Friday, May 11, 2018

Fran's Chocolates

Fran's Chocolates is a Seattle area chocolate maker, with several boutiques around there, plus retail distribution nationwide. Their specialties are salted caramels, dessert sauces, drinking chocolate, and "Gold Bars", although they also make truffles, bars, dripped fruits and nuts, and more.  They are certified Fairtrade and Organic.  Yadda yadda.

I've only tried the caramels, when I received a small gift box.
Gray Salt & Smoked Salt Caramels.
"Our best-selling and award-winning Gray and Smoked Salt Caramels feature a harmonious blend of complex flavors - rich dark and milk chocolate, soft buttery caramel and the unexpected boldness of the gray and smoked sea salts."

My box was a duo, two each of the dark chocolate with gray salt, one milk with smoked salt.

Since I prefer dark chocolate, that is the one I went for.

Gray Salt Caramel
"Slow-cooked, soft butter caramel is dipped in dark chocolate and finished with a sprinkling of gray sea salt harvested off the coast of Brittany."

It was ... fine.

The dark chocolate was decent quality, smooth, dark chocolate.  I did really like the pops of flavor from the salt.  Dark chocolate and salt are wonderful together.

The caramel, also fine.  Slightly chewy, decent flavor, the kind of caramel that is sorta stringy as you pull away from it.

It all went together fine.  It was like a nicer version of a Riesen.  Which just isn't my thing, but, the quality was obvious.

I left my box of chocolate unattended, and, uh, the others disapeared.  So I never got to try the smoked salt milk caramel, which was supposed to be the same soft caramel, this time dipped in milk chocolate, and finished with  "sea salt that has been lightly smoked over Welsh oak".  I think I'd love the smoked salt, but, milk chocolate is rarely my thing.


Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Will it Waffle: Bauloy Samsee

I've waffled a lot of crazy things over the years, as you know (and if you don't know, rewind, go to my master post about my love of transforming leftovers via my waffle iron).
Bauloy Samsee: Transformed!
But this, this might be one of the most unique things I've waffled to date.  I waffled a thai dessert.  Because even though I didn't care for the original, I couldn't bring myself to throw it away.

So I did what I always do in this situation - I threw it in the waffle iron, and hoped it would create magic.

And this time, it did.  One of my biggest successes, and best transformations, to date.

Bauloy Samsee: Will it Waffle? is a resounding YES YES YES!
The Original: Bauloy Samsee.
The original was thai dessert from Bangkok Asia Cafe and Grocery in Lebanon, NH, where I took a gamble and picked up a thai dessert while visiting my family.

It was served warm, a thin coconut milk broth, with glutinous rice balls of three colors (green, orange, and white).  The rice balls were infused with pandan, sweet potato, and (I think coconut), but all were fairly flavorless.  The balls were very soft, and many were lumped together.  They just weren't very good.

The coconut milk was slightly sweet, and tasty enough actually, but, overall, it just wasn't enjoyable.

I really didn't want to waste it though, and, I really wanted a dessert to enjoy, so I decided to remove the rice dumplings, and, well, waffle them.  I actually thought this would work well, like a mochi waffle, why not?

My parents thought I was crazy (even though just the day before, they had watched me waffle leftover poutine to great success).
Rice Balls, Waffling ...
I pre-heated the waffle iron to my standard 350 degrees.

I started with a small batch to test.  I simply plucked a few of the dumpling balls from the broth, and put them into the waffle iron.  I didn't crust it, I didn't do anything really.  I barely bothered to make sure I grabbed a few of each color.  Just put them in, closed the lid, and walked away for about 5 minutes.
Waffled Rice Balls!
I checked halfway to see the balls mushing together to form a solid waffle.  Then they puffed up, and then got nicely crispy.

I was able to extract my waffle with zero effort.  Well, huh.

I tried a chunk.  It was perfectly crispy on the outside, yet crazy moist and gloopy in a good way inside.  I had made a mochi waffle.
The Result!
I drizzled the coconut milk sauce over the top, and added some whipped cream.

It was really, really good.  I loved the crispy exterior, I loved the soft inside.  The flavor even seemed better, and the coconut milk broth worked much better as a drizzle, particularly when combined with the thicker whipped cream.

I adored my creation, and immediately returned to waffle the remainder.  Not only did this salvage something that was lackluster, it was truly delicious, and honestly, I'd get the dessert again, just to do this.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Cat Cora's Kitchen, SFO

I often fly in and out of Terminal 2 at SFO, but I don't generally dine there.  I do of course grab tasty salads, snacks, and desserts from Napa Farms Market to bring on board, will frequently cruise through Pinkberry, and Natalie's Candy Jar is *always* on my agenda pre-flight, but actually eating a meal in the terminal?  Nah.

But on a recent flight, I was delayed, and arrived at SFO around 7pm.  I didn't have checked baggage, and I didn't want to deal with figuring out dinner once I finally got home, so, I decided to just eat at the airport, for literally the first time.

I almost just grabbed food at Napa Farms to bring home, but it was late, I was exhausted, and just having dinner seemed to make sense.  Plus, I had walked by Cat Cora's Kitchen so many times before ...

Cat Cora is known most for being an Iron Chef, but, she got in that position due to successful restaurants originally.  Her empire has expanded to include some casual bar and tapas style places, located in airports.  Like SFO.

Now, celebrity chef's airport locations are usually not worth checking out, but, I dunno, I decided to go.  I wish I had just grabbed a reliable Napa Farms Market salad and gone home.
Counter Seating.
Cat Cora's Kitchen is located inside the terminal, but it has a nice bar and counter area looking out into the terminal.  Power outlets are supplied.

The bar had all seats occupied, with patrons watching a game on the big screen TVs.  They looked happy to be hanging out there.

I sat at the counter on the side, in a quiet place, happy to decompress alone.
The cocktail menu actually sounded great, but, I had wine (and lots of snacks) on my flight, and needed to work early in the morning, so, I just went for a light meal.

The menu did have some good sounding dishes, like lobster mac and cheese and sweet potato fries, but, I wasn't feeling something that heavy, so opted for something from the salad section (note, I don't say I had a salad ...).

The menu had only a single dessert, chocolate budino, which was disappointing as I don't have chocolate at night, but then I remembered that my partner had a slice of eggnog cheesecake waiting for me at home, so, I quickly got over my disapointment at the lack of dessert menu.
Grilled Octopus Salad. $16.
"Heart of palm, cucumber-tomato salad, crispy garbanzo, romesco."

I was impressed, visually, when my order was delivered.  It really did look quite good.  This was really airport dining?

Except ... it was.  It looked great, but, wasn't actually well prepared.

I'll start with the good.  The romesco.  It was very flavorful, and I actually loved it.  I coated all the lackluster veggies in it, and used my knife to scrape up every last bit.  The romesco was fantastic.

The crispy garbanzos were also quite good, well seasoned, crispy, nice crunch.

The cucumber, tomato, and hearts of palm, basically, the "salad" components, were all ... fine.  None of it seemed particularly fresh or ripe, and I don't really like cucumber in the first place.  The hearts of palm was the most disappointing, it seemed like jarred stuff.

But the real disappointment?  The octopus.

It did look pretty decent.  A huge piece.  Good color on it.  It looked grilled.  But ... it was soft.  Soggy.  Kinda rubbery.  I still don't really understand how it looked so grilled, yet seemed so soft.  It wasn't crispy anywhere, not even the thinest tail piece.  I tried bites from all sections, hoping to find a good piece, but alas, it just wasn't well prepared at all.

Overall, this was just not good.  Horrible octopus, kinda old tasting hearts of palm, mediocre veggies ... the flavorful romesco couldn't save it.

I also ordered it because I was craving some greens, and thought the "salad" would include some salad greens, but I realize now the menu never said that, so, that was my bad.  Still, this was poorly done enough that I wouldn't return.
Taro Chips (Side).
I love taro chips.  The menu had a ceviche served with taro chips, so I asked if it was possible to get just a side of taro chips.

My server happily said yes, commenting on how good they were, and how she didn't blame me.

The taro chips were ... fine.  Crispy.  Over-salted.  Not much taro flavor.  I don't think freshly made.

I'm glad I tried them, but not worth getting again.  I think my server didn't charge me for them ... my bill had them on as a "Special Prep", but, the price for the octopus was the same as the menu price, so, uh, score?