Friday, May 17, 2019

Kaleidoscope Foods

Kaleidoscope Foods is a maker of one of my favorite categories of food: snacks.  They even make one of my favorite types of snack: chips.

But ... uh ... they aren't like any others.
Our handcrafted Vegan & Bone Broth Kale Chips combine fresh, sprouted, fermented, and gently cooked ingredients for a whole spectrum of nutrition. The chip is gently dehydrated at a low temperature to lock in flavor & preserve vital digestion-supporting enzymes.
Yup, kale chips, and not only trendy kale chips, but either vegan or made with bone broth.  All gluten-free.  I tried only the bone broth based ones.

Bone Broth Kale Chips

"Our Bone Broth Kale Chips combine fresh, sprouted, fermented, and gently cooked ingredients for a whole spectrum of nutrition. The chip is gently dehydrated at a low temperature to lock in flavor & preserve vital digestion-supporting enzymes."
Once I got over my laughter at the product line, yes, bone broth kale chips, the perfect marriage of two fads, I took the time to learn a little.

I do like kale chips, and I was a little fascinated by the idea of fusing them with bone broth.
Kaleidoscope Foods produces 3 varieties of bone broth kale chips, each featuring a different animal bone broth (lamb, beef, or bison), and flavored in very different ways (fennel with fuji apple, sweet potato, or spicy seaweed with date, respectively).

I went for the later.  All come packaged in re-sealable bags of various sizes.  I was skeptical, so I went for the smallest size, 0.8 ounces, which contained a very tiny portion, which happened to be 1.6 servings.  The packaging was filled with information on how awesome these were going to be me for.  They promised to leave me "invigorated + powerful".  I looked forward to it.
Spicy Seaweed with Date & Bison Bone Broth Kale Chips.
"Like the wild bison who roamed the plains for millennia, this chip is blessed with an unshakeable strength. Complementing the broth are Mendocino-wildcrafted Seawhip & Seapalm Seaweeds and Medjool Dates from the Coachella Valley. The sweet, spicy, bountiful depth of this chip brings us in to ecstatic harmony with our bodies and the wild world around us.

"Our bison bone broth is brewed in house with bones from Bison Rock Ranch, a pasture based family farm out of Shasta County. The broth is simmered for days to fully extract the minerals and gelatin in the bones. These vitalizing trace minerals give us energy and a sense of true nourishment."

So, the chips.

They actually were a form I quite liked, not the airy light style, but rather fairly generous clumps, well coated in the seasoning.  They had a great mouthfeel.

But ... I really didn't care for the flavor.  The sweetness from the dates was just odd, and there was a bitterness that I think came from sunflower seeds that I didn't realize were part of the ingredient list until I looked later.

I wanted to like them.  I wanted to feel the promised ecstatic harmony.  But, alas, they just left me sad, as they were so close to being something I liked, yet, weren't.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Baked Bear

Ice cream.  Definitely one of my favorite things, and something I eat near daily.  I'm always excited to try new ice cream shops around town, which finally lead me to The Baked Bear, several years after it originally opened.
Our Mission: To spread joy and create memories, bringing a smile to every customer’s face, one ice cream sandwich at a time.
The main concept at The Baked Bear is custom ice cream sandwiches, where you select the cookies (or brownies) as the bases, then the ice cream, and then any additional things to coat it in, much like CREAM and Over the Moon.  I'll admit that it took me a while to venture in because the focus was on the novelty items, and I assumed that would mean lower quality actual ice cream.


The Baked Bear started in San Diego, but has franchised, with locations in a number of states.  In San Francisco, we have not one, but two locations, both near tourist areas (North Beach, Fisherman's Wharf).  I visited the former.
The North Beach location is right on Columbus Street, and offers one small table, and a few seats out on the sidewalk.  There just isn't space for more seating on that busy walkway.

The storefront is signature Baked Bear blue.
Inside is the ordering and assembly counter, with a handful of tables, although it is still a small place, not tons of seating.  I imagine on warm days it could get busy and seating would be limited.

On my visit, there were only a few other patrons, although they clearly do a very busy delivery/takeout service, as the staff were prepping tons of orders coming in, in-between customers who were there in person.  Ice cream always strikes me as an odd thing to get delivered just due to the melting nature, but, they are listed on most of the major delivery services (and yes, I have been known to get ice cream delivered across the city ... ) .

Staff were friendly and efficient.
The menu outlines the steps to take to form your custom ice cream sandwich.

But you can also opt for just cookies, just ice cream (cups, cones), or sundaes (in cookie bowls if you please!).   All categories have a decent lineup with plenty of options.
Fresh Baked Cookies & Brownies.
"Homemade from original recipes and hand-scooped on site, our cookies are made with the highest quality ingredients and baked from scratch daily. We pride ourselves on quality and will only serve you cookies fresh out of the oven today."

Cookies are located right at the counter, easy to view to select your preferred flavor.

I'm not really a cookie girl, but the cookies did look good, very soft and gooey.  When you make an ice cream sandwich, they'll offer to warm them up as well.

The lineup had 10 cookies, including a gluten-free option, and including a variety that switches out every month.  They take the cookies seriously.  Available as singles for $1.25, or by the dozen for $13.
Cookie and Brownie Bowls.
If you opt for a sundae, you can go all out with a cookie or brownie bowl as the base.  Warmed up, I imagine these are awesome.

Toppings include your standard lineup of sauces (hot fudge, caramel, etc), whipped cream, assorted nuts and candies.
Ice Cream.
Ice cream is available in 16 flavors, including a vegan soy option, and including a sorbet or two, with a rotating seasonal flavor as well.

The ice cream didn't look like anything special, to be honest.  Just ... ice cream.

I asked to sample the signature flavor (which I ended up getting) and the Birthday Cake (cake batter with sprinkles, which was fine but pretty boring, just a little sweet with texture), although I did want to try a few others, but the staff were so busy I didn't want to bother them too much.  They weren't exactly cheery about samples like some places.

One noteworthy thing is that the ice cream seemed to be kept softer than many shops - it didn't require heroics to scoop on the server's part, and, it was at a soft, enjoyable consistency right when handed over, no need to wait for it to melt enough.

Ice Cream

"Baked Bear super-premium, craft ice cream is churned with r-BGH-free cream, pure cane sugar, and all natural stabilizers. With a smooth texture, our unique and creamy flavors can be enjoyed on their own, or paired perfectly between your favorite cookies."
But they do make their own ice cream, and claim good quality.
Branded Cups.
Since The Baked Bear is a franchise with a decent number of locations at this point, they are all-in on the branding.  Custom blue cups with their bear logo (eating an ice cream sandwich) are only one example, the staff all wear branded logo shirts, and you can purchase shirts and whatnot yourself as well.
Single Scoop, Bear Batter.  $4.50.
"Blue cake batter with brownies & fudge."

Yes, their signature flavor is blue.  The base is cake batter.  This sounded like something made for Instagram, and trendy factor, not deliciousness.  Likely overly sweet.  I had no intention of getting this flavor, but wanted to try it at least.

But a tiny taste (they give very small samples!) revealed it had promise.  It tasted like one very familiar thing to me: the blue frosting from my precious Carvel cake (don't judge!  I know it isn't good, but I grew up with it as a special birthday thing, and, although I now understand that the ice cream is crazy low quality and want nothing to do with that part, I still adore the blue frosting and the cookie crunch!).  Was my brain playing tricks on me because it was blue?

Since the other sample I tried was lackluster, I decided to get this, to really explore it more, even though, still, not a flavor I'd normally get at all.

I did like the sweet base, creamy, smooth, and ... well, no way to describe it other than Carvel blue frosting!  The brownie smear and fudge chunks throughout were fine, but I think I'd rather have other things mixed in.  I'm just not into brownie smear in ice creams, really (which rules out a lot of Ben & Jerry's for me). 

I enjoyed my scoop, but wouldn't really seek it out again.  That said, the cookies look great, and if they warm them up ... I really should go for an ice cream sandwich sometime.

Pricing is certainly high, $4.50 for a single scoop, but it is quality ice cream.
The Baked Bear Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Fishpeople Seafood

I ... don't really cook.

Sure, I exercise creativity in the kitchen, and have a lot of fun waffling all sorts of things, and I make some brilliantly composed salads if I do say so myself, but real, legit cooking ... gulp.  It just isn't something I need to do often, as I have the luxury of having my meals during the week provided at my office.  Before that, I was in grad school, had very little free time, and certainly no money to get decent ingredients, so let's just say I lived on a lot of bagel melts.

But Fishpeople changed that.
Garlic Parmesan Potato Wild Alaskan Cod Adventure.
You see this, I prepared.  Yes, me.  A real looking meal.

A lovely garlic parmesan potato crusted wild alaskan cod, which I paired with mashed sweet potatoes and roasted brussels sprouts.  I made a meal for for two, in under 40 minutes.  And we loved it.

It was my first time preparing raw seafood.  At age 37, and as someone who eats a lot of seafood.  Gulp.

I did it using a kit for the cod, made by Fishpeople.

Fishpeople makes a variety of seafood cooking kits, in addition to ready-made soups, chowders, and salmon jerky.  The impressive thing about Fishpeople is the commitment they put into not only sustainability, but also connections with their suppliers.  Every product comes with a code you can use to track your seafood to its origin.  They provide full transparency on nearly every ingredient that goes in, even naming their cream supplier (Andersen Dairy).  Of course it is non-GMO and rBST-free.

I was eager to try these products, as a shortcut to quality seafood at home.

Seafood Kits

"Sustainably-caught fish meets its match with the simple ingredients in our chef-crafted toppers. Restaurant-worthy seafood at home is within reach. You'll be hooked!"
The kits are minimal, providing only the raw seafood, and toppings.  You provide your own sides.  They have salmon, cod, and rockfish kits, ranging from simple meyer lemon and herb, to zesty chipotle & lime or cajun.  I went for the fanciest sounding version though: garlic parmesan potato.
Garlic Parmesan Potato Wild Alaskan Cod Kit.
"Our Kits take the guesswork out of cooking incredible seafood: Pure American-caught fish, Simple ingredients you can pronounce, Wildly delicious results every time. Take 2 sustainable & traceable Wild Alaskan Cod fillets, top & bake with Garlic Parmesan potatoes and garnish with Uncured Bacon for a wow-worthy fish dish at home. Be a kitchen hero in under 20 minutes! Serves 2."

The packaging showed me easily what was inside, the fish filets (2 portions), the topping I was to bake on it, and the additional topping to add once finished.

It looked simple enough?
Well Illustrated Packaging.
"Our cod's mild, flaky texture pairs perfectly with crisp toppings: diced potatoes, shredded parmesan, and crumbled uncured bacon. It's like the world's best hash browns on the world's best white fish... Eat it for breakfast, we won't tell."
The back of the package made it even more simple, the 4 simple steps down the right hand side, the a beautiful finished product on display.
Instruction Card.
Inside I found a step by step instruction card, fully illustrated, and really, dead simple.  I never had any doubt as to what I was doing, or what to do next.

I thawed my product the night before in the fridge, as instructed, although they provide quick thaw instructions as well.  I preheated my oven.
Raw Filets.
The packaging contains literally everything you need, the fish already comes in a tray that you put in the oven.  The first step is just removing the film that covers it, and draining off any liquid.  Oh, and spacing the filets out in the pan.

So far, easy!  The filets were each a generous portion.
The next step is to open the little container of topping - a mix of cubed potatoes, crispy onions, parmesan cheese, and spices (garlic, celery powder, rosemary, thyme, chives), and fluff it.  Easy!

Then I was to spoon it on top, or use my hands, to top the fish.  Not quite so easy, as much of it fell off, but, I decided this must not  matter?
Ready to Bake.
Then, cover with foil, and bake.  And yes, they provide the foil, perfectly sized for the tray.

While the fish baked, I prepared my sides.  No attending to it was necessary.
Broiled and Complete!
The next step was to put it under the broiler for a minute or two to crisp up the top.  And then sprinkle with the provided bacon bits.

And ... that was that.  Very easy, 20 minutes later, and I was ... ready to "plate pretty", as instructed.  And then, dive in.
Garlic Parmesan Potato Wild Alaskan Cod + Roasted Brussels Sprouts + Mashed Sweet Potatoes.
At this point, I'll admit, I did overcook the cod.  The cooking time was specified clearly, but it seemed not done to me (like I really had any clue), so I actually let it cook longer, and got distracted while doing so, so the 1-2 additional minutes I planned turned into ... more like 4.  The fish didn't flake easily at this point, but I think this was my own fault.  I'm pretty sure the cod was in fact really good cod.

I adored the toppings.  I was shocked by how much I liked the toppings, actually.  It was just a little potato hash, not something that sounds that remarkable, but, it was.  Perfectly crispy, great flavors.  I completely understand their own description now "It's like the world's best hash browns on the world's best white fish... Eat it for breakfast, we won't tell!"  I didn't want the fish for breakfast, but I'd gladly take a huge serving of that hash.

I did find it a bit dry with just the fish and hash on top though.  My dining companion choose to put a little gravy on it (lol), but I opted for a lemon caper butter sauce I just happened to have on hand, and that was perfect.  I think any kind of cream sauce would work equally well, or perhaps just a simple drizzle of lemon.  It needed something, but perhaps that is only because I over cooked it?

Overall though, really quite tasty, and beyond easy to make.

Soups & Chowders

"Sustainably-caught seafood and farm-fresh veggies are the stars in our creamy bisques and hearty chowders. Delicious and ready to heat and eat! Grab a spoon and dive in!"
Fishpeople makes a large variety of seafood based soups, including two varieties of salmon chowder (wild salmon corn chowder or alder smoked wild salmon chowder), a crab bisque, a razor clam chowder (!), a mixed seafood bouillabaisse, and even an incredible sounding smoked oyster and bourbon chowder.

The novel thing about these products, besides that they are made with quality seafood is ... the packaging.  They come in bags.  Ok, pouches.  Ready to consume, once you heat them.  Which, you don't do in a microwave ...
Boiling My Soup ...
So ... the heating process.  You just submerge the entire bag in boiling water for 5 minutes.

I'll be honest, this felt ... wrong.  The last bag I boiled in a pot was Minute Rice, the style of rice I grew up with, and haven't ever, ever had again since.  Shutter.

That said, how do most prepared soups get heated up?  In the microwave.  How that seems better to me, I have no idea.  And if you really prefer, it is also an option to cut a slit in this package and pop it in the microwave too.

Anyway, the heating process is super simple, boil water, submerge bag, come back in 5 minutes, rip open the top.  Yes, the bag is weird.  But, it worked really well, the soup was evenly heated, so much better than what you get in a microwave.
Creamy Razor Clam and Bacon Chowder.
"Enjoy a fresh update on savory chowder.  The enduring appeal of Surf and Turf goes beyond steak and lobster. Here, it shows up as a hearty chowder that combines succulent West Coast razor clams, hand harvested by the Quinault Indian Nation on the beaches of Washington state, paired with scrumptious bacon nibbles, fresh cream and fragrant thyme."

I had all the Fishpeople varieties to try out, but, it was very easy to make a decision on which to go for.  Razor Clam Bacon Chowder!  I actually really like razor clams, duh bacon, and of course I like rich chowder.  Plus, the bag boasted that it was 3% bacon!

The razor clams are hand-harvested.  And the bacon comes from a family owned supplier, around since the 1930's (Hempler’s meats in Ferndale, WA). 

This was a classic chowder, cream based, with onions, potatoes, carrots, and celery.  The chunks of veggies were all an easy size to eat, small cubes, and were well cooked, not mushy.

The chowder base was super creamy, which I discovered is because it not only was made from heavy cream, but they also add neafchatel cheese!  It was the ideal thickness, and well seasoned with thyme, paprika, bay leaf, and cayenne.  There was a depth of flavor provided by the clam juice and anchovy as well, not fishy, but, it did make it more complex than just seasoned cream.

As for the star ingredients ... I only found a few tiny chunks of razor clam in my serving, so that was disappointing.  Same with the bacon.  I would have gladly taken more of those, and less carrots and potatoes.

Still, overall, I was impressed.  Complex flavor, very creamy, easy to make, and far better than any canned soup I've ever had.
Wild Crab Bisque.
"Experience a smooth and sophisticated crab and shrimp bisque.  This popular seafood soup serves up the Best of the West. Delectable crab and Pacific Pink shrimp, harvested from the depths of our local waters, are combined in a light cream sauce with sherry, sweet onions and hints of orange and cayenne."

I failed to get a photo of my next choice, the wild crab bisque, once I made it, whoops!

That may be because I quickly gave it away to my partner.

I didn't care for this at all.  The bisque was really, really fishy tasting.  It was creamy and the broth almost had a good flavor, but, it was just too fishy for me overall.  Fishy is not the flavor I want with crab.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Devon Cafe, Sydney

Update Reviews, 2019

A few years ago, I wrote about Devon Cafe in Surry Hills, an overnight hit in the Sydney brunch scene, where I had a meal that didn't wow me, but I couldn't ever really pinpoint why, as the dishes were creative, balanced, and well prepared.  I still think maybe I was just having an off day.

Anyway, Devon Cafe has continued to flourish.  In addition to that Surry Hills location that I visited, they have since opened an outpost in the newly developed Barangaroo, and, another, larger location in North Sydney.

During the summer of 2018-2019, the Barangaroo and North Sydney cafes introduced a very, very trendy, very, very Instagram worthy item: milk tea soft serve ice cream sundaes.  Yes, combining ridiculous soft serve ice cream sundaes and bubble tea into one signature item.  Let's just say, the crowds quickly came.

Each location had slightly different creations, but I had my eyes on one in particular: the one based around taro.  I love taro.  The only problem?  Barangaroo, the location closest to the CBD where I was staying, had only milk tea and green tea flavors (with foams, boba pearls, etc).  The taro, along with coconut and red velvet were all located on the other side of the harbour in North Sydney.  And Surry Hills doesn't have a soft serve machine.

North Sydney Location, January 2019 Visit

I had never looked into getting to North Sydney before, never even considered crossing over, but, the moment the weather was warm I had no choice.  I was going to North Sydney, to Devon Cafe, for that sundae.

My transit options: take the train direct from the CBD, easy 15 min ride, nearly door to door.  Take a ferry from Circular Quay, with a slight walk on either end, but a chance to ride on the ferry and take in some harbour views.  Walk over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, something I had never done before.  Uh, take a cab ... bo-ring.  I opted to walk over, and ferry back, kinda making the journey part of the experience.

I loved everything about my afternoon.  The walk there was lovely, through the Rocks, up over the bridge with fantastic photo ops and a cool breeze.  I'm amazed I never thought of walking the bridge before, honestly.  And then, my prize, the taro sundae, which was phenomenal.  Even the ferry back was pleasant, again, good views, and a ridiculously quick trip.

I highly recommend this itenery to anyone up for a little adventure.  It took only 2.5 hours all in, and that was with plenty of wandering on my way back.  You could certainly do it faster if you chose.
Taro Bubble Tea Sundae. $10.
"Taro Soft Serve, Coconut Foam, Burbur Cha Cha, Boba, Tapioca Pudding, Taro Syrup."

So, yeah.  This.

The taro soft serve is obviously the main attraction, a large portion.  It was fantastic.  The texture was absolute perfection, everything I look for in a soft serve.  Smooth, creamy, rich, and actually tasted like taro.  Plus, it was pretty!

The base of the container had tapioca pudding, small pearls, in a cream pudding.  Soft, creamy, fine tapioca pudding, and, um, not something I'd normally have with my soft serve.  It was a nice textural element as it mixed in.

Above the pudding is the burbur cha cha with coconut jellies and chunks of taro.  These were my favorite components, adding lots of texture and chew.  Then a generous scoop of large bubble tea style boba, which I actually disliked, but I've realized recently that I just don't like this style of pearl.  They were cooked fine, although a bit soft.

The whole thing was topped with a coconut foam, that quickly oozed all over and filled in all the cracks.  A drizzle of taro syrup finished it off, plus, of course, the upside down sugar cone.

I loved this thing.  The taro soft serve was just so fantastic, honestly, a cone of just that and I would have been happy, but with the chunks of taro and jellies, I really adored it.  The coconut foam and tapioca pudding were just icing on the cake.

I'd get this again in a heartbeat, but I'd leave of the boba, ask for more jellies/taro in its place, and leave off the cone too.
My one complaint?  It melted SOOOOO fast.  I ate it quickly, as fast as I possibly could, faster than I wanted actually, but still, I couldn't keep up.  Granted, it was 94 degrees out.

But do you know what melted taro ice cream, coconut foam, jellies, pearls, etc is?  Yeah, its a taro milk tea, basically.  And that is not a bad thing either.  I gladly switched into slurping mode.  They should serve it with a bubble tea straw!

Barrangaroo Location, March 2019 Visit

After the amazing success of the taro sundae at Devon Cafe North Sydney I was excited to try the offerings from the closer location, Devon's newest, in Barrangaroo.

I knew that they wouldn't have taro, and the flavor they seemed to have, at least according to my Instagram stalking, were milk tea and salted caramel, not really things I'd go out of my way for, but, I liked the soft serve before, and I knew they had fun sundae combos made up, so, I gave it a try.

When I arrived, I looked for the sundae details, as North Sydney Devon had them on the menu, but here they just said "seasonal' or something like that.  So I asked.  "Milk tea or salted caramel", was the answer.  I knew however that they make sundaes, so I prompted, "But you make them into sundaes?"  "Yes".  "Ok, um, what comes on each one?"  "One has boba, the other churros.".  " ... um, which goes with which?"  "Boba with the milk tea, churros with the salted caramel."  "Ok, so that's it? No foams or other toppings?" (I asked because I was pretty sure the Instagram photos looked like more complete sundaes ... ). "Yes, there are foams. One is cheese the other chocolate."  

The conversation went like on like for this for a while, me prompting everything, getting a half answer.  Finally, I pieced together the details of the sundaes.  Option 1: milk tea soft serve, boba, cheese foam.  Option 2: salted caramel soft serve, churros, cornflakes, chocolate cheese foam.

I knew that I didn't want boba (I'm just kinda over pearls), but I did like the sounds of the cheese foam.  I also don't care that much about churros, nor salted caramel, and I didn't really want chocolate foam.  So I asked if I could sample the base flavors first, and I'd just pick the one I liked more.  I was met with ... displeasure.  Clearly annoyed with me, but, she offered to give me a taste of the swirl.  I tried it.  The milk tea was ... well, milk tea.  Not really what I was in the mood for.  The salted caramel was cloyingly sweet.  It desperately needed to be swirled with vanilla or something, but alas, not an option.

I was stuck.  I didn't want either flavor.  But I felt bad because the staff member clearly was annoyed with me already.  I had to get one, right?

In retrospect, I realize maybe I could have ordered a coffee or a side of fries or something and that would have been ok, but, I felt pretty stuck, I didn't want to be a jerk and just walk out at this point.
Salted Caramel Soft Serve / Cheese Foam / Churros / Candied Cornflakes. $10.
So I got the salted caramel sundae, asking to have the cheese foam instead of the chocolate foam.  I hoped that it would balance out that crazy sweet salted caramel.

"Chef, fire a churro", she yelled back towards the kitchen.  This was a good sign, right? Fresh churros?
About ... 8-10 minutes later, my creation was ready.  And I'll admit, even if I wasn't excited for the ice cream, nor churros really, it did look great.  Don't the churros look like arms?  I was ready to give it a hug.

The churro arms were good.  Good cinnamon sugar coating, crispy exterior, doughy interior, and, well, freshly fried.  Certainly a fine churro.

The ice cream, as expected, was far too sweet.  And not really salted in any way I could detect.

The cheese foam I was actually quite excited for, but it was a bit lackluster.  It certainly didn't have the loft of the cheese foam from any bubble tea place (like Chatime or CoCo Fresh) {LINKS}.   It was just spooned on, not charged (which is true at bubble tea as well, theirs just ... isn't as deflated).  It also wasn't really salty or savory or cheesy in any way.  Just some kinda deflated cream, which did help a little to balance out the too sweet ice cream, but just barely.

The corn flakes I didn't expect to care about, but I ended up really liking the crunch they added, and I think they were coated in something or candied, as they maintained the crunch.  In addition to the flakes you see on the exterior, there were flakes on the bottom as well.

The $10 price is certainly a bit high, but if you consider that a churro would probably be $2, and a bubble tea, with foam, is easily $8, it is reasonable.

But again, this wasn't actually a good base flavor, and, the sweetness was only part of the problem.  I had seen complaints online about people saying the soft serve melted too fast, and I had experienced that myself at Devon North Sydney (or, so I thought).
90 Seconds Later.
No, this one melted faster, literally, than any ice cream I have ever seen in my life.  The North Sydney one melted fast on that 94 degree day, as have cones from any soft serve place, on a truly hot day.  But this ... turned into a puddle in <2 minutes.  And it *wasn't* that hot out.  I *wasn't* in the sun.  This was just ridiculous.  I suddenly understood all the complaints.

Another 90 seconds, and I had basically a milkshake.  Which isn't necessary a bad thing, and the already melty cheese foam blended in easily and mellowed it out this way.  I did quickly pull the churros out, and then dunked them into the melty mess, and it was kinda like dunking donuts in coffee or fries in a milkshake (if you do that ...).  So not entirely a bad thing.  And the cornflakes were then just swimming in the melted creation which ... yeah, was kinda like cereal milk.  I didn't actually mind that either.

So in the end, it did kinda work.  I dunked churros in the mess, I ate it like cereal, and somehow polished it off.  But it certainly wasn't that good, and I wouldn't get it again.

Original Review, April 2915

Brunch is one of my favorite meals.  And it turns out to be one of Sydney's favorite meals too.  As soon as I knew I was visiting Sydney, I set about researching brunch locations.  While I wasn't ever impressed with the fine dining options in Sydney in the past, the cafe and brunch scene certainly did live up.

For our first brunch in town on this trip, we ventured to Devon Cafe, in Surry Hills, one of my favorite neighborhoods.  I knew Devon Cafe was going to be hip, and that the food would be slightly overpriced, but it gets great reviews for tasty and creative brunch dishes, so I was eager to try it.  

Devon Cafe has only been open for two years, but became an overnight hit.  They recently opened a larger sister restaurant, Devon on Danks, in Waterloo, that we almost went to instead, as we figured it would have less of a wait, and they have some creative sounding soft serve ice cream flavors, but Devon Cafe was closer, and, you gotta start with the original anyway right?

So back to why we were there.  The menu sounded great.  In particular, I saw one to many epic photos of their "Little Lost Bread" dish, which is a brioche french toast, topped with strawberries, balsamic and strawberry gastrique, strawberry cheesecake ice cream, and Arnott’s biscuit crumble.  Oh, and you can add bacon.  It might not sound that crazy, but it looks so decadent.  Thick, crunchy french toast, crazy toppings.  It had me written all over it, except ... I don't really like strawberry ice cream, and at last minute, I decided not to order it.  But more on that later.

The food was creative, nicely composed, and well executed, but we didn't love anything.  The setting was just a bit too cramped to really be comfortable.  I'd return if others wanted to, but I won't seek it out again myself.
Tiny Main Room.
The main room is tiny, with just a communal table and a few seats along the wall, plus a register where you can order takeaway.  It was packed, as expected, but we only had about a 20 minute wait.  It went much faster than I anticipated, given how small the space was, as I didn't know about the back garden that was hidden from initial view.
Magic Muffin, Pork Roll.
Available for a quick grab and go near the register are pork rolls and their famous "magic" muffins.  The flavor changes, but at this time of year, the muffin was chocolate and banana, with nutella oozing out of the center, and a perfectly crusty top.  If I liked nutella, I would have gotten one in an instant, it certainly looked like my kind of muffin.
Baked Goods, Fresh Pressed Juice.
They also have a few other baked goods and fresh bottled juices.
Oh, and of course, like every hip place these days, they have housemade cronnies, aka, their version of a cronut, available in milo, matcha with red bean, raspberry and vanilla, or ... even a savory mayo filled and pork floss topped version, all $6.50 each.  I hoped we'd save room for one, and planned to grab one togo on the way out if we were too full, but never did.
Back Area Fencing.
Most seating was out back, crammed full of tiny tables.  It was nice to be outside, but, the ambiance was a bit lacking due to the crowded nature.  The fence was decorated with a green fabric mess, perhaps to make it look somewhat like a garden, rather than just a concrete space between buildings?
Small Little Table.
Our table was tiny, and totally cramped.  It came with a jug of water and cups on it which was nice, as we easily downed the entire jug in the heat and it would have been annoying to keep asking for refills.  The cut flowers were cute, but once we had food on the table too, there was absolutely no space, and looking around, this seemed to be a common problem.  So while nice, the flowers just lead to clutter.
Iced Long Black, Decaf.  $3.50.
Ok, this was amusing.  Since it was crazy hot, I wanted an iced drink.  The menu had both a cold press and a cold drip on it, but alas, regular coffee only, and I wanted decaf since it was afternoon.  So I asked for an iced long black (their version of an Americano).

I was first struck by the mug it came in, a regular hot coffee mug, not an iced coffee cup with a straw, like I saw at other tables for the proper iced drinks.  And then I was struck by the two token ice cubes floating in it ...

It was clear that they just put a few ice cubes into a hot drink.  It wasn't even lukewarm, it was warm.  Basically, the most unpleasant temperature you can imagine to drink coffee at.  Not hot, not cold, certainly not iced.  Those two ice cubes lasted about long enough for me to snap a photo, and then promptly melted.

I asked for additional ice, but it didn't come.  Sometime after we received our food our server remembered and brought it, and at that point, I finally was able to somewhat enjoy an iced drink by pouring it over the fresh ice.  But whoops, I won't do this again.

There was also no offer for cream or sugar to go with it, so I just drank it black, even though it wasn't very good, and I would have liked something to jazz it up.
Cold Press Juice. $8.
Ojan's drink order was more successful than mine.  He selected one of the fresh squeezed juices, with orange, carrot, pineapple, green apple, and lemon.  It was served in a cute glass bottle with a straw.  I think I had a sip, but I didn't write down any notes, and honestly don't remember anything about it.
Over-priced fresh pressed juice served in a trendy fashion?  Devon nailed it.
Breakfast with the Sakuma’s. $25.
"Miso grilled king salmon, smoked eel croquet, 63° egg, radish petite salad and kewpie mayonaise".

For our first dish, we went for the "Breakfast with the Sakuma's".  I was trying to be responsible, and not just order sweets, so we needed a savory item (and no, the pork floss cronnie didn't count as sufficient protein, darn!).

I was tempted by the Fillet 'o' Devon: "battered John Dory fillet, tartare sauce, baby fennel and sorrel, on a brioche bun with onion rings", particularly once I saw a few go by.  The onion rings looked amazing, and I love fried fish.

But I had read many rave reviews of the "Breakfast with the Sakuma's", which is on the menu at both locations, and has been for a while, so I figured it was the better pick.

The salmon was perfectly cooked, although it really seemed sous vide, or olive oil poached rather than grilled as the menu described.  I saw no grill marks, and it was just way too soft and fall apart to possibly be grilled, or even baked.  It was fairly mid-rare, although I'd prefer it even a bit more rare, but it was certainly quite lovely, although I didn't taste the promised miso I was looking forward to.  It was a really lovely piece of fish.

The smoked eel croquet wasn't exactly what I was expecting, I'm not quite sure why, as I'd seen photos and read reviews.  It was basically a big fried ball of crispy rice.  I don't like rice, and this was just too fried for me.  I didn't really taste eel either, although it did have some flavor to it that I couldn't quite identify.

The egg was perfectly cooked, and oozed out lovely yellow yolk as it was cut into.

I love mayo, so the kewpie mayo was quite welcome, and the kewpie itself was a nice touch honoring the Japanese inspiration of the dish.

The greens were fresh and crispy, and I loved the dressing.  It was nice to have a light element on the plate alongside the heavier items.

I'm not 100% sure what the spice mix was on the plate, but it was quite flavorful, and I enjoyed making perfect bites with salmon, dunked in mayo, and then rolled in spices.

Overall, there were a lot of good elements to this dish, and it was definitely a plate that gave you a lot of creativity in how you combined everything.  Everything was well prepared, there were lots of flavors and textures, but it somehow didn't really wow me.  I think the real issue is that this just isn't my style of dish.  I don't like rice or eggs, and I like salmon, but not generally for brunch.  I really just wanted that french toast, particularly as I saw it get delivered to nearby tables, and it was only my sense of responsibility that made me order this instead.

$25 is a pretty high price for a brunch dish, although this was quite large, and could have easily been split with another person to satisfied both (plus a cronnie for dessert!).  I wouldn't get it again.
My Second Asian Cousin Gone Summery. $15.
"Tapioca and coconut with fresh mango, young coconut jelly, chia seeds, macadamia and freeze dried lychees."

For our other dish, I went for the "My Second Asian Cousin Gone Summery".  I was still eying the Little Lost Bread french toast, and after I ordered and saw it pass by a few more times I started regretting my choice, but alas, this sounded too interesting to pass up.  Plus, I was on a serious kick of ordering everything with tapioca, mango, and coconut, as I was binging on Thai desserts at Chat Thai the entire week prior.  Plus, you know how much I love puddings!  This sounded like a great excuse to have dessert for my main dish (not that the french toast, that even came with ice cream, wasn't also just a dessert for a main!).

The dish really was as fascinating as I expected it to be.  The base was a pudding of small tapioca pearls, nicely cooked, not too soft, tot too firm, not stuck together.  It wasn't very creamy though, as the coconut milk broth was thin.  It was loaded up with fun toppings, including a decent amount of fresh ripe mango, which is such a treat in Australia.  The mango there is just so much better than ours in the US!  There was also a lot of a jelly substance that I guess was coconut jelly, along with slices of young coconut.  Those components were less exciting to me.  I don't generally like chia seeds, but there was a just a sprinkle over the dish, and they added a nice crunch, as did the chunks of macadamia.  The absolute best component however was the freeze dried lychees.  They were sweet, crunchy, and absolutely delicious.

I did enjoy this at the exploratory level.  It was fun to try the individual components, and to mix them together into different bites.  The dish had so many different textures, from the tapioca to the jelly to the nuts and freeze dried lychee, to the fresh fruit.  It was interesting, it was creative, it was well done.  It didn't wow me though, and I can't really say why.  I'm not sure what I would have wanted different.

It also was unique in that it was somewhere between a proper breakfast item and a dessert.  I know it sounds a lot like a dessert item, but the base tapioca pudding wasn't that sweet, so it really didn't eat like a dessert.  Had I been served it as a dessert somewhere, I would have been disappointed.  Not that it was savory of course, but it really was quite balanced, with most of the sweetness coming from the fruit.  It seemed like it might almost be healthy.  Almost.

Anyway, I was glad to try it, and it was comforting and a bit refreshing on a hot day, but I wouldn't get it again.  $15 seemed fine for a large portion.
Devon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, May 13, 2019

Golden Flower Restaurant

Well, this was an adventure.

I ventured into Chinatown, in search of interesting dessert-drinks.  I didn't want more bubble tea, but decided I wanted to go for Vietnamese style desserts, masquerading as drinks.  I settled on Golden Flower Restaurant, based on the variety of drinks on the menu, and ease of ordering online.

I can't say it was a success.  And it was certainly a bit troubling re: food safety and prep ...
Curb Appeal.
Golden Flower is located in Chinatown, on Jackson Street.  From across the street, it looks like most other places nearby, with a not-too tacky awning highlighting the "Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine".
Once I got closer, it got more interesting.

In addition to menus, with pictures, the storefront was covered in signs with different ladies on them.  Why?  I have no idea.  No idea at all.

I went inside to find a small restaurant, with only one table occupied.  I had placed my order in advance through the Ritual app, but it wasn't ready yet.  I was not really comfortable waiting inside, as they were all staring at me.
Flowers mask *everything*.
I ventured to the bathroom while I waited for my order, which took me through the kitchen, where I watched someone dump bean sprouts from a plastic bag into a bowl ... on the dirty wet floor.  The kitchen was stocked with all frozen/packaged/canned components.  The cleanliness was a bit concerning, as was the fact that you certainly aren't getting fresh food here.  I looked up the health score later to see they had a 79, with ... "foods not protected from contamination", "inadequate ventilation", and "improper cooling methods", among others, none of which surprise me in any way.

The bathroom too was an adventure.  The floor was soaking wet.  It smelt bad (yup, ventilation), and not in the sewer sense.  The door was covered in graffiti, but at least there were some fake flowers there to help offset?
Cleaning Wash?!
Hanging on the wall in the bathroom was a shower caddy, with a container of cleaning wash (?) and a bag of dried things.

Everything about this place concerned me.
My order was handed over once I got back upstairs, by some not exactly friendly ladies.  I quickly exited.

I laughed a little inside when I was handed a standard Coke paper cup, with a boba straw, with a spoon sticking out the top.  Quite practical, actually, I'd want the boba straw to suck things up, and I'd want to spoon to fish things out, but I can't say I was expecting this packaging.
Chè ba màu. $3.75.
"3 colors bean."

I opened the lid to find a bunch of ice chunks (not cubes, but certainly not crushed), floating on top of some separated coconut cream.  The cream really was super chunky and odd.  I can't say it looked appealing.

I tried a sip.

Yup, it was ... just chunky separated coconut cream, with ice that I was slightly worried about being foodsafe, given their kitchen ...
Red Beans.
I dug in with the spoon.

And found mostly red beans.  Lots of adzuki beans.  They were likely from a can, and just dumped in, there was lots of red bean syrup in there as well.

It took some searching to find any of the other mix-ins, and for a while, I actually thought that they gave me the wrong order, and just gave me the Dau Bo Nuoc Dua (red bean with coconut milk).

Finally, a found a few small yellow mung beans.  There were very few.

All the beans were soft and fine, but like I said, I'm pretty sure they were just dumped in from a can, and they were majority red beans.

But that is just "2 colors bean" ... where is the third?  What was the third?
Green Jelly.
After much, much searching, I finally found some green jellies.  Not beans, but, che often has pandan noodles or jellies, to add the third *color* rather than third *bean*, so, this looked promising.

They tasted like ... nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  No hint of pandan.  Not even sweet.  They were, uh, jellies?  And like I said, not many.

This really just wasn't a quality creation.  Canned products, dumped together, in bad ratios.  And why was that coconut cream so chunky?  The result was just a overly sweet, yet bitter from all the red beans, mess.  I ended up thinning it out, mixing it up well, adding taro powder, and topping with whipped cream to find some enjoyment, but I certainly wouldn't order this again.