Friday, November 16, 2018

Simba Chips, South Africa

Snack foods!  Fun flavored chips!  Yup, some of my favorite things.  Even more fun?  Snacks from other countries.  Like South Africa, where Simba chips originate from.
"Simba chips are made from only the very best potatoes grown right here in Southern Africa, and while every young potato aspires to become a Simba Chippie, only the very best make the grade. 
Simba, the King of Snacks, is very choosy, and he guarantees that every pack will be of the highest quality, and will always Roarrrr with flavour!"
The flavors are fascinating: smoked beef, mexican chilli, cheese & onion, tomato ... along with more standard salt & vinegar or creamy cheddar.  All promise to "Roarrrr with flavour".

Since I haven't actually visited South Africa, I was only able to sample one variety, when it came in our monthly snack food box.  It made me wish I had the chance to try more.
Mexican Chilli Flavored Potato Chips.
The flavor we tried was Mexican Chilli.

It was a decent chip.  I liked the ridges style.

The salt level was good, and they had a bit of heat to them, but not as much as I was expecting.  I've had many other jalapeno chips, or similar, that packed more punch, or, uh, roar.

But a decent chip, good form factor, enjoyable.  I found myself kinda addicted to them.  If you feel the same, it is is pretty understandable why: MSG and sugar are two key ingredients.  Yum.

I'd be happy to try more of their chips.
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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Chudleigh's Baked Goods

If you happen to live in Canada, Ontario to be exact, perhaps Chudleigh’s is a household name for you, as their products are sold at local grocery stores.  If you shop at Sam's Club in the US, you may also recognize the brand.  Or, like many things, you can find them on Amazon too.  feature their apples.

But chances are, you probably have never heard of Chudleigh’s.  I hadn't either, until I had one of their signature products once (apple "blossoms"), loved it, and had to find out more.
Every Chudleigh’s treat is made with care in our own bakery, just a few minutes down the road from our family farm. And every one, from our yummy Apple Blossoms (which we invented right here, by the way) to our scrumptious cakes are made from scratch with simple, high-quality ingredients sourced with integrity from producers just like us. Frozen fresh from our ovens, you can find your Chudleigh’s bliss in your grocer’s freezer.
I learned that Chudleight's is a Canadian company, making one of my favorite things: baked goods.  Sold frozen.  At normal retailers, you can find a product line of individual cakes (pineapple upside down, molten chocolate lava, and butter toffee sticky), along with three types of blossom shaped individual fruit pies.  But in addition to being available at grocery stores, Chudleigh's also make an expanded product line available wholesale, with a slew more offerings, including more varieties of lava cake (meyer lemon, white chocolate), and additional items like key lime tarts and cookies.
Chudleigh's first invited people to visit their family's apple farm in 1967. Today, every Chudleigh's treat is still made from scratch with simple, high quality ingredients sourced with integrity. Frozen fresh from the oven, these products are fully baked and can be heated in minutes. We are proud to introduce the most heavenly Pineapple Upside Down Cake and three distinct pastry "Blossoms."
It is their wholesale products that I encountered, distributed locally in San Francisco through GourmetXpress.  After I had that first item, I quickly ordered every option they had available.  None were quite as good

Cakes

As I mentioned, Chudleigh's makes a variety of cakes, all individual cakes, bundt style, including pretty decadent looking molten chocolate, white chocolate, or lemon lava cakes, or butter toffee sticky cakes.  Alas, our distributor only carries the pineapple upside down cake.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake.
"An old fashioned dessert featuring a moist buttery cake, a sweet pineapple ring and creamy brown sugar sauce." -- GourmetXpress, Distributor

"Once upon a time, when cakes were made in cast iron skillets, hiding fruit on the bottom was how bakers made them extra special. Our Pineapple Upside-Down Cake brings back that yummy voila! with a moist, buttery sponge cake made from creamery butter, fresh buttermilk and Chudleigh’s own cake flour. We hide a real Dole® pineapple ring underneath, and drench it all in our own rich brown sugar sauce. You even get to turn it upside down yourself (and eat happily ever after)." -- Chudleigh's

This is not one I would normally pick: pineapple upside down cake.  They were quite cute, although, minus a point for no cherry.  The size was reasonable, certainly substantial, a very satisfying portion.

They were better than I expected.

The cake was light and fluffy, but crispy and slightly caramelized on the edges and bottom.  Decent enough cake, although not really my thing.

The glaze though was very tasty, sweet, somewhat boozy almost, and it seeped into the top half of the cake, making it super moist.

They were ok as served at room temperature, but even better when topped with copious amounts of whipped cream.

The part thing I didn't like?  The pineapple.  Which I realize is an essential element of a "Pineapple Upside Down Cake", and I realize it was a real Dole pineapple slice, but, I just don't really like pineapple.

But I knew we could do better than this.  These products *are* supposed to be warm after all.
Pineapple Upside Down Cake (warm!)
When I had one a few weeks later, it was served warm from the oven, and that was considerably better.  The topping in particular was more enjoyable.

But to really make it better, it needed to be paired with vanilla ice cream to balance the sweetness, and provide the hot/cold contrast I love.  I didn't care for the pineapple in warm form either.

Blossoms

The real star of Chudleigh's offerings is their "Blossoms".  Individual sized galettes.  All made with apples, since, after all, Chudleigh's is an apple farm.  Their signature item is the apple blossom, made in two varieties: "crumble crunch" with crumble topping and "caramel apple" with caramel topping.

All are remarkably cute.  They really did look handmade by a bakery, rather than mass produced, with the blossom shape.

Also: tasty.
Caramel Apple Blossom.
"An individual serving of yummy goodness! Made with freshly peeled apples and topped with a buttery soft caramel." -- GourmeXpress, Distributor

"Caramel Apple Blossoms start with the same flaky pastry made from our own custom-milled flour blend, fresh-peeled apples, natural cane sugar and Indonesian cinnamon as all of our blossoms do. Then, something amazing happens: We top them with our home-style caramel sauce, made in small batches right in our bakery with creamery butter, whipping cream and corn syrup. Each one is hand finished for you… by people who obviously know how to resist temptation." -- Chudleigh's

I started with the Caramel Apple Blossom.

The pastry was interesting, not really a flaky style, but good enough, buttery.  Unique, not pie dough for sure, soft almost like soft cookie, but ... not.  I liked the pearl sugar on it.

The filling was cubed spiced apples, not too aggressively spiced.  Again, good.

And on top, sweet caramel.  Not quite enough for my taste, as in, MOAR CARAMEL PLEASE, but, the caramel that was there was good.

At room temperature, as served, these were fine.  They reminded me of a breakfast danish in some ways, or a galette.  Fine, and I'd have another, but not amazing.

But then I warmed one up.  The filling got softer, more "goo" like, in a good way.  The pastry crisped up a bit.  And then I added vanilla ice cream.

Warm pie.  Melty ice cream.  YES.

I really enjoyed the warm version, even though apple pie is not a favorite of mine.  I'd gladly have another.
Caramel Apple Blossom.
So of course I seek these out whenever possible.  Sometimes they come with even more caramel, like this one, pictured above.  Even better.

I'm shocked every time by just how good they are when they are warm with ice cream.  Or with whipped cream.

Really an enjoyable item, my favorite Chudleigh's item, no question.
Caramel Apple Blossoms for Days!
I like these "blossoms", so I order them often.  I don't complain when I order for 20 guests, and receive 35 pies.  Because I made an incredible discovery: I really like them cold for breakfast.   Please just go with it.  Its ... just a breakfast pastry with fruit!

Thus, I continue to love them.  Warm with vanilla ice cream is my favorite, and they way I have my first one each time.  Cold for breakfast is my second favorite, and what I do the next day ... I mean, what would *you* do with that many extra pies?

There is just something about this unique pastry, soft and buttery and cookie-like, the gooey well spiced filling, and the caramel that does it for me.  Over and over again.
Crumble Crunch Apple Blossom.
"A divine serving of classic apple pie, perfectly portioned and wrapped in a flaky pastry topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon and just enough crumb." -- GourmetXpress, Distributor

"Crumble Crunch Apple Blossoms start with a flaky pastry made from our own Chudleigh’s #3 flour blend. Snuggled up inside is a delectable mix of fresh-peeled, locally sourced apples, natural cane sugar and Indonesian cinnamon, and topped with a simple, delicious mixture of pastry crumbs, creamery butter, light brown sugar, rolled oats and more cinnamon." -- Chudleigh's

Next I tried the Crumble Crunch version, much like the caramel apple blossom, but without caramel, and with a crumble top.

I was excited for this,  because, although I like caramel, I also love crisps, crumbles, cobblers, etc too and the prospect of having both a crumble and a pie all at once was a promising one.

The crumble top was fine, but a bit lackluster.  Sweet, a bit of texture, but it was too easily masked by the dominating fruit and crust.  There wasn't enough to be significant enough really.

The filling was the same sliced apples in spiced goo, which for some reason this time I didn't quite care for.  Sometimes I just really get sick of apples, it is never my pie of choice.

That all said, when this was warm, and with ice cream, I still liked it.  The non-traditional crust is just quite tasty that way.  I also had it with whipped cream, which wasn't as successful.  And I had it with salted caramel ice cream, thinking the caramel would compliment the apples, but, the best was still just simple vanilla.

I should try another when I'm in the mood for apple pie.
Apple Berry Blossom (formerly known as Bumble Blossoms).
"Homestyle pie made with freshly peeled apples, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries in a flaky pastry." -- GourmetXpress, Distributor

"Nothing tastes like a sunny afternoon in the country the way berries do. Apple Berry Blossoms bring back that blissful feeling with a summery blend of fresh-peeled apples, blackberries, raspberries and wild blueberries, tucked into a flaky blossom pastry made with Chudleigh’s #3 flour. We finish each one by hand, and dress it up for you with an extra dollop of fruit and crunchy coarse sugar so it looks every bit as good as it tastes." -- Chudleigh's

And finally, apple berry.

The apple berry blossom was similar, same crust, and cubes of apple, plus a mixed berry goo on top.  No caramel.

The goo was sweet and fruity, but reminded me of fairly generic breakfast danish filling, although it did also have some bits of fruit in it.

This one was fine, but I preferred the apple.  It did make me wish they made other, non-apple, based varieties though.
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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Breakfast Buffet, Residence Inn Boulder Canyon, Boulder, CO

The "joys" of business travel.  Lackluster hotel breakfast buffets.

I tend to try #allTheThings, but, the Residence Inn lineup looked so lackluster that even I avoided most of it.  They do have one signature item however ...
Standard Residence Inn Lineup.
I've only stayed at one other Residence Inn property before, but I think the lineup is essentially the same at all their properties.  Which for me, means one thing: waffles and *all* the toppings.

I get sick of this lineup very quickly, as it doesn't change, and literally nothing else is good, but, the waffles really do it for me the first day or two.

Setting

Breakfast is served in a back room adjacent to the bar area, utilizing space they open up just for breakfast, plus the normal bar area.
Breakfast Room.
Breakfast is a buffet, self serve.

Regular plates are available for dining in, or paper to take back to your room.  No takeaway boxes, and no takeaway cutlery.
Seating.
The breakfast seating is fairly large, with small tables, high tables, and a long communal bar.  Seat yourself, bus your own table, casual.  This is not a fancy place.

Drinks

The drink lineup is basic: water, juice, coffee, tea.
Juice.
I never tried the juice fountain, with apple, cranberry, orange, and lemonade.
Coffee / Tea.
For hot beverages, most days featured two dispensers of "Bold", one hot water, and one decaf. 

I've had Residence Inn coffee before, and been rather appalled by it.  It was better here, although the regular was still not very good, in particular,  the "Bold" was sour, fairly harsh.  I didn't care for it at all, but one day "Medium" showed up, and it was slightly better.

Shockingly, the decaf was decent.  Fairly smooth, not acidic, not harsh.  No depth, not amazing or anything, but better than expected.

All types of sweetener, milk (including soy), creamers (including flavored), caramel syrup, and cinnamon toppings were available on the side, along with takeaway cups or mugs for dining in.

Food

The food offerings were essentially the same every day, basic, but did include continental and hot items. Plus the signature DIY waffle station, of course.

Continental

The continental lineup is as simple as it gets: breads, spreads, cereal, yogurt, fruit.

Bread Station (Day One): Bagels, English Muffins.

The bread lineup was interesting.  As in, no sliced bread the first day.  No toast.  Bagels, plain or cinnamon raisin only, and english muffins.  They were clearly "grocery store" caliber bagels, very bready, no crust.

A sign said gluten-free items were available on request, I'm not sure what was offered.

I was amused at the choice of toasters, conveyor style or regular traditional toaster.  Your pick.

But no toast, and no baked goods or pastries (!) that day.
Bread Station (Day Two): Bagels, English Muffins, Wheat Bread, Coffee Cake.
The next day, the bread station had a few new additions, just generic looking wheat bread, and a plate of something unlabeled on the bottom.
Breakfast Special (Tuesday): Coffee Cake.
The unlabeled offering turned out to be coffee cake.

I was amused by the presentation of the coffee cake, just on a paper plate.  It honestly looked homemade.

It was decent though, moist enough, slight streusel top, cinnamon filling.
Breakfast Special (Wednesday): Cinnamon Rolls.
On the third day, the "bonus" item on the bottom was cinnamon rolls.

Again, fairly homemade looking, with tons of icing all over the plate.  They didn't look awful ...

I eagerly took one, and tried it at room temperature.  It ... was fairly dry, hard, stale.  Eh.

So I put it into the conveyor toaster, after checking the clearance (I know better than to put tall items into the conveyor!)  But ... I clearly didn't judge it right, because as it reached the back, it jammed.  Smoke started pouring out.  Ooph.  Staff sprung into action, got out a fan, shut it off, removed it, etc, but I was horrified that I did this offense.  Sigh.

I took another, brought it to my room, and microwaved it for 15 seconds, which helped a lot - softer, icing oozing all over, but it still wasn't great.  Not really worth any of the effort.
Breakfast Special (Thursday): Chocolate Croissants/Turnovers.
The next day, a new item.

These ones get points for being warm, clearly fresh from the oven when I arrived around 8:30am.  I wonder if the first morning I was just too early, and the special item hadn't been set out?
Chocolate ... Croissaovers.
As always, the special was unlabeled, but I will assume they were aiming for chocolate croissants, or, were trying to be really on trend and do a hybrid, uh, croissant-turnover?

The filling was quite generous, lots of chocolate, decent quality, slightly melty.  Not bad.

The pastry though ... I just don't know what they were going for.  It kinda looked like a croissant, but it wasn't laminated nor flaky.  It kinda looked like a turnover, but that wasn't right either.  The pastry seemed undercooked as well, kinda dense and doughy.  It tasted a bit like pie crust, even though it didn't look like it.  I really don't know what to think here.
Breakfast Special (Friday): Croissants.
My final morning featured croissants, but I skipped them, heading straight out for breakfast instead.
Cereals.
One hot item was mixed in here, a vat of hot oatmeal.  No toppings in this area, but those come soon, trust me.

Two types of milk were provided, one labelled as 2%, the other ... whole? Skim? Soy?  Who knows.

The cold cereals were all Kellogg's brand, in annoying dispensers that dumped way too much product (or, none at all).

There was some ... questionable signage here.  Every item had two signs.  Was the first one Frosted Flakes or Raisin Bran?  Answer: Frosted Flakes.  Cheerios or granola?  Granola.  Fruit Loops? Nope, Cocoa Krispies.  Unlabeled bonus item on the end, Raisin Brand.
Oh, I see.
On the third day, everything made sense.  Well, as much sense as it was going to.

They clearly needed to refill the cocoa crispies/fruit loops dispenser, so, uh, added Fruit Loops on top.  *NOW* the signage at least made sense, but, it was just a tease.  "Eat all the cocoa crispies and you can have some fruit loops!", it seemed to taunt.

Or maybe they want people to rip the tops off and use their grubby hands to fetch the fruit loops out directly? :)
Yogurt.
Next, yogurt.

Basic Danon Light n Fit original flavor only, a couple flavors of Chobani, and their own branded lowfat Greek.

I tried the Greek, it was sour, not very creamy, not great.  Sad, since Colorado is home to my favorite brand of US based yogurt (Noosa).
Fruit / Eggs / Cheese.
The fruit options were meager: sliced melon, grapes, or bananas.  

Two types of sliced cheese were offered, very yellow cheddar, or brie.

And hard boiled eggs.

Nothing here looked very appealing.

Hot Foods

Most of the hot food was a standard sad buffet line.
Hot Buffet.
The hot buffet was ... interesting.  Don't believe the signs.  Also interesting was the entire lack of potato dish (hash browns, home fries, etc), complete lack of vegetable, and no pancakes/french toast/etc (although, stay tuned for waffles!).

Both the regular scrambled eggs and scrambled whites were labelled "scrambled eggs", complete with visuals of yellow eggs.  They looked dried out, yet dripping in water.  I stayed far away.
"Pork Sausage."
Next, "pork sausage".

Um.  "Sausage"?  It may have been pork, but, uh, "sliced deli ham" is what I'd go with.  Also wet and slimy looking.

I quickly moved on.
Turkey Sausage.
After those lackluster eggs and "pork sausage", you'd think I'd keep moving on.  But ... I do sometimes love sausage patties, particularly when slathered in syrup.

So ... I took one.

It. Was. Horrible.

Soggy.  Limp.  Questionable texture.  No flavor.  Questionable ingredients.

Do NOT get this.  Just don't.
Pork Sausage (Day Three).
Another day, the "pork sausage" at least looked more correct.  So, I gave it a try.  Why?  Because I don't learn from my mistakes.

Just as awful as the turkey patty.  The texture was just sooo strange.  Limp.  Mushy.  So, so very bad.

Do NOT get this either.  Please, don't.  Trust me.
DIY Waffles!
The waffle station though ... this I knew to look forward to. And not just because it was waffles.  Yes, I love waffles, but, what breakfast buffet really has waffles that are worth it?

When I stayed at my first Residence Inn I was blown away by the waffles.  I loved the flavor to the batter, the DIY setup, and, wowzer, the toppings.  The Boulder Canyon setup is slightly less extensive in the toppings department, but, the waffle base is clearly the same.

You have your choice of waffle style, full size classic Belgian waffle, or, minis!  I love doing the minis, as they seem to cook better, more surface area, more crispy bits.  The best part about the DIY setup, besides that you get them hot and fresh and not sitting in chafing pans, is that you can control the cook level.  Do you want them crispy? Doughy?  Your choice!
Toppings.
And finally, the toppings station.  This was toppings for everything: bagels, oatmeal, waffles, etc.

Here we had Smucker's brand peanut butter, grape or strawberry jelly (including low sugar), butter,  Nutella, Philly cream cheese (plain only), and Smucker's brand breakfast syrup (including low sugar), all in individual packages. There is additional unlabeled syrup in a dispenser (honey? More pancake syrup?), plus sliced almonds, granola, dried cranberries, raisins, coconut flakes, and chocolate chips, all likely intended for the oatmeal.  Shakers of cinnamon, cocoa, and even spicy chili are available to dazzle things up.

And ... whipped cream.  Yes, just a can, but, <3.  One morning however there was no whipped cream, no place for it even, so I had to ask for it, even though it was near the end of service.  No one else noticed?
#breakfastOfChampions.
The waffles were my highlight, although after the first day or two, I wished there was something else in the buffet I actually liked.

I again appreciated the decent base, some tang and flavor to it, and the waffle irons do cook the waffles pretty perfectly for this style of waffle.  Sure, these aren't ever going to be liege waffles, but for what they are, they are good.

Of course, adding chocolate chips is key (they melt in so nicely!), or perhaps Nutella, if that is your thing.  And, copious amounts of whipped cream.  And a sidecar of syrup, for dunking.
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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Airport Dining: Takeout from Yankee Pier @ SFO

More airport dining.

At SFO terminal 3, there are two restaurants with similar menus: the Giants Clubhouse and Yankee Pier, around the corner from each other.  Both have clam chowder.  Both have fries.  Both have caesar salad.  Both have simple ice cream sundaes.  When I got off my flight, these things all sounded good to me.  But the Giants Clubhouse gets even worse reviews than Yankee Pier, so I didn't really trust it for the seafood, or even my precious dessert.  Thus Yankee Pier was my destination.
Soup, Salad, Dessert. $30?!
I settled on the clam chowder, a caesar salad, and ice cream sundae, all for takeout.  Not exciting, but simple, and what I was craving off my flight.

One of these items was amazing.  The others ... beyond mediocre.
Interior.
The restaurant is a full service restaurant, although it also has walk-in bar seating, and offers takeout.  Since I didn't want to sit in the restaurant and have a longer meal, I opted for takeout, intending to take leftovers home easily, and just go to the nearby foodcourt to eat more quickly.
Signage.
I wanted a dessert, and the menu listed three options: a simple sundae, scoops of ice cream, or  "Seasonal dessert: Please ask your server."  I asked what desserts were available, and I was told, "Do you want to see a menu?  Here, here is a menu," and the menu was thrust at me.  "It says to ask you?"
 I said.  The bartender, who you order takeout from, glared at me.  "I think we have cheesecake", is all she said.  Hmm.  Not such a "seasonal" dessert.  So I asked what kind of ice cream they had.  "Vanilla."  Well, ok then.  I guess I'd get the sundae?

It was easy to place my order at the bar, and my food arrived quickly.  But the packaging was horrible, nearly every box/bowl making a mess.
New England Clam Chowder (Cup). $7.95.
I have many things to say about this clam chowder.

First, I'm going to start with the portion.  Because it was ... striking.  What you see is what I got.  Yes, a reasonable size little bowl, but not even half full.  Um.  Ok.  The portion size was laughable, which might be ok given that this was the "cup" and they do sell a "bowl" as well, but for $7.95, I expected more than 3 spoonfuls of chowder.  The "bowl" is $11, and even filling this would be less than I expect for that price.

Moving on. Next, packaging.  The lid didn't really fit tight, and, even walking with it to the food court nearby, it spilt everywhere.  Horrible mess.  For takeout intended to be brought on flights, and an item I'm sure is a top takeout item, this made no sense.

Now that I'm done being grumpy about my tiny messy portion, I'll review the actual chowder.

It was fine.  Served hot enough.  Creamy.  Not too watery.  Chunks of skin-on red potatoes and celery rounded out the chowder, plus ... I guess a few clams?  Pretty sure I had ... 3? clams total.  And maybe 10 little pieces of potato and 5 chunks of celery.  I'm not joking.  This portion was tiny, and not exactly loaded up.  But the potatoes were well cooked, not too soggy.

It lacked seasoning though, I wished I at least had cracked pepper to add.

For $7.95 this was just ... not really acceptable.
Classic Caesar Salad. $6.95.
"Parmesan, Croutons."

The Caesar also failed in the packaging department.  As I was handed my bag, the bartender even said, "oh, watch out, the salad box opened up, they don't really shut well."  Awesome.  Luckily, I wasn't going far.

And luckily, it was an awesome Caesar.

Yes, it was just a classic Caesar.  But ... it was a really, truly good Caesar.  One of the best I've had in years, actually.  Juicy, fresh, hearts of romaine.  No brown spots in sight.  Huge shreds of decently aged parmesan.  Really quite a good foundation.

The croutons were the shocker, really well seasoned, garlicky, herby.  I truly enjoyed the croutons.  Far, far better than the croutons from the Giants Clubhouse restaurant around the corner.

And then, the critical component, the dressing.  Super thick, great flavor (yes, I tasted anchovy!), texture from grated parmesan, properly seasoned with pepper.  Fantastic Caesar dressing, and I'm pretty picky about my Caesar.  I truly loved this dressing.

For me, this was a perfect Caesar.  Every element was exactly the style I like.  The portion was fine for the price.  I'd get this again in an instant.  In fact, I want more now.
Funday Sundae. $7.95.
"Vanilla ice cream, fudge & caramel sauce, whipped cream."

I also wanted dessert.  Since my options were cheesecake, plain vanilla ice cream, or a sundae (see above), I went for the sundae, as it seemed to hold the most promise, and I do love ice cream.

Let's just say ... this was not a premium sundae.   I regretting getting it fairly instantly.

The ice cream was simple vanilla ice cream, a bit icy, and freezer burned.  No idea what brand.  Not particularly creamy, no vanilla bean flavor.  The Giants Clubhouse at least uses Strauss vanilla ice cream, and I wished I had gotten my sundae there instead.

The "fudge" was actually just chocolate sauce, thin, watery chocolate sauce, from a bottle.  There was a tiny bit of watery thin caramel as well.  The whipped cream came from a can, generic brand.  They threw a cherry on top, but, coated it in chocolate sauce, so no pop of red here.

Overall, this was as lackluster of a sundae as you can possibly get.  Low end ice cream, whip cream, and sauces, all quite generic, no nuts, no other toppings, and $7.95 for two tiny scoops?

Not worth the price, not very good, and really a shame.  Next time I'll try the Giants Clubhouse one.
Yankee Pier Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Monday, November 12, 2018

Catering from North India Restaurant

I really like Indian food.  However, I enjoy it in a strange way.  I know my preferences aren't standard.

First, I don't like rice (unless in dessert, as rice pudding).  So I never use rice as a base.  Second, I don't like beans or legumes, or potatoes really, so all lentil or chickpea based dishes, all the dal, all the aloo dishes, they are out.  I don't really care for yogurt, so, goodbye, raita.  I hate lamb, and don't like chicken.  And, although I love dessert, I tend to not care for Indian desserts, they are too sweet, and I don't care for rosewater and cardamom that much.

And yet I say I like Indian food?  I really do!  I enjoy the spicing, I adore paneer, and I truly love the sauces.  And I like naan as my base, dunking it into sauces brings me great joy.  Oh, and I like my Indian food best when I can combine all sorts of things.

Which basically means, um, I either need to dine with large sharing groups, or, go to Indian buffets (side note, if you are ever in Woburn, MA, go to Zaika Indian for the lunch buffet!)

I'll get to the review now, I promise.  I just wanted to set the context.
Diwali.
Thus, I was thrilled when my apartment building hosted a Diwali event with catering from local favorite, North India, and set up a giant buffet.  I've had food from North India before, and although the food was good, the delivery experience was so poor I never considered them again.

This was a chance for me to try it again.  And even in a catered setting, it was great.  It is time to give them another chance, clearly.
Catered Buffet.
Our hosts arranged a great lineup: appetizers (complete with sauces!), rice and naan, veggie curries, meat curries, and even dessert.  They used nearby ovens to keep food warm.  Kudos to our organizer.
Appetizer: Vegetable Pakora & Chutney.
"Mixed vegetable fritters delicately spiced."

Our hosts selected just one appetizer ... and not samosa!  I quasi-like samosa, but, as I said, potatoes, eh.  I was thrilled to instead see mixed vegetable pakora, always a favorite of mine.

However, these did not work well for catering.  Sooooo soggy.  Soft, mushy, not crispy fritters as they should be.

Rather than throw them out though, I saved them and toasted them up the next day in my toasted oven.  MUCH better.  The batter was nicely spiced, and inside was a mix of chunks of potato, onions, spinach, and cauliflower.  I really liked the onion, decent sized pieces, slightly sweet.

The green chutney was a surprise ... that was not standard cilantro mint chutney! It was crazy spicy. Great heat, but unexpected.  The tamarind sauce was very thin, hard to utilize well because it was so runny.

(And sorry for the horrible photo, I was taking photos as moving through the buffet, and clearly, uh, missed on this one).

I can't fairly evaluate the pakora, and would need to have it at the restaurant itself.  Certainly not recommended for catering or delivery though.
Side: Raita.
"Refreshing yogurt with herbs, cucumber, carrots, & roasted cumin."

We also had a comical amount of raita, a huge serving pan.  People took a little as a condiment, but we barely made a dent.

I tried a little just to try it.  It was ... fairly standard raita.  Creamy, tangy, spiced yogurt, a bit too heavy on the cumin for me.  Good as a cooling element alongside the spicer curries.
Side: Garlic Naan.
"Naan studded with garlic and cilantro."

The naan also definitely suffered from catering/delivery serving style, just like when I ordered it for delivery.

Lukewarm at best, soggy, limp.  Hard to say how good this is normally, you could see char marks on it so I think decently made, but soggy limp naan isn't great. I didn't taste any garlic either.
Side: Pulao.
"Steamed basmati rice with peas." 

I skipped the rice, per above, but it looked decently fluffy.
Vegetarian: Dal.
"Assorted lentils delicately spiced & sautéed with ginger & garlic."

I don't like lentils so I skipped the dal, but it looked creamy and nicely spiced.
Vegetarian: Aloo Mattar.
"Potatoes and green peas cooked in a curry sauce." 

This was by far the least appealing looking dish.  Sooooo much oil on top.  It took me a minute to figure out which dish it was.  The allo mattar?  Huh.

A vegetarian curry, potatoes and peas, so where was all the oil coming from?  Given how bad it looked, and the fact that I don't care for potatoes, not sure why, but I tried a bite to taste the curry.  It was nicely spiced, but, eh, not for me.
Vegetarian: Saag Paneer.
"Cubes of homemade cheese sautéed with spinach & spices "

Next, another vegetarian main dish, perhaps cliche, but one of my favorites.  It is what I had from North India when I ordered delivery before.  This did not disappoint.

A creamy rich style, with good spicing, well cooked down greens, but not mushy.  Generous amount of paneer, soft fresh tasting cubes, good salt level.

A very good dish, but certainly a richer style.  My favorite dish, I'll gladly get it again.  I loved it combined with the sauce from the next dish ...
Main: Chicken Tikka Masala.
"Barbecued boneless white meat sauteed with herbs, spices and tomatoes." 

And last ... another winner.  Butter chicken, butter chicken, butter chicken.  When I ordered from North India before I lamented the lack of butter chicken on the menu, but, it turns out, their tikka masala is basically butter chicken.

The sauce was incredible.  Very very rich, very creamy, spiced tomato sauce.  Excellent flavor, but not as spiced as most masala sauces, and a sweeter style, more tomato forward.  I'm sure our hosts ordered mild, and I did wish for more heat, but I really liked the sauce.  I went back and got a cup full, a cup just of sauce, because honestly I could drink it (or, you know, use to dip the naan).

I am not a chicken eater, but I did try a chunk, and it was quite good.  Very moist, great tandoori flavor, and yes, all white meat, nice sized chunks.  If all chicken was like this, perhaps I could start liking chicken again.

Overall, my second favorite dish of the night, just due to the sauce, and I'd get it again in a heartbeat.
Dessert: Galub Jamun.
"Milk dumplings in rose flavored sugar syrup."


And dessert!  While I love desserts, I don't normally really like Indian desserts that much, as I'm not a fan of rosewater, and the style of desserts just aren't really what I go for, with rice pudding as the exception (except, I didn't like the version from North India).  And galub jamun in particular I generally find quite lackluster - too sweet syrup, too fried balls, strange texture.  I always want them to just be donuts or something.

But I couldn't resist trying one.

Um, it was delicious too. I don't understand. Just like the chicken, I had the though "gee, if all galub jamun was this good, maybe I'd like it more regularly ...."

The balls were really moist, soft, not too fried, great texture.  They absorbed tons of syrup.  The syrup, obviously sweet, but not cloying like it often is.  Just, really enjoyable.  Put the galub jamun I had a few days prior to shame.

I went back for seconds, which I assure you, I've never done for galub jamun before.
North India Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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