Friday, September 27, 2019

Thatcher's Gourmet Popcorn

Another day, another snack food manufacturer to try, featuring one of my favorites: popcorn.

Thatcher's Gourmet Popcorn is actually local to me, based in San Francisco.  It is a cute success story, a local business that started in 1983, did well, and fairly quickly expanded into having multiple shops and a warehouse.  Now, they are an international distributor of popcorn.
"Thatcher's Gourmet Popcorn is made the old-fashioned way, using small batches to ensure optimum coating for each and every kernel."
I was drawn in by the flavor ranges, like many companies in this space, they feature both sweet and savory.  I won't enumerate them all, but in addition to the classics, there are interesting savory flavors like Sriracha, Jalapeno, and White Cheddar Flavor, and fun sweet creations like Birthday Cake, Cinnamon Toast, and Tiramisu.

I was able to try one sweet and one savory.  Neither flavor actually was all that successful, but, I think the popcorn itself was really well made.
"This new and spectacular flavor blends blueberry, vanilla, blackberry and strawberry to create a fruity flavor that's out of this world."

I went for the flashiest, most decadent, most Insta-worthy flavor of all: Uni-Korn.

It promised 4 fruity flavors (ok, 3 fruity flavors plus vanilla), but, um ... what it was was just extreme sweet.  I know I picked a sweet one but this was ... something else.

To give the positive points though, the kernels were large, fresh, well popped, and extremely well coated.  The popcorn element was good.
Uni-Korn: Close Up.
At first glance, it looked like only a trio of colors (pink, white, blue), but it turned out to be all 4 as described, with two shades of pink.

If I had to guess to match colors, the white was vanilla, the blue was blueberry, the darker pink blackberry, and the lighter pink strawberry?  But honestly, it doesn't matter, as the flavors were not distinct.

It just tasted like sugar.  Too much sugar.  I love sweet but this was ... just not interesting, and honestly, I didn't taste any distinct flavors, no matter how many pieces I had (and yes, I kept trying to like it, on multiple days, but ... it just really wasn't distinct, and was so very cloyingly sweet!)
Parmesan & Herbs.
"Excellent Parmesan cheese taste mixed with herbs will deliver the best savory taste!"

Next I went savory.  A cheesy version, but rather than the more common cheddar, this was parmesan.  With herbs.

The popcorn kernels again had a great pedigree.  Large, well popped, uh, fluffy, if that is a thing.  They were reasonably well coated with the powdered parmesan and some visible flecks of herbs.

The flavor was not very intense though - not particularly cheesy, not particularly herby.  Subtle.  A lighter styles popcorn, fine, but not particularly compelling.  But again, well made popcorn itself.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Nakahora Ranch : Matsuya / Ginza Main Store, Tokyo

Like many trips, my August/September trip to Tokyo revolved around a theme.  Last time, the theme was food from convenience stores (like 7-Eleven, Lawson, Family Mart, Mini Stop ...).  The time before that?  Michelin star dining (I managed 8 stars in 3 days!).  This time?  Soft serve ice cream.  You can see more of my adventures on my master post.

My theme choice is likely not a surprise.  You know I love ice cream, particularly soft serve, particularly when it is warm, so given that it was above 80* the entire time I was there, and, well, Tokyo has some fabulous soft serve, what other theme *could* I have?  Sushi?  Meh, everyone picks that one.

The soft serve, er, soft cream, culture is legit, all revolving around Hokkaido milk, full fat, and the real experience of the dairy.  The soft cream isn't as sweet as in the US, and the most common flavor, and the best one, is ... milk flavor.  So pure, so incredible ... when it is good.

I've had plenty of great soft cream in Tokyo.  This, however, was not one of them.

My destination was the Ginza outpost of Nakahora Ranch, a legit dairy farm, known for the soft cream even.  They have a stall in the Matsuya department store food hall, and it is there that I sought them out.
Fake Ice Cream Display.
As with many places in Tokyo, the display case housed plastic fakes of the items offered.  I can't say that plastic ice cream actually looks very good.
Ice Cream Menu.
The menu was easy to understand, given that it had English and pictures of everything.  A simple cone or dish (3 sizes), a dish drizzled with chocolate, green tea & brown sugar syrup, or soybean flour & brown sugar syrup, or floats with assorted bases (coffee, milk, currant yogurt, currant juice, green tea latte, or yogurt).  Also interesting was the custard pudding topped with soft serve, not something I've ever seen before.
Petit Cone. 391 yen.
"Soft Serve Ice Cream milk from pasture-raised cows."

Well, I have nothing positive to say about this one.

It was sloppily made.  The texture was not smooth and creamy.  It was sour.  Everything I love about Tokyo soft serve was missing.

It was handed over before I paid, and I struggled to hold it and get out change.

The worst soft serve I had in Tokyo, even compared to that from convenience stores.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Waffling Leftovers: Autumn Vegetable "Lasagna"

Yup, another installment of Waffling Leftovers, my never ending quest to put random leftovers into a waffle iron, and see what happens (you can read all about my previous adventures here!).

This one was inspired by other successful versions featuring Italian food and casseroles, in particular, lasagna and potato gratin, the former of which is quite successful, the later of which ... not so much.

This was in the "eh" category of success for me.
The Original: Autumn Vegetable "Lasagna".
The original was something our chef's dubbed "lasagna", but was gluten-free, contained no noodles of any sort, and was vegetarian.  Oh, and had no red sauce nor mozzarella.  So if you expect lasagna to contain 1) beef, 2) pasta, 3) red sauce, 4) mozzarella ... um ... yeah, not lasagna really.  It was offered specifically to meet some dietary constraints, alongside a traditional beef/noodles/marinara/cheese version.

It was was an autumn inspired Italian bake, with slices of butternut squash serving the purpose of the lasagna noodles, Alfredo sauce instead of marinara, a slew of other veggies (spinach, mushrooms, fancy peppers), and, plenty of herbed ricotta.

It was fairly delicious when it was served, hot and bubbling, and loaded with the creamy rich alfredo sauce and soooo much ricotta.  Very rich, but filled with so many veggies that it also didn't feel that decadent.
The Leftovers: Autumn Vegetable "Lasagna".
Of course we had leftovers, and, after trying some cold ("eh", is my official review), I decided to have some fun.

Sure, I knew that the reason lasagna waffles so well is the noodles themselves, and I knew potato gratin didn't work all that well, and this was more like potato gratin ... but I still wanted to try.
Leftovers in the iron.
I tried a fairly small glob to test, into the waffle iron at a fairly standard 350*, and then got to making the rest of my meal.

I went to check on it after I started hearing plenty of sizzling sounds.
Uh ... "waffle"?
Once I opened the lid, I saw that it had quickly spread out.  This was fine, but given the small amount I had put in, meant that it didn't have any waffle shape at this point.

I let it go a while longer, and then set to extracting it.  It took more work than usual to remove.  It just came out in chunks of rubble, again, this can be fine, a waffle shape isn't really necessary.  The bits were crispy, they were sorta cheesy, and were ... fine, but it just wasn't particularly compelling this way.  And did I mention, it was a pain to extract?  

I decided to heat up another batch more traditionally in the oven, mostly because I was lazy and didn't want to deal with cleaning up even more mess, but I think it would work much better with a thicker slab.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

JetBlue Mint, Flight 416, SFO-JFK (June 2019)

June 2019 Flight

Flight Details:

Departure: SFO, 11:12 am (scheduled) 11:33 am (actual)
Arrival: JFK, 8:17 pm (scheduled)
Duration: 5h 59m
Seat: 2A (single suite)
Class: Mint

This was a fairly standard JetBlue Mint flight - some pleasing moments, some falters, but overall, the standard I have come to expect.

I had a great seat (my favorite, the front single suite, left hand side (so my drink table was on the right, as I'm right-handed), but my FA was one of the least friendly I've ever had, the wifi was extremely flaky (much worse than usual), and service was just ... eh.  Still, I appreciated my suite.


There have been no changes to JetBlue Mint amenities in years, so nothing new to say here.  I always appreciate the socks to keep my feet warm!

Food & Drink

A better meal than I expected!
I'll cut to the chase: this meal was far better than I expected.  Not amazing, not the best ever, but I was happy enough.

Menu & Ordering

I had previewed the menu online before my flight, so no surprises here.  I wasn't particularly excited for this lineup.

As always, I was a bit grumpy just how long it took meal service to get going.  This is one area where Mint isn't really like other business class offerings, as one of the FAs goes to do main cabin service, so, the meal doesn't really get going until they arrive.  Our FA also instructed us all to put out our tray tables, a full 40 minutes before service.  Long before she even brought welcome drinks or snacks (usually you get your welcome taste and drink, and way after that, when they collect the empty snacks, they offer up that you could put out your tray table.  She was insistent that we all put them up early).  She also had us open our suite doors at the same time, and said not to close them throughout meal service (again, even though it took forever to get started).  She wasn't the best.
Eastbound Lunch/Dinner Menu.
The menu was as follows:

  • Avocado cream dip with taro chips.
Choose three. Please note: The first two dishes listed below are chilled
  • Yuzu Caesar Salad: baby gem, haricots verts, parmesan, bread crumbs, chives.
  • Chickpea Broccolini Salad zucchini, oven-dried cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, lemon-yogurt dressing.
  • Poached Seabass: sautéed root vegetables, lemon-chardonnay sauce.
  • Chicken Tikka: saffron & cardamom rice, tikka masala sauce, cilantro.
  • Beef Cheeks: ratatouille, celeriac mousse, roasted baby carrot, thyme jus.
Enjoy both.
  • ICE CREAM: Double Rainbow, San Francisco, CA
  • FRESH FRUIT: watermelon, lime, basil
  • COOKIE, milk bar, NYC and beyond
Like I said, not the most exciting menu.  I love taro chips, but I'm allergic to avocado.  I hate chickpeas and chicken. I don't generally think cooked beef or seafood on flights is any good.  I was sad there was no pasta, which is normally offered on JetBlue Mint flights.  I'm allergic to watermelon too.  At least I knew I really liked the Caesar previously.


Wine Menu.
The drink lineup as always featured a sparkling, two red, and two white wines, plus cider, beer, liquor, soft drinks, tea, and coffee.
  • SPARKLING: Raventos I Blanc de Nit Rosé, 2016, Penedès, Spain
  • WHITE: The Withers Rosé, 2017, El Dorado
  • WHITE: Chardonnay of the MoMINT
  • RED: Bethel Heights, Estate Pinot Noir, 2016, Willamette Valley, Oregon
  • RED: Red of the MoMint
I did laugh a little at the rosé listed as a "white".  And ... was a bit annoyed that the real white had no details, nor did the second red.
Zero Sugar Sierra Mist.
One change since my last flight is that JetBlue switched from Coke to Pepsi products, so, my Sprite Zero is no longer an option.  I think I liked the zero sugar Sierra Mist more though (when diluted with sparkling water), so, not a big deal to me at all.
Lime Bubly.
But even more exciting? They have Bubly!

If you aren't familiar, this comes in a variety of flavors, not sweet, just lightly hinted with flavor.  I'm a big fan, the grapefruit, strawberry, and mango are nice when I want something slightly fruity, the lemon, lime, or orange when I pairing with a meal ... JetBlue currently has only Lime, but plans to rotate others on.

Mine came garnished with a lime slice, for even more lime.  I'm very pleased to see these added.
Chardonnay of the MoMINT.
"We’ve made several of California’s best small-production Chardonnays available for Mint customers to enjoy—wines that taste of sunny fruit and never an excess of oak. Ask your inflight crewmember about today’s choices."

For my welcome drink, I went with the white wine.

I asked my FA about the Chardonnay and she pretty curtly told me she'd never had it.  Nothing more was offered for description.  Um.  This was very different from most JetBlue Mint experiences, where they usually will present you with the bottle, or at least tell you the winemaker!  So I have no idea what this was, even though I did, as the menu instructed, as my crewmember about the choice.

It was ... eh.  Not buttery.  But at least not to dry, and not too sweet.  Just ... kinda there.
Red of the MoMINT.
"To complement the richer dishes on our menu, try a selection of some of California’s most exuberant, fruit-forward red wines—including some of the state’s best dry red Zinfandel. Ask your inflight crewmember about today’s choices."

With my meal, I went for the "Red of the MoMINT".  I was told it was a Zinfandel.

It was fine.  Not tanic, which I appreciated, but also just not very interesting.  Again, a wine that was just "there".  I later spied the bottle, it was "Bedrock" brand.
Reserve Selection Grenache Syrah Mourvedre Red Blend. ($8).
"This full bodied red wine has notes of red fruit and spices with good structure and a smooth finish."

I tried to move on to the Pinot Noir, but ... they ran out, less than halfway through the flight!  I didn't want the others, so I asked if I could just get the one from main cabin instead.  This request was easily accommodated.

I'm glad I went this route.  It wasn't the best ever, but I liked it more than anything served in Mint.  Definitely a bigger, bolder wine.


The meal actually beat my expectations.  Dramatically.  It reminded me again why I do endorse the Mint experience, besides just the seat and socks.
Welcome Taste: Taro chips (no dip).
As always, I LOVED the taro chips.  I wished I had something to dip them into though, so I tried (unsuccessfully) to wait until the other food came to dip them into the sauces there.  I just love them too much.

Luckily, my FA was willing to give me an extra batch, which I did save until the meal arrived.
Lunch: Yuzu Caesar Salad / Poached Seabass / Beef Cheeks / Roll.
As always, the three dishes I selected were served at once.

The Caesar was basically the only item I wanted, so I half-heartedly went for the beef and seabass too, since at least the sides with those sounded better than the ones with the chicken and chickpeas, and I would at least try these proteins.

I was shocked at how good the dishes were though, they far exceeded my expectations.

As always, my trio came with cold awful bread on the side, but decent quality olive oil and an adorable s&p shaker.
Yuzu Caesar Salad.
"Baby gem, haricots verts, parmesan, bread crumbs, chives."

JetBlue has alternated several versions of the caesar on the menu over the years, and I've generally enjoyed it (like the more classic one I had in October 2016, and this exact one I've had before like in May 2017. 

This one was ... actually boring.

The baby gems were quite fresh, crispy, good, actually.  I didn't find any haricot verts in mine, but I didn't mind.  The bread crumbs on top made the entire thing fairly dry.  The parmesan shreds were large, but strangely flavorless.

The real issue though was the dressing, or, lack of it.  There was a little, mostly on the bottom pieces of lettuce, but ... I just didn't taste ... anything.  

I added hot sauce (which of course I had in my bag), and that improved things greatly, but it still was my least favorite dish.
Poached Seabass.
"Sautéed root vegetables, lemon-chardonnay sauce."

I moved on to the seabass, which I mostly ordered expecting to perhaps eat the root veggies on the side, and dunk my taro chips in the lemon-chardonnay sauce.

I wasn't quite expecting ... this.  Not the presentation, not the fact that it wasn't horrible.

Right in front was a large chunk of fairly mushy potato.  In back, a random slice of ... tomato?  Where was that on the menu.  And why was there mushy warm-ish tomato?

But, besides those elements, the rest was better than expected.  I did think that there would be chunks of root veggies, like turnips and parsnips, so the julienne veggies weren't quite what I thought would show up, but they were fine, although, um, the veggies I was able to identify were carrots and zucchini ... the last of which is *not* a root veggie.  They were tasty enough in the sauce.

The sauce was a butter sauce, not particularly lemon nor chardonnay flavored, but, it was a butter sauce, and with the veggies it was nice.  It was broken however, which makes sense, since it was reheated.

And then, the fish.  Well, it was actually fine.  The most amazing seafood ever?  Of course not.  But the seabass was NOT fishy.  It was not dry.  It was warm, it was moist, and it was nice in the sauce.  It didn't flake exactly, but it was a surprising texture for reheated fish.

I was more pleased with this dish than expected, my second favorite. 
Beef Cheeks.
"Ratatouille, celeriac mousse, roasted baby carrot, thyme jus."

And lastly, the beef cheeks, again, ordered because I was fascinated by the idea of celeriac mousse, not because I thought this would be good.  And again, I was very surprised by the quality.

Another note on presentation though.  Where was the ratatouille?  I expected that fairly front and center, but it was buried *under* everything else.  I planed to eat around it, since I don't really like it, so that was a bit unfortunate.  It was however very small cubes, and, when mixed with the mousse and jus, didn't bother me too much.

Now, for the celeriac mousse.  This was the star of my meal.  Creamy, not a puree, it had some slight texture to it, and, well, it tasted like celeriac.  I really liked it.  Particularly with a little of the jus to flavor it further (although I didn't taste the promised thyme in that).  

Then, the beef cheek.  I didn't think I'd even bother eating this, but, it was even better than the seabass.  Sure, the very top had a fat layer that wasn't really that well rendered down, and sure, the backside was a bit dried out, but the rest of it was really quite good.  So moist, and it pulled apart amazingly.  Great with the jus,.  Where on earth did this come from?  I was impressed. 

My favorite dish of the trio.

A taro chip, dunked in this mousse and jus, was the highlight of the meal.
Sweet Treat: Double Rainbow, Vanilla & Chocolate Brownie.
For the dessert, as always, the ice cream was the brand from the port of departure, which for SF is sadly just Double Rainbow (seriously, why not one of our amazing places?).  The flavor of the day was chocolate brownie, two scoops of it, served with a scoop of vanilla.

And as always, it was served just like this. No toppings.  It was rock solid, and needed a long time before it got soft enough for me to enjoy.

Which was fine with me, it gave me time to digest a little, and of course, prepare my toppings.  Because, um, of course I brought toppings. More than usual, in fact.
Ice Cream: Upgraded.
Yes, I brought fresh fruit (blueberries), crispy cereal, sprinkles (which I always bring), and, a big pile of maraschino cherries.  Yup, cherry on top, literally.

Let's just say ... my FA did a double take at this one.  I normally just bring sprinkles, and sometimes toffee bits or something like that, so I'll admit, this was a bit dramatic, even for me.

So, the ice cream.

The double chocolate brownie was a mild chocolate ice cream, creamy enough (once it melted), but not particularly notable.  It had some chunks of mushy brownie that I didn't quite care for.

But the ice cream didn't matter that much, this was all about my toppings, and to say I was pleased with this is an understatement.  The only thing I really wanted in addition was some fudge or caramel, but, now I'm just getting crazy.  Oh wait, no, I wanted whipped cream too.  Which is easily acquired in the terminal at several places offering whipped cream topped beverages.  #nextTime
Blueberry & Cream Cookie.
And our parting gift? One of my favorite Milk cookies, the blueberry and cream!  (it competes for first place with the corn cookie, both of which I think are *totally* breakfast appropriate too ... just like muffins ...)

Monday, September 23, 2019

7-Eleven in ... Tokyo!

Update Reviews, 2019 Visit

During my last visit to Tokyo, I finally broke down and started trying all the items from convenience stores.  I was fascinated to say the least.

In 2017, my adventures at 7-Eleven focused on the savory items (see below), just like at Lawson, but this time I moved on to desserts (which I had before from Family Mart instead, like the puddings and taiyaki, and soft serve ice cream at Mini Stop).

Frozen Desserts

Unlike Mini Stop, 7-Eleven does not serve fresh soft serve, however they have a freezer selection with a fascinating array of products, from both other vendors, and their own private labels.
7-Eleven Shaved Ice?!
The kakigōri trend is very real in Tokyo, and even 7-Eleven has packaged shaved ice.  I'm pretty skeptical this could possibly be light and fluffy, but, at least it has condensed milk?

I didn't try this however, I was there for one thing: ice cream.
Seven Premium Gold Waffle Cone Milk Vanilla. 278 yen.
"This item is made with fresh cream and milk from Hokkaido for an improved milky flavor and richness. Now, even more delicious!"

"Ice cream: With its smooth texture, this ice cream really melts in your mouth. The milky flavor spreads throughout the inside your mouth.
Waffle Cone: Made using three types of butter blended together, for a rich flavor you can really feel." -- 7-Eleven Japan Marketing 

My love of ice cream, and soft serve, is very well known by readers of my blog.  Particularly in Tokyo, where the Hokkaido milk soft cream can be truly fabulous (e.g. at Silkream or Mother Farm Milk Bar, both sadly closed).  Seriously.  The put our soft serve to shame.

But sometimes ... I don't have time to seek out the best places in the city.  Or sometimes I get a lackluster dessert, and need a second dessert to cheer me up.  Which is what happened in this case.

After a disappointing liege waffle from Mannaken (albeit with good soft serve), I was left just wanting more awesome soft serve.  Which, yes, I know, should NOT have brought me to 7-Eleven.  But it did, because I've seen the frozen, packaged soft serve cones forever, and been very fascinated.

I'll admit, I was impressed with this, for what it was.  The packaging alone deserves a mention, as it perfectly protected both the cone and the ice cream, and was very appealing - I could see the beautiful ice cream through it!

The ice cream was ... well, it was ok.  It certainly had a slightly freezer burnt taste to it.  But underlying that was some of the "milk" flavor that I love so much in Tokyo.  It was fairly close to soft serve, creamy, lighter than a standard packaged novelty ice cream.  Better than packaged ice cream in the US, but I certainly wouldn't call it very high quality ice cream.

The cone was actually significantly better than expected.  A large sugar cone, somehow not soft at all.  Most frozen novelties wind up with soft cones, and this didn't even have a chocolate lining to protect it.  Not sure how this is possible.  Very sweet, very crispy, and better even than most cones at places serving fresh cones.

So, overall, above average, fun to try, but not a mind-blowing high quality item, and I wouldn't get it again.

Baked Goods

I'm drawn in by the baked goods every time I go into 7-Eleven, which I know sounds ridiculous, with so many great Japanese bakeries around.
Melon Bread.
I can't tell you how many times I've almost gotten the melon pan.  I love this stuff, but have strangely never been able to find a version I like in Tokyo, even though I've tried.  I even went to Sekai de Niban-me ni Oishii Melonpan, famous for its melonpan (granted, for its ones stuffed with ice cream).  I stumbled in to Pompadour, and tried theirs, only to find it extremely lemon flavored.   I also tried it at Family Mart, which I was told was better than 7-Eleven for the melon pan specifically.

It is only a matter of time before I actually get one at 7-Eleven.
Salted Vanilla Cream. 100 yen.
"A refreshing bun with a moist, softly baked dough sandwiched with salted cream. It is a cream made from vanilla beans and you can feel vanilla in both appearance and taste."

This was a brand new item, released on August 20, 2019.  Great timing on my part, as I was drawn in immediately by the salted vanilla cream.

It was shockingly, fascinatingly, delicious.
Like all the baked goods at 7-Eleven, it came in plastic wrap, not exactly looking like a fresh bakery item.  Yes, I had a moment of "really self? There are great Japanese bakeries all around, why oh why did you get this?"

It was shelf-stable, rather than refrigerated, even though it had "cream" in the name.

Still, I dug in.
White Bread.
The bread was soft, and very slightly sweet.  It was very familiar ... um, kinda like Wonder bread, but instead of a slice, it was a bun.  It was not stale.

A fairly plain vessel, but I did like the top half, the shiny top seemed to be where the sweetness was.  However, I purchased this for the filling, not the bread.
Salted Vanilla Cream Filling.
The filling you can see here (sorry, I took a bite already!).  It was spread on the bottom half, not to the edges, but it was a more generous amount than it looked.

The filling was great.  Hard to describe, but I'll do my best.  It was sweet and salty and vanilla flavored, all at once, as the name would imply.  I really did like it.  It was buttery in a way that reminded me of buttercream, not like a flavored whipped cream as I expected.

I found this quite enjoyable, but just eating it plain like this wasn't for me - the bottom of the roll i particular was a bit too boring.  I think if the bread was warm, or steamed, it could be amazing? But I didn't have facilities for heating it up.  Instead, I added some chocolate ganache to one part, and sweetened red bean mash to another. Both complimented the sweetened vanilla cream extremely well, and were definite improvements.

I was glad I tried the item, certainly worth the 100 yen price, but there are too many things to explore in my limit time in Japan to really consider getting another.

Original Reviews, 2017 Visit

Most people in the US think of 7-Eleven as perhaps a place to buy a soda or gum, but little more (of course, I do kinda like the coffee and love the cinnamon rolls).  You certainly don't go there for lunch, right?  I mean, someone must buy those taquitos near the door, but I'm not sure who.

In Japan though, things are very, very different at 7-Eleven (and other convenience stores).  It is a respectable place to get food.  The coffee is actually very good, ground to order, and they make iced coffee too.  The sushi is good, particularly the onigiri.  People love the sandwiches (with crusts cut off) and fresh baked (?!) breads.  Regular people do get food to eat there, and as packaged and scary as it looks, it is fresh.  They even have premium brands, Seven & I Premium and Seven Gold.  And its crazy cheap.

So you know me, always one to try things from silly places like this in the US, I was thrilled to do it in Japan too (plus, ZOMG, the snacks!)

And, spoiler, I loved it.

Seven Premium Deli Salad Pouches

"Seven Premium" products rigorously pursue these seven qualities: ① safety and reliability ② deliciousness ③ local flavors ④ best technology ⑤ universal design ⑥ healthiness ⑦ reasonable pricing."
First up for me, was bagged deli-like salads with Japanese ingredients.  I was beyond fascinated by these.  They also had more mundane salads in plastic boxes, with actual lettuce and the like, but I went straight for the crazy looking ones in pouches. 
Salad Pouch Feast!
The selection was huge, easily 15-20 different deli-like salads, all entirely in Japanese, except for the part telling me that the Seven Premium brand is always evolving.

These items all had pictures showing what was inside, nutrition stats on front, and were sealed tight, easy to open via a slit on top.   Each one cost about the equivalent of $1.  I was provided with chopsticks and a spoon by the cashier.
Burdock Root Salad Pouch.
First up, I went for the burdock root salad.

I would have never been able to identify it by the photo, but, luckily for me, Google translate on my phone was able to tell me this was burdock root.  I had no idea what else would be in it, but, at least I knew the main ingredient.
Burdock Root Salad: Inside.
Here you can see the contents for all their glory.

Since I wasn't bringing it home to plate up, I literally at it from the bag.  With chopsticks.  Just like this.  And it was glorious.

The burdock was crispy. Whatever it was in was really flavorful, perhaps soy based?  Lots of flavor, great texture.  What's not to love?

I might have gotten a tad bit sick of it by the last bite, but I still easily polished off the, uh, bag.
Potato Salad Pouch.
Next, potato salad.

I had no idea what the orange stuff would be (Salmon? Krab stick? Carrots?), but I knew it was potato salad from the translation, and that it was made with something from Hokkaido (perhaps the potatoes?)
Potato Salad: Inside.
Deli potato salad is obviously a fairly normal thing in the US, but I knew that 1) potato salad is really big in Japan these days, and 2) Hokkaido is known for food.  And, well, I like potato salad.

This was quite good potato salad.  Crazy creamy.  It seemed to have some potato that was sorta mashed into a paste with cream/mayo/something, which gave it an incredibly creamy texture.  The chunks of potato were nicely cooked, not too soft, but certainly not the al dente style I do prefer.

I never figured out what the orange things were though.  I think carrots, but I can't be certain.

This was very good, but yes, just potato salad, and I did grow sick of it, mostly because there were too many other things to try.


Next, snackable sushi -  onigiri.
Row of Onigiri.
7-Eleven serves 3 types of Onigiri:
"There are 3 main types of 7-Eleven onigiri. A type not wrapped in seaweed, a type wrapped in seaweed, and a type that is not wrapped in seaweed until right before it is eaten. They are separated into types according to the ingredients used in the center. Please give Japan's easy and healthy fast food "onigiri" a try.?"
The later are the ones I encountered on my previous visit to Japan, and was intrigued by.  The opening procedures are elaborate, but when they work out, its magic, crispy seaweed wrapper and all.
Wasabi Seaweed Onigir?
So that is the style I went for this time, but I failed at opening it properly.  I was able to cobble together a decent solution, but the 1-2-3 didn't quite work.

I really applaud the packaging though, as the nori was fresh and crisp, and really quite good.  The rice too was good, firm, fresh tasting, not mushy.

I'm not entirely sure what was in my onigiri, but I think it was seaweed, and it had some wasabi kick to it.  Flavorful for sure.

Overall, very good for a packaged onigiri, and better than most I encountered on my trip elsewhere.


I mostly had Lawson (another very popular convenience store) on my agenda for sandwiches (in particular, the famed egg sandwich), but a dining companion grabbed a yakisoba pan because he had seen it in anime before, and was interested in trying one.
Yakisoba Pan.
I tried a bite.

It was ... well, what it looked like.  Noodles in a hot dog bun.  The bun was soft, and didn't taste stale, but wasn't exactly high quality.  The noodles were well sauced/seasoned, but I didn't like the sauce.

My companion enjoyed it, so, success.