Friday, November 09, 2018

Monkey Bong Corn Sticks, South Korea

I don't even know how to introduce this one.

Several different groups of us at my office have joined different snack club subscription boxes, where we get sent boxes of snack foods from other countries each month.  One month was South Korea.  It had ... Monkey Bongs.

They were amazing.
Monkey Bong Corn Stick - Banana Flavor.
"This pack of corn sticks from South Korea will make you go bananas! Combining both the saltiness of a traditional corn stick and covering it with sweet, banana-flavored powder, this snack is like eating cereal anywhere, and is even better with two extra big sticks in each pack!"

I looked at the packaging, confused.  There was a monkey, mouth wide open, ready to receive ... something in his mouth.

I read the english label stuck on by the snack food distributor, since I certainly couldn't read the Korean characters.  "Monkey Bong Corn Stick, Banana Flavor" was ... helpful, but I still had no idea what to expect.

Was this a savory snack? A sweet one?  (Spoiler: both?)

I pulled out the product.  It was ... a huge corn puff!  Thick girth, quite long, although it snapped in half as I did so.  Oops.

It did indeed have a strange powder all over the exterior.

I thought this would be an item of novelty, quickly put in the pile of discards that we then encourage others to try, just to laugh at their facial expressions (Russian meat aspic and horseradish snacks from 3 Korochki, I'm looking at you!).

It turned out to be crazy delicious.
Monkey Bong Corn Stick - Banana Flavor (Side View).
The stick is actually hollow, which I didn't expect.

It was super crispy, yes it tasted like corn, it was crazy light.  Really, truly, just a big huge corn puff.  It was actually quite fun to eat.

And then, the coating.  Very, very generously coated in a powder.  A sweet powder.  A sweet ... banana powder.  Just as advertised.

And that was awesome.  Corn puffs and banana powder turn out to be a great combination.  I don't understand.  Another taster called it a "banana Cheeto", but, it lacked cheese, so that wasn't quite right.

I, just like that monkey on the package, devoured this, in basically two huge bites.  So good.  I need another.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Golnazar Ice Cream

Golnazar is a producer of one of my daily staples: ice cream.  While normally ice cream for me is a topping for pie, crisp, or a warm brownie, or the base for a decadent sundae with toppings of its own, sometimes even I have just a bowl of ice cream, particularly when the flavors are unique.

Enter, Golnazar.

Golnazar does not make traditional "American" ice cream, as it actually is an Persian brand, started outside the US, back in 1947!  It only expanded to the US in 2006.
"Golnazar Gourmet Ice Cream has melted the hearts of Americans with its use of top quality ingredients and rich and unique flavors. With a time-tested commitment to excellence and legacy of crafting superior tasting ice cream, Golnazar Gourmet Ice cream has quickly become an international favorite among foodies, families and kids of all ages."
The style is unlike the ice cream most Americans are familiar with, with chunks of fresh cream embedded in it, and is eggless.  The flavors are also not ones most Americans are familiar with: saffron, cardamom, rosewater, dates, pomegranate, and pistachio abound (although they do make vanilla).

I was first introduced to this style of ice cream by my partner's mother, who got it for me as a treat when I visited once, as she knows what I sweet tooth I have, and their family never has sweets around.  It was really unique to me at the time, both the concept of having the big chunks of frozen cream in the ice cream, and using rosewater to sweeten it.  It was a saffron and pistachio flavor I tried then, from Saffron and Rose, a Los Angeles area ice cream shop fairly famous for the Persian ice cream.  You can read all about my encounter in my review.

I was excited to try the Golnazar version to have a comparison point.  I tried several varieties, and although I can note the quality, I wasn't particularly a fan of the flavors.  I guess my palette just isn't adjusted?
Saffron Pistachio.
"The perfect combination of Saffron Ice Cream, fresh pieces of pistachios and fresh frozen cream chips to produce an unforgettable taste."

The first I tried was the saffron pistachio, since that was the variety of Persian ice cream I had before, and I wanted to use it as a comparison and baseline.

It really was much the same - saffron flavored ice cream, studded with chunks of pistachio and chunks of cream, sweetened with rosewater.  It wasn't as sweet as the Saffron and Rose version, and not as floral, so, Golnazar definitely handled the rose water better, at least for my palette.

The bits of pistachio were kinda soft somehow even though frozen, and added a nice texture.  The bits of cream were much smaller in this one, much less dramatic than in the Saffron and Rose version.  I think I prefer the larger chunks actually, but these were certainly still present.

Overall, it was fine, but not really "OMG, I need more of that".  A bit icy in texture, a fairly mild rose/saffron flavor, bits of pistachio and cream ... eh?
Creamy Rose.
"Pure, Rich creamy texture made with light aroma of rose water and pieces of fresh frozen cream chips. The delicate rose flavor of Golnazar Creamy Rose ice cream will make your guests' eyes light up."

The Creamy Rose was another similar flavor to what I had before.  Slightly icy texture, same big pieces of frozen cream chips, and, well, very sweet.

I thought it went nicely when I had a scoop of rose and a scoop of pistachio together, but on its own, it was a bit too much.
Pomegranate Chocolate.
"Rich creamy texture made with natural pomegranate flavor and dark chocolate chunks."

This was a nice quality ice cream, creamy, and it melted perfectly.  I liked the dark chocolate chunks.

But the pomegranate flavor wasn't for me.  I didn't care for this one much at all, and kept wanting it to be black raspberry chip instead.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Boss Lady Pizza, Boulder, CO

Another year, another pizza party for "Hackathon" night at our annual work conference.  Last year's event was in Kirkland, WA with the excellent wild mushroom pizza from Pagliacci's.  This year, we were in Boulder, CO, and the organizer selected Boss Lady Pizza, a pizza place highly recommended by the local admins.

Boss Lady is not your standard pizza place.  Sure, you *could* just build your own simple, normal size and topped pizza.  But their menu is all about ridiculous toppings and featured recipes.  And that menu is HUGE.  For red pies, e.g. marinara base, there are 10 different pre-designed offerings, including taco inspired ones with sour cream swirled on top.  Things get far more interesting with the white pies, nearly 20 (!) offerings, and they are absolutely fascinating, bohbotht in names, and in ingredients.  White base here means ranch, or garlic & olive oil, or creme fraiche (!), or alfredo sauce.  And the recipes?  Things like the "Bad Mother Clucker", a ranch base with spicy breaded chicken, jalapeno, and cayenne, or the Mushroom Penne Alfredo ... yes with penne on it.  Or, uh, options like the Baked Po-TOT-o, featuring ... tator tots (and bacon, cheddar, creme fraiche, sour cream, chives, and butter).  I think you get the idea.  Next up?  BBQ pies, 8 options with bbq sauce as the base, including crazy combinations involving tater tots, or even the Mac Daddy, yes, with macaroni, mozzarella, cheddar, fried onions, and honey (?!).  Then pesto pies (6 choices), vegan pies (3), and build-your-own pies, with endless combinations.  Our group had some from every category.

They also make salads (bo-ring, but we got some), and wonderful sounding desserts (sweet pizzas like a Cookie Monster with cream cheese icing, chocolate chips, chocolate chip cookie dough globs, mozzarella, and chocolate sauce, or a S'mores pizza, or homemade chocolate lava cake, or ... Sinna Sticks, cinnamon sugar coated sticks with sides of icing.  Alas, we didn't have any dessert.

I think Boss Lady likely is actually really good.  But ... our event didn't exactly do it justice.  First, the pizza was all cold.  I'm not sure if this was a delivery problem, if it was ordered for early delivery just to be safe, etc, but, cold pizza is only appealing to me at breakfast.  I tried microwaving some, but that just resulted in soggy pizza.  I was sad, because, again, I think this actually was decent pizza.  Last year's event shocked me by having hot fresh pizza, and I was hoping we'd replicate that experience.  And second, I knew what amazing options were on the menu, and, besides one of them (spoiler: it involves waffles!), we didn't have them.

I don't feel entirely justified in reviewing Boss Lady on these grounds, so I'll just give the caveat that the menu was not my selection, and, the pizza was seemingly not fresh.  If I was in Boulder again, and randomly wanted pizza, I'd be willing to try it again, but, uh, pizza is never high on my list.
"Romaine, parmesan, hardboiled egg, crouton, house-made caesar dressing."

Our event organizer made sure to provide some vegetables too, with giant catering pans of salads.

First up, the Caesar.  Caesar is one salad I do actually sometimes like.  But this Caesar was not my style.  The base was romaine, as expected, but it was mostly the outer darker leaves, not the hearts.  I prefer the juicy hearts.  It had croutons, also as expected, but they were just generic rock solid hard kinda stale croutons.  I was hoping that a pizza place might at least have pizza dough croutons!  It also had ... hard boiled egg?  And a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, the grated kind.  I prefer large shards of sharp aged parmesan.

The dressing was decent though, loaded with parmesan, although I don't think it had anchovy.

Overall, generic, lackluster salad.
"Mixed greens, cucumber, tomato, red onion, dried cranberries, house-made balsamic dressing."

Next was the "Mixer" salad, basic mixed greens with a slew of toppings that made no sense together.  Cucumbers and tomatoes, sure.  Onions too.  But dried cranberries?

The cucumbers were slices, rather watery, not interesting.  Red onion was fine.  I hated the dried cranberries, hard little pellets.  The tomato was super strange, not cherry nor grape tomatoes, not cut into wedges, but rather ... slices like you'd get on a burger.  But on top the salad.  And really, really, really mushy.

This was not a good salad.  I didn't try the balsamic dressing on the side.
White Pie: Chicken & Waffles. $28.
"Crème fraîche, mozzarella, house-breaded chicken, waffles, maple syrup, melted butter."

For my first slice, I had to go straight for ... the chicken & waffles.  Sure, I loathe chicken, but, waffles!

Uh, yeah.  This pizza had a creme fraiche base (that I didn't really taste, I think it mostly soaked into the crust), mozzarella cheese (standard, well coated, melted), chunks of fried breaded chicken (oily, dried out, not good), chunks of waffles (sadly Eggo caliber, spongy), and was drizzled with maple syrup (yup, a kinda sweet pizza).  The menu says there was melted butter on top somewhere too.

I think this pizza suffered the most from being cold.  Cold soggy waffles.  How appealing is that?  Cold soggy waffles, on a rather dry pizza since it was essentially sauceless, with dried out overcooked chicken bits.  A fun concept, perhaps tasty, and I think a great mix of ingredients, but not enjoyable as it was served.  I love the idea of the sweet and savory pie though.

Our pizzas were all the large 20" size, which resulted in monster slices.  Most of us lamented this, as we wanted to try several types of pizza (I think we had 10 kinds?), but a single slice was a meal in itself, and there were no knives to cut them in half.  But since I truly didn't like this one, I went for another slice (don't worry, we had far more pizza than we needed).
White Pie: Spinach Artichoke Dip. $30.
"Alfredo sauce, spinach, artichoke, fresh garlic, mozzarella, asiago, BLP seasoning."

I have no idea why I picked the spinach artichoke dip pizza, since I don't actually like artichokes, but it was the hands down winner.  I truly wish I could have had this one hot and fresh.

The pizza was sauced with Alfredo, which worked better than the creme fraiche, not quite as lost.  A rich creamy base, then loaded with nicely laid out spinach, soft artichoke, and tons of garlic.  Oooh the garlic.  This pizza was all about the lovely garlic.  The mozzarella was fairly standard, but the asiago was a nice touch with the spinach and garlic.

The crust however was pretty meh, chewy, lackluster, although, again, perhaps that is an freshness thing.

I did really enjoy the flavor and potential to this one, so much so that I dared try to microwave it (and I'm *not* a microwaver!), but, alas, it got really really soggy, and I had to discard it.
Red Pie: Garden. $26.
"Marinara, mozzarella, roasted red pepper, fresh portobello mushroom, fresh spinach, olive oil, BLP seasoning."

Finally, as I was leaving, and there were still many, many full pies left, I decided to grab a slice of just one more, and went totally classic and all in with the Surpreme.  Loaded with everything, red sauce and mozzarella base.  I circled back to snap a photo, and, uh, just realized I took the wrong one.  Sorry, this here is a Garden pizza, a veggie one loaded up, that I didn't try.

[ No Photo ]
Red Pie: Supreme. $30
"Marinara, mozzarella, sausage, pepperoni, green pepper, red onion, fresh portobello mushroom."

The crust, sauce, and cheese were all eh (again, chewy crust, sauce I didn't quite care for, and eh to just mozzarella), but the toppings were good, and quite generous.  I liked the crunch from the peppers and onions, the pepperoni wasn't too oily, and I actually really liked the sausage.

I sorta wish I had taken the offer to take some back to the hotel, as this is exactly the type of pizza that would make a great breakfast slice.
Dips: Marinara / Ranch / Bossy Sauce.
I was really excited when I saw that there was a condiments section for the pizza.  Standard packets of parmesan and red pepper flakes, and ... sauces!  I eagerly grabbed one of each.

The marinara was the same as used in the pizza, and it was just far too ... marinara-y for me.  I don't how to describe it other than that it was just too tomato heavy, too tangy, too sweet.  Just everything out of balance.  I didn't like it at all.

The ranch was equally not enjoyable, literally flavorless.  I don't understand how they made such a boring ranch.

And the "Bossy Sauce", which I was really looking forward to, some kind of creamy signature sauce, turned out to be ... chipotle ranch.  Doh.  I don't like chipotle, and this was no exception, just a flavor I truly don't enjoy.

So sadly, I didn't like any of these sauces, which I guess is fine, as I didn't really want to dip my crusts in them anyway, since the crust was chewy and cold.
Boss Lady Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Airport Dining: Timberline Steaks & Grille, Denver Airport

Airport dining.  Ugh.

While sometimes I have fun with these types of "adventures", and sometimes I do find some gems, often dining at an airport is an act of necessity.  Which, my first adventure to Timberline Steaks & Grille was.  My second visit was just to give it one more shot, as I saw a little potential the first time.

So, my first visit.

I ended up taking a later flight than I wanted to Denver, CO, with a final destination of Boulder, CO, about an hour away.  I knew if I waited to eat dinner in Boulder it would be far too late, and at that point, I wanted to just check in to my hotel anyway.  So ... airport dining it was.

I was lucky enough to land in Concourse C, which I believe has the most dining options.  I opted for a full service restaurant, although in retrospect, I think I would have been happier just grabbing something at McDonald's or Einstein's bagels ...
"Timberline's menu offers organically raised natural beef and buffalo burgers, all natural chicken and USDA prime steaks, sandwiches and salads served in a log cabin atmosphere with 30 wines and 40 beer selections to choose from. Desserts include Kosher options and Haagan Daz ice cream."
Instead, I went to Timberline Steaks & Grille, a sports bar meets steakhouse, in the airport.  It was exactly what you'd expect.
Mediocre Dining: Visit #1.
Having just come off a flight, I was a fairly queasy, so opted for a rather boring lineup: a non-alcoholic drink, a salad, and of course, dessert.

The drink was awful, the food mediocre.  

The staff however were quite friendly, accommodating, and efficient.
Mediocre Dining: Visit #2.
My second visit was when I was leaving Denver, and had allowed plenty of time at the airport to get dinner before my 6:55pm flight, arriving at the airport before 5pm.  It ... was barely enough time, as security lines were very long, and I had quite a wait to be seated.

The food ... again mediocre.  The staff ... less friendly, although they work hard and it shows.


Timberline Steaks & Grille is a full service restaurant, with a bar, located right near the main food court and train entrance to Concourse C.
Like many airport establishments, the bar was a hot spot, filled with people, and of course, their luggage.  Most were watching "the game", whatever it was.  I heard some guests requesting to be seated somewhere they could watch.
It was dark outside, but I think the restaurant has a decent view out the large glass windows that wrap around most of it.  The decor was a mix of practical (easy to wipe down tables, good space between tables to allow for all the luggage, etc) with a bit of flair (nice light fixtures, slight "mountain lodge" feeling).  Decently attractive overall, for a airport restaurant.

Food & Drink

Timberline has a fairly large menu, with all your typical sports bar style appetizers (I saw a lot of nachos, wings, and quesadillas going by), burgers and sandwiches galore, and ... a full steakhouse menu, as it is a steakhouse after all.  They also have a large drink menu, with plenty of cocktails, including some interesting sounding boozy ice cream floats.
Club Soda with Lime: Visit #1.
I was planning to get wine or a cocktail, but, alas, I was feeling fairly meh from my flight, and decided that alcohol would not help me out.  Pepsi based soft drinks were the option, along with fruit juices.  I just wanted sparkling water though, and I was pleased when I was told that was an option ("we have club soda, will that do?").  I was even offered lime, which I accepted.

I was not pleased with what I got though.  It was clearly just sparkled tap water, with a bad flavor and aftertaste.  The lime did not help mask the murky flavor.  Maybe it was the ice, but, since I wasn't charged for it, nor was I given a bottle or can, I am pretty sure it was just sparkled tap.  I'm glad they have free sparkling water, and aren't going through so many cans and bottles, but ... I did not like this at all. 
Club Soda with Lemon: Visit #2. $3.
My next visit, I again asked for sparkling water, was correct that they had club soda, and this time it came with a lemon.  The lemon masked the flavor a bit more, but it still tasted pretty bad.

This time ... I was charged $3.  Hmm.
Visit #1: Mountain Wedge Salad, Large.  Add Glazed Pecans. $9.
"Crisp iceberg, Peachwood smoked bacon, Affinee Bleu Cheese crumbles, red onion and grape tomatoes."

For my savory item, I was planning to get the sweet potato fries, but, after flying, I felt pretty blah, and fried food actually did not sound appealing.  Salad did.

I was trying to decide between the spinach pomegranate salad and the wedge salad, but realized that I actually didn't want most of the toppings on the spinach salad (feta, pomegranate seeds), and I didn't want the vinaigrette it came with, and really the only thing that was catching my eye there was the glazed pecans.  So ... I asked for them on my wedge salad instead.  My request was easily accommodated.

The salad was ... decent.  The huge wedge of iceberg was fresh, crisp, classic steakhouse style served as a full wedge.  It was nice and refreshing after my flight.

The red onion was ... entirely missing.  Ooops?

The grape tomatoes were very generic, basically the flavorless kind you expect on a fast food salad.  Eh to those.  Blue cheese was also fairly lackluster, just a few crumbles.  The bacon ... I really didn't care for, kinda oily, with a bad aftertaste.

But the glazed pecan were excellent, I appreciated the crunch and sweetness.

I'd actually consider getting this again, just leave off the blue cheese, tomatoes, and onions, and add the nuts again.  And, um, hope they gave me the red onion that time?  Or I'd get the spinach one, leave off the pomegranate and feta, and opt for different dressing?

I was not asked what size I wanted, but when I got my bill I saw that this was the large, rather than the small for $6.  I'd also just go for the small next time, this was a lot of lettuce for one person.
Honey Mustard / Wedge Salad Dressing.
I wasn't sure which dressing would come with my wedge, I assumed some kind of blue cheese or ranch, but I knew enough to ask for it on the side in case I didn't like it, or in case they were prone to overdressing.

It was ... fine.  I'm still not sure what kind it was actually, I think this was their play on ranch, it seemed to have a slight tang, perhaps buttermilk?  Herby I guess.  Thick, creamy, rich, flavorful, whatever the flavor was.

After about half my wedge though I was hoping for something different, so I asked for the honey mustard.  It was very sweet (hello, honey!), slightly mustardy, and very, very thick.  I did like it though, particularly with the nuts.

In the end, I ended up combining both dressings, and that worked really well.  Creamy dressing + sweet thick dressing resulted in a fairly pleasing blend.

My final creation of iceberg + nuts + both dressings satisfied me enough.
 Spinach Pomegranate Salad. $9.
"Baby organic spinach tossed in vinaigrette and topped with pomegranate seeds, glazed pecans, feta cheese and thin sliced red onion."

My next visit, I opted for the spinach pomegranate salad, since I had liked the glazed pecans before that I stole from it.  This one also came with the promised red onion slices, plus pomegranate seeds and feta chunks.

It was ... ok.  Fine.  The spinach was reasonably fresh, larger spinach leaves than I was expecting, not baby spinach.  The red onion was quite harsh.  The sprinkle of pomegranate seeds seemed fine, not too underripe.  Feta wasn't exactly flavorful, but it was there.  These elements, all, fine.

But not fine?  The dressing.  I HATED it.  A very, very unbalanced vinaigrette.  I'm glad I requested the honey mustard to use on my fries, to use it here too, but it was still too thick and sweet as a real dressing.

I think with a decent dressing I might have enjoyed this, but I struggled to get through much just to "eat my greens".
Side Sweet Potato Fries w/ Honey Mustard. $4.
To go with my salad, I also ordered a side of sweet potato fries, not on the menu.  I knew they had the sweet potato fries (and many other sides) to go steaks and burgers, but no where on the menu does it actually list these as an option to order a la carte.  I went rouge and did so, which was no problem, as I expected.

I selected the sweet potato fries because all reviews spoke so highly of them.  They, like everything else, were ... fine.  Delivered hot enough.  Decent sweet potato flavor.  Not really crisp though.  Mediocre.

I knew I wanted a dipping sauce, so I asked for honey mustard on the side, a classic pairing with sweet potato fries, although I knew the honey mustard was the strange thick and very sweet style.  I meant to also ask for pub sauce, but, forgot.  It ... didn't really work that well.  Too thick, too sweet.  As I thought it might be.  I really wanted a dipping sauce though, so, eventually I remembered that I had a mayo packet in my bag (this is normal, right?), and mixed it with some honey mustard to make ... honey mustard aioli?  That was better, but, still I needed something else (like maybe that pub sauce, or ranch).

Anyway, these were fine, not remarkable, needed sauce.  $4 price for a side was fine.
Lemon Creme Cake. $9.
"Rustic vanilla cake layered with lemon cream and topped with Gran Marnier marinated berries."

After my giant wedge of salad, I was ready for dessert.  The dessert menu had a few decent sounding options, including bread pudding (I love bread pudding, but this one came with bananas and nutella, which I don't really care for, and, gasp, no whipped cream nor ice cream!), cheesecake (classic, likely decent enough since I'm sure they purchase frozen), bacon donut holes (yes! but ... a huge serving), and a signature ice cream sundae that is supposed to be different each week.  I asked what the sundae was, and my server said it was just vanilla ice cream, with all the sauces, and whipped cream.

Hmm.  I was ready to order the ice cream sundae, but I had read tons of positive mentions of the lemon creme cake, not something I'd normally order since I don't really like lemon desserts nor cake, so I asked my server which she'd pick.  Without hesitation she said the cake, and went to check to make sure they had some still.  She came back saying there was exactly one left, and that it was definitely the best dessert.  If I wanted it, she wanted to get my order in to claim it ASAP.

Well, that made up my mind for me.  I was also kinda cold, so ice cream wasn't all that appealing anyway.

The cake was ... interesting.  Uh, "rustic", yes.  A split in half cake, filled with lemon cream.  On top were the berries, mostly blueberries, and a token raspberry or two.  And, a white chocolate decoration which said "Lemon C".  Uh ...

Yes, the presentation on this was amusing.  Where ... was the rest of my white chocolate sign? What was it supposed to say?  "Lemon Cake"? "Lemon Creme"?  I'll never know.

Anyway.  It was ok.  The first few bites were pleasant.  The cake was light and moist, clearly soaked in some kind of wash.  Inside was the lemon cream.  It was lemony, but not in the eggy or too intense way I dislike.  It was also very, very sweet.  And there was tons of it.  I'm fairly certain that there was more cream than cake, or at least equal parts.  The cake and cream did go together well, but, wow.

The berries were awful, very mushy, not good texture, not good taste.  I know they were macerated, but, it didn't work well here.

I did like my white chocolate topper, but wished I had the full thing.

So overall, this was ok for a few bites, but really quite sweet.  Perhaps with a cup of coffee or glass of red wine it would be better.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Group Dining @ Flagstaff House, Boulder, CO

Flagstaff House is a restaurant located on Flagstaff Mountain, in Boulder, CO.  The property has an interesting history (originally a summer cabin), and now today a destination restaurant, with absolutely stunning views over the valley below.

Flagstaff House is an establishment generally intended for celebrations, aimed to impress.  They primarily serve a tasting menu, or a "simple" 3 course menu for $88, with your choice of "1st" (essentially appetizers, with great options like pate, burrata, etc), "2nd" (seemingly small entrees, including foie gras, seafood, lobster, a fantastic looking wild mushroom popover, and more), and "3rd" (heavier main dishes, like filet mignon, lamb shank, rib eye).  If you have space, desserts are an additional $12.

My visit however was for a group dinner, the other speciality of the location.  We had a large group, more than 100 people, and had the entire dining room for our event.
A Nice Looking Meal.
Our meal was a mixed success.

Everything was presented beautifully.  For large group dining in particular, they nailed this.

The ingredients were clearly high quality, well sourced, and prepared well.

The staff were attentive, pacing was reasonable, and they were clearly professionals in all ways, very experienced with doing large events, as I think it is a common wedding venue.

That said, I didn't love my main dish (although a co-worker had a fantastic option), and I really disliked the main dessert (although I had a replacement).  So, mixed.

I'd be happy to return not for an event, to see how the restaurant does when not serving so many people at once, and, having the chance to order off the regular menu.  Oh, and to get that amazing dessert again ...
Dinner Menu.
I was there for a private event with a streamlined 3 course menu: salad (no option), main (beef, fish, duck), and single dessert.

Our lineup was:
Cure Farms Mixed Lettuces: Goat Cheese, Vegetables, Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette. 
Choice of:

  • Filet Mignon & Braised Short Ribs / yukon gold potato puree, broccoli, sauce of cabernet sauvignon
  • Nova Scotia Halibut / gnocchi, Haricot Vert, Tree Oyster Mushrooms, Arugula Pesto.
  • Rohan Duck Breast / orange braised barley, goat cheese, plum coulis

Honeycrisp Apple Tart / Maple & Cinnamon Ice Cream
I selected the halibut, but also got to try the filet.  One of these was fantastic, the other, highly mediocre.  Kudos for offering something other than chicken too, but I wasn't excited about the duck.

I also managed to have a different dessert, more in this soon, that was truly incredible.
The staff did a great job of getting beverages in front of everyone nearly as soon as we were seated.  There were two choices for red and white wine.  I started with white, a chardonnay, but really did not like it - really harsh and acidic, so I switched over to red, the pinot noir.  I didn't like it either.  So I switched to the other red, a cabernet.  You guessed it.  I didn't like that either!

I'm not sure if I was just being really picky, or if these were low end wines, or what was going on, but I really disliked every single one of them.
Garlic Roasted Focaccia & Red Salt Butter.
After we placed our orders, bread service was presented tableside, with a server coming around with a basket.

The bread, garlic roasted focaccia, was above average: warm (thank you!), moist, and really quite good, although there was not much garlic flavor.  Bread was generously offered and re-offered for a short time period, after which, we never saw the bread guy again, which was unfortunate, because I would have liked some with the main dish to lap up sauces.

The butter was also better than average, served soft (thank you! No ripping the bread trying to apply hard butter),topped with large crystals of red salt.
"Goat Cheese, Vegetables, Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette."

We had no choice for starter, just, salad.  My notes on this were pretty simple, "nice looking, but, boring".  Which about sums it up.

The mixed lettuce salad changes out seasonally at Flagstaff House, and, being fall, it featured fall vegetables, raw sliced beets (both red and yellow) and fennel.  The creamy component was supposed to come from goat cheese, but since I hate goat cheese, I had that left off mine (no problem, I just mentioned it when giving my main dish order).  I was sad to have missed the summer vegetable version that ended a few weeks ago with parmesan cream instead.

The salad was nice looking though, vibrant from the colorful beets.  The lettuces were assorted, fresh, crisp.  Everything seemed good quality, but, very boring, and I don't really like raw beets.

The vinaigrette was just a basic vinaigrette, I didn't taste tomato.  It was lightly dressed, well mixed, again, quality, just, boring.  Much better than most wedding reception offerings, with wilty lettuce or a big clump of dressing dumped on top.

The salad lacked any seasoning, and I joked about "where is the fresh ground pepper?", until I heard the next table mentioning that there wasn't even salt and pepper shakers around.

So, kudos for plating it fresh, sourcing good ingredients, and not drowning it in dressing, but, bo-ring.
"Gnocchi, Haricot Vert, Tree Oyster Mushrooms, Arugula Pesto."

I was really, really, really thrilled at our options for the main course.  I looked right past the duck, the filet, and zeroed in on the seafood option.  Halibut.  One of my favorite seafoods.  And gnocchi?  I love gnocchi.  And fancy earthy mushrooms?  This dish was totally up my alley.  This dish is also on the regular dinner menu, with blue crab added to it, which sounds even better.

The presentation was lovely, thin sliced haricot vert and herbs perched on top, a nice sized piece of halibut, with the gnocchi, mushrooms, and pesto underneath.  The dish was a mixed success.

The halibut should have been the star of the plate, but, sadly it was not great.  It was lukewarm, and dried out.  Oooph.  Clearly it suffered from the group serving. I could do without the haricot vert on top, not that there was anything wrong with it, just not really a component I wanted.

The gnocchi though were quite tasty, cheesy, soft yet slightly crisp.  I wished there was more.  The pesto too was quite good, and there was plenty of it.  I loved the flavor and texture of the pesto.  And I adored the few chunks of tree oyster mushrooms that I had.

So the base of the plate?  Fantastic.  Loved that.  I would have been quite pleased with a full size vegetarian dish of gnocchi, pesto, and mushrooms.  Really though, I think if this was served normally at the restaurant, rather than in the group setting, it likely would have succeeded.
Main: Filet Mignon & Braised Short Ribs.
"Yukon gold potato puree, broccoli, sauce of cabernet sauvignon."

My neighbor opted for the filet mignon.  I don't normally take pictures of dishes I don't intend to eat, but, I was blown away when I saw it.  Perfect mid-rare?  For a group?  And yes, every plate that came out of this kitchen looked like this.  They did a far better job with the steak than the fish.

Eventually I sheepishly asked if I could try a bite of the potatoes, mostly because I was so sad that my entree was lackluster.  The potatoes were nicely done, incredibly smooth and creamy, definitely a potato puree as advertised, not a mashed potato.  I liked the cabernet sauce with them.

And then my companion offered a bite of the filet.  I didn't say no.

It was as good as it looked.  Incredibly tender.  Juicy, nicely cooked, quality product.  I'm not sure where the "braised short ribs" listed on the menu were though?

He clearly "won" the entree round.  We also had someone who ordered the duck, and it didn't look great, a little dried out, and paired with grains ... eh.
Whipped Cream, Sugars, Chips, Mints?
After our dishes were cleared, each table received one of these trays, with no explanation.

The two corners looked like they housed a little whipped cream.  The middle edges were mini chocolate chips and white chocolate chips.  The very center looked like Jordan almonds at first glance, but were clearly not quite the right shape.  And everything else ... looked like fancy salts?  We were confused.

I'm used to pre-desserts and whatnot, but this was just odd.  Also, our table had 6 people, and only one of these platters?  With only 3 of the little colorful almond looking things?

Finally, we asked someone about it, and we were told it was for the coffee service.  Even once we were offered coffee, no one told us what it was though.  Finally we asked again, and were told the whipped cream was unsweetened cream (offered instead of cream or milk for the coffee), and that the items that looked like salts were different sugars.  Still no details on what the 4 different sugars actually were (one seemed to be simple regular white granulated sugar, another had larger white crystals, another was brown sugar, and the final was almost rock candy like).  There were no details given on those middle little things (they seemed to be chocolate mints, and yes, I decided to be the rude one who took one, even though we only had 3).

I see what they were going for with this, and it was a somewhat cute and fun way to serve your cream and sugar for coffee, but ... yeah.  Odd.

That said, it didn't go to waste, we happily added whipped cream to our desserts, and nibbled on the chocolate chips ...
Decaf Coffee.
Just as our desserts were brought out, a server came by asking if we'd like coffee.  Those of us who said yes were given a mug.  Another server came by later with carafes of coffee, filling cups.

I opted for decaf since it was late, and I don't normally even drink decaf that late, but, I did want something to pair with dessert.

It was actually pretty good.  Smooth, no funk, not acidic.  I would happily drink a full mug earlier in the day, but limited myself to just a few sips alongside dessert.
 Dessert: Honeycrisp Apple Tart / Maple & Cinnamon Ice Cream.
Our dessert was ... a tart.  An apple tart.  I don't really care for tarts, and I don't really care for apples.  Sure, it had ice cream with it, but, eh!  Never what I'd pick.

In my dietary constraints though, along with my severe watermelon allergy and moderate avocado allergy, I also had my aversion to pine nuts, goat cheese, and apples.  And thus, a replacement dessert was offered (more soon).

But, uh, luckily for dessert loving me, there was someone who didn't want their apple tart, so I actually got to try that as well.  No buyer's remorse here!

The tart wasn't very good.  Served lukewarm.  Topped with sliced cooked spiced apples, not too mushy, but also just very boring.  The tart base was a thin chunk of pastry, not thick at all, very lost with the apples.

On top was ice cream, I think housemade, and actually decent ice cream, quite creamy and smooth, although I didn't detect maple, and barely any cinnamon.  It was nice ice cream.

And then ... topped with fresh julienne apples?  This felt very out of place.  I see what the pastry chef was going for, integrating the cooked and raw versions of the same ingredient, two different textures, two different cuts of the fruit but ... raw apple on ice cream just didn't do it for me.

Overall, quite lackluster, and I'm very glad I had an alternative.
Dessert: VANILLA BEAN CRÉME BRULEE / Fresh Berries.
I was offered two options, either ice cream or crème brûlée.  As if that is a question.  I have a label on my blog just for the subject of crème brûlée.  And it had been ages since I had a crème brûlée.  I eagerly took that option, although I did ask if the seasonal new dessert from the regular menu, a spiced pumpkin custard with cinnamon meringues, pumpkin syrup, and crispy brown butter (!) was something I could select (answer: sadly, no. But how amazing does that sound?)

The crème brûlée came topped with fruit.  Tons of fruit.  Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries. A bit of an odd presentation, no question.  Isn't crème brûlée supposed to be about seeing, and experiencing, the brûlée top?  You couldn't easily perform the "tap test" under all that fruit!

But anyway.  It actually was quite good crème brûlée.  Fairly textbook, really.  The top layer did pass my tap test once I reached it, cracking with a good tap, not a wimpy layer, but not too thick either.  Lovely caramelized flavor, intense, but not burnt.

The pudding was creamy, rich, nicely set.  Nothing negative to say there, not runny nor loose, and it had decent vanilla bean flavor.

I prefer crème brûlée freshly made to order so the top is still a bit warm and the custard cold, and this clearly was done in advance, but, besides that, this was as good as a classic crème brûlée is going to get.  I was pleasantly surprised.

As for the fruit, the strawberry was a big letdown, it looked fine, ripe, red, nicely sliced and laid out, but it was very sour.  The blueberries and raspberries though were good, fresh, ripe, flavorful in the right ways.  While I didn't really want the fruit on top the crème brûlée, I'll admit that the fruit and custard, once I reached it, were a nice pairing.

Overall, this was very good, definitely in the top 10 crème brûlée I have had in my life, perhaps even top 5.  Clear highlight of the meal.  It certainly made me wonder what their other items from the regular menu are like.

On the regular dessert menu, this item is $12.
Flagstaff House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato