Friday, January 10, 2020

Popchips

Update Review, January 2020

I haven't ever really liked Popchips, as you've read in my past reviews.  Like many "healthy" chips, they just aren't actually tasty to me.  Strange textures, always.

But when I was in the UK, I saw a new form factor (ridges!) and an exciting flavor (smoky bacon!), so, I gave them a try.

Verdict?  Yup, I still don't want Popchips.
Smoky Bacon Ridges.
"Sizzling, smoky, sinless - these chips aren’t right off the grill, but they taste like they are. Popped to maximum crunch for ultimate satisfaction, with no greasy finger tips."

These sound fun.  Bacon.  Smoky.  And, ridges are far more exciting than regular potato chips.  But ... I still approached with apprehension, as they clock in at <100 calories a bag, and that isn't because the bag is poorly filled.

I tried one, and forgot that they were supposed to be smoky bacon.  They tasted like "Sweet BBQ", nothing I could really call "bacon" at all.  But far sweeter than a normal BBQ chip.  An interesting, bold flavor, not bad, just not bacon.

But for me, the problem was the texture.  The ridges helped perhaps a little, but not much.  They were still a strange mush base.  Not for me.

Original Review, January 2013

I've been craving salty snacks like crazy lately.  I have no idea why.  In attempts to at least have something slightly healthier, I decided to try out Popchips, a local San Francisco snack company, rather than standard chips.  You can find their products in many stores, and they sponsor tons of events around town.  The have two major product lines, potato chips and tortilla chips.  Their entire premise is that they make healthier chips using some crazy method to pop the chips, rather than fry (unhealthy! oils!) or bake (loses flavor).

I liked the idea behind their products, and I'm all for local brands, but I just can't get past the consistency of their chips.  No matter how great the flavors are, they are just totally and completely off-putting to me.  Blech.
  • Tortilla Chips, made with stone ground masa.
    • Salsa: These had a strange mouthfeel, like all popchips, that takes some getting used to.  It is very obvious that these are a healthy chip, without any oil.  But the flavor was good, zesty, from tomato, garlic, onion, cayenne.  I probably wouldn't buy these again, but they weren't bad.
  • Potato Chips, made with potato starch, potato flakes, and rice flour.  All have a very strange consistency.
    • Original: Super boring.  No flavor whatsoever.
    • Barbecue: Pretty decent bbq flavor. [ I can't stand the consistency of these.  Flavors don't matter, they are just gross, gross gross. ]
    • Cheddar: Meh, not that cheddary, popchip consistency wierd [ Popchip consistency is just horrible, can't really stand these. ]
    • Thai Sweet Chili: These tasted like styrofoam.  With some slight flavor, that wasn't distinguishable as sweet chili, perhaps just a mild bbq.  But I couldn't get past the horrible airy styrofoam nature of them.  Eww.

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Thursday, January 09, 2020

Mr. Holmes Bakehouse

Update Reviews, June 2018 & March 2019

I've had the joy of hosting two events catered by Mr. Holmes, one was National Donut Day in June 2018, and the other, a group event around St. Patrick's Day.
March Goodies.
In both cases, working with Mr. Holmes was extremely easy - just a few e-mails, a digital invoice, and a on-time delivery of nicely packaged items both times.  Definitely recommended for ease and originality.

Donuts

Mr. Holmes always offers two flavors of donuts, and they change daily, with a fixed rotation each month.
National Donut Day!!!
For National Donut Day, we went, well, all in on donuts, ordering big boxes of both varieties, even though we didn't know what the variety would be.
Friday Flavor: Blueberry Lemonade (June 2018).
"Strawberry lemonade is over-hyped. It’s 2018 and blueberries deserve to thrive. "

First up is the Friday flavor for the month of June: Blueberry Lemonade.  I was thrilled to see the blueberry element, but less thrilled by the lemon.  Still, the curb appeal was there, with a fresh blueberry perched on the outside.
 The donut itself I adored.  Fluffy, fried in all the right ways (as in, you tasted fried, but not "bad" fried, not stale oil, but, there was no doubt this was a freshly fried item).  It was rolled generously, generously in sugar.

But the filling, as I expected, was just not for me.  The blueberry was nice, but it was essentially lemon curd, too tangy for my taste.
{ Peach? } (June 2018).
The second flavor was the flavor of the day, something that changes daily, and my box arrived without any label, so I had no idea what kind it was.

The donut was again fabulous.  Just so fluffy, expertly rolled in sugar, excellent.  It didn't *need* filling, but this filling was incredible.
{ Peach? }: Inside.
It was really well stuffed.  No half-ass job here.  Seriously filled full of creamy goodness.

And creamy goodness it was.  Basically, a slightly fruity Bavarian cream.  I was transported instantly back to the state fair, with fresh fried dough, rolled in cinnamon sugar, and topped with scoops of Bavarian cream (yup, I grew up on the East Coast, can you tell?).

This was truly fabulous, and I think I literally inhaled a full one in ... 15 seconds?  I was embarrassed for myself, honestly.

Croissants

Croissants are a big feature of the Mr. Holmes menu, with both sweet and savory offerings, very elaborately decorated.  They make a quality croissant.

Sweet

Matcha Croissant. (March). $4.30.
"Plain croissant, matcha, pate a glacer white coating chocolate."

This is a croissant I have had before, and ordered a bunch of these to go along with the theme of the event I was hosting (green, for St. Patrick's Day). Of course I tried one again.

These are more simple than they look, not filled with a matcha cream as many folks (including me!) wished they were, but instead, just a classic plain croissant half dipped in a matcha white chocolate.

The croissant base is a decent croissant, well laminated, flaky, layered.  The messy kind of croissant, that shatters as you try to cut it in half.

And the coating?  Creamy sweet white chocolate with a hint of matcha.  I love the coating.  I was happy to pick up all the coating bits that were left behind in the box as people cut the croissants.

Like the others, I wish that there was a filling, which, was easily remedied at our event, as I also had a green fruit salad and had matcha whipped cream to go with that!
Party Croissant. (March). $4.80.
"Twice-baked croissant filled with cake and garnished with buttercream icing and sprinkles."

Ok, how fun did this one sound?  Maybe I'm just a sucker for sprinkles, but I loved the sound of this hybrid item.  And, how awesome did it look?

The croissant is not just a plain croissant like the matcha version, instead, it is a sugar coated croissant, like a churro almost (they do also make a churro croissant with dulce de leche filling!).  The croissant, just like the plain croissant, was crispy on the outside, and very nicely layered and laminated.  It did seem slightly over-cooked though, particularly the ends were rather dry.  Interestingly, one other person who tried this like that it was "more burnt" because he felt it added an extra bitter quality that was needed to balance the sweet cake aspects.

I loved the topping, I expected just rainbow sprinkles like for ice cream, but instead there were round colorful "sprinkles", gold little stars, gold flakes, pearl balls, all perched on top of buttercream.  The buttercream was just classic buttercream, but it was good enough, and really did scream "birthday cake".
Party Croissant: Inside.
Inside was the most fascinating part of course ... what on earth did I expect from a cake filled croissant?

It turned out to be ... just that.  The inside was ... rainbow confetti cake.  A bit dry, and nothing else in there.  I think I thought the cake would be cubed, and perhaps more buttercream?  It was just very dry, and even slathering the buttercream from on top didn't really add enough moisture.

From here you can also see the top and sides of the croissant really are ... dark brown, a bit dry, and quite crispy.

Overall, this one was beautiful, but really didn't deliver.  I thought the croissant was overcooked, and the cake filling not nearly as exciting as the toppings implied it would be.  That said, the other person who had it enjoyed it, and found it interesting, fun, and balanced.  So ... to each his or her own?
"Rest in Peach". $5.80. (June 2018).
"Peach Jam, Vanilla Pastry Cream, Oat Crumble, Mascarpone Whipped Ganache, Peach Parchment." 

Ok, how amazing did this one look (and sound)?  It was absolutely beautifully garnished, with whipped mascarpone ganache, oat crumble, peach "parchment" (yes really), and white chocolate.

The croissant itself was rolled in sugar, because, clearly, more sugar was needed?

The croissant was ... fine.  I mean, it was not the flakiest, not the most buttery, not the most memorable in any way.  But it was fine.

Inside was fully stuffed, just like the donuts.  The description said "Peach Jam, Vanilla Pastry Cream", but these were not separate ingredients, rather, they were fully combined into a peachy cream, thicker and more fruity than the donut filling.  I liked it less, actually.

The mascarpone whipped ganache was *fabulous*, super sweet, I'm pretty sure it used white chocolate.  Wonderful.  I appreciated the oat crumble for some crunch.

The "peach parchment" was fascinating, I really don't have a better word to describe than parchment, but I think it might have been thinly pounded dehydrated peach?

So overall ... unremarkable croissant, cream filling that I just didn't like much, and excellent toppings.

Chocolate Cherry Bun. (March). $4.30.
"Croissant dough rolled in cherry jam and chocolate glaze topped with dehydrated cherries."

I wanted to try something a bit different, so I got the chocolate cherry bun, not an item I had really heard anything about, but sounded potentially interesting.  Croissant dough, cherry jam, and chocolate glaze?  Sure!

It wasn't quite what I expected, nor quite what was described.

The "topped with dehydrated cherries" meant 4 tiny bits of dehydrated cherry that were completely lost in the very generous chocolate topping, that was most definitely not a "glaze", rather, a very thick chocolate ganache.  I like chocolate ganache, but I found myself not really into this topping at all, it didn't have a deep chocolate flavor, nor a good texture.

The croissant bun I also didn't like, it was too greasy, spongy, and almost even soggy and over-fried tasting.
Chocolate Cherry Bun: Inside.
Moving on, the insides.  The dough was not "rolled in cherry jam", but rather, the bun was stuffed with a cherry filling.  It was fine I guess, a cherry jam, but honestly, I'd rather generic cherry pie filling.

If you can't tell, I didn't care for this item at all.  The pastry was spongy, it was oily and heavy, and I didn't even care for the cherry or chocolate ganache.  Sadness.

Savory

Although Mr. Holmes is a bakery, they do not just specialize in sweets, and in fact have a large selection of savory items.
"Just Try It". $5.80. (June 2018).
"House-made pastrami, pickled onions, pickled oranges, manchego cheese, pumpkin seeds, fennel seeds."

I did something crazy (for me anyway), and got a savory croissant.  This was for "lunch", so I felt like I needed something savory?

After the lackluster sweet croissant, I was a little worried, but this one was actually fabulous.

The croissant was far flakier, crispier, just much better in every way.  A wonderful croissant.  The pumpkin and fennel seeds added tons of flavor and texture.  There was cheese oozing out from within, and coating the top, that added even more crispy goodness (and, um, cheese).  I'm not normally one to say "oh, yay, manchego!", but it was good here.

It was good cold, or room temp, but I also warmed it up.  It was even better, particularly the fillings ...
"Just Try It": Inside.
And inside?  Yup, pastrami, cheese, pickled red onion, and ... pickled oranges.  Yes, really.  

A fascinating sounding lineup, but, it really worked!  The cheese got melty and complimented the pastrami well.  The pickled red onions and orange gave fresh crunch and acidity.  It came together shockingly well.  

I really, really enjoyed this.  Yes, a savory pastry.  It blows your standard "ham and cheese" croissant out of the water, and very much redeemed Mr. Holme's in the croissant department.

Danishes

Mr. Holmes uses similar dough to also craft danishes, again, both sweet and savory.

Miso Mushroom Danish. (March). $4.80.
"Roasted shiitake mushrooms in a miso sesame base with seaweed salad garnish."

Even though I liked the savory croissant quite a bit, I decided to try a different savory item, a danish.  I was drawn in to this because I adore mushrooms, miso, and seaweed salad, so, the flavor profile sounded right up my alley.

And, spoiler, it was.

The base was just a danish, but it was perfectly done, the edges so crispy, but the layers so ... uh, layered?  I loved how it came apart in layers when I pulled on it that way.

On top really was "seaweed salad garnish", just a few forkfuls of mixed seaweeds piled on top, along with shaved bonito.  I was impressed with the variety of seaweeds in the mix (purple, green, etc), but I did wish there was more than just a garnish layer.
Miso Mushroom Danish: Inside.
The other toppings went deeper into the danish, filling the dent on top.

This stuff was the goodness.  The "miso sesame base" was a fascinating substance, it looked sorta like cream cheese at first glance, but it clearly wasn't.  It had a lovely deep miso flavor.  So much yes to this, and not a flavor I've ever had with danish dough before, but clearly works great with the seaweed salad.

And then, the mushrooms.  Good size chunks, slightly smokey, roasted to the point of having just enough bite to them to feel "meaty".  Loved them, and they too went well with the miso and seaweed flavors.

Overall, this was very unique, and quite enjoyable.  I liked the quality danish, and I loved the asian flavors and textures.  An odd item, not what I'd want for breakfast, but it was fantastic alongside my salad for lunch.

Cookies

Mr. Holmes makes only 3 cookies: a classic chocolate chunk, a vegan fudge cookie, and, a cornflake cookie.  All are HUGE, and, even though I'm not generally a cookie girl, are quite fabulous
Cornflake Cookie. (March). $3.30.
"Brown butter toffee, cornflake cereal."

I ordered this one because cornflake cookies I sometimes love, or sometimes ... really don't (like the signature cornflake marshmallow cookie from Milk Bar that I have such mixed feels on).

This turned out to be an AWESOME cookie.  Seriously, an amazing cookie.  I'll admit that I may have ordered it for someone else, and, uh, he didn't ever get a single bite.  #i'mTheWorst

The cookie was huge.  It was crazy decadent, so clearly loaded with butter and sugar (or, I guess, brown butter and toffee?).  It had a fascinating crispy crunch from the cornflakes, unlike the texture of the cornflakes in the Milk Bar one that bothered me, these were truly little pops of enjoyable crunch.  It was crazy sweet though, and I found myself wanting to dip it in whipped cream.  And then there was a salty aspect too.  Sweet and salty.  So very addicting.

The cookie was a interesting style itself, a crispy style, except that it was also soft and gooey in the middle.  It isn't the style I normally prefer, but, it worked here.

I truly loved this cookie, and found it hard to stop eating once I started.  I broke off a chunk, went back for "just one more bite", and ... repeated that process, um, several times.  

I'll gladly get this again, one of my favorite Mr. Holmes items.

Update Review, May 2018

"Hey Julie, we have pastries from Mr. Holmes, want any?"  You know I went running.  Fast.

Mr. Holmes Bakeshop is known for creative pastries, which I've reviewed before (below), but this one was certainly the most unique so far.
Twice Backed Coffee Stout Croissant.  $5.80.
"Brown sugar cake, stout beer cream, chocolate glaze, coffee crumb, dark chocolate brownie."

When I got this, I got it from an event where someone brought in Mr. Holmes goods, so I didn't know what it was.  I saw that it had chocolate glaze and some kind of crumble, and brownie chunks, and that was enough to draw me in.

It also was clearly split in half, so I expected some kind of filling (which, it had).

The toppings were a bit odd, to be honest.

Brownie chunks on top of a croissant?  I mean, they were fine brownie chunks, but, I didn't really want or need brownies with my croissant.  The dark chocolate glaze was good, thick like a ganache.  I didn't realize the crumb was coffee, I thought it was just chocolate or brownie, but I can see it in retrospect kinda, it did have a bitterness.

So, the toppings were ... interesting.  They certainly added flavors and textures, and looked crazy.

But what was inside confused me more.
Twice Baked Coffee Stout Croissant: Inside.
The croissant itself was fine.  Flaky.  Not too oily but clearly decadent.

But the filling confused me greatly.

It was a cream.  Or a paste.  It had a consistency of mushy banana.  But didn't really taste like banana.  But if you can imagine mushy banana, that is what it was like, not light like cream, not smooth like a custard, not exactly a pudding.  But it seemed to be cream based.

And it had a flavor to it.  I guessed rum.  Something boozy.  I couldn't pinpoint it, but it wasn't a simple flavor.  I still kept thinking "banana" due to the consistency, but it didn't seem quite right.  Banana rum cream filled croissant topped with chocolate sauce, brownies, and cake bits?  I was so confused, and clearly had to look it up.

It turned out to be "brown sugar cake and stout beer cream".  Uh, of course?  Clearly.  But I don't like beer.

Oh, but the thing is?  I LOVED the filling.  Yeah, the texture was strange, thick like a pudding, and the flavor I couldn't identify, but it was complex, and it was sweet from the brown sugar.  And there was tons of it.

I wanted a bowl of that filling, just like a pudding.  Who needed the croissant, and certainly, who needed those brownie bits?

Overall, fascinating, but, wow, that filling.  Wonderful, and it made the whole adventure with this pastry worthy it.

Update Review, February 2016

"Oh, Julie, what are you doing from 10:30-11:30?", was a greeting I received from a co-worker one morning.  I replied that I was headed to a meeting until 11.  She told me I should swing by an event she was hosting when I got out of my meeting, and then she added it to my calendar.  She promised tasty things.  I knew nothing more.

I had no idea what I was in for when I stepped into the room a little after 11, but was beyond thrilled when I saw the display from Mr. Holmes Bakehouse.  I had their goods once before at an event and I was pretty impressed, so I was eager to try more goods.  For more background on the insanity that is Mr. Holmes, go start with my previous review, and then return here.
Assorted Items, February 2017.
I didn't know what the items were exactly when I was at the event, but, I looked them up afterwards.  I was immediately sad that I didn't have the insider knowledge when I was selecting my treats, as I certainly would have grabbed different items.

Only a few of these were as simple as they looked.  The plain croissant, and the chocolate croissant, were exactly what they looked like.  But the other croissants were far more exciting, including a
churro croissant (I thought it was just cinnamon sugar coated, but, it was filled with dulce de leche cream!), ferrero rocher croissant (filled with hazelnut and dunked in chocolate coating), matcha croissant (matcha white chocolate coating), and seasonal fruit danish (with brown butter streusel and pastry cream).  The donut was rolled in cinnamon sugar and stuffed with white mocha raspberry cream.  And the cookie even was far more exciting than it looked, brown butter caramel with cornflakes! 

I first grabbed a giant bear claw (not pictured because I had already snagged it from the platter), but came back for more later in the morning.

Since someone had already cut into the ferrero rocher croissant, I too cut off a chunk and tried it.  It really was a quality croissant, perfectly layered, flaky, crispy on top, buttery, shiny.  When I saw the green dipped one remaining later, I hoped it was matcha, and grabbed that for myself.

The matcha croissant was also good, again, a great specimen of a croissant.  The inside folds were moist and buttery, the outside flaky and messy in all the right ways.  The white chocolate matcha coating was very well balanced, strongly matcha flavored but not bitter, and not overwhelming sweet from white chocolate either.  Very good, although a bit simple.
Cookie Dough Bear Claw / Cookie Dough Mousse. $4.50.
Like I said, I didn't know what anything was when I was at the event, and I just picked this one for myself as it was the biggest and most decadent looking.  You know how I roll.

It turned out to be a bear claw, stuffed with cookie dough mousse, topped with cookie dough crust, and drizzled in white chocolate.  It was massive, a real bear paw.  And I ate it.  All of it.

It was good.  It was very good.

Like the croissants, the pastry was fantastic.  Incredible layers, buttery, flaky, slightly crispy, just, perfect.  I liked breaking the fingers off one-by-one, and eating them as delicious croissant-bites.

The cookie dough coating on top was kinda fun, full of crunchy little cocoa nibs.  It reminded me of a pineapple bun from a Chinese bakery, you know, the kind that look like pineapples because they have the crunchy sweet sugar cookie topping?  It was good, but unnecessary on top of a bear claw that was also drizzled with white chocolate (yay, more sweet topping), AND stuffed with cookie dough mousse.
Cookie Dough Bear Claw: Inside.
Let's talk about that mousse.

I cut the claw in half to reveal the contents, and found it very generously stuffed with the pastry cream.  The cream was absolutely loaded up with mini chocolate chips, making it very chocolatey.  It was sweet, it was creamy, and had a nice texture from all the chips.  I didn't love the filling, but it was good.  There was so much of it that it was actually too much with just the main part of the claw, but I found that I could break a finger off and dunk it in the extra filling for a "perfect bite".  I also clearly enjoyed dissecting this thing as I devoured it.

Overall, this was very good.  I was a bit shocked to find that I ate the whole thing in one sitting, as it really was quite large.  But, such quality pastry, seriously, look at the layering here on the interior!
It was also a fairly fascinating item, so it held my interest.

Original Review, June 2016

A couple years ago, Mr. Holmes Bakehouse hit San Francisco by storm.  If you follow the bakery media at all, you certainly know about Mr. Holmes, for any one of several reasons.

Mr Holmes became a phenomenon instantly as they introduced the cruffin.  Yup, a croissant muffin hybrid, with a flavor that changes daily.  Limited to 2 per person.  They sell out ridiculous quickly.  The website has a countdown timer until the next morning when they'll be available.

They also became everyone's favorite Instagram place for something besides the food: their slogan, which is "I got baked in San Francisco".  It is printed all all their packaging, but, also, in huge neon letters in the store.

And then, finally, the scandal.  The bakery was broken into.  And the thief stole only one thing: recipes.  No cash.  Just the cruffin recipe.

You can't make this stuff up.  Trendy baked good.  Limited supply.  A robbery.  A silly slogan.  Their marketing department did well.  The place was known for crazy long lines, and the hype just grew and grew.  They now have a location in Los Angeles and in Seoul.

Since I love baked goods, you'd think I would have been all over this opening.  But, actually, it seemed like a lot of hype to me, and I just didn't feel like getting up at 6am to get in line for a cruffin.  So I waited, until I attended an event with Mr. Holmes baked goods.  Of course, that means I still haven't tried a cruffin, since you can't get more than 2, and they don't offer them for catering or delivery.

That said, their other items are no slouch.  Many others have made waves too, like the California croissant, stuffed with smoked salmon, ginger, wasabi, and nori.  They also have a kouign amann, a number of fascinating danishes, and even just their basic croissant has won awards.
Donuts: Chocolate & Coffee.
Most of the Mr. Holmes menu changes seasonally, like the danish fillings.  But the aforementioned cruffin changes daily, as does their donut.  They always offer two flavors of each, named Le Donut #1 and Le Donut #2.  Given how much I like donuts, I was thrilled when the event I attended had them.
Le Donut #1 (coffee). $3.50.
I started with Le Donut #1.  I was not sure what flavor it was.  I was told "pistachio" by the host, but I'm quite certain that was not right, as I didn't taste a hint of pistachio in here.  Ojan described his as "weird, I can't figure it out".  In the end, I thought it was mocha.  I followed up with the bakery the next day because I was really curious.  The answer?  Coffee.

The donut was ... ok.  Nicely coated in sugar, not too oily, stuffed very, very, very generously with the filling.  I think the part I didn't enjoy was the filling.  There was tons of it, it was very think, and kinda gritty, and I spent the whole time trying to figure out what it was.

The donut wasn't bad, but, really not worth raving about.  With a filling I liked though, I could imagine feeling differently ...
Le Donut #2 (chocolate). $3.50.
So, I took one of the other kind, and kept it "for later".

The second one was milk chocolate filled, with two little chocolate crunchy balls on top.

You can also guess about how much later, "later" really was.
Le Donut #2: Inside.
This one also was perfectly coated in sugar, and generously filled with cream.  Here you can see just how much filling was inside, they really aren't messing around with the filling.

Both Ojan and I liked this flavor much more, because the chocolate cream was smooth like a nice pudding, and not gritty like the filling in the coffee one.  I still didn't love the filling, but, sugar coated fried dough is always a good thing.

Ojan devoured his and asked me to get him another.  Yes, after eating 2 of these, he wanted another, stat!
Cookie: Chocolate, sea salt. $3.
You know I'm not really one for cookies, but, I got this for Ojan.

And as always, I took a bite.  And then, I went and got myself one.  For a cookie, this was great!

It had a generous sprinkle of large sea salt crystals on top, which really amped up the flavor.  It was still a hard, crispy cookie, so, not my favorite item, but, it was a good one.  The chocolate chunks in particular were really tasty.

It was also rather huge, a very hefty size for the $3 price.
Croissant. $3.50.
And finally, a basic croissant.  I wasn't able to try the crazy California croissant, but, this plain croissant has earned its place on many "Top 5 in San Francsico" lists.

It was a pretty decent croissant.

Crispy exterior, moist interior, very strong butter flavor, laminated.  Not mind blowing, but for a plain croissant, very solid, and on par with the best I had in Paris.

Ojan took one bite of his, and said, "hmm, this is a pretty good croissant!".  When I returned to the room a few minutes later, he further raved, "I don't normally like plain croissants, but this grew on me!"
Mr. Holmes Bakehouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Waffling Leftovers: Biscuits

I went through a phase where I used my waffle iron to prepare nearly all food.  Well, all my leftovers that is.  For many things, the effort of throwing leftovers into a waffle iron was just as easy as heating up any other way, and for most, the results were spectacular.  I had a ton of fun, a ton of successes, and really did evangelize it extensively.  You can check out my master post for more of those adventures.

I still use my waffle iron, or just panini plates, on my trusty Griddler many times a week.  But it has been ages since I've tried a new item.  At long last, a new creation: waffle iron leftover biscuits.

To answer the age old question: Will it waffle?  This one is an easy yes, and, another case of improvement.  Adding to my repertoire ...
The Original: Classic Bisquick Biscuits.
On Christmas morning, my mother makes a lovely brunch spread, complete with my favorite bread pudding (from Smitten Kitchen, the pumpkin bread pudding - soooooo good!), phenomenal sticky buns (King Arthur Flour recipe), and a slew of savory brunch staples (bacon, sausage, hashbrowns, multiple egg dishes, etc, etc, etc).  A neighbor always gives us her homemade fantastic walnut streusel coffee cake, which really rounds out the whole spread.  It is a lovely feast, with plenty of sweet carbs (my favorite breakfast items!)

My mom also usually makes muffins and scones, which always just feels like overkill at that point.  They are good, don't get me wrong, but no one really has space for them, and they just pale in comparison to the other offerings.

So this year I suggested something different: biscuits.  I was thinking that they could be quite versatile, and allow people to take them in any direction they wanted.  In the mood for savory rather than more sweet?  Split in half, and fill with the egg scramble, or sausage and cheese, or smother with leftover Christmas eve feast gravy.  Want something just a touch sweet?  Add mom's homemade cranberry orange honey butter.  More sweet?  Treat like shortcake and add fresh berries and whipped cream.  So. Many. Options.

I loved them fresh with sausage and maple syrup.  I really, really loved them later in the day warmed up and slathered with the cranberry orange honey butter.
Day Old Biscuits: Waffling!
But the next morning ... they had lost their splendor.  The flavor was muted, the texture a bit off.  Not stale exactly, but nothing like the previous day.

Biscuits are just one item that does not do well a day old.  Which I knew from plenty of experiences, I've yet to find a biscuit that really holds up, no matter the style (classic southern buttermilk, sweeter shortcake biscuits, more scone-like biscuits ...).

So what do you do with day old biscuits?  I often use them mixed into bread pudding.  But we had tons of leftover bread pudding (and cornbread stuffing) so we really didn't need another dish like that.  Thus, into the waffle iron they went.

I split a biscuit in half, inserted at 350*, and let it go for just a few minutes.
Waffled Day Old Biscuit.
It toasted up nicely.  I'm sure I could have gotten a similar effect from a toaster or toaster oven, although I think I got more crispy bits this way, as there are more contact points.

Plus, just like with normal waffles, the newly created pockets would be great for holding toppings!
Waffled Biscuit with Toppings.
One half got the sweet treatment, fluffy marshmallow whipped cream and sprinkles, and the other half got more of that homemade cranberry orange honey butter (can you tell I couldn't get enough of it?)

Both ways worked, although the sweet one clearly needed more embellishment, and right after the photo was taken, fresh berries and a bit of ice cream were added.  The cranberry orange honey butter version was a complete winner though, I loved how the butter pooled up inside the pockets, and added plenty more.

I was very pleased with the results, more functional (pockets!) than the original, nearly as tasty as the first day, and it really saved these leftovers.
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Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Veuve Clicquot Après Ski Chalet @ W Hotel, Boston

Sometimes ... sometimes seemingly random partnerships happen, and this is the story of one of them. The Gallery at the W Boston partnered up with Veuve Clicquot for the winter to transform half the restaurant into ... an Après Ski Chalet. It also features a photo booth, decked out like a ski lift.

A ski chalet, inside a restaurant, inside a hotel.  Complete with custom winter themed drinks (spiked hot chocolate, Baileys, etc), plus of course glasses and bottles of Veuve, and pairing snacks including really fascinating duck confit cannoli (with cranberry mousse and chopped pistachios) that I wished I got to try.

I have been to The Gallery before, but only for breakfast, which I've reviewed before (spoiler: amazing bread pudding french toast!).

Unfortunately I had other dinner plans during my time staying the W Hotel, but I couldn't resist the allure to check out the space ... and enjoy my favorite part of any day: dessert.  I dragged a (local) friend with me.  We had a great experience, and I highly recommend it.

The Space

As silly, or perhaps Instagram-worthy, as it may have sounded from the outside, it turned out to be a really, really lovely space, and it was perfect for hunkering down in the blistery Boston weather.  We had a really fun (and delicious!) time.  It is open through the winter, to the public as well as hotel guests, and available for private parties too (I think it would be an awesome venue for a small group!)
Cozy Fireplace.
Any good ski chalet features a fireplace, and this one was no exception.  Was it burning real wood, or even gas?  Nah.  But it crackled extremely realistically, and really did enhance the atmosphere.  It made me wonder what brand it was, as now want one for my own house.  The deer head did make me laugh a bit though.

In front of it was a beautifully leather couch, that was the kind you sink into and never want to get out of.  It is here that we spend our evening, on the comfy couch, but the fire (in the ski chalet, in the restaurant, in the hotel, in downtown Boston, of course).
Other Seating.
Other seating areas were nearly as inviting, high quality furniture, oozing luxury, ample side tables for food and drinks, Veuve Clicquot pillows and throws, and plenty, plenty of props to grab to take to the photo booth (yes we took bottles with us!)
Christmas Tree.
My visit was over the Christmas holidays, and a tree was part of the scene as well.  Yes, those are Veuve Clicquot champagne flutes as tree decorations.
Photo Op!
I don't normally include photos of myself, or my guests, on my blog, but ... how do you not include this?  The photo booth wasn't a standard "take 3 poses" style, instead it made an animated gif.  It was ... considerably more fun than I thought it would be.  Turns out, photo booths do *not* get old!

Veuve Clicquot had plenty of branded items to bring into the booth, we choose to sport really comfy, cozy puffer coats, and of course, (over) indulge in the free flowing bubbly!  Don't worry, we didn't walk away with them, but they really were nice coats!

Dessert

The food menu prepared specially for the chalet is mostly savory pairing bites, but they did have two sweet items, one exclusive to the chalet, and one from the main restaurant menu.  The new addition was a champagne chocolate mousse with orange caviar and shortbread cookies, that did sound quite fun (orange caviar!), and I love a good chocolate mousse, but alas, I avoid caffeine in the evening, and yes, even the amount in chocolate.

That said, I was not unhappy in any way with the other option: the one item from the main restaurant dessert menu that I've been eyeing for YEARS (yes, literally).  It has stayed on the menu this whole time for good reason.  The restaurant also has an iconic Boston Creme Pie (although it has bourbon cream, even better!), a crowd pleasing chocolate lava cake, a seasonal fruit dessert (caramel apple gallette, in the winter), and seasonal panna cotta (cranberry with Grand Marnier, that was fairly hard to look past).  So even though I did a double take when browsing the full restaurant menu in advance, given my love of panna cotta, there is something I love even more: bread pudding.
Brown Bread Pudding. $12.
"Walnuts, white chocolate, sea salt caramel ice cream."

Our dessert took a while to arrive, but we didn't mind, as we occupied ourselves in the photo booth, and chatted by the cozy fireplace anyway.  I also saw it as a good sign that it was going to be served warm, which is a fairly key aspect of bread pudding for me.

If you read my blog, you know that, while I love bread pudding, I'm also fairly particularly about it, and bread pudding just comes in SOOO many styles.  Is it served warm, or cold?  Does it have distinct chunks of bread, or is it a solid mass?  Is the top crispy?  Is the inside moist and custardy?  Is there anything else to it for texture and interest?  And ... what is it paired with?  Nothing? Whipped cream?  Ice cream? Custard?

I was quite pleased with this version - yes, served warm, in a cast iron skillet no less.  Check.  Yes, it was paired with ice cream, which melted into it perfectly.  Double check.  Yes it was a bit crisp on top, yet still moist inside, and yes, it had nuts inside for a bit of crunch.  All the basics were checked off.

The ice cream was a notch above average, not just vanilla, but instead sea salt caramel.  It was sweet, yet not too sweet (sometimes caramel ice cream is just too much), but I didn't taste the sea salt.  It was incredibly smooth ice cream, and exactly the right pairing for this dessert.  Other dishes come with vanilla ice cream, Richardson's ice cream (a local brand, from Middleton, MA), but I'm not sure if this was also Richardson's, as the menu didn't call it out, and they don't seem to carry the flavor on their website.  Regardless, it was quality ice cream, and we really enjoyed it.  The only slight demerit I give to this ice cream component is that we ran out of ice cream before bread pudding, as the scoop was just a regular single scoop, and the bread pudding was so large.  We wanted more ice cream, to pair a bite of cool ice cream with every bite of warm bread pudding!

Now, for the bread pudding.  I wasn't entirely sure what form the other ingredients listed on the menu would come in - would be drizzled with a white chocolate sauce?  A coulis?  White chocolate chips baked in?  Would the walnuts just be chopped and thrown on top, or again, mixed in?  The answer to both: integrated in.  This created little pockets of sweetness from the white chocolate, and little bits of crunch from the nuts.  Points for this.

And finally, what about this whole "brown bread" part?  I was pretty excited for that, as I kinda love real, traditional, from a can, brown bread.  Do you not know what I'm talking about?  It turns out, my dining companion didn't either, and she lives in the Boston area (to be fair, she grew up in New York).  I thought "everyone" knew brown bread, but perhaps not everyone eats bread from a can (B&M brand, if you care), paired with baked beans from a can, on Saturday night growing up?  Heh.  The more you know ...

So yeah, brown bread.  A dense, hearty, molasses based bread, sometimes with raisins.  It comes in a can.  You slice it, just like cranberry sauce from a can.  You can eat it cold, you can eat it warm.  You can be "fancy", toast it, and add butter, or I suppose cream cheese, or jam, for breakfast.  Or, as we did, you warm it, in a microwave, and dump baked beans (also from a can), on top.  And then you squirt on some ketchup.  Even recipes for making this yourself call for baking it in a can.  Really.  It is a thing.  Look it up.

I'll admit that the bread pudding let me down slightly in my brown bread nostalgia, as it didn't seem particularly ... brown bready?  I didn't get the same texture, the strong molasses that I was expecting.  I wouldn't have identified it as brown bread, although I'm not sure what I would have thought it was ... clearly not just plain white bread, and certainly not something lighter and airy like challah.  Anyway, slight let down aside, it was still a good base.

The bread pudding, as I mentioned, was quite a generous portion, plenty for two people to split without feeling like they were sacrificing by sharing.

We really enjoyed it, and I'd get another anytime.
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Monday, January 06, 2020

Burger King

Update Review, January 2020

When I was growing up, McDonald's was always my fast food of choice, and the Quarter Pounder with Cheese, or sometimes Big Mac, was my burger.  I always felt sad when the field hockey bus pulled into a Burger King instead, as I just never liked it nearly as much.  I settled for a Whopper Jr. with Cheese, but always wished we had picked McDonald's (and McDonald's had better fries, and McFlurries ...).

As an adult, I have not sought out fast food burgers all that often, although I did go through some years of excessive burger eating, running a dining club that got burgers every single Monday night.  I started my blog after those years, but you can read about some of my burger adventures here.  Let's just say I ate a lot of burgers, and plenty of them were fast casual style.

I never went to Burger King though, except when I went to try the new Satisfries (not tasty!), or, uh, when I went to Burger King in Munich explicitly seeking out the waffle ice cream sundae (ok, really good!).  Until now.  I think it had easily been 20 years since my last BK burger.  I won't mind if it is another 20.
Packaging.
My Whopper took a few minutes to assemble, and was handed over without a word: "A Whopper", is all she said, not even saying my number.

Signature Whopper paper, decently well wrapped.
Whopper.
"Our WHOPPER® Sandwich is a ¼ lb* of savory flame-grilled beef topped with juicy tomatoes, fresh lettuce, creamy mayonnaise, ketchup, crunchy pickles, and sliced white onions on a soft sesame seed bun."

I opened it up to reveal the contents.  It looked pretty good, nothing falling out, nothing mushed ...

The bun was nicely toasted inside, soft, and seemed fresh enough.  A large, kinda oversized bun though, I realized that I always got a Whopper Jr. in the past, not a regular one.  It is, uh, kinda a Whopper?  Just comparing the buns, the Whopper bun is 230 calories, the Whopper Jr. is only 120, so it really is nearly half the size, at least, the bread component.  The regular burger uses the same bun as the Whopper Jr.
Whopper: Inside.
It is the insides I was interested in though of course.

The top bun was slathered in mayo, creamy, generic mayo, that I really did love.  It went great with the lettuce and onions.  The lettuce, torn shreds of iceberg, was ... moderately fresh.  Crisp, but I did see some brown bits.  The sliced white onions gave a hit of harshness and pop of flavor, and I appreciated them.

Pickles are always one of my favorite parts of a burger, but I wasn't really into the BK ones.  Wavy style, and fine, but, I really prefer McDonald's and Subway style.  I didn't try the pale looking tomato, two slices.

Ketchup was somewhere in the mix, it seemed to be between the pickles and tomatoes, and was not well distributed.  This was easy to fix with an additional ketchup packet.  I also forgot that a Whopper doesn't include any special sauce, nor any mustard, so the ketchup and mayo really is it.  I prefer a McDonald's Quarter Pounder for the mustard, but, I do love mayo ...

I also forgot that a Whopper doesn't come with cheese by default.  Oops.  I certainly would have wanted that.

And finally the patty.  "¼ lb* of savory flame-grilled beef " ... yeah, it was barely warm, it was not juicy in any way, but at least it wasn't tough, and did have lovely grill marks?  It was basically, as expected.  No worse, but certainly not a burger you get to taste and enjoy the beef.  Again, comparing to the Whopper Jr. what I always used to get, that patty is just 100 calories, vs the 240 calories here, so this patty is actually nearly 2.5 times bigger, and I could tell.  Although it was very thin, it was a large patty, in diameter.  I guess they named this thing for a reason!

Overall, it was exactly as I expected.  No better, no worse.  It has a place in the world, but it is certainly not anything I plan to seek out again ... at least for another 10-15 years when curiosity strikes?
Whopper #2.
I blame T-Mobile for this.  T-Mobile Tuesdays had free Whoppers.  How could I resist another freebie?

My review is largely the same.  Beef patty thin and not exactly a juicy quality burger, but it isn't *that* bad.  I still couldn't bring myself to try the tomatoes.  I really did love the generous mayo, the harsh onions, and the iceberg.  I can kinda imagine enjoying a "salad sandwich", a Whopper hold the patty, extra onions, extra lettuce, definitely add cheese ... uh ... 

Original Review, October 2013

Burger King has always had a larger selection of sides than McDonalds, but they've now taken another leap, and offer not one, not two, but THREE different types of fries: sweet potato, regular, and their latest offering, dubbed Satisfries ... the healthy, yet still satisfying, fries.  The marketing behind them is genius, boasting that they contain 40% less fat and 30% fewer calories.  I assumed that they were comparing against their own fries.  They aren't.  They are comparing against McDonalds!  The numbers aren't nearly as impressive when you compare against their own versions, but given that they use the same oil and fryers, I guess it is impressive.  They developed a coating that somehow magically absorbs less oil.  But, (spoiler alert!),  they didn't live up to their name.
Value Sized Satisfries.  $1.69.
My fries were hot and fresh.  I give them credit for that.

Unlike the standard fries, they are crinkle cut.  I've never really liked crinkle cut fries, and my family always ate tons of frozen crinkle cut fries when I was a kid.  These reminded me of those exactly, not just in look, but also in taste.  They tasted like cardboard.  The outside was crispy, but the inside was just mush.  It didn't resemble potato in any way.  Burger King claims the fries are cut from whole potatoes, but I'm pretty skeptical.  They weren't salted well either.

Definitely not a win.
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