Friday, June 07, 2019

Noosa Yoghurt

Update Reviews, 2017 & 2018

More Noosa reviews, my old favorite yogurt brand in the US.  Including their more recent product line: Noosa Mates!

For previous reviews, see my original here, or last updates here.

Another month, another new Noosa flavor!  That is what it seems like sometimes.  Every time I check in on Noosa, they seem to have another new flavor.  And I like to try them all.
"You’ve had the rest, now try the berry best. our take on this quintessential yoghurt flavor is made with real strawberries, whole milk and a touch of pure wildflower honey for bushels of flavor."

I somehow never tried one of Noosa's most simple flavors before: strawberry.  I tried, but didn't care for, the strawberry rhubarb, but never just plain strawberry.  Not sure how I missed this one.

It was fine.  The yogurt the same rich creamy Noosa like the others.  The strawberry layer, as always, in the bottom, was sweet, fruity, and flavorful.  Not just mush, not like generic "pie filling in a can", but it actually closely resembled my mom's own homemade jam.  I liked it.  

This flavor was great with some crumbled peanuts on top too, a la PB&J!
"Apple pie à la yoghurt.  We slowly cook crisp Granny Smith apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves in a large kettle until they magically meld into what can only be described as granny’s apple pie without the crust. It’s then fittingly topped with our rich, creamy honey yoghurt."

There are many Noosa flavors that scream out "dessert!" to me, like lemon and salted caramel, and, given how creamy and rich Noosa yogurt is, they really can almost pass as dessert, and those are my favorites.  So, even though I don't really like apple pie, this one sounded like dessert, so I had to try it.

And ... it was great!  Same fantastic Noosa base yogurt, rich, creamy, slightly sweet.  The apple component was little cubes of apple in spiced puree.  The spicing was strong, but not in a bad way.  It did, indeed, taste like apple pie ... if your apples in your pie were cubed rather than sliced.  The apple wasn't mushy, not too firm.  For apple compote, it really wasn't bad.  And like I said, apple isn't really one of my favorites.

Overall, this was very good, and I enjoyed it.  If you like apple pie in particular, go for this one.
"It’s easy to comb through a tub of the lightly-sweetened deliciousness that is honey noosa. our tart and creamy yoghurt, paired with a touch of the golden stuff, is the tasty foundation to all of our fruit flavors and will make anyone a bee-liever."

Noosa tricked me.  They have two flavors with the same color lid!  I was rushing around the grocery store, and grabbed the yellow lid, assuming it was lemon, my favorite, and one I've reviewed many times.  And ... it wasn't.  It was honey.

I didn't realize this however until I opened it the next morning, and went to look for the lemon layer.  It was missing.  In fact, there was no layer of any kind.  Homogenous yogurt.  What?  That isn't how Noosa makes yogurt ...

I was confused, and actually, assumed manufacturing error.  Did they forget the lemon layer?  And then I re-read the label.  Honey.  Doh.

But still, it is Noosa, so I swallowed my disappointment, and got ready to be excited about trying a new flavor.

As I said, there was no separate layer.  Unlike every other Noosa flavor (besides probably vanilla and plain?  I've never had those).  The yogurt was creamy and thick as always, slightly tart, slightly sweet.  I can't say I tasted honey exactly, but, it certainly was sweeter than plain yogurt.

I wasn't a big fan of this, besides the consistency of the yogurt.

Noosa Mates

Well, Noosa got more fun.  They created "mates", flavored yogurt paired with toppings to mix in.  Some of the flavors sound awesome, like caramel chocolate pecan (caramel yogurt, toasted pecans, Guittard chocolate, and pretzel bits to mix in), or coffee chocolate almond (coffee yogurt made with cold brew, with almonds, Guittard chocolate, and coffee crunch).
Noosa Mates: Packaging.
The portions are individual servings, larger than their regular single serves though, with a separate top clear container showing off the mix-ins.
Honey Cranberry Almond.
"Breakfast isn’t just the most important meal of the day, it’s also our favorite. A combination of granola, cranberries, roasted almonds and pepitas plucked straight from the breakfast bowl and placed on top our creamy honey noosa you can enjoy anytime of the day." 

Each compartment is individually sealed.

I would have picked one of the more fun flavors, but, these were being given out for free on the street, so, I had no choice, and I was still excited to try it.
Noosa Mates: Honey Yogurt.
The yogurt was standard, rich, thick, creamy Noosa, with a pleasant sweetness of honey.
Cranberry Almond Granola Topping.
The topping sounded pretty boring, but I actually really liked it.

Sweet crispy bits of granola with oats, sunflower seeds, amaranth, millet, quinoa, and chia hiding in there.  Nice cinnamon flavor to the granola too.  Flakes of toasted almonds.  Crunchy pepitas.  I wasn't into the cranberries, a bit too hard, but I rarely like dried cranberries.

The topping ingredients all combined together nicely, complimentary flavors, and they were indeed nice to mix in with the yogurt.  I opted to just make "perfect bites" rather than mixing in directly, so I would take a spoonful of yogurt and then load it up with granola.  I was sadden by the portion of topping though, not nearly sufficient for this style of eating.

Overall though, quite tasty and satisfying.
Noosa Mates: Coconut Almond Chocolate.
"No shirt. No shoes. Only a spoon is required to enjoy this tropical island treat. Toasted coconut, almond slivers and Guittard Chocolate chips are set adrift upon our creamy coconut yoghurt. So kick back and lose yourself in our tub."

The base for this one was the coconut yogurt, which I've reviewed before.
Coconut Almond Chocolate Topping.
The topping to this sounded slightly better - sliced almonds like the previous one, but I'll take toasted coconut and chocolate over granola and cranberries any day.

And, much like the previous flavor, I loved this topping too, even though it sounded pretty simple.

The chocolate chips were Guittard chocolate, dark, high quality, plentiful.  An excuse to eat chocolate? Works for me.

The coconut was my favorite though, not just toasted, but somewhat candied almost.  Sweet and crunchy.  I really enjoyed it.

I liked the composed yogurt + toppings, and I like Noosa yogurt in general, but honestly, I like the toppings enough as munchies that I'd buy those individually too!  Or, I wish they gave more  - what is provided is exactly the right amount for a serving, uh, I just want more extra!

Update Reviews, November 2016

Noosa.  My favorite store brand yogurt, as I've reviewed before, because it is basically dessert.  While not all flavors are amazing, the salted caramel and lemon have long been my favorites.  But Noosa continues to introduce new flavors, and I continue to try them all, no matter how strange they sound.  This batch of flavors were all interesting, and the yogurt was still the same creamy, rich noosa I love, but, none of the new flavors did it for me.  I'm glad I've tried more, but, I'm going back to my old faves.
“The crisp days of fall call for the smooth taste of noosa, with our own spin on traditional pumpkin pie. This seasonal noosa will carve out a place in your heart with the warm, rich spices in our pumpkin puree."

I was hoping that this would be like pumpkin pie.  With creamy noosa on top.  Creamy pumpkin pie.  Mmmm.

It ... wasn't.  Sure, the yogurt was standard creamy, rich noosa and I liked the yogurt itself.  But the pumpkin puree layer was ... just orange pudding?  It didn't taste like pumpkin, and it certainly didn't have the spices of pumpkin pie (not that it claimed to).  It was very bland.

Overall, the yogurt was fine, but, the pumpkin was a disappointment.
"Sometimes we like contrast, and other times we crave a single intensity. Smooth, creamy coconut mixed with smooth, creamy noosa yoghurt is perfect for those times. Every luxurious spoonful of real shredded coconut is yum in every way."

As always, the yogurt was creamy and rather decadent, but fairly plain (although sweet) on its own.  Unlike most other Noosa flavors with very visible fruit puree layers though, this one was almost entirely white.  Because, well, coconut.

The coconut layer was, as always, located on the bottom/side of the container, available for me to mix in as I desired.  It was a bit hard to find though, since the colors were so similar.  The coconut layer was a puree of sorts, made from coconut, coconut cream, sweetened condensed milk, and lots of sugar.  It was basically just tons of shredded coconut, in a thickish sweet sauce.  It reminded me of German chocolate cake filling, just, sans any chocolate.  It was quite sweet since it was considerably sweetened, which was just a bit odd with the coconut flavor.  It also didn't taste *that* coconuty, although it was clearly made of shredded coconut.  The texture of all the shredded coconut was a bit off putting.

Overall, this was ok, but, you certainly have to like shredded coconut and sweet.  I wanted to add cocoa powder, or chocolate sauce, or chocolate chips, or something and turn it into a German chocolate cake.
Bhakti Chai.
"Close your eyes and visualize your favorite spoon. Now, picture yourself digging into a creamy yoghurt blend of chai tea and masala spices from our favorite local chai company: Bhakti. There’s only one way to describe it. Namastasty."

Well, hmm.  This isn't a combination I would have thought of, or, honestly, picked out on the street.  But Ojan brought it to me to try out, as he knows I love trying new Noosa flavors.

It was ... interesting.  The yogurt was thick, rich, creamy, delightful Noosa yogurt as always.  And the chai?  Well ... it was kinda watery, sweet, spiced syrup that I don't entirely want with my yogurt.  Unlike most Noosa, there seemed to be some on top too, not just on the bottom as is standard.  I wonder if that is because it is more watery than other flavors, so it seeped up the sides?

Anyway, it was Chai, for sure.  And it was well spiced.  Just not really my thing.

[ no photo ]
Blackberry Serrano.

"Rob (our co-founder) has a new favorite flavor: this one. Go ahead. Dip your spoon into our marionberry blackberry and serrano chili noosa. It’s sweet, then spicy, then creamy, then gone."

Ojan picked this one up for himself.  I didn't take a photo, as it was his yogurt.  But I did steal a bite.

It was too crazy for me not to review.  Blackberry.  Serrano.  Yes, chili pepper.  In yogurt.  The spice made it incredibly savory, even though the blackberry component was sweet.  It was spicy.  Serious kick.  So strange.  So very strange.

I don't like blackberry really, so, I didn't like this, but the serrano was beyond fascinating.  It made me really curious to try the other "Sweet Heat" flavors, like pineapple jalapeno or raspberry habanero ...

Original Review, June 2016

Let's talk about yoghurt.  Or yogurt.  Obviously, not a subject I've really reviewed before (except when mentioning it in hotel breakfast buffets or when chains like Starbucks or Pinkberry introduced new versions).  And to be honest, I'm not generally a yogurt eater ... unless it is froyo of course.

The fact that I'm not into yogurt isn't really consistent with what you'd expect, given my love of puddings, panna cotta, and other creamy, rich, dairy based desserts.  Which perhaps is the problem.  I always want yogurt to really be dessert.  And generally, it just falls short of that line.

Enter Noosa.  They sum it up pretty well: "We’re noosa, and we make yoghurt. But not just any yoghurt. Ours is thick and velvety. Sweet and tart."

It really is quite different from other yogurt.  The texture really is thicker, yet creamier, than other yogurt.  I'm not sure how they do it.  Besides the plain, all flavors have a compote you mix in.

Noosa was started by an Australian ex-pat who lives in Colorado.  In Australia, this sort of yogurt is common - a big container of rich, creamy, full fat, delicious yogurt, generally topped with something like passion fruit.  Every corner market has it.  Yogurt is big there.  So when the founder of Noosa moved to the US and couldn't find it, she decided to fix that.

Enter Noosa.  She puts the fruit compote on the bottom, but, besides that, it really does remind me of the yogurt in Australia.  The flavor variety is fairly extensive at this point, mostly fruit based, but, recently they have gotten a bit trendy with a pumpkin and salted caramel flavors.

Noosa is still yogurt, don't get me wrong, but, some flavors in particular are close enough to crossing into dessert territory that if you are looking for a guilt free tree it really might satisfy, particularly with a crumble of some sort sprinkled on top.

(For the record, there does exist yogurt that IS entirely like dessert.  You can find it at Tres restaurant at the SLS Hotel in Beverley Hills.  It is ... amazing.  Basically panna cotta, but made from Fage yogurt, whipped with vanilla bean, and with some more magic done to it.  If you ever find yourself in the area, seriously, make a beeline for it!)
Blueberry Yoghurt.
"Sure, you’ve tried blueberry yoghurt, but blueberry noosa is in a league of its own. Off-the-charts in yum, our best-selling flavor inspires cravings like no other with sweet, juicy blueberries hidden beneath our creamy yoghurt."

This was the first flavor I ever tried.

The yogurt was almost a cross between what I know as Greek yogurt and American yogurt.  It was clearly thicker than traditional yogurt, but creamier than Greek yogurt.  Australian style?

Anyway, I liked the fact that it was creamy and thick.  I certainly see why people love this yogurt, texture-wise.  But in terms of flavor, this variety didn't do it for me.  The base yogurt was pretty flavorless, which is fine, as you are supposed to mix in the blueberry.  The blueberry was a compote in the bottom that I could mix in as desired.  It wasn't too sweet, which I appreciated.  There seemed to be just the right amount of fruit vs yogurt, which I also appreciated.  There were whole little blueberries, also appreciated.

Everything about this spelt success, yet it didn't do it for me.  I clearly just needed to try another flavor, since, it was *almost* amazing.
Raspberry yoghurt.
"Raspberries picked at plump perfection are bonza all on their own, but taste even more yum when mixed with our luscious and velvety yoghurt. A little bit tart, a little bit sweet, and a whole lot delicious, raspberry noosa is a dazzling experience."

The next flavor I tried was raspberry, as Ojan said raspberry is one of his favorite yoghurt flavors.

Like the blueberry, the consistency of the yogurt was great, thicker than standard American yogurt, but creamier than most Greek.  Because it is full fat, it had a luxurious feel to it.

Again, like the blueberry, the raspberry came as a compote on the bottom.  I tried the yogurt plain at first and it was boring, I tried the compote plain and it was just sweet, but once I mixed it all together completely, a nice raspberry flavor came out.  Not quite as flavorful as I'd like, but I appreciated that it wasn't too sweet.  I didn't love the compote though, perhaps I just wasn't in the mood for raspberry flavor.

The mouthfeel is really where this yogurt it wins though.  It almost feels like you are eating a dessert.  Topped with fresh fruit and granola crumbles, it was even better.  I probably wouldn't get this flavor again, but I'm now convinced that I just need to find MY flavor!
Lemon Yoghurt.
"When life gave us lemons, we mixed them with our unique, velvety yoghurt. The smooth, silky, and perfectly tart lemon curd is a ray of sunshine at the bottom of every lemon noosa tub."

And the winner is ... lemon!

This shocked me, as I don't really like lemon flavored dessert-y things.  Lemon squeezed over salmon?  Yes.  Lemon has its place.  But in my desserts, for some reason, no!  Nothing disappoints me more than finding out that dessert is going to be a lemon cream pie or lemon bar.

So I didn't expect to like this at all.  At first glance, it was just like the others.  Creamy but thick base, lemon fruit puree on the bottom.  I tentatively tried the fruit puree, ready to recoil.  But instead ... I just dug back in.

It was tangy.  It was sweet.  If I thought the raspberry flavor was almost dessert, this one certainly was.  Even better with granola crumbles on top.

I could eat this for breakfast and feel like I was getting away with quite the treat.  Or eat it for dessert and feel like I was having such restraint.  I even think you could top it with whipped cream and it wouldn't be weird.  (I didn't get that experiment as it was gone, literally, in two seconds.)

Next time, I'm getting a bigger container.  And trust me, there WILL be a next time!
Strawberry Rhubarb.
"Strawberry whaaaa? We put our own spin on the classic flavor of sweet, succulent strawberries and added tangy, tart rhubarb. No matter what hemisphere you hail from, you can’t resist this tempting combo."

I feel like a broken record at this point.  The yogurt base was the same creamy yet thick consistency that I liked.  The fruit wasn't too sweet.

Is this my first choice of flavor? No.  But, like the raspberry and blueberry, it had all the right things going on, just, strawberry rhubarb isn't my flavor.
"The satiny tropical flavor of a sweet and tangy mango takes us back to those lazy days at Noosa beach. Enjoying it during a lounge in the sand has been known to enhance the yum-factor of the exotic fruit."

Like all the Noosa yogurts, the yogurt and fruit are separate, with a layer of the mango purée on the bottom, off to one side, so you can mix it in.  You can guess how I felt about the mango.  Still not for me.
Tart Cherry Noosa.
"Imagine a slice of tart cherry pie served with a side of creamy, lightly-sweetened yoghurt. "

Since I always think the lemon noosa tastes like dessert, this sounded promising.  Cherry pie ...

It didn't wow me.  As always, the yogurt was fairly creamy, and a great thick consistency.  The tart cherry was in the bottom, a compote with pieces of cherry in it, slightly tart.  It was fine, but, not one I'd go for again.  I wanted more cherry, and larger pieces of cherry.  Really, I guess I just wanted cherry pie.
Salted Caramel.
"Some things in life are too good to be true. Thankfully, the combination of salty, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth caramel and our thick, velvety yoghurt isn’t one of them."

And this ... this is what all my noosa dreams are made of.  When I saw this flavor, let's just say, I was excited.  I love the base noosa yogurt, but, most of the fruit compotes haven't *quite* don't it for me.  But salted caramel? Um, yes!

And, it delivered.  The same signature, thick, creamy noosa yogurt.  Decadent enough on its own.  But this time, instead of a fruit compote or puree, there is a caramel.  Sweet, flavorful.  For all the times I've thought that noosa yogurt was basically dessert ... this one really went a step further in that direction.

It wasn't as full fledged sweet or desserty as would actually satisfy me for dessert, but, for a mid-afternoon snack, it was truly delightful.  My favorite, although, the lemon remains a close second.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Crumble & Whisk Pâtisserie

Update Review, 2018 Tastings

Crumble & Whisk is a local cheesecake company that I've been tracking for some time. It wasn't until a catering event last year however that I finally got to try them, took one bite of the Pumpkin Spice with Bourbon flavor, and realized just how much I had been missing out on. That was some seriously good cheesecake (go read that review, and company history, first).

But, as I noted in my previous review, Crumble & Whisk does not operate a storefront, so, acquiring these delights is a bit harder.  They do sell at Farmer's Markets (in Oakland!), and used to sell on Good Eggs, but finally I discovered that they also sell on Munchery.  Munchery is was a meal delivery service that offers meals designed to be reheated by you at home (aka, they aren't delivered hot).  I've watched Munchery grow, pivot, and change, as I was one of their original customers in San Francisco, their first city.  Since then, they've added cooking kits for those who like to do some meal prep and kid's meals, and they've partnered with local juice companies and coffee makers to offer interesting beverage options.  And ... they've added some amazing desserts from local merchants as well.  The other food is all made by their chef team, but they've chosen to outsource desserts, which has worked remarkably well.  They offer incredible mini Pies from Pietisserie (which I've reviewed before), puddings from Petit Pot (review coming soon), and, swoon, cheesecake from Crumble & Whisk.  You can read all my Munchery reviews using the label on my blog, but, they have shut down since I wrote this, so, alas.
I Love New York Cheesecake: Finally!
Anyway, back to Crumble & Whisk.  Munchery clearly only carries a limited number of these cheesecakes, and they seem to *always* been sold out, particularly on weekends when I want to order.  They also only offer one flavor at a time.

I watched Munchery menus daily for ages, and finally, finally managed to catch them.  (Protip: Order as soon as you see them on the menu, even if you don't end up ordering anything else.  Yes, this cheesecake is worth the delivery fee alone.  I'm not joking. )

The first time I finally managed to successfully order, the flavor was the most simple of all: I Love New York, a classic New York style cheesecake.  While not nearly as exciting as any of the exotic collection (which aren't available on Munchery), or even the strawberry or lemon versions which do appear from time to time on Munchery, it seemed like the perfect way to judge a basic cheesecake.
Munchery Packaging.
The packaging is different from anything else I've had from Munchery, perhaps provided by Crumble & Whisk directly?  The clear plastic domes make it easy to see the beauty of a cheesecake inside, but I did find the hight of the dome a bit strange ... why did I need such a big thing?  It also had a Munchery label stuck on, but unlike other Munchery items, it did not have ingredients nor nutritional information.  Which, given what I know about cheesecake, is probably a good thing.
I Love New York Cheesecake. $5.95.
"This is classic New York-style cheesecake with just a hint of tangy lemon and a smooth, creamy texture." - Munchery

"My version of the classic features madagascar bourbon vanilla and velvet sour cream and lemon juice." - Crumble & Whisk

This was cheesecake perfection.  Honestly.

It was light and fluffy, yet incredibly creamy and rich, all at once.  The flavor was deceptively simple, yes, a plain cheesecake, but, it didn't taste just like sweet cream cheese.  It had subtleness from the sour cream, the vanilla, and the lemon juice.  I couldn't pick any ingredient out, and if you were to ask me what was in it, I couldn't tell you.  They complimented each other in a way that just created an absolutely balanced flavor.
I Love New York: Cross Section.
And then the crust.  It did not seem like a classic graham cracker crust (always kinda a throwaway crust in my mind).  Instead, it was more compressed, more sugary, almost like a sugar cookie or shortbread?  It too was delightful, and I appreciated the thickness of that layer.

This was stunning, simple, and stunning.  Seriously, cheesecake perfection, and it needed nothing else.  No topping, no drizzle of sauce, no whipped cream.  Just a spoon, a moment of silence, and complete happiness.

You can purchase these in different sizes from Crumble & Whisk as well: 3" ($8), 7" ($35), or 9" ($45).  The Munchery price of $5.95 was fantastic for an individual cheesecake that was perhaps just a little bigger than you knew you *should* eat on your own, but there is no way I was about to share even a single bite of this one.
Beet & Berries (3"). $8.
"Roasted organic baby beets infused with blueberries and hint of lemon, swirled in, topped with blueberry red wine reduction compote."

Crumble & Whisk also sells their cheesecakes at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market, and one day they had two of their more interesting sounding flavors on display: one was green (!) and had matcha and avocado in it, and the other with this, an innocent looking blueberry topped creation.  I love matcha but since I'm allergic to avocado I couldn't try that one, so I got the Beet & Berries, which actually sounded more interesting anyway.

I love blueberries, and I wasn't afraid of a little beet in my dessert, so this sounded like a winner.  It was ... fine.  Same creamy cheesecake, same buttery amazing crust, and lots of flavor from the blueberry elements, but I didn't taste the beet.  I wanted it to taste more special.  This was fine, but, well, not special.

Original Review, March 2016

Artisan cheesecake.

Those were the only words I needed to see.   I like cheesecake.  I like fancy cheesecake.  So when I learned about Crumble & Whisk Pâtisserie, an artisan cheesecake maker, I couldn't wait to try the goods.

Crumble & Whisk was started in 2013, I believe mostly as just a catering business.  For a while the cheesecakes were sold on Good Eggs, which is where I saw them.  I think I recall seeing them at the farmer's market once or twice as well.  But, for the most part, the business is catering.

Cheesecakes are available in several sizes, generally round (individual 3", full size 7", or large 9"), but they also are available as 2" squares for catering only.

Crumble & Whisk breaks the cheesecake menu up into 3 categories: "classic", "exotic", and "holiday".  The classics include:
  • "I love New York", Madagascar bourbon vanilla and sour cream
  • "Strawberry Fields", strawberries swirled inside and on top
  • "Puckered Up!", lemon curd and candied citrus
  • "Triple Chocolate Threat", with a chocolate crust and chocolate ganache
The exotic lineup does get a bit more interesting, including:
  • "The Dirty South", with sweet potatoes, brown sugar, and bourbon
  • "Beet & Berry", with yes, beets and blueberries,
  • "Madagascar Vanilla-Bourbon", with mmm, bourbon glaze
  • "Banana Spice", caramelized banana and caramel
  • "Spicy Mexican Chocolate" with cayenne and chili powder
  • "Vegan Delight", made with tofu instead of cream cheese
It was the holiday menu that sounded the best though:
  • "Pecan Crumble", with pecans, maple, and streusel topping.  (OMG, I love all of those things!)
  • "Winter White Chocolate", with cranberry and orange
  • "Apple Spice", with apples and brandy
  • "Pumpkin Spice with Bourbon", pumpkin, bourbon, and caramel drizzle
By now, you may have noticed how many have bourbon.  I did, and I approve.

I always planned to order Crumble & Whisk cheesecakes the next time I made a Good Eggs order, but, alas, they were removed from Good Eggs before I ever did.  A few weeks later, I attended an event, and it had amazing cheesecake.  I eventually tracked down the caterer to learn where the cheesecake came from.  The answer?  Crumble & Whisk!  I was so glad I finally got to try the cheesecake I had been eying, but also so sad that I never took advantage of it when it was on Good Eggs.

Anyway, wonderful cheesecake, and I'd really, really love to try some of the other varieties.
Pumpkin Spice with Bourbon. Catering size.  $3.50.
"Organic fresh roasted pumpkin, with spiced pepita (pumpkin seeds) with bourbon caramel drizzle."

My encounter with Crumble & Whisk was at a catering event, so I had a 2" square piece, rather than a signature round item.

I took one bite and I was sold.  Wow, this was great cheesecake.

The texture was perfect, creamy, but well set.  There was clearly plenty of pumpkin puree in it, as it tasted almost like a regular pumpkin pie, just one that was a bit richer than usual.  So, so creamy.  It was also nicely spiced with cinnamon, ginger, all spice, nutmeg, and clove, standard "pumpkin spice" seasonings, but very balanced, none overwhelming.  I am always disappointed when "pumpkin spice" means an overdose of nutmeg or cinnamon.

So the cheesecake itself was great, but so was the bourbon caramel drizzle over the top.  It wasn't necessary, the cheesecake stood up fine on its own, but I'll never turn down a little extra sweet drizzle.

Oh, and the crust.  Sugary, buttery, crumbly, delicious.  A nice thick layer.

Put it all together, and you get a fantastic bite.  I wanted more than a 2" square!

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Red Dog Restaurant

Update Review, May 2019

One Sunday morning I was walking home, and I was *really* craving a biscuit.  No idea why, but all I wanted was a biscuit.  And, I happened to remember that people like the one from Red Dog, and I was literally walking right by.  I immediately veered off course, and ordered a biscuit, stat.  To go.

It was ready fast, packaged nicely.
Buttermilk-Chive Biscuit / Honey Butter. $4.50.
I found the biscuit to be ... good, but not satisfying.   If that makes any sense.

The biscuit was served warm, +1 point.

It had a decent buttermilk tang, decent flavor from the chives, and wasn't greasy.  All good.  +1 point.

The texture wasn't amazing though, not a flaky buttermilk biscuit, not a scone-style either, more like ... a more decadent bread roll?  This is where I found it ... boring.

The honey butter on the side however was fantastic.  Whipped, perfectly soft so it would melt in, sweet.  I really enjoyed the honey butter.  +1 point.

But all together, I was left underwhelmed.  The biscuit was fine, the honey butter was good, but it didn't really all come together that well.  I think the biscuit would be better smothered in gravy?  (and, they do serve fried chicken & biscuits with gravy on the brunch menu, but when you get a biscuit a la carte, it doesn't have a gravy option).

So, overall fine, but not something I'd go back for.

Update Review, May 2017

I'll admit it, I totally forgot about Red Dog, even though I was excited when I heard it was opening several years ago.  I was familiar with the chef from her role at Il Cane Rosso, and I was really happy she was opening her own restaurant.  I went once to get takeout brunch , and then ... uh , I forgot about it.  Which is sad, given that it only a block from my house.

I think the restaurant is suffering from people forgetting about it, and is trying to get back in touch with the neighborhood, so they invited my apartment building for a party.  They reserved an entire private area for us, on a Saturday night, from 6:30pm-8:30pm.  They brought us tons of food, and unlimited drinks, free of charge.  I appreciated it, for sure, but, I couldn't help but wonder why they were doing this for us.

Red Dog is open every day for lunch and dinner, plus brunch on weekends.  They have Happy Hours every day of the week from 3pm-7pm.  My visit was a Saturday night, and the restaurant had only a handful of tables occupied in the main room during that entire time.  Maybe lunch is busy during the week with all the businesses nearby?  Maybe they do a good weekend brunch?  Otherwise, I really don't understand how they can still be open all these hours?
Food & Drinks.
The dinner menu is broken into 4 categories: "getting started", "vegetables", "house-made pasta", and "entrees".

At our event, we were served items from the first 3 categories, plus off-menu pizza and Happy Hour specials.  It was a nice spread, and everything was fairly good.  Well prepared, well seasoned, but mostly a bit uninteresting.  There was one standout dish however, that I would return for.
Live Band.
On Friday and Saturday nights, they feature a live jazz band starting at 7pm.  Again, I thought this was really nice, but, couldn't help but wonder about it.  How can they pay a band when there are only a handful of occupied tables?  It did make for a lovely atmosphere though.
Grayhound / Vodka / Grapefruit.
Our hosts had selected a sparkling, a white, and a red wine, a handful of beers, and a single cocktail for us to pick from.  I started with the cocktail, a grayhound.

It was good, simple, but well made, and nicely balanced.  I was impressed that it wasn't too tart, but the vodka also wasn't too strong.

I moved on to the red wine selection (grenache) and wasn't such a fan, and wished I had just stuck with the cocktail.  I'd love to try some of their signature cocktails next.
House-cut Kennebec Fries / Curry Ketchup / Spicy Aioli. $5.
The fries came from the "getting started" section of the menu.  It is the only dish we had from the "getting started" section, which I was a bit disappointed by, as I really wanted to try their most famous dish, the deviled ham scotch egg, and the signature house-made rustic beer bread with honey butter.  Alas, I'll need to return to order them myself sometime.

The fries were fine, crispy enough, skin on, but, not particularly interesting.

I did not try the curry ketchup, but the spicy aioli was good, it did indeed have a bit of a kick to it.

Overall, fine, but not remarkable fries.  My second to last pick of the night, and I wouldn't get them again.
Crispy Brussels Sprouts & Romenesco / taggiasca olives /  lemon / remoulade. $7.
Next we had crispy veggies, from the vegetables section of the menu.  This menu section featured items I'd consider first courses like soup and salads, plus dishes that seemed more like sides like sauteed swiss chard and grilled asparagus, and this, which really seemed like an appetizer.  It was the only veggie dish we received.

This dish was awesome.  Dish of the night, hands down.  I loved it, and was thrilled that they kept bringing us fresh orders.  I certainly uh, ate my vegetables this night.

But this was not a healthy veggie dish, obviously.  The veggies were fried, very fried.  They clearly soaked up a ton of oil.  But, that is what made them delicious.  I really enjoyed both the brussels (particularly the crispy leaves) and the romanesco (softer, more juicy).   I didn't particularly want the olives, but they were fine.

I loved the remoulade.  It was fantastic.  Seriously, really, really excellent remoulade.  I liked the bits in it, I appreciated the slightly spicy flavor, and it was just a wonderful compliment to the veggies, although, actually, the veggies were tasty enough that they didn't need it.

Was this a perfect dish?  Nah.  The veggies weren't actually that crispy, and they did have too much oil.  But I really liked it, regardless.  I'd get it again.
Chilaquiles Dip / refried beans / juanito’s salsa / poached egg / house-made chips. $6.
Chilaquiles is featured on the Happy Hour menu, with a larger version with multiple eggs is also on the brunch menu.

The housemade chips were ok, a bit oily, but they had a good flavor to them.

The dip itself was, well, beans, which I'm not particularly fond of.  I did like that it was mostly smooth but still had bits of beans for texture, and it was well spiced, a fairly complex flavor.  The poached egg seemed strange for a Happy Hour / appetizer item, although I think it would be fine for brunch.

I felt this dish didn't quite hit the mark and seemed a bit confused / trying to hard, but I know my opinion is tainted in that I don't like beans or eggs much.  My least favorite dish.
Off-Menu Flatbread.
Pizzas, er flatbreads, aren't on the regular menu anywhere, but, we had many of these brought out throughout the night.

It came topped with roasted cherry tomatoes, some kind of meat, melty cheese, and arugula on top.

It was decent pizza, crispy crust, flavorful toppings, and I really liked the fresh perfectly melty cheese.  It might have been crescenza, like showed up in the pasta dish?  I even liked the arugula on top for added freshness.

My second favorite dish, although I wouldn't necessarily get it again.
Rosemary Pappardelle / pork & cabbage sugo / piquillo peppers / crescenza cheese. $19.
The "house-made pasta" section contains only two items, a vegetarian farro spaghetti, and this pappardelle.  We had only this one.

It was pretty good.  The pasta seemed like fresh pasta, large sheets of egg noodles, decently cooked.  I love crescenza, so the big glob of cheese was most welcome, although it didn't really melt into the dish very well.  The pork was soft and tender.

Overall, this was fine, although it didn't have much flavor nor complexity to it.  Still, I appreciated fresh pasta and I did like the cheese.  My third pick, middle of the road, I wouldn't get it again.

Original Review, October 2014

Last week I reviewed Il Cane Rosso, the fast casual restaurant of chef Lauren Kiino, located on the Embarcadero, in the Ferry Building.  That establishment was originally part of the Daniel Patterson group, although I think chef Kiino was the head chef there from day one.  But this past year, she opened her own restaurant from scratch, down the street in the other direction from my house: Red Dog.  The astute reader may notice the naming: Cane Rosso/Red Dog.

Red Dog in many ways feels like a slightly more grown up version of Il Cane Rosso.  It is a full service restaurant, unlike Il Cane Rosso, but it is still comfortable and casual.  The focus on local, seasonal ingredients, and Californian cuisine is there, but this time, in an environment where the cuisine can be more refined.  They are open for lunch and dinner daily, and brunch on weekends (when they first opened, they were open for breakfast during the week too, which is when I visited).

Service very friendly.  I was there to get french toast to go, and when the waitress saw that I had a coffee in hand, she offered to fill my cup up for me.  I said no the first time, but when she came to check on me while I was waiting a few minutes later, she offered again.  I had already paid my bill, but I hesitantly said sure.  She really seemed to want to give me more coffee, chirping about how she  brews it fresh all morning long.  The coffee was actually great - deep, dark, rich.   I imagine it is the same coffee they use at Fearless, their coffee shop next door (review coming next week!)
Dining Area.
The space is beautiful, in a casual way.  Bright, light-filled, open, airy, with gorgeous wood tones throughout.  I can't even count how many different colors and styles of wood I saw; the table tops were made from blond, narrow planks, the chairs from a darker wood, and floors were made of wide, dark planks.   It was stunning, in a modern rustic way.
Bar Area.
The wood tones are carried through to the bar area, with the same lighter colored wood is used for the bar,  and darker tones used for the stools.
Small Griddled French Toast: l emon fromage blanc, pluot compote. $7.
After a short wait, and some excellent coffee, I was presented with my to go bag.

The packaging was nicely done - utensils included, plentiful high-quality napkins provided, all in a nice paper bag with handles.  I imagine given the location in an office park, with such nice seating areas around outside, that take out is fairly common.

I was a bit surprised when I opened the box.  I did not see any slices of bread, which is uh, what I think of as french toast.

Instead, it was more like bread pudding.  A very thick slice, moist inside, slightly eggy.  Moderate spicing, I detected at least a little cinnamon.  What I loved was the griddled aspect - it provided a smokiness, almost burnt, but not quite.  The griddle also gave a lovely crust.  Something I always care about with bread puddings is having a crispy exterior and a moist, custardy interior, and they nailed that in a unique way with this preparation.

On top was a good sized scoop of lemon fromage blanc.  At first I was a bit disappointed by it, as it was tangy, and not very sweetened.  In my mind, when I'm getting french toast, I somewhat expect it to be a sugar bomb, all drenched in maple syrup or sweet fruit sauces, topped with sweetened whipped cream.  But once I re-adjusted my expectations, I quickly fell in love with it.  The texture was a bit more like ricotta than a smooth cream, but the tang was remarkable, and really made it feel like I wasn't eating dessert for breakfast.  Not that I have a problem with dessert for breakfast, but it makes it more of an acceptable "everyday" dish.

On the side was fruit compote, made from pluots.  It provided some of the sweetness that I was looking for, but it was not overly sweet.  There was a generous amount of this provided as well.  The pluot compote and fromage blanc made for a lovely combination, almost reminding me of a yogurt and fruit parfait.

Overall, this is not at all what I was expecting from the name french toast, but I really did enjoy it.  I'd get it again, but would rather explore more of the menu first.

The $7 price was remarkably reasonable for a very well thought out dish.  This was the small size, it is also available as two "slices" for $12.
Red Dog Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Qantas Business & First Lounges, Melbourne

During my recent trip to Sydney, I flew on Qantas for the first time in a few years.  I flew direct SFO-SYD on the way there because I was able to snag the coveted single seat on the direct flight, but on the return journey, I opted to connect through Melbourne because it meant I could try out the new Dreamliner, and fly at what seemed like better flight times.

My journey started in the Sydney domestic airport where I checked out the Qantas Business Lounge and Qantas Club (review coming soon), then grabbed some mediocre sushi from Wok On Air, and had INCREDIBLE onion rings at Bar Roma.  And I had a small meal on the flight from SYD to MEL.

I didn't expect to eat much in Melbourne, as I had more than a full meal already, and my next flight would have a meal as well, but then my seat mate on the SYD-MEL flight offered to let me into the First Class lounge as his guest.  So ... I obviously took him up on that, and also cruised through the Qantas Business lounge and the Plaza Premium lounge, just for research purposes.

Business Lounge

The business lounge was a fairly standard lounge, quite large, and not very crowded at all, at 10pm when I visited.  It was calm and quiet.

I did not spend much time checking out the seating nor amenities, but they seemed to have extensive types of seating, showers, etc.

I nibbled a few things from the buffet, just to try them, and I was actually fairly impressed.  If I had wanted a meal, I think I would have been satisfied.
Jars of goodies!
I entered the lounge to find ... jars of snacks!  Yes!  A different lineup than the First Class Lounge where they had spiced mixed nuts and AMAZING buttered popcorn, here we had rice crackers (simple, bland, meh), wasabi peas, and gummies.

I was happy to see the gummies, as I adore gummy candy, although the Plaza Premium Lounge gummy candy offering was a bit better with mixed gummies, rather than just one type.  

I liked the wasabi peas; sometimes I find the wasabi flavor too strong, or the peas too ... pea-like, but these were the kind I do like, and I'd happily munch on those alongside a drink if I was staying.

So, points for the snacks.
Self-Serve Soft Drinks, White Wine.
Drinks were self-serve, canned soft drinks, white wine, and beer, chilled glasses included.
Spirits, Red Wine.
The spirits and red wine were located adjacent to the fridge, a decent line up, with plenty of mixers too.

In another area was also a barista station, unstaffed when I was there likely due to the late hour.  I believe this is also where they would normally serve the "dish of the day", but that had ended earlier since it was so late.
All Day Dining Menu.
The food lineup was a buffet, with clear signage with the full menu, including all dish details, allergens, etc.
Market salads: tomato and cucumber, rocket salad / Cheddar cheese & accompaniments.
The majority of the menu is composed "Market Salads".  I didn't try either of these first two.

I did try some of the cheddar cheese, and, it really was great cheese.  Really sharp, flavorful cheddar.  I liked the assorted spreads with it as well.  Another cheese and accompaniments station was located on the other side of the lounge as well.
Market Salads: asian slaw, barley salad, potato salad.
"Potato salad with bacon, shallot, spinach, spring onion, watercress, walnut, Dijon mustard dressing."

From the market salad lineup, I tried the potato salad, hot on the heels of being disappointed by the potato salad in the Plaza Premium Lounge.

It wasn't really a classic potato salad though, it had a lot going on in terms of extra things (like, um, all the greenery!), it wasn't creamy, and, the promise of bacon didn't really come through.

If I wanted something else, I would have tried the Asian slaw, since I do love slaw, but I was stuffed, and grumpy that it said "crispy noodles" and I didn't see any.
Toasted Sandwiches: Ham/Salami, Roasted Vegetable.
Two types of pre-made sandwiches were available, listed as "Toasted Sandwiches" on the menu, which confused me, until I saw the panini press nearby.

Toasted to order, a smart design (fresh and crisp!) ... for those who realize it of course.
Gluten Free Station.
I was impressed that there was a separate gluten-free station as well, with bread, crackers, desserts, and its own dedicated panini press.
Vegetable Dal, Steamed Crice, Beef Pie.
The menu for this section said "Beef Pie with Puff Pastry", but, alas, the "beef pie" was really just the pie filling.  I love this sort of thing, but, puff pastry is essential.  I wondered if someone either forgot to add it, or if it was supposed to be on the side and they ran out?

That said, I still tried it, I'm honestly not sure why, and, well, I really liked it.  I was shocked at how flavorful it was.  Really good depth of flavor, nicely seasoned, thick, rich, gravy.  Really kinda delicious, and I was stuffed, it certainly wasn't hunger influencing me here.  Some of the beef was great too, really tender.  I was loving this dish actually, until I got a mouth full of fat.  A big piece of beef that was just fat.  Ooph.  Still, shockingly good for a buffet dish.

There was also a soup of the day on the side.
"Selection of Cakes."
I had a plated dessert over in the First Class Lounge restaurant.  I nibbled on desserts in other venues.  I still planned to get dessert on my flight.  Yet ... I tried a piece of the dessert from here too.

I skipped the chocolate tart, because I was avoiding caffeine, but, it did look decent, a thick, rich ganache.

So I went for ... the raspberry frangipane cake.  Yeah, I know, not even something I normally like.  But it was actually quite decent, really moist cake, flavorful fruit, and tasty frangipane filling.

The First Class Lounge brownies though were the highlight of the dessert line up ...

First Lounge

I was not flying First class.  I don't have status to have lounge access.  I did not expect to get into the Qantas First Class lounge, and thus, did not do any research on it at all.  But I know how amazing the Sydney First Class lounge is, and the Los Angeles one, although not nearly as remarkable, is still quite good, so when my seat mate on my SYD-MEL flight offered to bring me in as his guest ... I certainly did not say no!

The First class lounge in Melbourne is certainly much smaller than in Sydney or Los Angeles, but has all the same features, including complimentary spa treatments, nice showers, business meeting rooms, and full service dining.  It was not crowded, the furniture modern and classy, and really, a tranquil environment. The whole feel of the place was peaceful.

Since I wasn't planing this visit,  I had already munched on food in the Qantas Club and Qantas Domestic Business lounges in Sydney, devoured onion rings at Bar Roma (incredible onion rings, zomg), gotten takeout sushi from Wok on Air (meh!), and eaten part of my meal on the Sydney to Melbourne flight, so, I wasn't not needing a full meal at this point.  Of course though, I got a small dish, cocktail, wine, dessert, and ... a massage.  

I was thrilled that they had massage appointments available perfectly timed with my flight, right before I needed to go board.  I did a back massage, and, even though only 20 minutes, it was a full massage, really well done, and I didn't leave too oily.

I had a lovely time in the lounge, so, thank you seatmate!

Dining Room

Dining Room.
The dining room is a full service sit down restaurant, like the other First Class Qantas lounges I've been in (Sydney, Los Angeles), with small tables and a bar.

Tables are elegantly set, the views are decent of the runway, and it is a pretty tranquil space.
All Day Dining Menu: Spring 2018.
"In the Melbourne First Lounge we develop seasonal menus and work with great producers that understand the Qantas and Rockpool philosophies. Schulz Butchers in the Barossa Valley, South Australia have been producing small goods using traditional methods since 1939. A staple on our menu since the beginning, Schulz smokehouse bacon is undoubtedly one of the best in the country. Naturally cured and smoked, it has rustic red gum, juniper berry and bay leaf flavours."
The all day dining food menu is broken into 5 distinct, but unlabelled categories (seemingly, starters, sandwiches, mains, sides, desserts).
  • Seasonal soup
  • Zucchini and squash salad with soft poached egg, kale, white beans and lemon
  • Roasted and pickled spring carrots with radish, watercress and horseradish
  • Five spice duck with snake beans, daikon, black vinegar and chives
  • Salt and pepper squid with green chilli dipping sauce and aioli
  • Gua bao with slow roast pork belly, chilli paste and pickles
  • Club sandwich with chicken, slow roasted tomato, bacon and aioli
  • Grass fed beef cheeseburger
  • Spice roasted butternut pumpkin with broccolini, curry leaves and coconut
  • Udon noodle soup with roast pork, soft cooked egg, sesame and garlic
  • Cone Bay barramundi with fennel purée, crisp polenta, green olive and toasted almond salsa
  • Stir fried cumin lamb with smashed cucumber and jasmine rice
  • Beef brisket with smoky bonito butter, roast onion and chips
  • Bowl of chips
  • Mixed leaves with Neil’s vinaigrette
  • Wild rocket and parmesan salad
  • Steamed seasonal greens with Colonna lemon oil
  • Seasonal fruit plate
  • Chocolate croissant slice with salted pretzel praline and banana ice cream
  • Rice pudding with coconut sorbet, pineapple and pomelo salad
  • Signature pavlova
  • Ice cream selection:
    • Chocolate
    • French vanilla
    • Raspberry 
    • Lemon curd
    • Honey and walnut
    • Salted butter caramel
Many of these are signature dishes carried at all Qantas First Class lounges (e.g. the salt and pepper squid, the burger, most of the sides, the pavlova), and I've had them in either Sydney or Los Angeles before.  The rest are are seasonal offerings, which Qantas switches out every quarter.  This was the Spring lineup.
Pre-flight Mini Meal.
Since I wasn't actually hungry, but wanted to try things, I narrowed in on just one small savory dish, one dessert, and a cocktail (and later, a glass of wine).
Wattleseed Whiskey Sour.
"Wattleseed whiskey, citrus, bitters."

I started with a cocktail from the featured menu.  It took a while to arrive, after my savory food.

It looked pretty, nicely garnished.  But I didn't like it.  It was really sweet.  I didn't taste whiskey, I didn't taste bitters.

After a few sips, I gave up, I really wasn't in the mood for a tropical cocktail, and ordered wine.
Brokenwood Shiraz 2017 McLaren Vale SA.
The wine was better, but still not remarkable.  Very light. A fine, drinkable red wine, but not complex in any way.
Gua bao with slow roast pork belly, chili paste and pickles.
For my savory selection, I opted for just a small plate, the bao.  I had almost gone to a bao place in Sydney and regretted not making it there, and I love pork belly, spice, and pickles, so, this sounded great.  And, like just the right size, since it was a single bao.

The couple next to me also loved the bao, ordering seconds and thirds of them.  My second choice was the salt and pepper calamari, the signature dish, but since I've had that many times before, I was trying to be unique.

The bao arrived very quickly, just a few minutes after I ordered.  It was not what I expected, at all.

First, the bun. This was not a bao bun.  It was a soft, strangely pale, dinner roll, warm and a bit gummy/soggy.  Uh, what?  I disliked the bun.
Bao: Inside
Inside was also not as I expected.  I thought I'd have a lovely piece of juicy pork belly, fatty, crispy skin.  Instead, it was basically just slow cooked pork.  Some bits too chewy to really get through.  I did not like the pork at all.

The chile paste was on both sides of the bun, slightly spicy, but also rather sweet.  I wanted something creamy as well.

And finally, the pickles.  Only two small batons of cucumber.  They were really good, but, only two.  

The bao was rounded out by red onion, thinly sliced, but tons of it, just raw, harsh. It overwhelmed.

I did not like this bao.  Not only what it not the chinese style bun I was expecting, and didn't have tasty juicy pork belly I hoped for, the flavors were just all overwhelmed by the onion.

I almost ordered the calamari to have something else savory, but, really, I wasn't hungry at that point, and I didn't see the point, even if it was good.
Rice pudding with coconut sorbet, pineapple and pomelo salad.
So I moved on to dessert.  I was tempted by pavlova actually, because I know they do it quite well in the lounge, but, I couldn't look past the rice pudding.  I love puddings, even though I wasn't interested in coconut sorbet (eh, sorbet, why sorbet when you can ice cream or gelato?) nor the fruit "salad", since I don't particularly care for pineapple nor pomelo.  I hoped those would just be little garnishes on a big bowl of creamy, sweet, delicious rice pudding.

What I got ... was a bowl with some rice pudding, a scoop of sorbet, and a ton of pineapple.  Not quite what I anticipated.  It was ... ok.

The rice pudding itself was lackluster, rather tart.  It had a little bit of some thin sweet sauce, perhaps a caramel, on top, but otherwise, it just wasn't great.  It was topped with lots of large toasted coconut shavings, which gave a texture I did not care for, very dry.  So, the rice pudding ... eh.  Fine, but not particularly good.

The fruit "salad" was thinly sliced pineapple, *TONS* of it, and exactly two little bites of pomelo.  The pomelo was refreshing and flavorful, but looked rather awful, mangled, and, why so little of it?  The pineapple on the other hand was not very ripe, not juicy, and there was way, way, way too much of it.  There did seem to be a light botanical syrup of sorts on top that I liked.

And then, the sorbet.  A throwaway item for me normally, but, I liked it!  The coconut flavor was intense, it was creamy and rich and certainly more like gelato than sorbet, and it had nice texture with bits of coconut.

I really enjoyed the coconut sorbet as it softened and melted, particularly with a little pomelo, and a sip of red wine.  And I tried to like the rice pudding, letting sorbet melt into it to sweeten it and make it more rich, but, it just was mediocre rice pudding.

Snack Station

The self-serve food area is quite minimal, as the made to order dining is the flagship experience.  That said ... this was my favorite food in the lounge.
Spiced Nuts, Buttered Popcorn, Quiche.
One jar held spiced nuts.  They were ... fine.  Mixed nuts, not particularly interesting, and I wasn't really into the spicing.

The other though had popcorn, excellent popcorn.  I could easily have devoured that entire jar.  And I have high popcorn standards!  It was fresh, and it was oh-so-buttery.  Really, really good popcorn.
Brownies, Tea Cakes, Olives, Dried Fruit, Quiche, Tea Sandwiches.
The rest of the self serve area had a couple mini sandwiches, a quiche, two desserts, dried fruit, and olives.

The desserts were either brownies or a little tea cake.  I took both, to have on my flight later (I know, against the rules ...).

The little tea cake was a pleasant surprise.  It was moist, and the glazed raspberries on top were fruity and flavorful.  Really not a bad little tea cake.

The brownie was even better.  Rich, fudgy, chocoaltely, and studded with walnuts.  I really liked it ... alongside my coffee, for pre-breakfast.  #promove.

I think the brownie may have been the highlight of everything I had in a Qantas lounge on this trip, with the buttered popcorn a close second.