Thursday, October 25, 2018

Icicles

Rolled ice cream.  I've seen it for a few years now, particularly in Sydney, where the Asian dessert influence is strong.  But I'll admit it.  I thought it was all just hype.  Just for looks and show.  Why ... why would I want my ice cream, uh, rolled?

But I finally tried it, and I feel silly for judging it without trying before.
"Visit one of our many locations for the ultimate ice cream experience. Our handcrafted ice cream is made daily using nothing but the freshest fruits and ingredients around.
Each bowl is made right in front of you. All you have to do is select one of our custom flavors from our menu and our ice cream baristas will roll up your ice cream bowl.
Join us with your friends and family for a light, refreshing and delicious frozen treat. Don’t forget, we have unlimited toppings for you to choose from!"
My introduction to rolled ice cream comes from Icicles, a Bay Area chain (up to 10 locations now), with a shop right next to the Westfield Mall (where there used to be a self-serve froyo place I frequented).  I've passed by it since it opened, but I always glared at it, angry it replaced my froyo shop, and thinking it was just a silly trend that would go away.

But it lasted.  And when I finally looked at reviews, they were all quite strong.  Really strong.  I still thought it was just trendy, written by silly Instagramers and those who were into the whole show (its made to order).  "Ice cream baristas", I scoffed.  And then I saw they had taro flavor.  And ... unlimited toppings included.  Those two things were enough to draw me in, as I adore taro, and I adore toppings.

The Process.
The ordering process is a bit involved, but the staff are friendly, signs are clear, and, when I visited, the place was entirely empty, so there was no rush.

From their Q&A:
Q: How does the process work? 
A: We start by pouring a liquid base cream onto our freezing ice pans and mix in fresh ingredients. Then you wait for it to freeze and then we roll up the ice cream. After, you get to add your choice of unlimited toppings and drizzles.
So, you pick your base and pay, watch the base get made to order, and then move on to toppings.  The entire process takes no more than 5 minutes end-to-end.

And then you enjoy.  And enjoy we did.
Menu.
"We have a wide variety of custom flavors that available. Each bowl is made to order to give your taste buds a mouth-watering experience."

Icicles has a menu of named suggestions, with a couple mix-ins that get added to make a flavored base, and then toppings to pair.  But you can also make up anything you want, adding any options available to form the base, and then of course, your unlimited toppings.

Vegan options also exist, called "fruit roll ups", and some seasonal flavors as well.

All creations are a single size.  No kids size.  No cones.  Just a bowl, for a whopping $9.25 (again though, unlimited toppings).  If you dine in, it is even more, as tax is added, making it $10.04. If you get togo, the tax isn't added.  Discounts are given during Happy Hour (M-F 12-6pm), or with student ID, military ID, or proof that you work within 1/2 mile.

However, they *do* allow you to split one between two bowls, each of which gets unlimited, unique toppings.  No extra charge.  This is not mentioned on the menu anywhere, but I had read the tip in advance, and I'm glad I went in with this knowledge.
Ube Everywhere Base.
"Need a ride? Hop on and get a taste of Ube Everywhere. Mixed with ube, taro and coconut flakes."

To get the process going, the person preparing your creation goes to fetch the base and mix-ins.

I selected the "Ube Everywhere" flavor, so he came back with a cup with the custard cream base plus purple ube milk, and a side of coconut flakes.

He set up the station, scraping the anti-griddle clean before starting, and got ready to craft my treat.  The shop is basically a line of these anti-griddles, with a glass viewing area.  Uh-huh, I was here for the "show".
Ube Everywhere: Step 1.
The liquid was poured onto the anti-griddle, and the coconut flakes added on top.

Since mine didn't have much for mix-ins, this was a pretty simple step, but others are far more elaborate.
Strawberry Fantasy: In Progress.
"Fresh strawberries mixed with graham crackers and our classic custard base mixed to form this wonderful fantasy  for your taste buds."

One companion selected the more involved base "strawberry fantasy", with fresh strawberries and graham crackers mixed in, so his was more interesting to watch.

The server started with the fresh berries and whole graham crackers, chopping those up first, before pouring on the liquid.
Mixing it Up.
Next, the mixing process, again, in my case, quite simple, just mixing the cream, ube milk, and coconut.  Other creations required chopping and more extensive mixing.
Chilling it Down.
 After it is mixed, it is then spread out into a thin layer on the anti-griddle.
Rolling!
Then comes the fun part, the mix is scraped into the signature rolls.

The mix made 7 rolls, and since we were getting a split cup, I laughed when he cut the smallest one in half, very deliberately, and made sure they were totally even.

The rolls are placed into the cup (or cups, if you split), and then you move down to the station I was most looking forward to.
Toppings Sign.
 "What makes us special is our vast selection of toppings to add on your ice cream. Customize your special dessert any way you please."

Yes, toppings!  Unlimited toppings!

All listed on a sign with pictures for easy browsing.
Some of the Toppings.
Dry toppings are easily visible at the station, while fruits and chilled items are in a refrigerated area.

The full line up was:
  • Fruit: Strawberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Bananas, Cherries
  • Asian Things: Popping Boba, Lychee Jelly, Rainbow Jelly, Mochi
  • Cookies & Cakes: Brownie Bites, Cheesecake Bites, Oreos, Mint Oreos,
  • Candy: Chocolate Chips, Caramel Cups, Rainbow Sprinkles, Mini M&Ms
  • Crunchy Things: Pretzels,  Chocolate Waffle Bits, Roasted Almonds, 
  • Cereals: Captain Crunch, Fruity Pebbles, Cinnamon Toast Crunch
  • Fluffy Things: Roasted Marshmallow, Whip Cream
  • Drizzles:Condensed Milk, White Chocolate, Raspberry, Caramel, Nutella, Chocolate
You really could have quite a bit of fun at this topping station.  Which of course, I did.

Major points to Icicles for being *not* stingy.  "What else?" asked the server after my companion had selected only 5 toppings.  "Anything more?" my server asked me, even when I thought I had added a ridiculous number of things.
Ube Everywhere, with Popping Boba, Lychee Jelly, Rainbow Jelly, Mochi, Blackberries, Condensed Milk Drizzle, Roasted Marshmallow. (Split Size).
My companion agreed to split with me so he wouldn't need to make decisions.  Little did he realize that he'd get to pick his own toppings.  We had to agree on a base, but he could do whatever he wanted on top.  And with a toppings line up as extensive as Icicles, that meant ... many decisions.

He asked what I was going to get, and I gave my suggestions.

He went first, selecting all the asian toppings that I had suggested (Popping Boba, Lychee Jelly, Rainbow Jelly, and Mochi) to start.  When the server prompted him for more stuff, he randomly added on blackberry.

For a drizzle, he went for condensed milk, again, my suggestion.

His last component was a toasted marshmallow, which was actually toasted to order right then.

The split portion is a really interesting offering from Icicles, particularly as they do not charge more.  Sure, the ice cream portion is the same, and they do unlimited toppings anyway, but we clearly had substantially more toppings than someone who didn't split, as we had the same size cup, with just half as much ice cream, and he loaded them up generously.  And the extra cup does cost ... something.  While I'm giving away points to Icicles, I give them points for this too.  

Anyway, I love the split portion, as it is a far more reasonable size (it was more than enough for each of us), and I like the customization it allows.  If I was there alone, without someone to split with, I think I'd get it split anyway, and just do different toppings.
Ube Everywhere with Popping Boba, Lychee Jelly, Rainbow Jelly, Mochi, White Chocolate Drizzle, Whipped Cream, Rainbow Sprinkles.
For my creation, I went for the same asian toppings I recommended to him (Popping Boba, Lychee Jelly, Rainbow Jelly, Mochi), plus whipped cream (why not?), rainbow sprinkles (I'm silly, but I love them), and at last minute decided on white chocolate drizzle instead of the condensed milk I was intending to get, since I wanted to be slightly different from my companion.

My bowl came even more loaded up than his, I'm not sure why, but I had a very very full bowl of assorted jellies, boba, and mochi, way too much whipped cream, and a very generous "drizzle" of white chocolate sauce.

I took my first bite of just the ice cream, a rather hard feat given all the toppings.

Oh.  Wow.

It was ... shockingly creamy.  The texture was just absolutely amazing.  I couldn't believe how creamy it was.  This was not what I was expecting, at all.  Not icy, just smooth creamy perfection ... rolled up.

The taro flavor was decent, strong enough to taste, even once I started having spoonfuls with toppings.  I'd probably leave out the coconut flakes from the base in the future, they gave a bit of texture, but aren't really something I enjoy that much.

The popping boba were standard pink fruit based popping boba, I think strawberry.  Juicy, sweet, bursting with flavor.  I often put these on my froyo and regret it, and felt about the same way here.  Just a touch too sweet, a touch ... too much.  Next time, I'd leave these off.

I did love the jellies, I opted for both the lychee and rainbow ones, and I'm glad I did.  Slimy, sweet, and really the perfect compliment to taro flavor.  He added tons of these, and although I had bites that were all just jellies, mochi, and whipped cream, I didn't exactly mind.

The mochi were also very good, rainbow colored which I wasn't expecting, but great for additional color to my already colorful creation.  They were soft and perfect texture, clearly not stale nor old.

The whipped cream was good, but he did apply too much, even for me.  It took over everything!

And finally, the white chocolate drizzle was sweet and quite tasty, it reminded me of marshmallow syrup.  That said, there was quite a bit of it, and with my other sweet toppings, and all that whipped cream, it was a bit too much.  It complimented the taro well, but I suspect I would have preferred the condensed milk.

Oh, and the rainbow sprinkles were of course fun, more color, a bit of texture, and ... even more sugar.

I realized as I finished it off that this was what I wanted taro milk teas to be.  I love taro flavor, I love the mix-ins, but ... milk tea is never *really* the format I want.  But this is.  Easily enjoyable by the spoonful.  I'll never go for milk tea again!

Overall, I was quite pleased with this creation.  The ice cream itself was far more enjoyable than I imagined it would be, in both texture and flavor.  The toppings were generous, and for the most part, I was very happy with what I picked.  The split size portion was perfect, honestly, splitting it into three rather than two would also likely be fine, but that isn't an option.

Next time, I'd certainly split again, and go for taro base again, but leave out the coconut from the base mix-in.  For toppings, jellies and mochi for sure, perhaps a bit of fruit rather than the boba, condensed milk drizzle ... and maybe not the whipped cream?  Or, at least, I'd ask for less.  I might even consider adding mochi or marshmallow to the base, just to give it a little texture?  Or, uh, sprinkles in the base?  Yeah, now I'm being crazy ...
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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Lunch @ RT Rotisserie

A few years ago I visited the much acclaimed Rich Table in Hayes Valley.  I was extremely underwhelmed.  The experience there didn't leave me all that interested in RT Rotesserie, the fast causal spinoff, down the street, even though reviews for it too were quite strong.

Except, one day, I decided I really wanted to go there.  It was fairly last minute, and I'm still not sure what inspired my visit.  Whatever it was, I'm glad I got the inspiration, as it blew its fancier sister restaurant out of the water.  I'll gladly return.
Lunch Feast for 3.
Our visit was for lunch, three of us all "normal" hunger levels.

We ordered ... the perfect amount of food.  1 rotisserie item, a pile of vegetable sides, and all the sauces.

It was all above average, and I was quite pleased with the entire experience, particularly at the price point.

Setting

RT Rotisserie is just down the street from Rich Table, with a simple and streamlined interior and experience, just like the menu.

Service is fast casual style, order at a register, receive a number to put on your selected table, food is brought to you when ready, tables are cleared as staff wander around and notice dirties.  They also do considerable takeout, including delivery or pickup via Caviar, and catering.  While the restaurant itself was reasonably occupied, we saw far more orders flying out in those ways.

But simple does not imply lower quality, the setting matches the quality of the cuisine as well.
Exterior.
The exterior of the restaurant is quite understated, on the corner, not much signage at all, much like Rich Table right down the street.
Interior.
The interior reminded me of Rich Table as well, although I liked it more at RT Rotisserie.

Most seating is small tables for 2, although there is one large table that can seat 6.  Groups of 4 tended to pull together two adjacent tables.

On the table when you sit are buckets with utensils and napkins, bottles of ketchup, and their house-made hot sauce.

Decor is simple but quality, wood tones, artwork, interesting light fixtures.

A station for water is on the side to help yourself, although we also enjoyed the housemade shiso lemonade ($2.75), which was not too sweet, and had a subtle fairly lovely shiso undertone.

Cuisine

The menu is fairly small and seemingly simple: Sandwiches (chicken - rotisserie or fried, pork belly, lamb, cauliflower), Soup & Salad (1 salad, 1 soup), Vegetables (including, uh, rice ...), Rotisserie (chicken or ribs),  Dessert (single flavor soft serve, single flavor cookies), and Drinks.

At a glance, its just another basic cafe menu.  But, each of these dishes, no matter how basic they might sound on paper, is far from it.

The proteins are all cooked either on the rotisserie, or slow roasted.  While we didn't have it, one signature dish is the cauliflower, yes, the cauliflower, slow roasted, served as a HUGE head of cauliflower.  People go crazy over this.

We went heavy on the side dishes, to ease sharing, but honestly, I would have been happy with nearly anything on the menu.  Seriously.  Even the basic salad sounded great, topped with generous herbs (a theme we'd see throughout the meal), pickled onions, and other goodies, including all the proteins you can optionally add on top.

We did not order dessert, which I know is surprising for me, but, they offered only a single cookie and single flavor of soft serve, so we decided to go elsewhere.  That said, I'd like to try the soft serve sometime on a warm day.
Umami Fries. $6.
"Porcini powder and fried garlic."

For our carb option, we went for the fries.  I was even tempted by the rice (!), cooked in rotisserie fat, but the group voted for the fries, and I was pretty fascinated by the idea of "umami" fries.  Plus, I was ordering a slew of sauces, and wanted something fun to dunk in them, besides the chicken.

They arrived piping hot.  Seriously, piping hot.  Fresh from the fryer, no question.

These were good fries.  Some skin on, not oily, dusted in the porcini powder, very salty in a good way.  I can't say I found them remarkable, but I think I wasn't really in the mood for fries.  My dining companions devoured them, said they were their top dish, and they were the first dish to disappear.  They particularly liked them dipped in the Douglas Fir sour cream (more on that soon).

The "fried garlic" was just a little bit that seemed to have fallen to the bottom of the bowl, it didn't really add much flavor.

Overall, well made fries, not what I was in the mood for though, so my second to least favorite dish.
Charred Cabbage and Almonds. $5.
"Lemon vinaigrette and candied almonds."

Charred cabbage.  How exciting does that sound?  Yeah, I know.   Reviews for this were so strong though.  And I assure you: it was fabulous.

It certainly didn't look like much.  Just shredded green cabbage, seemingly sloppily topped with a pile of random herbs and the remnants of a bag of almonds.

But it was delicious.

The cabbage was dressed in a light vinaigrette, a bit too lemony, but it did add a brightness to the dish.  The herbs were actually shockingly fantastic, very fresh, and great complimentary flavor.  The star though was the almonds.  They were candied, slightly sweet, crunchy, and just phenomenal.

This was a dish that ate well, if that makes sense.  The experience of eating it was quite enjoyable.  Crispy fresh lightly dressed cabbage, bright herbs, excellent crunch from the nuts.  Like this, it was a light, refreshing dish, probably great alongside the heavier items like pork belly or fried chicken.

But you know me ... light items aren't really my style.  I had to "julie it up", and, that I did, utilizing my pile of sauces.  I quickly discovered that mixed with the chipotle yogurt it made for a rather excellent slaw, now also creamy and spicy.

I adore this, and gladly polished it off.  My absolute favorite dish, but, even moreso when I added the chipotle yogurt.  I am still thinking about it a few days later.  The $5 price was incredibly reasonable.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts Caesar. $6.
"Garlic aioli and cotija cheese."

Ok, moving on to the "caesar".  Made with roasted brussels sprouts as the base, topped with garlic aioli, cotija cheese, bread crumbs, and, yes, more herbs.

This plating looked better than the cabbage, and my companions definitely were surprised that this was our "caesar".  No lettuce, no standard dressing, no parmesan, no croutons in sight.  I knew to expect this though, and had ordered it intentionally after reading so many reviews.

The brussels sprouts, much like the fries, were super hot and fresh, intensely roasted to the charred state, in a good way.  At first I loved them, and thought this was my favorite dish, but after a while I did find them a bit oily.  I loved the charred leaves though, and the herbs again where fabulous.

The toppings were interesting, the garlic aioli delicious (and I wish this was offered as a side sauce, I'd probably love it with the fries or cabbage), but it was drizzled only on the top, so some brussels were awesomely drenched in it, and most were without.  The bread crumbs quickly got lost, and didn't add the same crunch nor texture as you'd get from traditional croutons.  Perhaps they needed to be a bit bigger, or made from something besides bread (cheese?) that would stand up to the hot sprouts.  The cojita was nice, soft, salty, good flavor.

I wasn't sure how I felt about this in the end.  I loved the first few bites, before the bread crumbs got lost, before I got full of oil, and when I could get sprouts covered in aioli.  I happily exclaimed to my companions that it was amazing.  But as the dish went on, I quickly got sick of it.  Good to share, good for a few bites, but I wouldn't want a full serve.  My second favorite dish, again with a very reasonable price tag.
Market Vegetable Special: Chinese Style Eggplant. $6.
"Sweet & sour hoisin, sesame, herbs."

For our final vegetable, we opted for a seasonal "market vegetable", the Chinese style eggplant (our other option was delicata squash).  These change up constantly, so I hadn't seen any photos nor reviews of this.

On top of the roasted eggplant was sesame seeds, and like the other dishes, it came topped with herbs, even more here.  Sadly, the herbs were the only part that I liked.

The eggplant was expertly cooked, crispy skin, soft flesh.  And the pieces were well coated in the sauce.  I liked the crunch from the sesame seeds.  But ... I really disliked the flavor of the sauce.

I like hoisin, I like sweet & sour, but ... yeah, I really didn't care for this.  I don't know why, but it was certainly not something I liked.  Our collective least favorite, one diner thinking it was too slimy.
Half Rotisserie Chicken / Honey Mustard / Chipotle Yogurt. $10.
"Served with your choice of two sauces."

Ok, finally, the signature rotisserie chicken.  Since I don't like chicken, we only got a half, although a whole chicken is available too.  It comes served with two sauces, out of a selection of Chimichurri, Douglas Fir Sour Cream, Chipotle Yogurt, Nanny's BBQ, and Honey Mustard.

Those who had the chicken said the skin was crispy, that it was "better than I'd make at home".  One found it very moist, the other thought it was dry.  Compared to a grocery store rotisserie chicken though, it was clearly better.  I didn't try it, so I can't comment.  Oh, I had the herbs though.  Yes, more herbs thrown on top!

The honey mustard I expected to adore alongside the fries, but, it was very, very mustard forward.  Creamy, but, very in your face mustard.  My third pick I guess, but I didn't really want it.  The others agreed, and it went unused.

The chipotle yogurt though was incredible.  I don't usually like yogurt sauces, and lamented that they didn't have any mayo based options, and I don't usually like chipotle, but this was crazy delicious.  A bit spicy, creamy, flavorful, not too tangy from the yogurt.  The others used it on the chicken and fries, and I loaded up my cabbage with it.  This was everyone's favorite, and we were scraping up the edges of the dish.
Douglas Fir Sour Cream / Nanny's BBQ. $1 each.
But you know me.  You think I really just got the two sauces?  While the chicken only comes with two, you can purchase more for $1 each.  I opted to try two more, skipping only the chimichurri.

The Douglas Fir sour cream was a favorite for the fries eaters.  I thought it was ok, but really, just sour cream, and I didn't have much use for it.  The flavor was subtle and unique though.  My second favorite.

Nanny's BBQ though ... went the way of the eggplant.  Really strange flavor, sweet, and just not pleasant.  None of us liked it at all.  Hands down least favorite sauce, which surprised them in particular, as they expected to use it with their chicken.

On the table was bottles of their housemade hot sauce, which I added to a few things just to try it.  It was ... hot sauce?  Not much to say there.  You can purchase a side of that as well for $0.50 if you are getting takeout.
RT Rotisserie  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

JetBlue Mint, Flight 615, JFK-SFO

Flight Details:

Departure: JFK, 11:35am (scheduled) 11:47am (actual)
Date: October 2018
Duration: 5h 59m
Seat: 4F (single suite)
Class: Mint

Another standard JetBlue Mint flight.  See my other JetBlue reviews if you wish to hear about the seat, overall experiences, other meals, etc.

The only real notes were that it was far far colder than usual on this flight.  We were all bundled up in blankets, something I don't normally see.  When I asked to check on cabin temp, the FA was surprised by how cold it was, and quickly fixed it.

It also was by far the worst Mint service I've ever had ... for the first 5 hours.  The FA seemed to hate me from the start.  She was really nice with the old couple behind me, but was grumpy at me the entire time.  Rude.  Visibly annoyed by everything I ever asked for.  I felt bad the entire time.  It really ruined the experience fro me.  She didn't allow anyone to have their windows open at *ANY* point during the flight, saying it was too bright.  Not even cracked a tiny bit.  For a day flight, this meant it was dark and dreary the entire time.

And then, about an hour before landing, everything changed.  I have *no* idea what changed.  She went from truly rude and mean to me, to ... over the top friendly.  "Anything you want, enjoy!" was her enthusiastic response when I ordered another round of drinks, seemingly not snarky.  "I have an extra cookie, would you like it?" followed by a *third* cookie, "Oh, I had one more.".  And then, "Oh, I know you didn't have the fruit because you were allergic, I have extra ice cream, would you like it?", followed by ... not just the normal 3 scoops, but a bowl with 7-8 scoops of ice cream?!  #soConfused.  But, wow.

It also wasn't a very smooth flight.  It was an hour and a half into the flight before the seatbelt sign went off.
Westbound Lunch, October.
And the food? Meh.

That about sums up the entire experience.

Food & Drink

Menu & Ordering

As always with JetBlue Mint flights, it takes ... a while before the staff were ready to take orders once underway.  This was exacerbated by the fact that there was a fair amount of turbulence during takeoff, and so the crew remained seated for quite a while.  Still, economy got their drinks long before us.
Lunch / Dinner Eastbound.
The menu was as follows:

WELCOME TASTE
  • PEA RICOTTA PESTO DIP WITH CROSTINI
DELISH DISHES
Choose three. Please note: The first two dishes listed below are chilled
  • KALE COBB SALAD / confit chicken, tomato, avocado, bacon, blue cheese, green goddess dressing.
  • CITRUS SALAD / grapefruit, oranges, heart of palm, pickled red onion, ricotta salata.
  • 7 GRAIN RISOTTO / mushrooms, crispy rice, parmesan, chervil.
  • PAN SEARED HALIBUT / fingerling gratin, asparagus, red pepper sauce.
  • CITRUS-BRAISED PORK / red rice, spicy pickled onions, cilantro, cashews.
SWEET BITES
Enjoy both.
  • ICE CREAM: Blue Marble, Brooklyn, NY
  • FRESH FRUIT: watermelon, honeydew, pineapple, papaya.
WHEN YOU RE-TREAT
  • COOKIE, milk bar, NYC and beyond
Not a great menu for me.  I love the welcome tastes usually, but that is because I like plantain chips and yucca chips, which are often the dipping mechanism.  Crostini were not an exciting outlook.

For my dishes, I also wasn't excited about ... any.  The first salad had avocado and chicken (allergy and dislike), the second had lots of citrus (meh).  Risotto is ... risotto, I wished for pasta.  Fish is always dried out.  Eh to pork.

I settled on the Cobb salad, the risotto, and the halibut, but, slightly half heatedly.  

We were also asked our dessert order at this time, which they've never done before.  Usually you decide that after the meal.  I hoped this meant that the ice cream would be allowed to properly soften.  It didn't.  I obviously could not have the fruit due to my melon allergy.

Drinks

Before we took off, we were offered the signature RefreshMint, but I just went for sparkling water (with mint!), since it was early, and I wasn't ready to go for alcohol.

The drink lineup featured a sparkling, two red, one white, and one rose wine, plus cider, beer, liquor, soft drinks, tea, and coffee.  The exact same lineup I had on my SEA-JFK Eastbound route the prior week.
  • SPARKLING: RAVENTOS I BLANC DE NIT BRUT ROSÉ, 2016, Penedès, Spain.
  • WHITE: MATTHIASSON LINDA VISTA VINEYARD CHARDONNAY, 2017, Napa Valley.
  • 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.
Last time I tried the chardonnay (fine, but kinda acidic) and the old vine red (easy drinking, but not interesting).

So this time?  Rose and zinfandel it was.  Gotta mix it up ...
Rose of the Moment.
I asked what the rose was, and the FA was really rude, pointing me at the menu.  "It just says 'Rose of the Moment', and to ask about it," I replied.  I was presented, quickly, with the bottle.  I didn't catch the name.

I ordered it, but it didn't come with my Welcome Taste.  I reminded her, politely, that I wanted it.  "It will come with lunch", she said.  I was confused, because normally drinks come with the welcome taste, and, um, everyone else got theirs then?

When I did get it, I did like it at first.  Light, refreshing, floral.  

And then ... I stopped liking it.  Too harsh and acidic.
TURLEY, JUVENILE ZINFANDEL, 2016, California.
"Our favorite Zinfandel is back on board! Turley remains California’s benchmark for this grape, and the Juvenile is produced from younger vines in their top sites. It’s complex but approachable, full of vibrant berry fruit and the spiciness of black pepper and licorice."

"I'd like to try a small glass of Zinfandel" ...

Yup.  "small", lol.

Anyway, this was fine.  A fairly bold zin, and what I was ready for later in the flight.  A complete contrast with the other red, much more of a table wine.
Decaf Coffee: Dunkin' Donuts.
With my dessert, I asked for decaf coffee.  My FA, who clearly hated me, grumpily said, "Well, I'd have to brew that".  I confirmed that I did want it.  She stomped away.

When it finally came, it wasn't great.  Tasted like instant, even though I think it wasn't.  Ooph.  I thought she'd hate me if I didn't drink it, but I really didn't care for it, so I dumped it in the bathroom sink.  She scared me.

Food

The meal service also took forever to get going.
Welcome Taste: PEA RICOTTA PESTO DIP WITH CROSTINI.
 Our welcome taste was delivered eventually, an hour into the flight.

The dip was ... rich.  You could clearly taste ricotta and peas, both somehow quite prominent.  I think it would make for a fantastic ravioli filling, but it was a bit heavy to just eat.  It had a very springtime feel to it.

The crostini, 3 of them, were actually better than I expected.  Herby.  Buttery.  Toasted but not too hard.  Basically, cold garlic bread.  A decent snack actually.

I tried to save the pea dip for later, but my FA, as she said the words "are you doing with the tasting", was already taking it away.  Oh well.
Lunch: Kale Cobb Salad / 7 Grain Risotto / Halibut.
Lunch was not served until nearly 2 hours into the flight.

I was glad that I had eaten a huge breakfast, and that I had backup food.  Nothing was great.
Kale Cobb Salad.
"Confit chicken, tomato, avocado, bacon, blue cheese, green goddess dressing."

JetBlue makes some good salads.  This ... was one not one of them.

The chicken I didn't try, since I don't like chicken, but it was a strange gray color.  The bacon chunks looked promising, but, were chewy and flavorless.

The tomatoes were also flavorless, and mealy.  The kale was soggy and lost in the dressing, way too much dressing.  The avocado I avoided since I'm allergic, but it looked freshly applied at least.  I don't think there actually was blue cheese.  No idea why the egg was purple, and why it wasn't listed on the menu.

I took a few bites of this, but quickly moved on, glad I had brought a backup salad with me.  This was the worst dish, no question.
7 Grain Risotto.
"Mushrooms, crispy rice, parmesan, chervil."

The risotto was a mixed bag.  On top was a lot of herbs, I liked the micro celery.

I loved the crispy black rice on top, a really nice touch.  As was the generous shake of Parmesan.

The risotto itself was ... fine?  I mean, kinda gloopy, reheated risotto.  I didn't expect otherwise.  I was hoping for big chunks of mushroom, but, alas, there were just little bits integrated throughout.

I wasn't really into this, besides the toppings, but, I didn't expect to be.  Second best dish, for the topping only.
Pan Seared Halibut.
"Fingerling gratin, asparagus, red pepper sauce."

And lastly, the fish, which I ordered entirely for the gratin.

It came with ... a lot of garnish.  Little pea shoots?  They were a little wilty.  Too generously applied, sometimes the garnishes make the dishes look classy, this just looked sloppy.

I eagerly bit into the "gratin".  It was ... more like quiche, really.  It had a souffle-like, quiche-like, eggy top layer and layers throughout.  I was expecting a cheesy cream sauce.  The potatoes were nicely cooked though, soft but not mush.  And it was really warm.  Once I added my own ssam sauce (which, uh, I had as leftovers from Momofuku Noodle Bar that I wasn't willing to give up), it was great.

Next, the "asparagus".  If you are thinking "uh, what asparagus", that is exactly what I was thinking.  Instead, the dish came with peas and corn.  It was ... fine?  But kinda like cafeteria style veggies.

Lastly, the halibut.  It wasn't as bad as I feared, actually.  I mean, it wasn't good, but it wasn't dried out and totally hammered.  Instead it was just ... boring?

I did enjoy my gratin with my own sauce, but, overall, this wasn't particularly great either.  Still, the best because I enjoyed the thing I made from it.
Midnight Mint Ice Cream && Vanilla Ice Cream, Blue Marble, Brooklyn, NY.
 "You won't need to "scout" all year for this flavor: rich chocolate ice cream dashed with peppermint and loaded with chocolate sandwich cookies. A badge-worthy treat."

Every single person on the flight ordered the ice cream.  Wow.  I've never seen that before.  And our cabin was full.  Darn.  No extra ice cream for me (not that I DARED even mention that to my FA!).

I might frequently mention that ice cream is served hard on flights and takes a while to soften to eating temperature, but this set a new record.  ROCK SOLID.  As in, could not even get a spoon into it to chip off a piece.   It was also completely covered in ice crystals, clearly freezer burnt.  I gave up on trying it for a while, and let it set to melt ...  of course, my FA tried to take it away thinking I just sucked and didn't touch it or something.  I don't know.  "Let me take that away for you," was her wording.  I hadn't even managed to chip of a single bite!  I told her I was just waiting for it to get softer.  She stomped away.  

Even 35 (!) minutes later, it was still more solid than I'd like, but I was ready to try it.  The verdict?  Um, hello freezer burn.  Wow.  Yeah, this ice cream was ruined, clearly not handled properly.  Sadness.

The vanilla tasted ... sour.  And not vanilla.  Not good ice cream.

The Midnight Mint was ... ok.  I liked the mint flavor, but disliked the mushy cookies inside.  The ice cream wasn't very creamy.  

Major meh, and I don't know if this is Blue Marble's fault for just not having good ice cream, or a handling error, or both.  First time I've ever not finished the ice cream.
Cookies & Ice Cream.
And then this happened.

"I have an extra cookie, would you like it?" followed by "Oh, I had a third, would you like?" followed by "I know you didn't have the fruit, would you like the extra ice cream?"

3 cookies.  6 (!) MORE scoops of ice cream.

I took the cookies with me, and actually enjoyed the ice cream, it was properly soft this time, lol.  And it went great with my red wine!
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Monday, October 22, 2018

Schroeder's German Restaurant - Catering

German cuisine.  Not exactly my goto, although I really truly did enjoy Zum Dürnbräu in Munich for legit German food (so much so that I went back twice, during my one week visit!).

But every year, in October, my work group (Chrome) celebrates Oktoberfest, but, dubbed, Chrometoberfest.  Normally we get some kind of German cuisine provided by our internal catering (always including soft pretzels and sausages!), plenty of beer, custom made steins with our logo on it, and perhaps a German band to put us in the mood.  Some years there are lederhosen.  It is always a fun party, but, true German cuisine it is not.

This year we were a smaller group, celebrating in just our San Francisco office, only about 75 of us.  It was a great excuse to bring in authentic German cuisine though, and picking a caterer was easy.  If you think German in San Francisco, there is one classic: Schroeder's.

Schroeder's has been around since 1893, located right downtown, your classic after-work beer hall.  Or so I hear.

I still haven't been to the restaurant in person, but once I saw they did catering, this was any easy choice.

"Chrometoberfest" Feast.
Our menu was fairly simple, just a mid-day snack not a full meal, featuring soft pretzels, sausages, veggies, and of course, since I was organizing, dessert.

Schroeder's was easy to work with, communicated promptly over e-mail, and delivered everything on time (literally, on the dot!), hot and fresh.  They made putting this party together a breeze.  If you need German catering, I certainly endorse.
Crudite & Dill Ranch. $55 (Catering only).
I didn't order veggies originally, but at the suggestion of my co-planner to at least "have something for the healthy eaters", I added this on, not even knowing, or caring, what the dip would be.  I didn't think I'd touch this.

But ... I am glad I tried it!  While all the food was good, this was honestly the highlight for me.

Ok, the celery, radishes, carrots, and cauliflower were all fairly standard (but fresh and crisp), but the cucumbers were crazy flavorful, and the tomatoes juicy and truly fantastic.  I couldn't get over how delicious the cucumbers and tomatoes were.

And the dill ranch?  I LOVED it.  Really herby, in all the right ways.

Such a surprise, but, the tomatoes, cucumbers, and ranch were really my favorite bites.

Crudite and dip is not on the regular restaurant menu, only part of the catering menu, $55 for a tray with ranch side, which was entirely reasonable for the quality vegetables. They do have a salad on the menu with this dressing.
Bavarian Pretzels.  Bourbon mustard / Bier Cheese. $12 (for 2, +$3 for bier cheese), $70 (Catering Platter, +$10 Bier Cheese).
Next, signature pretzels.

These are huge, cut in half here, which still meant for quite large pretzels.  Very generously coated in salt and sesame seeds.  I heard some guests complaining it was too salty, but I did like all the salt.

The pretzels were ... fine.  Good crust, soft enough interior.  I didn't love them though, not when warm, not when toasted, not when room temp.  They were fine, but didn't blow me away.

For catering these are normally served only with their bourbon mustard, but I asked to have the bier cheese included, even though I knew it wouldn't stay warm.  I was warned that they don't normally do this, but I still opted for it.

The mustard was ... intense.  I didn't taste bourbon, but it was really quite spicy mustard.  I'm not sure if I liked it or not, but intense it certainly was.

And the beer cheese was good, a strange consistency really, but decent flavor.  Some were concerned by "how yellow" it was.

Overall, these were just fine.  Not remarkable. 
Sausage Platter. $45 (one of each), $100 (Catering Platter).
And then ... sausages.  ALL the sausages: Bratwurst, Knackwurst, Frankfurter, Weisswurst, Nurnberger, Kasekrainer, Chicken Calvados, Spicy Beerwurst .

At the restaurant, you can order just one type of sausage, served with mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, braised cabbage, mustard, and pickles.  Or you can order a platter with all.  Which is exactly what I did, the catering version.  I thought it was supposed to also come with the pickles, kraut, and mustard, but alas, it did not.  It also came with no labels.

I like sausages, but I'm not necessarily the most well versed, and didn't really know which was which. And yes, I tried them all.  They were all quite different, many proteins used, entirely different spicing.  Some long and skinny, others short and plump, and everything in-between.  I'm glad I tried them all, and side by side, as it allowed me to really see the real variety sausages can have!

I'm going to take my best guesses at which was which.

Bratwurst
"Pork, black pepper, garlic".
Bottom right?  Not memorable.  Lots of chunks inside.  Seasoning ok. Casing a bit too thick.

Knackwurst
"Pork, beef, paprika, smoked."
Plump one, slightly redish, 4th sausage in on the bottom.  I really liked this, it had a mild flavor, and the texture was nice, no bits or chunks, just smooth.  The large girth made it super juicy.  It was like ... a grown up hot dog.  My favorite.

Frankfurter
"Pork, oregano, garlic, smoked."
Pretty sure these are the long thin ones on top left.  Fairly classic higher end franks.  Mild flavor and homogenous texture inside.  My second favorite, because, um, I really like hot dogs!  Great snap to the casing.

Weisswurst
"Pork, chicken, cream, cream, cinnamon ginger."
Pale plump ones, middle bottom. These were like breakfast sausages.  I liked the flavors, but it felt like the wrong time of day to be eating it.  There were lots of bits and pieces in here too that I didn't quite love.  Third favorite, but the timing was wrong.

Nurnberger
"Pork, beef, all spice, cream, smoked."
Top right.  Thin, long, spiced.  These had bits I wasn't a huge fan of, but not as many as the spicy beerwurst.  Decent enough.  Middle of the road for me.

Kasekrainer
"Pork, emmentaler cheese, garlic."
I'm not sure which these were, I didn't find any that were cheesy ...

Chicken Calvados
"Chicken, apples, brandy."
Third from right, bottom.   No memory of this one, but I know I tried them all ...

Spicy Beerwurst 
"Pork, beef, amber ale, peppers, honey, mustard."
I think these are the ones on the bottom left.  The texture of these really didn't do it for me.  Too many chunks and bits.  Nicely grilled, good snap on the casing, but, my least favorite, no question.  I don't like the bits.  I didn't like the flavor.
Apfel Strudel . $9 (individual), $100 (catering platter)
"Rum caramel, poached grapes, whipped cream fraiche."

And finally, dessert!

Schroeder's catering does not normally offer platters of strudel, but ... you know me, I need dessert, and I knew it was something they serve at the restaurant.  A couple quick e-mails later, and platters were offered as an add-on to our menu.  Yes!

I can't say that I've ever loved apple strudel though.  Apple filling, in general, never my first choice.  Not in a pie, not in a turnover, not ever.  I tried the strudel at a famous beer hall in Munich, Augustiner Keller, hoping it could show me how amazing strudel can me.  I was still mostly only excited about the vanilla sauce and whipped cream that came with it, not the strudel itself.

This ... was about the same.

The caramel that coated the pan was pretty fabulous, and, yes, boozy!  I gladly saved all the catering pans and scooped up all the extra caramel.  I warmed some of the rum caramel up later and spooned it over vanilla ice cream and was quite a happy girl.

The poached grapes were interesting, also quite boozy, I think perhaps poached in red wine?  Others were confused by the grapes, but I remembered from my short time in Munich that this was fairly standard.  Anyway, flavorful, well done poached grapes, although the skins were a bit bitter.  I liked the boozy liquid mixed with whipped cream though.

And then, the strudel.  I did like the filo dough wrapper.  It had a nice flavor to it (yes, really, just the plain simple pastry), was thin, flaky, and crisp, just the right number of layers to hold in the filling and not break apart too easily.  One batch seemed underbaked, and a bit raw, but I actually loved that.  I could taste the flour, and, uh, I liked it?

The filling though I wasn't enamored with, but I didn't expect to be.  Very generously stuffed with chunks of apples, lots of golden raisins, and tons of spices.  Soooo many spices.  Honestly, it was too aggressively spiced for me.

It also really, really needed whipped cream, ice cream, or, the cream fraiche it is served with at the restaurant.  I expected that to be included, but alas, it was not.  Without the cream component, the rum caramel was far too sweet and the filling far too spiced.  Not balanced.

So overall this was a mixed success.  I did really enjoy the boozy caramel and grapes, warmed up and spooned over ice cream.  I did really enjoy the pastry with whipped cream (which of course I had on hand).  But the essential apple element ... not really for me.
Schroeder's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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