Friday, January 24, 2020


Biscoff.  Or, depending on what country you are in, perhaps you know it was Speculoos.  Or perhaps you don't know the base at all, but you know of something called "cookie butter" or "biscoff spread" or "speculoos butter".  Or maybe you have no idea what I'm talking about?

I'll start with the basics.  Lotus is a Belgian bakery, founded in 1932, known for their biscuits - hard style, slightly spiced, shortcrust biscuits: Speculoos biscuits (or, Biscoff in the UK and US).  Biscoff = "biscuit" + "coffee", as the biscuits are designed to go alongside your coffee.

The biscuits are ... well, boring, honestly.  Sure, I guess they go nicely with a cup of coffee, and are served with coffee and espresso in many places in Europe (and on some flights), but ... why?  They are boring, really.

But a few years ago, someone realized you can grind them up into a paste, add more vegetable oil and sugar, and turn them into a butter-like spread, much like peanut butter, but with just the biscuits as a base.  "Cookie Butter".  Let's just say, this stuff got popular fast, particularly when Trader Joe's introduced a version.

Given that I was never into the cookies, er, biscuits, and I don't like things like Nutella in general, the cookie butter fad never really hit me.  I didn't know what I'd do with it really, and the few times I did have it, it always just felt too rich (and, um, it is.  Don't look at the nutrition stats).  Remember the time I had it slathered inside the otherwise delicious fried chimney cake cone soft serve ice cream from Turn Dough in Venice?

I guess people use cookie butter nearly anywhere you might use peanut butter, in sandwiches, globbed on ice cream sundaes, on waffles or pancakes, etc, but yeah, it just hasn't ever struck me as something I really want.

But I also love trying new snacks, particularly when people recommend them to me, so when a friend recommended a grab-n-go snack pack featuring Biscoff spread ... I couldn't resist.

I'm glad I didn't.  I think I have been missing out on some cookie butter fun.
Biscoff & Go Cookie Butter and Breadsticks.
"Enjoy your Biscoff on a go with this individually packed of breadsticks and Biscoff Cookie Butter dip. Perfect for lunch box, party favors, snacks."

"Cookie butter and breadsticks".  I'll admit, this certainly didn't sound very exciting.  Breadsticks?

The packaging looked like Dunkaroos (does those still exist?), or cheese spread and crackers.  You pull pack a foil top to reveal a compartment with the item to dunk, and a compartment with the dip.
Cookie Butter & Breadsticks.
"Enjoy the great taste of the famous Lotus Biscoff Cookies crushed into a smooth spread and served in a snack pack with crunchy breadsticks. To create this irresistibly smooth spread, we crush the Lotus Biscoff cookies finely after baking. That's how we keep all the goodness of their unique flavor. Take this snack pack wherever you go!"

The breadsticks looked as boring as I thought they might.  They certainly are not something I'd call "breadsticks" as they are not soft and doughy, but I don't have a better name for them either.  Hard, bland style not sweet cookie sticks that taste a lot like hard bread?  Yeah.  The breadsticks alone are not exactly a tasty item, although I certainly can't claim they taste *bad* either.  I think they'd dunk equally well in a cheese sauce, pesto, or anything else you might dip, well, breadsticks into.

And then the sidecar of cookie butter.  Spreadable caramelized biscuits.  Consistency like peanut butter.  Very sweet, with a depth of flavor from brown sugar and a touch of spicing.  So very rich.

It turns out, the bland breadsticks are what you need to combat the richness of the spread.  While a spoonful of the spread is quite delicious, much more than that just isn't actually appealing.

I enjoyed dunking them several at a time into the spread, and getting a big glob on the end of my sticks.
Breadstick + Cookie Butter + Toffee Bits.
And then I started dunking the sticks, with cookie butter, into more toppings.  Toffee bits were first.  I liked adding more texture, but they weren't quite what I wanted with the cookie butter.

I enjoyed them even more when I pulled out my can of whipped cream and a shaker of rainbow sprinkles, and made creations with several breadsticks, a generous glob of cookie butter, far too much whipped cream, and some sprinkles just for fun.

I wanted to do a version with breadstick + cookie butter + cacao nibs, and started to come up with many other great ideas, but then I looked down, and alas, the entire package was gone.  Doh.

Turns out, I liked these things.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Happy Lemon Bubble Tea Catering

Happy Lemon is a worldwide bubble tea sensation, established in China in 2006, with 1500+ locations already, spanning China, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietname, Philippines, Japan, UAE, UK, Canada, and the US.

The menu is not nearly as extensive as many other shops, although when you visit a shop in person, there are plenty of customization: pick your drink base, your size, your sweetness, ice level, type of milk, and toppings.  They have a standard lineup of green or black tea bases for fruity or milk teas, smoothies, and a fairly small, but good, lineup of regular toppings (boba, pudding, aloe vera, lychee jelly, taro balls), and the slightly less standard Oreo mix-in, "puff cream" and very trendy cheese foam.  Notable, at least to me, is that there is no taro milk tea and no fresh taro chunks.

I did not visit a shop in person however, so my options were more limited, as we had them cater a private party.
Catering Setup.
For the catering setup, they brought only green tea, black tea, and milk tea (black) base, only boba for a mix in, and cheese foam for a topping.  There was no option to customize sweetness nor milk (green tea was unsweet, no milk, same with black, and the milk tea was non-dairy creamer and condensed milk, quite sweet, and used black tea).  These were made to order thought.

In addition, they brought a non-caffeinated option that came pre-packaged, Okinawa Milk tea, with either whole milk or soy milk, no mix-ins or toppings available, as they came sealed. 

I adore, adore, adore cheese topping on bubble tea (often known as "cheese foam", "creama", or "cheezo"), here called "salted cheese", so I was delighted that even with the limited options, we had that one.  For those unfamiliar, no, it is not like they dump cheddar cheese into your milk tea, rather, it is a fluffy topping, made from whipped cream and cream cheese (or, powders), and is usually salted, rather than sweet.  You may read all about it in many other forms that I've enjoyed: like Bubble Nini Tea in Sydney's Purple Rice Blended with Yogurt + Taro Pearls + Pink Salt Cheese Milk Foam, the Ube Marble creation from Boba Lab in Santa Monica with red bean, berry boba, lychee jelly, pudding, salted cheese foam, the simple version on my taro milk tea in Sydney at Chatime, the Royal Sesame Taro Milk + Red Rice with Cheese from the Original Royaltea also in Sydney and many, many more.
After the serving time ended, they left all the extras (since we paid for them), so I got to try quite a few.

I was overall pleased, although there wasn't anything particularly extraordinary about their offerings.
Okinawa Fresh Milk (Soy).
The only decaf option they had was the Okinawa fresh milk, which is basically just sweet milk.  In the base of the cup was a sweet caramel like syrup, and other than that, it is just milk.  Instructions were to shake to mix it up.

Since these were pre-packaged offsite, they had no option to include boba or cheese foam.  They had both soy milk and whole milk options.  There were many of these left at the end, so I grabbed a few to stick in the fridge to try later - the Happy Lemon staff encouraged it, saying that since they didn't have boba, they'd keep fine.

I started with a soy version, as I do love soy milk.  I know I was told to shake it up, but I wanted to try it separate first.

The milk was ... uh, just milk.  It was not very soy prominent actually, less than a normal soy milk in my opinion.  As I love soy milk flavor, this was a bit of a letdown, as I wanted to taste more soy.  The syrup at the base was *extremely* sweet, and sorta reminded me of the syrup that boba comes in.  I did take a full sip of that, and wow, cloying, and not good.

Once I shook it up, the sweetness balanced out, but it was still very sweet, and the end result was basically just sweet milk, with no distinguishable soy flavor.  I was not particularly happy with this.
Okinawa Fresh Milk (Whole Milk).
Next up was the regular whole milk.  Again, syrup in the base, instructed to shake.  Here you can see the result of shaking, it looks like a black milk tea, due to all the syrup.

It tasted very similar to the soy, just more plain.  Again, very sweet, in a brown sugar sort of way.  I did like it, it was sweet and creamy, but more than a few sips quickly left me bored.  I wanted mix-ins, I wanted toppings.

I ended up using it with my morning cereal, which worked great - sweet cereal milk!
Jasmine Green Tea with Boba, Salted Cheese Foam, Matcha Powder.
For the drink that I ordered, I wanted to minimize caffeine, but didn't want just boring milk, so I went for the green tea option.  There was no milk option for this, but that was fine with me.  I added boba and cheese foam of course, and the server added matcha powder without asking.

The cheese foam, the part I was most exited for, was fine.  It wasn't as fluffy as other places, and wasn't as salty or, uh, cheesy and savory, but it also wasn't too rich, and the consistency was good.  It was good, but not extraordinary.

Green tea is something I rarely get, but I did like it - far more refreshing than I remembered, and it combined actually really nicely with the cheese foam.  It was not bitter at all.  I see why this is their most popular drink, it really does work.  You could use the straw to get a sip of just refreshing tea, or drink through the hole and get a bit of both.  I enjoyed it.

And finally, the boba.  The texture was decent, nicely chewy, although they were a bit hard, and were kinda clumped together.  Perhaps this is due to catering setup?  The boba was also extremely sweet, soak in sweet syrup, a lot of which was added with the boba.  Decent quality, a bit sweet, but worth getting if you want it.

So overall, a decent drink, and I was pretty happy with mine, and, to be honest, it was to get forced outside my standard order of taro milk.  This was my favorite of the drinks I tried.
Milk Tea (black) with Boba, Salted Cheese Foam, Matcha Powder.
When the event ended, we still had plenty pre-paid, so I tried another, this time, I went all in: the milk tea.  Made with black tea base, non-dairy creamer, and sweetened with condensed milk.  Again with the sweetened boba, and of course, cheese foam.  Basically, as decadent as you could get, and very different from the green tea.

It was very sweet.  It was very creamy.  It was ... liquid dessert.  Caffeinated liquid dessert!  Another style of drink I don't normally order, but it reminded me a lot of Thai iced tea that I used to get regularly, just with the fun additions of boba and foam.  Enjoyable for sure, although so very sweet, and it was another nice "forced" going outside my norm.  My second favorite drink.
Ice Cream Sundae with Boba & Cheese Foam!
A few hours later, after lunch, I had a bowl of ice cream.  Vanilla and chocolate.  I went to add some standard toppings, hot fudge, sprinkles, etc, etc, and realized ... the boba tea setup was still going strong.  While I didn't want another bubble tea ... I did want a bubble tea ice cream sundae!

I approached a bit sheepishly, and said something like "so, uh, I have this lovely bowl of ice cream ..." and the server was on to me in no time, "oooh, do you want boba on top?  And cheese foam?"  I was delighted that she didn't find me weird, and she told me that one of their locations is right next to a froyo shop, and people come in with froyo all the time and just order toppings for it.  Heh.

I loved my creation.  The boba, while too sweet for what I really wanted in my drinks, was perfect in all its syrup on top of my ice ream.  It added a sauce (the syrup) and a fun texture, all at once.  And the cheese foam?  Still not as lofty or thick as I wished it was, but it totally sealed the deal.  I added sprinkles too, I was so very proud of myself for this.  I loved it.

And no, I don't credit really for thinking of this ... I was drawing off my own experiences with boba sundaes, which I've had before at Devon Cafe in Sydney (both a taro soft serve version with coconut foam, boba, tapioca pudding, taro syrup, and more, and a salted caramel soft serve wit cheese foam and uh churro) and TP Tea in Tokyo (milk tea soft serve with boba).

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

JetBlue Mint, Flight 633, BOS-SFO (December 2018, July 2019, December 2019)

December 2019 Flight

Flight Details:

Departure: BOS, 4pm (scheduled), 4:30pm (actual - not their fault, we had a passenger decide they needed to deplane ...)
Arrival: SFO, 7:35 pm (scheduled)
Seat: 4F (single suite)
Class: Mint

Our flight was not the best.  Seatbelt sign on for the first 3 hours straight due to turbulence, and back on many times throughout the flight.  Crying child right in front of me.  Flight attendants that were the least attentive I've ever seen on a Mint flight ... they really, truly just seemed to not care, at all.


Nothing new to say here, same seat, same blanket, yadda yadda.  I appreciated the hand lotion in my amenity kit immensely on this trip since my hands were so so dry from the east coast winter.

Food & Drink

Menu & Ordering

December Lunch/Dinner Westbound.
The menu was as follows:

  • Roasted marcona almonds
Choose three. Please note: The first two dishes listed below are chilled.
  • Butternut Squash Salad / arugula, cotija, pomegranate & pumpkin seeds
  • Green Goddess Salad / baby gem, haricots verts, asparagus, english peas, cucumber, avocado, feta
  • Pan-Seared Seabass / parmesan risotto, broccolini, carrot-chardonnay sauce
  • Spicy Brick Chicken / collard greens, horseradish mash, onion sauce
  • Orecchiette / pork ragout, parmesan, robiola cheese, parsley
Enjoy both.
  • ICE CREAM: Toscanni's, Boston, MA
  • FRESH FRUIT: papaya, mango, pineapple, strawberry
  • COOKIE, milk bar, NYC and beyond
This was a very, very uninspiring menu for me.  Meh to the nuts instead of chips & dip for the starter.  I'm allergic to avocado in one of the salads.  I've had the seabass dish several times, and although the fish is sometimes nicely cooked, I dislike the sides, and hate the sauce that comes with it.  The pasta is hit or miss, with the robiola cheese usually the only redeeming part.  And I loathe chicken.  The only items I really actually wanted were the other salad with butternut squash (but not the cojita or the pomegranate with it ...), and the sides that came with the chicken.


    The drink lineup as always featured a sparkling, two red, and two white wines, plus cider, beer, liquor, soft drinks, tea, and coffee.
    • SPARKLING: Château de Brézé.  Cremant de Loire, NV, France
    • WHITE: Villa Alpini Sauvignon Blanc, 2018, Italy
    • WHITE: The Wonderland Project Sonoma Chardonnay, 2016, California
    • RED: Bodega Chacra Barda Pinot Noir, 2018, Argentina
    • RED: Casanuova delle Cerbaie Rosso di Montalcino 2012
    This was the exact same lineup I had on my flight to Boston, so I knew I wasn't particularly into the Chardonnay or the Italian red, but liked the pinot noir.  I liked it again.


    Mediocre Meal.
    My meal was mostly pretty meh, one of the weaker Mint menus I've had in a long time.  The wine was really the best part.
    Welcome Taste: Roasted marcona almonds / pinot noir.
    About an hour into our flight, welcome tastes and drinks were finally served (orders for drinks and meal were taken soon after takeoff).

    As with my eastbound flight, the welcome snack was nuts, not warm, and this made me sad.  They were fine marcona almonds, very salty, but, just nuts.  I really missed the dip based snacks.
    Delish Dishes:
    Spicy Brick Chicken /  B
    utternut Squash Salad / Green Goddess Salad.
    Dinner Roll & Oil.
    As always, main dishes were done seat by seat, so since I was in the 4th row it took a while.  This was fine with me, since I was still served dinner by 5:45pm Boston time, which was only 2:45pm at my destination.

    My trio came alongside the warm dinner roll that I never want.  The olive oil is nice quality though, and I always use the salt and pepper shaker.
    Green Goddess Salad.

    "Baby gem, haricots verts, asparagus, english peas, cucumber, avocado, feta."

    I started with the Green Goddess Salad, even though it has avocado (I'm allergic) and feta (I don't like).  I wanted the salad base, and I do really like asparagus and peas.  I hoped it would have a tasty dressing.  I did ask to have the avocado left off, but was told it was pre-plated.  My allergy is minor, so I knew I could just push it aside.  It didn't look very good though, two small chunks, both brown.

    It strangely ... had no dressing.  None at all.  It was dry, dry, dry.  I wonder if this was an error?  It seemed really odd to have absolutely no dressing to it.  This salad also had no crunchy element, and I am always impressed that JetBlue normally has really nicely designed salads, usually with something in there for crunch.  I added some of my almonds.

    The baby gems were fine, crisp, but there was just two (large) pieces of it.  I didn't notice the haricot verts, I believe they were cut up, as was the asparagus, so they all just blended together to be fairly flavorless but crisp green things.  The peas were shelled, and again, just more small bits of crisp green vegetable that had no flavor.  I was pretty sad by the flavorless veggies, particularly with no dressing.

    The feta was ... feta.  Not my thing.  At least it had a flavor?

    Overall, one of the most disappointing and boring salads I've had on a JetBlue flight, flavorless and no dressing ... MEH.
     Butternut Squash Salad 
    "Arugula, cotija, pomegranate & pumpkin seeds."

    Next up, another chilled dish, sorta a salad.

    This is actually the dish I was excited for, and almost doubled up on rather than trying three different things.  I hadn't encountered it before, but I love winter squashes, and wondered what form the salad would take.  I'm glad I didn't double up.

    There were some good things, and some bad things, about this dish.

    The bad?  The arugula was entirely wilted, and basically non-existent.  It was more of a garnish than anything else - two sprigs under it, and one on top.  And, completely wilted.  I've never seen such sad greens on a JetBlue flight, usually they are fairly fresh seeming.

    Much like feta, I don't particularly like cotija, but at least the flavor isn't quite as strong as feta, and it was basically lost in here.  Not sure what cheese I'd rather see, and really, I think a sour cream or mayo based sauce would make more sense to add a creamy component?

    The pomegranate I really disliked, not that I ever particularly like pomegranate, but here it was really ... gritty?  The seeds were quite pale too.  I do think they made sense with squash and pumpkin seeds, a very seasonal dish, I just didn't really want them in the first place.

    Now, moving positive.  The pumpkin seeds were fine, and I appreciated the crunch.  I pulled some out and added to my other salad to better complete it.

    And then, the main attraction, the butternut squash.  It was ... ok.  Roasted, seasoned with what seemed sorta like a Mexican inspired seasoning.  Not too mushy, not too firm, decent flavor.  Certainly nothing special, but I didn't dislike it.  I really wanted a creamy sauce with it.  Two undressed salads just left my palette ... bored.
    Spicy Brick Chicken.
    And finally, my hot dish, the chicken.  Yes, I dislike chicken, but I wanted the sides.

    The chicken was very aggressively seasoned by the looks of things.  A decent size breast, just coated in ... something.  I assume "spicy" and ... brick?  I didn't try it, as I really, truly do not like chicken.

    But under it ...
    Close Up: Chicken Sides.
    "Collard greens, horseradish mash, onion sauce."

    The reason I got the dish, besides not really having any options I wanted, is that the sides really did sound good.  I like collard greens, I like mash, I like horseradish, I like onion, and I love sauce!

    The sides were great.  Better even than I had hoped.  I devoured them.  They were quasi warm, and I dug into them immediately (before trying my salads, actually).

    The mash was a rustic style, not traditional creamy mashed potatoes.  I liked this, full of chunks and texture.  The horseradish added a nice slight kick.  I was pleased with this, even on its own without sauce.

    The collards were also good, cooked down nicely, not too soft, and flavorful.  I think some of the chicken seasoning was on them, which was nice, although I added more salt and pepper to amp the flavor up a bit more.

    Alongside both was the onion sauce, which was really hard to describe.  Not thick like a gravy, but not thin either really.  It was flavorful though, and went fine with both the collards and the mash.  I think it would have been hard to use with the chicken, if it was intended to be?

    I liked all the sides individually, I liked them combined, and I really appreciated the warm, comforting meal.
    Sweet Bites: Fresh Fruit.
    "Papaya, mango, pineapple, strawberry."

    I have really, really mixed feelings on this fruit.  In many ways, it was incredibly lackluster and quite under ripe.

    The pale yellow item in the center is the mango.  It was firm, not soft.  Rather sour.  Basically, green mango.  Not that I'd expect good mango on a US flight, but ... yeah, this was just not fresh ripe mango.  I did kinda like the sourness though?

    The pineapple was juicy and fine, quite sweet to contrast the sour mango, but I'm not particularly a fan of pineapple.

    The papaya was more unripe than the mango.  It was very firm and fibrous.  Not juicy, not good.

    I had a single strawberry, cut in half.  It was moderately ripe, and had a decent flavor.  The best piece from the assortment, and I added it to my ice cream.
    Sweet Bites: Toscanini's Ice Cream.
    "Pumpkin Fluff & Vanilla."

    And finally, time for ice cream.  As always, sourced from our departure city, which for Boston means Toscannini's.  As always, a scoop of vanilla, plus two scoops of a (usually seasonal) offering.  For the fall/holiday season that meant ... pumpkin.  But not just pumpkin, pumpkin fluff!

    The ice cream was served rock solid, and took a while to get soft enough for my ideal eating meltiness, which was fine, as I was quite full from my meal, and it was still very early for dinner.  It did get to be a nice style of melty.

    I don't necessarily get excited about pumpkin, particularly given that this was right after the holidays where I over-indulged in my mom's pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread pudding, and pumpkin cheesecake, but ... FLUFF!

    Did you know fluff was invented in Somerville, MA?  Toscannini's is located in Cambridge, right next door, so this ingredient has a local touch too.  

    The fluff added a interesting sweetness to the pumpkin base, and almost reminded me of marshmallow topped sweet potatoes.  There were classic pumpkin spices in the mix too, but, none were too aggressive.  Definitely a far more interesting flavor than your standard pumpkin ice cream, and I appreciated the effort to be unique.

    July 2019 Flight

    Flight Details:

    Departure: BOS, 3:30pm (scheduled) 4:05ish (actual)
    Arrival: SFO, 7: 15pm (scheduled)(actula)
    Duration: 5h 54m
    Seat: 1C (aisle, non-suite)
    Class: Mint

    Ok, some "fun" stories on this one.

    First, I was supposed to fly a day earlier, but got a call about 2 hours before my flight.  When the caller ID said "JetBlue", so close to a flight, I knew nothing good was about to happen.  And ... yes, mechanical issue with our aircraft, they got another plane, but it had no Mint cabin, and not even extra legroom seats left.  I opted to wait a day.

    So, same flight time, new day.  Ok.  Everything was on track, until I got to the boarding area at boarding time.  "Boarding will be delayed, we've just turned the aircraft on, but, its very hot inside, we will wait until the cabin temperature is down to 80 degrees before starting boarding."

    Well, that was a first for me.  The reason turned out to be fun too - the van that was supposed to pick up the entire flight crew from their hotel never showed up.  So ... they scrambled and took cabs last minute, and had just gotten there, so, no one was there to turn our plane on, even though it had been sitting there ready to go since morning.  A legit good reason on the crew's part, but, could no one else turn it on?

    So, we board.  And ... another delay.  This time to add more fuel, as there are storm systems building up, and the captain wants to get more fuel so we can route further around.   Great ... turbulence and a longer flight perhaps?  And a delay, of course.

    But all that drama aside, the flight was fine.  I didn't get my favorite seat, one of the suites (even though I had booked that on my original flight), but I got an aisle in the front row, which was a great vantage point to watch (and listen to!) everything going on in the galley.  Oh, and also ... we DID NOT GET OUR MILK COOKIES AT THE END OF THE FLIGHT?!!

    Oh, and funny aside.  As I boarded, my FA looked at me with recognition.  "Were you, uh, walking around near Boston Common this morning?"  And ... yes, I was.  He recognized me?!

    Food & Drink

    A very nice meal, actually.
    I did *not* anticipate that this would be a good meal, given the menu.  I brought backup food (including dim sum items from a asian bakery that I discovered on this trip and adored - Bao Bao Bakery in Chinatown, a tasty salad of my own, and my own dessert), but I was actually really quite pleased with the food.


    July Westbound Lunch / Dinner.
    The menu was as follows:

    • Red Pepper and Tomato Dip with Taro Chips
    Choose three. Please note: The first two dishes listed below are chilled
    • Grilled Avocado / english peas, arugula, frisée, salsa verde
    • Chicken Salad / baby gem, oven-dried cherry tomatoes, apricot curry dressing
    • Rigatoni / house-made tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil
    • Seared Salmon / sautéed baby spinach, yukon gold potato, buerre blanc sauce
    • Braised Short Ribs / sushi rice, grilled pineapple, miso glaze
    Enjoy both.
    • ICE CREAM: Toscanini's, Boston, MA
    • FRESH FRUIT: pineapple, lime, sea salt
    • COOKIE, milk bar, NYC and beyond
    This was ... well, the least exciting menu I've ever had on a Mint flight.  I'm allergic to avocado, and I hate chicken, so, my usual go-tos, the salads, were sadly out.  I don't like cooked salmon in general (unless mid-rare), and definitely don't appreciate overcooked dry seafood, so that was out.  Rigatoni is ... boring.  Where was the filled pastas?  And short ribs and rice?  MEH!

    I came prepared with my own food instead, but did decide on the salmon (for the sides), the rigatoni (because, well, it was something), and, the chicken salad (I could eat around the chicken right?).  It actually turned out to be fantastic.

    One note: we were never given our cookies.  The Milk Bar cookies are always a highlight for me, so, this made me pretty sad.  I can only imagine the FAs either forgot, or perhaps they weren't properly catered? Or they love them, and saved them all for themselves.

    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 Brut Blanc de Blancs, 2016, Penedès, Spain
    • WHITE: White Wine of the MoMINT
    • Rose: Lioco Indica Rosé of Carignan, 2018, Mendocino County, Calif.
    • RED: Bethel Heights, Estate Pinot Noir, 2016, Willamette Valley, Oregon
    • RED: Hearty Red of the MoMint
    The menu, just like on my flight two weeks prior, didn't give details for two of the wines, just, "of the MoMINT", a catchy, but not useful, name.

    The red was the same Bedrock Zinfandel that I didn't care for last time, but the white was something different, and, not a chardonnay, a Spanish Albariño, which was entirely new to me.  I was eager to try the Pinor Noir I missed out on last time, since the bottle ran out before I got a chance.


    WELCOME TASTE: Red Pepper and Tomato Dip with Taro Chips.
    As always I loved the taro chips.  I know they just purchase them from somewhere, but, I really like them. I should ask the brand sometime ...

    The red pepper and tomato dip turned out to be far better than I expected.  It didn't sound like something I'd like.  But, it was zesty, chunky, and very flavorful.  I was surprised.  It also paired well the the menu, very italian inspired, and appropriate to have before rigatoni.
    Dinner: Chicken Salad / Rigatoni / Seared Salmon.
    As always, my dishes arrived together, with a roll I didn't want, a cute bottle of oil, and salt and pepper shaker.
    Chicken Salad.
    "Baby gem, oven-dried cherry tomatoes, apricot curry dressing."

    I ordered this, to have a salad, and expected to need to pick around the chicken.  I also ... expected to see the chicken?  This was certainly not at all what I was expecting.

    The baby gem lettuce was good, very fresh and crisp, large pieces.  Very refreshing, and better than I expected.

    The tomatoes ... weren't oven-dried?  They were fresh cherry tomatoes, halved.  And they weren't bad either, not mealy, or strange as often happens with refrigerated tomatoes.  Huh.

    But where was the chicken? And the dressing?
    Chicken Salad: Underneath.
    The answer of course, underneath.

    The chicken was a few slices of what looked like decent chicken, but still, chicken, and I avoided it, easily.

    The shocker of the dish though was ... the dressing.  I was actually going to ask to have it on the side, or left off if possible, as "apricot curry dressing" really didn't sound tasty to me, but, wow, this was ... insanely delicious.  It was creamy.  It had a great curry flavor.  I didn't taste apricot exactly, but a slight sweetness.  It also wasn't really dressing, more of a thick sauce, just a chilled one, and there was tons of it, all over the bottom of the bowl.

    This salad turned out to be a surprise hit for me, I really, really adored that sauce, and just ate it by the spoonful, and the salad ingredients were far better than expected as well.

    I think my favorite dish, because I loved the sauce, but ... the next one was equally as good, and the entire dish delivered.
    "House-made tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil."

    The next shocker ... the pasta.  The one I deemed boring and was sad to see on the menu.

    I never, ever imagined it would be this good.  It was served moderately warm, but not quite as hot as I'd want.

    One side note: everyone else got theirs topped with fresh basil.  The server clearly forgot to add it on mine. It didn't matter, it was great as is, but I can imagine that adding something to it.

    So, um, why was this good?

    Well, the pasta was actually nicely cooked.  Al dente.  I expected mush, or overcooked edges, and this ... was actually just excellent.  I don't understand.

    And then, the sauce.  The sauce!  Soooo flavorful.  Well spiced.  Chunky.  Again, I don't even understand how they have sauce this flavorful and good.  It blows away any jarred sauce I've ever had.

    And then, the mozzarella, a couple large chunks, melted in.  It too was good.

    This dish really blew me away.  I'd be happy with it at an italian restaurant.  Really.  I don't understand how it was served on a flight.  Highly recommended.  My tied-for-first, really, choice.
    Seared Salmon.
    "Sautéed baby spinach, yukon gold potato, buerre blanc sauce."

    And now, to prove that I'm not just all positivity, the loser.  The big loser.  There was nothing good about this one.  It was ... not nearly warm enough, to start, but that wasn't the real problem.

    I knew I wouldn't want the salmon (dry, fishy, overcooked), but I thought I'd like the potatoes.  I thought they'd be mashed, but, instead were cubes, which was fine, except, they were very undercooked.  I like al dente potato salad, but ... this was just really undercooked, and starchy.  Not good.

    The potatoes were in a sauce, which I guess is the buerre blanc sauce, as it was the only sauce on the plate.  I thought there would be buerre blanc to use with the spinach (or salmon, if I was eating that), but, it was all incorporated into the lackluster potatoes.  It wasn't creamy, it wasn't flavorful, it just ... as there.

    Then, the spinach.  I guess it was fine, but it was just wilted spinach, and a little onion, and, not seasoned at all.  Not anything good to say about it, and without sauce, it was very bland.  I almost used my curry sauce on it, but decided I'd enjoy that sauce more if I just ate it by the spoonful instead.

    Definitely loser, do not recommend.
    Toscanini's Ice Cream: Cookie Dough? Mocha Chip?, Vanilla.
    I've really enjoyed some of the Toscanini's flavors in the past, like the signature B3, and even the Vienna cookie, but our flavor of the day was Mocha ... or at least, that is what I was originally told (and vanilla, as always), and, for me, it was too late in the day for caffeinated flavors.  Sigh.

    When dessert service happened though, it was described as ... cookie dough?  It was a dark color, which doesn't match any cookie dough I've ever seen.  I tentatively tried it, and didn't taste coffee exactly, but it also didn't seem like cookie dough.  There were no chunks of dough ...  I think it was ... mocha chip perhaps?  It certainly had chocolate chips.

    I came as always with my own toppings, this time, ready to go all out with a pineapple sauce, blueberry compote, candied nuts, fresh berries, and of course, sprinkles, but, since I couldn't have the mocha chip that late in the day, I decided to go with my other dessert (a donut from Dunkin' Donuts, I know, I know, they aren't good, but, #tradition), and save the ice cream in my freezer mug for the next day.


    I did try the White Wine of the MoMINT, te Albariño, but I wasn't a huge fan.  It was ... somehow sweet yet dry, and just not really my style.

    I again enjoyed that they now serve Bubly on board, still just lime flavor, but, I'm a fan.
    Bethel Heights, Estate Pinot Noir, 2016, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
    "A fantastic display of the elegance of Oregon Pinot Noir, in a vintage known for its ripe fruit. Grown in Bethel Heights’ estate vineyard in the chilly Eola-Amity Hills area, this has plenty of ripe cherry flavors to accompany its foresty nuances."

    The pinot noir was lovely.  No wonder it ran out last time.  This was a great wine, fairly complex, it had some body to it, but not too much tannin.  I really enjoyed it, and, uh, appreciated the large pours.

    Retails for $30 a bottle, so definitely a decent mid-range wine for JetBlue to offer.

    December 2018 Flight

    Flight Details:

    Departure: BOS, 3:29pm (scheduled), 4:51p (actual).
    Arrival: SFO, 7:30 pm 7:46pm (actual)
    Duration: 6h, 44m
    Seat:  4A(single suite)
    Class: Mint

    Sigh, flight delays.  Not what you want around the holidays.  Particularly ones that were obvious (e.g. inbound aircraft delayed), but without a delay issued until after boarding time, so you couldn't really plan around it.  Extra time in the airport to ... explore I guess.

    Anyway, I still do love JetBlue Mint, which I've reviewed many times before.  The most interesting part of this trip is that I have had most of the dishes before, in prior years, and yet they have evolved significantly.


    Holiday Hayward Amenity Kit.
    For the holidays, the standard Hopper amenity kits were sparkly gold.  They were filled with the same amenities as always: shockingly nice socks, my favorite earplugs, much necessary hand lotion and lip balm, plus a pen, toothbrush, low end eye mask, and refreshing spray.

    Food & Drink

    December Westbound Lunch / Dinner.
    The food and drink lineup was the same as all my other recent flights: welcome taste of a crunchy thing with dip, choice of 3 small plates out of 5 (2 chilled, 3 warm), ice cream from the city of departure, cookie as parting gift, nice selection of wines.

    The highlights of my meal were certainly the wine and ice cream.


    Westbound Lunch / Dinner Menu: December.
    The menu was as follows:

    Choose three. Please note: The first two dishes listed below are chilled
    • CHICKEN & SAFFRON POTATO SALAD / watercress, mustard vinaigrette
    • ROASTED CAULIFLOWER / pickled carrots & onions, sumac yogurt, tahini-cashew dressing
    • BUTTERNUT SQUASH RAVIOLI / butternut squash, sage sauce, parmesan, pecans
    • PAN-SEARED SEABASS / fregola sarda, squash, cherry tomatoes, saffron cream sauce
    • MEATBALLS / marinara sauce, provolone, basil feta pesto
    Enjoy both.
    • ICE CREAM: Toscaninni's, Boston, MA
    • FRESH FRUIT: Oranges, Strawberries, Blackberries.
    • COOKIE, milk bar, NYC and beyond
    From this menu, I had actually had three of the dishes before (the roasted cauliflower salad and the seabass on my Westbound December flight the previous year, and the butternut squash ravioli on the Eastbound), and two were such winners that I knew I needed to order them again.  For my final dish, I decided to try the potato salad, as I like potato salad, and was curious about this version with watercress and mustard vinaigrette.  I was tempted to just double up on that on ravioli, as it was just sooooo good last time.

    My travel companion opted to dine later (on San Francisco time rather than Boston), which was easily accommodated, and after trying my dishes, he selected the others, so I was able to try those as well.


    JetBlue has good wine on board.  There are obviously ones I like more than others, but they tend to go for mid-tier wines, more pricey than I expect for a domestic carrier.  They always are bottles with real corks, if that matters to you ...
    Drink Menu.
    The drink lineup as always featured a sparkling, two red, and two white wines, plus cider, beer, liquor, soft drinks, tea, and coffee, and was exactly the same as my flight to Boston the previous week.
    • WHITE: BENITO SANTOS SAIAR ALBARIÑO, 2016, Rias Baixas, Spain
    • RED: TURLEY, JUVENILE ZINFANDEL, 2016, California
    I absolutely adored the Zinfandel on my flight the week before, so I knew I wanted that again, but decided to also try the chardonnay just to get a bit of variety, and to start with a white wine (and I disliked the other white on that flight).
    My Mix.
    I also asked for both seltzer and Sprite Zero, as I like to mix them - just sparkling water is boring, Sprite Zero is too sweet on its own.

    My FA obliged my request to just have cans of each and one glass so I could mix myself (ideal ratio isn't just 50/50!)
    "A classic California Chardonnay from acclaimed winemakers Steve and Jill Matthiasson, grown in a vineyard right behind their house in southern Napa Valley. Lemon and ripe peach fruit flavors, rather than oak, define this irresistible example of a much-loved wine."

    Since I knew I really wanted the Zin, I asked for just a small pour of the chardonnay to start out.

    It was ... fine?  Not too harsh, not too acidic, slightly sweet, slightly buttery ... but, eh.  I knew the Zin was so good I quickly moved on.
    TURLEY, JUVENILE ZINFANDEL, 2016, California.
    "Our favorite Zinfandel is back on board! Turley remains California’s benchmark for this grape, and the Juvenile is produced from younger vines in their top sites. It’s complex but approachable, full of vibrant berry fruit and the spiciness of black pepper and licorice."

    I loved this on my flight to Boston.  Like, really loved it.

    I felt the same way when I had it this time.  Its really good wine!  Complex, not too tanic ...  might need to actually purchase this myself sometime, except, it is only available to their wine club members, and in their tasting room.  It sells for $49.97 per bottle, again, higher quality than I expected!


    The food lineup I thought I knew what to expect, since I had seen so much of it before, but, it turns out, I had no idea what I was in for.  I also got to try the entire menu, since my traveling companion shared his picks.
    Hummus.  Pita.  Boo, hiss.  As I said when reviewing my flight to Boston the week before, the pita chips and hummus Welcome Tastes are my least favorites.  I want my yucca chips and caramelized onion dip that I adore!

    The hummus was at least different, this time beet root, sprinkled with sesame seeds and ... breadcrumbs?

    I tried a bite.  I hated it.  It was still hummus, but strangely grainy, and the breadcrumbs really dried it all out.  Meh.
    My Dinner: Roasted Cauliflower / Chicken & Saffron Potato Salad / Butternut Squash Ravioli.
    Well, huh.

    I was surprised when I saw my platter, as I had ordered these items before, but they looked nothing the same!  And ... sadly, not nearly as good.

    I also forgot to say that I didn't want the roll, even though served warm.
    My Companion's Dinner: Pan-Seared Seabass / Meatballs / Butternut Squash Ravioli.
    My companion ordered later in the flight, and after trying my dishes, decided to only keep the ravioli, and order the other two hot options, the seabass and the meatballs.  I of course tried them all.

    Spoiler: his choices were better.
    "Pickled carrots & onions, sumac yogurt, tahini-cashew dressing."

    When I had this before, I was shocked by how much I liked the carrots, onions, and the sauce.   But, um, it was ... entirely different?  Then, it was roasted cauliflower, large chunks, and it had slices of pickled red onion on top, and a sumac yogurt and tahini-cashew dressing at the base.  Decently balanced, and better than I expected.

    This time, it was ... really a big soupy bowl of what I guess was the yogurt and dressing?  I didn't like the flavor this time, and I was really confused by how it seemed to be a chilled soup, with those sauces as the majority element, rather than accompaniment.

    The onions this time were two halves of pearl onion, quite tart, as was the shredded carrot, as they were pickled.  The cauliflower though, the *name* of the dish ... was basically nonexistant.  I was so confused.  And what was there was tiny pieces of hard cauliflower ... not roasted.  

    I really did not like this.  Not the strange soupy yogurt and dressing, not the veggies ... nothing.  My dining companion opted to dine later in the flight, and he tried a bite of this and quickly changed his order from this to the seabass, even though we didn't anticipate that would be good.

    Least favorite dish for both of us.
    "Watercress, mustard vinaigrette."

    The potato salad was marginally better.  Not what I think of as potato salad though.  It was just cooked fingerling potatoes that were yellow (from saffron I guess), with a slice of chicken breast on top, and some acidic thick dressing.  The potatoes were fine, but, I didn't care for the dressing, and I really wanted this to be more like a mayo based potato salad.

    Was the one little sprig of green on top all the watercress I got?  Overall, this was fine, but quite boring, and the dressing ... meh.

    My second to last favorite dish, and I didn't finish it.  My companion also choose to switch his order of this to the ravioli after trying mine.
    "Butternut squash, sage sauce, parmesan, pecans."

    When I had this a year ago, I *loved* it, so I went into this order knowing my expectations were likely far too high.  I had claimed that "I'd call it a success *at a nice italian resturant*!"  I advised myself to order multiple if I ever saw it again.

    This time, it was fine, but not nearly as good, and entirely different.  You can read that full review from before, but, basically, last time it was large format ravioli, three huge ravioli, red colored with stripes, perfectly al dente, stuffed with butternut squash, and coated in a really delicious creamy sage sauce and large shreds of parmesan.

    This time, it was again three ravioli, but they were standard size, and standard white pasta.  Not too mushy, but also not al dente as before.  The filling as a strange dark color, I think it was still squash, but, it was brown.  It didn't really have any flavor to it.  Meh.

    There was a tiny amount of shredded parmesan on top, but not much, and it was easily lost.  My companion received far more than me.  The nuts were just little bits of pecan, rather than full halves like last time.  These elements really enhanced the dish last time, and this time ... meh.
    Butternut Squash Ravioli: Underneath.
    Another big change this time is that the dish came with mashed butternut squash at the base, a vibrant orange color.  It was fine, mashed squash.  It made me question the filling since the colors and flavors were so dramatically different.

    The cream sauce was good, I mean, it is cream sauce after all, but I didn't taste sage, and there was not nearly enough of it.

    So ... yeah.  My favorite of the dishes, but this wasn't really anything special.  Decent for airplane food, but, it definitely needed more sauce at a minimum.
    "Fregola sarda, squash, cherry tomatoes, saffron cream sauce."

    Moving on to my companion's dishes, I tried a few bites of each ... for research!

    The fregola sarda was fine, not mushy nor too hard, but really needed some sauce, as it was quite dry.  As was the fish, very, very dried out, as I find most fish is served on flight.  Meh.  I didn't try the few pieces of summer squash, but I did steal one of his two coveted tomatoes, it was slightly cooked, and burst in m mouth nicely with flavor.

    The saffron cream sauce was really the only reason I was interested in this dish, and the sauce was fine, but quite negligible!  With a more generous serving it might have helped coat the grains into a creamy base, or coat the dried out fish, but like this, it was just a tease.

    My third pick, middle of the road, not worth getting.
    "Marinara sauce, provolone, basil feta pesto."

    Next up, the meatballs.  These were decent, 4 large meatballs, moist, good texture.  The marinara was standard marinara sauce, and there was a generous amount of provolone melted on top, nicely gooey.

    Just the meatballs, sauce, and cheese would be a decent dish, and would have ranked this second place anyway, but the pesto was really fantastic.  I loved the flavor, and wished I had ordered this dish so I could put the pesto with my ravioli.  I think that would be fantastic.
    Fruit: Oranges, Strawberries, Blackberries.
    The fruit was fairly lackluster.

    The strawberry (singular) was not very ripe, and rather tart (it was December after all).  The blackberries were also tart.  I didn't try the oranges as I don't care for citrus, but kudos for multiple types of orange? 

    I handed this off to my companion who enjoyed it as a pre-meal snack (because he was dining later).
    Toscanini's Salted Caramel & Vanilla Ice Cream.
    JetBlue's always features ice cream from a fairly notable shop in the port of departure, and in Boston, that means Toscanini's.  It is certainly my favorite of the JetBlue ice creams, and I've raved about nearly every flavor that I have tried.

    This was my first time having Salted Caramel on board, although I had it, and loved it, at Area Four in Cambridge as part of my dessert there.

    As always, it came served with a scoop of plain vanilla too.

    It was fine, served much softer than usual, ready to eat as soon as it was served, but I think that is because I was in the last row and it just took a long time to serve me.  The flavor was sweet, as it was caramel, but I didn't taste much salt.

    Not as good as other Toscanini's flavors that I have tried, like the Vienna Finger flavor that I really liked!
    But of course I came prepared, and quickly transformed it into a sundae with assorted sprinkles and toppings, and a little lackluster fruit (which, is why I ordered the fruit in the first place).  

    It really needed hot fudge and whipped cream, but those are a bit more difficult for me to fly with ...