Friday, June 21, 2019

Bobo's Oat Bars

Update Reviews, 2018-2019

No need for an intro here, as I've reviewed Bobo's many times before (scroll down for earlier reviews, and proper intro).

I will say though, that I laugh when I read through Bobo's marketing, boasting about all the uses for their product, but the thing is ... I agree.  They are great for early morning exercise!  They are good for breakfast.  They do make for healthy kid's snacks.  I use them as an "on-the-go pick me up" all the time.  They could be a "perfect lunch pairing" or "meal on-the-go".  I'd imagine them as after school snack, workout protein boost, "travel companion", "outside adventure seeker", etc.  The marketing is funny, but, I think it does make sense.

I usually have Bobo's as a quick on the go breakfast, or in my bag to devour after an early morning workout.

Bites

"Everyone likes mini things! Oat bites are a mini version of Bobo's bars, perfect for a small treat or to complement the rest of your snack."
I love the form of the bites.  Perfectly snackable, filling enough due to the protein and oats, but never so big you feel loaded down.  Also, cute!
Lemon Poppyseed.
"Our Lemon Poppyseed bar is so delicious; the muffin man sends us an email from time-to-time trying to get a case or two. An adaptation of a coffee house favorite, this bar brings refreshing zest into the lives of its consumers, forevermore changing their outlook on life. It’s a perfect pairing for your favorite cup of coffee or tea."

I rarely like lemon/lime desserts or baked goods (and I *loathe* lemon curd!), but for some reason, lemon poppyseed muffins are on my "yes" list, so I was excited for this one.

The lemon flavor lived up.  The bar uses lemon oil which really gives it a strong lemon zing, and yup, the little crunch from the poppyseeds was there.  Add to that the base of rolled oats and pleasant sweetness characteristic of Bobo's bars, and, well, it was a winner for me, flavor-wise.

It was however rock solid.  And dry.  I'm not sure why, as I consumed it well within the eat-by date. I still enjoyed it quite a bit because the flavor was so good, but, something was certainly off.
Maple Pecan.
"Our Maple Pecan oat bar combines the sweet taste of maple syrup with a rich, buttery pecan crunch. Every bite is reminiscent of a warm pancake breakfast, making it the best way to jump start your morning … every morning."

This flavor sounded right up my alley.  Take an oatmeal base, and add in the maple syrup that I'd drizzle on a regular bowl of ice cream, and buttery pecans for crunch?

But it didn't really deliver.  Like the lemon poppyseed, the puck really seemed too hard and dried out.  The maple flavor didn't come through as maple, rather, just almost "fake sweet" tasting.  I did like the pecans.

Not sure what went wrong with this one either, I know I really do sometimes love Bobo's products.   I wonder if they have changed the recipe as they have scaled production?

Oat Bars

"Grab a box and share with a friend! With delicious and wholesome ingredients these oat bars will sure to be your new favorite snack! "
The oat bars are the full size product, heftier than a standard granola bar, and, if you read the nutrition label, consist of 2 servings per bar.  This always makes me laugh, because it doesn't really seem reasonable to think someone would open a wrapped, sealed package that looks like an individual serving, and split it in half, and wrap up half to save for later.  But if you do indulge in a full bar, beware that they are ~500 calories, perhaps a bit more than you'd expect.

Anyway.
Chocolate Chip.
I've had the chocolate chip flavor before, and although I liked the base flavor, I was disappointed by the extremely few chocolate chips in my bar.  Granted, it was a mini, but still, I expected more than, um, zero chips.

This one was better, a full size, big hearty bar, serving size listed as 2.

I loved the sweetness (not too sweet!), the texture (moist yet crumbly), and, the quality of the mini creamy milk chocolate chips.  I still wanted more chocolate, as in, um, I wanted a chocolate coating, but the number of chips in this were actually quite reasonable.

Overall, a good product, and I'd get it again, just with a side of chocolate to melt and dip it in ...
Almond Butter.
"Almonds are all the rage these days and our Almond Butter bar is no different. We mixed creamy almond butter with crunchy sliced almonds."

This was not a winner for me.  And the reason is simple: almond butter.  I just don't like it.  I like almonds.  I love peanut butter.  But almond butter always tastes oddly bitter to me, and I just don't like it.

The rest of the bar was fine, albeit quite simple.  Soft oats, slightly sweet from brown rice syrup and sugar, but besides that, the only other real ingredient was almond butter, and it left behind that signature almond bitterness that I couldn't get past.

Fine form factor, but not the variety for me.

Update Review, January 2018

I've reviewed Bobo's Bars before (original, 2016 update), but I tried a few new flavors, and a new branding.  It seems the "Bites" are now called "Minis"?
Coconut Mini.
"Our Coconut bar combines our hearty oats with sweet organic coconut flakes, transporting every eater to a tropical paradise. While we recommend consuming this bar on an island, it may also be enjoyed at every other moment in life."

This one was only ok.  The bar still had the same dense quality, the hearty taste that I enjoyed, it wasn't too sweet, and the brown rice syrup as a sweetener worked well to compliment the oats.  The coconut added additional texture and a bit of chew.

But I just wasn't into the coconut flavor, and it seemed harder than others I had in the past.
Chocolate Chip Mini.
"No offense to Chocolate Chip cookies, but our Chocolate Chip bar is kind of a big deal. This tasty treat feels more like dessert than breakfast, but without the guilt. The slow-burning oats leave you feeling satiated beyond measure, satisfying your hunger and your sweet tooth. "

As always, I liked the hearty, dense base, even though it makes no sense to like a hard oatmeal puck.  But for some reason, it just really hits the spot for me, the sweetness is just spot on.
"Chocolate Chip": Inside.
But ... after two bites, I was confused.  Where were the promised chocolate chips?

I think I had a dud, as it literally did not contain a single chocolate chip.  I still liked the base flavor, but, chocolate chip it was not.

Update Review, March 2016

A few months ago, I reviewed several flavors of Bobo's bars, which you can read about in my original review below.  They really shocked me, as I'm not generally a huge lover of bars, and these were quite great.  I describe them as oatmeal, but, in bar form.  Which doesn't sound like it should be good, but it is.  Oh, and some are gluten-free too.

So, I tried more varities (including some more fun ones!), this time, I went for the smaller "Bobo's Bites".

Bobo's Bites

"The perfect size for school lunches or a quick snack on the go. Enjoy a tasty Bobo’s Bite any time you want a small snack to keep you going!"
Bobo's recently introduced a new product line: "Bites".  These are smaller, 1.3 ounce bars,  ~180 calories, rather than 3 ounce, nearly 400 calorie "bars" I tried before.  This size makes more sense to me, as I found it odd that the larger size one had a serving size listed of 2, because who would really eat half a bar?

The Bites are all gluten-free, and offered in only three varieties: original, apple pie, and peanut butter and jelly.  I thought it was interesting that they only make gluten-free versions of the Bites, whereas the bars are available in both gluten-free and regular.  My guess is that they are more successful in the gluten-free market, and these are their most popular varieties?

Anyway.  I continue to think Bobo's bars/bites are awesome.  I don't entirely understand why, but, they are.  Get them.
Original Gluten-Free Bobo's Bite.
"Bobo’s Bites Original Flavor has all the great flavor of our Original Bar in a smaller snack size Bite!"

If you step back, this does not sound exciting, in any way.  Gluten-free and vegan.  A little packaged bar.  When do I ever like this sort of thing?  And, just in a plain, "original", flavor?  Please.  How good can some gluten-free rolled oats, sweetened with brown rice syrup and sugar, possibly be?  The only other ingredient in the entire bar is what seems like the components of Earth Balance (oil, water, annatto extract).

I realize, as I describe this, that it doesn't sound good.  I don't know how to convince you otherwise though.  These things are awesome.  Yes, even the plain flavor.  Oats, brown rice syrup, and Earth Balance ... nothing more.

Unlike most "bars", these are soft, even though made of oats.  Think of them like a dense ball of oatmeal.  Almost doughy inside ... but not really.  Sigh.  I can't do better than this at describing these.  You'll just have to try one.

Dense, perfectly sweetened, nice chew.  The "bite" will be gone before you know it.

Even the totally plain flavor is great on its own.  Just plain.  Room temperature.  No alterations.  For real.

One day, I was at home, and decided I'd try to get more creative, so I threw it in the toaster oven at low temperature for a few minutes to warm it up.  I pulled out honey butter and my mom's homemade jam to slather it with, as if it were a muffin or scone.  But first I took a bite warm.  I realized I didn't want anything else on it.  It really is just perfect as is, cold or warm.  I did like it warm, perhaps slightly more than at room temp, but warming it is really not necessary.

These are perfect for grab-n-go breakfast, or afternoon snack, but of course, I love desserts, and can also imagine crumbling one over some fruit to make a crisp.  Or just dunking it in whipped cream.  But ... again, not necessary.
Peanut Butter & Jelly.
"Bobo’s Bites Peanut Butter & Jelly Flavor packs the perfection of a PB&J into a perfect snack size Bite!"

Ok, now this one sounded GOOD!  Given that even the basic plain variety is amazing, I couldn't wait to try the PB & J flavor.  Again, made from the same base of gluten-free oats, sweetened with brown rice syrup and sugar, with the bonus ingredients of organic peanut butter and raspberry jam.  (Ok, slight strike against them, I prefer strawberry jam!).
Peanut Butter & Jelly: Inside.
I eagerly took my first bite.  Just like the others, I enjoyed the dense, oatmeal patty nature of it.  Slightly crumbly, slightly sweet.

The peanut flavor was subtle, but present, and I think there were little chunks of peanut inside.  The jam too was subtle, but provided a sweetness and slightly fruity quality.

But I'll be honest: I expected more.  Bigger bits of peanut, maybe some swirls of jam.  You can see the inside here, and, there isn't any visible peanut butter or jelly.  The flavors were there, subtle but there, but I really wanted to think "PB & J!", and, I didn't.

It was still good, still a bit better than the basic flavor, but not quite what I was hoping for.
Apple Pie.
"Bobo’s Bites Apple Pie Flavor tastes like home made apple pie in a perfect snack size bite."

As you can expect, this is made with the same base of gluten-free oats, sweetened with brown rice syrup and sugar.  To get the "apple pie" flavor, it also has dried apples and "natural apple pie flavor".  Yes, for real.  Where do I buy that?

Anyway, this sounded like dessert, in a bar, for breakfast.  Yes!

It was ... ok.  Basically, apple-y oatmeal.  Which, it turns out, just isn't really my thing.  It wasn't bad, and I still liked the oatmeal aspect, but, apple just isn't really for me.  The spicing was nice.  Turns out, the original is my favorite flavor.

Original Review, August 2015

You know I can't resist trying assorted bars, particularly when they are most soft, almost more like baked goods than granola bars.  And particularly not when they are delivered to my desk by a co-worker to try out.

I was pretty excited about the Bobo's Oat Bars once I saw them.  Cute packaging, but also, they pretty much looked like square muffins.  These are the types of bars I like most often, like the SuniBrite muesli bars from Australia that I recently reviewed, or the Nature Valley's Soft-Baked Oatmeal Squares.

Bobo's Bars look very small scale production, so I assumed they were locally made.  It turns out, they are made in Boulder, and available nationwide.  They are more mainstream than I realized, sold at REI and Whole Foods in San Francisco, and, I even saw them at the grocery store in my hometown in New Hampshire.

The bars all have the same simple base of rolled oats and Earth Balance, and are sweetened with brown rice syrup and sucanat.  All are wheat free, non-GOM, and vegan, although only the specifically gluten-free bars use gluten-free oats.

The regular flavors start with the basic "original", and then expand to include just one or two other ingredients: coconut, almond, chocolate, banana, strawberry, apricot, peanut butter, cinnamon raisin, and cranberry orange.  The gluten-free options are peach, maple pecan, lemon poppy, chocolate almond, apple pie, and peanut butter and jelly.

Honestly, the GF flavors sounded the best.  Maple pecan! Apple pie!  PB & J!  Um, yes?  My selection was given to me by coworker to sample, so I didn't pick the flavors, and I think she (rightly so) picked the appealing flavors for herself.

Now that I know how delicious even the less exciting flavors are though, and how easy they are to find around San Francisco, I may need to seek out some of the more tempting sounding flavors sometime, you know, when my never-ending supply of products to review somehow runs out.

The bars are heavy and dense, a whopping 3 oz, which means the serving size listed on them is actually 2 servings.  I kinda hate that, who really only eats half?  What am I supposed do with the other half? And really, FDA, why do you think that 1.5 oz is the appropriate serving size?  (Side note: Bobo's also has a newer product, Bobo's Bites, that are only 1.3 oz.)

Anyway.  The bars.

Regular flavors

Almond.
"Bobo’s Almond Flavor has pieces of roasted almond in every bite."

I started with the basic sounding almond bar.

Almond shows up as both dry roasted almonds and almond extract.  The almonds were tiny little bits distributed throughout; they didn't really add much crunch, but you could see them.  The almond extract however was quite powerful, it flavored the entire bar in a really pleasant way.

The bar reminded me of a solid chunk of oatmeal, which, I realize doesn't sound good, but, it was.  The oats were soft, not hard like a typical bar.  The sweetness level was perfect.  It was a treat, but definitely not too sweet.  It really was as comforting and satisfying as a bowl of oatmeal, but in a convenient form, perfect for a grab and go breakfast alongside my coffee.  I was pleasantly surprised by this, and would gladly add it into my regular breakfast bar lineup.

Gluten-Free

Peach (GF).
"Bobo’s Gluten Free Peach Flavor has pieces of delicious peach in every bite."

The peach bar I tried was gluten-free, so the regular oats were subbed out with gluten-free ones, but besides that, the ingredients were exactly the same, mostly just oats and Earth Balance.  Of course, it had bits of dried peach in place of the almond components.

I didn't notice any texture difference between the gluten-free and regular bar.  It again was basically just a dense chunk of oatmeal.  Which again, I realize doesn't sound good, but really was pleasing.

Grab-and-go oatmeal, who knew they made such a thing? The peach flavor was subtle and delicate, quite nice.  I'd get one of these again too, but I'd really like to try some of the other flavors.
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Thursday, June 20, 2019

HoneyMee, Los Angeles & Irvine

I'll keep this one short.

I discovered amazing soft serve ice cream in Los Angeles.  This discovery was hot on the heels of being introduced to the concept of "milk" soft serve in Tokyo at Silkream, but, it blew away the soft serve from Tokyo (which, I thought was really good to begin with!)

Honeymee makes only one flavor of soft serve: milk.  It is made from Californian milk, so, not quite like in Japan where the shops offering milk ice cream all rave about Hokkaido milk, but, more appropriate for a California location.  Milk soft serve may not sound very exciting, even less so than "vanilla", and the options for toppings aren't exotic either (and mostly are based around honey, which you might expect, given the shop name), but, I assure you, this is a case where simplicity works out.

As a soft serve lover, I'm thrilled to see that the world is now making soft serve even more gourmet, and I can't wait to return to HoneyMee to try more of their creations.

Setting

Honeymee has several shops in the Los Angeles area, the one I first visited was in Little Tokyo, in October.  When I returned to the great LA area, to Irvine, a month later, I was delighted to discover that they had two locations there as well.
Ordering Area: Little Tokyo.
The shop was rather adorable.  I loved the white accents and wood elements.  The menu is displayed, with full images of everything, on colorful screens in front.  It was very easy to know what you'd be getting.

The Irvine location was similar, just without the white wainscoting.
Seating, Honey Products: Little Tokyo.
Seriously, how cute is this?  The place just felt so ... cozy and comfortable.

I loved the assorted honey products they used as decorations, which were not even for sale.  They are just showing off other fun uses of honey and bees wax.

The Irvine location also had a wall of honey products.
Counter Seating: Little Tokyo.
The shop isn't large, but in addition to the little tables, there were also some counters along the wall.

The Irvine location was even smaller.

Food & Drink

Honeymee serves only 4 types of items: ice cream, milkshakes, tea, and waffles (only at some locations). The ice cream is what drew me in, but, my heart skipped a beat when I saw liege waffles on the menu.  I love liege waffles, and they are cooked to order! Alas, my visit was post-lunch, and I really wanted to just try the soft serve.  Next time.
Menu.
The soft serve may only come in one flavor, but, it comes in a number of styles.  The signature creation is the namesake "Honeymee", topped wtih a honey and a small chunk of honeycomb.  If the honeycomb itself is a bit too much for you, the "Sweetie" has just liquid honey.  Craving caffeine? Turn it into an affogato, with coffee and honey.  Or a matcha affogato with matcha and honey.  Not feeling the honey?  The chocolate or caramel sauce are options.  The most elaborate is the "Sweetie Fruitie", with honey and freeze dried fruit.

To any of the ice creams, you can add additional toppings: sliced almonds, granola, honey oats, coconut, sunflower seeds, oreos, honey, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, sea salt..  The standard serving is in a cup (one size only), but you can upgrade to a waffle corn or ... a soft sweet hotdog bun!

For milkshakes, you can go fruity (strawberry, green apple), caffeinated (coffee, matcha), sweet (cookies 'n cream, chocolate, caramel), or floral (lavendar).

Coffee, cold brew, matcha, and assorted teas (sweetened with honey of course), round out the drink menu.

And finally ... waffles.  Liege waffles.  One of my favorite things.  And from reviews I read, HoneyMee does them justice.  They too come in only the plain base, but you can get them topped with honey, cream cheese, nutella, strawberry, blueberry, cream cheese & strawberry, cream cheese & blueberry, or of course, ice cream.  I was so tempted, but simply not hungry enough.

Visit #1: Los Angeles, 2017

Dear Caramel w/ Granola. $4.70 + $0.30.
"True milk ice cream with Ghirardelli® caramel syrup & sprinkles of sea salt from France."

I'll admit that I wasn't really excited by most of HoneyMee's choices for ice cream styles.  I didn't actually want honey.  And I didn't want chocolate or matcha since I didn't want caffeine.  Which left ... caramel.  So, the "Dear Caramel" is was.

Next, toppings.  Here is where I usually go crazy, but, at HoneyMee, the toppings were all ... healthy.  Nuts, seeds, oats ... those aren't really my style.  I was going to skip additional toppings entirely, but they have a $5 minimum for credit card purchases, and a topping was thus needed to hit the minimum.  Thus, I *had* to order one.  I went for the granola, thinking that some crunch would be nice at least.

My creation was handed over a minute late, a with the caramel drizzled down the sides and on top, granola sprinkled over the top, and sea salt shaken on at the end.

Well, huh, it sure did look good.

And it tasted incredible.

The ice cream really was, well, "milk" flavor, for lack of any better description.  It was creamy as could be, not too sweet, but also not tart.  It just tasted fresh and pure, if that makes any sense.

The sweet caramel complimented it beautifully, and I think the honey probably really would have been perfect, particularly if you like honey.

The granola added a nice crunch, what I wanted, but, I'd prefer chopped pralines or at least nuts other than almond slices.  Still, I was glad that I "had" to order it.

My only real complain is that there was only a touch of salt.  The bites I got with the salt and caramel together were absolutely lovely, the salt amped it up just like I hoped it would, but, I think I only had 3 such bites.

Overall though, this was incredible, some of the creamiest soft serve I've had, it melted beautifully, and the simple toppings worked well.  While I do like places to offer more than one size, the size was just right, I was ready to be done with it by the end, but it wasn't too much.

I'd gladly get another, although I think I actually would try honey next time ...

Visit #2: Irvine, April 2018

Yuzu Afogado.
"True milk ice cream with natural honey, yuzu peel & pulp."

In the month between my visits to Honeymee, they introduced a new topping: yuzu, sorta a marmalade-ish syrup.  I was super tempted by this, as it sounded more unique, but I also know that sometimes I don't like citrus desserts.

So I asked if I could try the yuzu first, and was given a little sample cup of it.  I quasi-liked it.  It was a bit tangy and a bit sweet all at once, and a decent texture.  I almost ordered it myself, but decided against it.

Yuzu is available on ice cream, as a milk shake, or in hot or iced tea.  One of my companions did get the new "Yuzu Afogado", which was just a regular Darling topped with the yuzu, pictured here.
Sweetie + Coconut Flakes + Black Sesame Cone.
"True milk ice cream with 100% natural liquid honey swirl."

After much agonizing, I decided to get the honey topping, since my conclusion last time was that I should try the honey.  And just for a bit more texture, I added coconut flakes, which I also thought would combine nicely with the honey.

And then ... I did a crazy thing.  I opted for a cone, rather than a dish.  Why?  Because HoneyMee also added 3 new cones, in vibrant colors, ready for Instagram of course, but also, they were flavored.  Brilliant green matcha, red red velvet, and black black sesame.  They looked cool, and, I would have happily tried any of the flavors.

I thought eating my ice cream last time with a spoon in a cup worked great, but ... I do have a fondness for licking soft serve from a cone, so, cone it was, and black sesame was my entirely random choice.

The first thing I noticed as my massive, single size only, cone was handed over: when you upgrade to a cone, you get a much, much larger portion!  I easily had 1.5x the ice cream as those with cups.

Next of course I noticed that it had a little shelf around it, to catch the toppings as they fell off, and, I think to prevent the cone from turning into a sticky mess when they drizzle the whole thing with honey (which was fairly fun to watch them do).

The honey was indeed the perfect pairing that I hoped it would be.  Sweet and sticky, and really, just perfect with the milk flavor ice cream.  Clearly high quality honey as well.  I was sad when I ran out of honey on the outside, even though, it really was a lot of honey.  I had a bit of remorse that I opted for a cone, since the cups were layered with the caramel/honey/chocolate/etc.

The ice cream was again very creamy, melted perfectly, and tasted like ... milk.  Simple, but so good, it is hard to explain.  I liked the coconut too, but there wasn't much of it.  Next time, I actually think I'd like to try honey and sea salt ...

The cone however was less of a success.  It didn't taste like anything other than a waffle cone.  My companion got a red velvet one, and he felt similar.  We also both wound up with very sticky, honey covered hands.  But, I did love licking the soft serve from the cone, so, not a complete loss.  And ... it also turned out that the inside of the cone was lined with honey!  So, even though I thought I had ran out of honey, once I reached the cone, the honey element came back.  I was thrilled by this.

Overall, I loved my ice cream, and although the cone had flaws, I'd certainly still consider getting a cone again, just because I like to lick cones.  Or I'd get the version in a bun.  Or on a waffle.  Or go back to the cup.  Really, I'd do any option, gladly.

Irvine, May 2018

Another day, another visit to Southern California, back to my office in Irvine.

The day I arrived was a long day (yay, flight delays, yay, meetings), but as soon as I was free at 5pm, I bolted for Honeymee.  It was cold, not sunny "ice cream weather", but, I wanted something to cheer me up.

And it did.
Sweetie + Sea Salt.  $4.70.
This time, I did exactly what I recommended to myself.  The sweetie (e.g. honey topping), plus I asked for sea salt.  If they add it to the caramel and chocolate versions, why not?  "Oh, people love that, sweet and salty", my server said.

One bite in, and I was thrilled.  It wasn't ice cream weather, but I didn't care.  I was shivering.  But I didn't care.  This ice cream.  Is just.  So. Good.

Creamy.  Fascinating "milk" flavor.  Sweet honey.  And, as I hoped, getting a cup rather than a cone was a better move - honey on top, honey drizzled down the sides, honey in the bottom.  It didn't run out in the same way as in the cone.  It did actually trend a bit too sweet for me, but only barely, and it just took making sure I had plenty of ice cream in each spoonful.

It melted perfectly, even though it wasn't very hot outside.

And I'll admit something.  I enhanced my own experience, by bringing my own extra toppings.  The standard Honeymee choices just don't do it for me (besides the honey or caramel).  So I brought my own crushed roasted pecans, white chocolate sprinkles, and caramel crispearls.   I didn't add them until halfway through, since I was perfectly happy enjoying the honey and ice cream at first, but, as I reached the middle, I wanted a bit of texture.  And so I got it.

I loved this.  Will happily get another, every single time I visit.
Honeymee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Mr. East Kitchen

What do you do when its 86° in San Francisco?

Wait, rewind, what?

Yeah, it happened.  On a Sunday no less.  To say I was thrilled is an understatement.  I couldn't wait to be outside, and to just enjoy it.

Of course, after a few hours in the heat, I needed something refreshing.  Stat.

I pulled up my latest "order pickup and get fun perks" app of the month, Ritual, and saw I was right near Mr. East Kitchen, a Vietnamese restaurant that is fairly new, located at 5th & Folsom.  They feature bahn mi, pho, and ... boba tea!

The boba is what drew me in, although the menu is pretty limited.  I can't comment on anything else, but, it does seem like a quality establishment, and I hope they succeed.
Open Interior.
The restaurant really is spacious, open, and fairly beautiful inside.  Seating on both sides, huge floor to ceiling windows letting in tons of natural light, and plants everywhere.

A very tranquil, pleasant feeling, immediately making me not feel like I was at 5th & Folsom!

There are also 2 small tables out on the sidewalk.
Drink Station.
Service is order-at-register style, with the drink station adjacent, and kitchen behind.  One staff member takes orders, handles payment, and makes all the drinks (bubble teas, coffee drinks, etc).  He was very busy, even though there were only 2 other people there.
Lychee Fizz, Medium, with Boba. $3.50 + $0.50.
Instead of a classic milky bubble tea, I went for something refreshing.  It was too hot for dairy (well, besides ice cream!)

My drink was fairly simple: ice, sparkling water, two lychees, lychee syrup, and boba.  Well, boba once I reminded the server that I had ordered boba, he first handed it over without.

I also asked for less sweet, and what I got was a pretty sweet drink.  I'm not sure if my less sweet request was ignored along with the boba request, or if this was less sweet?  

It was almost refreshing, the fizzy water and lychee certainly could be refreshing, if the sweetness was toned down.  The lychees inside were fine, likely canned, but not strangely soft or browning.  "Fresh" enough for a canned product.

The boba was done very well, points for that.  Soft, but not mushy, none stuck together.  Quality boba, actually.  I do wish they had options besides just black pearl boba though.

Drinks are available in 2 sizes, medium or large.  I opted for the medium, priced at $3.50, large is $1 more.  Which in this case, I think just means a bigger cup with a bit more sparkling water and ice in it, hence why I didn't go for it.  And since it was sweeter than I wanted anyway, I gladly just added my own extra sparkling water to mellow it out.

The boba was $0.50 extra, and I'm glad I added them.

Overall this was fine, fun to have a sparkling fruity drink actually, and I'd consider it again, but really would want other mix-ins to make it novel.
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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

United Club, SFO, International Terminal

I've visited the rather lackluster United Club a couple times, both morning and evening.  The only real highlight is the snack mixes.

Morning (April 2019, 9:30am visit)

The lounge was bigger than I remembered, with plentiful seating.  A snack station, several drink stations, small food buffet, bar.

Breakfast options are what you expect.  Basic, not high quality, but there.
Snack Station.
Right when you enter is a station with the essentials: water, coffee, snack mix, pretzels, goldfish, banana chips, cookies.

I immediately grabbed a cup of snack mix, as I do just love this stuff.  I was pleased to see sesame sticks in the mix.  I discovered later it was kinda bbq flavored, which certainly wasn't an appeal to me.
Oatmeal.
Hot oatmeal, with basic mix-ins.
Fruit / Yogurt / Granola.
A small yogurt/fruit/granola station.
Cold Cereal.
A small cereal station, including fruit loops!
Fruit.
Whole fruit, nothing out of the ordinary.
Bagels, Toast, Toppings.
A toaster was available to toast bread and bagels, basic plain cream cheese, butter, and Smuckers jams on the side.
Pastries.
Mini muffins, pastries, and quickbreads of several varieties were available.  I don't know why I bothered try one, I think I was bored, so I took a custard danish.  The custard was fine, but the danish itself was exactly as expected, not flaky, and not actually good.  Maybe better than one served on board.
Illy Coffee Machine.
Several self-service coffee machines are distributed around, in addition to the vats of pre-brewed regular only.  I was pleased to see decaf available, but it was really quite horrible.  I left the lounge to find a Peets nearby.
Coca-Cola Freestyle.
The self-service soft drink machine was one of the Coke freestyle machines, with some fun options like all flavors of flavored Sprite Zero, but ... it wasn't working, vending only plain water, and only a thimble full at a time.  Sigh.
Hot Chocolate Station.
The hot chocolate station was cute, it had sprinkles (!) and mini marshmallows and mini chocolate chips.  No whipped cream.  At least this was unique.

Evening

No, I wasn’t flying United.  I don’t do that.  But I was flying with Air New Zealand, and unlike my last flight where we used the Singapore Airlines Kris lounge this time my only option was the United Club.  Which was under construction, as they were building the fancy Polaris lounge.
Underwhelmed.
Let’s just say … my expectations weren’t high, and, well, it still underwhelmed.
Lounge Seating.
The lounge was much smaller than I anticipated.  And it was very full.  There was literally no seats.  We were told to share tables with other guests.  The bathrooms were nice enough, stalls with real doors, and nice quality soap and lotion.  No showers.

This was not a space I wanted to spend any time in.  The main terminal was more tranquil.
Drink Fridge.
I mostly went to the lounge to check it out, and get a drink.  A self-serve fridge was stocked with bottles of beer and Schweppes drinks (tonic, club soda, ginger ale). 
Soda Fountain and Hard Alcohol.
A soda fountain had classic soft drinks.  There were some basic wines and hard alcohol, all self serve.  All fairly standard offerings for an international lounge.
Coffee.
A coffee machine had Illy coffee, and there was some pre-brewed as well.
Soup, Salad Greens.
The only hot item was soup, a single variety (vegetable).  Next to it was base greens for making salad.
Rolls.
Some stale looking plain rolls and packaged crackers went alongside the soup.
Salads.
A few more salad ingredients were available (carrots, tomato, edamame), along with pre-made deli style salads (soba noodles, two types of pasta salad, and waldorf salad).

I tried only the waldorf.  It was actually ok, in a strange way.  The apples and celery were crisp, the grapes juicy.  The dressing really as just mayo it seemed, with very little seasoning, but, I kinda liked it.  The walnuts added a good crunch.   I know it wasn’t a good salad, but, it was sorta refreshing, in a mayo-coated way.

Wraps, Cold Cuts, Cheese.
There were two types of wraps (I think chicken and ham), some cold cuts, cubes of cheese, and fruit salad.  I didn’t touch this stuff.
Hummus, "Dessert"
And lastly, veggies with hummus, and a very very sad dessert selection of chocolate chip cookies and brownies.  I also didn’t try this.
Mixed Nuts.

I’ll admit, I adore snack mixes in airline lounges.  Like the addicting American Airlines mixes.  But United had only mixed nuts.  I was kinda excited when I saw it contained brazil nuts, but alas, the nuts weren’t very well seasoned, and tasted stale.
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Monday, June 17, 2019

Sushi Fantastic

Update Review June 2019

Remember Sushi Fantastic?  Nah, neither do I.  A casual sushi restaurant just a few blocks from my house, where I ventured years ago to use some free credits on LevelUp, to have some rather forgettable sushi.
Side Salad. $2.
"Iceberg lettuce with miso dressing."

The side salad is a small size, as you'd expect for only $2.

It wasn't quite as advertised, which isn't a bad thing. It wasn't just iceberg lettuce with miso dressing, as there was a chunk of tomato in the container, and other greens (baby spinach in particular), in addition to the iceberg lettuce.

It seemed decent quality though, freshly prepared, crisp lettuce and spinach, no wilting, no browning.  The tomato too seemed as if it had been sliced to order.

It did come dressed already with what I'd consider to be too much vinaigrette, but perhaps that is just because I didn't particularly care for the dressing - I didn't taste miso, and I never really like vinaigrettes anyway.  It sorta just seemed like soy sauce.

Still, for a $2 side salad, a decent product, that could make sense alongside your meal.

Original Review August 2012

I continued on my quest to use my LevelUp free credits, and decided to stop in at Sushi Fantastic, to get a little bit of sushi to go along with my dinner.

Sushi Fantastic is a very casual place, you order at a counter, and then either take your food TOGO or sit in the seating downstairs.  The staff were very friendly.

It didn't quite live up to its name.  I don't really see any reason to go back.
Tamago Nigiri.  $3.
I always end sushi meals with an order of tamago.  I call it my dessert.  When it is good, I love it.  But it is often fairly disappointing, even at great sushi restaurants.  But, I was trying to stick to my $2 free credit budget, so I couldn't actually afford any fish.  Tamago or inari were my choices, so I went with the tamago.

It was listed on the menu for $2, but I was charged $3.  I double checked the online menu after, and saw that it also said $2.  Grumble.

Anyway, my order was served with some mediocre pickled ginger, carrot curls, and some flavorless wasabi.  The tamago was not as sweet as I like, and otherwise unremarkable.  Not bad, but not good.  The rice was actually pretty decent, it didn't fall apart, and had a good vinegar level.
Sushi Fantastic Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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