Friday, September 14, 2018

Protes Protein Chips

Things I like: snacksChips.  Fun flavors.  Excuses to eat chips for nutritional benefits. Enter: Protes.
"Tired of bars and shakes? Start snacking instead. 
Just like you, we’re tired of the same old protein options out there. Welcome to the world of Protes! Protein chips and popcorn are here to deliver that snacking crave you desire and the functional protein you need."
Protes is speaking my language.  Fun flavors of chips ... protein chips.  Who needs to add grilled chicken, a skewer of shrimp, etc on top of a salad if you can just have a bag of protein chips alongside, guilt free?

These sounded too good to be true.

Protes makes two products lines, both of which sounded fantastic to me: chips or popcorn.  Yes, seriously.  My favorite snack popcorn, protein-ified?!!!  YES!

I looked at the ingredients, expecting to find the common things in protein bars and shakes, including whey protein isolate, which my body does not like.  Instead, for the chips, well, huh.  Just pea protein.  I don't mind pea protein, and in fact, I even enjoy the taste (when used in Ripple milk, for example).  Well, huh.  I was eager to try.

Chips are available in 4 flavors: Tangy Southern Bbq, Spicy Chili Lime, Toasted Coconut, Zesty Nacho.  I tried one kind, and hated them.  I'd still be willing to try another flavor of chips, as I love the concept.

The popcorn though ... uses whey protein.  Sigh.
Spicy Chili Lime.
"Turn up the heat even when you’re chillin’."

Well, one bite is all it took.

Oooph.  They fell down hard.  Sure, they looked a bit funny, but that didn't bother me.  And, as I said, I like pea protein, so I wasn't scared by the ingredients.  But the taste.  Oooph.

The texture was ok, not great, crispier than a normal chip, a bit thicker too, not quite enjoyable, but not that bad.  But the flavor ... was just strange.  And the zesty chili lime flavor was clearly not the right choice for me, although they get credit for using real spices, aggressively.

I wish I had liked them, as a bag of these chips has 15g of protein in it, and the ingredients really aren't scary, just the pea protein isolate, potato, and seasonings.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

San Francisco Cheesecake

Update Review, August 2018

Since my last review in 2013, SF Cheesecake has not only acquired a storefront (yay!) in the Ferry Building, it has also rebranded as CheeseQuakes.  You can still find them in neighborhood markets though, don't worry.

The product line has also expanded, still featuring both classic and unique flavors, both sweet and savory.  The creations come in numerous sizes, ranging from big 9"ers (seriously big cheesecakes, 3 pounds, designed to serve a party), more reasonable sized 06"ers (serve a family), individuals, slices, and adorable little bites dubbed "BabyQuakes". If you visit the shop, you can also get a CheeseQuake Shake, which isn't actually just a milkshake with a cheesecake blended in, instead, they actually make a different, egg free base, with different proportions, to make it drinkable.  You can also buy, I'm not joking, bags of "Just the Crust".

With all this change, what has remained consistent?  The quality of the product.  They still make their own graham crackers and chocolate cookies to form into crusts.  They locally source the jams, chocolate, etc.   And ... make seriously good cheesecake.  The best in SF.  No question.

Sweet Cheesecakes

"Our sweet CheeseQuakes are available in a wide range of sizes and flavors. Our focus is on flavor, not sweetness, so you will enjoy rich flavor with an accompanying amount of sweetness, never a sugar bomb like the average cheesecake has. "
I won't list out all the varieties of cheesecake available, as the list is extensive. Fruity (mango, blackberry swirl, apricot swirl, strawberry swirl, key lime), boozy (beer & a shot, old rasputin, lemon champagne, chocolate fernet, double chocolate breakout stout), chocolatey (dark chocolate jamocha, triple chocolate), seasonal (egg nog, pumpkin), classic (original, ricotta, bourbon vanilla bean, snickerdoodle, banana cream, butterscotch) ... yeah, the list just keeps going.

I recommend any, really.

This review focuses on simplicity though.  Classic.  Picked up at the shop for a party.
Original SF 9"er. $45.
"Simple and delicious. Soft and creamy with a sprinkling of vanilla bean mixed in over our graham cracker crust."

The cheesecakes I've had previously from SF Cheesecake before were all flavored ones, and, if I had picked the cheesecake out, I certainly would have gone for a more decadent creation, but, our guest of honor wanted simple classic cheesecake.

I'm actually glad he picked this, as it gave me a chance to really just savor the simplicity of a good cheesecake.

And it was such a good cheesecake.  Seriously.  Soo creamy, just absolutely perfect texture.  It was almost as if it had been whipped, it was that light.  Except not light at all really, since, well, its cheesecake, and it was rich as it should be.  Great cream cheese flavor, nice accents of vanilla bean.

The crust was fine, graham cracker based, fairly thick.  I didn't really like it, but that is just because I don't like graham cracker very much.  I'm eager to try the Banana Cream version that uses Marlo's Bakeshop banana biscotti as the crust instead!

Original Review, July 2013

Mmm, cheesecake.  Such a classic, decadent, dessert.  It can be very simple, or dressed up with all sorts of toppings, flavorings, or fillings.  But, at least for me, it is a dessert that can disappointing more often than not.

I have a really easy cheesecake recipe that I got from my mom that I've been using for years.  I won't claim it is the best cheesecake ever, but it is solid, and whenever I bring it to a party, I do get rave reviews.  I won't tell you much about it, except that uh, it uses yellow cake mix in both the crust and the filling.  And when the top cracks, you just hide it with a beautiful fruit topping.  If I can make a good cheesecake, why are there so many awful versions out there?

One great thing about cheesecake, besides that it is delicious, is that it can be easily frozen and taken out when you want to serve it.  Just like I always have a freezer full of ice cream, I've been known to always have a few slices of cheesecake alongside.  So I was overjoyed when I discovered San Francisco Cheesecake.  A small, local company, that makes a variety of cheesecakes, sold at retailers around town.  They show up at artisan's foodfests, always with trays of samples.  I see why, as a single bite of one of these cheesecakes leaves you wanting more!  But the best part, is that they are sold frozen.  Easy to stock up on and pull out for "emergencies", like, you know, it is Tuesday night and you don't have any other dessert laying around.  And, they are a small size, so it totally makes sense to defrost one just for yourself.  You don't have to share.

I've really enjoyed all of the cheesecakes I've tried.  They are all nicely creamy, with a good graham crumble crust.  I was just glancing at their web site and saw a few flavors I haven't had yet that I really want to find: greek yogurt with honey and banana cream! Mmm!

I highly recommend purchasing a few if you ever see them (if you are into cheese, head to Cheese Plus, get some great cheese, and then grab some cheesecake from the freezer near the register).  They totally blow away the other cheesecakes I've had lately (like the mediocre frozen ones from Shari's Berries, the insanely awful one from Soup Freaks that Ojan even spit out,  or the flavorless thing that only sorta resembled cheesecake from Jack In The Box).  I still have a fond place in my memory of the cheesecake from Little Star, but last time I was there, they were out, and I've been too heartbroken to return.
Assorted Cheesecake Samples.
  • Butterscotch: "Homemade butterscotch filling with vanilla bean over our graham cracker crumb crust with sea salt." Tasting notes: Hands down favorite.  My grandmother is known for her butterscotch pie, and this tasted sooo much like it, just in cheesecake form.  Creamy, amazing flavor.  I'm dreaming about this one!  The crust had some extra salt in it, which really complimented the butterscotch flavor well (just like salted caramel).  OMG, I want more of this now.
  • Candy Cap Mushroom: "That's right.. It's a mushroom!  Wild foraged, hand picked mushrooms that taste and smell like maple when baked into our CheeseQuakes! You'll swear it's maple, but really, it's all mushroom... over our graham cracker crust. " Tasting notes: Yes, mushroom.  It was really tasty, the candy caps add a beautiful maple flavor to it.  In fact, if you didn't tell me, I would have guessed it was a maple cheesecake, and I come from the land of maple syrup!  I'm sure people are scared off by the concept of mushrooms in cheesecake, but this is good.  I had this one still slightly too frozen, so it wasn't as creamy as it could have been.
  • Mint Chocolate Chip: Tasting notes: Decent mint flavor, with actual chocolate chips embedded in it, and a chocolate graham crust. It was light and refreshing, which is a funny thing to say about a cheesecake, I know, but it really was.  It would be a great ending to any meal, and an easy crowd-pleaser - who doesn't like mint and chocolate? I would have preferred even MORE mint flavor though.
  • Pumpkin Spice: "Our unique blend of spices makes this one of our favorite and best selling cheesecakes! Over our graham cracker crust."  Tasting notes: This was a seasonal offering, around Thanksgiving.  Not the most pumpkiny flavor, but nicely seasoned, and not bad.
  • Strawberry Swirl: "Locally produced strawberry preserves swirled into our Original SF filling over homemade graham cracker crumb crust." Tasting notes: Classic cheesecake with a really nice strawberry jam swirled in it.  The jam comes from Inna Jam, who I've run into at a variety of artisan's events around town.  Another one that reminded me of home, as my mom is known for her strawberry jam, and I rarely like other strawberry jams.
  • Vanilla Sour Cream: Tasting notes: Pretty creamy, nice sourness from the sour cream, and good vanilla flavor.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

JetBlue Mint, B6 516, SFO-JFK

Flight Details

Date: June 2, 2018
Departure: SFO, 1:14 PM (scheduled) 1:18pm (actual)
Arrival: JFK,  9:23 PM (scheduled)
Seat: 4K
Class: Mint
Date: June 2018

We boarded before 12:30pm, totally leisurely, as everyone showed up.  We pushed back on time.  We took off on time.  Smoothest, most on-time, flight experience I've had in years.


I've reviewed JetBlue Mint extensively before, so, no full review this time around.  Not much has changed, as always, a wonderful experience, both hard product and soft.
Seat 4K.
 Yup, I scored the suite.  Spacious, private beyond belief with the door shut, and plentiful power.
Amenity Kit.
Amenity kits are still provided by Hopper, colorful cases, with the standard pen/toothbrush/ear plugs/hand lotion/eye mask/glasses wipe lineup, plus some actual nice looking socks.

None of this really necessary for my day flight, but, the toothbrush I knew I'd use at hotel.


Eastbound Lunch/Dinner Menu, June 2018.
As always, menus were distributed as we settled into our seats, orders taken once underway.  The menu followed the familiar format - appetizer, choice of 3 of 5 small plates (2 chilled, 3 veggie, 1 seafood), and local ice cream.

Choose three. Please note: The first two dishes listed below are chilled
  • GRILLED CORN SALAD: paprika mayonnaise, sweety drop peppers, cotija cheese
  • ROASTED CARROT SALAD: burrata, mâche, pistachio-herb dressing
  • SOY GLAZED SALMON: green pea puree, potato pancake, chinese broccoli
  • MEXICAN CHICKEN STEW: cherry tomato, avocado, radish, lime
  • MEATBALLS: marinara sauce, provolone, basil-feta pesto*
  • ICE CREAM: Double Rainbow, San Francisco, CA
  • COOKIE, milk bar, NYC and beyond
This was an awesome menu for me, as I *adore* JetBlue's taro chips (as I've reviewed before) and I'm obsessed with their caramelized onion dip, and who says no to burrata?  My choices were very easy, meh to chicken and meatballs, totally yes to everything else.
Drink Menu.
And of course, a drink list with the usual beer, liquor, coffee, tea, and wine.
  • Sparkling: RAVENTOS I BLANC DE NIT BRUT ROSÉ, 2015, Penedès, Spain
  • White: SANDHI CHARDONNAY, 2015, Sta. Rita Hills, California
  • White: VON WINNING ESTATE DRY RIESLING, 2016, Pfalz, Germany
  • Red: COUNTY LINE PINOT NOIR, 2016, Sonoma Coast, California
  • Red: BROC VINE STARR ZINFANDEL, 2016, Sonoma County, California
RefreshMint and Sparkling Water.
Pre-takeoff, as always, drinks were offered, and I decided to indulge in a RefreshMint.  As always, it was sweet and refreshing, and helped ease me into my travels.
Welcome Taste: Caramelized Onion Dip with Taro Chips (double).
Our Welcome Taste was delivered once underway.  I told my FA that I was excited because it was my favorite of the ones I've tried so far, and since our cabin wasn't fully loaded, he brought me a double order.  Score!

I liked it as always, crunchy nice taro chips, and that dip is just so oniony and delicious.  I still have absolutely no idea what is in it, but, I like it so much, every time.
Sandhi Chardonnay.
"2015, Sta. Rita Hills, California."

The wine menu was all different wines than I've had before, but, JetBlue does a nice job with wines usually, and I remember some really nice Chardonnays, so I went for that, also knowing it would go well with my salads and fish.

It was ... fine?  Really not much to say about it.  A bit bitter?  Not buttery?  Ok, maybe I didn't like it very much.
My tray arrived with all three of my small plates, the standard roll and butter, and ... a bonus!  Another serving of taro chips and onion dip.  Heh.  Much appreciated.

The roll was incredibly bad as always, and I wished I had remembered to tell him I didn't need it.  Warm, but so spongy and awful.
Grilled Corn Salad (Chilled).
"Paprika mayonnaise, sweety drop peppers, cotija cheese."

First up, a chilled salad.  This was a mixed success.

The sweety drop peppers were really fascinating, adorable tiny little things that were somehow really sweet, yet, spicy?  Really fun and tasty.

The corn itself was ... fine?  Not really grilled tasted.  The menu didn't mention beans.  Eh to the beans, but at least there weren't many.  I didn't actually appreciate the parsley on top, but, yay, garnish?

The real issue though - I love mayo based dishes, and this had tons of paprika mayo on the bottom that I was eager to stir in, but ... i didn't like the strong smoked paprika flavor.

Not a winner really, my third pick, and I certainly wouldn't want it again.
Roasted Carrot Salad (Chilled).
"Burrata, mâche, pistachio-herb dressing."

Another mixed success.

The carrots were rainbow carrots, cut in half.  Just like the corn, they didn't really have any roasted flavor, the carrots had nothing "grilled" about them really.  No grill marks, no flavor.  They were also very inconsistently cooked, some soft, some seemingly raw.  Pretty, but, meh.  Then again, I don't like carrots much, I ordered this for the burrata, duh!

The mâche was wonderful, fresh, crisp, slightly peppery.  I loved it and wished there were more.  I wanted a mâche salad, not a carrot salad!
Chilled Carrot Salad: Underneath.
Under the mâche was the burrata, a full bulb.  Seriously, what a ridiculous portion of burrata, but, when burrata is good, I can eat that no problem.

This burrata *seemed* like it should be good.  The skin was thin, it burst open full of cream.  But ... the burrata wasn't actually creamy.  It was just ... some kinda chewy mozzarella and cream.

The "pistachio-herb" dressing was a nice surprise, in the bottom, definitely more like a pesto than a dressing.  A bit oily, but the oil was nice with the burrata.  The flavor was great though, as was teh slightly chunky texture.  When it mixed with burrata cream it was even better.  I used it as a dip for more of my taro chips.

Given the mâche and the tasty dressing, I'd get this again actually, but my second pick overall.
Soy Glazed Salmon.
"Green pea puree, potato pancake, chinese broccoli."

Finally, a hot dish.  Now, I don't like fully cooked salmon (so fishy!), and I didn't expect to eat the salmon really, but everything else about the dish sounded fantastic.  Pea puree! Potato pancake!  Tasty greens!

The salmon, as expected, was fully cooked, fishy.  It also didn't really have a soy glaze, just some sesame seeds on top.  It was lukewarm.  Moving on to the parts I actually cared about anyway, all hiding under it.
Potato Pancake / Pea Puree / Chinese Broccoli.
The potato pancake was not crispy.  It was made from shredded potatoes and aggressive spicing.  The spices were really unexpected.  They seemed to be ... curry?  Indian spicing so some kind.  It made no sense at all.  I didn't like it.  At all.

The pea puree was not a puree, but a mash.  Which is fine, but, definitely not as advertised.  Not particularly great.

The Chinese broccoli though I really liked.  Just simple steamed Chinese broccoli, mostly leaves, not much stem, but, it was bitter, fresh, hot, and I added salt and pepper and really truly enjoyed it.

So, overall, I'm giving this the number 1 slot only because I really did like that broccoli.
Double Rainbow Ice Cream: Lychee and French Vanilla.
And ... dessert time!  As always, ice cream, served from a local ice cream maker from the port of departure.  For SF, this is Double Rainbow, which always makes me sad since we have so many great ice cream shops!

Our ice cream was slated to be Lychee Nut (I asked while we were waiting to takeoff, lol, had to plan ahead!), but our FA warned that they had a shortage (!) and it might be caramel.  It was the lychee, 2 scoops of that, one vanilla, with the random mint garnish as always.  I brought my own toppings.  I'm a pro!

It was served way too hard, so I had to patiently wait for it to warm up.

Lychee Nut
"Pure​ lychee ice cream intensified by lychee fruit."

The lychee flavor was ok.  Somewhat like a cross between ice cream and sorbet, fairly icy, very fruity, very sweet.  Too sweet really, but, that is lychee, and the lychee flavor was nice.  If it really had "nut" as titled, that would have been nice.  It had some little bits of lychee for texture, but not many.  Meh.

French Vanilla
"French Vanilla: Winner of  Best in America, our French Vanilla is a perfectly crafted blend of the highest quality milk, cream, eggs and vanilla."

The French Vanilla was better.  More creamy, more ice cream like, decent vanilla flavor.  Still really hard originally, much much better once softer, and with my added toppings.

I still really wish JetBlue did toppings.  American Airlines, United, etc are all about the sundaes.  Why isn't JetBlue!  I've made ice cream sandos by asking for the parting gift early, and my FA said people like to take the chocolate chip cookies from the snack bar to crumble on top, but I was the first to come with my own toppings, lol.  I'm a pro!
Decaf Coffee.
To go with my ice cream, I ordered hot coffee, decaf.

It was fairly awful.  It is supposed to be Dunkin' Donuts, but, eh.  It really tasted like instant.  It had that funk to it.
And I moved to red wine, my standby, pinot noir.

Much much better.  Light and drinkable.
Milk Bar Cornflake Chocolate Chip Cookie.
Our parting gift was again a cookie from Momofuku Milk Bar, the Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow, which I've had many times, like on JetBlue Mint, 334, SFO-BOS (December) (review coming soon!

My FA may or may not have snuck me extra.

They were fine.  Never as good as when they are fresh, and the JetBlue selection seems to never include the corn or blueberry ones I like, but, still, its a sweet, seriously buttery, cookie.  I liked the salty crunch from the cornflakes this time around too.