Friday, August 23, 2019

Cape Cod Potato Chips

Over the years, I've reviewed many snack foods, and many bags of chips, in particular.  By now, you probably realize that while I love taro chips, and other more exotic veggie chips, I pretty rarely get excited by plain old potato chips.  I see them as a vessel for dip, and little else.  Maybe sometimes I get drawn in by unique flavors in other countries, but besides that, chips? MEH!

But I recently re-discovered Cape Cod potato chips, and that all changed.
"We transform simple ingredients – hand-selected potatoes, oil and salt – into delicious, satisfying kettle cooked potato chips. Cape Cod Potato Chips are always made one batch at a time in our custom kettles to give them their distinctive crunch and unique flavor."
I remember Cape Cod chips from growing up in New England.  They were not the standard chip offering, usually we had Ruffles in our household, or Lays were common at sandwich shops or parties, but when we got to splurge for a fancy bag of chips at the convenience store, or perhaps at a friend's house, I remember getting Cape Cod chips, and being very happy with them.  They were always crispier, greasier, than others.

In my memories that is.  I didn't really trust my memories, but it turns out, this is one area where my memories lived up, basically, entirely matching accurate to my experience today.

Cape Cod chips are still based in Massachusetts, although they have expanded dramatically since when I knew them.  The classic chips come in different flavors.  They have reduced fat offerings.  Waffle cut or wavy style.  Um, "infused" chips.  Limited Edition flavors with partners like Samuel Adams Brewery.  But I can't tell you about any of those, as I had eyes only for the originals.

Original Potato Chips

"Hand selected potatoes. Pure vegetable oil. Salt. How do you transform the simplest ingredients into such a satisfying kettle cooked chip? For us, it’s done one small batch at a time, using select potatoes, sliced thick and cooked at precisely the right temperature in custom kettles to a golden amber hue. No two chips are the same. Except that they all share a hearty potato flavor and that wonderful Cape Cod crunch."
The originals are what I always knew, and I didn't even know they came in multiple flavors (maybe they didn't before?).  But now they do, with flavors like Sweet & Spicy Jalepeno, Aged White Cheddar & Sour Cream, plus more standards like Sea Salt & Vinegar and Sweet Mesquite Barbeque, among others.

But I went classic.
Original Chips.
These are no frills chips, they really are just potatoes and vegetable oil and salt.

But somehow ... they are just really damn good.  Is it the small batch cooking?  Is it the oil they use? The potatoes?  I have no idea.  But they are really good.

The crispy factor is sky high.  Perfectly crunchy and crisp.  Salt level is high, but not over the top. Most are folded over in unique ways, making eating a bag an adventure in "what shape will come up next?".

They are highly greasy, leaving your fingers coated instantly.  You know they aren't trying to be healthier.  The bags are smaller than other brands, and that is ok, because, well, they are heavy chips.

I don't know how to describe these beyond just ... perfect crispy chips?  I honestly am just happy with a bag of these, alongside a salad (or ideally, a lobster roll, right?).  They are awesome tucked into a sandwich, particularly a BLT.  Sometimes I think about making onion dip, or something else to dunk them in, but really, they don't need anything.  Just perfect as is.

I'll devour a bag any day.
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Thursday, August 22, 2019

New Flavors from Ben & Jerry's - 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

It is no secret that I love ice cream.  I grew up eating it pretty much every night after dinner.  Sometimes just a simple scoop, or uh, two, but more often than not, we made sundaes.  Or topped our homemade pie with it.  Yes, I was spoiled.

I grew up in New Hampshire, not far from the Ben & Jerry's factory in Vermont.  To me, the generic brand of ice cream was Ben & Jerry's.  Even the farm stand where I worked sold Ben & Jerry's, it was that commonplace.  Pints were 2 for $5.

I moved a bit further away for college, to upstate New York.  But Ben & Jerry's was prevalent even there.  Our little on campus diner stocked pints, and we had the option of redeeming our meals for grab and go items from the diner instead.  I will not admit how many pints I got over the years, and how many I may or may not have consumed in a single sitting.

It amazed me once I left my nest to learn that Ben & Jerry's is a bit of a novelty to people elsewhere.  For many years, I didn't have any in San Francisco.  Why would I pick that, over our local, artisanal choices?  But eventually, the craving for that experience of just digging shamelessly into a pint of Ben & Jerry's returned, and, so I did.

I've reviewed the flavors I've had over the past few years before, so I'll spare you a repeat, and this time, focus on the brand new flavors that they added in the past few years.  Ben & Jerry's always adds a few new flavors every year (and of course, sends some to the "flavor graveyard" to make way for them).  Many don't last long.  Flavors that are removed are often mourned.

2014

This year, the new Salted Caramel Blondie is quite a winner.  I hope it sticks around!
Salted Caramel Blondie, single, 2014.
"Sweet Cream Ice Cream with Blonde Brownies & a Salted Caramel Swirl"

This is an excellent new addition.  Basically a blondie sundae, turned into an ice cream.  The only thing it was missing was whipped cream.

The ice cream base apparently was sweet cream, although I assumed it was just basic vanilla.  Creamy, rich, good base.  Standard Ben & Jerry's.

The caramel swirl was exactly what caramel should be.  Buttery, sweet, delicious.  I didn't actually taste much salt, which would have been better perhaps, but it was pretty delicious as it was.  If they just removed "salted" from the product name, I wouldn't have minded the lack of salt.  The caramel was particularly fascinating because it didn't get hard, even inside the cold ice cream, it still stayed pleasantly runny, like caramel that had just been poured over an ice cream sundae.  My only complaint, which is a bit silly, is that there was too much caramel.  It was very sweet, and at one point, I wished to have a little more ice cream to balance out the plentiful caramel.  Perhaps that was just my scoop.

And finally, the blondies.  Chunks of just the right size, big enough to know you got a goodie, but not too big to be annoying to eat.  Sweet, classic blondies.  And again, like the caramel, I was impressed with how they didn't get hard.  They somehow stayed perfectly soft inside the cold ice cream.  Ben & Jerry's knows how to work magic here.

So overall, definitely a winner, and one I'd gladly get again.  Salted Caramel Brownie is only available in Scoop Shops, although a similar offering, Salted Caramel Brownie Core, is available in pints.  That one is the same sweet cream ice cream with blondie bits, with a caramel core down the center of the pint.  It seems like the amount of caramel you get in a scoop could be more easily controlled with the core version, although I did like it being all mixed in.

I also had the chance to sample the other new flavor, Cotton Candy: "Cotton candy ice cream loaded with cotton candy pieces."  It tasted, you guessed it, like cotton candy.  Super sweet.  I'm sure this is a huge hit with children, but for me, not quite something I'd want a full bowl of.

2015

The Tonight Dough™, Single, 2015.
"Caramel & Chocolate Ice Creams with Chocolate Cookie Swirls & Gobs of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough & Peanut Butter Cookie Dough".

Wow, this had a lot going on, almost giving Everything But The ... a run for its money.

Let’s start with the base.  I didn’t realize that the caramel ice cream was actually caramel, I assumed it was vanilla, or perhaps sweet cream.  So, it was there, but it certainly wasn’t overly sweet, which is good, as a flavor with so many components easily could have been overwhelmed by too sweet ice cream.  The other ice cream was classic chocolate.  I don’t tend to care for chocolate ice cream, and probably would have preferred this to be all just the caramel flavor, but, the ice cream base is really not the interesting part of this flavor.

The interesting part, as is common with Ben & Jerry's, was the mix-ins.  First, the big shocker for me: "chocolate cookie swirls".  Now, I didn't really know what a "cookie swirl" was going to be, but I somehow thought something like chunks of a cookie.  Nope. Instead, the cookie was crumbs, integrated throughout as, well, a swirl.  It does match the description quite well, now that I think about it ... anyway, I really liked it!  It was almost like bits of brownie, but easier to bite through since it was loose, if that makes any sense.  Really a great texture.

Next, the cookie doughs.  I was seriously impressed with the amount of cookie dough in here.  Tons of chunks, all large sized.  Ben & Jerry's really nails the eating experience of this one, with the chunks large enough that you really, really get to enjoy your cookie dough, and don't need to struggle to build up a few little chunks in order to build your own ball (you do that too right?).  The chocolate chip cookie dough was standard Ben & Jerry's cookie dough, presumably the same as from their regular cookie dough ice cream, which I've reviewed before.  The peanut butter cookie dough was actually the reason I picked this flavor, I was very interested to see what that would be like.  Similar to the chocolate chip dough chunks, just, sans chips.  I actually didn't taste that much peanut butter to it, and would have preferred more.

Anyway, this was a good flavor.  I was worried that so many add ins would make it a disaster, but, it worked.  Not my favorite flavor, and probably not one I'd order again, but if someone had some, I'd certainly dig in.
Two Wild & Crazy Pies™.
"Coconut cream & chocolate cream pie ice creams with a chocolate cookie swirl."

I was inspired to get this one solely due to the chocolate cookie swirl.  I loved the chocolate cookie swirl in Ben & Jerry's Milk & Cookies flavor, and really just wanted more of it.

But this ... wasn't great.  I actually blame my scoop shop, as I think something was wrong with their freezers.  The ice cream was all crystalized.  That is NOT normal for Ben & Jerry's!

I love creamy chocolate ice cream, and instead, this was just icy.  I didn't taste much coconut, which is fine, I didn't really want to, it doesn't seem like chocolate and coconut would make that great of a mix anyway.  But the cookie swirl that I was soooo looking forward to?  Without creamy ice cream to go with it, it was just additional icy bits.

This made me really sad.  The texture was just sooo wrong.  If it wasn't my birthday free scoop(s), I certainly would have gone back to say something.  I blame the freezers.

Also tried:
  • Spectacular Speculoos™: "Dark caramel & vanilla ice creams with speculoos cookies & a speculoos cookie butter swirl".  Tasting Notes: I wanted to love this, but it was icy, and the texture was all strange.  I'm glad I asked to try it first.
  • The Tonight Dough ™: "Caramel & Chocolate Ice Creams with Chocolate Cookie Swirls & Gobs of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough & Peanut Butter Cookie Dough."  Tasting Notes: This is a case of too many good things don't add up to great result.  Every ingredient was individually great, but, together they became too much, and I couldn't taste anything in particular.

2016

Spectacular Speculoos™ on top, Empower Mint on bottom. April 2016.
Two scoops this time, because you know how hard decisions are!  Starting from the top:

"Dark caramel & vanilla ice creams with speculoos cookies & a speculoos cookie butter swirl."

I picked Spectacular Speculoos to give it another try, because on my previous try, I disliked it because it was strangely icy.  I assumed that was a problem with ice cream storage, not inherent to the flavor, so, I wanted to give it another chance.  Plus, I have a co-worker who loves Speculoos, and I think his mentality is rubbing off.

It was ... ok.  I really didn't taste dark caramel ice cream, it just seemed like vanilla to me.  There were chunks in it, but I couldn't distinguish between cookie chunks and the cookie butter swirl.  Also ... I guess I just don't love Speculoos.

Overall, fine, not icy this time, but, not for me.  I won't get this one again.

"Peppermint ice cream with fudge brownies and fudge swirl".

I was pretty excited about the Empower Mint though, a brand new flavor, not even on their website yet.  I love mint and chocolate.

The ice cream was clearly not just vanilla, but, it wasn't as minty as I would have liked.  I didn't find a distinct fudge swirl, just, some vaguely chocolately bits.  There were decent size chunks of brownie though, soft, rich, good brownies, but, somehow, not really what I wanted in my mint ice cream.

So, overall, I wanted more mint, and, I wanted the chocolate in a different form.  I think I wanted mint chocolate chip with real hot fudge on top.  Or some kind of crunchy chocolate mixed in.

2017

Another year, another birthday free scoop, and chance to try some new flavors (including the trendy cereal milk flavors).  No real winners this year.
Milk & Cookies. Small. (August). $5.25.
"Vanilla Ice Cream with a Chocolate Cookie Swirl, Chocolate Chip & Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies."

On this visit, I tried a few new flavors, and decided to settle on my old stand-by, Milk & Cookies.

I didn't love it this time around though.  It seemed to have a lot more chocolate components than I remembered, and, the signature chocolate chip cookie bits, that were more like a swirl before, were fairly non-existent.

Time to try some new flavors ...
Pistachio Pistachio. (July).
"Pistachio Ice Cream with Lightly Roasted Pistachios."

For National Ice Cream Day, the Whole Foods that I stopped into happened to have free samples from Ben & Jerry's.  I used the opportunity to try a flavor I had never had before: Pistachio Pistachio.

I didn't really care for it.  I liked the chunks of pistachio, but, the base ice cream flavor wasn't great.  It was standard Ben & Jerry's rich, quality product however.

Others:
Totally Baked:
"Chocolate & vanilla ice creams with fudge brownies & chocolate chip cookies."

I tried this one for the chocolate chip cookies that I knew from Milk & Cookies, and the brownies from chocolate fudge brownie (both of which I've liked and reviewed both before).

This was ... fine.  But boring.  Chocolate and vanilla, brownie and cookie, but, it didn't really add up to anything particularly amazing.

Truffle Kerfuffle™:
"Vanilla ice cream with roasted pecans, fudge flakes and salted chocolate."

I like pecans.  I like fudge.  I like salt.  And chocolate.  This basically sounded like an ice cream sundae, jammed into a single flavor.  Much potential.

But it fell a bit flat for me.  The texture seemed harder than most other flavors, and, my scooper actually told me he doesn't like this flavor, as it is always too hard (which he said after I said I didn't like it).  Not really sure why this was a miss, but, it was.

Frozen Flakes™
"Cereal milk ice cream with crisp cereal swirls."

Ben & Jerry's jumped on the cereal milk fad big time.  This summer, they introduced not one, not two, but three different cereal bases flavors: Frozen Flakes (e.g. frosted flakes), Frozen Fruities (e.g. Fruit Loops), and Cocoa Loco (e.g. Cocoa Puffs).

I tried Frozen Flakes, pretty excited.  I adore the Cereal Milk soft serve from Momofuku Milk Bar, and fully support this trend.

But, I didn't like the Ben & Jerry's version.  The "crisp cereal swirls" were not crisp.  Just like the waffle cone pieces in Americone Dream, and the potato chips in Late Night Snack, they were kinda soggy and really unappealing.  The base was also just far too sweet.

This was not for me, and the server told me he really didn't like it either.

2018

Limited Batch: Gimme S'more. Small.
"Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream with Chocolate Cookie Swirls, Graham Cracker Swirls & Fudge Flakes."

I don't really care for s'mores.  Graham crackers are a useless item entirely in my world.  I don't like to munch on them, I don't like them for s'mores, and I hate them for pie crusts.  So, picking a s'mores flavor, even if new and limited edition, was a bit of an odd move for me.

But, I had hope for this, as it has chocolate cookie swirls, and I've found those so successful in other ice cream, like the Milk & Cookies I enjoyed before.  Add in an interesting sounding base (toasted marshmallow!), and a promise of fudge flakes, and I could overlook the graham cracker swirls.

Or so I thought.

While the graham cracker didn't necessarily dominate, it was very prominent, and added a strange thickness and grit.  I didn't like it.

Meanwhile, the base ice cream, while an interesting marshmallow-y flavor, was far too sweet.

The chocolate cookie swirl and bits of fudge chips were good, but overall, this was just too sweet, not balanced, and too gritty.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Single.
"Vanilla Ice Cream with Gobs of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough."
"We knew we were onto something big when we made the world's first Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream in 1984. It took us a while to iron out the details, but in 1991 we finally rolled the world's first Dough - in pints - out the door & into ice cream history. Today it still reigns among our all time most popular flavors."
My scoop shop really didn't have any new exciting flavors that were appealing to me, and, after sampling 4 (!), I felt bad and decided to just go with an old reliable.  Cookie dough.  About as classic as Ben & Jerry's gets!  And yes, they really do claim to have invented cookie dough, and really have perfected it.

Rich creamy ice cream base, studded with chocolate chips, and plentiful large chunks of good flavored cookie dough.  The texture of it all is spot on (creamy ice cream, crunch from chocolate chips, soft cookie dough), and this is a classic, reliable option for a reason.  I was happy enough with it.

Other flavors sampled:

MooPhoria Light Caramel Cookie Fix:
"Vanilla Light Ice Cream with Salted Caramel Swirls & Shortbread Cookie Swirls."

Well, ok, I didn't expect light ice to be amazing, but, this was awful to the point that I think my scoop shop must not have stored it properly.  It was so, so icy.  Really just ice.  And the shortbread cookie was really dry.  So dry and icy?  Yeah, not ok.

I'd be curious to try it again somewhere though, as it does have promise, it is real ice cream, just lighter, 140 cal per scoop, and the salted caramel and shortbread cookie swirls do sound good.

Cinndoughrella™ (New 2018 Flavor)
"Cinnamon & Caramel Ice Creams with Cinnamon Bun Dough, Shortbread Cookies & Oatmeal Cinnamon Cookie Swirls."

This one falls in the "almost awesome" category for me.  I loved the cinnamon and caramel bases, I loved the cinnamon bun dough chunks, the shortbread cookie chunks, and the oatmeal cinnamon cookie swirls.  All the components were great, and they worked well together.

So, the problem?  It was just too sweet.  Too much.

I would have gladly gotten this as a mixed scoop, and in the past, my local Ben & Jerry's has allowed split scoop for a single cup (not for a Kiddie size, but a single is actually two scoops but, the very new scooper I had wasn't up for it, and I didn't really care enough to press more).  But balanced with another flavor, or perhaps even whipped cream actually, I think this would be great.

Chocolate Therapy®
"Chocolate Ice Cream with Chocolate Cookies & Swirls of Chocolate Pudding Ice Cream."

Chocolate ice cream is rarely what I like, but, my scoop shop didn't have many flavors I was interested in, and I do love the Ben & Jerry's cookie swirl, so, I gave this one a try, also interested in "chocolate pudding ice cream" swirls.

This was however an ice cream for chocolate ice cream lovers, very much chocolate ice cream and even more intense chocolate ice cream in the chocolate pudding ice cream swirls.  Not for me.

Chocolate Shake It™
"Chocolate Malt Milkshake Ice Cream with Chocolate Cookie-Covered Fudge Truffles & Marshmallow Swirls."

It has been a while since I've had Phish Food, again, since I'm not a big chocolate ice cream fan, but this really reminded me of Phish Food as both have chocolate ice cream base, marshmallow swirl, and chocolate covered items inside.  And I almost like Phish Food, cuz the marshmallow goo is so tasty.

It really was just like an enhanced version of Phish Food for me.  I liked the chocolate malt milkshake ice cream more than standard chocolate, but it was still chocolate ice cream.  I loved the gooey marshmallow swirl, and thought it provided great balance to the marshmallow that I don't care for.  The "chocolate cookie-covered fudge truffles" didn't really seem that different from other chocolate covered things in Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and I didn't see what was "chocolate cookie" about them, but they were a nice component.

Phish Food lovers might want to try this just to mix it up, but, it wasn't the one for me.

2019

Another year, another chance to try a few more new flavors!  Ben & Jerry's introduces a bunch every year, many only at scoop shops, but few rarely stick around ... 
Cinnamon Buns®
"Caramel Ice Cream with Cinnamon Bun Dough & a Cinnamon Streusel Swirl."

"Our cool salute to cinnamon buns is so cinnamon-streuseled & dough-loaded, there's no telling where the cinnamon buns end or the ice cream begins. That's because it's one fun flavor all the way through. Enjoy!"

Yup, another cinnamon inspired ice cream from Ben & Jerry's.

The first cinnamon flavored ice cream I had from Ben & Jerry's was "Cinnamon Cereal Swirl", a sweet cream base with crunchy cinnamon cereal.  I didn't care for it .

In 2018, I tried the brand new Cinndoughrella™, a cinnamon & caramel base, with cinnamon bun dough, shortbread cookies, & oatmeal cinnamon cookie swirls.  It was almost awesome. The base was a success, as were the cinnamon bun dough chunks, as were the shortbread cookie chunks, and the cookie swirl.  But ... it was just far too sweet.

Cinnamon Buns® has been around for longer, and seems like a more toned down version.  Just the caramel ice cream base, not cinnamon and caramel.  Just the cinnamon bun dough, not cinnamon bun dough and shortbread cookies.  And a cinnamon streusel in place of the oatmeal cookie swirl.

It was definitely better, not nearly as sweet.  The base ice cream was fine, sweet caramel ice cream, classic Ben & Jerry's.  The cinnamon bun dough chunks were the perfect size and texture, and it was loaded with them, just the right distribution.    The streusel swirl didn't overwhelm or over sweeten, as it was generous, but not too much.

Overall, a good flavor.  I'd gladly have it again.

And it turns out, one I had before, and just didn't remember, although the version I tried was the European version, actually made in different facilities, with slightly different ingredients.
Wake & "No Bake".
"Vanilla Ice Cream with Peanut Butter Cookies & Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Fudge Chips & a No Bake Cookie Dough Core."

For my free birthday scoop this year, I went for a brand new flavor: Wake & "No Bake".  I was drawn in by the peanut butter and the fascinating sounding "no bake cookie dough core".

This was good, but not great.  I don't think I'd get it again.

I did appreciate the peanut butter flavors throughout, but I never really found anything that seemed like peanut butter cookies.  What threw me off for this was what I guess is the No Bake Cookie Dough Core, a very gritty layer full of chocolate.  I wasn't expecting as much chocolate (not that its a bad thing) and I certainly wasn't into the grit.  The texture just kinda ruined it after a while.

So sadly, this, after a few bites, as fairly meh for me.

Other flavors sampled:

Chocolate Peanut Buttery Swirl
"Milk Chocolate Ice Cream with a Thick Peanut Buttery Swirl."

I tried this one at the scooper's recommendation when the  P.B. Doughable Chocolate that I actually wanted wasn't available (even though on menu!).  I loved the sound of the PB Doughable, with both dark and milk chocolate ice cream, peanut butter cookie dough, AND peanut butter cookie butter, but alas, they were out.

The chocolate peanut buttery swirl was no substitute.  It was just fairly standard chocolate ice cream, with a tiny bit of peanut butter swirl.  I'm sure some bites are more loaded up than others, and since I was just trying a sample I didn't get a great one, but, this did not do it for me at all.

Nutty Caramel Swirl
"Nougat Ice Cream with Peanuts, Fudge Flakes & a Salted Caramel Swirl."

I liked the sounds of this one, lots of good mix-ins, but it fell pretty flat.  It was just ... bland and boring, really.  Again, perhaps just the sample I got didn't have much going on.  The base seemed liked regular vanilla as well.

Toffee Break
"Buttery Brown Sugar Ice Cream with Almond Brittle & a Toffee Caramel Swirl."

I *almost* got a full scoop of this flavor.  I may have actually kinda begged (er, nicely asked?) the scooper to let me split my scoop into two flavors, since I couldn't decide which to get.  But I was turned down.

This was a sweet flavor, no question.  Sweet base (buttery brown sugar I guess, it was fairly caramely), and sweet mix-ins (candied almond brittle and toffee caramel swirl).  Of course this was going to be sweet.  But it wasn't cloying somehow, and I liked the textures and flavors.

I do think a full scoop probably would have been too much sweet, hence why I went for the other instead, but I was very close to picking this one.

Ben & Jerry's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

German Gymnasium, London

When in London, go get ... German food?

Uh, yeah.

This was mostly a meal out of convenience, when we tried to go to Dishoom for an easy meal because it was close by, and the wait was substantial.  It was cold, raining, and we just didn't have it in us to venture far.

I had read good reviews of German Gymnasium, a fairly new establishment in Kings Cross, just a block away.  It is open for breakfast (and weekend brunch), lunch, and dinner daily.  Our visit was for dinner, 6pm, no reservation.

My Feast.
I had a light meal, shared with my companion, but we did get a nice sampling of a salad, a hot dog (of course), dessert, and a cocktail.

It was all actually decent, and service was quick and efficient.  I wouldn't seek it out, but, if I needed a convenient bite near the office, I'd go back.

Setting

The German Gymnasium is huge, located inside, well, a converted gymnasium (built in 1865 for the German gymnastics, and even hosted the Olympics in 1866!).  Really, a fascinating space.

The establishment is made up of multiple spaces: a higher end restaurant on the first floor (not ground floor!), a more casual all day Grand CafĂ© on the ground floor, two bars, and an outdoor terrace.  The menus (and price points!) are dramatically different between the spaces.
Main Floor Bar & Seating.
We wanted quick and easy, so opting for the casual ground floor restaurant, the Grande Cafe.

This area had a bar, and seating all around.

I could see the fancier restaurant on the floor above, but didn't venture up there to see more (which I don't think would have been welcome anyway).

Food and Drinks


Red Del Fashioned. £10.50.
 "Nomad whisky, sherry liqueur and bitters stirred. Topped with orange and cinnamon foam and grated orange."

My cocktail selection came from the "Short & Seductive" category.  It took longer to arrive than my food, which was a bit disappointing, as I wanted to sip on it before my meal, and with it.

It was good though.  It said "topped with ... foam" but I never expected such generous foam!  Look at that gap!  I really liked the froth, but didn't quite taste the orange and cinnamon that were supposed to be there.  Nor did I find grated orange.

Still, a nice cocktail, and I enjoyed it.
Menu.
The dinner menu at Grande Cafe has ... well, everything.  It was overwhelming, actually.  A full page, tiny print, many sections.

The menu options ranged from oysters & caviar, to crowd pleasing burgers, hot dogs, and steaks, to lighter seafood dishes, and of course, more traditional dishes like sausages and schnitzels.

There was also an entire section devoted to autumn specials, which caught my eye, lots of fun ingredients.  I tried to order the roast chestnuts from this section, but was told the chef pulled them from the menu because they were small and bitter.  I appreciated the quality control, but, alas, I wanted chestnuts!

Narrowing down our order was really rough, but in the end, we went for a autumn salad, a hot dog, and a dessert.  There were many other items I would have happily ordered however.
 Autumn Special: Chestnut & beetroot salad £8,50 (starter size).
"Apple, walnut, goat cheese, red wine vinegar dressing."

Last minute, we went for chestnut salad instead, still being offered as the chestnuts had been roasted already.  I would have *never* ordered this if I had read the ingredients, as it had goat cheese and beets.  I dislike beets and a loath goat cheese.  And it had apple, which I don’t really care for.  But … I ordered it when the server mentioned that the salad had chestnuts as a last minute replacement for my roasted chestnuts.  And I liked it.

Well, mostly.

The greens were great, a mix of bitter greens like radicchio, and common “mixed greens” like baby spinach and the like.  Everything seemed quite fresh.  The apple was thin strips and added a welcome juiciness and crisp bites.  As did the similarly thin slices of what I think was raw beets (it might have been fancy radish though).

I avoided the large chunks of roasted beets.  The walnuts seemed lightly toasted, added more crunch, and I somehow liked those too.

The chestnuts, the ingredient I was after were … fine.  Kinda hard, not very flavorful.  The weakest ingredient.  I avoided the goat cheese, but it somehow didn’t ruin everything.  I was pretty surprised how much I liked the salad, and ended up taking more and more of it.  It was lightly dressed, fresh, full of good textures and flavors, and, well, I guess my body was craving this.

This was available as a starter or main, and we got the starter, which was more than enough for two to share.
GG Hot Dog. £9,80.
"Marjoram spiced pork sausage, coleslaw, house sauce, crisp onions, brioche roll."

For a main ... we went for the hot dog.  Yup, the hot dog.  The menu had this "GG" hot dog and a curry dog, in addition to more traditional german sausages (currywurst, weistwrust, etc).

But I'm a hot dog girl, and couldn't really get past "hot dog", particularly when it came with coleslaw and crispy onions, and was served in a brioche roll.  All things I quite like.

Now ... it was a sight for sure.  Not what we know as hot dog. It didn’t really fit in the bun, rather, came perched on top, a bit hard to eat, overflowing with garnishes.

The hotdog was very juicy. I didn’t care for the house sauce, and found myself really wanting ketchup. Who was I? I love creamy house sauces!

I did like the slaw, and the crispy onions, as expected.   The brioche bun was soft and fine.

My dining companion really liked it, I think I just wasn’t quite in the mood for it, and was strangely just too excited by the salad.
Mont blanc. £7,00.
"Blackberry vanilla mousse, blackberry compote, chestnut cream."

For dessert we again had many, many options.  I was tempted by some of the actual German offerings, like warm apple strudel with vanilla sauce, and I did want a warm dessert so the fruit crumble (apricot) was also appealing, but, the mont blanc called me in.

Why?  Because I kinda got hooked on mont blanc in Tokyo.  Also: more chestnut!

The Moun Blanc was … meh.

The hard tart shell was chocolate, and it came dusted in cocoa powder, which I wasn’t expecting, as I avoid caffeine at night.  I'm not sure I would have ordered it if I knew there would be chocolate components.

I liked the sweet white chocolate decoration on top, smooth, sweet, creamy.
Mont blanc: Inside.
Here you can see the cross section, with the many layers inside.

The layer above the tart shell was some kind of blackberry compote, with tons of seeds.  I hate seedy berries.  Oops.  The menu did warn me about the blackberry, I just somehow missed it.

So, two big strikes right away: I don't like tart shells, I don’t like seedy berries.

Above that layer was a cream dome, with a berry cream in the center, and then chestnut paste along the outside.  The cream was fluffy but pretty boring.  The center was blackberry vanilla mousse, or so the menu said, but it too wasn't very flavorful.

Since this was a play on mont blanc, there was no chestnut in the center, which is really what I wanted!  It did have the iconic chestnut paste wrapping though, thick and more flavorful than the other components, but still fairly lackluster.

But overall?  Meh to this, the only item I wasn't really satisfied with.
Restaurant - The German Gymnasium Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Monday, August 19, 2019

Russian food from Pushkin

Russian cuisine.  Not one I am all that familiar with.  But I do always like to try new things, so when I had the chance to try food from Pushkin, I gladly did.

Pushkin is in San Francisco, a small retail storefront in the International Food Court, open for lunch only, Mon-Fri.  They also do catering, which is how I experienced the food.

PIROJKI

Pirojki were new to me, large, yeasted baked stuffed buns.  Pushkin makes these in 4 varieties year round (beef, sausage, mushroom, and apple), the last of which is sweet plus additional, more exciting sounding, seasonal varieties.

I was able try two kinds.
Mushroom. $4 each.
"Button mushroom, onion."

First up was the savory bun, filled with mushroom and onions.  The buns all had a lovely golden sheen.

I really liked the bun dough itself, soft, slightly sweet, really enjoyable.
Mushroom: Inside.
But I did not like the filling.

I like mushrooms, I like onions, but this ... truly did not do it for me.  The mushrooms were chopped up into reasonable size chunks, the onions were smaller, the ratios were right.  But ... I just can't pinpoint it, I didn't like it.  It was basically just slimy mushroom stuff inside?  It didn't seem particularly seasoned.

I ate the entire bun, but, um, discarded the interior.
Apple. $4.
"Apple, raisin, cinnamon, poppy seeds."

Next up, the sweet one, apple.

I *loved* it.

The dough was again soft and fluffy, slightly sweet.  It was almost like what I always want Asian style buns to be.  Excellent base for the product.
Apple: Inside.
Inside was cubes of well spiced apple, perfectly cooked slightly al dente, which be sound weird describing apples, but, I actually really liked, as they had some bite to them this way.  Unlike American style apple pie filling, there was no additional goo really, just, the chunks of spiced apple.  Small chunks, which made a mess as they fell out, but really didn't bother me.

Also in the mix were a few raisins, not too many, and they were rather plump and juicy, so not a deterrent for me in the way that they are when hard bits in granola or scones.

I found this strangely satisfying, as a snack, just as is, but it was even better warm with honey cinnamon whipped cream, turned into more of a dessert.  I could imagine it also perhaps appropriate for breakfast?

Dumplings

A huge part of the menu is assorted dumplings, all varieties, again, offered in 4 staples, plus a slew of additional seasonal ones.  They come by the cup normally, but we had a full pan for catering.
Potato Mushroom Vareniki. $48/tray.
"Potato, mushroom, fried onion / pan fried."

I was very excited for these, as they are fairly familiar to me, I went through a pierogi discovery phase in college, and ate them regularly.

I found the dumplings fairly unremarkable.  Sure, the dough was better than frozen grocery store ones that is fairly lifeless, but they didn't taste particularly good, and the filling was kinda just a mass of potato.  Others did enjoy them quite a bit though.

That said, the caramelized onion bits served with them were delicious, so flavorful, droolworthy.  I gladly ate just the onions!

Salads

Salads are not part of Pushkin's regular offerings, but are available through catering, several styles, including a basic "fresh" salad, a traditional Olivier potato salad and a herring salad, and a beet salad, which is what I had.
Vinegret (Russian Style Beet Salad). $60/tray.
"Beet, potato, peas, pickled cabbage and cucumber, dressing: vegetable oil."

This was ... fine.  Not really my thing, as I don't care for cooked beets, or really potato cubes, peas, cucumbers .... really, just not my thing at all.

It was far more bland than I expected.

Mains

Pushkin only has one main dish, and it is only available via catering.  And only in mass quantity, with the smallest order being 3 trays of the main itself, and a tray of the side it comes with.
Plov (Uzbek plov). $150.
"Rice, beef, carrot, onion, garbanzo beans."

This is not a dish I had any interest in.  I don't like rice (unless in dessert), and I hate garbanzo beans.   The bits of beef were chopped small, and looked dry.  Just totally not a Julie-style item.

But I was quite interested in one thing in these trays: the garlic.  The *entire* bulbs of garlic.  Several of them per tray.  Just, entire cloves.

The garlic, um, I liked?  Roasted garlic is just so delicious, the flavor mellowed out, and I enjoyed eating it just by the spoonful, although it was also fantastic warmed back up and spread on croutons (I didn't have any fresh bread!)
Salad that comes with Plov.
"Fresh tomatoes, jalapeno pepper, shallot onion."

I did not try this, as it really looked like just some mushy tomatoes, yellow onion, and jalapenos.
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