispy bits, at Zaku Zaku (along with pastry cream stuffed crispy pastry sticks)
  • Wendy's First Kitchen (yes, the same Wendy's you know) has a great lineup of Japanese ice cream desserts, like mochi, red bean, and jelly topped soft serve
  • Packaged puddings are everywhere, like Kobe cheese pudding

Hotels / Flights / Airports

Original Reviews, 2014 Visit

Dear readers, it is time to travel again!

As you know, I normally focus my reviews on establishments in San Francisco, but after my successful Travelin' Tuesdays series on Boston and New Hampshire, I've decided to do it again.  But this time, we are going somewhere far more interesting: Tokyo!

Epic does not even begin to describe my recent trip to Tokyo.  You'll just have to read all about it.  It was a business trip, with a few days of vacation thrown in.

Next Tuesday, I'll start with the actual travel, not something I normally review, but in this case, it too was epic.  I spent 7 hours in SFO, so I got to experience all the cuisine the assorted airline lounges have to offer.  And then, I flew on Cathay Pacific for the first time, to Hong Kong, and then to Tokyo.  No, neither the Cathay flight, nor the time in SFO were planned, but, I turned them into culinary adventures.

The adventures continued once I reached Tokyo, the land of sushi and Michelin stars, both things I clearly enjoy.  Let's just say that in my 3 days of free time, I consumed 8 Michelin stars.  I went to two of Joël Robuchon's restaurants, sadly, not the flagship 3 star, but settled for two star La Table de Joël Robuchon and L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, and netted another two star, Tateru Yoshino Shiba, along the way.  However, we were in Japan, and couldn't exclusively eat French food, so we also went to Michelin starred sushi at Sushi Kanesaka, and Michelin starred tepanyaki at Ukai-Tai Omotasando.

When we weren't busy eating stars, we went to more casual establishments with our co-workers, all Japanese cuisine, like Sushi Seizan for more sushi, President Chibo for okonomiyaki, and Beehive for ramen.  And of course, because I am me, a few pastry shops were also visited, like La Maison du Chocolat and La Boutique de Joël Robuchon.

And, for ridiculous factor, we may or may not have visited the Ganpachi, aka, "The Kill Bill Restaurant" and ... a robot restaurant.  Let's just say there was a pretty large mix of experiences on this trip.

It all concluded with what I am sure will go down as history as one of the most memorable experiences of my life: a flight back, via Hong Kong, on Cathay Pacific, First Class.  I literally spent the entire flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong dining in a ridiculously long, drawn out zillion course kaiseki meal.  Even the time spent in the airline lounges in Hong Kong was mind blowing (they have cabanas!) and sooo many food options ... but not so much the Haneda lounge in Tokyo.  But the truly amazing part was the flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco involved caviar.  I'm ruined for all future travel.

So stay tuned, over the next few months, every Tuesday will feature a new installment of Travelin' Tuesdays: Tokyo.  I'll update this master post with links to the individual posts.  Enjoy!
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