Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Club Europe, BA954, LHR-MUC

The flight: BA 954, LHR-MUC
Travel class: Club Europe
Departure time: 4:35 PM,
Meal served: Afternoon Tea.
Previous BA Club Europe meal reviews: Tea service on ZRH-LHR, tea service on LHR-BCN, lunch on MUC-LHR

Another day, another afternoon tea flight on British Airways.  Since I've reviewed it several times before, I'll skip all the general details this time around.  The offering was exactly like every other time: 3 little sandwiches, a scone and clotted cream, boxed cake.  And, just like every single time I've ever had tea service, I've instantly regretted not requesting a special meal, as many others around me had done.  They all had salads.  The rest of us?  Stale tea sandwiches.  Ugh.
Afternoon Tea.
The first one looked like curried egg salad.  Now, I like egg salad actually, but I was suspicious of the curry.  I asked Ojan, "Is it curried egg salad?" and he said yes.  So I took a big bite.  It wasn't egg.  It was CHICKEN.  I really hate chicken, and this was very "chicken-y" chicken.  I didn't really taste the curry at least?  The bread was a soft, hearty grain bread with some seeds in it, not bad.  Perhaps this was actually a decent sandwich ... if you eat chicken.

I moved on to the safer option, the middle one, which was clearly cucumber and cream cheese, on white bread.  A simple classic.  The cucumber was wilted, if that makes sense.  It turns out, thin sliced cucumber can actually wilt, when prepared days in advance.  This was pretty lackluster.

Finally, salami and pickles, on wheat.  The salami actually wasn't bad, and I did like the pickles.  If only it had some cheese too, or, really, if it were just a charcuterie plate rather than a sandwich.

Overall, it was possible to salvage some proteins from the sandwiches, but I was glad I had snacked so heavily in the lounge and wasn't counting on this "meal".

Scone service was as it always is, a basket passed without tongs, into which each person dipped their hands.  There were plain and fruit scones, I opted for the fruit one, which seemed to be raisin.  It also tasted like orange.

The scone was ... ok.  It was warm, and the top was actually nicely toasted, but the bottom was hard and soggy at the same time.  The jam was ok, not particularly good nor bad.  The clotted cream was standard too.   Overall, just, standard.  Yes, if you slathered plenty of jam and cream on the scone it was ok, but, no component was very good on its own.

And finally, the "Sweet Treat".  It was the same pistachio madiera cake I've been served many times at hated, so I didn't bother try it.
Read More...

Monday, September 26, 2016

Eatsa

Update Review, September 2016

Sometimes, I crave healthy.  It is a rare thing, but, it does happen.  And even more rarely, that time is at breakfast.  So, one morning, I decided to return to Eatsa, to improve upon my breakfast parfait from last time.  Since I've reviewed the unique setup before, I'll let you start with my original review for the background on the "robots" and lack of ordering counter.  The only thing to note is that they finally released an Android App, which is what actually inspired my visit.
My Cubby.
Since it was breakfast and not busy, my order was ready very quickly.  The app notified me that I'd be in cubby 19, and, moments later, it lit up with my name.  I tapped, it opened, there was my breakfast.
Yogurt Quinoa Parfait (with modifications) $4.45, Medium Roast Coffee $1.95.
"Smooth and balanced, with hints of cocoa and nut."

I also ordered coffee.

Since I really did not like the light roast coffee last time, I went for the medium roast this time.

It was ... marginally better.  A bit darker than the light roast as you'd expect, so a bit more going on, but it still had some funk to it, like generic Folgers, or something else not very fresh.  I also don't like that they only have this large size, it really is too much caffeine for me in the morning, but if I'm buying a coffee, I don't want to waste it.  And I got it black, since I don't trust others to put in my sugar/creamer for me, given how subjective "a little" is.  I wished they had a condiment station.

So, I think I'm doing trying to get coffee there.  I'm clearly not alone; when I was in the store, the other two guests were each holding cups of Peets coffee.  Peets, luckily, is right next door.
Yogurt Quinoa Parfait, Extra Berries, Add Agave. $4.45.
"Cool, refreshing parfait blended with a kick of coconut and honey."

I took my own advice from last time, and added extra berries and agave, in addition to the standard toppings of sliced almonds and some berries.

I again really liked the yogurt and quinoa base, which continues to amaze me.  I don't really like yogurt.  I don't generally like quinoa.  But ... it works.  It is creamy, the quinoa is a bit crunchy, for some reason, I like it.  The quinoa is a mix of both red and white quinoa.  I still did not taste any coconut nor honey.

The berries on top were sliced strawberries and blueberries.  They were fine, but, in this case, I think 2x the berries was too much.  It was hard to get to my quinoa, and I grew sick of the fruit.  Ok, so, next time, back to regular berries.

I again appreciated the crunch from the sliced almonds, but would prefer some other nut or seed choices, like walnuts or pumpkin seeds.  Wouldn't pumpkin seeds be the perfect fall touch?

And finally, the agave.  The agave is served in a little plastic container, on top of the parfait, inside the container.  I like that they don't mix it in, so I can drizzle as makes sense.  But ... it gets covered in yogurt.  You can't put it down on a counter without making a big mess.  It really should be on the side, not inside the container.  The agave was perfect, necessary to add the touch of sweetness that I really wanted.

My suggestion though?  Pumpkin seeds and honey, for a perfect fall treat ... maybe I'll just bring my own toppings next time :)

The base parfait with two toppings is only $2.95, which is an excellent value.  Each of my additions added $0.75 to the price, making this $4.45, a bit pricey.  But if I bring my own honey and seeds next time ... 

Original Review, Summer 2016

I remember when Eatsa first opened in my neighborhood.  There was a lot of hype.  I remember phrases like "your food is cooked by robots!" and "restaurant of the future!" being tossed around.  In reality, the press was confused.  The food is indeed not cooked by robots.  But, granted, the model is pretty unique.  For one, the "restaurant" is basically just a big room with cubbies and ipads.

And what do these non-robot humans create?  When they opened, Eatsa served lunch only, but they now offer breakfast as well.  The lunch dishes are all "bowls", mostly based around quinoa or salad greens.  Oh yeah, it is a healthy, entirely vegetarian, establishment, did I mention that?  Breakfast is also mostly bowls, egg scrambles, or warm porridge like quinoa.  Dishes are highly customizable, portions are great, and it is really moderately priced, particularly for the neighborhood.

There are two Eatsa locations in San Francisco now, plus one over in Berkeley, and one in SoCal somewhere.  Unfortunately, they are open only Mon-Fri, so I have little opportunity to visit, as I eat my meals in my office during the week.  I'm eagerly waiting for them to realize our neighborhood really does have people on the weekends, and to open at least on Saturdays.  Because, well, those non-robots do make some tasty bowls.  Yup, healthy food, and I liked it.

The Setup
Ordering Stations.
To order, you either order via your own phone (iphone only, sigh) or via an ipad at the front of the store.  No human interaction.  All digital payment.  I'm all for this, in particular, order ahead, but, without Android or even better, basic web support, I'm stuck using the ipads upon arrival.  Boo.

Your meal is assembled in the back somewhere by real people.  No robots, sorry.  When it is ready, it is delivered to a cubby, where you pick it up.  You can track your order status via the app and via screens in the room.

So yes, certainly different, although not quite as automated as the initial press lead me to believe.
Cubbies.
I had read about the pickup experience, but, it was still fascinating to see.  Cubbies of assorted sizes, all numbered, with text flashing on them.

When an order is ready, your name appears on the cubby.

On my second visit, I borrowed an iphone so I could see how that process worked.  Since I ordered through the app in advance, the app showed me my cubby number, and, sure enough, my name was displayed right on it, along with a flashing "Double tap" circle.  I could see my order through the transparent window.

I double tapped, and the face plate moved away so I could grab my order.  Magic ... ish.
Cutlery Dispenser.
No silverware is provided with your order, but you can get whatever you need over on the side.  They smartly double up on forks, the most commonly used utensil.

This area also has trash/compost/recycling and napkins.

This dispenser is also magic.  It doesn't look like it, but, once I grabbed a spoon, I heard the dispenser vending a new one.  I kinda assumed they were just stacked in there and would spit out naturally, but, nope, this was actually robotic.

Breakfast

The breakfast menu is broken into three sections: beverages, bowls, and sides.  The only side available is a fruit cup, also available during lunch.

Beverages

For breakfast, Eatsa offers 3 varieties of coffee (light, medium, and dark roast), 3 types of tea (breakfast, green, or mint), and water (sparkling, Smart Water, or house water).

No decaf coffee, no juices, so, minus a few points for that.
Light Roast Coffee.  $1.95.
"Mellow and flavorful, with bright citrus and rich chocolate notes."

I opted for the light roast.

When I ordered, I had the option to customize it by specifying my sugar level ("none", "light", "medium", or "sweet"), sugar type (regular or "low sugar blend"), milk level ("light", "medium", or "creamy", and milk type (soy, skim, half and half).  No upcharge for soy.  I went with black, assuming there would be a condiment station for me to use if I needed it.  I prefer black coffee, but, if the coffee isn't good, I'll add milk and sugar to make it bearable.

And ... the coffee wasn't very good.  It was fairly harsh, and I think just tasted rather old and over-brewed.  It was a light roast, but, yeah, not good.

And, there was not a condiment station, so, if you want to have the milk and sugar, you need to specify it when you order.  I understand that they want to streamline everything and not have a condiment station, but, I would have liked the ability to fix this bad coffee.  Instead, I brought it back to my office and added milk and sugar there, but, still, it wasn't ever very good.

Only one size is available.

Bowls

Breakfast bowls are available with three bases: yogurt parfait (cold), porridge (warm), or scrambled eggs (warm).  All include quinoa as a primary component.  As with lunch bowls, they have a few suggested pre-designed options, or you can make your own.  Since I don't like eggs, it was easy to rule out the scrambles.  Both the warm porridge and the chilled yogurt parfait sounded tempting.
Yogurt Quinoa Parfait. $2.95.
"Cool and refreshing parfait in a bowl blended with a kick of coconut and honey."

I opted for the chilled yogurt and quinoa parfait.  The standard recipe includes sliced almonds and fresh fruit on top, with a bit of honey, vanilla, and coconut miked in with the yogurt and quinoa.  To that you can add/sub dried cranberries, raisins, brown sugar, agave, and extra fruit and nuts.

I opted to double up on the fruit.  I pondered adding agave, but, when I looked at the nutrition stats, the base quinoa yogurt mix had 15 grams of sugar, so, I assumed it would be plenty sweet (plus, it said it had honey).

I opened up my bowl, and it looked pretty good.  Just the right amount of sliced almonds, and plenty of fresh fruit, strawberries and blueberries.  Doubling up on fruit was a good idea, I think half as much would have been a little weak.

The nuts were a good addition, and added a textural crunch.  The fruit was also pretty good, fresh enough, although I did wind up with a strawberry stem in my bowl.  Those "robots" could do a better job cleaning the fruit.

As for the quinoa-yogurt, I was a little surprised on my first bite.  It wasn't nearly as sweet as I was hoping.  The quinoa was a mix of both red and white quinoa, and had a bit of a crunch to it.  It was mixed with yogurt, slightly tangy, slightly creamy.  The overall result and texture was quite fascinating, creamy yet with a bit of grit, and I actually really liked it.  But, it was a little too un-sweet for my liking.

There was a large group of workers stationed around the room, so, I went and asked one if it was possible to get a little agave.  She said sure, and came back moments later with a little pot of agave.  Once I added agave, I really liked this.  It was creamy, it was crunchy, it had fresh fruit, and it satisfied my sweet tooth.

The portion was also good, fairly small at first glance, but the quinoa was filling, and it filled me up easily until lunch.  It felt healthy and satisfying, a rare combo for me, particularly for breakfast, as I usually go for more decedent options.

I'd gladly get this again, and my order would be double fruit, plus agave.

Breakfast Test Items

I stopped by Eatsa once when they were testing out some new items to consider for the breakfast menu.  Instead of bowls, they were trying out a really unique concept: savory biscuit-scones, topped with veggies and egg.  Not breakfast sandwiches exactly, as they were open faced.  The branding they were looked at was "egg in a scone" and "egg in a savory biscuit".  It didn't quite work, and as far as I can tell, this was a limited test that didn't ever get offered to the public.  Still, it was fascinating enough to share here, even if you can't try it yourself ...
Pesto and Tomato Test Item.
As I said, it was not quite a breakfast sandwich, as it was open faced.  I loved that they used a far more interesting base than just a standard english muffin.

So, let’s start with the base, the savory scone-biscuit. It was … ok.  I didn’t love the texture. Obviously, a classic crumbly scone texture wouldn’t work here, since you didn't want this to crumble, but it was a bit too dense.  It also had no tang that a good biscuit or scone does.  And the bottom was a bit hard, perhaps from whatever heating technique they used?  It had savory, flavorful herbs throughout.

Next, the egg.  It was … also just ok.  Clearly a fresh egg, not some strange microwaved patty creation that many fast food or fast-casual breakfast sandwiches tend to use.  But the white was a bit slimy.  The yolk was runnier than I prefer, but, that is just personal preference.

Next, my toppings.  I went for the tomato and pesto version.  The pesto was very flavorful, and slathered on in a nice amount.  The tomato was two slices of roma tomato, soft, warm, and nice flavor with the pesto.  On top was also a bit of melted cheese, but, not much.

Eating this item was a bit difficult. You lose the one handed easy eating nature of a breakfast sandwich due to the open faced format. You can sorta pick it up and eat it, but once you get into the runny yolk, that makes a pretty big mess and I don’t think one-handing can possibly work at that point.  So you resort to a fork, which then becomes strange too.  So, the format is fascinating, but, a bit hard to manage.

Overall, a very interesting idea and I’m curious to see where they go with it.  But, for now, my impression is that there is a reason we normally make our breakfast sandwiches closed on both sides, or, decide to put eggs inside our savory pastries (aka, Craftsman and Wolves egg-in-a-muffin).

Lunch

Lunch is the main focus for Eatsa.  The menu is all built around bowls, served hot or cold.  And yup, most involve quinoa.  All are vegetarian, many vegan.   There are only three side dishes: house made potato chips, chips and guac, and fruit salad.  No desserts.  Drinks are house made sparkling flavored sodas, like citrus, ginger lime, and mango guava, plus ice teas.  No cans of standard soda or bags of generic chips here.

As with breakfast, some recommended bowls are on the menu, but you can opt to create your own, or make any substitutions you want.  Bowls are all $6.95, but if you want to add additional items, then there are extra charges ($0.75 for most items, $1.95 for fancy add-ins).  A basic bowl comes with 1 choice of base, 1 sauce, 1 cheese, 1 crunchy, and 4 veggies/fruit.

The cold bowls are salads, using greens for the base (kale, mixed greens, arugula), with a huge assortment of options for toppings, ranging from raw veggies (jicama, tomato, cucumbers, cabbage slaw, green onion, avocado, green pico de gallo, salsa fresca, guacamole, assorted herbs like cilantro), to cooked and marinated veggies (roasted yams, pickled onions, roasted red peppers, portabello strips - bbq, miso, or asada, grilled corn, artichoke hearts, calamata olives, roasted potatoes), to proteins (garbanzo beans, tandori tofu, egg, chipotle black beans, seasoned pinto beans, edamame, truffled egg), to crispy things (tortilla strips, crispy onion strings, pita chips, crispy wontons - plain or curried, fried chickpeas, croutons, curried parsnip strips, pecans), cheeses (cotija, white cheddar, feta, queso mexicano, goat cheese), and of course, fun dressings (three types of ranch - roasted jalapeno, bbq ranch or house, creamy balsamic, citrus vinaigrette, chimichurri sauce, orange miso, creamy buffalo sauce ) and chilled quinoa (red, greek style, or lemon-herb).  The pre-created recipes are the Mexican "Cantina Kale Salad", a Southwestern "Smokehouse Salad", and a Greek "The Mediterranean".

Warm bowls have even more variety, based around warm quinoa (lemon-herb or stir fried with egg), and then all sorts of sauces and curries (dill yogurt sauce, cucumber raita, saag paneer, corn curry, teriyaki sauce, chili, red thai curry, teriyaki sauce, roasted garlic chili sauce, or even szechuan fire oil), plus any of the other toppings.  The recommended bowls are the Indian "Spice Market Bowl", a Mexican "Burrito Bowl", an Asian "Bento Bowl", another Indian "No Worry Curry", and "Chili con Quinoa".

Whatever variety of cuisine you are looking for, as long as it is healthy and based around a bowl, you can build.  So many possibilities!

I finally got a chance to try a bowl when I was headed to the airport, and wanted something tasty to bring on board.  This limited me to cold options only, but I can't wait to get to try one of the warm ones, I'm particularly eying the one with paneer!
Smokehouse Salad - with Modifications  $6.95.
"White Cheddar, Mixed Greens, Crispy Onion Strings, BBQ Portabello, Tomato, Grilled Corn, Cucumber, BBQ Ranch Dressing, Pickled Onions, Toasted Red Quinoa."

"No mixed greens, No cucumber, No tomato, No white cheddar, Add tender kale, Add cotija cheese, Add salsa fresca.  Add jicama."

I started with the base recipe of a Smokehouse Salad, but, did modify it by removing 4 items and replacing them with others, as my label clearly communicated, listing out the items I removed and added, and concluded with "and more ...".

Ordering through the app on the phone was easy, and it was clear to understand what I could substitute free of charge, and what would incur extra.  I ordered on the phone when I was a block or so away, and was given a 3 minute wait time, but, the final "1 minute" estimate remained for a good 5 minutes while I waited.  It kinda reminded me of Uber estimates, in the totally unreliable sense ...

My bowl came with my choice of green covering the entire base, and then my veggies, protein, cheese, and crunchy elements each in distinct piles around the outside, plus scoop of quinoa and my container of dressing in the center.  I liked that everything was kept separate so I could try each component individually, and then begin assembling and mixing as I wished.  I imagine this also would help it hold up for a little while if you needed, as the wet ingredients stay in one place and do not soggy up the others.

At the base, I replaced the "Mixed Greens" with "Tender Kale", as I just tend to like kale more than mixed greens (and both sounded better than just arugula, the other option).  The kale was fine, it was actually baby kale, which I wasn't expecting.  It was fresh enough, and a bit bitter, in a good way.  I didn't love it though, and I realized that what I really wanted was baby spinach, sadly, not an option.

I kept the "Toasted Red Quinoa" as my grain choice, as I wanted a cold bowl so the hot options were out, and red quinoa seemed more interesting than the white options of "Lemon-Herb Toasted Quinoa" or "Greek-Style Quinoa".  That said, I almost left the quinoa out entirely.  I can't say I'm a fan of quinoa, or grains in general, particularly in my salad.  However, I thought that the "toasted" quinoa might be a bit crunchy, and, I do appreciate some crunch in my salad.  I also hoped there wouldn't be too much quinoa, just enough to add some texture.  

It ended up being more quinoa than I really wanted, and, it was moist, not crispy like I hoped.  That said, there was nothing wrong with it, it was just quinoa.  I'd likely leave it out in the future, although it makes me feel bad, since quinoa is there main attraction.

For cheese, I went for cotija, since the included "White Cheddar" sounded kinda boring, and I do like the crumbly, salty nature of cotija.  I also considered the "Queso Mexicano", but I wasn't quite sure which Mexican cheese it really was.  Isn't cotija a Mexican cheese too?  Really, I wanted the saag paneer, but, that is served warm, and really made absolutely no sense with my bowl.  For next time.

I really did not like my cheese choice.  I like cotija, but, it was strangely very dry in this bowl.  It also just didn't have much flavor.  I regretted this choice more than any other, and certainly wouldn't get it again.  Maybe I should have stuck with the white cheddar?  Or gone for the vague "Queso Mexicano"?  I think that was a shredded option.

With the veggies, I stuck with the included grilled corn and the pickled onions, but replaced the cucumber with jicama and the tomato with salsa fresca.  I don't dislike cucumber or tomato, but, salsa fresca seemed like strictly an upgrade from just tomato, and I thought jicama would add a better crunch and similar juicy element as the cucumber.

The corn was a hit, as I love corn, and the slight grilling added a bit of char on it.  I wished my bowl had even more corn.  The pickled onions though I really didn't like, they were too tart, too slimy.  I wouldn't get these again.

The jicama came as little cubes, and didn't have much flavor, as expected, but added freshness.  It went really well with the dressing too.  Like the corn, I wanted more (by the way, you can double up on ingredients).  The salsa fresca was a bit disappointing, as the tomato cubes weren't very ripe.  Maybe I should have stuck with tomato.  Since tomato was in season, it was particular tragic to have such lifeless, not even red, tomato. 

The crispy topping was the hardest choice for me.  In the end, I left the included Crispy Onion Strings, but I really do love Crispy Wontons (although, hmm, they probably wouldn't go so well with my other choices in this rather southwestern style salad).  The Fried Chickpeas sounded really fun too.

The crispy onion strings were great, basically exactly what you'd expect, and I loved the generous portion.  I love that all bowls include a crunchy element.  I'd definitely get this again, or explore other options just to mix it up.

For my extra, I left the BBQ Portabello, but, I was tempted by the Miso Portabello instead (although again, probably not the best match for my theme) or the Truffled Egg (but, that is served hot).

The BBQ portabello was a complete shocker.  It was really good.  I know other reviewers all say this, but, I just didn't imagine mushroom would be that tasty.  I loved the smoky nature and the seasoning, and it was big, bold, and even a bit meaty.  Sure, it was slimy, and it was mushroom, but, it totally worked for me.  I wanted more of this too.

And lastly, the dressing.  I kept the BBQ Ranch, although, again, there were several others that sounded pretty good, like the Roasted Jalapeno Ranch and the Creamy Buffalo.  The dressing was good, creamy, smoky, flavorful.  I liked it, and would get it again, but, I'd also love to try some other options.

Overall I liked my creation, and everything in the bowl was well prepared, decent quality.  I didn't love it though, partially because I made some poor choices, and partially because I'm just unlikely to get all that excited about a salad and grain bowl in the first place.  For the most part, I was happy with my choices, but I clearly have some refinement to do.  If I wanted to stick with the southwest theme, I'd try a different cheese, double up the jicama, and try the regular tomato.  I think I'd leave out the quinoa, and stick with the suggested mixed greens.  But really, I'd like to try something else entirely, likely asian inspired, with the crispy wontons and miso portabello included.  Or, go in the hot curry direction, so I could have the saag paneer.  So many possibilities.

For <$7 a bowl, it won't break the bank to experiment some, and the portions are quite generous, my bowl was more than enough to fill me up.
Eatsa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Read More...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Home Plate Boba, AT&T Park

Update Review, September 2016

Last time I attended a ball game at AT&T Park, I discovered Home Plate Boba, and I was pretty excited.  I like bubble tea, but it is a treat I rarely splurge on (and, maybe TMI, but, my body doesn't always, uh, agree with non-dairy creamer commonly used).  On that visit, I didn't actually get a bubble tea.  It was hot and sunny, so I opted for a taro smoothie instead (and I grabbed a fruity tea to take home with me).

Both were ok, but, on this visit, I decided to mix things up a bit.
Menu / Ordering Area.
The menu at Home Plate Boba looks relatively unchanged, still featuring hot and cod milk teas, fresh fruit teas, and smoothies (I'm still confused why the hot taro milk tea has caffeine, and the cold one does not).  Options for flavors aren't extensive, and toppings only include boba, passion fruit popping boba, mango stars, and lychee jelly.  They still include one topping in the base price for every drink but drink prices have gone up $1-2 since last year.
Oreo Smoothie with Boba. $8.
Since it was a remarkably hot, sunny day, I picked a smoothie.  Last time I had a taro smoothie, and although I thought it was well made, but I made a note to get another kind next time, since the taro powder used wasn't very flavorful.  My options were strawberry banana (meh), honeydew (allergic), matcha green tea (which I'd love but I didn't want caffeine), or Oreo.

So, Oreo it was.  I'm not generally a fan of Oreo.  At least, just not the cookies.  Which I know makes my dad sad, as he loves them, and my house was always stocked with them growing up.  But, "cookies and cream" or other Oreo products I do like.  So, Oreo flavor good, form factor bad, as I just don't like cookies in general.

The Oreo flavor in this was good, and I saw bags of Oreos back in the preparation area, so I'm pretty sure they really do throw in real Oreos.  The ice was nicely blended too.  It was creamy and nicely flavored, and I liked the bits of texture from the ice and cookie.

Since I had one included topping, I wanted to add something fun, but, really, I just wanted it to be like a milkshake and have whipped cream on top.  I didn't like the boba last time, so I wanted something different.  Passionfruit popping boba seemed like it would totally not work with Oreo, and mango stars also seemed crazy, so I ordered it with lychee jellies, but the guy taking my order acted like that was crazy.  "With Oreo?", he questioned.  He talked me out of it and told me to get boba.  So I did.

The boba was not a success.  Just like last time, they were mushy and poorly cooked.  And they added tons of them.  And you just can't avoid boba once it is in a drink, they come up the straw no matter how hard you try to avoid them.

Overall, this was great, except, ruined by boba.  I'd gladly get it again and just leave the boba out entirely, sacrificing my "free" topping.

The $8 price is more than it was last year, but still seems pretty reasonable for a huge smoothie, with topping, at a ballpark.
Taro Milk Tea, No Ice, Lychee Jelly. $6.50.
As last time, I decided to grab a second drink to bring home with me, since I had a bunch of credit on my ticket.  The fruity tea last time was fine, but not particularly exciting.  I obviously couldn't bring home a hot drink or smoothie, so, regular milk tea it was.  I opted for no ice since I was bringing it home, which they questioned multiple times when I ordered.

For milk tea, I had 5 choices of flavors, but only one wasn't caffeinated (coffee, thai tea, black tea, and chai were the others).  Since I love taro anyway, that is what I would have picked, but, since I knew they use powder like in the smoothies, I wasn't super excited for it.

For a topping, I put in the lychee jellies, since enjoyed them last time, clearly didn't want boba, and lychee seemed to go better with taro than mango.

It was a very standard, made from powder, taro milk tea.  Creamy, way too sweet (they do not allow you to specify sweetness), and vaguely taro flavored.  I liked it well enough, but, it wasn't anything special.

The lychee jellies were good, ridiculously sweet, lychee flavored, and had a nice chew.  They went well with the taro, except for the fact that it was all really quite sweet.  They seemed to have made up for my lack of ice with adding even more jellies, there really were quite a few of them, but, I liked them, so I didn't mind.

I added ice and some regular milk to mellow it out when I got home and enjoyed it a bit more than way.

I'd get this again, although it was really not particularly remarkable.  I think my next version should be a taro smoothie, with lychee jellies?

Original Review, October 2015

AT&T Park has been known for having far better food options than your standard ballpark for a long time.  Several years ago, I visited for my first time, and reveled in the amazing crab salad at Crazy Crab'z.  Yes, amazing crab, at a ballpark.  I also tried many of the fan favorites, like the Chicago dog and the Gilroy garlic fries, although those didn't impress quite as much.  And of course, I had my share of margaritas from Lefty O'Doul's and wine from the slightly upscale Vintage 58 Wine Bar.

But on my visit this year, I had my sights set on something else.  Bubble tea.  Yes, bubble tea.  At a ballpark.  OMG.  You know how obsessed I get with bubble tea ...

The Space

The Stand.
It took me a while to find Home Plate Boba amongst all the concessions, but once I turned the corner and saw the sign, it was clear I had found the right place.  Bright, colorful, whimsical.  It didn't quite fit in.
Menu.
The menu includes basically everything you'd expect from a bubble tea shop.

For an all-too-typical San Francisco chilly day, they have hot drinks of coffee, tea, milk tea, and hot cocoa, all $6.

Next are classic milk teas (black, green, or jasmine tea based), plus flavored milk teas (almond, mint, taro, thai, coffee).  These all use nondairy milk.  I appreciated that they clearly marked which ones were caffeinated or not.  These are also $6.

Next come fruit based teas, all with caffeine.  They must use black tea as a base?  Or green?  No option was given, but when I asked, I was told they all definitely have caffeine.  Fruit teas are made with syrups, plus some cubes of fruit, available in lychee, mango, passion, peach, and strawberry, all $6.50.

Tempting sounding smoothies round out the drink options, available in coconut, honeydew, matcha green tea, mint oreo, oreo, strawberry banana, and taro.

All drinks included a topping for free, with a choice of standard boba, lychee jelly, or flavored popping boba.

Finally, they also offer up a few desserts: ice cream sandwiches (which one co-worker had and said was great), macaron ice cream sandwiches, and just ice cream with boba on top.
Straws.
Once you make the hard decision of choosing your drink, anther decision awaits.  The choice of straw.  Orange and black for the home team, assorted colors for visitors.  What if I just wanted a purple straw, because it matched my drink?  I didn't want to be judged for rooting for the away team, but I really would prefer a non-black or orange straw ...

Life is hard.

The Drinks

Taro Smoothie, with Boba. $7.50.
I adore taro, so my choice was fairly simple.  I wanted a taro based drink.  As for a milk tea or smoothie, that was dictated by the weather.  It was sunny and warm, thus, a more chilly smoothie seemed in order.

It was very well blended, no chunks of ice.  It had a decent light purple hue.  Not tons of taro flavor, but, what do you expect from powder?

The boba was nicely prepared, soft, not clumpy.  Clearly sweetened with honey.  For some reason, I didn't actually like the boba in my drink, and choose to drink it like a milkshake, and purposely kept my straw closed too tight to suck up boba.  But once the smoothie was gone, I gladly slurped up all the boba, like pudding.  The boba was sweet and tender, quite enjoyable.

I liked this well enough, particularly once I separated it into two parts: taro icy dessert and boba dessert.  I'd get another, but would actually likely try something different, like the mint oreo smoothie.

The $7.50 price was reasonable compared to other prices in the ballpark, but is higher than your average Quickly.  Speaking of Quickly, it reminded me a lot of the taro slush I had there once.
Mango Fruit Tea, with Lychee Jelly. $6.50.
I still had some money left on my ticket near the end of the game, so I grabbed a fruit tea to go.  With the sealed top, I could throw it in my purse, stick it in the fridge when I got home, and just add ice the next day, and enjoy it in the sun.  I'm always planning ahead.

There were 5 fruit tea choices, all of which sounded good: lychee, mango, passionfruit, peach, or strawberry.  I would have been happy with any, but decided mango sounded the best.  I haven't had much fruit tea, but way back in the day I used to enjoy the mango iced tea at Pizzeria Uno, so it inspired me.  I added lychee instead of boba, as it seemed more appropriate with the fruit based drink.

I asked for no ice, since I wasn't drinking it right away, and didn't want to dilute it.

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw chunks of mango in the drink.  I expected it to just be made with a syrup (which, I'm sure it was), but the additional fruit was most welcome.

It was sweet, fruity, with a not too bitter tea based finish.  Perfectly refreshing on a hot day.  The mango wasn't the freshest, ripest, or most flavorful, but I still give them points for putting bits of mango in it in the first place.

I really did like the lychee jelly, sweet, slimy, and easy to suck up with my big straw.  I think jellies might be my new favorite bubble tea add-in.

The $6.50 price was $1 less than a smoothie, but $0.50 more than a milk tea.  It seemed perfectly reasonable for the large size and ball park location.
Home Plate Boba Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Read More...

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Club Europe, BA951, MUC-LHR

The flight: BA 951, MUC-LHR
Travel class: Club Europe
Departure time: 1:50pm
Meal served: lunch
Previous BA Club Europe meal reviews: Tea service on ZRH-LHR, tea service on LHR-BCN

This was my first time having lunch on a shorter haul BA flight, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  The answer?  Salad and dessert.

Meal service began shockingly fast once airborn, given the less than 2 hour flight time.  The FA came through row by row offering up trays with the salad and dessert on them already, plus a cup for coffee later.  He took drink orders at that time, returned with a bread basket moments later, and delivered the drinks soon after.  Very efficient for our small cabin.
Asian Style Chicken Salad, Chocolate and White Chocolate Mousse Cup.
The entree was described as an "Asian style chicken salad".

It had three pieces of sliced, chilled chicken, that I did not try, as I hate chicken.

The greens were standard BA greens, not very good, but, at least assorted greens.  They weren't dressed, and no dressing was provided, although other elements on the plate had some flavor.  The other basic salad components were a single cherry tomato and chunk of red pepper.

The more interesting components were a side dish of marinated, slimy, mushy eggplant, mushy cucumber slices in thick yogurt, and some kind of extremely bitter, slimy greens with perhaps tahini on them.

Clearly, I wasn't so into this, but I had done my research and expected a salad, so I packed other food for myself.

The dessert however was another story.  I can't say I've been impressed with BA desserts in general, particularly the "sweet treat" offered during tea service on Club Europe routes, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a "real" dessert, a layered creation of chocolate and white chocolate mouse, with chocolate cake crumbles on top.

It was ... actually really tasty.  Both layers of mousse were light and fluffy.  It wasn't the richest, chocolatiest mousse ever, but, it was good.  The cake crumbles on top did get a bit soggy, but, this also kinda worked.  I enjoyed it with my coffee I brought on board.

Overall, with my own cheese and charcuterie platter and this dessert, I was happy enough.
Read More...

Monday, September 19, 2016

Starbucks Sandwiches

Update Review: September 2016

Starbucks likes to give away breakfast sandwiches.  I really don't understand it.  I'm a Starbucks member, and besides a random $1 off, or extra bonus star earnings, I don't ever get freebies.  Except breakfast sandwiches.  I don't like eggs, I don't really like sandwiches, so these are the worst targeted item for me.  Why not pastries?  Why not frappucinos?  Wah!

Anyway, I'm also not one to not take advantage of a freebie.  So, even though I'd never normally get a breakfast sandwich, it was time to try yet another Starbucks breakfast sandwich.  I've had mixed success with past versions, like the disappointing Slow-Roasted Ham & Swiss on a croissant or the shockingly decent Sausage & Cheddar or Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon on english muffin, so, I figured it was worth a try.  Plus, free!

My visit was actually not at breakfast time, given that I had only one day to use the free sandwich, and I wasn't able to go at breakfast.  I went at lunch, and thus selected the one that seemed most lunch appropriate.  I was glad they still had all the breakfast sandwiches in stock at 1pm, the last time I had tried to get a (free) breakfast sandwich, they seemed to run out by mid-morning.
Spinach, Feta & Cage Free Egg White Breakfast Wrap. $3.75.
"We bring together cage-free egg whites, spinach, feta cheese and tomatoes inside a whole wheat wrap, then toast it to perfection. Vegetarian and protein-rich, this low calorie wrap is a tasty start to any morning."

So, um, yeah, I picked the veggie wrap.  Even though it contained a bunch of things I don't really like.  Like the wrap itself (although, besides a croissant, its not like I like the other bread choices much more).  And egg whites (although, I don't like any of the egg options in the breakfast sandwiches).  And feta (not that I hate feta, but I certainly don't like it, particularly compared with the other cheeses like gouda, swiss, and cheddar used in the other sandwiches).

So, why would I get this?  Like I said, it was lunch time, and it seemed the most lunch appropriate.  Plus, for some reason, spinach and tomatoes actually sounded tasty to me.

Like all the sandwiches, it was heated up in the crazy magic oven, and handed over to me in just a minute or two, literally.  It was piping hot, too hot actually, I had to wait for it to cool down before I could really eat it comfortably. 

The wrap was crispy on one side, but kinda moist and mushy on the other.  Not the magic heating job I was hoping for, but, it had potential, since one side was good.  It had a fairly hearty wheat flavor to it and was well wrapped.

The overall size was decent, maybe a bit small for a lunch item, but, for breakfast it would have been more than enough.  The price is usually $3.75.
Spinach, Feta & Cage Free Egg White Breakfast Wrap: Inside.
Inside the wrap was the veggies, cheese, and egg.

The most dominant part of the filling, at least volume wise, was the egg white.  It seemed to be a folded up egg white omelet that was surprisingly not offensive.  Not rubbery, not scary looking.  It really did look like an omelet.  Inoffensive is likely the highest praise I'll ever have for egg whites.  I removed a chunk of it since I really didn't want it, but, it wasn't bad.

The flavor all came from the other fillings: spinach, crumbled feta, bits of roasted tomato, and ... sundried tomato cream cheese?  I wasn't expecting that, as it is not part of the description, but, slathered all over the inside was a layer of flavorful sundried tomato cream cheese.  It added a nice creaminess and more strong flavor.  Also a surprise is the fact that the feta seemed melted.  I didn't realize feta melts.  Maybe it takes their magic oven to melt feta, or, maybe I just haven't encountered it before?

Anyway, the spinach/tomato/cream cheese/cheese was all very flavorful and savory.  The entire thing had an aroma almost like pizza.  It was enjoyable enough.

Would I get another?  Probably not, unless I was really craving something like this, due simply to the fact that Mediterranean flavors and egg whites just aren't really what I like.

Update Review: September 2015

If you didn't read my original Starbucks sandwiches post, I suggest you start there, and then return to this update, since I'm skipping the background this time around.  See "Original Review: November 2014" below.

A few days ago, an e-mail popped up from Starbucks titled "Let us take care of breakfast".  Slightly intrigued, I clicked on the link, expecting to see something like a free baked good with purchase of an expensive handcrafted beverage.  Nope.  Starbucks just wanted to offer a free breakfast sandwich.  No strings attached, save the fact that I had only 2 days to redeem it.

Well, hmm.  I was used to Starbucks randomly throwing on freebies when I was a Gold member, but I lost my status long ago.  A measly Green card member, getting a freebie?  How could I not?
Breakfast Sandwich Lineup.
Starbucks must be struggling with sales of breakfast sandwiches.  Clearly there is a reason they gave me one for free (and it isn't the first time, the first one I had back in November was also a free offer).

But also, the lineup keeps changing.  At one point, I think there were at least 10 different sandwiches, and now they have reduced it down to only 7.  They kept the basic egg and cheddar (with or without sausage) on an English muffin, the very first Starbuck's breakfast sandwich I ever tried, that I thought was decent.  They also retained the healthier reduced-fat turkey bacon and egg white on whole wheat English muffin, that I liked even more, plus one on a "artisan roll" and a single vegetarian option, the boring spinach, feta, and egg white wrap.  But they also added two more decadent options, served on croissant rolls, one with bacon and cheddar, the other with ham and swiss.

I think one reason the breakfast sandwiches suffer is the presentation in the display case.  Honestly, they always look awful.  Of course, these aren't the actual sandwiches you are purchasing, but they are ones that someone made earlier in the morning, and set out on display.  They've been sitting for hours.  The cheese is always congealed, the bacon ridiculous flabby.  They simply don't look appetizing in any way.
Slow-Roasted Ham & Swiss Breakfast Sandwich. $4.45.
I surveyed the lineup, a bit unsure of what to pick.  I knew I liked the turkey bacon one well enough, but, I didn't want to be boring.  I should try something new.  Gouda sounded great, but the "artisan roll" didn't seem likely to be interesting, and the bacon looked gross.

So, I decided to risk it, and go for one of the newest selections.  I didn't expect to like the egg anyway, this really was about bread and cheese (and maybe some decent meat), and obviously a croissant is much better than an English muffin.

I had two options: "double-smoked bacon" and yellow cheddar or ham and swiss.  Reviews I read in advance told me that people weren't happy with the bacon one, in particular, the cheddar didn't melt well and was never sufficient.  Since I was in it for the cheese, this mattered.  Thus, ham and swiss it was.

I ordered my sandwich, and stepped back to await my fate.  A few minutes later, the oven chimed, and my very hot creation was handed over.

Spoiler: even though it looked ok as I pulled it out of the bag, it turned out to be the most disappointing of the three sandwiches I've now tried.
Inside: swiss cheese, prosciutto cotto.
"Take slow-roasted Italian-style ham, 'prosciutto cotto' and nutty melty Swiss cheese layered on a flaky, buttery croissant, and you've got the perfect wake up call."

I eagerly opened it up to see what awaited me.

The construction was about what I expected: swiss cheese on top, ham (err, "prosciutto cotto") in the middle, egg patty on the bottom.

You may recall that the aspect of the previous sandwiches that I thought was remarkable was how melty the cheese was.  Here, it was melty, but ... where was it?  Yes, this was all the cheese.  Just a single, obviously small, slice of swiss.  I was hoping for a generous amount of cheese.  I was in it for the cheese!  

The cheese was good, it was melty, but ... I could barely taste it.

While there was only one slice of cheese, there were three slices of prosciutto cotto.  The ham was pretty soft and flabby.  The flavor wasn't awful, it had a bit of smokiness to it almost, but it certainly wasn't as fancy as its name would imply.
Inside: prosciutto cotto, fried egg patty.
Under the ham was the "fried egg patty".  This was my first time having this style of egg.  The sausage, egg, and cheese used the "puffed scrambled egg patty" (rather rubbery, but sorta like an omelet I guess?), and the turkey bacon used an egg white patty that I never expected to be decent.  I would have never called this a "fried egg".  There was no clear egg to be found.  The top half was mostly white, and the bottom yellow.  It was really weird, rubbery, and totally unseasoned.

I went to the condiment station to look for salt and pepper, but alas, not part of the offerings.  I could add mocha, nutmeg, sweeteners, etc, but some simple seasoning?  Nope.  Again, perhaps another reason these things aren't taking off?  It seems like basic salt and pepper make a big difference on breakfast sandwiches, but I could also imagine people wanting it for the savory lunch items too.

As for the final component, the croissant roll itself, it too failed to deliver.

In the English muffin sandwiches, I loved how crispy and perfectly toasted the English muffin got.  It seemed like the oven worked magic on those muffins.  It didn't work the same magic on the croissant roll.  The croissant was warm, but it just got moist, rather than getting a slightly crispy exterior.  It wasn't flaky.  It wasn't buttery.  It did have a slight sweetness to it that I thought was pleasant, but, besides that, there wasn't much going for it.

So overall, I had a moist and not buttery croissant, far too little cheese, flabby unremarkable ham, and a totally unseasoned rubbery egg patty.  I obviously don't endorse this one.  At $4.45, it was also the most expensive.  Keep trying, Starbucks.

Original Review: November 2014

Blah, blah, blah, Starbucks.  You obviously know Starbucks.  Perhaps all your extra spending money these days goes to getting your fix of Pumpkin Spice Lattes, (sorry, PSLs), before they vanish.  Or perhaps you avoid Starbucks like the plaque.  Either way, you know Starbucks.

And I've reviewed it many times before, from drinks, to seasonal beverages, to frappuccinos, and more recently, to the baked goods.  But have you ever dared try a sandwich there?

Starbucks has been expanding the menu to encompass more and more food, starting with introducing the La Boulange baked goods, but now by offering sandwiches of both the breakfast and regular variety.  They really want to tap into the food market.

Hot Breakfast Sandwiches

Breakfast sandwiches are available all day, although I was told that they do run out, so if you want a specific one, you should get it earlier in the day.  This is a still a nicer model than most fast food places with set breakfast hours.  It seem that you can have brunch any day!
Breakfast Sandwiches on Display.
Unlike most of the pastries, Starbucks does not have all of the breakfast sandwich varieties out on display.  Instead, only two are shown(in this case, the bacon and gouda and the sausage and cheddar), but the rest are listed on the placard behind, along with images of a few others.

Th breakfast sandwich line-up is actually pretty impressive, with 8 options, all quite different.  Each features a different type of bread, ranging from basic toast and english muffins, to a wrap or even multigrain ciabatta.  Eggs come in several forms as well, like a fried egg patty, a cheesy frittata, scrambled eggs, or egg whites only.  All the classic breakfast meats show up: sausage, ham, bacon, and turkey bacon.  And a slew of cheeses: feta, gouda, cheddar (white or yellow), fontiago, swiss.  But you cannot customize, nor can you mix and match.  The variety is there, but, you have to like the way in which they are combined.

Picking just one to try was hard.

The most basic option is the Egg & Cheddar, made with a fried egg and mild cheddar on multigrain toast for $2.95.  This sounded boring to me, so I easily moved on.

A step up is the Ham & Cheddar, except that it isn't just the same thing just with ham added.  Rather than toast, it is served on a white artisan roll.  Rather than a fried egg, it has a parmesan and monterey jack frittata.  Yet somehow, it is 350 calories, and the simple egg and cheddar is 400.  I can't say I understand that, given the ham and cheesy frittata.

If you are a ham lover, there is a much more appealing option: the Slow-Roasted Ham & Swiss Breakfast Sandwich.  This one brings back the fried egg patty, switches in swiss for the cheddar, and upgrades to a croissant for the serving vessel.  And it isn't just ham, it is "prosciutto cotto".  This fancy meat also makes it the most expensive option, at $4.45, and the croissant pushes it up to 490 calories.  But, I don't like ham, so, moving on.

Sticking with the pork products comes the Bacon & Gouda, which again has the Parmesan frittata for the egg, plus the expected bacon and aged Gouda, and the same artisan roll as the Ham & Cheddar.  This was my 4th choice, but I was worried about soggy bacon, so I skipped it.  I'm a crispy bacon girl all the way.

Speaking of bacon, the healthiest option is the Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon Breakfast Sandwich, which gains its more modest nutrition stats by using an egg white patty, reduced fat white cheddar cheese, and turkey bacon, on a whole wheat english muffin, only 230 calories and 6 grams of fat, which seems fairly impressive given that it still has cheese and some form of bacon.  This was my third choice, but Ojan wasn't excited about turkey bacon, and we were splitting it.

Which leads us to the least healthy option: the Sausage & Cheddar.  This one is a classic, served on a regular white english muffin, with a "puffed scrambled egg patty", aged yellow cheddar, and of course, a sausage patty.  And it clocks in at 500 calories, and 28 grams of fat.

Vegetarians have not only one, but two choices, either a healthy sounding Spinach & Feta Wrap, a wheat wrap filled with cage-free egg white, spinach, feta cheese and tomatoes, only 290 calories, or the more indulgent Vegetable & Fontiago Breakfast Sandwich, a fried egg topped with spinach, sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, and Fontiago cheese on a multigrain ciabatta bun, a more heafty 470 calories.  Since I don't like wraps or feta, I easily eliminated the wrap from consideration but the other vegetarian one did appeal; it sounded like a flavor powerhouse, with the spinach, sundried tomatoes, and caramelized onions.  However, I was splitting a sandwich with Ojan and he ruled it out immediately.

The two sandwiches on display in the case looked pretty gross, which you'd somewhat expect, as they likely had been sitting there all day.  At this particular Starbucks the cheese was melted and they looked like what you would receive if you ordered one, but at another Starbucks I visited the cheese was unmelted, and looked even less appealing.  Still, we forged on.
Sausage & Cheddar Breakfast Sandwich. $3.25.
Which did we get?  Of course, the gut busting Sausage & Cheddar!  It was warmed up rapidly, only about 2 minutes elapsed between placing my order and the magic warming oven dinging.  A hot bag was handed over moments later.  That oven is amazing.
Inside the Sausage & Cheddar.
Let's just say I had very low expectations for this.  A pre-assembled creation, thrown fully made into a warmer?  Yeah right.  There was a reason I brought Ojan with me to try it.

I was a bit shocked by the results.  First, it was piping hot.  I could have easily taken it a few blocks home/to an office/etc and it would have remained warm.  Seriously, those ovens are something special.

Second, the english muffin was actually crispy on the outside.  I really didn't expect that given that it was placed in the oven fully assembled, rather than toasting the muffin separately.  The english muffin was otherwise unremarkable, just a standard white english muffin, but, the fact that it felt as crispy on the outside as if it came out of a toaster, and wasn't soggy or mushy on the inside, seemed like magic.

Next, the cheese.  As you can see, it was absolutely perfectly melted.  Not a single shred was unmelted.  Again, impressive given that it was stuck in whole, and, the sandwiches use a variety of cheese types, which must have totally different melting points.  The cheese wasn't particularly flavorful, but, the gooey consistency was just right.

The sausage patty was also better than I expected, really nicely seasoned.  My only complaint is that it was smaller than the english muffin, so, near the end, I ran out of sausage patty.

Finally, the egg.  This was the weakest component.  Unlike the sausage, it didn't seem at all seasoned.  And, it was clearly a reheated scrambled egg patty.  It wasn't super rubbery or as gross as I expected, but I don't really like scrambled eggs/omelets, so I wished this wasn't there.  In fact, both Ojan and I ended up removing the egg, and just enjoying the toasty english muffin, the melty cheese, and the sausage.

So overall, this was much better than I ever imagined it would be.  The components all seemed decent quality, they have nailed the heating, and, sans the slightly-too-small sausage patty, the ratios were all right, no single element dominated, and you could taste each component.  I certainly wouldn't get another, since I don't actually like egg sandwiches and will always go for a baked good instead, but, if you like egg based breakfast sandwiches, you might be pleasantly surprised.


Another part of the initiative to change up their offerings, Starbucks now offers sandwiches, paninis, and salads.  Most are pre-boxed and available along with bottled drinks, but the paninis are warmed up in the same magical machine as the baked goods, to order.  In the mornings, egg and cheese sandwiches are warmed the same way.
Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon Breakfast Sandwich.
“Reduced-fat turkey bacon and reduced-fat white cheddar cheese on an organic wheat English muffin.”

On my next visit, I was alone, and decided to go for a more modest offering, the slightly scary named “Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon Breakfast Sandwich”.

From the outside, it looked similar, except the “original english muffin” from the sausage & cheddar sandwich was replaced with a wheat english muffin.  As with my previous sandwich, I was very impressed with how well the english muffin came out, slightly toasty on the outside.  I liked the muffin, it had a bit of heartiness to it, a bit of subtle sweetness.  I did wish it was buttered, but I guess that would somewhat defeat the whole reduced-fat nature of this sandwich.  Still, a good start.
Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon Breakfast Sandwich: Inside.
Inside was an "egg white patty" instead of the "puffed scrambled egg patty".  This thing was pretty awful, a brick of egg white substance, not seasoned.  I desperately went back to the condiment station hoping to find salt and pepper, but alas, only a variety of sweeteners, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cocoa were available.  This was Starbucks after all.  After a few bites of this rubbery, flavorless thing, I just discarded it.  Did not like.

A single strip of turkey bacon replaced the sausage patty, and was the reason I selected this sandwich.  For some reason, turkey bacon just sounded good to me.  It was honestly pretty scary looking.  It had strange little holes in it.  It was floppy and not crisp.  But the flavor was actually pretty nice, smoky.

Reduced fat white cheddar cheese replaced the yellow cheddar from my previous sandwich.  Just like the cheddar, it was perfectly melted.  The flavor was mild, but the melty consistency added a lot to the sandwich.

Nutritionally, it doesn’t look so bad (if you can look past the fact that it has a lot of seemingly unnecessary ingredients, presumably preservatives): 230 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 12g protein, although I obviously lost a little protein by throwing out the egg, I think the whole wheat muffin, cheese, and turkey bacon probably made up the majority of it anyway.  The only shocking part to me was 560mg of sodium, since, in particular, the egg seemed so under seasoned.  I guess this was from the turkey bacon?

So overall, it wasn’t bad, as long as you didn’t care about not actually having egg, which, I didn’t.  A toasty decent english muffin, melty cheese, flavorful turkey bacon … fairly comforting and satisfying.  And again, I was pretty impressed with how this managed to be crispy on the outside and so well melted inside.  Magic.

Next time, I’m going to just try the classic egg and cheese, I’m curious about how the “fried egg patty” compares to these other mystery patties ...

Sandwiches and Paninis

Starbucks also rolled out a number of sandwiches besides the pre-made ones alongside the "Bistro Boxes" in grab-n-go in the cooler.  Sure, you can still grab a basic egg salad or turkey and cheese on sliced bread if you want, or, you can order one of the slightly more upscale versions from the case.  Like the breakfast sandwiches and pastries, they also get warmed up in the oven, and come on a wide variety of breads, but most feature chicken or turkey.
Assorted Sandwich Display.

I stopped in one Starbucks location that was trialing some new sandwiches.  They had several varieties, all La Boulange branded, served toasted.  Since they were trying to get people excited about them, they were walking around with samples.  Even though I don't even like sandwiches in general, I obviously HAD to try.

I tried the Smoked Turkey & Provolone on Toasted Wheat Baguette, normally $5.95.

It was far better than I expected.  The baguette was multi-seed, nicely toasted, and reminded me of a bagel.  It was crispy on the outside, had nice texture from all the seeds, a good crunch when you bit into it.  So far, so good.

Inside was sliced smoked turkey, standard deli meat.  And provolone cheese, really nicely melted.  There was just the right amount of cheese, not too much that it felt super unhealthy, but plenty enough to taste.  And consistently melty.  Have I mentioned the magic oven?

The real surprise was the veggies inside.  Smoked, caramelized onions, super flavorful.  And even some kale, wilted since the sandwich was toasted, so not fresh and crisp, but quite good.

All in all, this was ... good.  It could have come from any neighborhood cafe.  A nice combination of flavorful ingredients, and it even seemed a bit upscale due to the kale instead of lettuce and the caramelized onions instead of raw.  And, it really was toasted quite well.  Not sure they'll be able to do that consistently, but having a crispy exterior and perfectly melted cheese is pretty impressive.

Each sandwich also comes with your choice of "house made" condiment packets: bbq, mayo, pesto, sundried tomato, ketchup, or dijon mustard.  For the sample, she had dijon mustard to spread on top.  It was ... dijon mustard.  The sandwich had plenty of flavor already, so this wasn't needed at all.

Sadly, this sandwich didn't make it onto the real menu, although the Turkey Rustico Panini seems to be the version that did made it.  The provolone was swapped for smoked swiss, which actually sounds better to me.  The caramelized onions were swapped for a sweet onion marmalade, which seems reasonable, easier to do at scale.  The baby kale remains.  The choice of condiments is gone, and it always comes with Dijon mustard already on it.  And, the multi-seed baquette turned into whole grain focaccia.  Seems pretty close, and maybe, just maybe, I'd bother giving it a try, if I ever wanted a sandwich.
Read More...

Friday, September 16, 2016

Hi I'm Skinny

Yes, this company is called "Hi I'm Skinny".  And they make healthy snacks, aka, munchies made with whole grains, 40% less fat than regular chips, and, uh, "no nasty's".

The products are all snack sticks, thin things that look sorta like fries.  They make two flavors of quinoa sticks (sweet onion or sea salt), two flavors of "Superfood" sticks (mean & green or sweet potato), and one type of protein sticks (mesquite bbq).  I honestly don't recall where I found these, as I certainly didn't seek them out, so I only got to try one item.

They were too healthy for me.  Guess I like "nasty's"?
Sweet Onion Quinoa Sticks.
"Hi, I’m Skinny! I'm the all new Quinoa based snack stick packed with REAL Chia Seeds that makes me PERFECT for guilt free snacking!!  I’m loaded with all kinds of whole grains and seeds of all kinds and have just the right amount of seasoning! I’m "phat" on flavor, but I won’t make the scales or your skinny jeans a scary thought!!"

Um, yeah.

I opened my bag of quinoa sticks with some hesitation.  I had plenty of dips standing by to dunk them into, assuming I wouldn't really want to just eat these things.

From a distance, they sorta liked like fries, thin, and crispy, yet airy.  However, they certainly didn't taste like fries.  They tasted like Sun Chips, aka, like a healthy blend of whole grains.  Which, I guess is what they were.  They are made with quinoa flour, as expected, plus corn meal, white rice flour, brown rice flour, and chia seeds, and then sugar, salt, garlic, and onion for seasoning.

The flavor was ok, although I didn't really taste "sweet onion".  But really, just far too healthy of an item for me.
Read More...

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Svenhard's

Update Review, April 2016

You know how I said I'd never try another Svenhard's pastry again, after my previous review?  Sometimes I fail at taking my own advice.  Particularly when there is a free pastry involved.  Sometimes that isn't the worst thing.

The context: Walk to work day.  One of the walk to work stations was giving out free coffee (why I stopped) and ... Svenhard's pastries!  They had a large assortment, including a cheese horn that I almost went for, but, somehow, at last minute, I decided to grab a cinnamon horn.

And ... I liked it.  Sigh.  Guess now I'll have to try more?
Cinnamon Horn.
"Cinnamon folded in sweet dough, & glazed with our delectable icing delivers old-fashioned goodness, reminiscent of Grandma’s house."

This looked just as bad as the breakfast claw.  It was kinda smushed, the icing was all over the inside of the packaging, and, well, it looked like a packaged baked good.

But I tried it anyway.  I took a tentative first bite.  It was soft, it was fluffy, it was sweet.  No, the dough was nothing like a fresh pastry, but it had a really lovely sweetness to it.  I took a second bite.  There was plenty of cinnamon within the folds.  The glaze on top, while not evenly distributed and rubbing off all over the place, was pleasantly sweet and went nicely with the cinnamon.  I took a third bite.  I stopped for a sip of coffee.  And then I went right for the center piece, always the best part of a cinnamon roll.

And I liked it.  Soft, sweet, moist, a bit gooey, and not in a fresh way at all, but, I liked it.  I realized as I neared the last bite that it reminded me of a Little Debbie product, which I'd never think of as anything like bakery items.  If you frame it in that context, then it really just isn't so bad ...

Original Review, September 2015

Svenhard's is a "Swedish Bakery" located in nearby Oakland.  However, they aren't a traditional bakery, as they make packaged baked goods and do not have a storefront.  I've seen their items at Target, Costco, and even on Amazon.com, so I think they run quite a large production.  I wouldn't normally be that interested in packaged baked goods like this, but they have been around since 1893.  Clearly, they have staying power, so perhaps their products really are tasty?

Svenhard's makes "claws", "curls", and "horns", all different varieties of croissant-like products with fillings.  The "claws" are basically bear claws.  "Curls" are just pastries in curled form, aka, cinnamon rolls and raisin snails.  And the "horns" are danishes with different fillings.

I've only tried one item, but, well, it was a packaged baked good.  I had no desire to try another.
Breakfast Claw.
I went for the fascinating sounding "breakfast claw", since, well, I was having it alongside a coffee for breakfast and it sounded like the most decadent of all the choices.

The advertising says: "Served warm, or eaten fresh from the package, Breakfast Claws will melt in your mouth, and bring delight to your taste buds! Our special icing and secret filling formula garnishes every bite."

Sounded good to me, even though I must admit it looked a little sad ...
Breakfast Claw: Revealed.
Well, first I tried it "fresh from the package".  "Fresh" was rather questionable.  It was a bit scary looking.

The pastry was about as bad as you'd expect.  Sorta spongy and gummy.  Not flaky.  Not buttery.  Greasy.  The oil slick left on the napkin I set it down on for literally 20 seconds to take a photo was impressive.

So far, gross.

On the plus side, the icing on top was sweet and rather tasty.  The little brown crumbles looked promising, but didn't deliver much flavor.
Breakfast Claw: Inside.
Inside was a cinnamon sugar filling that was tasty enough, but, as you can see from the cross section, it wasn't exactly generously filled.

Next, I tried warming it up, which did make it marginally better, but it was nothing like the magical transformation of the 7-Eleven cinnamon roll, and I still would certainly never get another of these.
Read More...