Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Waffling Leftovers: Marinated Peaches

Today's waffling adventure is another rather, uh, nontraditional one.  If the concept of waffling things that aren't waffle batter is new to you, you might want to start with my master post, and then return here.
Marinated Peaches: Transformed!
Remember the time I waffled figs?  This was basically inspired by that, although rather than just starting with leftover fruit, I started with leftover marinated fruit,  originally part of a salad.  And rather than just having waffled fruit, I jazzed it up, inspired by my amazing waffled plantain sundae from the week before.

Will it Waffle: Leftover Marinated Peaches?  Yup, smoky, grilled, and totally saved them
The Original: Heirloom Tomato and Stone Fruit Salad with Burrata.
First, let's start with the original.  One of my favorite "salads".  Heirloom tomatoes and assorted stone fruit (peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots), drizzled with olive oil and a balsamic reduction, and topped with burrata.

Oh how I love this salad.  Think of a basic caprese, and then imagine something 100x better.  High quality assorted beautiful heirloom tomatoes, all incredibly flavorful on their own.  Never tried mixing in stone fruit?  Do it.  It works great, I promise.  Plenty of perfectly ripe, creamy burrata, obviously sooo much better than just fresh mozzarella.  Incredible balsamic drizzle.  Olive oil and salt to make all the flavors pop that much more.

Oh yes.
The Leftovers: Soggy Marinated Peaches.
But the leftovers?  Yeah.  As you can imagine, this salad has very short shelf life.  I separated out the burrata from the produce to try to make it last longer.

The next day, I salvaged all the heirloom tomatoes.  They had gotten a bit mealy from being in the fridge, but, when paired with leftover burrata (which did hold up fine), I didn't mind.  And they were even more flavorful from the balsamic, which was now not just a drizzle, but, a marinade.

The stone fruit was a mixed bag.  The plums lasted fine.  The softer fruit though got really mushy.  It just wasn't very good, even if the flavor was there.

We were going to throw it out, but, I decided that if I was going to throw it out, I might as well throw it on the waffle iron ...
Into the Waffle Iron...
So into the waffle iron the soggy slices went.  350 degrees.

They made a lot of noise at first, as all the moisture started cooking out.
Almost Done ...
Once the moisture was gone, the slices started grilling (er, waffling).  Once they had decent waffle marks, I pulled them off.

Sure, they didn't turn into a waffle, but, they did basically grill.  (I do wonder if I should have formed them into a mound and just tried to make a waffle patty out of them though ... next time!)
Waffled Marinated Peaches with Balsamic Basil Cream!
I plated them up with salted balsamic basil cream that I made while the peaches were cooking.  That sounds fancy right?  Ha.  I just mixed whipped cream with the rest of the marinade remaining in my container, and added a little fleur de sel.

The peaches were actually good.  Soft, slightly caramelized.  A bit smoky.  Totally edible in this form, and honestly, they were so mushy and off putting before waffling that they really were trash.  Waffling saves yet another item headed for the trash!

The cream was tasty too, but I found myself wanting a cold component, so I added Milk & Honey ice cream after the photo was taken.  I liked the cold ice cream with the hot fruit much better, and wished I had just plated it with the honey ice cream originally, and drizzled the balsamic reduction over it all (again, next time!).

So, overall, yes, a success.  The peaches were too soggy to really eat before, and transformed into a very tasty dessert.  I'd do this again, but, just go for ice cream.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Air New Zealand International Lounge, Auckland

My journey with Air New Zealand continued to the lounge in Auckland, after a fairly enjoyable flight from Sydney, and a visit to the brand new lounge in Sydney for incredible breakfast.

I had visited the Air New Zealand lounge in Auckland a few years ago, but, it must have been a different lounge, as the layout seemed totally different this time.

Overall, it was a large, but crowded, lounge, with lots of seating options, and poor buffet food.  Nothing particularly noteworthy.  The Sydney lounge was far superior, as was the previous Auckland lounge.


There were showers, but I didn't check them out.
Big Main Area.
The lounge opens into a large room with assorted, not very comfortable, chairs.  This area was packed though, it is clear that most people just settle into the first chairs they find. 
Window Seating.
But for those who venture further, the space is broken up into several areas, all with different styles of seating.  There were comfortable padded chairs and couches along a window.
High Table.
I quickly found a high table, and used it as a standing desk.  After sitting on my previous flight, and gearing up for a 12 hour flight, the last thing I wanted was to sit more (although most people did use the stools, I was the oddball standing here).
Swing Chairs!
The end of the room also had a few coveted swingy chairs, that I must admit, looked pretty awesome.  If only I wanted to sit.
The bar wasn't much of a hub of activity, although it did have some stools.  I think most people preferred to just use the self service drink stations.
The area closest to the food buffets had dining tables with chairs, plus another high table (this one with a different style of stool).
TV Lounge.
Near the front entrance was a media room, with a large screen TV, the only area that was relatively empty.


There were two self-serve drink stations, and a bar with alcohol and a barista.
Drink Station.
The drink station had juices (orange, apple, tomato), beer and cider in the fridge, basic liquors, and soda taps (including lemon lime of course).

There was also a water tap with hot, still, or sparkling water, and lemons and limes on the side.
Robot Coffee.
You could also opt to make your own coffee from the robot.  Decaf was instant.


Food is all located in a buffet area, along with a station with a made-to-order dish of the day.  Most of the buffet is duplicated, so it moves fairly efficiently.
Bhuja Mix, Pretzels.
Ok, I lied.  There is food in one other location, bar snacks at the bar.  You know me and my love of snacks.

I do love bhuja mix, so I was happy to see that, although I remembered liking the "Snippets - Honey & Dijon Snacks" before and was secretly hoping for that again.  The bhuja had little crispy peas, crispy chickpea sticks, and more, and was seasoned with curry spices.  Very munchable, which I appreciated.
The bar also had jars of wrapped candies and mints.
The buffet featured 4 salads, all vegetarian.  I skipped the first two.
  • Lentils with raisin and carrot
  • Iceberg with mint and vegetables (with unlabelled dressing)
  • Roasted cauliflower with honey and walnut
  • Tomato & basil farfalle, bocconcini, & parmesan
The cauliflower salad was ... not dressed?  Just leaves of spinach, raw walnuts, and roasted cauliflower.  Not sure where the promised honey was.  Not good.

The pasta salad was equally bad, very tangy, and I didn't see any cheese in it.
Cheese, Crackers, Scones.
I did try one of the darker crackers with the pear and fig chutney, and it was fairly tasty, a hearty cracker.

The final item was cranberry & orange scones, and they looked dry, and there was no whipped cream or anything to spread on, so I skipped.
Cheese, crackers,  muffins.
There were three types of muffins, the two here (double chocolate and golden corn), and a third, unlabelled muffin was added later.

I tried the unlabelled one, and it seemed to be trying to be healthy.  It had some kind of tiny seeds (chia? linseed?) and walnuts, wasn't sweet, and was fairly dry.  Not recommended.
Golden Cornmeal Muffin.
The Golden Cornmeal muffin was fascinating, and not at all what I was expecting.  It was savory, cheesy, and had huge chunks of corn in it.  More like a savory cornbread muffin.  It wasn't necessarily good though.

I gave up on the baked goods, the ones from the Sydney lounge were much better.
Soup, Rolls, Butter, Snacks.
The daily soup was tomato, there were several types of rolls with butter and margarine, and more of the same snacks from the bar.

Again, I only had eyes for the bhuja mix.
Besides snacks, I love one other thing from buffets: desserts!  A buffet means I get to try them all :)

The dessert lineup had two potted items and fruit salad.
 Raspberry  Crème Brûlée.
I was super excited to see crème brûlée, as my blog has an entire label devoted to it.  And then ... I tried it.  Not good.  Also, totally not crème brûlée.

No bruleed top, just thin caramel on top.  The raspberry was just a little puddle on top.  But neither of those things were really the problem.  The problem was that it was gritty and tasted horrible.
Apple Cream with Gingerbread.
This was slightly better, but only slightly.

The bottom was a soggy cake (I guess gingerbread), then a layer of cream (that didn't taste like apple), then an apple compote, then more cream, and topped with what seemed to be stewed raisins.  I don't really care for apple, so that is why I wasn't pleased with the flavor, but the cream also wasn't very good, just like the crème brûlée, it had a really strange taste to it, like it had gone bad, honestly.

I was sad, as both of there were dessert items that I should have liked.
Action Station: Pull Lamb Pappardelle.
During our visit to the Air New Zealand lounge in Sydney, the made to order chef station had crepes in the morning, but we weren't able to stay long enough to see what it transitioned to at lunch time.

Here, the station looked promising from a distance, I saw fresh pasta!  A chef making plates to order!  But ... the sauce had lamb.  Only lamb.  I don't like lamb.
Unfortunately for me, the lamb continued into the hot buffet.  The only protein option was lamb.  No seafood, no chicken, no beef.  Only lamb.  I know New Zealanders love their lamb, but, geez!
Herb Cous Cous.
It was served with herbed cous cous on the side, another item I'm not particularly fond of.
Green Curry Thai Vegetables.
The veggie entree was thai green curry, which I did try.  It was mushy and horribly overcooked.
Asparagus with Garlic Butter.
I skipped the asparagus swimming in garlic butter.

Monday, August 14, 2017


Update Review, Kearny Street Location, August 2017

It has been years since I last visited Sushirito.  The concept, as a refresher, is simple: sushi, in burrito form.  Perfectly trendy:
"We infuse multi-cultural flavors into every sushi burrito. By blending the premium flavors and healthiness of sushi with the form factor and convenience of burritos, we serve fresh, convenient, large, hand-held sushi burritos."
Since then, Sushirito has flourished.  They have 4 locations in San Francisco now, plus down in Palo Alto and San Jose, but have also recently expanded to New York.  The San Francisco locations are still primarily mid-week lunch places, and the lunchtime lines are still crazy long.

Our visit this time was to the newer (but still several years old) location on Kearny St near Union Square, the only location open on Saturdays, and, at dinner.  We arrived at 6:30pm on a Saturday.  There were only a few other customers dining, and a few who came while we were there, but otherwise it was fairly quiet.

No issues with ordering, staff were pleasant enough, and our sushiritos were quickly assembled to order.

And they were excellent.  Better than I remembered.  I'll gladly return, hopefully, without waiting several years ago next time.
Limited Seating.
There is very little seating at the Kearny Location.  4 small tables with high seating are pushed together (seating for 8 total, we broke them apart into two tables for 4), and a couple small low tables around the perimeter of the room.  Most people get their food to go.

The rolls all come boxed to go, even if you are dining in.  There is no option for a plate.  The boxes do unfold into kinda cool "plates" though, but I failed to get a photo.
Cold Fillings: Veggies, Tamago, Raw Seafood, Herbs, Sauces.
Sushiritos are made to order, Subway/Chipotle style, with a cold well set up with all the pre-cut veggies, raw fish, herbs, dry crunchy ingredients, and sauces.
Hot Fillings: Crispy Chicken Katsu| Oven-baked agave-soy salmon (covered) | Tempura Asparagus | Shrimp Tempura.
Hot items come from a steam tray, which somehow manages to keep the tempura items and fried items crispy.
Sumo Crunch (no guac). $11.
"Shrimp tempura, surimi crab, shaved cabbage, cucumber, ginger guac, red tempura flakes, and sriracha aioli."

I have a confession.  I haven't really been into sushi lately.  Raw fish just hasn't done it for me, for years now.  I wish it did.  I really wish it did.  And I don't understand why I stopped liking sushi.  But, sometime in the past few years, I stopped liking sushi.  So, all the raw seafood rolls featuring yellowtail, tuna, or salmon belly, just weren't appealing.  I also quickly ruled out the beef and crispy chicken katsu options.  Which left me with 4 options, all radically different: Salmon Samba (with oven-baked soy glazed salmon and tempura asparagus), Porkivore (pork belly and chicharrons!), Buddha Belly (vegetarian, with eggplant and mushroom fries), and the Sumo Crunch (tempura shrimp and crab).  I opted for the later, a play on a California roll.

Like all rolls, it was served wrapped in paper, sliced in half.  This form factor, as silly as it sounds, really is remarkably easy to eat.  Like a burrito.  Like a sandwich.  It makes sense, really.

The rolls are also huge.  I guess, like a San Francisco burrito in that way.  And not because they load them up with tons of rice.  Because they are stuffed full of quality ingredients.

Most (maybe all other?) sushirito rolls come with the seaweed on the outside, rice inside, but this one is inside out, with rice on the outside, seaweed under that.  It was coated in red tempura flakes, which I loved.  They were crispy, salty, and looked like roe at first, until I realized what they were.  They made the roll a bit more fun, and I appreciated the crunch.

The insides were even better.  The roll was absolutely stuffed with shredded "crab" (yes, it was surimi).  Soooo much "crab".  It was not seasoned itself, but when combined with the sriracha aioli it was very satisfying, although of course I would prefer real crab.  I did wish my roll had more aioli though, I wanted a bit more creamy goodness.

The tempura shrimp was even better.  The batter was very flavorful, it wasn't oily, the shrimp well coated, and it was somehow still crisp.  Remarkable, really.  Each roll had 3 large tempura shrimp in it, an incredibly generous portion.  I also liked the shrimp with the aioli, again, wishing there was a bit more aioli.  I loved the crunchy texture from the tempura shell, and the chew from the shrimp, they added to the satisfaction of eating the roll.

The cabbage provided a bit of freshness, and, like everything else, went great with the aioli, basically forming slaw.  If Sushirito wanted to carry side dishes, I think a slaw like this would be fantastic.

The only thing I didn't like in my roll was the slices of cucumber.  They were fine, thin slices, but, I don't really care for cucumber.

I had to leave the guacamole out, because I'm allergic to avocado.  Perhaps it would have added the additional creaminess, such that more aioli isn't normally needed?  Luckily for me, this is one of their very few allowed changes.  The menu is very clear: "No substitutions, additions, or modifications other than the listed options allowed."  They mean it.  I couldn't have the guac on the side to give to someone else.  I couldn't add anything in its place.  You certainly couldn't try to make up a roll mixing items from other rolls.  I know they have good reason for this, but, some flexibility would be nice.

Overall, this was wonderful.  The crab, tempura shrimp, cabbage, and aioli combined together beautifully.  The roll was full of textures and flavors.  It was extremely satisfying to eat.  As another dinner put it, "That was just a really complete package".  I agree.

The $11 price was also extremely reasonable for such a large roll (we actually split one, and were both satisfied), even if it has crab stick rather than real crab.

Original Review, March 2013

I have a list of places that I want to check out for lunch, but they are only open M-F, and only during lunch time, so they I rarely get the chance to go, as I'm a spoiled employee who gets served delicious meals at work, and it is hard to justify the time and cost of leaving the office.  However, today there were a bunch of extra people in the office, making for long lines in the cafe, so we decided to venture away and (gasp!) pay for lunch.

We went to Sushirrito, a place that I've had on my radar for quite a while.  Described as the lovechild of sushi and a burrito.  So perfectly San Franciscan!  This sounds gimmicky, for sure, but reviews were decent, and the website claimed they used quality ingredients.  So, we decided to take our chances.

We rounded the corner and immediately saw the line, even though we tried to go slightly off peak, at 1pm.  Uh-oh.  The line was sizable.  And really slow.  It gave us plenty of time to consider our options: two rolls with raw fish (hiramasa or yellowfin tuna), one with cooked salmon, one with cooked crab, or the more ridiculous ones with pork and bacon, chicken kastsu, or soy puffs.  All of the rolls also contained rice, assorted veggies, and fun things like fried cream cheese, lotus chips, or tempura veggies.  And they all had crazy custom sauces, usually creamy.  Wrapped in rice and nori, rolled up like a burrito, and served sliced in half. These things were massive.  They looked like burritos for sure, but, with sushi ingredients.  Exactly as promised.

A lot of Yelpers complained about the prices, $8.50 - 11.50.  I guess compared to a burrito this is pricey, but I thought the price was completely justified.  The rolls, as I mentioned, were huge, and had substantial amounts of fish in them.  If you were to just extract the raw fish, you'd easily have a $10 sashimi platter, so I really don't understand the price complaints.  It isn't a burrito folks, it is sushi!

The rolls were made to order, sorta Subway style, with the workers going assembly line style, starting with one person who prepared the outer nori wrapper and rice, the next who added the protein layer, the next who added the veggies, then next wrapped and sliced, and then finally the cashier rang you up.  Very efficient, with the bottleneck definitely being the cashier.  The ingredients were being sliced up in back and very quickly replenished, so even though the fish and veggies were not sliced immediately to order, they really hadn't been sitting long at all.

Overall, it beat expectations.  It was by no means fantastic sushi.  And it probably wasn't worth the 30 minute wait.  But, the fish was certainly reasonable quality and the flavor combinations were pretty interesting.  And, more amazingly, the concept did work.  While I appreciate the simplicity of sashimi or nigiri, and really enjoy tasting raw, unmodified fish in those forms, I also do love sushi rolls.  I like a simple salmon and scallion roll, but I also love a spicy tuna with mango slices covered in macadamia nuts roll.  These aren't the same thing, and they serve totally different purposes, and this falls into the same category.  If you want to really taste the fish, and you want super high quality fish, this isn't it.  But if you want something fun, portable, easy to eat, and pretty tasty, this isn't a bad choice!

The biggest thing I missed out on from traditional sushi was the soy and wasabi.  There were many flavors built into the rolls given their plethora of ingredients, and particularly with the sauces, but I did want some soy sauce and wasabi to add on.  They also suffered from the same issues that all but the very best burritos have: distribution of ingredients.  Anyone who eats with me regularly knows how obsessed I am with "the perfect bite".  I love nothing more than finding that bite that contains all the right ingredients, in the right balance, to just achieve perfection.  And with most food, you can make these perfect bites.  But burritos/sandwiches/etc are special, and you have to just consume things as presented, which, if the maker is rushed/doesn't care, leads to inconsistent bites.  And these definitely had that issue.

Anyway, I'd go back regularly if it were closer, open better hours, and didn't have such long lines.  But for now, I'll be putting it back on the list, to try again some other day, but I'm not in any rush to do so.

Geisha’s Kiss: Yellowfin Tuna (Hand-Caught), Tamago, Piquillo Peppers, Yuzu Tobiko, Lotus Chips, Cucumber, Avocado, Green Onions, Sesame Seeds, White Soya Sauce.  $10.50.
There was a very generous amount of tuna in the roll.  I was somewhat shocked at how much there was, particularly given all the Yelp complaints on pricing.  And it was all pretty decent.  No strange textures, no stringy fatty bits, just decent cuts of decent fish.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The rice was pretty standard sushi rice, nothing notable, and the nori was crispy and slightly salty.  I absolutely loved the crunch from the lotus chips, but I felt that there weren't enough in the roll.  In the future, I'd ask for more!  The avocado and the sauce added a delightful creaminess and richness.  Sadly, there was barely any tamago, which was a big part of why I chose the roll, as I love tamago (although, I'm not quite sure how good that would have been with the tuna anyway).  The bits that were there were tiny little chunks.  Again, I'd ask for more in the future.  I know, I'm crazy, wanting more of the cheap ingredients and less of the tuna :)  There was also barely any of the other ingredients, which was dissapointing, since I was looking forward to a spicy kick from the piquillo peppers.  It was really quite fun to eat, certainly the easiest sushi I've ever had!

I also had a bite of "The Yakuza": Hiramasa Sashimi (Australian White Fish), Spicy Jicama, Cucumber, Lola Rosa Lettuce, Red Tobiko, Avocado, Green Onions, with Citrus Mojo sauce.  I thought it was a lot better.  The fish wasn't as flavorful as it was just a simple white fish rather than a more intense tuna, but the rest of the flavors, and particularly the sauce, were much more pronounced.  And it tasted a lot fresher and lighter due to the higher percentage of refreshing veggies, like the lettuce, cucumber, and jicama.  I loved the kick from the spicy jicama!
Sushirrito Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, August 11, 2017

Marini's at the Beach, Santa Cruz

Marini's is a Santa Cruz based candy store, specializing in salt water taffy, caramel corn, and candied apples, that has been around since the mid 1900's.  They've expanded into chocolate making, including caramels, toffee, fudge, dipped fruit, and, uh, chocolate covered bacon.  They expanded to several stores around Santa Cruz, including multiple locations on the boardwalk, which is where I encountered them.

While candy is something I enjoy, the candy looked fairly generic.  I'm not one for taffy or candied applies.  But ... caramel corn.  I love my popcorn.  So after a disappointing funnel cake on the boardwalk, I headed straight there to grab a bag to take home.
Peanut Caramel Corn. $6.
"Marini’s gourmet peanut caramel corn is made with the finest ingredients available. Direct from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to your door. What a delight!

Marini's makes two varieties of caramel corn, regular, or, peanut.  I went for peanut, because, why not?  Adding peanuts surely wouldn't hurt!  Thick: upscale Cracker Jacks.

The caramel corn was good.  Very good.  Crunchy kernels, well coated.  The caramel was dark and intensely flavorful.  There was an equal distribution of little clusters of several pieces, and single kernels.

The peanuts were actually really good peanuts, small size roasted Spanish peanuts.  Some were raw, others were coated in caramel.  They were a bit lost though, and mostly sunk to the bottom of the bag, as they didn't seem to have been added while the caramel was still hot to make them stick to the popcorn.  Minus a point for that, but, otherwise, this was good caramel corn.

I was a bit horrified by the nutrition stats for the small bag.  They think this is 12 servings, and I easily polished it off in two.  Uh, the bag had 180 grams of SUGAR alone.  1440 calories.  Uh, oops?

But, I really enjoyed it, both fresh, and frozen (how I generally eat my popcorn).  I'd gladly get another bag.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Waffling Leftovers: Plantains

Update Review, August 2017

More leftover plantains.  And this time, I did something incredible.
Dessert Sundae Waffle Plantain Success!
Waffling plantains worked before, but waffling plantains, and turning them into a ridiculous sundae, worked even better.

One of my best creations yet!  Dulce de leche coated waffled plantains, topped with rum caramel, milk & honey ice cream, whipped cream, and rainbow crunchy kettle corn.

Oh yes it waffles.
The Original: Leftover Roasted Plantains.
I started with basic slices of roasted plantain.

Fairly thin, and fully roasted this time (last time they were thicker, and slightly undercooked).
Into the Waffle Iron ...
Simple technique at first, just into the iron at 350 degrees.

I coated a few with dulce de leche to caramelize a bit as they grilled up, just to experiment.  It worked fine, but wasn't really necessary.
Looking Good ...
They looked good when I checked on them midway through cooking.  Getting crispy dents from the grills, as I hoped.
They grilled, er, waffled, perfectly.
Waffled Plantain Sundae with Milk & Honey Ice Cream, Whipped Cream, Rum Caramel.
I turned them into a sundae, topped with warm rum caramel sauce, Milk & Honey Three Twins ice cream, and whipped cream.

It wasn't pretty, but it was AMAZING.

Hot, fresh, slightly crispy, plantains.  Melty sweet ice cream, with a beautiful honey flavor that worked well with the plantains.  Fluffy whipped cream.  Sweet rum caramel sauce that paired perfectly with the plantains.

It was awesome.  Awesome, awesome, awesome.

I loved the play of warm plantain and cool ice cream, it was sweet but not as sweet as it might sound, and, the textures worked nicely.

But it needed something crunchy.  I wanted to add pecans, but alas, I didn't have any.  So I got creative.
And More Toppings: Rainbow Kettle Corn!
I sprinkled rainbow candied kettle corn on top.

It was exactly what I needed, even though it made it look ridiculous.

I adored this, and there is nothing I would change.

I also made a small version with warm peanut butter sauce and whipped cream, which was tasty too, but, didn't compare to this one.  So good!

Original Review, May 2016

Continuing my Wed series of waffling leftovers, this one is a bit random: plantains.

Yup, I had leftover roasted plantains, and, of course I decided to put them into the waffle iron as my reheating technique the next day.

Leftover plantains: will it waffle?  Sure, but, don't expect anything mind blowing.
Mexican Roasted Plantains.
The original dish was roasted plantains, coated with cumin, paprika, and chili powder.  They weren't really cooked enough for my taste, more just like warm, mushy, bananas.

Instead of throwing out my portion however, I saved them, thinking that they'd be great if I just cooked them a bit more.  And of course, I didn't just roast them more.  I waffled them.
Waffled Plantains!
I didn't do anything to the plantains, just dropped them into the waffle iron (at 350°), and let them go for a bit.

When I returned, they looked like, well, squished plantains with waffle marks on them.  I suppose that is to be expected.

Nothing extraordinary happened here.  They did finish cooking so I liked them more, and I did like the crispy bits where the iron made contact with the plantain.

I dunked them in honey and sour cream (I know, it sounds weird, but totally works), and enjoyed my little creation.

So, I guess, if you wind up with slightly under-roasted plantains (a common problem, I know), go ahead and waffle them?

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Air New Zealand, SYD-AKL, NZ104, Business Class

I generally fly with One World airlines when I fly from Sydney to San Francisco, but for this trip, I decided to go with Air New Zealand.  I had 3 main reasons (and none were the price).

One: I no longer have One World status, and I couldn't quite imagine going to the Sydney airport and not getting to experience the ridiculous {Qantas First Class Lounge}.

Two: The Qantas and American flights from Sydney to San Francisco are day flights, departing around noon, and that makes sleep nearly impossible.  But you need to sleep, because the flight arrives in the morning.  It is miserable, and I know it.

Three:  I just don't like the seats on Qantas or American that much.

Thus, I opted for Air New Zealand, which I'd flown on only once before {LINK}.  The flight times worked out better: 11:50am departure from Sydney, 2.5 hour layover in Aukland, and then early evening departure from Aukland.  It made me have *some* hope of getting some sleep, particularly because I know the beds are quite comfortable.

The first step in my journey was checking out the brand new Air New Zealand lounge, which I enjoyed particularly as I was able to catch the tail end of breakfast service AND lunch service (not that I needed either, as I'd just feasted on "one last" hotel breakfast too).

The Experience

My flight was NZ104, Sydney to Auckland, with a departure time of 11:50am.  It was a full international business class, even though a fairly short flight, just like I'd flown on before on my SFO-AKL and AKL-SFO flights a few years ago, rather than the "Works Deluxe" service I had on the shorter AKL-SYD and SYD-AKL a few years ago.
Business Cabin.
I didn't utilize the sleeping mode of the seat since it was just a 3 hour hop over to New Zealand, mid-day, but the seat was comfortable enough for sitting, had convenient storage (under the ottoman in front for my laptop bag, huge overhead bin for my roller bag, and cubbies for my water bottle and even my laptop.  USB and power plugs were easily accessible.  I listened to music on the entertainment unit, and tried to browse movies, but I found the laggy, janky, horrible touch screen to be too annoying to be worth it.

The service was incredible, and we were very well looked after.

Standard drinks were offered as we boarded (sparkling wine, water, orange juice), and I opted for sparkling water.  I was happy when I provided a glass and a full bottle.  I drink a lot of sparkling water, and I was glad to have some during the lull between takeoff and drink service.
Sparkling Water, Spiced Almonds.
However, I wouldn't have needed to wait long anyway.  Before we even took off, we were asked what we'd like our post-takeoff drink to be.  As soon as we were underway, the drinks were delivered.  I was boring and opted for just sparkling water, as it was still before noon, and I had nearly 24 hours of travel time lined up and wanted to take it easy on the alcohol.

Our drinks came with a little bowl of spiced almonds.  I found them strangely satisfying, even though I wasn't hungry at the time.
The menu was available at our seats when we sat, a choice of 2 starters, 3 mains, and 3 desserts.

To Begin:
  • Smoked salmon with wasabi mayonnaise, tomato jelly, tobiko roe, and micro herbs
  • Prosciutto with grilled artichockes, Fiddler's Hill goat's cheese, Kalamata olives, and paprika walnut tarator
From the Bakery:
Oatmeal honey rolls, garlic bread, spelt seeded, and traditional bread

  • Horseradish crumbed beef filet, crushed potatoes, sage carrots, and minted pea puree
  • Malabar prawn curry with steamed basmati rice, pineapple butterbean, and coconut sauce
  • Roasted chicken breast salad with bulgur wheat, feta cheese, and minted cucumber with pistachio dressing
To Finish:
  • Gourmet dessert of triple chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce and salty sweet popcorn
  • Lemon brulee tart with brown sugar pastry, mascarpone cream, and caramelized oranges
  • Fine New Zealand cheese served with quince paste and cracker selection
Once underway, meal service began promptly.

The first course was served from a trolley, chilled appetizers and assorted breads, plus a selection of two white (chardonnay or savignon blanc) and two red (pinot noir and syrah) wines.

It was barely 12pm, and I was stuffed from having one last Eggs Benedict at my hotel lounge, and then a huge second breakfast in the lounge.  I was simply not hungry, although the salmon appetizer really did sound interesting (and it looked pretty good when I spied on my neighbor's selection).

Instead, I opted for just a little wine.  Again, the service impressed.  I was offered a taste or a full pour, and even shown the bottles when I asked what wine was available, rather than just a simple "pinot or syrah".

The wine was actually really quite good, not heavy on the tanin, but quite flavorful.

The main dish was served after appetizers were cleared, and each customer was approached and asked what they would like.  They were delivered moments later, so, clearly they just heat up a ton of meals, rather than only heating what people order.  An interesting approach, unlike other airlines.

The staff continued to circulate during the meal service with a bread basket, offering refills regularly.  Same with wine.  Really, amazingly attentive.
"Gourmet dessert of triple chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce and salty sweet popcorn."

I did however still opt for dessert (I mean really, you must know me by now), and was torn between the choices.  It was daytime, so my no chocolate rule didn't rule out the ice cream, although chocolate ice cream isn't ever my top pick.  But sweet popcorn?  I adore that.  And I know they serve decent ice cream on board.  The other non-cheese dessert also sounded good, as I love mascarpone and brown sugar pastry, but ... I don't really like lemon desserts.

Thus, the ice cream it was.

The ice cream was ... ok.  It wasn't particularly creamy and was a bit icy.  I'm not sure what the "triple chocolate" was, the base was chocolate, and there were a few chocolate chunks, but that is only two chocolates.  What was the third?  It was also overly sweet, a bit strange for chocolate ice cream.

The chocolate sauce on top was just that, chocolate sauce, not a thick fudge as I hoped.  It too was crazy sweet.

The popcorn was great though, I'm a sucker for kettle corn.  A bit strange on ice cream, but I actually liked dunking it in the chocolate sauce.
Decaf Coffee.
To go with my dessert, I also had decaf coffee, served in a nice big mug.

It was fine, not remarkable, but I think not instant.