Friday, August 17, 2018

Graze, UK

I first tried Graze snacks a few years ago, when they attempted to make an inroads in the US, offering customized subscription snack boxes.  I found the concept fascinating, as I'm an avid snacker, but I quickly forgot about it.

But in the UK, Graze is unavoidable.  Not just the subscription boxes, but they are in every convenience store, every grocery store, just ... everywhere.  Sweet snacks, savory snacks, spicy snacks, nuts, seeds, veggies, gluten-free, high protein, high fiber, breakfast snacks, post-workout protein bites ... they have it all.  And the product line is constantly evolving.

I tried an assortment of snack boxes, and I must say, I see why they are successful.  Some of them were really, really good!

Dips & Dippers

I'm a big fan of dipping things.  Ok, I'm a fan of sauces in general.  And of crunchy chip-like things in general.  So, the Graze Dippers line seriously appeals.

They use all sorts of things for the dipping element, like soy rice crackers, flavored crackers, pretzels, shortbreads, even jerky.  Dips run the spectrum from savory onion marmalade to sweet white chocolate or toffee sauces.  Some sound incredible, like cinnamon pretzels with cookie butter dip!
Protein peanut butter dipper with baked hemp sticks.
"Wholesome pure peanut butter dip, served with lightly salted hemp pretzel sticks."

"Our thick and creamy peanut butter is made from whole peanuts and nothing else. It’s the ideal pairing for these baked hemp pretzel sticks, and each serving packs a whopping 5.9g of protein!"

I selected this for one of the components, and I assure you, it didn't have "hemp" in the name.

And yet ... the part I liked?  Yup, the hemp pretzel sticks.  They were crispy, slightly salty, and had a slightly hearty flavor from the hemp.  Perfectly tasty just to munch on, actually.

But the peanut butter.  That should be the star right?  I love peanut butter!  But ... this peanut butter I did not love.  And I'm not sure why.  It was creamy.  It was pure peanuts (no additives).  The flavor just wasn't great for me though.

Overall, I liked the dippers, discarded the peanut butter.

Savory

I'm usually one to rave about sweets, but, in the crunchy munchy snack department, savory certainly has its place.  And wow, graze has an amazing lineup.  They, uh, even have one called "smoky hotdog", which is supposed to recreate the flavors of a hotdog, through hickory smoked almonds, mustard breadsticks, and cheese croutons.
Seriously Spicy Thai Sriracha with chili and garlic:
Thai sriracha flavored peas / half popped corn / jumbo salted corn.
"We can't get enough of the deliciously satisfying spicy crunch in our spicy Thai sriracha peas. We've coated half-popped corn kernels and green peas in a Thai classic; sriracha sauce. Our sriracha is a perfect balance of medium heat from the chilli, garlic to round out the flavour, and sweetness to leave you wanting more."

Ok, this was awesome.

A mix of three different crunchy elements: coated peas, large corn kernels, and "kern pops", half-popped exploded kernels of corn.  Each was good, and I appreciated different aspects of each of them.  The jumbo corn was the crunchiest and saltiest, the kern pops the most jaggy and lightest, and the peas had the best coating.

The flavoring though is what set this apart, besides just being well selected crunchy munchies.  It tasted like ... well, Thai sriracha.  I laughed when I read the description and thought, "What does that even mean", and then realized that I had no better way to describe it either.  I found it fascinating how the spicy sriracha came through, but didn't overpower the chili and garlic.  And there was even a slight sweetness.

It was addicting.  It was satisfying.  It was spicy without overpowering.  It would make a great bar snack ... with nearly every bite, I kept thinking how good a cocktail or glass of red wine would be alongside.

It is a good thing this was portion controlled.

Sweet

Of course, I also tried some sweet ones.  Here too, there are fun concepts like "jam doughnut", recreated through raspberry fruit strings and vanilla sponge drops.
White Chocolate & Raspberry: white chocolate buttons / blanched almonds / whole hazelnuts / raspberry fruit strings.
"There’s nothing quite like the summer flavours of white chocolate and raspberry. This clever creation fuses the sweet taste of Belgian white chocolate with juicy raspberry fruit strings, mixed with the crunch of almonds and hazelnuts. This is a delicious dessert-flavoured snack you can feel good about enjoying!"

Graze is right, white chocolate and raspberry are a great combination, as are, it turns out, white chocolate and hazelnut.  This was actually a fairly enjoyable mix.

The almonds were the most boring, just plain, white, blanched almonds.  They were also the component with the largest quantity, although the raspberry fruit strings were close behind.   The strings were like little tiny chewy fruity chews, like a fruit roll up, made into strings.  Fine, but not super exciting.

What I really liked were the large white chocolate drops.  Creamy, smooth, sweet white chocolate.  And the hazelnuts, just standard hazelnuts, but crunchy and flavorful, great with the white chocolate.

Overall, enjoyable, and a nice balanced mix of sweet, crunchy, creamy, and, some protein from the nuts.

Milk Chocolate and Salted Caramel: Pecans / Belgian milk chocolate and salted caramel buttons / pumpkin seeds / amaretti drops.
"We love our salted caramel buttons! Especially when they're combined with crisp pecans, amaretti drops and crunchy pumpkin seeds. This mixture perfectly satisfies any salted caramel craving, with the added bonus of vitamins, minerals and fibre!"

This was very good.

The pecans and pumpkin seeds were basic but good.  I liked the texture of the slightly chewy amaretti drops, basically like ity bity macaroons, good almond flavor.  The milk chocolate buttons were a surprise, filled with gooey caramel.  I thought they were just big chocolate drops, and that the salted caramel would show up elsewhere.  The chocolate was smooth and good too.

Overall, I liked every single component, and I liked them even more when all combined.  A satisfying snack, could very easily feel a bit like dessert (particularly with some whipped cream?), and was good alongside a cup of coffee.  Wining mix!

Flapjacks

"Our flapjacks come from family bakers in the Cotswolds, who make these oaty delights from a trusted 30 year old family recipe that’s been handed down through a discerning generation or two! They’re handmade from the very best rustic rolled British oats and baked in small batches so each one is crafted to our deliciously high standards."
Back in 2014 I had my first ever British style flapjack, and it happened to be from Graze, the US version.  I wasn't that excited by it, mostly because the flavor was so plain.  Since then, I've tried other brands of flapjacks, but not the real ones from the UK Graze.

Graze makes a slew of flapjacks, as they are their signature, and most popular, product.  They even make high protein varieties, or bite sized offerings.
Full On Fruity Flapjack.
"Whole British oats, juicy apricot, vine fruits & seeds."

"Our original fruity flapjack was our first foray into flapjacks. We wanted to develop a flapjack that packed a fruity punch with classic country flavours. We’ve squeezed 5 fruits into the recipe combined with seeds to give it a great texture."

I tried the "Full On Fruity" version, as it was shared with me, not because I would pick that variety.

Well, it wasn't boring like the previous kind I had tried.  It was indeed loaded with all the things - raisins, sultanas, and currants, bits of chopped dates and apricots, and sunflower seeds.  I guess, it was "full on fruity".  Which, I didn't care for.

The base soft sweetened oats were fine, but, this was just all about the dried fruit, and I am not a dried fruit lover.  The sunflower seeds were bitter.
Read More...

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Honey Stinger Waffles

Honey Stinger makes a variety of snacks for athletes (cyclists in particular), designed to be used either before, during, or after sports.  Most are not interesting to me: energy chews, protein bars, energy bars, energy gels, and the like.
"Utilizing an ingredient engineered by nature as opposed to in a laboratory has its benefits, like higher quality and no additional flavoring or coloring. We use honey, a natural form of energy and antioxidants, as the main carbohydrate source for all products. Research in endurance athletes has proven that a mixture of carbohydrates is better tolerated by the body, prevents fatigue and enhances performance more than a single carbohydrate form."
But one product is ... waffles.

Depending on what aspects of Honey Stinger Waffles you consider, these could be something I'd love, or, they could just as well be something I hate.

Waffles?  Excellent.  You know I have a thing for waffles.

Excuses to eat dessert at times other than after a meal, because, they are for sports?  Awesome.

But ... honey is rarely a draw for me.  And I've never found stroopwafel that I actually like, even though I've tried quite a few, like Lady Walton's or Bay Area favorites Rip Van Wafel.

Of course I still tried them though.  The results were surprising, to say the least.
Individual Packaging.
"For years, similar waffles have been sold on street corners throughout Europe and eaten by professional cyclists, so we decided to create our own by sandwiching honey between two thin waffles. Honey Stinger Organic Waffles are easy to digest, certified organic and available in a single-serving wrapper."

The waffles are packaged individually, in colors to match the flavor (here, pink for strawberry).
Waffle: Top.
Each waffle is a round disk, standard stroopwafel shape.  Standard hard yet slightly soft form, designed to be placed over your coffee cup to soften it.

I, uh, of course took a bite first.

Regular Waffles

The regular waffles come in 7 flavors: honey, caramel, vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, lemon, and gingersnap.  I tried several.

The waffles are .. well, dry hardish cookie-like things that I didn't care for at all.  I didn't like the honey flavor present in all of them.

I basically hated them all.
Strawberry Waffle: Side.
"A thin layer of our classic honey with natural strawberry flavor sandwiched between two thin waffles. Sure to satisfy your taste buds and keep you going as an afternoon snack, during your favorite activity or go great with your cup of coffee or tea."

I expected it to have more strawberry filling, but actually, there was very little, as you can see from the cross section, and what was there was mixed with the aforementioned honey.

It did taste strawberry however.  Which I didn't like at all.  A softish, crumblyish, staleish strawberry tasting thing?  Serious meh for me.

For me, this was just the opposite of what I'd ever want, not the form, flavor, nor texture I like.  And certainly not a waffle.

I disliked the strawberry so much that I didn't bother trying the warmed up version over my cup, and just tossed it.
Chocolate.
"A thin layer of honey infused with natural cocoa flavor and sandwiched between two thin waffles. The delicious taste of chocolate and honey will satisfy your taste buds and keep you going as an afternoon snack, during your favorite activity or go great with your cup of coffee or tea."

A friend gave me several flavors to try, so, even though I wasn't excited for it, I also tried the chocolate.

It was marginally better, in that chocolate made more sense as a waffle, but I still did not like the honey notes, and just don't care for the stroopwafel concept in general.

Gluten-Free Waffles

And then, because I truly am insane, I tried the gluten-free one.  Because, if the regular one isn't good, try the gluten-free?  Ha.

Gluten-free waffles are available in 5, different, flavors: vanilla & chocolate, chocolate mint, salted caramel, cinnamon, and of course, honey.  Their flavors at least sounded better.

But the real shocker?  I liked this one.
Gluten-Free Cinnamon.
"A thin layer of honey infused with delicious cinnamon sandwiched between two thin waffles. The gluten free all-time classic flavor of cinnamon combined with honey will satisfy your taste buds and keep you going as an afternoon snack, during your favorite activity or go great with your cup of coffee or tea."

The one I was given was the not very exciting sounding cinnamon variety.  I had zero hopes of liking this, given my history with stroopwafel in general, with the brand, with gluten free, and with the flavor choice (so boring!).

It looked just like all the others.  I felt guilty, honestly, even bothering trying it, as I thought it would be headed into the trash.

But ... um, I liked it?

The honey flavor wasn't nearly as strong as in the others, nearly nonexistent actually, and since that was an element I didn't care for, this was a great improvement for me.  So, first taste, it didn't have the honey forward nature I was expecting.

The texture was basically the same as the regular, and although it definitely had the distinctive taste of gluten free flour blends, it actually worked here, creating a slightly hearty taste.  I think the honey and other sweeteners balanced it out nicely.

And the cinnamon, while boring, also worked.

Overall, um, it all worked.  I still don't really just think of these as an item I want alongside (on top of) a coffee, but I like the idea of dunking them in whipped cream, or using as a garnish on ice cream.  Or, making ice cream sandwiches with these thin crispy waffles as the cookies, as they really are like sweeter, chewier waffle cones!
Read More...

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

United Polaris Lounge, SFO

I don't fly United.  Full stop.

But I do fly with their partner, Air New Zealand.  Which gave me the chance to check out the brand new United Polaris Lounge at SFO. It was quite the upgrade from the United Club, but that is not a very high bar.
It Looked Good at Least?
This is the flagship, premium product from United.  And ... well, it matches my feels on United in general.  The staff do seem to care, and try, but, I don't really have anything else positive to say, besides that the space is lovely.

The Space

The lounge is huge.  2 floors.  Gorgeous.  Tranquil.  Well designed.  Oddly empty.

They really restrict access, and that is nice, I guess, but it felt really desolate and quite strange.

My visit was on a Tuesday evening, 6:45pm-9pm.
Entrance.
The lounge is easy to find, right past security, inviting sign to come in.
Ground Floor: Library.
You enter in the bottom floor, which was quite literally entirely empty when I arrived.

This section had a lovely library, with book shelves and pretty chairs.
Ground Floor: Arm Desks.
The next section had these individual cubby desks, each with power (yes, USB too), and little lamps.  This seating style is also available upstairs.
Ground Floor: Window Seats.
More seating is alongside the windows, another style, more lamps, more power.
Ground Floor: Drinks.
At the back of this area was a small drink station, with coffee and hot water for tea, plus water.  Given the level of non-occupancy, I can guess this was not particularly fresh.
Ground Floor: Snack Station.
Self-serve basic soft drinks, oranges, and wasabi mix rounded out the food and drink offerings for this floor.

Shower suites and bathrooms are also on this floor, I failed to take photos, but they were large and looked nice.
Upper Floor: Hallway.
The escalator leads to the upper floor, where most of the interesting space is.  This area at least had some people.

First up though?  A long hallway, with nothing really in it.  It added to the cavernous desolate felling quite a bit.
Upper Floor: Seating.
I ventured down that hall, but it was clear no one else did.  It had more seating similar to downstairs.  And no people.  Literally.  No people.
Upper Floor: Snack Station.
At the very back was another sad looking snack station, again with wasabi peas and water, and this time, honey mustard pretzels.  None of this was labelled, but I could tell the pretzels had a powder on them, and tried one just to see.  The salty coating was nice.
Upper Floor: Seating towards Bar & Dining.
In the other direction, the hallway eventually leads to a bar, buffet, and dining room, with various types of seating found along the way.
Upper Floor: Bar.
The bar was easy to spot, illuminated by blue, and clearly a focal point.  It had bar seating with high stools, and yes, power.  And a special cocktail menu.  No food or snacks.
Upper Floor: Buffet Dining Tables.
Next comes tables for eating at, if you choose to dine at the buffet.  More on that soon.

The Food: Buffet

The simple option for dining is the buffet.  The ... very sad buffet.  Particularly for vegetarians, who had no hot main, no sandwich, and seemingly only a few salad choices.
Bulgogi Style Beef and Rice.
First up, "hot" foods.  I say "hot" because they are certainly items one would expect hot, but they weren't on warmers, or under heat lamps, or replenished often as no one was there, so, I doubt they were?

But to be fair, I didn't try this horrible looking beef, with some clearly neglected rice on the side.
Lemon chicken scallopini. 
The other hot option?  Chicken, coated in some kind of crust.  It said "lemon chicken scallopini".  I most certainly did not try this.

Warning vegetarians: No vegetarian hot main available.
Noodle Bar.
Things get slightly more interesting with a DIY Noodle Bar.  Bowls of noodles were available for you to add toppings and broth to.  I did not try the noodles.
Noodle Bar: Toppings.
The toppings were at least interesting: crispy wontons, green onion, kimchee, tea leaf eggs, cilantro, and fried garlic.  These were even labelled!  On the side, asian sauces and sesame seeds.

I tried the crispy wontons and crispy garlic, along with sambal.  They were standard, fine.  Something to munch on.
Noodle Bar: Broth.
The final step for DIY noodles is to add the broth.  I didn't try it.

And that ended the warm offerings.
Salads.
The other side of the buffet is the cold items, starting with pre-made salads.

Only one of these items was labelled, and it just said "pasta salad" anyway.

The others seemed to be a grain based salad, a mayo based pea salad, and tomato and mozzarella.

I tried the pasta salad.  It was mushy.  It was oily.  The veggies were nothing special inside.

I also tried the pea salad.  It had bits of ham, egg, and roasted pearl onions.  And obviously mayo.  The peas were cooked fine, and I did like the pearl onion, but this was nothing special.

Nothing worth eating here.  And to be fair, I do like deli salads quite a bit, and often find them the highlight of lounges, like the Qantas Business lounge in Sydney .
Green Salad.
And then, the salad bar, to assemble your own.

One type of base (mixed greens), and only 6 toppings: carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, croutons, and red peppers.  How ... extensive.
Chicken Salad Sandwiches.
Next up? Sandwiches.

The sign said "chicken salad sandwiches", so I think these were all the same.  On croissants.  I didn't try.
Salami and Cheese (?) Sandwiches.
The second sandwiches were not labelled, but, I could see salami, cheese, and a creamy spread.

Warning vegetarians: no vegetarian sandwich available.

I skipped all this originally, but after a disappointing snack in the a la carte Dining Room, I came back and grabbed one, hoping the spread, cheese, and charcuterie inside would be good.

They weren't.

The bread was hard and stale, the spread flavorless, and the salami and cheese quite generic.
Desserts.
Ok, now we were talking!  Dessert time! 

This section had a pudding, cookies, two types of brownies, and cannoli.  The cookies, and second type of brownies, were not labelled.
Coconut rice pudding and pineapple brulee.
Ok, I was excited for this.  So excited I failed to take a reasonable photo it appears.  Blame the lighting?

I love pudding!

This .. wasn't great.  It wasn't bad, but, it wasn't actually good either.

Fairly creamy rice pudding, but quite flavorless.  The caramelized pineapple on top was ... fine?  Again, not that great.  And then, coconut.  Fine.

So, all fine, but nothing particularly good.
Matcha Green Tea Cannoli.
I don't eat caffeine in the evening, and this had both matcha and chocolate chips, but, I still wanted to try it.  I wasn't thrilled with the other options.

The cannoli shell was horrible.  It was soft and kinda soggy.

The filling, also not good.  Gritty and strange.

I moved on to a cookie.  I didn't take a photo.  Because really, when do I like cookies?

I wouldn't say I *liked* this cookie, but it was the best of the trio of desserts.  It was ... a fig cookie?  It had exactly one tiny bit of fig in it.  Otherwise, just a sugar cookie.  It had tons of sugar on top.  It was sweet and buttery.  Like I said, best of the bunch, but, that wasn't a high bar.

The Food: The Dining Room

The dining room is a full service, a la carte restaurant.  I've been to several similar concepts, like the Qantas First lounge in Sydney (which, is incredible, and honestly features some of the best food I've had in Sydney).  The Qantas First lounge in Los Angeles (good, but not quite the same level as Sydney).  The Cathay Pacific Wing in Hong Kong.  A bunch of British Airways lounges in London, like the Galleries First Lounge, and of course, the Concorde Room (for breakfast, for lunch - eh, nicely plated but mediocre).

Those dining rooms impress.  This one ... did not.
Dining Room Entrance.
"Wait to be seated" sums it up.  I waited.  And waited.  The staff acknowledged me, but, they seemed kinda overwhelmed with basic service, like, clearing empty tables and seating new guests.  Or, um, providing silverware and napkins to seated diners who repeatedly asked for them (my neighbor).  Or, dealing with loud obnoxious people screaming at their kids across the dining room (??)
Menu.
The menu lists both the lunch and breakfast options, so I got a preview of it all.  I wished I was there for breakfast - mango pudding! Hot cinnamon rolls! Brulee oats!  Although, chances any of it would be good?

The breakfast menu:

LIGHT BITES
  • Tropical mango pudding with fruit and coconut granola
  • Fresh hot cinnamon roll with pecan streusel and berries
  • Steel-cut brulee oats with a caramelized layer and fresh berries
  • Deconstructed lox and bagel with cream cheese. smoked salmon, capers, red onions and cucumbers
ENTREES
  • Traditional Chinese congee with tea egg. dried shrimp, green onions, cilantro, wonton, soy sauce and sambal
  • Three-egg omelet with choice of tomatoes, asparagus, spinach, onions, peppers, ham, bacon, cheddar and Swiss
  • Silver dollar pancakes Plain or blueberry – served with Vermont maple syrup
But I was there for dinner, which is the same menu as lunch:

SMALL PLATES
  • Crispy shrimp cake with sweet’n sour sauce
  • Wedge Cobb salad with bacon, blue cheese and herbed dressing
  • Chef’s daily soup seasonally inspired, classically prepared
ENTREES
  • Chicken katsu bento box vegetable egg roll, jasmine rice and a sunomono salad
  • Hand-cut pappardelle pasta with mushroom ragout and shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Cioppino with traditional seafood
  • United Polaris Burger with cheddar. lettuce. tomato, pickled vegetables, garlic aioli, bacon. fried egg and house-made chips
DESSERT
  • Tiramisu espresso cup made with illy coffee
  • Cheese plate with grapes and crackers
  • Profiteroles with vanilla ice cream and Ghirardelli Chocolate sauce
I went for just a small plate, since I wanted to also check out the buffet, and would be having a full meal on the flight anyway. Nothing from the entrees particularly called out at me anyway (meh, chicken, eh pasta, and how good would their cioppino or burger really be?).  I'm glad I skipped all this after seeing the quality of everything else.

The desserts all had caffeine, which I avoid in the evenings, so I also skipped those, and opted for buffet selections for dessert.
Sparkling Water and Smoky Negroni.
"Smokey Negroni, Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal, Carnpari house made vermouth and orange bitters with a dehydrated orange garnish."

There were many cocktails on the menu that sounded great (the Polaris Old Fashioned, the Paper Plane, and the Cloud Cover were all top contenders!), but I went for the negroni.  It is my kinda standard pre-flight drink.

I didn't like it.

It was decently smoky.  But ... besides that, not balanced at all.  Harsh.  Meh.  I heard others complaining about the bloody mary, asking for more tabasco, and finding out nothing could be adjusted as it was a mix.

The full cocktail menu, for the curious:

Signatures of the Sky
  • United Polaris Star: Star anise-infused vodka, Dolin Blanc and Dolin Dry garnished with a single star anise
  • The Paper Plane: Oolong-steeped bourbon, jasmine honey Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, Aperol, chamomile honey arid lemon garnished with a paper plane
  • Cloud Cover: Aviation Gin, grapefruit liqueur and fresh lime juice with lemon twist
  • United Polaris Old Fashioned: Rieger’ss Kansas City Whiskey, house simple syrup. San Francisco Bitters, Company Reception Bitters with a fresh orange wheel and Luxardo cherry
Traveler's Favorites
  • High Altitude Bloody Mary: Star anise-infused and house made bloody mary mix with fresh pepper, sea salt, olive and celery garnish
  • Ginger Scotsman: This playful version of the classic Penicillin combines Balvenie DoubleWood, ginger beer, chamomile honey, lemon and a mist of Ardbeg 10 Year
  • Lavender Lift: Riondo Blu Prosecco, Belvedere Vodka, lavender and lemon essence with a lavender garnish
  • Smokey Negroni: Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal, Carnpari house made vermouth and orange bitters with a dehydrated orange garnish
  • Mai Tai: Cana White Rum. Crusoe Spiced Rum, fresh orange and pineapple juice, and Amaro Nonino with a dehydrated orange wheel and a cherry
  • Pisco Punch: Pisco Porton, pineapple juice and lime garnished with a pineapple spear.
Migration by Duckhorn, Pinot Noir, Russian River, California 2014.
"Complex aromas of rich earth and rose petals with abundant cherry pie, strawberry and a touch of sweet oak."

I moved on to wine.  I asked for just a taste to start.  I'm glad I did.

This I did not like.  I'm glad I asked for a small small glass.  Very very tannic.  Not for me.  I decided to just wait until I boarded my flight, as Air New Zealand usually has decent wine.
Small Plate: Crispy shrimp cake with sweet’n sour sauce.
 I was blown away when I saw the dish.  It looked great!  The table next to me even commented on it.

Sadly, it didn't live up to the looks.

The shrimp cake was oily, soggy, not crisp.  The texture was really quite firm.  Not because it had large chunks of shrimp though.  It was just ... firm.  It had bits of onion and pepper inside.  It wasn't anything special, and again, kinda oily and soggy.

On top was a ton of slightly pickled cucumber and carrot.  Meh.

The sauce, while nicely plated, was not great either.  It looked like sweet chili sauce somewhat, and said sweet and sour, but, it wasn't any distinguishable flavor besides sweet.  Meh.

Overall, it certainly looked good, but I didn't enjoy it.
Read More...

Monday, August 13, 2018

Vejoes Vegetarian Food Truck, Sydney

I discovered an amazing food truck.  A vegetarian food truck.  In Sydney.

Vejoes is a food truck run by Joe.  (Actually, the truck is named Sofia.  Vejoes is the business.  Ve-joes, as in, vegetarian Joes.  Get it?)  Per Joe:
"Everything I serve has been prepared by me (with love), with many of the fresh ingredients sourced directly from my garden. If it didn't grow in my backyard, I've chosen the best quality, freshest ingredients available."
I can't say I had any expectations going into this, but I was blow away by how much I enjoyed my meal.  If only Vejoes was a bit more accessible to me regularly!  Not only is it on the other side of the world from where I live (Sydney), it also doesn't have a brick and mortar location, available only for catering, events, food festivals, and pop-ups around town.  Doh.

I found Vejoes at a winter festival in July (since, that is winter in the southern hemisphere ...).  It was my second food truck stop of the day, after disappointing yum cha from Let's Do Yum Cha that left me wanting something before I moved on to the waffle truck for dessert, and, uh, the chocolate fountain.  I didn't expect to have such an amazing meal from Vejoes, and wished I had skipped the first truck entirely!

I highly recommend, if you ever have the opportunity.
The Menu (and Joe!)
The menu was handwritten on a chalkboard, with only three options, all vegetarian obviously, one vegan.
Three Cheese Quesadilla: The classic Mexican dish, Vejoes style.Cajun black beans, grilled corn, caramelised onion, melted feta, cheddar, smoked haloumi w/ sour cream & el curtido salad.
The Haloumi Burger: The crowd pleaser.Grilled haloumi, smoked mushrooms, home-made green chilli & pumpkin jam, caramelised onion, mayo and mixed salad leaves.
Grilled Eggplant Burger (Vegan).Eggplant steak, smoked mushrooms, veganaise, chili BBQ sauce, onions, mixed leaves, pickles.
I'm not normally one to head for the vegetarian truck, particularly given so many other options, particularly given the wait times Vejoes was giving.  But.  Haloumi.

We just don't get enough haloumi in the US, and when we do, its always just mediocre.  In Australia, they know how to haloumi.  I had high hopes.

Orders did take a while, which we were warned when we ordered.  Joe worked alone in the kitchen, making each dish to order, all of which used his single grill top.  He worked in batches somewhat, doing 2-3 at a time almost, but never more than that.

Patience was rewarded however.
The Haloumi Burger (Salad option).
"Grilled haloumi, smoked mushrooms, home-made green chilli & pumpkin jam, caramelised onion, mayo and mixed salad leaves."

I ordered the haloumi burger, and asked to have it bunless.  I am not gluten-free nor carb adverse, but, I had my eyes on the waffle truck for dessert, and had yum cha / dim sum already from the first truck I stopped at, so, I really didn't want to fill up on bread.  I was offered to do it as a salad, which I accepted, although really, I would have been happy with just no bun and nothing else changed.  I was assured that the yummy toppings would all be included, which, to be honest, drew me in as much, if not more, than the haloumi itself.

So, what did I have?  A base of mixed greens.  Simple mixed greens, but super fresh.  They soaked up all the flavors from above amazingly well.  I ended up absolutely loving my salad base, particularly the spinach and rocket, mixed with those toppings.

So yeah, those toppings.  Wowzer.

The smoked mushrooms were just button mushrooms, and didn't really seem smoked, and thus were the only component I wasn't happy with.

The caramelized onion was amazing, you can't see it here because it is under the haloumi, but there was tons and tons of this, chopped onions, super caramelized, super flavorful, and I think with balsamic? Crazy good, and the juices ran out of it into the greens.

The green chili & pumpkin jam was mixed with the caramelised onion, again, great flavor, awesomeness that just infused the salad and haloumi.  The whole thing was drizzled *very* generously with mayo, which when I saw it my eyes went wide, but it was really good, again, it just combined perfectly with those other sauces and leaves.

So, even without the haloumi, this was insanely delicious and satisfying.  I kinda couldn't believe it.

And then there was the massive slices of fresh grilled haloumi.  Grilled to order, served to me moments after it came off the grill.  Talk about delicious.  No squeaky cheese here.  The slices were thick too, as designed to be a burger.  There were no knives, so it was actually a bit comical to eat, as I couldn't cut it with my plastic fork, and it was covered in sauces and so was quite messy.  But it was kinda perfect, well seasoned, well cooked.  I suspect the burger normally comes with only one of these massive haloumi patties, and I was given two for the salad?

Not pictured is the extra sauces I also added.  Vejoes had condiments on the side, one was a watermelon hot sauce (! danger! Julie allergic!), but another was mandarin orange, and the third was berry hot sauce, and I added some of that too.  I can't say it was needed given all the other flavorful wonderful components, but, I liked it too.

Overall, a total winner, I'd get this again in a heartbeat.  Even just the salad with toppings was insanely good, which is such a crazy thing for me to say.
Read More...