Friday, October 19, 2018

Old Dutch Foods

When I visit other countries, one thing I love to do is try their unique flavors of potato chips.  Australia tends to "win" in this category, but, I enjoy this hobby wherever I go, even if it isn't that far away, like, to Canada, the home of Old Dutch Foods.

Old Dutch Foods is snack maker of chips, dips, salsas, and other party snacks.  They also acquired Humpty Dumpty at some point, if you are familiar with that brand.
"Who is Old Dutch Foods today? A tasty part of your busy life, bringing you, your family and friends the snacks you love. We’re proud to say that quality lives here with each and every one of our products. Old Dutch potato chips are made using the finest potatoes, pure vegetable oil and natural flavours. Clean, simple ingredients that guarantee our potato chips have a consistent taste that’s crispy, satisfying and delicious. We at Old Dutch are dedicated to providing you top quality products that you can enjoy with your special quality moments."
The Old Dutch product line is pretty extensive, with everything from classic or ridge or dutch crunch style chips to tortillas, corn puffs, popcorn twists, even bac'n puffs (e.g. pork rinds).  But I went straight for the classic potato crisps ... in the most interesting flavor of all: ketchup.
Ketchup Potato Crisps.
"Our ketchup chip is award winning. Old Dutch won Eat North's Canadian Best Ketchup Chip because of it’s outstanding flavour and crunch. We proudly accept this award on behalf of our great customers!"

Oh wow, these are strange.  And fascinatingly good.  But oh so strange.  So very strange.

Yes, they really are ketchup chips.  They taste, remarkably, like ketchup.  Very strong ketchup.  You can't deny it.

The chips themselves are thin style, crispy, and well coated.  Fine chips.

I couldn't decide if I liked these or not, but, I certainly found them novel.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Spot Dessert Bar, NYC

It is probably no surprise to you that I research every restaurant I visit, in advance.  I very, very rarely visit a restaurant without researching it first.  Particularly when it comes to a critical meal like dessert.

And yet, I did just that, in New York of all places, where I have extensive notes on places I want to go, and many favorites.

The reason?  We went to Momofuku Noodle Bar for dinner (review here), and decided to move elsewhere for dessert, since the environment there just wasn't comfortable.  I was with a local though, who recommended Spot Dessert Bar, and he's been many times.

So, to Spot we went, just a few blocks away.  I shed a tear as we passed a favorite froyo shop, but, I trusted his leadership.  And ... its good for me not to be the one in control all the time, right?

And also, uh, we were going to a "dessert bar", so, it sounded promising.
"This is Spot, a dessert bar like no other, home to a whole new world of delicious flavors and tastes.
At Spot, Dessert Bar, traditional confections are re-imagined and spiked with a healthy dose of Asian Flare.
Thanks to unique ingredients like Green Tea, Kobacha, Yuzu and more. Out desserts pack innovative flavors and unexpected benefits into every bite. Spot Dessert Bar is truly one of a kind."
Ok, a dessert bar, with seasonal frequently changing items, and asian flair?  I could get behind this.
The entrance was located down a stairwell, and although it looked "creepy", that was just due to their early Halloween decorations.
Spot actually does table service, even though at first glance it looks like you'd order at the register in front.  There aren't that many seats, but we got the last table.

Luckily, they recently opened another location right down the street as well, and since we got the last table, we saw others directed there instead.
Seasonal Dessert Menu.
Menus were provided, laminated style with photos.  Not exactly classy, but, practical?

The first page was the seasonal desserts, and I'll admit, they did look and sound interesting.  Nearly every dish came with ice cream or sorbet of some sort.

The problem is that we weren't really hungry after our Momofuku feast.  We just wanted somewhere to keep chatting, and a little something.  It was hard to settle on just one item for the group, but, we did (half the options were easily ruled out due to caffeine (chocolate or matcha), so, that helped.
Drinks, Cookies, Ice Cream.
The back side of the menu contained all the drinks, a large range of coffee, tea, and bubble tea (served in lightbulbs of course), asian flavors of ice cream, and some cookies.  Oh, and baked alaska.
Great Looking Cookies!
I'm not normally one drawn in by cookies, but we saw these in the case, and they looked great.  Obviously I was drawn in by the marshmallow.  My peanut butter loving companion was easily on board to get one.  It also helped make a decision, we could get one big item, and one cookie, no need to pick just one thing!
GF Peanut Butter Cookie. $3.95.
The cookie was served warm, which was nice.

I did love the toasted marshmallow on top, soft, sweet, fluffy.

But the cookie itself was ... clearly gluten-free.  The texture just left something to be desired.  Mushy.  It had ok peanut butter flavor.

There was also an unexpected layer of chocolate under the marshmallow and above the cookie, which was unfortunate, as two of us, including the person who selected it, do not eat caffeine at night.

So overall ... eh.  We all took a chunk, and the rest went unfinished.  Except the toasted marshmallow of course.  Someone took care of that.  It was great.
Golden Toast.
"Crispy honey buttered toast, condensed milk ice cream, fresh strawberries, cookie crumbs, whipped cream."

For our one main dessert, we went for the Golden Toast.  While most of the menu rotates, this is a fixture, so I assumed it would be great.  Plus, its been ages since I have had a dessert like this.

The toast arrived quickly.  Too quickly, really, for a hot item.

The toast was ... warm, toasted, but certainly not hot.  It didn't cause the ice cream to melt.  It was very crispy, but a bit fluffy inside.  Partially cut into 6 cubes, but, not cut all the way through, so it was hard to get a chunk out.  The texture and flavor weren't anything special though.

The toast also was absolutely soaked in honey.  Oops.  I should have read the menu more carefully.  I guess that is what makes it "golden"?  I was expecting sweetened condensed milk (something I love), not honey (something I rarely like).  So the toast itself?  Basically a flop for me.

The whipped cream was fairly generic, but the condensed milk ice cream was a nice surprise.  The flavor was unique, very, uh, milk forward?  And sweet, but not cloying.  I liked it, particularly with the cookie crumbs on the platter, and the decent enough strawberries.

I applaud Spot for serving both whipped cream and ice cream with the dish.  This girl loves her sides, and often is torn between ice cream or whipped cream as the "proper" choice.

So in the end, I enjoyed the ice cream, cookie bits, whip, and fruit ... just not the main attraction.  I clearly wouldn't get this again, but did leave satisfied.
Spot Dessert Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

JetBlue Mint, Flight 464, SEA-JFK

October 2018 Flight

Flight Details:

Departure: SEA, 2:59pm
Arrival: BOS, 10:45pm
Seat: 2A (single suite)
Class: Mint

I've reviewed JetBlue Mint many times before, that I won't bother with any intro.  It was another Mint flight, this time out of Seattle, my first time ever from that airport.  Friendly, helpful crew, same seat and amenities as normal, and sadly disappointing menu.

Food & Drink

Menu & Ordering

October, Eastbound, Lunch/Dinner.
The menu was as follows:

Choose three. Please note: The first two dishes listed below are chilled
  • FARRO, BARLEY, WILD RICE & QUINOA SALAD / roasted carrots, pickled onions, carrot-harissa purée.
  • BUTTER LETTUCE SALAD / orange segments, crème-fraîche dressing, pistachios.
  • GORGONZOLA & PRUNE STUFFED CHICKEN BREAST / celery root purée, broccolini.
  • GRILLED SALMON / pea, carrot & onion fricassee, dill potato salad, lemon vinaigrette.
  • FIVE SPICE BRAISED SHORT RIB / parmesan polenta.
Enjoy both.
  • ICE CREAM: Molly Moon's, Seattle, WA
  • FRESH FRUIT: pineapple, mango, papaya, strawberry
  • COOKIE, milk bar, NYC and beyond
This was one of the least exciting Mint menus I had ever seen, for my tastes.  I don't like chicken, short ribs, or cooked salmon.  I don't care for grains, oranges, yogurt, or pistachios.  Nothing here sounded like it was really up my alley, and, alas, none of it was.  In retrospect, I wished I had opted for one of the special menus, to finally get a chance to try the Plane Eats perhaps (mac and cheese! burger!).


Pre-Takeoff: Sparkling Water with Mint.
Before we took off, we were offered the signature RefreshMint, but I wasn't quite ready for alcohol, and didn't want sweet, so I just opted for sparkling water.  With mint to make it a bit more fun.
October Drink Menu.
The drink lineup as always featured a sparkling, two red, and two white wines, plus cider, beer, liquor, soft drinks, tea, and coffee.
  • ROSE: ROSÉ OF THE MOMINT (no details provided)
  • RED: WIND GAP SOIF OLD VINE RED, 2016, North Coast, California.
  • RED: TURLEY, JUVENILE ZINFANDEL, 2016, California.
I wasn't familiar with any, so asked for a half glass each of the single white offering, and the first red, since I knew the Zin would likely be a bit bolder than I wanted
 "A classic California Chardonnay from acclaimed winemakers Steve and Jill Matthiasson, grown in a vineyard right behind their house in southern Napa Valley. Lemon and ripe peach fruit flavors, rather than oak, define this irresistible example of a much-loved wine."

The chardonnay was ... ok.  A bit too harsh and acidic, not very buttery.  My half glass was fine, but I didn't want more.
WIND GAP SOIF OLD VINE RED, 2016, North Coast, California.
"This easy-drinking red is a blend of Valdiguié, Carignan and other heritage varieties from some of northern California’s most interesting vineyards. It’s floral and fruit-forward—perfect with a slight chill and just right to pair with most of the Mint menu."

Yup, "easy-drinking red" sums this one up.   Not complex, but not offensive.  Not tanic, just, easy drinking.


As always, welcome tastes were brought out along with beverages about 45 minutes after takeoff, and the meal followed about 20 minutes later.

Sadly, the meal was one of the least enjoyable for me on a JetBlue Mint flight.
The "Welcome Tastes" are often my favorite part (besides the ice cream) of flying with JetBlue.  And this was my first time finally getting plantain chips!  They had been on the menu before, but never actually provided.  I was excited for them, not for the jam and yogurt though.

The tomatillo jam topped with a dollop of spiced yogurt was actually worse than I feared.  I didn't necessarily mind the jam, the texture was interesting, and flavor unique, but the yogurt had a horrible sour flavor that I truly did not like. At all.  My original thoughts of "gee, that isn't nearly enough plantain chips for that amount of dip" and "Uh, this is really hard to scoop the thick jam onto the tiny chip"  didn't matter, as I didn't want the dip.

The plantain chips were fine though, salty, crunchy, enjoyable enough.  Good plantain flavor.  Better than the crostini or blanched veggies JetBlue sometimes offers, but not as good as the other chips that are often available.
My dinner arrived 1 hour and 15 min into the flight, at 4:15pm.  I can't say I was hungry, given that I had lunch at 1pm.  Oops.  I forgot the timing of things.

I forgot to say no to horrible roll, so, I had one of those on the plate that I ignored entirely.  I'm still shocked JetBlue hasn't replaced those horrible rolls.
"Roasted carrots, pickled onions, carrot-harissa purée."

First up, one of my two salads, the grain based salad, with a mix of wild rice, barley, quinoa, and farro.  The barley, farro, and wild rice were all nicely cooked, crunchy, and I almost appreciated them.  I somehow didn't actually see that this had quinoa in it when I read the menu, and I was a bit sad at how dominant the quinoa was.  I just don't like quinoa very much.  The grains were mixed with plenty of herbs, fresh and vibrant.  If you like grain salads, I think you'd like this.

I did like the tart pickled onions perched on top, very very tart though, aggressive flavor.

The roasted carrots were kinda like the blanched veggies JetBlue serves.  Limp.  Cooked carrots.  Oh, and spiced in a way I didn't care for.  Not my thing.  There was another layer of them under the grains and above the puree.

Oh yeah, the puree.

Carrot-harissa purée.
The carrot-harissa purée was hiding at the base of the dish.  It was a mash, chilled obviously since this was a chilled dish.  Cold mushy carrots with a flavor I don't like?  Yeah.

Not a winning dish for me, my least favorite of the trio.
"Orange segments, crème-fraîche dressing, pistachios."

Next, salad.  Fresh crispy butter lettuce.  I was impressed with how fresh the lettuce was, really.  The mandarin orange segments were juicy, lacking any pith (how do they do that!), and fresh too, just not something I really love, so not very exciting to me.  They went well with the flavors of the dish though.

I loved the crunch from the pistachios, but would have preferred a different nut.  Again though, a nice match with the other ingredients, just, not ones I was eager for.

The dressing was ok, tangy crème-fraîche and chives, perfectly dressed, not too much, not too little.  The FA did a great job there.

Overall, a well designed salad, full of quality fresh lettuce, juicy citrus, crunchy nuts, creamy dressing ... just not elements I'd necessarily pick.  My favorite dish though, which might give you a hint of what was to come.
"Pea, carrot & onion fricassee, dill potato salad, lemon vinaigrette."

Ok, so the good news?  The dill potato salad was quiet tasty.  Very herby, fresh tasting, and a nice mix of chunks and mash.  It was a bit strange to have chilled potato salad on top of warm fish though.  And I prefer mayo based potato salad of course, this was a dressing-less version.  I did mix it in with the herbed creme fraiche from the butter lettuce salad, and that was excellent.

About that fish.  Oh wow, it was NOT good.  Cold in the center.  Soooo over cooked, filled with white like when salmon is poorly prepared, and it tasted like catfood.  Seriously.  Not trying to be dramatic, but it was really not good.  The lemon vinaigrette on top was worse, it didn't mask the poor fish, it made it taste even more foul.  I resisted spitting it out, but wow, this was not the dish for me.

Under the fish was the fricasse, a mix of mostly cubes of carrots and peas, I'm not quite sure where the onions were.  It was ... fine?  But did get a lot of the vinaigrette on it.

I quickly, very quickly, scooped off my tasty portion of dill potato salad, and got rid of the salmon.  Wow, not a winner.

The potato salad was my favorite part of the meal though, so for that alone, I make this my second choice dish.
Sweet Bites: Fruit & Ice Cream.
I opted for both the fruit and ice cream as my sweets a while later.  I did ask to wait though as I was incredibly not hungry.

Both were decent, the fruit the best I've had on a Mint flight.
ICE CREAM: Scout Mint & Vanilla, Molly Moon's, Seattle, WA.
"Every year we buy thousands of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies directly from local scouts! The cookies get crushed and folded into mint ice cream made with extract from Washington-grown organic peppermint."

I eat a lot of ice cream in general, at least 5 days a week (although usually paired with a warm dessert), but ice cream on a flight is still fairly novel, and awesome, to me.

When we ordered dinner I asked which ice cream we'd have, and my FA told me that it was the "Melted Chocolate" flavor, commenting that it was a new one, and that the previous one had been this Girl Scout's offering.  So I was a bit confused when chocolate ice cream did not show up, and instead, something minty did.  Clearly, we still had the September offering, two scoops of Scout Mint, plus a single scoop of vanilla.

It was fine, decently mint, nice texture from the thin mints mashed inside.  Kinda like a minty version of cookies & cream.  The vanilla was ... vanilla.

Overall though, it was served too hard (as always, but that just takes a little time to soften), it was icy, and just not very creamy.  Toscannini's, served out of Boston, is still my favorite Mint ice cream.
FRESH FRUIT: pineapple, mango, papaya, strawberry.
The fruit was all good, one of the better selections I've had (partially because it had no melon, so I actually *could* get it).

The strawberry was a single berry, cut in half, decently ripe and flavorful. No pale berries here.

The mango was the real surprise, a generous portion, perfectly ripe, juicy, flavorful.  The highlight of the bunch, although the papaya (just one slice, buried) was also very flavorful and juicy.  They managed to get really nice, fresh, ripe, flavorful fruit this time!
While JetBlue always has ice cream, they still have not caught on to the sundae offering that most other airlines serve in premium service (e.g. made to order sundae carts or at least with some pre-defined toppings).  So I always bring my own sprinkles (and usually other toppings), and ideally use some of the fruit from the fruit salad as well.

Ice cream, sprinkles, and a strawberry was just so much more fun.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Doughnut Plant, NYC

Donuts.  One of my favorite subjects.  I truly do find great satisfaction in an excellent donut.  You can read all my reviews on the subject obviously, but, to sum it up, I am not one who requires Instagram worthy, crazy topped, decadent donuts.  A simple, well executed, classic (hello, Stan's glazed raised!) will do just fine.  But of course, I do enjoy fun flavors and innovative concepts.

Enter Doughnut Plant, now a NYC chain.  I remember being introduced to Doughnut Plant by some locals during one of my first visits to New York.  I'm pretty sure only one location existed at the time, and it was a trek.  That I remember.  I remember my hosts being so excited to share this donut shop with me.  But ... I honestly don't really remember the donuts. 

Flash forward a few years.  Doughnut Plant has expanded, with several Manhattan locations, one in Brooklyn, one in Queens, and a partnership in Tokyo.   The focus of the shop remains strong on quality and uniqueness.
"Our passion is providing our customers with the best doughnuts in the world, handcrafted every day using the finest ingredients available. Our doughnuts are made fresh throughout the day at our bakery in New York City. All of our jams, fillings and glazes are made in house and our dough is rolled and cut by hand. We never use eggs, preservatives or anything artificial and our doughnuts contain no trans fat."
Ok, so good sourcing, house made jams/creams, this all sounds good, and isn't really "normal" for a donut shop.

The other thing that sets Doughnut Plant aside is the innovations they have made in the donut space.  They say they invented the world’s first Crème Brûlée doughnut.  They say they were the first to use seasonal fresh fruit and nuts in doughnut glazes ... a claim I find rather ridiculous (how would they verify it? And really, they didn't start until the 2000s, I don't believe that no one had ever used seasonal fresh fruit in a donut glaze before then ...).  They also invented a square-shaped jelly doughnut, "so you get jam with every bite".  They have seasonal donuts, beyond just "pumpkin spice".  These innovations, as unverified as they may be, don't sound all for show, and really are about delivering a quality donut eating experience.  And that is something I can get behind.

So now, 2018, I tried Doughnut Plant again.  At an event, where we got boxes of assorted doughnuts.
Not a Pink Box.
Doughnut Plant doughnuts come in a decorative box, nothing like a standard "pink box" shop.
Dozen Donuts. $58.05.
Inside we had a dozen assorted doughnuts, all with paper sorta separating them.

They are not cheap donuts.  A box of a dozen was $58, with prices ranging from $3.50-$4.25.

I tried ... most of them, some from nearly every category on the menu.

Cake Doughnuts

"Near the intersection of a classic birthday cake and a buttery pound cake. No eggs!"
Cake doughnuts are rarely my thing, but the event had so many left over, and people cut them up, so I was able to take just little chunks and not waste.  I'm glad I gave them a chance.

Spoiler: I ended up loving one!
Wild Blueberry. $3.75.
"Full of imported wild blueberries, in the dough and the glaze."

This one was delicious.  I'm not generally excited for cake donuts, but I loved the intense blueberry flavor, with bits of berries inside, and a strong blueberry glaze on top.  Very, very "blueberry forward!"

My second favorite overall, and I'd gladly have another.

Filled Cake Doughnuts

"Filled with housemade creams."

Filled cake doughnuts aren't something I've ever seen before (usually filled doughnuts are yeast donuts), but Doughnut Plant offers a slew of filled cake doughnuts.  I tried several.  They left me just wanting real cake.
Carrot Cake. $3.95.
"Traditional carrot cake with lots of fresh carrots, raisins, walnuts & spices in the dough and a cream cheese filling and glaze and sprinkled with carrots and walnuts." 

After the success of the blueberry cake, I tried a filled cake: carrot cake.  It was ... carrot cake, just not as moist and tasty as a slice of regular carrot cake, and, although filled with cream cheese filling, not nearly as much as you'd get on a real slice of carrot cake.

So, yes, it was carrot cake in doughnut form, but, why?  Have a slice of carrot cake.  My 5th pick.
Brroklyn Blackout. $3.95.
"Rich chocolate cake doughnut dipped in Valrhona chocolate, with a chocolate pudding filling and then sprinkled with chocolate cake crumbs. Doughnut Plant's tribute to Brooklyn's Ebinger's bakery."

I felt similarly about the Brooklyn Blackout.  It was just a chocolate cake that wasn't as moist as a real slice, without enough frosting.  Eh.  Last place pick.

Filled Square Donuts

"Filled with housemade jams & creams—"Filling in every bite." The world's first square-filled doughnut."
I didn't try any basic yeast donuts, but moved straight into the filled yeast donuts, available in several formats, including square - another fairly non-standard offering, that they claim to have invented.
Coconut Cream Square. $4.25.
"Square doughnut filled with fresh coconut milk cream and a fresh coconut glaze. We break open fresh coconuts daily." 

The most expensive doughnut we got, the filled coconut cream square.

A large, lofty yeast doughnut, with plenty of coconut cream filling, glaze, and coconut on top.  Which is all fine, but, for some reason, it didn't come together into anything magical for me.  Eh.  4th place, I wouldn't want another.


"Our mini, round filled doughnuts, including the world's first Créme Brûlée doughnut."
Next, round filled yeast doughnuts, dubbed "doughseeds".  I appreciated their smaller size, particularly as I was having multiple donuts.
Creme Brulee $4.
"Our signature doughnut: filled with our own vanilla bean custard and individually torched to caramelize the sugar topping for a true brulee crunch."

Ok, I obviously had to try the creme brulee doughnut, not just because it is their "signature", but because I love creme brulee, and was very curious to see it in doughnut form.

The result was another decent yeast doughnut, with a kinda bruleed top.  Now, it was 80 degrees out, and our doughnuts were delivered, so it is possible that this just suffered in transit, as it certainly did not have a "true brulee crunch".  It had a kinda caramelized torched flavor, that I enjoyed, but, certainly no crunch.  The custard filling was good.

A decent doughnut, but not more special than any other custard filled doughnut.  My third pick.
Seasonal: Concord Grape and Peanut Butter. $3.50
"Limited edition pop-up flavor: Housemade Concord Grape Jam filled doughseeds— dipped in a Peanut Butter glaze. Made with fresh Concord grapes from the Greenmarket."

I saved the best for last.  This was awesome.

Peanut butter glaze.  Chopped peanuts.  So much peanut butter flavor.  Great crunch.
Concord Grape & Peanut Butter: Inside.
And inside?  Tons of grape jelly.  Not the jelly I'd normally pick, but it was fruity and sweet and delicious.

First pick.  No question.  PB & J is a classic for a reason.
Doughnut Plant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato