Friday, January 04, 2019

KingOfPOP Popcorn

KingofPop is a online only popcorn distributor, who produces exclusively for gift baskets and popcorn of the month clubs.  Yes, this is an entire business.
"Wow them with the gourmet gift of a handcrafted popcorn tin. Our delicious popcorn has been pleasing the people since we started making the stuff in small batches in 2012. Our gourmet popcorn is offered in close to 20 unique flavors and is focused on delivering a freshness our customers can taste. Our flavor offerings are made from scratch every day, using non-GMO corn grown in the USA, and the finest available ingredients. Each batch is rigorously tested for a crisp bite, satisfying taste, and five-star quality appearance, resulting in an irresistible snack for all to enjoy."
Given my love of snacks, and popcorn in particular, I obviously had to try them, and had the opportunity over the holidays when gift baskets started pouring in to the office.  Others rejected their gift baskets, but you know, one man's trash ... is totally my treasures!
"We all l-o-v-e movie popcorn, but no longer is it just a film night side-kick. Sure, it’s still great to munch on while you’re keeping up with pop culture, but we’ve given this snack one heck of a makeover and you’ll find that your favorite snack is now not just tastier, but way more versatile. Delicious, fun, and always handcrafted, our gourmet popcorn is nothing less than the best."
I didn't look into the company all that much, besides to see that they offer a wide variety of gift basket formats (lots of towers!), for a variety of occasions, with a slew of holiday specials.
"When it comes to handcrafted gourmet popcorn, leave the flavor profiles to us. We pride ourselves on our ability to come up with enticing popcorn flavors that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you coming back for more, one kernel at a time. From sweet and savory kettle corn, to peanut butter cup, to cheesy cheddar, and classic caramel, there’s simply a flavor for every taste."
I tried several varieties, not ones I would have picked necessarily, but the ones that were included in our baskets.   If I were able to pick, the Hickory Maple Bacon Kettle Corn, Birthday Cake, Cookies & Cream, Peanut Butter Cup, or Mint Cookie Mayhem would have been near the top of my list.  Given what I did try ... eh, I wasn't impressed.
Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper Kettle Corn.
"Delectable, hand crafted popcorn lightly coated with sugar, drizzled with oil, and then rolled in sea salt and freshly cracked pepper."

"Irresistibly crisp handcrafted kettlecorn that's speckled with sea salt and cracked pepper."

I like kettle corn.  I like savory popcorn.  It seems, I do not like savory kettle corn.

This was just ... strange.  The sweet kettle corn was fine, nicely glazed. The salty element was also good with the kettle corn.  But, the huge chunks of black pepper?  Not so good.

Sweet + pepper just wasn't a winning combination for me.  Maybe I just don't like pepper popcorn though?
Sea Salt & Cracker Pepper Kettle Corn.
I gave it another try, when we got another box.  Same flavor, just a different color box.

This batch was more like caramel corn than kettle corn, darker, more sugary.  

But ... I still don't want pepper on my sweet popcorn!
Cinnamon & Brown Sugar Kettle Corn.
"Handcrafted gourmet popcorn that's dusted with brown sugar and freshly ground cinnamon.
Delicious gourmet popcorn that gives you a kick of sweet cinnamon taste with every bite."

Next, cinnamon and brown sugar.  This was ... well, better than the pepper kettle corn.

It was decent, the cinnamon and brown sugar flavors were both pronounced, and they didn't clash too badly.

But there wasn't anything special about this, and its not a flavor I found myself ever craving.
Candy Cane Peppermint Kettle Corn.
"Sweet and salty kettle corn handcrafted to perfection with speckles of peppermint candy cane."

Finally, peppermint kettle corn.  This one I expected to really love.

It was pretty. Pink.  Nicely coated kernels.

But the peppermint only barely came through, and I didn't like the flavor of the base popcorn.  

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Flamigni Panettone

Flamigni is an Italian producer of Italian baked goods and confections, around since 1930, and now readily imported into the US.  Panettone (an Italian Christmas bread) is one of their prize products.

I did not seek out this company.  Instead, I ordered, for a special event, traditional panettone from a source widely acclaimed as the best in the world.  However, it was sold out entirely, and my distributor ... provided a substitution.  Sigh.  I had *very* explicitly picked my panettone!  They thought I would be happy as this one was only $15 per loaf instead of $50.  But, um ... yeah, not what I wanted.

I still gave the selections a try though.
Gift Boxes of Panettone.
"Panettone was invented in Milan, but has then conquered entire Italy. It is the symbol of Christmas and the Italian sweet best known abroad. It represents Italian traditional food culture for festivities. Flamigni produces its panettoni with high quality natural ingredients. Production processes follow traditional criteria and some phases are characterized by a manual intervention in order to exalt the goodness of ingredients. Panettone is a genuine and digestible product, since Flamigni aims to create healthy products of high organoleptic quality."
Flamigni has several packaging styles for the panetonne, all traditional approaches, ready for gifting.  Some come in colored burlap sacks, our came boxed and wrapped in holiday paper with string tied around.
Classic Loaf Packaging.
Inside the box the loaf was then packaged in a plastic bag, tied just with a twisty tie.  Shelf life is about 5 months, which surprised me when I saw it wasn't really sealed tightly.  Mass production.

Flamigni makes 3 product lines of panetonne: Classics, "Our Recipes" (each featuring fruit from different region in Italy and chocolate), and Gran Crema (creme filled!).  I didn't pick the ones I had, but I tried a classic, and a "Our Recipe".  I certainly would have preferred a cream filled one.

Overall, I was pretty down on this brand.  It really is just mass produced long shelf life bakery product ... as good as you'd expect.


"This range includes classic recipes: Panettone Milano, tall or low, Piedmont traditional sugar iced Panettone, sugar iced Panettone with almonds, Panettone without candied fruit, Panettone with chocolate drops, Panettone with muscat raisins, Veneziana and Margherita."
Our group had the most simple one, the Classico, traditional recipe.
"A traditional Italian holiday sweet bread. Buttery, pillowy-soft, and studded with candied orange peel and raisins. Tucked into a gift-wrapped box."

"An unglazed Milanese-style panettone with sultanas and candied citrus zest. Presented in a hand-wrapped rustic gift box."

We started with the Classico.  It was loaded with raisins.  Ugh, raisins.  Sooo many raisins.  Second ingredient, after wheat flour.

I hated the raisins.  They weren't a hard style at least, they were fairly plump, but I just don't like raisins, and they took over entirely.

The candied orange peel was a bit better, it had a nice chew and sweetness, but, I also don't really care for citrus.

These mix-ins are not ones I ever would have chosen, and, as expected, I didn't care for.
Classico: Side View.
But what about the bread itself?

Also lackluster.  Some panettone comes as lofty, beautiful loaves.  And Flamigni does make a taller version, but ours were the smaller, 1.1lb size.  They honestly looked a bit ... flat, shrunken.

I started with the simplest serving style, just a slice at room temperature, alongside my morning coffee.

The bread was ... eh.  It tasted mass produced and shelf-stable, honestly.  Only a slight sweetness, the exterior was a bit spongy, the flavor muted.

The base panettone just wasn't good enough to be interesting at room temperature.  I know there are other brands where even a simple slice impresses, but, this was not it.
Classico: Toasted?
However, there are many ways to serve panettone.  Slightly more effort is to toast it and slather with butter, so, I tried that.

Toasted was significantly better, as it gave a little texture from the crisp exterior, and the warmth seemed to bring out the sweetness to the bread.  Toasted with *copious* amounts of butter melted in was the only way I found any enjoyment in it.

However, it still wasn't great, so I moved on, although you can also take a dessert route, and serve with cream and sauces.  Or, turn it into french toast, bread pudding, or anything else you'd want a sweet bread as a base for.  Maybe it would work for that?

Our Recipes

"In each recipe we use a typical fruit from different Italian regions, also combined with chocolate drops. Panettone Contadino contains Italian pears, apples, peaches and apricots. Panettone pear and chocolate is made with Williams pears from South Tyrol, while Panettone with orange and chocolate contains Washington Navel oranges cultivate in Sybaris (Calabria). Also figs contained in Panettone figs and chocolate are from Calabria, while cherries used for Panettone Cherry and Chocolate are from Vignola (Emilia-Romagna). Citrons for Panettone citron and chocolate are cultivated in Diamante (Calabria) and apricots are from Campania. Ciaculli (Sicily) is the place of origin of late tangerine, Slow Food® presidium, while marrons glac├ęs came from Piedmont. 
Products in this range contain raisins which are left to macerate for hours gaining in softness and fragrance. Milano, Rhum and Chocolate, Concord Grape are its variants."
Again, I didn't pick, but, I was sent a Fig & Chocolate.  Sadness as I'd at least pick a more interesting fruit (likely cherry!).
Figs & Chocolate.
"Luscious Italian christmas bread, studded with bits of chocolate and fig - but no raisins or citrus fruit. An amazing combination - and definitely worth trying. This fig and chocolate panettone is a better value than other options out there."

"A traditional Italian holiday sweet bread. Buttery, pillowy-soft, and studded with dried figs and chocolate. Tucked into a gift-wrapped box."

I have nothing against figs, well, fresh figs, but I still would have never picked them as the dried fruit of choice.  Still, I was interested in this one since it had no raisin (meh, hard little pellets!), no citrus (eh, not what I like in my desserts), and, it had dark chocolate.

However, the figs were inescapable, as dried figs make up 14% of the product.  They were fine, fairly standard chunks of dried figs, but, eh, I certainly would have preferred a more interesting dried fruit, and Flamigni makes so many other varieties.  Still, better than raisins, they were well distributed throughout.

The dark chocolate is less abundant, only 6%, so it was harder to find the bits of that, which made me sad, since I wanted them.

So, the mix-ins ... eh.  Dried figs, sure, but they reminded me of fig newtons and just weren't exciting.  The chocolate was nice, but, there not much of it.  And the bread base itself was fine, but the texture, consistency, flavor ... none were remarkable.

It just was kinda low end panetonne with different mix-ins.  Eh.

At room temperature, it was really quite uninteresting.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Brunch, Baked Goods, and Pie, from Lou's

Lou's is a restaurant located in the town next to where I grew up.  But it isn't just a restaurant, that isn't a fair classification.  Lou's is an institution!  It has been around since 1947, when it started as a bakery.  Now it is a classic dinner-style establishment, serving breakfast and lunch (breakfast is obviously served all day), but the bakery is still a large focus, as the meals use house made items, but also they have a retail bakery in the front.  Some of their baked goods are still the most lauded items.

Speaking of being well-known, I've known about Lou's forever.  Whenever someone mentions the best crullers, muffins, or pies in the area, Lou's is bound to come up.  Yet somehow, I grew up in my hometown, just a short 20 minute drive away, and never went to Lou's.  I'm not sure how this is possible.

Ounce I turned into uh, a bit of a foodie, it was time to change that.  How could there be a great place near my home that I hadn't been to yet?  Particularly one that makes french toast out of their famous crullers?  Yes, I said it.  Cruller french toast.  I had to visit.  And, just to give a fair review, I had to visit more than once.

First, let me explain, Lou's is not a fancy place.  It really is a diner.  The placemats are paper, the dishware simple white, the cutlery flimsy.  I think the flooring is linoleum.  Like I said, not fancy.

But even though it is no-frills, and even though it has been around forever, Lou's keeps up with the trends.  They have a Facebook page, where they post glamour shots of the weekly specials every Friday.  Even if you don't live in the area, it is worth following them, just to drool.  The specials are insane, particularly the pancakes and french toasts.  I've been tempted to hop on a plane for a surprise visit to see my family, just on account of the Lou's specials.  I'm only kinda joking.

They keep up with the trends in other ways too, like listing the purveyors for the products they use, taking pride in local sourcing.  They make all the breads in house, same with the jams.  So a diner yes, and the decor would never make you think it was a notch above any other generic diner, but, it certainly is!

Most of the menu consists of combo meals, each of which could easily feed a family.  I'm not exaggerating.  A single pancake is the size of a platter.  Not a plate, a platter.

The service is adequate, but rushed.  On one visit, my waitress did an impressive job at keeping my coffee mug full at all times, on another, I needed to constantly ask for refills.  One time, while we got seated relatively quickly, we waited an excruciatingly long time for our food.  The entire place is bustling at all times.  Even if you go even during the week, there will be a wait.  Don't even attempt to go on a weekend for brunch if you aren't patient.  Of course, you can just swing in the bakery rather than getting a hot meal, and you'll be plenty satisfied if you do that.

I'll continue returning to Lou's when I visit the area, and I of course continue to drool over their specials.  One thing they are also known for, among the cooked food, is the corned beef hash.  I haven't gotten a chance to try it yet, as I was too tempted by the decadent sweets on my first visits, but I've got it queued up for next time ...

I've consolidated all my reviews below, in reverse chronological order.

Brunch, December 2017

Whenever I visit my family in NH, my mother and I have a tradition of going out to breakfast.  We've hit up all the local "hotspots", and have had varying success at different times.  One highlight was the pancakes at The Heartland Diner where they are bigger than a dinner plate, and totally customizable, but ... they are not always as consistently good.  Same with their biscuits.  I also had some great pancakes at 4 Aces Diner , but, less than stellar biscuits.

So on this visit, we returned to Lou's, in Hanover, NH where I have always loved the sausage and homemade jam, but, had some pretty awful pancakes on a previous visit.  I wanted to give *their* biscuits a try.
Breakfast for Two.
Lou's was busy as always when we arrived mid-week at 9:30am, but we were seated quickly.  Service was good, very friendly.

Food was ok, but not notable.  We are still on a never ending quest to find our consistently good breakfast spot.
Veggie Pesto Scramble, Home Fries. $11.95.
"A delicious combination of scrambled eggs cooked with basil pesto, baby spinach, and roasted red peppers, topped with mozzarella cheese. Served with choice of homefries, baked or black beans, and choice of toast, English muffin or a fresh muffin from our bakery, and homemade strawberry preserves."

My mom as always opted for a savory egg dish, something that never interests me.  I tried a bite, but, it was, well, scrambled eggs.  I didn't really taste pesto, and it had way too much mozzarella cheese for my taste (but perfectly melted).  She said it was fine, but didn't have enough red pepper chunks.

For her first side, she had the choice of homefries, baked, or black beans, and went for homefries.  I haven't really cared for them in the past, so I didn't bother trying.

So, overall, her food was fine but not noteworthy.  $11.95 is a bit high for a breakfast dish, but the portion was large (she said it could easily be 2-3 meals, and saved some for the next days), and did come with a choice of second, bread based, side too.
Morning Glory Muffin. $2.09.
For her bread choice, my mom could pick toast, an english muffin, or a fresh baked muffin from the bakery.  She said she was getting english muffin, but I pointed out that she could get a real muffin instead.  And since she was getting home fries with her scramble, she could save the muffin for a treat later ... wouldn't that be better than a generic english muffin she needed to eat right then?

She quickly agreed, particularly as she loves the Lou's morning glory muffins.

She did of course take a few bites right then.  It isn't served hot, and the butter just comes in packages on the side, but, she still couldn't resist.  And I don't blame her.  She also insisted I try it, even though I've had the Lou's muffins before, and never found them quite so magical.

It was a fine muffin, crispy top, moist inside, loaded up with shredded carrots, crunchy nuts, juicy raisins.  But ... just not my thing really.  She enjoyed it.
Homemade Buttermilk Biscuit with Strawberry Jam. $2.95.
There are two main breakfast foods I like to get at diners: pancakes and biscuits and gravy.  I've had both of these items from nearly every place we have been, but at Lou's, I'd only had the pancakes (and found them dreadful).  It was time to try the biscuits, even though I was very, very tempted by the "famous" donuts that I had to walk by as I entered, and of course, all their crazy versions of french toast.

I could have opted for the biscuits and gravy from the menu, but, that comes with two eggs, and homefries or beans.  I didn't want any of that.  I'm sure I could have asked for just a side of gravy with my biscuit, but, knowing how amazing the strawberry jam at Lou's is, I decided to just get the biscuit, and have this as a sweet item, rather than savory with gravy.

Of course, Lou's doesn't make it easy on me, one of the weekly specials also featured the biscuit, dipped in french toast batter and grilled, and filled with a sausage patty, eggs, and cheese.  The idea of the biscuit french toast was definitely appealing, but, again, I didn't want the eggs.  Could I have just gotten biscuit french toast perhaps?  With sausage patty on the side?  That I wanted!

I kept it simple, and ordered from the menu, just the biscuit with jam, from the "Extra Yummies" section.

I asked for the biscuit grilled/toasted, and was assured that is how it is always served.  A good sign.

It was quite a good looking biscuit.  Huge.  Seriously huge.  Shiny top.  Lofty.  It came split and grilled as I asked.  Not sure if they buttered it, or if it was just oily from being cooked on the grill top.

The biscuit was good, nicely flaky.  Decent buttermilk flavor.  Like the muffin, it came with hard  packets of Cabot butter on the side.

I was so excited for my jam though, the strawberry jam has always been a highlight, so much so that I've purchased jars to take home, even when my mom makes her own coveted strawberry jam.

But ... I didn't love the jam for some reason.  It didn't have the big chunks of strawberry I remembered, it wasn't as flavorful, it wasn't as sweet.  I know not all batches can possibly be the same, and maybe the berry picking that year wasn't as good, but, it was really just lackluster.

Without gravy, and without amazing jam, the biscuit was really just, a biscuit.  A decent biscuit, but nothing I wanted to rave about.
 Sausage Patties. $3.25.
I also ordered a side of sausage, since I've adored the sausage before, and was excited to eat one patty with my biscuit, and take the other home.

The sausage though wasn't what I remembered.  It wasn't very well prepared either, kinda soggy, not very crispy on the exterior.  But it also just wasn't very flavorful.  It was fine, but, not remarkable.

I did drizzle some syrup on it, as I love sausage and syrup, and that was fine, but, I still didn't adore it.

I decided to make some breakfast sandwich bites, with biscuit, jam, and sausage, which was good, but again, no reason to get it again.  Sigh.

Donuts, October 2016

Lou's is known for their donuts, particularly the "famous" crullers, which I had before, when made into french toast.

But they are also known for another type of donut, apple cider donuts, available only during the fall.  I'd heard about the apple cider donuts from Lou's for years, yet I have not been in town during the fall, so I wasn't able to try them until recently.
Then I visited in October to help out with a recruiting event at Dartmouth, and the host showed up with a bag of donuts.  From Lou's.  Yes.
Apple Cider Donuts. $1.05 each.
"Delicious spiced donuts. An Autumn favorite."

The donuts lived up to the hype.  Dense, hearty cake base, crispy around the edges, and totally coated in cinnamon and sugar.  The size was just right for me - not so huge I felt awful after, but certainly enough to satisfy.

I can't say I tasted apple cider, but, I really enjoyed my donut and would gladly have another.

Cake, December 2014

On a visit to see my family, I was dragged to a going away party for one of my mother's co-workers.  I went along, even though I would know no one there other than my mom.  And well, she promised cake.  Cake from Lou's.
Full Sheet Cake. $110.
"Vanilla and Chocolate Layer Cake with White Frosting. "

I was quite excited, and glad to see the huge cake (serves 80-100).  There were 20 of us at this party.  I knew I'd get to eat as much as I wanted.

Sadly, I didn't end up wanting more than a few bites.  Out of politeness, I tried to finish my slice, but it was truly one of the worst cakes I've had in recent memory, and any grocery store version would likely be better.
Inside the Cake.
The top layer was vanilla cake.  It was dry and flavorless.  "Plain" is more of an accurate description than vanilla.

The bottom layer was chocolate cake.  It was also dry.  Seriously, no moisture at all in either layer of this cake.  It was brown, but didn't taste like chocolate.  No richness, no complexity, nothing.

The frosting is always my favorite part of a cake.  This was described as "white" frosting, which, well, accurately describes it.  It tasted like nothing.  It wasn't very sweet.  It wasn't very creamy.  One person said it tasted like Crisco and nothing else.

The only redeeming things about this cake were the dark chocolate shavings on the outside and the layer of strawberries on the inside.  The strawberries weren't exactly amazing, and one person kept commenting on how the strawberries didn't go with the cake at all, but they were at least sweet and fresh enough tasting.

Breakfast, July, 2014

On this visit, the wait was not too bad, and we were seated within 15 minutes.  Service was friendly, although the server was obviously very busy.  But, the wait for our food was ... extreme.  I went through 4 coffees before the meal actually arrived.  Our waitress came to offer us a muffin even, since it was taking so long (we turned the offer down, since we all had big meals coming).

The highlight was still the whipped cream, the delicious house made jam on tables, and the sausage patty.  But otherwise, it was mediocre, so I didn't return for several years.
Decaf Iced Coffee.
The iced coffee wasn't very good.  At least for decaf, Lou's is really not excelling in this area.  At least they give unlimited refills, which I always take advantage of.
Special: Blueberry Peach Pancakes.  $11.95.
For some reason, I was seriously craving pancakes.  I had them just a few days earlier when I went to brunch with a friend in Boston at North Street Grille, and although those pancakes were excellent, it didn't end my craving.

Lou's has pancakes on the regular menu, available as plain buttermilk, or with blueberry, cranberry, or chocolate chip.  But my eye is always on the specials, which Lou's changes weekly, and always sound so decadent.  This week's specials menu included a pancake option, so, I had no choice but to order it.

The special was blueberry and peach pancakes, topped with homemade whipped cream.  Listed on the menu as a stack of two, but I'd seen Lou's pancakes before, and knew they were absolutely huge, so I asked if they were available a la carte.  "Of course!", my server cheerfully told me.  This was great to know, since I often either want a smaller portion, or want to mix and match.  (Note to self: it never hurts to ask if you can do things a la carte!)

The pancake was a monster, as I expected.  Honestly, a single one of these is easily the size of 3 normal pancakes.  I'm really not sure how anyone could eat a full stack of these.

Sadly, the pancake was not good.  It wasn't light and fluffy; it was thin, and very, very tough.  Almost gummy and rubbery.  The dough had obviously been over mixed, and it also seemed over cooked.  If it was just crispy, that would have been fine, as I love crispy things.  But it wasn't that it was crispy, it was tough, and too dark.

I do give credit for the fruit inside though.  It was loaded up with chunks of peaches and whole blueberries.  I think both types of fruit were frozen and not fresh, but inside the pancake, it didn't matter.

The best part was the whipped cream on top.  Their homemade whipped cream is just killer.  So ... cream tasting!

In the end, I'm glad I only got a single pancake. I traded half to my mom for half of her french toast, since she felt bad for me disliking mine so much.  But ... she didn't bother eat it either.  I did pick out all the fruit and eat it with whipped cream, but wow, that was a bad pancake.  If we hadn't waited nearly an hour to get our food, I certainly would have asked for a re-fire.  It has turned me off from ever trying any more of their pancakes.
Special: Native Strawberry Cheese French Toast.   $11.95.
"A French toast sandwich filled with strawberry sweetened ricotta cheese topped with lightly sweetened native strawberries & homemade whipped cream".

Lou's is known for the french toast.  Well, specifically, they are known for their crueller french toast, where they literally turn 3 whole glazed cruellers into french toast.  I had it on my first visit to Lou's, and it was as insane as you can imagine.  They also offer a regular Texas french toast as well.

But, like I said, it is the specials that always appeal, and the french toast special also sounded amazing.

My mom picked it, with a little coaxing from me, since, of course this was on my list, right behind the pancakes.  I knew she'd share with me.

Her pick was much better than mine.  The french toast itself wasn't anything special, but the ricotta stuffing inside was quite good, slightly sweetened, and it went well with the fruit.

But the fruit ... that was a letdown.  Strawberry season was in full swing during our visit.  I went strawberry picking the very next day.  So, when the menu said "lightly sweetened native strawberries", we expected fresh berries.  Sure, it didn't say that explicitly, but ... that is what we both imagined.  Instead, the fruit really seemed like it had come out of a jar, or perhaps freezer.  It was sweet fruit, and it went really well with the ricotta and cream, but, not what either of us had really wanted.

It was also topped with their homemade whipped cream.  My mom, perhaps trying to be healthy, didn't' eat all her whipped cream.  You can guess who took it all off her hands.  Seriously, love the whipped cream.

Overall, this was mediocre, sans the whip, and I wouldn't get it again.  I'd consider their other french toast choices though.

$11.95 price seemed a bit high, particularly given that it wasn't using fresh fruit.
Side of Sausage Patty. $2.95.
Last time I visited, I fell in love with the sausage patty.  Totally random, but I did.  As soon as I realized I could order a single pancake, I eagerly ordered a side of sausage as well.

I was a bit apprehensive to try it the first time.  I actually don't care for pork (besides crispy bacon), and didn't used to like sausage.  I thought that I must have just been in a really strange mood the day that I loved it.  I didn't expect to like it this time, but I had liked it so much, I couldn't resist.

I'm glad I didn't.  The sausage patty was again amazing.  Juicy and flavorful.  I particularly liked it with a little maple syrup drizzled over it.  Winning element of the meal, even better than the whipped cream :)

The sausage patties come 2 to an order, and are totally worth the $2.95.  I adore these, and will order them every time. I also discovered that they reheat pretty well later at home in the toaster oven, so, I'm tempted to always just add on an extra order, (or two!), of sausage to bring home.

Breakfast, December 23, 2013

Rachel's Favorite: Scrambled Eggs, Cobb Smoked Bacon, Home Fries, Wheat Toast.  $9.45. 
"Eggs cooked to order with choice of cob smoked bacon, sausage or local Vermont ham steak. Served with choice of homefries, baked or black beans, and choice of toast, English muffin or a fresh muffin from our bakery, and homemade strawberry preserves."

The classic breakfast meal is dubbed "Rachel's Favorite".

My cousin ordered this, and got her eggs scrambled, the bacon extra crispy, the toast wheat and buttered.  I didn't try the bacon or eggs, but she loved her meal.

She nicely shared some home fries with me.  Lou's makes their home fries extra special: cooked in bacon drippings (unless requested otherwise).  I like the seasoning on them, and particularly like them with a little maple syrup on them, a delightful mix of sweet and savory.  If ordering myself, I'd ask to get them crispier next time, as these didn't really have the crispy exterior I'm looking for in my home fries.

The toast was classic wheat toast, clearly freshly made and very fluffy, although not very toasted.  Too much butter for my liking, but this was her meal, not mine.  The toast was great with the homemade strawberry jam on the table.  That jam is worth a visit alone!  Sweet, but not too sweet, with large chunks of strawberries.  I always love it.  You can also purchase it by the jar.

Overall, a nice selection of items, a classic combo, and what my cousin orders every single time she visits.  Which, understandably, she does often.
North Pole Omelet, English Muffin.  $11.95.
"A large fluffy omelet filled with Vermont ham, onion, fresh Maple Brook Farms mozzarella & pesto. Served with choice of homefries, homemade baked beans or black beans."

My mother's pick was from the special's menu of the week, the "North Pole Omelet".

My mom mis-read the description, an thought it came with homefries and beans.  She just wanted homefries, but what she told the waitress was "leave the beans and all that off".  She was a bit sad when her omelet arrived sans home fries.

I'm not much of an eggs girl, but I tried a few bites.  It was indeed a large fluffy omelet.  It fed my mom two meals, and she said it easily could have been three.  It was fluffy, and the pesto was well distributed throughout, giving a lot of flavor.  Pockets of cheesy melted mozzarella and a very generous amount of ham completed it.  Really not my thing at all, but my mother really liked it.
Sausage Patty, Side Order, $2.95.
I really have no idea why, but I was seriously craving a sausage patty.  I couldn't tell you the last time I had sausage.  But I really, really wanted this.

And it was awesome.  The best sausage I've had ... ever.  Super flavorful.  Well cooked.  And being a fan of sweet and savory, I really enjoyed it dunked in syrup.

But about that syrup.  When the waitress brought our order, I asked for syrup.  I waited and waited.  She never came back with it.  I ate everything else.  I waited and waited.  I tried to get her attention whenever I saw her on the other side of the room.  She never looked our way.  Finally, my mom grabbed someone else and asked for some.  He promptly brought it.

I took another sausage patty home with me to eat later.  It didn't reheat quite as well, got a bit too crispy, but was enjoyable nonetheless.  Seriously good sausage.  Will certainly get again.  Want more now!
Mrs. Clause's Bread Pudding.  $11.95.
"Homemade bread pudding made with our famous glazed crullers, topped with homemade egg nog whipped cream; made with local McNamara Dairy egg nog."

As I mentioned, one thing that Lou's is known for is their glazed crullers.  Not the french style, but the New England style - fried dough, twisted up, and glazed.  Sweet, fried, decadent.  Delicious on their own with a cup of coffee.  Lou's is crazy and also makes french toast with them, which I had on my first visit.  But on the special's menu during this visit, they also used them to make bread pudding.  WHAT?  Yes.

Ok, seriously?  It was 9am.  I wasn't REALLY wanting something this over the top, the day before our Christmas feast, and several days into my trip that mostly revolved around eating my mom's homemade baked goods.  I wanted the corned beef hash.  Or perhaps just a piece of french toast.  But I absolutely adore bread pudding.  If you've read my blog long, you know I order it whenever I get the chance, although, generally for dessert.  I also do like eggnog.  I decided not to get this dish, for all the reasons listed above.  But then my mother helpfully says, "we can just get one to all share, since everyone wants a bite of it".  And quite honestly, how do you NOT order this?

So, we did.

Sadly, I did not like it.  I'm the queen of sweets, but I found it too sweet for me.  Of course I didn't add syrup or anything, as the glazed crullers provided plenty of sweet themselves.  I think I might have just really not been in the mood for so much sweet, as my mother and grandmother both enjoyed it quite a bit, and both said it wasn't too sweet.  I brought leftovers home to my father and Ojan, and they both also agreed it wasn't too sweet.  But it was for me, at that time.

It also just wasn't the style of bread pudding that I like.  I admit it though, I have VERY specific demands for my bread pudding.  I like the pieces of bread to be largeish chunks, distinct from one another.  I can't stand a homogenous bread pudding that is just soggy.  The top must be crisp, the inside incredibly custardy.  The top of this wasn't crisp. I couldn't distinguish any individual chunks of cruller.  It was however insanely moist.  It also had plump raisins inside (which made my dad unwilling to try it, until I really, really demanded).

It also was just too heavy for me.  Very oily, particularly as the eggnog whipped cream broke down, it added a pool of oil to the dish.  You can see in the photo, that isn't an additional sauce surrounding the bread pudding chunk, that is all oil.

The whipped cream was fluffy, but I didn't taste any eggnog.

So, I didn't like this, but it very gladly got consumed by everyone else I shared it with.  They all loved it.  Normally, Lou's posts photos of each of their specials every Friday, and I drool over them.  The week I visited however, their photographer was on vacation for the holidays, so I didn't see this in advance.  If I'd seen a photo, I could have easily recognized that it wasn't "my" style of bread pudding, and I wouldn't have ordered it, so I really can't fault Lou's on this.

Take Out Muffins, August 2, 2013

The next time I visited my family was to help my little sister move into a new house.  As a treat for the "work crew", my mother went to Lou's to pick up muffins, to fuel us up for a long day of packing, loading up trucks, and lugging boxes around.  I somehow never had Lou's famous muffins before, although my mother assured me they were all fantastic.  I looked online to see what varieties they offered, and requested a Morning Glory or Earth muffin.  Sadly, they were all out of both of those varieties, so my mother instead got a box full of every variety that they did have.  A dozen muffins for 4 people makes total sense, right?
Assorted Muffins, $1.79 each.
I felt like something was just off this day.  While I hadn't had their muffins before, I know many people who proclaim them to be amazing.  These were good, but not anything I'd really go out of my way for again.  Perhaps I just had them wrong (gobbling them down in the midst of moving is very different from having them warm with butter or jam), and they didn't have the flavors I wanted.
  • Apple Streusel: This was a bit dried out, didn't have much flavor, wasn't that spiced, and the topping wasn’t really streusel-y.  It did have good chunks of apple.
  • Blueberry: Fairly boring base, but insanely moist from plentiful blueberries.  Seriously loaded with berries.  But just not great for some reason.
  • Corn:  I love the top of a muffin, particularly the overhang.  The corn did not have as large as a top as the others, but it did have a nice crispy exterior and a good grit.  It was fairly dry.  I think I'd like it warmed up and served with butter and jam, but room temperature on its own it was a bit lacking.
  • Cranberry Orange: This had huge chunks of orange, lots of orange flavor, lots of cranberries.  Not my thing though, since I don’t like orange.  If I did, I think this would be a winner.
  • Raisin Bran: Very dense, loaded with raisins.  I'm pretty sure that if I had it warm with butter, I’d love it.  There was a good heartiness from the bran, and a nice texture.  It wasn't too sweet, the sweetness came from raisins mostly.  The raisins were very juicy and plump.  I'd like to try this again, and this time, serve it warm and loaded with butter.  Or their amazing jam.

Breakfast (and Pie), December 18, 2012

Very Berry Cruller French Toast.  $8.99.
 "Three of our delicious glazed crullers dipped in French toast batter, grilled ’til golden and topped with blueberries, sliced cranberries & whipped cream."

As I mentioned, Lou's makes amazing glazed crullers.  And they make french toast from them.  We HAD to try this.

My mom's comment after taking a bite: "Who on earth thought of this?  Who takes donuts and turns them into french toast?"

I don't know the answer, but whoever it was, he or she is a genius.  This was a very sweet, very decadent meal.  It was downright amazing.

When the server asked us if we wanted to upgrade to real maple syrup instead of the table syrup, I kinda laughed.  How could we possibly want syrup at all, when the french toast was made from GLAZED donuts, was covered in fruit, and served with whipped cream?  But my mom quickly ordered the real syrup.  When you order real syrup, you get your own little custom branded Lou's jar, and can take the rest home with you.  It was good syrup.  And, it turns out, while the french toast was amazing without the syrup, it was even better with.  The french toast was just a tiny bit too dry for my liking on its own, which just made me want to add more syrup to moisten it up.  But, wow, so much sugar.

I also really liked adding jam to the french toast.  On each table is a jar of homemade jam, sweet, with large chunks of berries.  I'm sure most people use it for toast or english muffins, but I thought it was really delicious spread on the french toast.  As if I needed more sugar.

The blueberries and cranberries weren't very remarkable, but blueberries are not in season in December, so I wouldn't really expect them to be good.  The whipped cream was served in a little paper container, but it also wasn't very remarkable, no particular flavor to it.

And yes, a single order of this was THREE WHOLE CRULLERS turned into french toast.  ZOMG.  No one would ever sit down and eat three crullers in a single sitting, and this was even more insane.  At least there was some fruit included?

This was very good, and I'm really glad I tried it, but I'm not sure I'd order it again.  Sure, I'd love another few bites of it, and I'd encourage someone else to get it to give me a bite, but I'm over the novelty of a full order.  Plus, their menu has way too many other amazing sounding dishes to explore!

[ Not Pictured ]
Side of Home Fries, $3.99.

The french toast was good, but the best part of our meal was the side of home fries we also ordered.  They were super crispy, cooked in bacon fat.  Decent seasoning.  Good with either ketchup or syrup.

[ Not Pictured ]
Mile High Apple Pie.  Multiberry Pie.

We were completely stuffed, but Lou's has a genius setup.  You have to pay your check at the front counter, rather than at the table.  The same front counter where all the baked goods are displayed and purchased.  So, while you wait in line to pay, all the baked goods stare up at you.  Sure, you can't imagine eating another bite.  So maybe you can resist the breakfast goods like muffins, scones, and donuts.  But ... there are cookies and brownies.  They'd be good to take home later, right?  And then ... there are the pies and cakes.  Available whole or by the slice.  They all look insanely good.  We had to take a few slices home for after dinner.  Or ... perhaps just later that afternoon, when we recovered from sugar coma.

My mom selected two slices of pie: the "Mile High" apple pie and the multiberry pie.  Both had a decent crust.  The apple looked amazing, seriously loaded up with apples.  They were cooked well, not to soft nor too crisp, but apple pie is never my thing.  My dad liked it.

The multiberry was a mix of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.  Very sweet, but good filling.  None of these fruits are in season in December, but it was more flavorful than I expected.  Both good pies, clearly well made, but I didn't love either.
Lou's Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

The Lounge, Boston Logan Airport, Terminal C

The Lounge is located in Terminal C, right near gate 19.  It accepts Priority Pass, and is accessible airside from Terminal E as well, although that terminal has several other larger lounge options (Air France and The Club).

I only cruised through quickly once when arriving in Boston, and once when outbound, but I was rather pleased with exactly two things: the clam chowder and the snack/candy bar!  Besides that though ... its a domestic lounge, and meets basic expectations.


The lounge isn't huge, but it was never that busy when I was there (3pm, 8pm).  I don't think they had showers.
Lounge Seating.
I never sat down, but the "comfortable" seating area was fairly sparse, and the chairs, although plush, didn't really look comfortable.
Dining Tables.
More space is dedicated to dining tables, all plastic and sterile feeling.

The flooring and some of the walls have a nice feel to them, but the furnishings really do not.
Unlike many lounges, the bar is not self-serve, although it is also not really attended.  On both visits I needed to stand there for a while before someone came to assist.

Wine offerings are all lower end screw top bottles.
Coffee / Tea Station.
Coffee and tea are self serve, with brewed coffee, a robot machine, and T2 brand tea.
Buffet Area.
Food is self-serve, from a U shaped buffet area, with cold beverages below.

Cold non-alcoholic drinks are also self-serve, I was pleased that they had large bottles of sparkling water (Perrier).  They also have a shockingly large variety of canned fruit juices (like white grapefruit!)


All Day Menu.
A menu on the side lists the options, although it isn't exactly detailed, and sounds WAY better than it actually is.

Sections are "Farmer's Market Salads", "Harvest Bread Basket", "Bountiful Bowls", "Antipasto Bar", "Deli Delight", "Market Ripe", "The Pantry", "Sweet Street"

Details however are of the form: "Bountiful Bowls: a selection of seasonal and regional soups" ... which means, in reality, "clam chowder and creamy tomato soup".

"Market Ripe: seasonal berries and melons" were nowhere to be found.
Salad Bar ... er "Farmer's Market Salads" and "Antipasto Bar".
"Fresh select and regionally inspired salads and dressings."

"Pasta salads, marinated peppers, and a variety of Mediterranean, Spanish, and Kalamata olives."

Ok, lol.  These descriptions promised ... something more exciting than reality.  Reality was a pretty sad basic salad bar, with lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, and croutons, plus simple balsamic viniagrette and ranch dressing.

I tried one pasta salad, it was ok, not mushy, but the dressing was quite oily.
Soup ("Bountiful Bowls"): Clam Chowder, Creamy Tomato.
"A selection of seasonal and regional soups."

Ok, I'll give them that clam chowder is a pretty Boston soup, so, "regional" isn't entirely off here.

It was also shockingly good.  Really creamy, well seasoned.  The clams were chewy, but the chowder really was perfect comfort food, and turned out to be exactly what I wanted when I landed in Boston late in the evening.  My companion also enjoyed it, opting to go back for a second bowl.

Another time I visited, I made a beeline for the soup station (not something I *ever* do, but I was so excited for clam chowder!), and alas, it was replaced with ... mac and cheese?  It wasn't the worst, it was creamy, and the pasta wasn't mushy, but, not what I wanted, and the cheese flavor wasn't particularly strong.
"Deli Delight".
The sandwich section came with its own menu, with full details of the 3 sandwich selections on offer: Chicken salad BLT (on 12 grain bread), Fresh mozzarella Caprese (on dinner roll), and Cubanelle Tuna (wrap).
Sandwiches ("Deli Delight") and Brownies ("Sweet Street").
I didn't try these deli delights, nor the pita (?) bread next to them.

"A broad array of hand crafted cookies, brownies, and fruit bars."

So, uh, about that "broad array" of sweets.  They had the same little brownies both times I visited, which I did not try.
Snacks & Candy ("The Pantry").
"Fruit and granola bars, dried fruit and trail mix, mini cookies, fresh whole fruit."

In this section however, the lounge really delivered!  "Dried fruit and trail mix" turned out to be mean awesome snack mixes and jars full of candy!  

This was actually quite awesome.  The snacks all come from, and I tried ... basically all of them, since I love snacks!

The lineup on my first visit was 9 jars, featuring: jelly beans, gummy bears, m&ms, roasted edamame, banana chips, mustard pretzels, neopolitan mix, energy mix, honey roasted peanuts.  When I visited a week later, the jelly beans and energy mix were absent.  I didn't care about the jelly beans (Jelly Belly brand), but, I really wanted that Energy Mix again!

Mustard Pretzels.
"A crunchy pretzel with a delicious, tangy mustard seasoning. A great anytime snack."

I loved the savory pretzels when I visited when I landed in Boston, perfect after a long flight.  Nice seasoning, good flavor, so salty, and apparently, what I was craving.  I didn't like them quite as much when I was leaving Boston, but, they were still flavorful and good.

Honey Roasted Peanuts
"Good luck trying to eat just one of these salty snacks covered in a sweet honey coating. It’s a crunchy treat that is always a crowd favorite."

The honey roasted peanuts were well coated, sweet, enjoyable, a nice sweet compliment to my salty pretzels.  Addicting.

Neapolitan Mix
"Like the classic ice cream flavor, you get the best of all worlds. Neapolitan Mix tastes like your favorite chocolate, strawberry and vanilla flavors.  The snack mix consists of yogurt pretzels balls, strawberry yogurt raisins and chocolate brownie bites."

The Neapolitan mix was a pleasant surprise, as the white things were not yogurt covered raisins or peanuts, but rather ... pretzels!  I loved them, crunchy inside and creamy coating, although not particularly "vanilla" flavored.

The brown ones were *also* not just peanuts or raisins, but instead, chocolate covered brownie bites!  They were awesome combined with the pretzels.

The pink ones however were yogurt covered raisins, and they did not taste like strawberry as promised. Meh to those.  Overall though, a winner, and I found it way too easy to devour handfuls of the non-raisins.

Dark Chocolate Energy Boost ---> Chia ReCharged Stix Mix.
"Chia is one of the hottest superfoods right now and this mix is a tasty way to get the health benefits.  Chia ReCharged Stix Mix™ is part of our ReCharge® line of natural snack mixes that contain antioxidant benefits. It’s a savory and sweet mix with chia sticks, cranberries, roasted and salted almonds, dark chocolate chunks, yogurt raisins, low sugar, no sulfur pineapple and white cocoa chips."

This was actually pretty good (although mislabeled), the almonds nicely roasted and salted, the chia sticks crunchy and also quite salty, the pineapple sweet with a nice chew, and I loved that the little white chips were white chocolate, not yogurt!  Not a bad blend, really.

I was sad this was not there my second visit, but the next time, they had not one, but two jars of it.