Thursday, December 27, 2018

Blackbird Doughnuts, Boston

Every town has its iconic doughnut shops, some are the mom and pop variety, the ones that have been there for a zillion years, and of course, then there are trendy new artisanal ones.

Like Blackbird Doughnuts, in Boston, MA.
"Blackbird Doughnuts, located in Boston’s South End, is dedicated to creating unique gourmet doughnuts from scratch.  We are the only artisanal doughnut shop in Boston that bakes on site! We aim to take the pastry craft to the next level by combining interesting flavors with classic favorites, while using as many natural and locally sourced ingredients as possible. Come by and check out our bakers in action."
Blackbird has a few other locations around the Boston area as well, including one in Cambridge.

My local friends know that I'm a bit of a donut lover, so they of course have recommended Blackbird to me as long as I can remember.  But, to be honest, I kinda though "eh, just another donut place that locals love, I have other priorities".  I can't say I've been blown away by other similar recommendations like Top Pot in Seattle or Doughnut Plant in New York.

I didn't seek out Blackbird, until an event at the office I was visiting had extra, so I tried one.  I immediately went back for another, and regretted not discovering them sooner.  I can't wait to try more!

Along with traditional doughnuts (cake and raised), Blackbird also makes doughnut cakes (stuffed with seasonal jam, topped with cream cheese buttercream), and mini doughnuts.

Cake Doughnuts

" Often referred to as “Old Fashioned”, cake doughnuts are made in the style of a traditional cake batter with butter, sugar, eggs, and dairy – we use buttermilk and sour cream. Our cake doughnuts have a tender crumb and a rich, yet delicate taste. We make frostings and glazes to complement the texture and style of our cake doughnuts."
I was not really into cake doughnuts for years.  I definitely thought I was a raised doughnut girl all the way (or really, a fritter girl ...).  Why have a cake doughnut, which to me was essentially just cake without the part I actually like (frosting)?  But in recent years, I've found myself enjoying them, like the Wild Blueberry version from Doughnut Plant in NYC, most of the chocolate cake donuts from Dynamo Donuts in SF, or the amazing old fashioned at Johnny Doughnuts in the Bay Area.

So the first doughnut I selected from Blackbird was actually a cake doughnut.  

Blackbird rotates flavors often, and when I had them the first time (December, 2018), they had 10 cake doughnut varieties, some seasonal (like gingerbread), others fairly classic (but sold in mini size, as a stack), and some vegan.

[ No Photo ]
Cookie Milk Cake Doughnut.

"Our signature vanilla cake doughnut, topped with a glaze made of milk infused with oreos and chocolate chip cookies finished with housemade oreo cookie butter and cookie chunks."

I didn't take a photo of this doughnut, as I just though "oh hey, random donuts", and didn't think I'd be reviewing it.  I had no idea what I was about it experience, clearly.

This was crazy good.  Crazy crazy crazy good.  Dense cake base that had some depth of flavor to it, from the buttermilk and sour cream.  Slightly oily but only in that you could tell it was fried awesomeness, not off putting.  Really a great base.

Then, the toppings. The glaze was sweet and covered it well, and the bits of cookie (oreo and choc chip) added a nice touch, as did the actual chunks of cookie stuck on top.  Did I get the "milk" aspect of it? Nah, but it was a good glaze.

The center of the doughnut was the best though.  It looked like a chocolate donut hole perched in the center, and it turned out to be a ball of Oreo cookie butter (!), and it was the things dreams are made of.  It was just ... soo good.  Soft, almost like ... half-baked Oreo brownie dough.  It was amazing.

I was fairly blown away.  I want another of this, or any cake variety!

Raised Doughnuts

"The trademark of a raised doughnut is its airy, fluffy texture. Our raised doughnuts are made with a brioche dough and topped with a variety of house-made glazes, frostings, and toppings. Brioche is a rich, tender, yeast dough made with eggs, milk, and butter. We stick to the basics and only add a few secret ingredients so our soft, fluffy, buttery dough pairs perfectly with any topping."
Since the cake doughnut was so good, I quickly went back to get another, and this time went for a raised doughnut to compare.

The pickings were getting more slim at that point, so only the basic vanilla glazed, chocolate sprinkle, and marshmallow coconut remained.  I snatched up the coconut to try something slightly unique, but I wished I could have tried the fascinating sounding "Everything Bagel Doughnut" though, a stuffed doughnut with whipped cream cheese inside, and all the classic everything bagel toppings on top (garlic, onion, sesame, poppy seed).  While I have a serious sweet tooth, the idea of a savory doughnut did intrigue me.
Marshmallow Coconut.
"Fluffy raised doughnut base glazed in marshmallow coconut and topped with coconut shavings, like freshly fallen snow."

The raised doughnut was less exciting.  The base was a fairly standard raised doughnut, not too greasy, but not notable really.  It was ... just a raised doughnut.  

The topping though was what I was interested in, although I knew it might e a mixed success.  And, it was.  The marshmallow glaze was great, and, as you can see, it was very well coated.  Sweet, marshmallow glaze.  Nice.  

The coconut shavings really were generous as well, but that was the problem.  Sometimes I just don't really care for coconut, the texture just bothers me.  And that is how this went.  I didn't want a furry doughnut!  

So, I didn't love this.  A fine doughnut base, but not special, and well applied toppings that I just didn't really want.

I'd like to try another raised doughnut of a variety that is more appealing to me.
Blackbird Doughnuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Good Culture Cottage Cheese

Pretty sure you never expected me to review cottage cheese, right?

Bear with me.

Good Culture is a brand of, yes, cottage cheese.  Just cottage cheese.  Premium cottage cheese.
"Cottage cheese, but better. Real food, simple ingredients, no artificial anything."
They make two product lines, one with whole milk (organic) and one low-fat (natural).  Not sure why they choose to make only the whole milk line organic?  Each line comes in different fruity flavors, along with classic plain flavors.

I haven't had cottage cheese much (at all?) in at least 15 years, but, when I was younger, I actually ate quite a bit of it.  I loved it drizzled with Catalina dressing (ok, smothered by), and served alongside some sprouts.  I think my mom got me hooked on it at some point.  So when I had the opportunity to try Good Culture, I said yes, wondering if I'd find myself liking cottage cheese again.

I tried several varieties (and no, I didn't smother it in Catalina, although I did try adding thousand island, since that is what I had on hand ...).  It didn't re-inspire me to eat cottage cheese,so I shared the rest with my family.

My sister quite liked it, and shared a bite with her 11 month old, even though she had never liked cottage cheese before.  And ... she liked it!  My mother also enjoyed it, and she too gave some to the baby, who again accepted it.  So while it wasn't the product for me, I was glad to see it appreciated by others.

Certified Organic, Whole Milk, 4% Milkfat
"We've got the goods. A thicker, creamier, simple ingredient experience." 

I had only the fullest fat option, the 4% product line, all organic.  Available in "classic", strawberry chia, blueberry açai, pineapple, and mango.
The flavored versions all come in only one size, a single serve, loaded with 17g of protein!  The classic flavor is also available in a larger format.  My sister loved the size, calling it "perfect for a snack."
Pineapple: The Curd.
When you tear off the lid, all flavors look like plain cottage cheese, as all varieties have the fruit on the bottom, in a layer at the base, like "fruit on the bottom" yogurts.  You need to mix in as you please.

Which of course, for me, meant that first I'd try the plain cottage cheese to evaluate it.

The first thing I noticed is how small the curd is.  Very, very small.  A bit too small and mushy for my preference.  I like to see distinct curds!  I think this is the aspect of it the baby liked though, and both my mom and sister said that while it was different, they didn't mind.

The cottage cheese to me was ... fine?   I mean, it was cottage cheese, not particularly exciting as a concept.  Creamy, sure, but I didn't taste anything particularly notable about it, and thought I'd taste more difference from the fuller fat content.
Pineapple: Compote.
"Paradise awaits! our organic pineapple is a tantalizing tropical temptation for your tongue (cabana boy not included)."

The first flavor I tried was the pineapple.  After much digging, I was able find the fruity compote at the base.

It was good.  Sweet, fruity, some chunks of pineapple.  Not too sweet, not a goo.  The pineapple and cottage cheese were a nice, classic pairing, something I used to make on my own from regular cottage cheese and canned pineapple actually.

The layer of fruit compote was pretty thin though; I would have liked more.  It also was hard to reach, just like those fruit on the bottom yogurts - personally I prefer the style with the mix-in on the side, so you can access it immediately and add it in as you please.

So, overall, a good flavor, standard cottage cheese, good for what it was.
Strawberry Chia: Compote.
"In the mood for something sweet? our strawberry chia blend is sweeter than a pile of kittens snuggling a pile of babies. yeah, believe it."

Next I went for strawberry chia.  This time I knew what to expect.  Same basic small curd cottage cheese that was fine, but still cottage cheese, and still a smaller curd than I wanted.

In the base, the fruit, this time, strawberry chia. I didn't care for this at all -  the strawberry was just kinda sweet, not chunks of fruit as I was hoping, and, well, I don't really like chia.  I also didn't find the cottage cheese + strawberry combination to make sense in my head.
Blueberry Açaí Chia.
"Good things come in threes.  Organic blueberries, açaí berries, and chia seeds make for the perfect trifecta on your tongue."

The blueberry açaí chia was slightly better than the strawberry chia.  At this point, I knew what to expect with the boring small curd cottage cheese, and went right for the goodies on the bottom.  While I didn't think blueberry and açaí would go well with cottage cheese, I do like those fruits and was interested to see what this was like.

I was pleased to find a more substantial layer of the fruit than in the other varieties.  It did have a few small whole berries, plus a little bit of the chia seed, in a blueish-purple goo.  Fruity, sweet, but not what I wanted with cottage cheese.  The chia was fairly insignificant, so if you are looking for crunch from chia, you won't get it here.

Another one that just wasn't for me, but this is the flavor my sister and her daughter particularly enjoyed.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Sprinkles Cupcakes

Update Review, December 2018

Sprinkle: Birthday cake topped with vanilla buttercream and colorful non pareil sprinkles.
"This cheery birthday cake is loaded with rainbow sprinkles and topped with vanilla buttercream frosting. Adorned with crunchy rainbow non-pareils, your only birthday wish will be for many more!"

It has been years since I've reviewed Sprinkles cupcakes, because, well, I never really liked them before.

But I recently attended an event where the only sweet item was mini Sprinkles cupcakes, and they had a flavor I never tried before, so, I gave them a try.  I went for the most exciting flavor: sprinkle!

I pulled off the garnish on top, and, uh, I really loved it.  Yes, just printed on fondant, but it was sweet, crispy, and, well, totally what I wanted it seems.

This was a good sign?

The frosting was quite sweet, and I think I liked it.  It wasn't bad, but it also wasn't particularly good.  I mean, it was sweet, and there was lots of it, so, that was good?  I think I was indifferent to the frosting.  I did love the crunchy non-pareils on top.
Sprinkle: Inside.
The cake was "birthday cake", so, funfetti style, little pops of rainbow color throughout but no flavor from the colors, no texture difference either.  The cake had a decent crumb to it, but I didn't care for the flavor, it tasted slightly stale to me.

So, overall ... yeah, still not into these cupcakes.  Nothing *wrong* with it, but really not a particularly good cupcake.

Original Review, February 2015

I love desserts, you know this.  But cupcakes are rarely near the top of my list.  Even during the height of the cupcake craze, they never did it for me.  Believe me, I tried, but all the top places on Yelp in the area failed me, like Sibby's Cupcakery, Cup and Cake's Bakery, Cako, or Delessio.

Sprinkles was one of the originators of that craze, credited with being one of the first cupcake bakeries in the US, and certainly the first on the West Coast.  It took a while for them to reach the Bay Area, and even though the general cupcake fad had passed, I remember people being very excited for the Palo Alto location opening.   They even make cupcake ATMs.  I figured if any cupcakes were going to be good, these would be it.

Spoiler: I didn't like them.  The cake was always too dry, and the cupcakes were all homogenous throughout, lacking the moist interior and crispy exterior I prefer.  The frostings were all too sweet, and there was too much applied.

I won't be trying more.
Salty Caramel.
"These fleur de sel granules are a delightful complement to the sweet, buttery caramel which flavors both the cake and frosting."

I didn't care for the cake at all.  It was fairly dry, and I really didn't taste caramel.

The frosting was super sweet, I guess caramely, and it seemed a bit cream cheesy.  The salt crystals on top were really good however, and complemented the sweet well.

[ Subsequent review: I again found the cake really dry and uninteresting.  The frosting however was nicely sweet, and I certainly detected cream cheese in it.  The edible decoration was also tasty. ]
Red Velvet.
"Southern style light chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting."

This is their signature flavor, made with Callebaut chocolate.  Also available in gluten-free or sugar free, although, if you want a gluten-free cupcake, I recommend the vanilla ones from Kara's Cupcakes.

I'm never a big fan of red velvet.  This was no exception.  It had a decent chocolate flavor to it, but way too much sweet cream cheese icing.  Meh.  My least favorite of the flavors I tried.
"This juicy cupcake is made with ripe, succulent strawberries pureed into both its cake and frosting."

This sounded promising.

But ... the cake was still a dry, consistent style that I don't really like, and it didn't have any flavor.   Where were the strawberries pureed in it?

The frosting was really lovely however, with a strong strawberry flavor, although still a bit too sweet.  The strawberry flavor in the icing was very ... fruit forward!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Bar Roma, SYD Domestic Airport

Bar Roma is a "Coffee, Bistro and Bar", located in the Sydney airport, immediately after security.
My Treats.
Their marketing makes it sound a bit more exciting than it really is:
Bar Roma blends the mood and feel of a traditional pasticceria or trattoria with the convenience of a contemporary retail outlet. 
Bar Roma’s décor is blond wood and bold colours, and its merchandising draws on the authentic flavours and unique warmth of a true Italian offer. The seating area is supported by a range of styles, including lounge, dining and café.  As well as Roman thin crusted pizzas and great pastas, Bar Roma offers an extensive breakfast menu - cooked to order.  Bar Roma has a full bar stocked with a great range of local and imported wines with beers on tap. 
Relax in front of the mega TV screen and enjoy Bar Roma at Sydney Qantas Domestic Terminal and Brisbane Qantas Domestic Terminal.
How great does that sound? A pasticceria or trattoria ... in an airport!  Uh, no.

I jest, but it did have excellent, excellent onion rings.  I'll be back.  I still get hungry remembering them.
Counter and Bar.
What Bar Roma is in reality is a counter where you can order coffee drinks, pastries, and pre-made sandwiches as quick takeaway, or from a more extensive menu, where you can given a buzzer to wait.  You pick up your own food at the bar, where you can also order drinks and bar snacks.
They *do* have a variety of seating as advertised, but, when I was there, every seat was taken.

The pastries didn't look very good, but I wanted a baked good to take on my flight to have in a few hours, so I got one anyway.  And a bar snack, because, well, fried food sounded good at the time.  One of these things was great.  The other, awful.
Scone with Jam & Butter. $5.
The cashier wanted to heat my scone up, but I told her I was getting it to take on my flight, and she insisted on heating it anyway.  "You'll want it heated," is what she said.  I think she knew how bad these were.

The scone was horrible.  Really, horrible.  Dry.  It tasted like ... cardboard.  Flavorless.  Horrible texture.  It had a few raisins in it.

Really, really not good.  Served normally with cream and jam, but, she wouldn't give me cream for takeaway, offering packets of butter and Kraft strawberry jam instead.

Anyway.  Such a bad scone.
Onion Rings with Sweet Chili Sauce. $8.
The bar snacks menu had a number of tempting fried options.  Spicy battered potato wedges with sour cream.  Fried pickle chips with aioli.  Calamari frito.  And onion rings.

I was really, really, really craving onion rings.  I had some truly disappointing ones at the Fish Butchery in Paddington a few days prior, and intended to go for onion rings somewhere else earlier that day, but, a huge rainstorm derailed my plans.

Given how poor reviews of Bar Roma are, and how badly I was craving these, I assumed I'd be really, really disappointed by the rings.

The onion rings took about 10 minutes to be prepared.  I was given a pager, and waited for it to go off, then claimed my prize at the bar.

And a prize indeed they were!  These were fantastic onion rings.  Really, really fantastic onion rings.  I don't understand how they were so good.

Perfectly crispy.  Salty. Not too oily.  Great flavor in the batter.  All assorted sizes.  You could taste the onion.  Not slimy.  The coating didn't fall off.  I have nothing negative to say about these rings.  I adored them.

The sweet chili though ... I didn't like.  Which confused me, as I love sweet chili sauce.  I also hated the Heinz bbq sauce available on the bar.  But ... they went great with ketchup I snagged in the Qantas club.

I loved these hot and fresh.  I loved them as they cooled down a bit and I brought them to the Qantas club to finish off.  I loved them cold, later, on my flight.

I don't understand how they were so good, but, I highly, highly recommend.  I'll gladly get them again, or venture out to one of the other fried items.
Bar Roma Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

QF436, SYD-MEL, Business Class

Flight Details:
  • Flight QF463, SYD-MEL
  • Aircraft: 737-800
  • Departure: 6:30pm (scheduled) 7pm (actual)
  • Arrival: 8:05pm (scheduled)
  • Seat: 2D
Dinner Meal.
This was a quick, simple flight.  Not an exciting review, I know.  Domestic flight from Sydney to Melbourne.

Cabin & Seat

The business cabin is a 2-2 layout, only 3 rows.
2-2 Business Cabin.
Seats are quite wide, and fairly comfortable.  
Seat Controls.
Simple controls for reline, "back comfort control", legrest, footrest.  The seat was fairly comfortable though.

No power at seat.

Amenities & Service

Not much in terms of amenities, no wifi, no in-seat screens, only the front row had tv screens playing safety video and Qantas news. 

Bottles of water awaited us at the seats.

Service was excellent, even though such a short flight . I was impressed with how the FA showed us the bottles of wine as she offered them, even though there were not choices.


Pre-takeoff we were offered ... sparkling water.

I'm sure this is a sad thing for some people - why not sparkling wine! - but for me, I thought it was great.  I always drink sparkling water, and normally pre-takeoff drinks are limited to sparkling wine and still water.
Drink and Meal Cart.
Soon after we were underway, a meal was offered from the cart.  Two options, a hot item of a chicken curry with gai lan, shiitake mushrooms, etc over jasmine rice, or, a smoked salmon salad with Chardonnay dressing.  One single red wine (Shiraz), one single white (Riesling, from Western Australia).  Still or sparkling water.  I was again thrilled with the sparkling water.

A bread basket was also presented, with simple sliced bread, and all meals came with a cupcake for dessert.
Sparkling Water, Riesling.
.For wine, I opted for white to start my journey.

It wasn't very interesting.  Not harsh, not acidic, but also it didn't have much going on at all.  Eh.
Dinner Tray.
I planned to skip the meal since I nibbled in both the Qantas Club and Qantas Business lounges (review coming soon!), and had really excellent onion rings from Bar Roma, but, some veggies sounded good, so I did go for the salad.

It, along with the dessert, were served at the same time on try.
Smoked Salmon Salad with Hardboiled Egg and Chardonnay Dressing.
The salad was ... ok.  Some elements were good, but, I wasn't really into it.  A nice light option that did have sufficient protein though, if that is what you are going for.

The lettuce was fresh and crisp.  The green beans were fresh and crisp, blanched.  Both the highlights of the salad.

The potato was nicely cooked, not too mushy, and actually kinda satisfying (guess I wanted carbs?).  I didn't have the egg, olives, or tomato.

The salmon was ... not great.  Kinda slimy.  Not smoky.  I didn't care for it at all.

The real issue was the dressing.  There was way too much of it, it was oily, and I didn't like the flavor.  It ruined even the lettuce and beans for me.
Dessert Box.
The dessert came in a little box, with a shelf life of many months, although it also said it was for consumption of the day of the flight only.
Simmone's Kitchen:Hummingbird Cupcake.
I was impressed with how it looked though, it did seem fairly fresh.

It was ... ok.  Basically, a sour cream carrot cake with pineapple and cream cheese frosting.  The cake was fairly dry, and had a slightly odd flavor to it.  I wasn't really into it.

The cream cheese frosting was fantastic though, good cream cheese flavor, very creamy.  I really liked the frosting.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Proper Crisps, New Zealand

I like snacks.  I liks chips in particular.  I also like to travel, and try new products while traveling.  And thus ... this review.  Proper Chips, from New Zealand, served on board an Air New Zealand flight.

Proper Chips is a fairly new company, started only in 2010, with founders on a mission to less processed and less artificial chips, sorry, crisps.  They use high quality high oleic sunflower oil to fry, sea salt from Marlborough, etc, etc.  And of course, everything is non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free, etc.  For me, the interesting part was the unique flavors.

I was only able to try one variety, but I'd gladly try more, but more specifically, I'd love to try some of their other Proper Crisps: parsnip, beetroot, carrot, and more!
Sweet Smoked Paprika.
" Olé! Sizzling with Sweet smoked Spanish seasoning, these Proper Crisps are flavoured with mature sweet bell peppers that have been naturally dried over hot smoked oak chips and ground to perfection."

"Sweet and Smokey – The finest matured Spanish bell peppers dried on oak for 18 days – our 100% natural take on the BBQ flavour."

These were fine crisps, I guess.  Thin sliced, not skin on, generic crisps, but, uh, crispy?  No complaints on the base but it wasn't particularly exciting.

The spicing was certainly odd.  I have paprika on other things, but it isn't what I've ever had on my crisps.  It was somewhat BBQ-eque I suppose, but far more subtle, not as complex.  Which, makes sense, as the only ingredients, besides the potatoes and oil, are salt and paprika.  So, they tasted, well, like paprika, and little more.

Not the most interesting chips for me, but, if you really like paprika, perhaps you'd like these.
Rosemary & Thyme.
"We practically raided the garden – sprinkled dried and rubbed herbs on the freshly kettle cooked Agria making a delicious herbaceous take on the traditional Sunday Roast."

The Rosemary & Thyme variety fared the same way.  The chips were fine, crispy, nicely cooked, and the ingredients were simple, just the potatoes, oil, and herbs.

The spicing was strong, very very obvious that they were rosemary and thyme.  Indeed, they did seem like a Sunday Roast in a chip.  Which ... for me, was a bit much.  Rosemary and thyme are things I don't mind, but, as the dominant, primary flavor of something, I wasn't quite into it.
Cider Vinegar & Sea Salt.
"Our Award winning moreish apple cider vinegar crisp – has the perfect balance of sweet and zing, we make ours with real vinegar!!"

Certainly a more classic flavor, just named a bit more interestingly than the standard "salt and vinegar" name we have in the US.

The chips though ... eh.  Just fried thin crispy chips.  Very tangy.  Salty.  Eh.
Onion with Green Chives.
"We thought why not make a classic Onion flavour using only simple, real ingredients? This delicate balance of Gourmet Onions, Chives and Marlborough Sea Salt will definitely tantalise your taste buds.  Let your cravings begin!"

Another simple flavor, onion and chive.  Nothing too strong, but a bit more interesting than a plain chip.  Works in a pinch if you want chips and onion dip, and don't have any dip I guess.

Again, not much interesting to say about the chips themselves, just thin fried crispy chips.  Not really my thing.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Jacques Torres Cookies

I found a cookie I love.  Not just like, love.  Like, legit love.  And, if you've read my reviews before, you know I generally could care less about cookies.

But this cookie.  Swoon.

It comes from Jacques Torres, known as "Mr. Chocolate," a french pastry chef with an incredible career, now New York based chocolatier (and, uh, founder of a chocolate museum).   And one of his products is a chocolate chip cookie.

The best chocolate chip cookie imaginable.  You too can order these online, for delivery.  Or you can try to make them yourselves, as the recipe is widely available online.
Chocolate Chip Cookies. $19.99/6.
 "Jacques' World Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies."

Cookies are available by the half dozen, dozen, or double batch.  We ordered just a half dozen, a mere 6 cookies, for 6 people.  Normally, when planning cookies, I allocate 2-3 cookies per person, but, uh ...
4? Normal Cookies = 1 MONSTER COOKIE.
Warning: these are not cookies where each guest should eat 2+ cookies.  These are Monster Cookies.

Easily 4 normal cookies make up one of these.  Here you can see, on the right hand side, a normal size cookie on top of this monster.
Dinner Plate Sized Cookie!
I couldn't believe how large each cookie was. I'm fairly certain I've never seen cookies this big before.  Here is another perspective, with a full size dinner plate.

And yet ... we all easily devoured a full cookie.  Myself included.   And I DON'T LIKE COOKIES!

These are really, really, really good cookies.
"Our most popular baked product is sent directly to you from our ovens! Jacques' signature giant chocolate chip cookies use his House Blend 60% Dark Chocolate baking discs. As he always says, "It’s a lot of chocolate with a little cookie dough around it."

Why are these cookies so good?  I have no idea.  They look like standard cookies, albeit giant ones with huge chunks of chocolate in them.  Technically, "baking disks", not chips, but I guess calling them "Chocolate Baking Disk Cookies" doesn't quite roll off the tongue?

The ingredients look standard.  No real surprises, perhaps interesting that they have brown sugar in addition to white sugar, which certainly helps deepen the flavor, but still ... they really should just be any old chocolate chip cookie.

But they aren't.  They are seriously the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had.  And I didn't even have it fresh!

The base flavor was just incredible, rich, deep, buttery, sugary.  I loved the base cookie.  It was a decently soft cookie, not as soft as I usually go for, but not too crisp.  They didn't need warming up.

And the chocolate?  Clearly high quality, which I guess you suspect since they come from a chocolatier.  Large chunks, deep dark chocolate.

I can't explain my adoration for these cookies.  I had one the next day too, thinking that perhaps I was just being crazy that single day, but I again loved it.  I don't understand.

My office mate also loved them, expressing accolades for them hours after.  But one of my co-workers had a totally different reaction.  He felt it wasn't chewy enough.  He didn't like the strong dark chocolate.  So, clearly, cookie preferences are a factor here ... or maybe he's just "wrong".

Best. Cookie. Ever.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Fish Butchery, Paddington

The Fish Butchery is an interesting place.
"Sustainably caught, under utilised species, expertly prepared for you to cook at home."
Mostly a place to pick up high quality rare seafood to prepare at home, although they do some made to order takeout.  It comes from the team behind one of Sydney's top seafood restaurants, Saint Peter.

Given my love of seafood, and trying new things, I couldn't wait to try it out when I was recently in town.
Fried, Fried, Fried ... and a Salad to Balance it out.
Since I was hotel living, I couldn't just get the raw products to prepare at home, and I was alone, so I couldn't get a huge feast, but I did try an assortment of items.

I ... wasn't in love with it.  I do think I picked poorly from the menu though.
I had a hard time finding it.  I actually walked by before realizing I had done so.  This, literally, is the sign.  It is kinda an awesome sign, to be honest, but if you are looking for a sign that says "Fish Butchery", you will easily miss this.
Pantry Items.
A pantry area is stocked with fascinating pickles, preserved lemons, sweet and sour sauce, and batter for frying yourself, along with bread from a local baker.
Refrigerated Items.
In the fridge, along with aged, smoked, and cured seafood products, is jars of their house made sauces (mignonette, yougurt tartare, bacon killpatrick mix, cocktail sauce, tomato jam, prawn oil), bottles of curry stock and squid ink, assorted seafood terrines, a crab lasagna, crab cakes, housemade ling pie.

It made me wish I had a kitchen to return to.
Seafood Display.
But I was there for fresh seafood, which was available on full display.  I hadn't heard of many of the varieties, as they are native to Australia and not imported to the US often, but also, as they are mostly rarer species.

Here we had several types of prawns, king whiting sausage, black cod, john dory, and coral trout.  Each had information on the exact variety and fishing location.  All available by the kg.
More Seafood.
The lineup continued with mahi mai, trevally, yellowfin tuna, marlin, albacore, ocean trout, and broadbill, plus, um, their special creation, the T.M.T. Galantine (far left).  Yes, the last of which is  ocean trout, stuffed with murray cod and yellowfin tuna!
Prep Area.
The rest of the space is mostly an open work space, where the staff are busy prepping seafood with precision and care.  I believe most of this is headed to Saint Peter for service?
Dine In / Takeaway Menu.
For fresh prepared food there is an assortment of items available to dine at at the 8 little counter seats, or, as I did, takeaway.

I had a really, really hard time deciding what to get.  I kinda wanted it all.  I really wished I had someone to share with, or a kitchen for leftovers.

Did I want fried whitebait & aioli?  Sure, that sounded different.  King prawn toast with hot cocktail sauce?  Yes, particularly once the cashier told me it was his favorite.  The fairly famous tuna burger that folks have been raving about, complete with optional swordfish bacon?  Absolutely.  And then of course there is fresh fish and chips made with local ling, a tuna roll, a prawn cutlet, fresh prawns with cocktail sauce, a variety of sides (including an amazing looking potato scallop ...).  Not a large menu, really, but like I said, I wanted it all.

I settled on a bunch of small things, so I could try an assortment: one fried seafood, one fried side, and one salad.  Oh, and a bunch of extra sauces.  In retrospect, maybe I really should have just gotten the tuna burger or king prawn toast ...
Takeout Bag.
Everything was prepared to order in a back kitchen.

It took about 10 minutes for my order to be ready, during which time I browsed around the shop and admired the handiwork of the chefs in action.  I was not bored.

My order was handed over in a cute paper sack, which I choose to take outside to a nearby bench.
Albacore Bacon.
While I waited, one of the fish butchers offered me a generous slice of the albacore bacon.  I was *thrilled* to get a chance to try this unique product, in its simple form, just cured, not cooked or added to the burger.

It was fascinating, certainly not like anything I've had before.  Really quite interesting.  It had a great chew to it, and I loved the salt level.  I was surprised by how unfishy it was.  Was it bacon?  Not exactly, but it was quite enjoyable.  I'm curious how it transforms if you fry it up.

I think it would be fantastic on a BLT alongside tomato, or on their burger of course.

Thanks for letting me try this!
Fried Food Box.
My fried items came in one box, with my assortment of sauces included inside.
Salt & Vinegar Onion Rings. $6.
I was sooo excited for the onion rings.  I had been on a bit of an onion ring kick (super random, but I was ordering them every chance I could get), and the idea of a salt & vinegar onion ring, made entirely fresh to order, just sounded amazing.  They came with a vinegar dipping sauce too.

But ... wow they were oily.  Just, way too greasy.  I'm not opposed to oil, to grease, and I knew they were a fried item, but, this was just too much.  I couldn't actually taste the onions at all.  Just grease.  I appreciated the assorted sizes of rings.

The batter was really crispy, and had a bit of a slight vinegar taste to it, but the coating entirely fell off, and didn't cling to the rings well.  They were well salted.

These made me so sad, and I kept eating them, dabbing off the extensive oil, just trying desperately to like them, but, I really, truly did not.  Fascinating item, but, I think, flawed execution.
Next was the prawn cutlet, literally a huge, fresh mooloolaba king prawn (which I saw whole and raw in the display earlier!), crumbed, and fried.  It came with sweet chili mayo on the side, which I couldn't wait to try.

It too was fairly oily, but not quite as bad as the rings, as the coating was still crispy, and I think just soaked the oil up a little differently.  Also well salted.
Juicy Prawn Cutlet: Inside.
The prawn was good, clearly fresh, soo juicy and succulent.  It went great with the sweet chili aioli, or even just drizzled with the included lemon wedge.
Yogurt Tartar Sauce ($1 extra) / Sweet Chili Mayo (served with prawn) / Vinegar (served with onion rings).
The sauces were a mixed success.  Two came with my meal, one with each fried dish, and I added on the third, the tartar sauce, because I wanted to try it.

The yogurt tartar sauce was ... a healthier style of tartar sauce, clearly.  Tangy from yogurt.  Not really my thing, but I appreciated the generous bits of pickle in it.

The sweet chili mayo was great, this is the one that comes with the prawn, and it was creamy, slightly sweet, slightly spicy.  I really liked it, not actually with the prawn very much, but with chips that I dunked in it later.

The vinegar comes with the onion rings, to complete the salt and vinegar aspect of the dish, and, with the rings, it worked actually.  On its own, eh, just vinegar dipping sauce, but with the dish, it was good.
Yes, I know, I went to fish place and ordered a salad.  But I had read so many reviews of how great this was, and I wanted something non-fried to round out my meal.  Also, I love cabbage.

The serving was huge, and I planned to save much of it for later anyway, but, it was already dressed.  It sadly got soggy fast, although it was really fresh and crisp when I got it.
It was actually a pretty good salad.

Fresh, crispy cabbage, chopped up into enjoyable pieces.  It was a "good eating salad", as in, it was actually enjoyable to eat, given this base.

In the mix was tons of little currants, which looked like too much, but they actually were entirely necessary in that quantity, providing all the sweetness and little pops of chew.

And then, the hazelnuts.  Swoon.  I don't know what they did to these hazelnuts.  But I loved them.  Roasted and toasted, and just sooo flavorful.  At first I thought maybe Australian hazelnuts were just awesome, and started trying them everywhere I went, but, no others were quite like this.  They were awesome.  Also, added some crunch.

The last element, besides the fantastic scattering of fresh herbs, was the dressing.  This ... is where I didn't like it as much.  A buttermilk based dressing, creamy, but, for some reason, I just didn't care for it.  I wish I had asked for it on the side, as then the slaw would have held up, and I could have used a different dressing.

Overall, a very nicely designed salad, thoughtful, flavorful, textural ... I just didn't like the dressing.  Sadness.