Friday, January 27, 2017

Jica Chips

I love jicama.  I love chips and other munchy snacks.  I was thrilled, thrilled, to discover jica chips, aka, jicama chips.  Take a veggie I love and turn it into chips?  Fairly healthy ones at that?  Yes!

If you aren't familiar with jicama, which, I wasn't until a few years ago, it is also sometimes called a "Mexican potato", or, if you are in Australia, a "yam bean".  It is a kinda ugly tuber, that is far juicier than you'd expect.  Looks like a potato, but bites like a pear?  Except it isn't sweet.  A savory apple-potato?  I know I'm not doing a good job describing jicama, but, I really don't know what else to compare it to.  Maybe like a water chestnut?  It is juicy, not sweet, and really crunchy.  I love it, fresh, just to munch on.  I don't even require dips with it, although, of course I prefer dips.

So, Jica Chips.  A healthier alternative to potato chips, since jicama has about 50% the carbs of a potato.  And then they bake them, rather than fry.  100 calories gets you 10 potato chips, or, 25 jicachips.  25 > 10.  They are also high fiber, non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan, paleo, etc, etc.

Jica Chips are available in 6 flavors - some savory (smoked bbq, sea salt, white cheddar), some spicy (spicy soy ginger, chili lime), and one sweet (cinnamon sugar).  I was only able to try the basic sea salt flavor, but I'd gladly try others.
Sea Salt Jica Chips.
My first impression was not a good one.  I opened the bag, and instantly was met with a strange odor.  Like, really bad.  Just opening the bag made the air around me undesirable.  Ojan reached out for the bag, took one whiff, and turned away.  We both agreed the smell really did ruin these.

But I pushed on, given how excited I was by the idea of the jicama chips.  They didn’t taste like they smelt at all.  They were delightfully crunchy, and I loved the large size slices, most pieces much bigger than standard potato chips.  They were perhaps a bit too salty, but, I like high salt level.

That said … I didn't really taste jicama.  The result was something that didn't seem very special, just another root veggie chip.  They grew on me, particularly once I got over the smell, but I still wanted them to be something more.

Still, a good healthier alternative for my snacking habits, and I'd love to try some of the other flavors.
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Thursday, January 26, 2017

J.P. Licks

I visit the northeast United States several times a year, for several reasons.  The primary reason of course is family: my parents live in New Hampshire and Ojan's live near Boston.  But I'm not going to lie and say it is *just* to see them.  In July or August, my visits are also sorta motivated by the desire to have some actual summer.  And a major part of summer?  Ice cream, duh.  It is no secret that I have a major weakness for the stuff.

I didn't grow up in the Boston area though, so I was not familiar with J.P. Licks until I met Ojan.  But once I did, J.P. Licks quickly rose to top of my reasons to visit the east coast.

J.P. Licks is a chain of ice cream and froyo shops, located all around the Boston area.  They currently have 12 stores, 2 of which are very close by Ojan's parent's house, so I plan at least one outing nearly every time I go to visit them.  The J.P. in the name stands for their original location, in Jamaica Plain, an area of Boston (nope, they didn't name the place after me, sorry).

The focus is ice cream and frozen yogurt, all of which is homemade, but they also roast their own coffee, and serve some baked goods.  I know, can it get any better than this?  All things I love.

The ice cream is hard serve, and they make regular ice cream, plus dairy free versions (soy, coconut, and hemp milk are all used), and sorbet and sherbet.  The frozen yogurt is mostly soft serve.  For hard serve, they offer a base set of flavors at all times, and then add on ~10 new flavors every month.  The soft serve rotates weekly.  They also have a slew of toppings, many homemade.

I really love the soft serve frozen yogurt, and they make the best peanut butter soft serve I've ever had.  A warning though, the place is expensive.  When I visit my family in New Hampshire, our ice cream cones cost $1.50 at one place in town, and $1.75 at Dairy Twirl, my favorite.  At J.P. Licks, a kiddie cone costs $3.50.  On the plus side, they always offer sprinkles for free, and, well, I love my sprinkles.  They are also generous with, and encourage, samples before you decide.

If you find yourself in the Boston area, I recommend.

Soft Serve Frozen Yogurt

Each store has a different number of soft serve machines, generally ~8 flavors.  They rotate weekly, and vary by location.  The soft serve calendar is published online so you can choose your destination based on flavors.  You know, if you are the type of person who does that kind of thing.

They offer 3 styles of yogurt: regular, tart (known as X), and No Sugar Added (NS).  No, I don't understand the X either.

I've tried ... all of them?  Below is a compilation of tasting notes.  Peanut butter remains my favorite, particularly when paired with chocolate sprinkles.
Peanut Butter Froyo, Chocolate sprinkles (kiddie) $3.50.
Regular Soft Serve Frozen Yogurt
  • Black and White Malted: This sorta seemed like a malty version of cookies and cream?  Not bad but not particularly interesting.
  • Candy Cane: Nice minty flavor. [ Meh, not very flavorful ] [ Not that minty, candy cane ice cream is much better. ]
  • Caramel: No real flavor, just sweet.
  • Chocolate: creamy, good chocolate flavor [ Creamy but I don't like this chocolate ]
  • Chocolate Raspberry: Not much raspberry, same chocolate I don’t like.
  • Cinnamon Latte: Strange bitterness, do not like.
  • Coconut: Creamy, sweet, mild coconut flavor.  Ok, but not remarkable.
  • Coffee: Just sweet, creamy, but do not like.
  • Cookie:  Just sweet, sorta chocolate flavor. [ Not bad, sweet, creamy. ]
  • Cookies N Cream:  Creamy, sweet, not distinguishable as Oreo. [ A little icy, no real flavor, not very good ] [ I don’t really get the Oreo flavor here ]
  • Eggnog: Almost too much to have a ton of, great as sample, and good with cone.  Tons of flavor, spices.
  • Gingersnap: Slightly spiced, not really special. [ No ginger flavor at all. ]
  • Mint Cookies N Cream: Really great flavor, the reason why I originally really liked J.P. Licks. Came out kinda icy though.
  • Peanut Butter: Creamy, decent pb flavor.  [ Ridiculously creamy, but peanut butter flavor not as strong as I recall. ] [ Noms, noms, noms [  Creamy, great pb flavor, awesome ] [ Creamy, good as always ] [ Not strong peanut butter flavor, a little icy ] [ Creamy, not tons pb flavor ] [ Creamy good pb flavor] [ Not tons of pb flavor, but had in a sundae, so flavor got covered up by toppings ] [ Creamy, but still not as flavorful as I remember ] [ Good pb flavor, creamy] [ Creamy, light pb flavor ] [ Creamy, ok pb flavor ] [ So creamy, great peanut butter flavor. ] [  Good creaminess, but not nearly as much peanut butter flavor as past times. ]
  • Red Raspberry: Creamy, good raspberry flavor, pretty good, particularly with sprinkles. [ Creamy, decent raspberry flavor, a bit tart ]
  • Vermont Maple: This was way too sweet.  It did have a decent maple flavor, but, it was far, far too sweet.
  • White Russian: Kinda too sweet, but good.
No Sugar Added (NS)
    • Chocolate: So creamy, nice chocolate flavor but not my thing at all [ Good chocolate flavor but chocolate isn't my thing ] [  I just don’t like their chocolate flavoring, a little icy ]
    • Coffee: Way too sweet, not good. [ Way too sweet, awful ] [ Creamy, good flavor, not too sweet ]
    • Peppermint: Nice and minty, a tiny bit fake sweet tasting. [ Minty but a little strangely sweet ] [ Nice minty flavor ] [ Sweet, nice minty flavor ] [ Good minty flavor, but icy ]
    • Vanilla: So creamy. [ Creamy, good vanilla flavor, awesome] [ Decent vanilla flavor, creamy ] [ Sweet, not much vanilla flavor, not very creamy ] [Sweet, slightly fake, creamy, good ] [ Creamy, ok ] [ Decent vanilla flavor, a little icy. ] [ Creamy, sweet, good ] [ Creamy, sweet, but no real vanilla flavor ]
Tart (X)
    • Black Current: Tart, ok flavor, but also really sweet.
    • Blood Orange: Tart, good orange flavor, would be good swirled with vanilla? [ Just sweet, not very good, icy ]
    • Blueberry: Very tart, blueberry flavor, even visible bits of blueberry.  But, too tart for what I wanted.
    • Lychee: Nicely tart, slightly sweet, a bit icy, but quite nice, for a tart yogurt.
    • Peach: Nicely tart, good peach flavor.
    • Pomegranate: Decent tart and fruity flavor. [ Decent, tart ]
    • Raspberry: Decent raspberry flavor, tart [ creamy, tart, not tons rasp flavor ]

Hard Ice Cream

Hard ice cream makes up the majority of the menu, all housemade.  They have about 20 or so flavors all the time, plus an additional 10 or so that change out monthly.  The monthly flavors are often seasonal, like Candy Cane around Christmas, and Fresh Peach in the summer.  The signature standard flavors are the Cookies 'n' Cream series, available as Peanut Butter Cookies 'n' Cream, Mint Cookies 'n' Cream, and Coffee Cookies 'n' Cream.  They also offer a soy, coconut, and hemp flavor every month.

I never get hard ice cream when I go to an ice cream shop, because it never seems much different than what I can get at a store and bring home, and a single cone will cost the same as a pint or quart.  But, J.P. Licks makes some really interesting flavors, and I do end up getting hard ice cream when I make a sundae (which I do frequently), as the hard ice cream stands up against the hot fudge better (more on this soon).  Black raspberry is my favorite.

Tasting notes, on all the hard flavors I've tried:
  • Banana Peanut Butter Ripple:  Tasting notes: Slight banana flavor, little bit of peanut butter swirled in.  I like banana and peanut butter together, but I wanted the flavors to be more intense.
  • Black Raspberry: Tasting notes: Good raspberry flavor, creamy, quite good.  Very good with hot fudge. [ This is my number one pick for sundaes, it goes perfectly with hot fudge, and is full of flavor. ]
  • Blueberry Pancakes & Syrup: "Maple ice cream blended with pancakes and wild blueberries."  Tasting notes: this tasted vaguely of maple, kinda like waffles, but, I didn't really taste the "pancakes", although the scooper told me it had real pancakes in it.  Interesting flavor idea, but, not particularly great.
  • Butter Almond: "Real butter and brown sugar mixed in to our ice cream with fresh roasted and salted almonds."  Tasting notes: This was a great ice cream, for a hard ice cream.  The flavor of the base was good, and it was loaded up with plentiful almonds.  If I ever wanted a hard scoop, not as a sundae, this would be a great pick.  But sadly, I only ever get their hard ice cream as sundaes, since I love the soft serve so much. [ I tried it again, and found it really flavorless and boring.  I liked the crunch from the nut, but really, nothing else about this was interesting.  Meh ]
  • Butter Pecan: "A sweet combination of butter base and brown sugar, loaded with chewy pecans". Tasting notes: Nice chunks pecan, good butter flavor. 
  • Candy Cane: "Our original intense peppermint ice cream with pieces of peppermint candy. A J.P. Licks favorite, and a great way to start the holidays". Tasting notes: This was great! Super minty, and I really loved the chunks of candy cane throughout.  A serious winner.  Great with hot fudge too. [ Great flavor, big chunks of candy cane. ] [ Nice minty flavor, chunks of candy cane are minty and refreshing ]
  • Carrot Cake: "An autumn favorite! We shred tons of carrots and marinate them with brown sugar, add raisins and walnuts to create this unbelievable flavor." Tasting notes: This had a lot of flavor, was well spiced, and really was loaded up with shreds of carrots.  Incredible interpretation of a carrot cake, in an ice cream!
  • Chocolate Peppermint Sorbet: "Dark chocolate sorbet with a light peppermint flavor." Tasting notes: chocolate sorbet with nice peppermint sauce throughout.  Would be a good lower fat alternative.
  • Cookie Dough: Tasting notes: The cookie dough bits were plentiful, but not particularly good, meh.
  • Egg Nog: “Another holiday tradition, Egg Nog ice cream is made with real eggs, a hint of cinnamon, nutmeg and just a splash of rum.”  Tasting notes: A tiny bit boozy, not very spiced. Meh.
  • First Night Bananas Foster: “A brand new creation, fashioned after the dessert of caramelized bananas and rum. Sorry, we don't set it on fire.”  Tasting notes: Decent banana flavor, not boozy, ok.
  • Fresh Peach: "Fresh, ripe peaches are cut and marinated in a secret brown sugar recipe, then lightly pureed to create a chunky texture that tastes so good, we'll keep it coming all through august!" Tasting notes: Not much flavor, meh.
  • Gingersnap Molasses: "Creamy molasses based ice cream with chunks of gingersnap cookies." Tasting notes: I was shocked by how sweet this was.  I expected more ginger flavor as well.  Overall, it was tasty, but totally not what I was expecting.
  • Glogg: "A sweet, spicy combination of port wine, brandy, oranges, spices, and raisins, it’s no wonder that we had plenty of volunteers to taste test this deliciously boozy concoction."  This was actually pretty tasty.  Lots of flavors, and I liked the boozy quality to it, adn the plump, soaked raisins I found in my sample.
  • Maple Walnut: Tasting notes: Good flavor, good nuts [ Too sweet for what I wanted, decent maple flavor and plentiful nuts ] [ Good maple flavor, but nothing remarkable. ]
  • Mint Chip: Decent minyness, good amount of chocolate chips. 
  • Noodle Kugal: "A creamy mixture of sweetened egg noodles blended with butter and brown sugar and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg." Tasting notes: meh.
  • Peanut Butter Oreo --> Peanut Butter Cookies 'n 'Cream: Tasting notes: Good peanut butter flavor. [ Ok flavor, but meh. ] [ Awesome, peanut butter ice cream super flavorful, big chunks of oreo. ] [ Decent peanut butter flavor, but Oreo chunks get soggy inside, and just aren't appealing to me ]
  • Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Chip: "Delicious peanut butter ice cream loaded with chocolate chip cookie dough and chocolate chips." Tasting notes; ok peanut butter flavor, bits of chocolate chip and cookie dough. Kinda icy though.
  • Pistachio: Very pistachio-y.  Bits of pistachio, strong pistachio flavor. [ Little chunks of pistachio, good textures, decent flavor. ]
  • Pumpkin (SOY): A bit icy, but decent flavor.
  • Pumpkin Cheesecake: "Our famous pumpkin flavor blended with that famous NY cheesecake flavor, finished with those famous graham crackers. Bring this to a party, and you'll be famous, too!" Tasting notes: This was well spiced, slightly pumpkiny, and very cheesecakey.  Too rich for what I was in the mood for at the time, but very nice.
  • Pumpkin Custard:  "We use our secret homemade recipe of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and molasses to make this taste just like grandma's pumpkin pie. This flavor contains eggs."  Tasting notes: Spiced, but soapy, some pumpkin flavor. [ Great spicing, creamy. ] 
  • Salty Caramel: "Rich caramel, made even better with a ripple of sea salt caramel." Tasting notes: The texture of this wasn't very creamy, but the caramel flavor was nice.  Not a bad choice, but not my favorite.
  • Sweet Cream: This was pretty plain, as the scooper described it, "Its like vanilla, without the vanilla".  It was fine, sweet, creamy, but, not interesting.  Perhaps a good base for a sundae.
  • White Chocolate Cranberry Cheesecake: "Pureed cranberries, our famous New York style cheesecake ice cream, together with real graham crackers and white chocolate chips".  Tasting notes: nice chunks of cheesecake, but otherwise not that interesting.

Sundaes

Small Sundae: Black Raspberry Ice Cream and Candy Cane Ice Cream, Hot Fudge, Walnuts, Almonds, Whipped Cream.  $6.50.
Since I spend so much money at J.P. Licks, I signed up for their "Cow Card" which allows you to earn rewards for your purchases.  It also gives you ... a free sundae for your birthday.  And on the anniversary of your cow card.  ZOMG.  I'd never normally splurge for a sundae ($6.50 for a small!), but, you know how much I love freebies!

For a small sundae, you can pick two flavors of ice cream plus two toppings.  It comes standard with whipped cream and a cherry on top.  The list of toppings available is extensive, ranging from "wet" items like homemade hot fudge, caramel, butterscotch and marshmallow or berries and other fruits, to "dry" toppings like all sorts of candy.

I learned after several visits that you can opt to not have the whipped cream, and pick a third topping instead.  I also learned ... many other things.  Like the fact that soft serve and hot fudge don't mix very well (it just melts too fast). But that there is no way I can pass up the hot fudge because it is crazy good.

The following is my journey in perfecting the perfect sundae.  Which, at this point, I actually believe I have.

Small Sundae: Black Raspberry Ice Cream and Soft Serve Peanut Butter Frozen Yogurt, Hot Fudge, Rainbow Nonpareils, Whipped Cream, Cherry.  $6.50.
This sundae looked much different from my previous one (pictured above).  The amount of ice cream was the same, but the guy who made this one was far more reasonable with the whipped cream.

What I love about J.P. Licks is their soft serve frozen yogurt, but, when I've used it in sundaes in the past, it just melts way too fast when the hot fudge is applied.  So I was torn.  I wanted creamy delicious soft serve, but I also wanted a decadent sundae with hot fudge.  As I stood there being a bit indecisive, the server reminded me that I could mix and match multiple flavors AND types of ice cream.  Perfect solution!

So I picked my two favorites, the black raspberry that I had the first time, and the peanut butter froyo.  Perhaps a bit of a strange combination, but I thought it might taste a bit like a pb & j, and both flavors seemed like they would be great with hot fudge.

I did make one mistake though, in not asking for the soft serve on the bottom.  Thus, the more quickly melting soft serve was on top, and was the one that came in contact with the hot fudge.  It melted pretty much immediately.  It wasn't a total loss, as it added more creaminess and some slight peanut butter flavor, but I didn't really get to enjoy my peanut butter yogurt.  The black raspberry was flavorful and stood up against the rest of the sundae, a great choice.

For my toppings, the first was a no-brainer.  I adore their hot fudge.  Applied hot, it stays soft and fudgey, and they add soo much.  On all occasions that I've gotten the hot fudge, I've initially thought it was far too much, and then laughed at myself as I was scraping every last bit off at the end.  This time was no different.

The nonpareils added the perfect crunch and additional chocolateyness.  The whipped cream was again pretty boring, just from a can.  I need to remember to just leave that off in the future, and opt for another crunchy topping (like nuts?) or a second sauce.  The cherry was, well, a cherry on top.

This was a size small sundae, which I could actually imagine sharing.  It was a little bit too big for me, but, like I said, I didn't actually have trouble finishing it, and was licking the cup clean at the end.

Overall, this was a winner, but I have two final refinements: next time, peanut butter or vanilla froyo on the bottom, black raspberry or seasonal hard ice cream on top, hot fudge, nonpareils, nuts and no whip.
Small Sundae: Mint Chip Ice Cream and Soft Serve Peanut Butter Frozen Yogurt, Hot Fudge, Rainbow Nonpareils, Chopped Walnuts.  $6.50.
I'm narrowing in on the perfect sundae!  This time, I took my own advice from last time - see, I don't just write this blog for you, it is great to have for notes to myself!  I went for half soft serve and half hard ice cream, stuck with the winning hot fudge and nonpareils, and ditched the whip in favor of nuts.

Since I love JP Lick's soft serve frozen yogurt, but I don't want it in contact with the hot fudge since it melts too fast, I asked for the soft serve on bottom.  I picked peanut butter, my favorite flavor.  I don't normally get the hard ice cream at JP Licks, but for a sundae, it works better.  I decided to break out of my mold and get something besides black raspberry, so I went for mint chocolate chip, as I thought it would also go well with the hot fudge.  My ice cream/froyo selections achieved exactly the results I wanted: creamy soft serve didn't melt too fast since it was on the bottom, and the ice cream held up against the hot fudge.  Peanut butter and mint chocolate chip however was a bit of a strange combo.

The key ingredient to any JP Licks sundae is their housemade hot fudge.  It is just so, so good.  Really hot when it is added, so it does melt your ice cream, but it is thick, creamy, rich, just, amazing.  I cannot imagine a JP Licks sundae without it.  Even as it cools, it is delicious.

Since I liked the nonpareils last time for the crunch they added, I stuck with them, and again like them.  And since I had repeatedly noted that I should skip the whipped cream, this time I actually did skip it, and was offered any other topping in its place. I went for nuts, to add even more crunch, and uh, some protein?  I had the choice of walnuts or almonds, and went for walnuts, since they seemed like they would go well with hot fudge (which, they did).

Overall, this was the best sundae I've created so far.  The mix of soft serve and hard serve, with soft on the bottom, is certainly the way to go.  And this trio of toppings is the best I've found so far too.  So, I have just one further refinement: next time, I'll go back to black raspberry (or perhaps another seasonal ice cream).  I'm nearing perfection here!
Small Sundae: Peanut Butter Frozen Yogurt, Candy Cane Ice Cream, Chopped Walnuts, Chopped Nonpareils, Hot Fudge. $5.95.
This time, I thought I had it down. I was going to get vanilla soft serve on the bottom, and my favorite seasonal flavor the Candy Cane hard ice cream on top.  The hard ice cream on top would protect the soft serve from the hot fudge, and then I'd get to have both my soft serve and my hard serve, and the flavors would all compliment each other.

Except ... the vanilla soft serve machine was broken.  I had my heart set on the Candy Cane flavor, since it is only available in December and I love the mintyness, but no other soft serve flavors offered that day were appealing, except my favorite, the peanut butter.  I knew peanut butter and candy cane were a strange combination, but ... I had to make a rush decision, so I went for it.

I liked the creamy peanut butter soft serve.  I liked the minty, refreshing candy cane.  And, since it was winter, the ice cream didn't actually melt too fast, so they stayed fairly separate.  Not a total flavor strangeness disaster, but, they certainly didn't mix.

I again loved the crunch from the nuts and nonpareils.  And I adored the flavor of the hot fudge, but this time, it wasn't really hot.  Lukewarm at best.  As you can see from the photo, it was just glooped on top, rather than melted in like all the other times on the bottom, adjacent to the ice cream.  On one hand, this is better, as it didn't melt the ice cream.  But ... I like the runnier consistency much more.

Anyway, this sundae was one of my least favorite.  I actually like ice cream getting a bit melty, which didn't happen because it was cold outside, and the fudge wasn't hot.  And, I feel strange saying this since I love the fudge so much, but, there was too much of it.  It was hard to get bites of ice cream at first.  Next time, back to the game plan: seasonal flavor or black raspberry hard on top, complimentary soft serve on bottom, and the same toppings.
Small Sundae: Peanut butter soft serve frozen yogurt, black raspberry ice cream, hot fudge, rainbow nonpareils, strawberries.
Another day, another sundae.

This time, I went for the soft serve on the bottom, as always.  This continues to work well in terms of meltyness, but the peanut butter flavor was far too subtle.  Quite disappointing.

On top I went for the black raspberry again.  I tried a few other hard flavors, but wasn't inspired by any.  It was ok, and paired nicely with the hot fudge, but wasn't outstanding.  The hard ice cream did hold up nicely with the hot fudge.

The hot fudge was thick and chocolately, but it wasn't really hot.  This meant that it didn't melt the ice cream, but it also just wasn't as good.

I appreciated the crunch from the rainbow nonpareils.

I tried a fruit topping for the first time, as I was a bit uninspired when it came to my final topping pick.  I didn't want more candy, and I didn't think the sundae could take two sauces.  Strawberries seemed like they'd pair the best with the hot fudge.

They were awful.  Mush. Sweet mush.  Clearly not fresh berries, but also not even trying to be a compote.  Just frozen strawberries that were then warmed up.  Ojan and I were sharing this sundae and decided to just throw them all out.  This meant that we sacrificed some precious hot fudge, but, alas, we really did not want them.

I skipped the whipped cream since I never really care for it.

Overall, really not a good sundae, my least favorite ever.
Small Sundae: Vanilla Soft Serve Yogurt, Candy Cane Ice Cream, Hot Fudge, Rainbow Nonpareils, Waffle Cone Pieces. $5.95.
I continue to perfect my sundae.  The combination of soft serve yogurt on bottom, and hard ice cream on top is clearly the way to do it.  It was over Christmas when I visited, so the seasonal Candy Cane flavor was available, which I always love in a sundae, so it was easy to pick my top flavor.  My favorite soft serve is peanut butter, but I learned from my past experience that it wouldn't combine well with the Candy Cane.  I also liked the Lychee X tart flavor available that day, but again, it seemed like not a good combination.  So, vanilla it was.

The Candy Cane ice cream was great, minty, and it went nicely with the hot fudge, as anticipated.  I loved the additional crunch from the bits of candy cane.  The vanilla soft serve yogurt was creamy and tasty as always.  Both good choices for the base of the sundae.

The hot fudge was ... plentiful.  There actually was too much.  I ended with a big glob of it left over, no ice cream or other toppings to go with it.  No fear, a few minutes later, I just enjoyed it by the spoonful.  The fudge is just so ridiculously good.  Thick, chocolately, melty ... delicious.

The rainbow nonpareils were tasty as always, crunchy little bits, chocolately.  Great with the fudge.

My final topping was a new experiment: waffle cone pieces, rather than nuts as I usually do.  The pieces were a mix of chocolate coated waffle cone pieces, white chocolate waffle cone pieces, and plain waffle cones pieces.  I liked the white chocolate pieces the best, but all were good.  The chunks were all different sizes, but all were big enough to pick up and scoop up some ice cream (or, just fudge), which I enjoyed doing.

Overall, this was a success.  I'd pick these flavors of ice cream, and these toppings, again.  I still like the combination of nuts and hot fudge, so I missed the nuts, but I liked having the waffle cone pieces to dunk in.  I also always love the hot fudge, but I'm curious about the caramel, butterscotch, peanut butter sauce, and marshmallow sauce.  So many toppings I want to try!
Small Sundae: Peanut Butter Soft Serve Yogurt, Black Raspberry Ice Cream, Hot Fudge, Chopped Walnuts, Assorted Waffle Cone Pieces, Cherry. $6.50.
I continue to refine my sundae.  It is a given now that I'll leave off the whipped cream, subbing it for an additional topping.

As always, I was tempted to try the caramel, the peanut butter, or marshmallow sauce, but, the hot fudge is just too ridiculously good to pass up, so, hot fudge it was.  And since I was using hot fudge, i needed to put hard ice cream on top, and soft serve yogurt on the bottom, so it wouldn't melt too fast.

I went back to my classic combo of peanut butter soft serve on the bottom and black raspberry ice cream on top.  The two flavors combine together decently, and are both ones I generally like.  The peanut butter soft serve was good, rich, creamy, and went well with the hot fudge.  The black raspberry was really quite good and flavorful, and, also went perfectly with the hot fudge, and melted nicely with it.  Overall, successful flavor choices, although, I do wish I could find others that I like more.

The hot fudge was as plentiful as always, and, as always, I looked at it and thought I'd never be able to eat that much hot fudge.  And, as always, I somehow did, and found myself scraping up every last bit from the sides of the container.  The fudge was warm, it was super thick, it was super rich, and I loved how it hardened a bit upon contact with the ice cream.  They seriously know how to make hot fudge.

My other two toppings are where I always experiment.  I discovered the Rainbow Nonpareils many sundaes back, and loved them, so they have been a constant for a while now.  Since then, I've alternated my final topping between the various nut choices and waffle cone bits.  But this time, I decided to leave off the nonpareils.  I do love them, as they are crunchy and delicious, but, with all the fudge, do I really need more chocolate?

I picked walnuts, not a nut I necessarily generally want, but, they do go great with the hot fudge.  I was provided a very generous portion, and they satisfied all my desires to have something crunchy that the nonpareils normally do.

Finally, I went for the waffle cone pieces, a recent discovery.  The waffle cone chunks provide a different sort of crunch, and are larger in size, adding some textural interest to the sundae.  My pieces came from all different kinds of waffle cones, some plain, but many coated in dark or white chocolate, some with sprinkles or nuts too.  These pieces really added so much fun to the sundae, and I liked picking them up with my fingers to scoop up some ice cream too.

Even though I didn't get the whipped cream, my scooper offered me a cherry, which I accepted.  Why haven't others offered this?  It was just a standard maraschino cherry, but, it was tasty coated in hot fudge.

Overall, this was a successful sundae.  The hot fudge, walnuts, and waffle cone pieces may be my favorite topping combination yet.  I did sorta miss the rainbow nonpareils, but, I had enough chocolate and crunch with the other two.  I still wish I could come up with a better base ice cream mix, but, I'd get this again.

Small Sundae: Peanut Butter Soft Serve, NS Vanilla Soft Serve, Marshmallow Sauce, Waffle Cone Pieces, Chopped Walnuts.  $6.50. (Dec 2016)
One night, I went to get my free annual ice cream sundae at JP Licks.  Because it was nearly 9pm, I was faced with a dilemma: should I break my no chocolate at night rule and get hot fudge?  I love, love, love the hot fudge at JP Licks.

I decided to use the opportunity to try another sauce, as I wanted to try the caramel, butterscotch, peanut butter sauce, and marshmallow before anyway.  This forced me to do it.  I had my eyes on butterscotch, but alas, the location I visited did not have it.  Caramel or peanut butter sounded great, but then I realized that none of the ice cream flavors I was considering would work with those.  Pistachio, black raspberry, mint chip ... those all screamed out for hot fudge.  Sigh.  Marshmallow seemed like the only more neutral option, even though I wasn't excited about it.

Once I realized I was picking a not warm sauce, I decided that I could just get soft serve rather than hard serve, since I no longer had to worry about the hot fudge melting the ice cream too quickly.  The soft serve flavors of the week however weren't great.  I didn't want mocha, mango, or tart.  The maple was far too sweet when I tried a sample.  Which left me with peanut butter and vanilla, both flavors I enjoy in a cone, but, not particularly exciting.

I still had two toppings to go.  My regular rainbow nonpareils were out, as they are dark chocolate.  Doh.  I still opted to get the waffle cone pieces, even though they have some chocolate.  And  walnuts, for uh, protein.

I'll admit that I wasn't particularly excited about this sundae, even before I tried it.  I was sacrificing too many things I wanted, just not to have the hot fudge.  The result was about as expected.

The vanilla soft serve was a fine base for a sundae, albeit boring, obviously.  The peanut butter soft serve I had on the bottom, but it somehow didn't have nearly as much peanut-y flavor as I remembered from past times, it was nearly indistinguishable from vanilla.

It turns out that I had tried the marshmallow sauce before.  I just didn't remember it, and didn't read my notes first.  Doh.  From my previous notes: "Marshmallow Sauce: Just sweet, doesn’t go well with soft serve, too much same texture."  And ... yup, it was too sweet, and too much the same texture as the soft serve.  Very, very sweet, very very gooey.  I'm not entirely sure what flavor ice cream I'd want it on, perhaps it would be better when mixed with the hot fudge or another sauce?

The waffle cone pieces were still a good choice, crunchy, good sized chunks, and the small amount of chocolate I wasn't too concerned about.  The chopped walnuts were also good for crunch.

So, overall, just boring, too sweet, and not much flavor.  Bad choices on my part.

Toppings/Extras

Just some notes on the different toppings I have tried.  There are many, many more toppings, mostly fruits and candy, that I have not gone for.
  • Almonds: Good with fudge. [ Good roasted almond flavor, great with fudge. ]
  • Hot Fudge:  "We make it all here in Jamaica Plain in our super steam kettle from real butter, high quality chocolate liquor and the best cocoa powder available."  Tasting notes: This is homemade, and you can tell. Very delicious, thick, great chocolate flavor.  They put way too much of it on a sundae, but it is really good.  Served piping hot, then thickens as it gets cooler. [ Very thick, good flavor, hot, really great. ] [ This is perhaps the best hot fudge I've ever had.  Very thick.  Always hot.  Goes amazingly with nuts.  They always give way more than I want, and it does make the ice cream melt a bit fast, but it is a must have for any sundae.  I always scrape some too the side because it seems like too much, and then come back to it at the end, to eat just as fudge.  It gets thicker and harder, and is particularly great with nuts. ]  [ Always so good, nice and think ]
  • Marshmallow Sauce: Just sweet, doesn’t go well with soft serve, too much same texture.
  • Rainbow Nonpareils: chocolately, crunchy, noms. [ Crunchy, chocolate, always good to have ]
  • Sprinkles: Awesome. Always included for free!  Chocolate or rainbow. Very generous servings.
  • Waffle Cone Pieces: Assorted bits of waffle cone, chocolate coated, white chocolate coated, plain.  Good crunch, nice to dunk into fudge and ice cream.
  • Walnuts: Chopped up, love the extra crunch, good with fudge.
  • Whipped Cream: Menu says "homemade", but on all occasions, it was generic from a can. [ Fluffy, generic, given a huge sundae, really not necessary, would skip in the future. ]

Drinks

J.P. Licks also roasts their own coffee, and offers all standard espresso drinks.  I know I've tried the regular coffee, but, I never took notes on it.  I think it was fine?
  • Iced Chai: Sweet, ok.
  • Iced Mocha: Decent, sweet.

Baked Goods

And, they have a selection of baked goods, mostly muffins and croissants.  Since I'm usually there for ice cream, I haven't gone for many of these, but, it seems to make sense with their coffee selections.
  • Corn Muffin: Nice grit, but not much flavor.
  • Berry Muffin: Dry, uninteresting.
J.P. Licks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Waffling Leftovers: Stuffing

I don't know how I've failed to write this one up before.  Stuffing was one of the first things I waffled.  I really must have written this, but somehow lost it?  I have no other explanation of how I've never told you about waffling stuffing before.  I promise you, I was doing it *before* it was trendy!

(Side bar: yes, I made a Thanksgiving meal one year entirely out of waffled items.  And another year I made it look like an ice cream sundae, with a stuffing waffle as the base, and ice cream scoop of mashed potatoes on top, drizzled of gravy and cranberry sauce, etc).

Anyway, if this is your first time reading about my waffling adventures, go ahead at start with the master post.

I probably don't need to say it, but, Leftover Stuffing: Will it waffle?  YES!
The Original: Leftover Herbed Challah Stuffing.
The original was herbed challah stuffing, made with a base of challah, celery/onions/leeks/mushrooms/garlic, tons of herbs, and plenty of butter and white wine.

It was great stuffing, and I was more than happy to eat leftovers traditionally.  But on my third day of Thanksgiving leftovers, I finally waffled it ...
Midway Through Cooking.
I scooped in a big pile, and closed the lid, set to 350 degrees, and walked away for a few minutes.

I returned to find a bit of a mess.  A little stuck on top, one corner burning, and nothing really holding together.

Ooops.  I think this is likely just because the stuffing was sooo moist.
Extracted Version.
I let it go a bit longer to try to get it to hold its form better, but it just got crispier, almost burnt.  It was impossible to extract in one chunk.

It it was still tasty.  Crispy outside, moist inside, and fun to dunk into gravy.

I wish I had my photos of the better versions I've made though, because stuffing, or savory bread pudding, really do waffle wonderfully!
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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Dining on Eurostar

Well, this is a new one for me.  Travel via train!

On my recent trip to Paris and London, I took the train between the two cities.  I made a few errors in not realizing just how much time I needed in advance at the station in Paris (oops, it isn't like taking the subway ... you need to go through French and UK border control and through security in Paris ...), but wow, compared to air travel, it was amazing.

I had a Standard Premier seat, a step up from Standard, but down from Business Premier.  The experience included a full meal, and, given my 5:13pm departure, this was a nice touch, but of course I brought my own food on board in case it did not satisfy.

Meal service began literally as soon as we got underway, with a cart that rolled through the aisle.  I pre-ordered the vegetarian option.  The regular option was beef (I think cold roast beef), served with potatoes (I think cold potato salad) and veggies (also cold?)
Meal Tray.
My tray had a little chocolate and a dessert, along with the entree.  The entree was a veggie quiche with a side of carrot and raisin mayo slaw.  A basket was offered with assorted breads and rolls.  The tray also had President brand butter, salt and pepper, cutlery, and toothpicks.

I selected a long olive bread.  It was soft in a strange way.  Ojan tried some kind of roll, and declared it stale and not good.  Basically, airline quality bread.

I tried the quiche, even though I hate quiche.  It had some flavorful veggies inside, but, well, it was eggy quiche.  The pastry crust was fine, but not particularly good.  After a few days of amazing pastry in France, I didn't have much positive to say about this lower quality pastry.  In fact, in my bag, I had a confit tomato, mozzarella, and puff pastry tart that I much preferred.

The carrot and raisin slaw reminded me of British Airways offerings, in that it was just soaked in mayo.  I ate it, and it was "fine", but, I didn't particularly want it.

Dessert was a little caramel tart with a few cocoa nibs sprinkled on top.  It was literally just caramel, thick caramel, but, caramel.  Sweet, gooey, but not quite a full dessert in my mind.  I liked the crunch from the cocoa nibs.  The tart shell was a generic pre-made shell, not very good.
Wine.
My choice of red or white wine was also available, both French.  I selected one, Ojan the other.  The white was Muscadet, fairly harsh, not great.  Same with the red.  We were also provided water bottles.  After the meal service, staff came through with tea and coffee, plus sweetener and milk.  I opted for a decaf, which arrived lukewarm and was clearly instant.  At least they tried.

The service was friendly and efficient, and they even came to wipe up our table when they cleared the trays.  Far superior to most air travel.

So, overall, not great, but not awful, and it was nice that they had the meal option.
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Monday, January 23, 2017

Cake Delivery from Momofuku Milk Bar

Momofuku Milk Bar.  I've written about it before, in detail, including all the history of my discovering it long before the masses, meeting the chef at her book signings in San Francisco, etc.  If you are unfamiliar with the glory that is Momofuku Milk Bar, please start with that post, and then return here.

While I adore the corn cookies, cereal milk soft serve, and zomg, crack pie from Momofuku Milk Bar, it had been several years since I had the opportunity to have any of their treats again.  It was time to fix this.

Momofuku Milk Bar has expanded significantly at this point, with several locations in New York, one in DC, one in Toronto, and now, one in Las Vegas too (getting closer!).  But I hadn't been to any of those cities in years, until this past fall, when I finally returned to New York.  You can bet that I went to Momofuku Milk Bar every night I was there, and re-fell in love with the soft serve and cookies.  Stay tuned for those reviews!

A couple months after my New York visit, we had an event to celebrate at my office, and I of course nominated myself to get the treats.  After consulting with the guest of honor, I knew that I needed to find a good cake.  It was Friday afternoon, and the celebration was planned for Wed, but Monday was a national holiday.  I had a weekend, a holiday, and one work day only to pull this together.  I called several bakeries around San Francisco, but most told me that they couldn't do an order with only one business day notice.  Barely anywhere delivered.

A sane person probably would have just ordered a Safeway cake and moved on.  Or perhaps found a local place that wasn't too far away, and gone themselves to pick it up (which, I'm glad I didn't do, as it was pouring rain the day of the party!).  But I'm not really a sane person when it comes to desserts.  I decided to order a cake from Momofuku Milk Bar, from New York, via overnight mail.  Because I knew they offered that service, and, I still had yet to try one of their cakes.
Overnight Mail Cake!
Ordering cake (or other products) from Momofuku Milk Bar is extremely easy online.  You can order from their website, or through Gold Belly.  Delivery across the country is $45, which did give me pause, but, I don't think it would have been much cheaper to hire a TaskRabbit or other courier inside San Francisco to fetch and deliver a local option.  This was totally a reasonable move ... really.

The cake was successfully delivered on time, and suffered no harm in transit.  I'm glad I finally got to try a Momofuku cake, but, it didn't really impress.  If only they could deliver me some soft serve ...

Packaging

All orders are shipped via overnight mail.  I scheduled my delivery for Tuesday, to ensure it would be there for the Wednesday party.  Monday evening I got a shipping notice, and, Tuesday morning, it arrived.  I may or may not have rushed home from the office midday to check it out.
Well Labelled.
My box was well marked with bright labels indicating its perishability, which is good, as my front desk immediately put it in the fridge for me.  There was also a cute Milk sticker, which meant something to me, and probably few others.
Pink!
I was surprised to open the box and find a sea of pink.  Pink tissue paper surrounded the box inside the box, and several cards were laid on top.
Info Cards.
The postcards included info on how to store my cake and proper handling instructions.  I could keep it in the fridge for up to 7 days (taking it out an hour before serving), or the freezer for 30 days (taking it out 3-4 hours before).
Insulated Packaging.
Under all the pretty pink tissue was the real packaging.  Smaller items came in a freezer bag, and the big cake was in a large styrofoam box.
Freezer Box.
The cake came inside a styrofoam box, surrounded by bubble wrap, and three large ice packs.
Wrapped Up Cake.
The cake was then wrapped up tightly on all sides, with cardboard disks on top and bottom.
Acetate Wrap Sides.
Peeling off the saran-wrap style wrap, and the top cardboard, finally revealed my cake, still held together by acetate strips

The Cake

So, Momofuku Milk Bar cake.  I had 8 choices for cake, all of which were fairly unique.  I would have gladly consumed any of them.

The cakes all follow a standard formula, starting with layers of cake, each coated with a soak to keep the cake super moist.  They then have multiple types of filling, like jam, cheesecake, fruit compotes, or even crack pie.  Frosting on top, but never on the sides.  And some kind of "crumb" on top.  To make any of these cakes, you essentially need to make at least 5 different recipes: cake, cake soak, filling, frosting, and crumbs.  Just like the cookies, these are complex creations.

I ruled out the chocolate chip cake because it had passion fruit curd, which is a flavor I am generally not a fan of.  Same with the strawberry lemon cake, due to the lemon cheesecake filling, even though it had milk crumbs, a strawberry jam layer, and pickled strawberry frosting, which sounded very fascinating.  I ruled out the apple pie cake because I don't generally like apple compote, although it was hard to look past the brown butter cake (treated with apple cider soak), brown butter cheesecake, pie dough frosting, and pie crumbs.  Passion fruit, lemon, and apples, excluded.  I still had 5 options.

Next I ruled out the chocolate malt cake, since it seemed the most boring and I don't actually love chocolate cake (not that it was plain, the cake had a Ovaltine soak, and it did have malted milk crumbs, charred marshmallows, chocolate fudge, and chocolate malt frosting).  I ruled out the salted pretzel cake due to the chocolate stout ganache and soak, worried the beer flavor would ruin the otherwise tasty sounding flavors (pretzel crumbs! burnt honey frosting!)

Narrowing in and choosing one from the final 3 options was hard.  I've had my eye on the Momofuku Milk Bar birthday cake ... forever.  Yes, it is just a birthday cake, layers of rainbow cake (treated with a vanilla milk soak) with vanilla frosting and rainbow cake crumbs, but I know how good those rainbow cake crumbs are.  Alas, the occasion wasn't a birthday, so, I decided against it.  Finally, I ruled out the dulce de leche cake, worried that perhaps it would be too sweet for my group, with sweetened milk, dulce de leche caramel, and dulce de leche frosting.  Not everyone has the sweet tooth I do.

So I went with the final option, the German Chocolate Jimbo Cake.
German Chocolate Jimbo Cake.  6 inch. 
"A spin on the classic german chocolate cake! Chocolate cake layered with ooey-gooey crack pie® filling, flaky coconut and crunchy pecans! (milk bar first made this cake for jim nelson eic of gq magazine, hence the “jimbo”)".

The most impressive thing about this cake, besides it surviving the journey perfectly, was the layers.  I know all Momofuku cakes feature layers, but, nothing prepared me for what it actually was.

I *think* the layers were as follows, starting from the bottom:
  • chocolate cake
  • crack-coconut filling
  • chocolate fudge frosting
  • chocolate cake
  • crack-coconut filling
  • crunchy pecan filling
  • chocolate fudge frosting
  • chocolate cake
  • chocolate fudge frosting
  • coconut cake crumbs
So, 3 layers of chocolate cake, 3 layers of chocolate fudge frosting, 2 layers of crack-coconut filling, and one layer of crunchy pecan filling, plus the coconut crumbs on top.  And don't forget that the cake is soaked with "chocolate malt cake soak".  (Note: the chocolate frosting might actually have been chocolate malt frosting, I'm not sure which was used).

It was a stunning cake, in a non-traditional way.  The lack of frosting covering the sides allows you to see the layers (yay!) but it also means that the imperfections are visible.  It isn't a "clean" look.  It is like one of those babies that is cute, but not in the generic way ... in a slightly ugly cute sort of way.  You know what I mean.
"Slice" of the cake.
Cutting the cake was difficult.  I knew the first slice would be hard, but I expected it to get easier after that.  It didn't.  Kudos to anyone who can serve this without mangling it.  Not that anyone complained about being served a pile of cake layer rubble, but, it certainly wasn't pretty.

But, the real question ... how did it taste?

Honestly, it was a mixed bag for me.

The chocolate cake itself was fairly dry.  The cake was overnight mailed on Monday, I received it Tuesday and immediately put it in the fridge, and we ate it Wed at 1pm.  Maybe it was more moist originally?  It was dense, chocolately cake, but, drier, and far more crumbly, than I expected.  The cake was my least favorite element, but, I'm never a huge fan of cake itself anyway.

The chocolate fudge (or malt?) frosting was creamy and rich.  It was tasty enough, particularly when combined with the other fillings, but really, just standard good frosting.

The other fillings are where things start looking up.

The pecan crunch layer in the middle was one of my favorite elements, as I love pecans, and the additional crunch from the nut bits was great.

But the best filling was the crack-coconut filling.  It was a gooey coconut filling, with plenty of shredded coconut, that combined into very good bites with the pecan crunch and chocolate fudge.  I'll admit to feeling a bit let down that it didn't really resemble crack pie in any way other than that it was sweet and gooey, but, it was still quite tasty, so once I reset my expectations, I didn't mind.

My absolute favorite component however was the crumbs on top, I think coconut cake crumbs.  I loved the texture, the buttery nature, and the strong coconut flavor.  I've had many of the other flavors crumbs before, and I continue to think they are really the best part of Momofuku Milk Bar.  I honestly wish I could just buy crumbs, to use as an ice cream topping, or, uh, snack mix.

So overall, how was it?  It was an interesting cake.  It was fun to share with my co-workers.  I did like the fillings and the crumbs.  But the cake?  Eh.  I can't say it is worth the $45 overnight delivery fee.  Next time, I'll order more cookies ...
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