Friday, May 05, 2017

Raw Rev Vegan Bars

I'm going to admit something from the start.  I had no intention of liking these bars.  I went into trying one assuming I'd hate it.  Yet of course I still tried it, because someone gave me one, and I figured if nothing else it would make a good review, and my blog regularly features assorted nutrition bars.

Raw Rev is another maker of healthy nutrition bars, gluten-free, non-GMO.  But their products go even further, in that they are raw and they are vegan.  Not that I have anything against raw and vegan, but, the results aren't usually very tasty to me.  Oh, and some of the bars are high protein too.  They just didn't sound possibly good.

Let me back up and talk about Raw Rev a bit though.  The company was started by a nurse who cared about nutrition.  She makes two product lines: organic bars and Glo bars.

Organic bars are available in 6 flavors (Chocolate Crave, Chunky Peanut Butter Chocolate, Chocolate Coconut Bliss, Chocolate Raspberry Truffle, Golden Cashew, and Spirulina Dream).  These are standard size bars, made up of fruits, nuts, and seeds, dubbed "superfood bars".  They have a moderate amount of protein (4-7grams) and moderate amount of calories (~230).  The ingredients are things like peanuts and cashews, chia, flax, and sunflower seeds, plus dates and agave for sweetness.   Nothing really scary in the ingredients list.

Glo bars are available in 7, far more tempting, flavors: Dark Chocolate Espresso Crunch, Mixed Nuts, Caramel & Sea Salt, Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate & Sea Salt, Dark Chocolate Cashew & Mint, Crunchy Peanut Butter & Sea Salt, Creamy Peanut Butter & Sea Salt, and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.  The bars are a bit smaller, and are also the protein packed bars, ranging from 10-15 grams.  Of course, this means the ingredients list is a bit less pure, and the base of each is the "Raw Rev Basic Superfood Blend", made of cashews, pea protein, brown rice protein, hemp protein, coconut oil, chia seeds, and flax seeds.  Yes, still raw vegan ingredients, but not quite as wholesome.  They tend to be high fiber and low sugar.

My biggest issue with most nutrition bars, particularly protein bars, is that they usually use soy or whey protein isolate.  Not only do I think whey protein isolate tastes gross, but it also always makes my stomach feel bad.  Like, really bad.  I no longer eat products with it, and I was happy to see that Raw Rev does not use whey protein.

So I tried a Glo bar, and, uh, I liked it?
Glo Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate, & Sea Salt.
"A creamy, delicious taste with rich dark chocolate includes nutritious raw ingredients with omega-rich superfoods to keep you glowing from the inside out!"

Sure, the name of this product sounded great:  Peanut Butter!  Dark Chocolate!  Sea Salt!  I like those things.  But, how many nutrition bars ever live up to the promise their dessert-worthy names imply? (Yes, I'm looking at you Clif and LUNA bars!)  Very, very few.

I opened the wrapper, and extracted the bar.  It looked just as awful as I assumed it would.  Yup, strange looking texture, no chocolate coating.  Strangely shiny.  Broken in half (ok, that was probably my fault).  I took my requisite bite.  And then I was confused.

I tasted lots of peanut butter, and a creamy pocket of chocolate.  I almost tasted a peanut butter cup.  I immediately took another bite.  This was not awful.  I turned the wrapper over to read the ingredients: yup, rice protein, hemp protein, chia seeds, flax seeds ... all things I don't usually like.  Where were they?  Honestly, I didn't taste the bitterness nor the funk usually associated with those ingredients.  I did taste the peanuts, and, it really was decent peanut butter flavor.  The strange texture of the bar kinda worked if you think about it as eating slightly firmer peanut butter.  Peanut butter, with pockets of chocolate that is.  I was really shocked by the chocolate, it wasn't chocolate chips as I assumed it would be, but instead, creamy, soft, areas of "organic Italian dark chocolate".  The chocolate was good, and, um, chocolate and peanut butter is always a good combination.  I did taste the pea protein, but I actually like pea protein (I know, a bit odd, but it really is tasty.  Have you tried Ripple Milk?  I really like it!)

So, yes, this was actually pretty good.  Was it as good as a peanut butter cup?  Obviously not.  As good as a fresh baked good?  Obviously not.  But far better than your average nutrition bar.  Strange texture, but, good flavor.  And really, quite amazing for the protein content, and in particular, one without whey protein isolate.  I'd have another.
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Thursday, May 04, 2017

Momofuku Milk Bar: Soft Serve & Truffles

Momofuku Milk Bar.  In person.  Finally.  I've reviewed Momofuku Milk bar previously, when I ordered a cake for overnight delivery, and when Christina Tosi brought the amazing cookies to a book tour stop I went to, but, my only other in-person visits were years ago, before I had a blog, before I felt compelled to take photos of my food and share it all with you.

On my recent trip to New York, I finally visited a Milk Bar again in person ... twice in as many days.  I've had tons of the cookies before (once at a party in NY when a friend brought them, and several times on Christina Tosi's book tour when she brought them), but I hadn't been to a Milk Bar in person in about 7 years.  It was a cold, rainy night the first evening, but this didn't deter us from visiting, for the soft serve ice cream in particular.

The Setting

I visited two Milk Bars on this trip, the first time to Midtown, and the second to the newly opened Chelsea location.

The Milk Bar located in midtown is tiny.  There is no seating.  There is no counter on the side to stand and eat your treats.  There is just a register, a blackboard with the menu, and a wall with shelves of self-serve items on it, plus a little station for condiments for hot drinks.  We didn't know this before we arrived, but luckily the place was empty, so we were able to mill around and eat our treats out of the rain, even though there wasn't really space to do so.

The Chelsea location isn't much bigger, although it did have a single bench to sit on inside.
Blackboard Menu.
The menu is on a colorful blackboard, thoughtfully arranged and colored to make the best things stick out.  The illustrations were cute.
Packaged Cookies, Tins, Mixes.
As I said, the midtown store is tiny, with a row of shelves with baskets of individually wrapped self-serve cookies, tins of cookies, and assorted baking mixes.
Display Case.
Near the midtown register is a display case with all of the baked goods: cookies, klossies (gluten-free and vegan cookies), truffles, bombs (savory items), and crack pie.  The Chelsea location has a similar display, along the wall.   It was useful to see the items to have a sense of size and clearly know what you were ordering.  The location of the display was a bit unfortunate though, because you didn't see it until you got to the register, and the Chelsea version was even less useful, as it was past the register, and quite easy to miss.
Prep Area.
The food prep area at the midtown location, as you guessed it, was tiny.  The single worker took our orders, rang us up, and also filled all orders.  For cold, packaged items, he just grabbed them, and cookies were already self serve, but all drinks, ice cream, and shakes required assembly and he had a very small area to work in.  This area packed in a microwave, toaster oven, milkshake mixer, and of course, the soft serve machine, Electoro-Freeze brand.  I think the toaster oven is used to warm up cookies?

One diner ordered a hot chocolate, which I assure you, was not a pre-made mix.  It was made in a milkshake container, and I saw lots of fudge going into it.  It was even mixed using the milkshake stick, which resulted in an incredibly frothy consistency.

Service was good, but, we were the only customers and I'm not sure how well this tiny space would possibly handle an actual crowd.

Soft Serve

Momofuku Milk Bar soft serve ice cream.  Oh, yes.  This is why I was there, and, clearly an item that I cannot get shipped to me in San Francisco.

Most of the Milk Bar stores sell two flavors of soft serve: cereal milk™ and a second rotating flavor.  It was Coke Float the first day I visited, but my second visited happened to be on "Menu Change Day", where it was replaced with Sweet Potato Pie.  Milk Bar does not offer cones and has only one size of ice cream available (4 ounces), served in a little cup (ok, they also sell pints).  You can add a few toppings (sprinkles or chocolate chips for 25 cents, fudge or cornflake crunch for $0.75).  Not tons of choices here, and surprisingly, no crazy sundaes.  I really thought Milk Bar would be all about the toppings ... it seems like any of the cookies could be crumbled on top, or the truffles, or even just the milk crumb ingredients for the cookies ... but they keep it simple.

If you want to go decadent and creative, Milk Bar also makes a ton of different milkshakes using cereal milk as the base, with cornflakes, hot fudge, or coffee blended in, or, if you are even more crazy, with any of the truffles blended in.  I saw someone get a shake and must have been so obviously drooling over it that when it was finished and placed on the counter, she hesitated in grabbing it and asked, "I'm sorry, was this yours? Did you order it too?"  It really looked incredible.  They also make floats with cream soda, orange soda, or coke topped with soft serve.

It was absolutely freezing when I visited, and I was soaking wet from the rain, when I visited the first night, but I couldn't resist getting the soft serve anyway.  It is the thing of legends, for good reason.  And two nights later?  Sure, it wasn't raining, but, I couldn't resist trying the new flavor.
Cereal Milk™ Soft Serve with Sprinkles. 4 oz. $5.25.
"Made with milk, cornflakes, brown sugar and a pinch of salt, it tastes just like the milk at the bottom of a bowl of cornflakes!"

The first day I went for the signature Cereal Milk.

I wanted a topping, and I opted for sprinkles since I really do love sprinkles on soft serve.  They had rainbow only, and coated the bottom half of the ice cream only, certainly a different application than I've seen before (usually ice cream shops just roll an entire cone in sprinkles ...).  This did allow me to try the ice cream on its own first though, and didn't overwhelm like can sometimes happen with sprinkles.

The ice cream was ... yup, cereal milk.  It really did taste like cornflakes and sugary milk.  It was sweet and a bit corny.  The ice cream was creamy and not icy.  It was very good, very satisfying.  While sweet, it wasn't overwhelming, but you certainly did want to eat it slowly.

The sprinkles were ... amazing.  The best $0.25 I've spent in a long time!  Seriously, I don't know what it was about them, but they are not standard sprinkles.  As my friend said, "These are not just corn syrup, they taste like real sugar!"  I quickly ran out of sprinkles.  I had a few bites of the remaining ice cream without sprinkles, and decided that I really did like it better with sprinkles.  Sure, the ice cream was great on its own, but, I could splurge for $0.25 more of sprinkles.  So I slunk back up the counter, and asked if I could buy more sprinkles.  The server didn't even flinch, just found a small container, and filled it up with sprinkles, easily 5x what I received originally.  I went to hand over my shiny quarter, and he laughed and said it was fine.  Score!  I loved the sprinkles.

The little cardboard cup was an interesting serving choice for the ice cream.  It had little pull out handles which I actually liked, since it was cold, and holding the cold ice cream didn't help with my cold fingers.  So I think I liked this.  The wooden paddle for a spoon though I didn't really like, although I see the whimsy, a throw back to the little wooden paddles that come in packaged ice cream.

Overall, this was very good, and very satisfying, even on a cold wet day.  I can only imagine how great it is when actually warm out.  The $5 price certainly is high for a small ice cream, and I'll admit, it looks pretty small when you first get it, but, the flavor is so intense that it really is plenty.  I'd certainly get this flavor and topping again.
Sweet Potato Pie & Cereal Milk Twist with Sprinkles. $5.25.
"The most delicious take on the classic spun into a soft serve ice cream, topped with graham cracker crust and charred marshmallows! available as a twist with cereal milk™ soft serve!"

My second visit took place after dinner Momofuku Nishi.  We certainly could have ordered dessert there, where they did have soy crème brûlée that sounded right up my alley, but, when we walked by Milk Bar, just a few doors down, I saw the sign advertising the brand new Sweet Potato Pie flavor, and, well, there was no competition.

I walked in, and immediately asked to try a sample.  I know better than to just blindly order a flavor.  It tasted *exactly* like a pumpkin pie, or, I guess, a sweet potato pie.  It was well spiced, sweet, and creamy, although a bit runny and softer than what I had the previous visit.

It was great, but I decided to go for a twist with Cereal Milk, as I suspected that the flavors would compliment each other well, which they did.  Both flavors are pretty intense and sweet on their own, but somehow they balanced each out out quite nicely.

For toppings, to go alongside the new ice cream flavor they were introducing graham cracker crust and charred marshmallows, but, they weren't available yet.  These seem like much more fitting toppings than the standard corn flakes, chocolate chips or fudge, or even sprinkles, to go with the sweet potato pie base flavor.  I got sprinkles as a fallback, and they were fine, but didn't quite go with the sweet potato, as I suspected.

This time the ice cream came in a large see through plastic cup, and the sprinkles were poured on top.  An entirely different presentation than what I had in midtown.  Interestingly, the model on display used the little paper cup and only coated the bottom of the ice cream, just like I had at the previous location.  I'm not complaining about getting a much larger portion, or about it being easier to eat from a bigger sized cup, but I'm not really sure why it was different, particularly when someone after me got the regular little cup ...

Anyway, the ice cream flavor was fantastic, and I was very happy with my twist, although I would prefer a different topping.

Cake Truffles

I've had my eye on the cake truffles for quite a while.  I don't like cake really, but ... I do like cake pops, as the cake consistency is much different when blended with frosting, and cake truffles sound like a similar concept, sorta.  The truffles are cake mixed with a flavored milk and formed in a ball, coated in white chocolate, and then coated in some kind of crumb, available in multiple flavors.

Three flavors were available when I visited: chocolate malt (chocolate cake with malted milk and malt milk crumbs), pumpkin pie (pumpkin cake with pumpkin milk and "spiced pie" and graham cracker crumbs), and the classic b'day (vanilla rainbow cake with vanilla milk and rainbow cake sand).
b'day truffles.  3 pack for $4.35.
Truffles are sold in 3 packs or dozens, but all must be of the same variety.  (Plea to Milk Bar: pretty please make a sampler?)

The cookies were all self-serve, but the truffles were not, which surprised me, until I looked at the packaging (uh, several hours later) to find that they said to keep refrigerated.  Oops.
b'day truffle.
"Vanilla rainbow cake mixed with vanilla infused milk, coated with white chocolate and rolled in rainbow cake crumbs – it’s a birthday party in a bite!"

I went for the b'day, mostly because I don't trust pumpkin spice and I didn't want chocolate.

These things were intense.  A friend took one bite and said that single bite was plenty for him.  And I'll admit, just popping one of these on its own was a bit too much.   Soooo sweet.

By the way, if you'd like to make these yourself, you can find the recipe, including the sub recipes for the cake, the vanilla milk, and the birthday cake sand all online here.
b'day truffle: inside.
The truffle was just a ball of sweet, it is hard to describe much more than that.  I didn't really detect the different layers, it all was just overwhelming sweetness.  I guess there was slightly more smooth sweetness near the exterior from the white chocolate shell?

The inside texture was also really strange, it crumbled apart fairly easily.  It certainly wasn't moist and light like cake, but wasn't like a cake pop either.  The outside was coated in birthday cake "sand", which I now actually understand.  If you imagine cake as sand ... this is what it would be like.  A bit gritty, but not unpleasant.  So strange.

Sorry, I really fail at describing this, but, really, I just don't know how to do better.

I enjoyed the truffles, but, I didn't feel compelled to eat the through the whole 3 pack in one sitting.

The next morning however, I may have snuck one with my morning coffee.  This was perfect!  I kept my coffee black, and the bitter coffee and sweet truffle paired fantastically.  I think these would also be great crumbled on top of ice cream.  Or, of course, in an milkshake (which Milk Bar does make, I can only imagine it ... Cereal Milk blended with 3 of these! OMG, sweet overload).

I wish the truffles were sold in singles, since 3 at a time is quite an undertaking, and they require refrigeration.
Packaging for a dozen truffles.
Truffles are also sold by the dozen, and come packaged in a box.

When I ordered a cake for delivery from Milk Bar, (yes, you can have their products overnight mailed to you!), I also threw in an order of truffles, just in case there wasn't enough cake, or in case it got damaged, and, well, because I wanted to try another variety of truffles?

My flavor choices again included b'day or chocolate malt, but the seasonal pumpkin pie was replaced with another seasonal option: grasshopper pie.  I eagerly ordered a dozen.
Grasshopper Pie Cake Truffles (dozen). $18.
Inside the box was a tray with a slot for each truffle.  The slots barely held the truffles, as they really are not petite items.
Grasshopper Pie Cake Truffle.
"Brand new for this holiday season! Chocolate chip cake mixed with mint cheesecake, coated in white chocolate and rolled in chocolate crumbs!"

This flavor excited me.  Chocolate chip.  Cheesecake.  Mint.  White chocolate.  Crumbs.  So many good things, and all ones that did sound like they'd combine pretty well.

The coating on this was much more extensive than on the b'day - a thicker layer of big chunks of chocolate crumb, compared to the rainbow cake crumbs, which were really more like a dust.  It kinda looked like crushed up Oreo, and tasted that way too.  I found the coating a bit too chalky for my taste, but, note, I don't really like Oreos.
Grasshopper Pie Cake Truffle: Inside.
Like with the b'day truffle, I couldn't really find the white chocolate layer, but I trust it was there.

Inside was not quite what I was expecting.  This looked much like the b'day, light brown, and I didn't see any chips.  Wasn't this supposed to be chocolate chip cake and mint cheesecake?  Hmmm.  I'm still not sure where the chips were.

The center was again a bit of a strange texture, but I was prepared for that this time.  And it was very sweet, again, I was prepared for that.  It was slightly minty, and I liked the minty contrast with the chocolate crumbs.  But ... I didn't detect anything cheesecake-like.  And obviously, no chocolate chips.  This seemed more like a mint blondie filling than anything else.

Overall, I didn't care for these.  I liked the mint, but, everything else didn't come together for me, and the generous chocolate cake crumb coating ruined the finish for me.
Momofuku Milk Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Momofuku Nishi, New York

I had two nights in New York.  My arrival night, for a variety of reasons, lead me to Xi'an Famous Foods, for fast casual Chinese cuisine that I didn't exactly love.  But for the second night, I was ready, and secured a reservation at Momofuku Nishi for myself and co-workers.  It was the perfect venue, as it is located right down the street from our office.  This meal was much more impressive, as I hoped.

Momofuku is a empire of restaurants, built by chef David Chang.  It started with Noodle Bar in 2004, and just totally took off from there.  I think they have a dozen or so establishments at this point, mostly in New York, but also in Sydney, Toronto, Washington, DC and soon, Vegas.  Each restaurant has a distinct concept, but all are Asian fusion of some form, ranging from the ramen at Noodle Bar, to casual fried chicken sandwiches at Fuku, to the fixed menu at Ko.  And of course, there is also Momofuku Milk Bar, a chain of bakeries featuring shockingly good cookies, amazing soft serve ice cream, cakes and truffles, and more.
Dinner @ Momofuku Nishi.
This visit was to Nishi, the latest establishment in the Momofuku chain to open in New York, in Chelsea.  The concept is Korean Italian, focusing on noodles.  Like I said, fusion.  It opened only in January 2016; my visit was in October, 10 months into its run.

Many initial reviews were lackluster, from critics and diners alike, although professional critics seemed far more harsh than average Yelpers.  Critiques ranged from the uncomfortable seating and horrible acoustics, to the concept itself, to high prices.  None of which I can really argue with.

However, I'm still glad I went.  And I'd gladly return.  Because while there are plenty of flaws with Nishi, there are also butter noodles.  And they were worth it.

The Setting

The dining room at Nishi is basically the opposite of inviting.  When we walked in, I looked around, and realized there wasn't a single table that looked comfortable to dine at.  There was certainly no soft glow to this room.

The entire space had a harsh, uninspired feel to it.  The floor was made of hard dark grey tiles, the walls were painted a matching dark grey with blond wooden planks on the bottom, which matched the simple wooden furniture.  The only interesting decor element were paintings on the walls.
Seating.
The majority of the room is filled with long communal blond wood tables, low-ish to the floor, with backless matching box seats.  Most groups are seated here, even if they have reservations, alongside other diners.

There are only two private tables for 4.  These are higher, with backless stools and hooks for purses, and we fortunately had one of those.  Since there is little room to put anything down, and you can't hang a jacket over the back of your chair, coat check was offered the moment we sat.  We were given little paper numbers, which we then had to call someone over to retrieve when we were done.  Seems like they could streamline this process a bit, given that they take the coats from the tables and bring them back there, did they really need to have us hold onto the coat tags?

The seats were as uncomfortable as they looked.  We didn't feel compelled to linger around for sure, and even opted to go elsewhere for dessert (ok, to be fair, that is because the Milk Bar a few doors down had a new seasonal soft serve flavor, how could we not check it out?)
Place Setting.
The tables were set with equally simple, er, boring, plain white plates, white napkins, water and wine glasses.  Since the entire menu is sharing style, these were our share plates.  We were offered a new set in-between two rounds of food order, which we accepted.

Interestingly, there was no silverware laid out, but the server brought it once we ordered.  We were provided with individual silverware only, never any serving utensils, a bit awkward since it was all family style.

Drinks

As soon as we were seated we were offered water, still or sparkling, house-made.  We opted for sparkling, and water was poured for each of us, and a full extra jug was left on the table.  Major points for having house sparkling water, as I love sparkling but hate paying $$$ for water, and major points for leaving us a full bottle, so we could refill as needed.
Drink Menu.
I looked over the drink menu in advance online, so I knew I wanted a cocktail, but I still had a hard time deciding between the cocktails.  So many of them had interesting elements.  The drink menu also had several wines by the glass or on tap, beer, and soda, including housemade sodas.

Several of the others opted for housemade sodas, available in ginger, fennel, or poblano-lime flavors.  I tried both the ginger and the fennel, and they were certainly interesting, refreshing drinks, and a unique option for those not seeking alcohol.
Poblano Sour - mezcal, thai basil, jalapeno. $17.
For my cocktail, I settled on the poblano sour, as it sounded both refreshing (basil!) and interesting (jalapeno!).  It arrived right after our first appetizer, not quite ideal, as I wished I had time to sip it before.

It was ... well, certainly sour as named.  But I didn't taste the basil, nor the spicy jalapeno.  No spice, no refreshing quality.  Instead, it was somehow quite bitter.  Yes, sour and bitter.  Not quite what I had in mind.

It was also very small, if you can tell from the photo.  This was the drink as it arrived, small glass, not very full.  Maybe this is standard in New York, but $17 for a very small cocktail seemed quite high.

Food

All dishes are served family style, and brought to the table as they are ready.  We were never provided any serving utensils, which was particularly strange when sharing a plate of pasta.

Food arrived in a timely manner, with good pacing, generally brought out by different staff members than our original server.
Savory Food Menu.
The menu is broken into 4 categories of savory food: appetizers, noodles, entreés, and side dishes.  Interestingly, there are only 2 entreés on the menu (pork and cod), both of which we skipped, since I knew the noodles were more worthy of our stomach space.

Our initial order was intentionally light, as we planned to order more based on how we were feeling.  Our server had no problem with this, and left us a menu to continue pondering.

Appetizers

Appetizers make up the largest portion of the menu, with 9 items, mostly all cold dishes, including salads, raw seafood, and vegetarian items.
 Papaya Salad –  miso, toasted rice.  $12.
For our first round, we selected the papaya salad to have something lighter and refreshing alongside the heavier noodle dishes.  We had several options for a lighter dish, but the miso and toasted rice sounded unique, so we picked it.  Really, how do you turn down miso?

It was the first dish to arrive, before our drinks even (although my cocktail was only 2 minutes behind).  As with all dishes, no serving utensils were provided.  Since this was our first dish, our utensils were all clean, and this was fine.

It looked unlike any papaya salad I had ever seen before.  To be fair, I basically only know one style of papaya salad, Thai som tum, made with shredded green unripe papaya, green beans, tomato, peanuts, etc in a fish sauce sauce.  This ... was not that.

The papaya was not unripe green papaya, rather, it was ripe orange papaya.  On top was something else that I never identified, maybe jicama?  Maybe it was unripe papaya?  Anyway, the papaya was juicy and refreshing, but the dressing, whatever it was, was far too tangy.

I love miso, but I didn't actually taste miso in this.  I expected the toasted rice to perhaps be crunchy bits of toasted rice on top, but, I never found, nor tasted, anything that I would identify as rice either.

So .... no miso and no toasted rice elements that I could identify, and very dressed in a far too tangy dressing.  I did not like this dish, my third pick of the night.
Warm Beets – walnut bagna cauda, chervil. $13.
In our second round of ordering, the group wanted more vegetables, so the beets were ordered.

Since I don't care for beets I skipped this, but I think I heard some grumbles about it not being warm, and no one seemed particularly eager to finish this dish.  I tried a walnut, but, yeah, not much to say there.

Sides

There were 3 options on the menu for side dishes.  The first is bitter greens in XO sauce which sounded like a good pick for a veggie if we hadn't already gone for the papaya salad, next was a fried potato dish that didn't seem like a good compliment to our upcoming pastas, and, finally there was a squash pancake, that I strongly advocated for ordering.

I found it hard to understand why the sides were considered sides instead of apps.  If noodles are your main, is a fried veggie pancake really a side?  Also, our side dish also arrived exactly one minute after our appetizer, and 10 minutes before our noodles, so, if it was a side dish, it was a side to our appetizer ...
Squash Pancake & Onion Vinegar. $13.
Any momentary disappointment I had with the papaya salad was replaced the moment I cut off a chunk of the squash pancake.  Ok, the moment I ate that chunk.

The "pancake" was large, nearly the size of a dinner plate, garnished with only a few slices of some kind of red pepper.  No drizzles of sauce, nothing fancy.  I wondered if there was supposed to be a side of the onion vinegar from the description, but no other photos I saw of it included a dipping sauce, so, I guess not.

I didn't really taste any vinegar inside the pancake, sticking in theme with the papaya salad of me never discovering the other elements that were supposed to be part of the dish.  Unlike the miso, I didn't miss it here, although I'm sure a little more tang would have amped up the flavor.

The pancake was made of thin slices of assorted winter squashes.  It had a nice char on the outside that imparted a phenomenal smoky flavor.  It was crispy where it was charred, but then the squash slices were soft.  The textures made it very enjoyable.

I really liked this, as it was a fairly unique item (at least, I haven't had a squash pancake before like this, I've had shredded zucchini pancakes, but that is totally different.  I also adore winter squashes, and I really liked the smoky flavor.  My second pick of the night, and I'd gladly get it again.  One other diner however did not like it, and the other two had no strong opinions.

Noodle

The next section of the menu is noodles, with four options.  One is the dish that is likely considered Nishi's signature: butter noodles.  I believe this has been on the menu since Nishi opened.  It gets lots of raves, which I quickly understood once I tried it.  The other dishes are less iconic, but still sounded interesting, although all get mixed reviews: spicy beef, chili squid, and jajangmyeon (a classic Korean Chinese dish).

We opted for two noodle dishes, both of which arrived about 10 minutes after our apps/sides, and, as before, no serving utensils, which was more awkward with noodles and our dirty personal utensils.
Butter Noodle – chickpea hozon, black pepper. $19.
Ok, first, to step back before I get into the actual review.

Let's start with the description.  "Butter noodle", ok, that part makes sense.  "Black pepper", also, known item.  But what about "chickpea hozon"?  Chickpea sure, but, hozon?  I hadn't heard of that. Don't worry, you aren't lacking culinary knowledge here either, it turns out, the Momofuku restaurant group invented hozon, so, unless you are a Momofuku fiend, there is no way you'd know what this is.

So, what is hozon?  Hozon is "traditional miso made with non-traditional ingredients" or "a fermented, stone-ground seasoning made in the style of miso paste."  The name comes from the Japanese word for preserved, as hozon is made using fermented nuts, seeds, and legumes (but not soybeans like regular miso).  Momofuku produces several varieties in addition to the chickpea hozon used here, and you can purchase it, and other signature Momofuku staples like ssäm sauce, bonji (uh, soysauce minus soybeans), and their vegan xo sauce.

It also turns out that the dish was recently renamed to Butter Noodle, and had been titled Ceci e Pepe before, a play on Cacio e Pepe clearly, but, I'm guessing that most folks don't know that ceci means chickpea, and even if they did, does "chickpea and pepper" really sound that good, particularly compared to, uh, "butter noodle"?  Yeah, I see why they renamed it.  Still, if you think of classic cacio e pepe, you'll see why they had gone with that name originally.

Ok, back to the dish.

It arrived hot and fresh, which was impressive, as pasta doesn't hold heat long.  Plus one point for that.  Like the pancake, there was nothing extra on the plate, just a mound of pasta, covered in pepper.

And what glorious pasta it was.  The pasta was expertly cooked, perfect al dente.  Plus one point.

The sauce was heavenly, and somehow managed to completely coat, and cling to, the pasta, without leaving a pool on the plate.  It was crazy rich, which I guess makes sense given that it is a butter base, but to be honest, it didn't taste buttery.  Nor did it taste like chickpeas, which I slightly feared as I don't like chickpeas.  What *did* it taste like then?  Well, uh, cacio e pepe.  Although entirely cheese-free.  Speaking of the pepper, there was lots of it, and it was slightly spicy, which gave a great kick.

I really enjoyed this, and 3/4 of us rated it the top dish of the night, hands down.  I'd gladly get it again.  Which, uh, we did, as soon as our server came back.  Literally.
Butter Noodle - plus Burgundy Black Truffles. $19 + $30 truffle supplement.
When we ordered our second batch of butter noodles, our server innocently asked, "would you like to add truffles to that?"

We all kinda looked at each other and shrugged.  One person asked if it was real truffle not truffle oil.  The server confirmed it was.  We had the choice of Burgundy black truffles for $30 or Alba white truffles for $60, or, no truffles for $0.  But you know what happens when you give people 3 choices ... they pick the middle one.  Which we did.  Black truffles it was.

Our second batch came about 10 minutes later, alongside the beets that we ordered then as well.  The truffles were added in the kitchen rather than table side, but we all acknowledged that it was a fairly generous portion.

The truffles were, well, shaved truffles.  Earthy and tasty, but actually just not necessary in the dish.  I quickly wrote in my notes that the truffle didn't add to the dish.  Others, unprompted, expressed how "meh" they felt about the truffle addition too.  We could have had 2.5 orders of the noodles for the price of one with truffles, and clearly, we all just wanted more noodles.  One diner even went so far as to say "the truffles made it worse".

We were glad we ordered a second batch of the glorious noodles, but next time, I'd leave off the truffles.  I must admit though, they sure made for better food porn.  Way to go on the upsell, server!
Spicy Beef – shells, mint, crispy shallots. $21.
Our final dish was spicy beef noodles.

Like the butter noodles, the pasta here was perfectly cooked al dente, in this case, ridged, curved shells.

The shells were tossed in what tasted like a tomato based sauce, with chunks of beef.  There was some slight heat to it, mostly only on the finish, not really enough to classify as "spicy" in my mind.  I didn't like the flavor of the sauce, I can't pinpoint it exactly, besides that it was just a very strange flavor.  I'm guessing there was some Korean flair in there that I just didn't care for.

On top was tons of crispy shallots, delicious crispy shallots, but I actually felt like there was too much.

Overall, I really didn't like this, my least favorite of the night, although the one person who didn't list the butter noodles as his top choice said this was his favorite, so, clearly, some people like this dish.  I do give points for the cooking of the pasta though.
Momofuku Nishi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Read More...

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

JetBlue Flight 534, SFO-BOS, Mint

I finally flew JetBlue Mint.  And with that ... I'm pretty much ruined.  Even for transcon travel.  Doh.
October 2016 Feast!
I'll get to all the details next, but, the short version is that I flew the SFO-BOS route twice in Mint, and had a great experience both times.  The the food is actually interesting, you get to create your own tasting menu from small plates, and they have ice cream.  Quality ice cream.

On both flights, the FAs were ridiculously friendly.  They asked each passenger if it was their first time in Mint, and provided an introduction to the seat if so, pointing out little storage areas, where to plug things in, etc.  I haven't even had such a thoughtful welcoming experience in international first class!  Even the gate agent greeted me by name.
December 2016 Feast!
My first experience, in October, was so good, that I choose to repeat it when I flew home for the holidays, in December.  I've consolidated both reviews here, since it was the same route, just two months apart.

The Seat & Amenities

The cabin holds 16 people, in 6 pairs of 2 and 4 single "suites".  All seats are the same price, and are available first-come, first-serve.  Unfortunately, the singles were already taken when I booked my first Mint flight, and I wasn't flying with a companion, so I was seated next to a random stranger.  On my second flight, I was able to score a coveted single suite, and it was ridiculous.  The thought that kept going through my head was simply, "How is this real on a transcon flight?"
Foot Cubby, Entertainment Screen.
The seat transforms into a fully flat bed, with a very spacious foot well where it converts.  Seriously, you could hide a second passenger in there.  On my first flight, I was told that I could not use that space during takeoff for a bag, so, there was actually no where at all for a bag during takeoff.  The FAs collected all bags as we were headed to runway, and handed them back once underway.  A bit annoying, and really, that area seemed more secure than many other seats I've been in where under footrest storage was allowed ...  On my next two Mint flights, they had no problem with me using this space though, so, not really sure what the official policy is.

Above the foot area is a large screen tv (touch screen, or controlled by remote), under which is a small compartment to stuff a couple smaller items (I used it for my magazine, gum, and little things I wanted access to during the flight).

The entertainment center features SiriusXM satellite radio, DirectTV (huge lineup, way better than Virgin America), and a handful of movies.  The touch screen worked well, and the remote was very easy to use.

Headphones were provided once we got underway.  They weren't particularly nice, the only negative I have to say about the flight.
Seat Controls, Remote for Entertainment Center.
Next to me was a shared armrest with a control panel for the seat and a remote to use with the entertainment center.  The tray table also came out of this area.

When put into "Relax" mode, the seat wasn't really comfortable for me.  At least, not for sitting up and using a laptop.  Maybe it was better for watching tv?  I could easily adjust it though, and was able to find a fairly comfortable position.  The storage space around the foot part was a bit annoying though - even when just mildly reclining with foot rest extended, there was no longer space for my laptop bag in front, although then there was space under.  So I had to move my bag back and forth, remembering to move it before using the control and having it get stuck.  Minor design flaw.

We were also provided with a blanket, pillow, and eye mask, since I guess you could sleep (although that made no sense given my afternoon flight times).  The pillow was nice behind my back in the seat.  The blankets were needed though, as it got FREEZING immediately after takeoff on my first flight (not a problem the next time).  The FAs walked around reassuring everyone that it would warm up, explaining that it was just due to the "design of the aircraft".  It was really ridiculously cold for a few minutes!
Power, Water, Light, Phone Holder.
Next to my seat was a water bottle holder, which came stocked with a bottle of water.  I appreciated having water available from the start of the flight.

Power options included both USB and regular US power, in an easy to reach spot.

I loved the little phone holder located here.  It had a net so it could fit a variety of phone sizes.  Super convenient.
BirchBox, Women's.
Once underway, the FA came through distributing BirchBoxes, different versions for men and women.  BirchBox is a subscription service, where you pay a monhtly fee and get a box of 5 assorted beauty related samples delivered to you.  A bit random to get on our flight, as none were really travel related (aka, not hand lotion, lip blam, etc), but, a nice perk.
BirchBox, Women's: Contents.
Sadly, the BirchBox partnership ended in November.  On my subsequent flights, I was provided a Hayward amenity kit.

Food & Drinks - October 2016

Pre-departure

As I settled into my seat, the FA stopped by to introduce me to my seat, explain the features, hand me a menu, and offer a pre-departure drink.  Rather than the standard water, orange juice, or champagne, she offered up their signature drink, the RefreshMint, available both with and without vodka.  I opted for with.
RefreshMint.
"Honey infused limeade with vodka and mint, garnished with a mint leaf."

Soon after, my drink was delivered, in a plastic cup, but a stylish one.  It really was refreshing and quite delicious, although honestly it tasted a bit watered down.  Probably not a bad thing.

Between the seats was a small space to set drinks, but they could not go side-by-side, which created some awkwardness with my neighbor, as he kept forgetting which was his and which was mine.

No welcome snack came with the drink.

Menu

Food Menu.
The menu was available online (on JetBlue's own site) before my flight, so I was able to check out my options in advance.  I really appreciated this.  

The lefthand side of the menu explained the dining philosophy, the partnership with Saxon + Parole (New York City restaurant), and the wine partner, Jon Bonné.  On the right was the meal options, with a single starter, choice of 3 (out of 5) small plates (2 cold, 3 hot), and fruit and ice cream.

The full menu:

Welcome Taste
It’s app-y hour!
Eggplant mousse: With pickled onion & eggplant relish, served with taro chips

Delish Dishes
Step up to the plate(s) & choose three. Please note: The first two dishes listed below are chilled. 
  • Baby gem Caesar salad: With haricots verts, parmesan cheese, chives, sourdough
  • breadcrumbs & yuzu dressing
  • Mediterranean roasted cauliflower: With pickled red onion, cilantro & pistachios
  • Braised chicken & Swiss chard: With parmesan polenta, roasted chanterelle mushrooms, quince chutney & crispy chestnuts
  • Pan-fried halibut: With fingerling gratin, sautéed white asparagus, red pepper sauce
  • & beet chips
  • Ribeye & horseradish mashed potatoes: With broccolini, roasted carrots, shallot & bordelaise sauce
Sweet Bites
Don’t desert dessert—enjoy both options, along with a hot espresso drink.
  • Seasonal fruit salad
  • Organic ice cream: Blue Marble Ice Cream, Brooklyn, New York
  • Cappuccino & espresso: Brooklyn Roasting Company, Brooklyn, New York
When You Re-Treat
An edible parting gift – worth the wait!Freshly made confections: Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery | A Colicchio Discovery, New York, New York

I also could have pre-selected a special menu (again, all details available online!), in addition to the standard vegetarian, gluten-free, low-calorie, kosher, etc menus, they also have a "Plane Eats" menu for those who want ... simpler food.  For my flight, that was mac and cheese, a cheeseburger slider on brioche, and veggies with hummus for the small plates, and a cherry tomato, mozzarella, and basil skewer for the appetizer.  I wished I could pick just the mac and cheese from that menu!  I don't really understand why they don't mix all the options onto one menu?

Anyway.  Once we took off, our orders were taken at our seats.  I went for the two veggie options and the chicken, which I know sounds strange since I hate chicken, but I liked the sound of the sides that came with it (cheesy polenta, roasted mushrooms, chestnuts ... all great things!).  If I intended to actually eat the main protein, I probably would have gone with the halibut, since I love halibut, but I assumed it would be dried out and fishy on the flight.  And while I didn't want the ribeye, horseradish mashed potatoes and a shallot bordelaise sauce sounded pretty great.
Drink Menu.
For drinks, in addition to standard soft drinks, coffee (Dunkin' Donuts), espresso drinks (Brooklyn Roasting Company), and tea (Teapigs, no roobios), we also had a single champagne, two white wines, and two red wines, several beers (including a cider (!) and a seasonal OctoberFest beer), and standard liquors.  I was impressed with the quality of the options, particularly the coffee and tea.

I had my share of sparkling water and Sprite Zero throughout.
Calera Chardonnay, 2014, Central Coast.
Josh Jensen’s Chardonnay is a study in balance and pleasure, ripe and complex. Made from a selection of top California vineyards, from Santa Clara to Santa Barbara, it’s redolent of ripe citrus fruit, with an aromatic lift -- think lemon verbena and warm winter spices.

I had no idea which wine to pick, so I just asked my FA for a recommendation.  She said the reds run out all the time and are big hits, but, she prefers the chardonnay.  That seemed like it would go better with my meal, so, I opted for it.

It was ... fine.  A bit harsh, not really as buttery as I'd like, but, fine.  A generous pour.

Welcome Taste: It’s app-y hour!

The "Welcome Taste" was delivered with our drinks.  No option here, besides if you wanted it or not.

I was in the last row (row 5), and our cabin was full, so service took a while.  The entire economy cabin received their drinks and snacks before I got anything.  Given our substantial delay, I was pretty much starving at this point.
Eggplant mousse with pickled onion & eggplant relish, served with taro chips.
I love, love, love taro chips, so I was pretty delighted to (finally!) get the starter.  The taro chips were as expected, pretty good, crunchy, slightly salty.  I devoured my little bag (how cute) in about 2 seconds flat.

The first one I dipped generously in the dip.  The dip ... I did not like, although it was very nicely presented.   Creamy eggplant mousse in the bottom that was too tart for me, with the pickled onion and eggplant relish that was even more tart and too acidic as well, plus some tiny little tomatoes.  The flavor profile and acidity was just all off on this.

I quickly discarded the dip, but really did love the taro chips.

Delish Dishes

Dinner service is designed as small plates.  The menu had 5 options: 2 cold, 3 hot, and I could pick up to 3.  Which of course, I did.  All were served together.

I liked that I had so much flexibility in my meal selection, and the options were fairly extensive: 2 veggie, 1 chicken, 1 fish, 1 meat, all with interesting sides.  Everything I had was well prepared and clearly a thought out dish.
Placemat.
After our starters were cleared, our tables were set with paper placemats before the trays were set down containing our selections.
Meal Tray.
Meal trays arrived with all three selections, plus salt and pepper shakers, a roll, and olive oil.
Bread and Olive Oil.
The roll was not warm, it was kinda hard, and very lackluster.

I didn't try the olive oil, but it was a cute little packet of oil that at least looked really fancy.
Baby gem Caesar salad with haricots verts, parmesan cheese, chives, sourdough breadcrumbs & yuzu dressing.
The first dish I went for was a  play on a caesar salad.  It was quite good.

The baby gems were fresh and crisp, and a nice change from standard romaine.  The green beans, er, haricot verts, were nice and snappy.  I really liked them at first, but near the end of the salad I was a bit sick of them.  I think there were just slightly too many beans compared to baby gems.  Still, an interesting addition to a ceasar.

I don't like sourdough, but I didn't detect any sourdough in the bread crumbs.  They added an interesting texture, quite different from croutons.  Since we had crunch from the beans, a crunchy crouton wasn't needed, so this was pretty interesting.

I really liked the huge shreds of parmesan, nutty and rich.

I didn't taste the yuzu in the dressing, but, the dressing was quite good, creamy, flavorful.

Overall, a very nice salad.  Fresh crispy veggies, flavorful cheese, perfectly dressed.  One of the best salads I've ever had on a flight, and really a nice spin on a classic.
Mediterranean roasted cauliflower with pickled red onion, cilantro & pistachios.
My next selection was the other chilled veggie dish, roasted cauliflower.

It was large chunks of roasted (orange?) cauliflower, over a paste I think made from pistachios, with pickled red onion wedges on the side, garnished with more pistachios and cilantro.

Unfortunately, I didn't like the spicing on the cauliflower, "mediterranean" spices.  The cauliflower was nicely cooked though, not mushy, and the portion substantial.  I think the spice blend just wasn't for me.

Everything else on the plate was tasty, I really liked the pistachio (?) paste under the cauliflower and the super tart and flavorful pickled red onions.  I added the red onions to my salad, which really amped up the flavor.
Braised chicken & swiss chard with parmesan polenta, roasted chanterelle mushrooms, quince chutney & crispy chestnuts.
And finally, my hot selection, the chicken.  It arrived piping hot, and stayed hot while I ate my cold dishes first.

This was more mixed together than I anticipated, but, I was still easily able to avoid the chicken, although, I'll admit, the chicken looked like it was probably pretty good if you like chicken, large chunks of mostly white meat.

On either end of the dish was braised swiss chard, which I really, really liked.  It was nicely cooked and seasoned, and I liked the slight bitterness.

Under the chicken, forming the base of the dish, was cheesy parmesan polenta.  I loved this.  Warm, creamy, cheesy, comforting.  Really the perfect thing to have on a flight.

Mixed in with the chicken was chunks of chanterelle mushroom, assorted sizes and parts of the mushroom.  These were only ok, a bit slimy, a bit too chewy.  There were also slices of chestnut, not quite what I was expecting (I'm used to chunks of chestnut, not sure why).  The chestnut wasn't "crispy" as advertised, but, it was fine.  I didn't taste much chestnut flavor though given the thin slices.

On top was the quince chutney that I didn't really like (I'm just not one for the spices that often go into chutney), and a fresh garnish of some kind of herb.

Overall, while I didn't actually want the chicken, there were some excellent components of this dish and I'm glad I selected it.

Sweet Bites

And finally, dessert, offered as our main trays were cleared.  I loved that the default option is to have both items, a fruit salad and ice cream, rather than picking one.  Unfortunately, the fruit salad contained watermelon, so I had to avoid due to my allergy.

Espresso drinks are also offered, shocking for a domestic flight.  They only had regular though, so I opted for decaf coffee, which was freshly brewed for me.  The espresso comes from Brooklyn Roasting Company, a partnership with a local New York business (their hub?).
Sea Salt Blue Marble Ice Cream.
"This buttery, decadent flavor blends organic caramel with sea salt from Brittany for a fleur-de-sel finish. The embodiment of "less is more", you won't find any corn syrup or artificial flavors here...just the best of Mother Nature."

Dessert was ice cream, from Blue Marble, another Brooklyn company.  I actually give JetBlue big kudos for this.  Why serve mediocre pastries or desserts when you can just have a fantastic ice cream option?  And fantastic this was.

The ice cream came as a individual serving in a cardboard cup.  No fancy plating, no toppings offered.  Minus a few points for that I guess, since other airlines (aka, AA) do make some pretty awesome ice cream sundaes in First Class.  But, the quality of the ice cream was so amazing, no topping were really necessary.

I had no choice of flavor, but they alternate between vanilla, chocolate, sea salt caramel, and seasonal specials.  I clearly lucked out, as we had the sea salt caramel.

It was just fantastic.  Delivered a bit solid, but I let it melt while my coffee was being brewed, and it quickly reached my ideal eating softness.  It was fluffy and melted really nicely.  Clearly premium ice cream.

The flavor was deep and rich.  Sweet, but not too sweet.  I didn't necessarily taste the sea salt, but, it was so good I didn't really care.

I loved this, and stopped just short of begging for a second one.
Decaf Coffee.
I believe the coffee was Dunkin' Donuts, as is served in economy, except it was freshly brewed, and served in a real mug.

It was fine, no decaf funk, but it did seem a bit watered down.

I asked for sweetener, and was offered my pick of Sweet 'N Low, Splenda, or Equal.  So many options!  The sweetener came in its own little dish.

Overall, the coffee was fine, although not great, and a nice pairing with my ice cream.  If I was stuck with only vanilla ice cream, it would make for a fine affogado.

When You Re-Treat

An edible parting gift – worth the wait! Freshly made confections.

This was listed as the final item in my menu.  A bit vague, but, I knew to expect a little box with some baked goods in it, sometime close to landing.  Ours came after the captain turned on the seatbelt sign and told us to start getting ready for landing.

Like the ice cream and coffee, this was another New York local business that JetBlue partners with to provide goodies on the flight, Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery, listed as "A Colicchio Discovery, New York, New York".

I was of course a bit skeptical of packaged baked goods, but, basically as soon as I arrived at my hotel, I broke into my box of goodies.  And ... good they were!

A little aside: Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery started as a wholesale bakery, a favorite of Tom Colicchio and uh, Oprah.  In addition to providing 'Wichcraft, Tom Colicchio's casual restaurant, and JetBlue, with treats, they now have a storefront (as of Fall 2016).  They produce a wide variety of baked goods, like pies, tarts, and cheesecake, plus bars of all kids (including a signature Mah-Ze-Dahr Bar with a oatmeal brown sugar cookie base, pecans, chocolate chunks, and brown butter salted caramel!), a large range of cookies, scones, breads, coffee cake, doughnuts, granola, even confections like marshmallows, toffee, and brittle.

Sadly I knew a brown butter pecan tart wouldn't possibly be hiding in my little box, but it sounds like an improvement on a favorite of mine, pecan pie.  I sorta hoped for the marshmallows, or a chocolate choux, or even the blueberry coffee cake so I could have it in the morning as a breakfast treat.  Alas, my box contained the more expected offerings of a cookie and a bar, but, both were far more exciting than the basic chocolate chip cookie and brownie I thought might be waiting for me.
Butter Pecan Shortbread. Brown Butter Blondie.
My box contained a bar (brown butter blondie) and a cookie (butter pecan shortbread), each individually wrapped, and a little card for a free pastry at the newly opened shop in NYC.  Given that my flight was to Boston, not NY, this was a little strange, but a nice gesture.

Brown Butter Blondie:
"Whoever said blondes have more fun must have been talking about our blondies. Butter browned to toasty, nutty perfection is mixed with brown sugar to create a chewy, decadent bar.  Unadorned in its perfection."

I am not generally one for bars, particularly brownies, but blondies do hold a special place in my heart.  I see them as an improvement on both bars and brownies, as they are more doughy, and usually more like a huge, under-baked cookie.

This was quite good.  It was soft and very sweet, with a slight bit of crunch from the chocolate chips.  The flavor was fairly complex though, not just sweet, which I guess is the brown butter aspect.  I think it would be amazing warm with some vanilla ice cream ... which certainly gives me an idea if I'm ever flying Mint again, and the ice cream is just vanilla.  Perhaps I could ask for my treat at the same time ...

These are sold online also, $18.00 for 6.

Butter Pecan Shortbread:
Butter cookies taken to the next level studded with roasted, buttered pecans. Sweet salty perfection.

These were good.  A nice buttery shortbread base, and I liked the chopped pecans.

Sold online for $15 for a dozen.

Food & Drinks - December 2016

Two months later, when I flew home for the holidays, I saw a Mint seat at a rate that was too good to pass up.  Oh, and I got a single suite.  I told you, I'm ruined.

The food wasn't as good on this flight though.

Pre-departure

As before, I was offered the signature RefreshMint as I settled into my seat.  Since I loved it so much the first time, it was a no brainer to order it.  "With alcohol", my FA asked?   I smiled, and said, "of course!"


RefreshMint.
Honey infused limeade with vodka and mint, garnished with a mint leaf.

The RefreshMint was again great.  It really is refreshing, a bit sweet, a bit tart, and goes down quite easily.  I relaxed me into the travel experience nicely.

This one was a little less full than my previous one, but, not really a problem, I assure you.  I really like this signature drink.

Menu

Eastbound Lunch/Dinner Menu.
The menu format was the same as my previous flights: a starter, choice of 3 small plates from a list of 5 (2 cold, 3 hot), fruit and ice cream.  And as before, it was available online in advance, so I knew what I could pick from.

The options were decent, although I did almost decide to get the Plane Eats special menu, as it again had mac and cheese and a burger!  Instead, I did stick with the regular December Eastbound menu, as follows:

Welcome Taste
It’s app-y hour!
Goat cheese croquette With quince marmalade & watercress.

Delish Dishes
Step up to the plate(s) & choose three. Please note: The first two dishes listed below are chilled. 
  • Kale & sweet potato salad With dried cranberries, toasted walnuts & tahini dressing
  • Wheatberry & smoked almond couscous With feta cheese, golden raisins, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, mint & parsley
  • Buttermilk fried chicken With a green cabbage & celeriac slaw
  • Spicy zucchini arancini With roasted garlic sauce, basil oil & parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • Butter poached lobster With poblano chili basmati rice & pickled pepper rings
Sweet Bites
Don’t desert dessert—enjoy both options, along with a hot espresso drink.
  • Seasonal fruit salad
  • Organic ice cream: Blue Marble Ice Cream, Brooklyn, New York
  • Cappuccino & espresso: Brooklyn Roasting Company, Brooklyn, New York
When You Re-Treat
An edible parting gift – worth the wait!Freshly made confections: Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery | A Colicchio Discovery, New York, New York

Once underway, our food and drink orders were taken.  I easily picked the two chilled salads, but had no idea what to do for my third choice.  All sounded equally meh.  In the end, I settled for the chicken, even though I don't like chicken, so I could have the slaw that came with it.

Welcome Taste: It’s app-y hour!

The "Welcome Taste" was delivered with our first round of drinks.  Again, no option here, besides if you wanted it or not.
Goat cheese croquette With quince marmalade & watercress.
I opted to get the welcome taste, even though it is goat cheese which I don't like, so Ojan could have it (and so I'd get a photo!).  I didn't try the goat cheese, but I did try the sauce.  It was quince marmalade, which reminded me of a mix between mango and tamarind chutneys (sweet and spicy).  I loved it, and I think it would go great with the fried cheese ball ... if I liked goat cheese.  I didn't see the watercress?

While this was a cute bite, I do prefer something to munch on, like snack mix, nuts, or the usual chips and dips that JetBlue has for Mint.
#allTheDrinks
For my drink, in addition to my sparkling water and Sprite Zero (which I mix together into my favorite concoction), I also opted for a glass of wine.  I love that my FA brought me both full cans and a glass for mixing, once I told her what I was up to.

On this flight, since I had one of the single suites, I had more than enough space to pile my drinks, so it was no problem to have a ridiculous collection of beverages lined up.
Brea Margarita Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013, Paso Robles.
"Winemaker Chris Brockway relies on one of the Central Coast’s most special sites for Cabernet, an old, limestone-rich ranch at 1,000 feet elevation, cooled by maritime breezes. The result is sublime, full of hearty dark fruit but with a savory side — black mustard seed and bay laurel."

Since the wine list was the same as my October and November flights, and I tried the chardonnay and the pinot noir then, this time I went for the other red wine, a cab.

It was ... fine.  A bit too tannic and big for me.  But still not a bad wine.

Delish Dishes

Lunch/Dinner!
As before, my main order came with the 3 dishes I selected, plus bread and a packet of oil.
Kale & sweet potato salad With dried cranberries, toasted walnuts & tahini dressing.
The salad had mixed greens at the base, plus chunks of kale.  The greens were all very fresh and crisp.  I don't love dried cranberries/raisins/etc, but they did provide a sweetness, tartness, and chew that I liked.  The walnuts were a nice crunch.

The dressing wasn't quite what I was expecting.  I thought it would be thick, and that I'd taste tahini.  But ... it was a thin vinaigrette that I really didn't taste much.

The sweet potato chunks were interesting, in that they were inconsistently cooked, but in a way that worked.  Some soft, some crisp, which just added some interest to it.

Overall, my favorite of my small plates.
Wheatberry & smoked almond couscous With feta cheese, golden raisins, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, mint & parsley.
They took some liberty with the term "couscous" here.  They just meant a grain salad ...

The wheatberries were well prepared, slightly crisp.  However, I'm not the biggest fan of feta, and that flavor overwhelmed.  I did like the sweet juicy golden raisins, and was impressed by the very fresh parsley and mint garnish.
Buttermilk fried chicken With a green cabbage & celeriac slaw.
This I ordered for the slaw.  I did try the fried chicken coating, but otherwise, gave it to Ojan.  The coating was ok, crispier than I'd expect on a flight, but, it didn't have any seasoning or real flavor.  And no sauce to dip the chicken in.

The slaw was kinda funny, served in a little plastic container on the side.  Given the nice plating of the other elements, it was a bit strange.  It was fine, fresh enough, crispy enough, not overdressed, but again, not very flavorful.

Sweet Bites

Dessert was offered after the meal, fruit salad and ice cream as always.  Since I have a melon allergy, no fruit for me.
Sea Salt Caramel Ice Cream.
"Smooth caramel and French fleur-de-sel infused grass-fed dairy for this simply decadent treat."

I was hoping to get to try a new flavor of ice cream, but it was sea salt again.  I'm not really complaining though, because the sea salt was great last time.
With my own toppings!
And ... because I'm crazy, I brought my own toppings - sprinkles and chocolate pearls to add on top.  My FAs loved this.

The ice cream was again great, but needed significant time to get melty how I like it.  But it did melt nicely, and I just love the sweet butterscotchy flavor to this ice cream.

When You Re-Treat

An edible parting gift – worth the wait! Freshly made confections.

My parting gifts were also exactly the same as my previous flight.
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