Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Airport Dining: Takeout from Giants Clubhouse @ SFO

Update Reviews, 2019

In early 2019, I flew ... a lot.  Every other week it seemed.  I'll put a positive spin on it: it gave me a chance to try so many things from Giant's Clubhouse at SFO!

January 2019 Visit

Another day cruising through SFO Terminal 3, and another round of takeout from the Giant's Clubhouse.

Last time, I was fairly impressed with the kale caesar salad (with fascinating vegan shrimp!), but not so much with the side of cornbread.  This time, in January, again just wanting a small bite I opted to try another side, and of course, I also wanted something sweet, and, not having not been impressed with the ice cream sundae I had from Yankee Pier around the corner, I decided to try their version.

Both were ok, not great, not memorable.
Jalapeno Jicama Slaw.  $5.95. (Side).
The slaw was ... fine.

I didn't really find much jicama, but what I did find was nice, it added a good juicy element to the slaw.  Also in the mix was standard cabbage (purple, green) and carrots.
Plus of course, this is jalapeno slaw, so there was the jalapeno, sliced a larger than I'd expect.  But hey, it *is* jalapeno slaw after all?  It had kick, too much really, when you got a bite with with a big piece in it, and there was a considerable number of those big pieces.

It was lightly dressed, crisp, fresh.  A fine slaw, although I wish the dressing had a bit more going on, at least, more seasoning?  I wanted some cracked black pepper to put on top.
Simple Sundae, Caramel. $6.95.
"Two scoops Strauss Family vanilla ice cream with your choice of chocolate, caramel, or strawberry sauce."

Given how unimpressed I was with the "Funday Sundae" from down the hall at Yankee Pier, I wanted to try their take on a simple sundae.   Sometimes a girl just really wants a little ice cream.

This one at least gave me a few options: chocolate, caramel, or strawberry, and had a good pedigree as the base (Strauss).  I can't say it looked considerably better, but, it had more promise.

The ice cream wasn't really "two scoops" as described, but rather a bunch of small scoops, half scoops, clearly someone had a hard time scooping it.  At least that meant the ice cream was quite frozen, so it didn't melt too quickly on me.

The caramel was amusingly smothering the bottom of the bowl, and then additional caramel was drizzled on top.  It was *very* very thick caramel.  Sweet, generic caramel.  But so thick, it stuck to the spoon and made it so I often had a big mouth full of just caramel.

The ice cream was simple vanilla.  Served to hard to enjoy right when it was served, but time took care of that problem.  I would have been annoyed if I was eating it there, or if I wanted my ice cream right away.  It was fine ice cream, Strauss is a decent brand, and it was certainly better than the icy generic ice cream from Yankee Pier.

It also had two little half-hearted squirts of what looked like canned whipped cream.  No cherry.

So overall, it was, well, a simple sundae.  Fine ice cream, generic simple toppings, no more, no less.  Considerably better than Yankee Pier.  Bring some sprinkles and nuts, and make it your own, and it likely would be a decent little sundae.  Oh, and $1 cheaper than Yankee Pier too ...

March 2019 Visit

Another day, another visit through SFO, that is what it feels like sometimes.   This visit was literally just a month later.

This time I finally opted to get a legit meal, as I was quite hungry, and decided not to wait until the meal served on my flight. As always, I ordered takeaway, and this time, I was shocked by how quickly it arrived, a complete contrast to the agonizingly slow previous visits, and surprising given that I ordered a hot main dish, and not just sides or dessert.

Sadly though, I didn't really care for it.
"Open faced oven roasted sliced turkey breast, toasted cornbread, cranberry jam, mushroom sauce, potato puree, crispy onion strings."

This is listed as a "sandwich", although, clearly not one, served "open faced", but also, without sliced bread, rather, it uses corn bread as a base. I think calling this an open faced sandwich is a bit of a stretch. But anyway.

Now, I'll admit this was an odd order for me. I don't really eat sandwiches (although, again, I knew it wasn't really going to be one). I don't like turkey. But do you know what I do like? Everything else in the description - crispy onion strings! Potato puree! Mushroom sauce! And I was willing to give the cornbread another try, although it was just ok last time.

When I opened my box, I thought the majority of it was ... gravy. I laughed, but was secretly thrilled, and dove right in.

Once I took a spoonful though, I realized it was the potato puree, a rather thick, gloopy mashed potato. Too far in the "glue" direction for my taste, and clearly overworked in some way. The mushroom sauce was on top of that, and it was gravy-like, with chunks of mediocre mushroom. Not much positive to say about it either.

I was sad, as warmed mashed potatoes and gravy sounded wonderful, but I had more to explore, and moved on to the toppings.

The crispy onion strings were fine, but were more of a garnish than I anticipated, I thought I'd have a reasonable portion of them. They were crispy, and salty, and were a nice contrast to the gloopy potato.

The cranberry jam was also fine, and had some chunks of cranberry. If the potato and gravy had been better, I think I would have really liked mixing it in.
IT IS OUTTA HERE: Underneath.
The majority of the dish however was not the base mash, nor the toppings, it was the cornbread and turkey.

The turkey was really just slightly thicker sliced deli meat, a few slices, and, since I don't like turkey, I didn't bother try it.

Under the turkey was the cornbread, the same as I had before just as a side, and ... just as lackluster. It was warm, but, eh. Nothing particularly great about the cornbread, not the flavor, nor the texture.

This dish had so much hope, and I really thought I could craft some very tasty bites of cornbread + mash + gravy + onion strings + cranberry sauce ... but alas, nope.

I would not get this again.

April 2019 Visit

Yup, another day, another landing in SFO, another visit to the SF Giants Clubhouse to get salads (and this time soup and chili) to bring home for dinner. And yes, just a month later. I was traveling ... too much.

I picked this location based on memories of the kale caesar, and wanted to give the rest of the salad lineup a try.
Large Chowder, Small Chili with Cornbread, 2 Entree Salads, 1 Side Salad. $50.
Ah, airport food and pricing.  A $50 feast?
Clam Chowder. Large. $10.
"Classic New England clam chowder with smoked bacon." 

This was ... mediocre clam chowder.  A bit too thin and watery, not much flavor, and certainly not many clams.  And ... where was the promised smoked bacon?  I didn't find nor taste it.

Generic oyster crackers came on the side.

We got a large, so we could share it, and it was a decently large portion.  The small is $8.25.  I wouldn't get this again, as it was just too boring.
Turkey Chili. Small. $7.25.
"Topped with cheddar cheese and onions, served with toasted corn bread."

I mostly got this for my companion, but I tried some, because sometimes I do love chili.  It was fine, not offensive chili, not much spice, but decent flavor, decent consistency, not too thin, and loaded with vegetables.  The generous amount of vegetables was a bit odd (so much corn!), but wasn't bad exactly.

The turkey was ground turkey, in chunks, and I appreciated that I couldn't really tell it wasn't beef, given how much other flavor was in the chili.

For some reason my chili didn't come with cheddar cheese and onions (boo), and the cheese really would have made a difference.  As would sour cream.  I'm used to loading up my chili.

I got the small for $7.25, and it was a fairly decent serving.  The large is $10, and would certainly be the size to share with someone.
Toasted Corn Bread (Side, with Chili).
I had this as a side before, and didn't love it, and only quasi-realized it was coming with the chili.  I wonder if I could have subbed it out for another side, since they are the same price?

I still tried it, it was warm, toasted, but still just kinda boring corn bread, no real grit to it, no kernels of corn, etc.  My companion threw it out.

This is also available as a side for $5.95, so does make the chili just a <$2 add-on?
Kale Caesar. $10.95.
"Dinosaur kale, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, garlicky sourdough croutons and radishes tossed in a creamy parmesan cheese Caesar dressing. *contains anchovies."

Since I liked this before, I got it again, but remembered to get the dressing on the side this time.

I did forget how it randomly comes with cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, but I did again really like the torn kale base - slightly bitter, super fresh, great hearty texture.  I also liked the grated parmesan, but wished it included larger parmesan shards, or at least shreds, like Yankee Pier.

This also gave me the chance to try the dressing separately, and I did like it.  Loaded with tons of grated parmesan, it had a quite thick consistency, and yes, it had real anchovy in it.  Slightly more ... lemony (?) than I would want, so it had some tang, but still, a good Caesar dressing.  I still prefer the one from Yankee Pier though.
Giant's Super Salad. $10.95.
"Dinosaur kale, dried cranberries, toasted California walnuts, quinoa pilaf tossed with a lemon olive oil salad dressing."

Just to try a different salad, and because this one got decent reviews, I opted for the Giants Super Salad too, with the same torn kale base, and a slew of dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, and mixed quinoa thrown on top.  Had I really thought about this, I wouldn't have gotten it, since I don't like dried cranberries at all, am bored by simple toasted nuts, and only like quinoa when its crispy ... oh, and I hate vinaigrettes ... 

And, uh, predictably, I didn't actually like this.  I liked the kale base, the same as the Caesar, but the mushy quinoa I wanted nothing to do with, I hated the hard dried cranberries, and the walnuts were fine but boring.  And the dressing?  Yup, just lemon vinaigrette.  Meh.

I give Giant's Clubhouse  credit for a healthy, colorful offering though, with protein and textures.  You can of course add on any of the same proteins as the other salads, but it is complete enough as it is with the nuts and quinoa.  It also comes with a suggestion to add feta for $2, which I didn't due since I don't really like feta either..
Simple Mixed Greens with Ranch. $5.95.
This salad is considered just a side salad, and I had my choice of dressing: Caesar, ranch, blue cheese, and lemon olive oil. Since I was already getting the caesar and lemon vinaigrette, I got the ranch to try something else.

The salad was, well, simple mixed baby greens, with slices of radish, and the same cucumbers and tomatoes that the caesar also contained (they had just settled to the bottom so not really seen here). The radish slices were particularly crisp and quite strong flavor, which I appreciated.

The ranch was great, a very herby ranch, and, much like the caesar, was fairly thick. I'd gladly get this ranch again, but I'd want ... carrots to dunk in it? Much like the caesar, the portion was larger than necessary, so I brought it home and did just that.

It was a small salad, correctly sized for a side salad, but felt a bit pricey at $5.95.

Original Review, December 2018

Airport dining.  Generally overpriced, low quality, captive audiences.  Generally something I avoid, but I've been traveling so much lately that doing more complicated dining is just more effort than I want to take sometimes.

So, airport dining it is.  And sometimes, I just want to see how much I agree with the Yelpers ... a fascinating hobby, right?

My destination: the Giants Clubhouse at SFO Terminal 3, adjacent to the gate I stepped off an airplane at.  Yelpers ... *hate* the place.  Really, even for airport dining, they hate it.  I was really curious to find out why, given that the photos all made it look decent, and I couldn't quite understand what it is that they don't like.

I'm glad I took the gamble. Yes, it was airport dining, and I got takeout, but, I found it dramatically higher quality than expected, fresh, decently tasty, and I'd go back to try more. (Update: I did go back more!)
This ... is a sports bar.  No question.

And I happened to be there during some dramatic game, that is all I know, as everyone on my fight was watching, making noises together as things happened, and couldn't believe they had to get off the flight during the bottom of the 8th.  They all rushed to the Giants Clubhouse, or other venues playing the game, to stand in the way, not order anything, and keep watching.

Anyway.  Yes, ball game, on all the screens, everywhere.  

Regular full service dining is available, check in at host stand, get seated at a real table, with dedicated wait staff.  Bar seating is available first-come first serve, and is also where you order take out, which is what I did.

The bar looked well stocked, yet reviewers all say the drinks are horrible.

I was able to easily place my takeout order, and the staff were friendly, but it did take a while, nearly 20 minutes, for just a salad and side.  That said, they were quite busy.
Lunch / Dinner Menu - October 2018.
The lunch and dinner menu attempt to really embrace the Giants theme.  This menu is not one you can quickly scan.  It requires reading all the words.

Soups are called "Who's on First" (clam chowder, chili, tomato).  Appetizers are "Get in Line" (chicken wings, garlic fries).  The next section is "Triples Alley", with sliders, tacos, and tostadas.  Then comes salads, just called, "Entree Salads".  I guess the creative energies got lost here?

Sandwiches and burgers too just get called "Sandwiches & Burgers", although each item has nondescriptive game inspired names (e.g. "It is outta here!" is the open faced turkey sandwich on cornbread with mashed potatoes, cranberry jam, mushroom sauce, and crispy onions).  Here you can find chicken, ahi, and veggie burgers, in addition to your classic beef options.

The menu is rounded out by a large collection of interesting sounding sides (jalapeno jicama slaw? turnip jalapeno kimchi?), hot dogs ("Grab Some Pine, Meat!"), and a lackluster "Home Run Desserts" menu with just cookies and ice cream (although, to be fair, it is Strauss).
Kale Ceasar. $10.95 + New Wave Foods Crispy Vegan Shrimp $7.
"Dinosaur kale, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, garlicky sourdough croutons, and radishes tossed in a creamy parmesan cheese Caesar dressing.  *contains anchovies."

I ordered this for three key reasons: first, fresh off a flight, I wanted salad, not something heavy and fried, and I knew I mostly wanted to grab it to bring home to eat in my more comfortable house.  second, I have a serious thing again "caesar" that doesn't have anchovies, so I was thrilled to see that they did it legit.  And third ... all salads had an option of adding on protein, such a steak, grilled chicken, seared ahi, or ... vegan crispy shrimp?  I was fascinated by this idea, and wanted to try it.

I made one error in my order though, forgetting to ask for the dressing on the side, always a move I do for several reasons: I can eat half then and save the rest without it getting soggy, it gives me protection if I don't like the dressing so I can just use something else instead, and, it prevents it from being over/under dressed.  I blame airplane head.

I had no choice but to eat it right away, right?  Plus, the box was warm, which I was not expecting, until I realized the crispy shrimp was freshly heated up.

This was actually a quality salad.  Fresh chunks of kale, torn into appropriate size pieces, I always like them a bit bigger like this.  I found the addition of cucumbers, tomatoes, and radishes a bit odd, but, all were fresh, sliced into just right (e.g. not too small, not too big) size pieces, and added color and additional freshness.  The ratio of cherry tomatoes (sliced in half) was a bit high though, you can't tell from the photo, but, there were really tons of them, and they weren't great, likely haven been refrigerated.  The radishes were pleasantly sharp.  Really, a better base than I was expecting.

Now, the dressing, a critical component.  The salad was dressed just right, plenty coating the veggies, adding creaminess, but not drowning anything.  And the flavor?  Decent.  You could taste plenty of parmesan, a bit of anchovy.  However, Yankee Pier, around the corner, has better Caesar dressing.

The croutons were ok, but I don't like sourdough, and I didn't find them that garlicky.  Another area Yankee Pier wins, theirs are nicely seasoned.

I was pretty pleased at this point, and moved on to the most interesting part: crispy vegan shrimp?!
New Wave Foods: Crispy Vegan Shrimp (close up).
The product is made by New Wave Foods, a small startup in SF, made from soy protein and algae.  Just go with it.

The shrimp, at least on the outside, did indeed look like regular crispy shrimp, the right size and shape.  The panko coating was crispy.  I almost wondered if they accidentally gave me the real crispy shrimp instead of the vegan ones I asked for (also on the menu, for the crispy shrimp tacos).
Where is my breading?! 
And then I found one where the breading had fallen off.  Oh yeah, that is not real shrimp!

Once I bit in I could tell the texture wasn't quite right.  In some ways ... it was better?  Often shrimp are not prepared well, and are chewy, not properly cleaned, etc.  None of those problems here.
New Wave Foods: Crispy Vegan Shrimp (interior).
So, decent texture, crispy exterior, but, not really much flavor, and clearly "fake meat".  I wanted a dipping sauce on the side for these.  But overall, a fascinating item, and I'm glad I tried.

Overall, I was shocked by the quality of this salad.  Every element was well prepared.  The $10.95 base price might be a little high for a small-ish salad, but, it was airport dining, and compared to the other salads available in the terminal for the same price, its clearly much, much higher quality.  The $7 add on for the generous portion of shrimp seemed entirely reasonable too.

I'd get this again.
Side: Toasted Corn Bread. $5.95.
To go with my salad, I also ordered a side of corn bread, the one item from the menu that Yelpers do seem to actually agree is good.

I appreciated that it was toasted, warmed all the way through, crispy on the outside.  I appreciated the grit inside, and the corn kernels.  But ... it didn't really do it for me.  The flavor wasn't there, and mostly, it was just dry, without any honey butter to slather on it.

I took it home, and added honey butter, but still didn't love it.  I had another piece with jam for breakfast, like a corn muffin, and still didn't really like it.  I'm still not sure what about it doesn't do it for me, but, something.

The order was large, 3 full size pieces for $5.95, but I'd prefer a cheaper option with fewer pieces.  I didn't need 3. 

I would not get this again.


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