Sunday, April 17, 2016

Graeter's Cheese Crown Ice Cream

I'm visiting family in Indiana right now, so I thought - hey, now's my time to try out things that really only exist in the Midwest. There is lots of cool stuff about San Francisco, things you can get there that are really difficult to find most elsewhere in the United States...but some things I know I'll be missing. Like a lot of chains - I know it's not all that cool but I wish I could, if I so chose, go to a Red Lobster or something. In San Francisco, they just don't have 'em. Nor do they have Graeter's ice cream parlors - a very small Midwestern chain that must've just recently expanded to Indiana, as I'd never heard of them before.

They had a special flavor this month based off of a cheese danish pastry that they refer to as a Cheese Crown. Apparently in the Kentucky & Ohio region they have bakeries, but in Indiana it's just ice cream...for now. Graeter's also sells lots of their premium chip varieties in grocery stores across the nation, so keep your eyes peeled for this flavor at shops near you. (no, I'm not sponsored by Graeter's ;) )

The mix-ins for this flavor include cinnamon sugar pastry pieces & fondant icing flakes. As you can see, there are plenty of both - as I went further into the pint, the amount only seemed to increase. Very generous!

The ice cream itself seems to be a cream cheese base with a hint of fresh, sweet lemon. It's very reminiscent of cheesecake, and is thick & rich rather than icy & sweet. You can really feel the quality of the ice cream itself - it's not just good because of the bits, like a lot of other ice cream parlor flavors out there in the world.

The icing flakes had a very creamy, smooth texture and were truly thin slivers. The flavor was very sweet, it was really similar to the light frosting that tops danishes & cinnamon rolls. The pastry was soft, and had a taste very similar to graham crackers - or perhaps more specifically, Cinnamon Teddy Grahams.

It was a great flavor, very well put together (cinnamon sugar & cream cheese is hard to go wrong with) and high quality, smooth ice cream.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Wild Ophelia Caramelized Banana Peanut Butter Cups

There are so many new brands in the US right now - being here not really on vacation opens me up to finding different stuff, as there is no harried kinda "gotta get these before I go back to the UK!" feelings. That way I can be like, "eh, I'll get the limited edition Oreos soon. In the mean time, these banana peanut butter cups sound good."

So it was - at Target all of these Wild Ophelia Peanut Butter Cups were on sale, but only by like 10%. They sounded awesome, but this caramelized banana variety was definitely the most unique. It's about $2.00 for 6 miniature Reese's size cups, which isn't a great deal - but isn't too expensive compared to other more gourmet chocolates.

The top is covered with bits of tough caramelized banana chips. To be honest, I don't care for the firm crunch of banana chips (never have) but since they're minced up in a small way they're easier to handle. The peanut butter seems to be a bit sweeter than usual, probably has a bit of banana flavor or puree blended in it.

The chocolate is milk based at 41%, so again it was pretty sweet and creamy. Everything was really smooth in texture, minus the crunchy bits of banana chip. They were nice with coffee, but in all honesty I feel like the quality wasn't that much better than Reese's, and actually these old Reese's Elvis Peanut Butter & Banana Cups were significantly nicer in my opinion. Bring them back, please!

Friday, March 25, 2016

What I Will Miss from the UK

So before I go, I really wanted to just run down some of my favorite things from my time spent in the UK. Food related of course, as I'm sure you're not that curious what British TV I will miss (for the record, First Dates, various Screenwipes & Dragon's Den) nor my apprehensions for any public transport other than England's...

These are the things I know I will miss - some kinda generic, some really specific.

Biscuits...I will miss you most of all. From the humble Custard Cream, to the finest dark chocolate covered ginger biscuit, what will I dunk in coffee or tea in America? American cookies are designed to be dunked in milk exclusively, and when they're popped into hot drinks they basically disintegrate immediately . The structural integrity of a Chips Ahoy! is rather poor and to be honest, they're all just a bit too sweet to have all the time. Shortbread is easy enough to get ahold of, but what about speciality shortbreads? Your earl grey type, your rose flavored? Ain't happening.

For as much as I love Oreos & other American cookies you can get on the shelf, when they're my only option...I think I'll be dreaming of a pack of Viennese Fingers.

Abundance of tea...Everybody knows America is not a real tea-centric country. Sure, green tea has become quite popular and there are interesting brands like Davids' Tea & Celestial Seasonings, but PG Tips? Fuggedaboutit. I anticipate that I'll crave simple tea like that every once in awhile, and it won't be in easy supply.

Clotted cream...Does this need any explanation? Clotted cream is the most delicious & horrible-for-you thing that I've ever had in England, and I've eaten a lot of delicious garbage here. It's unctuous cream with the texture of some kinda butter/stringy cheese hybrid, and you put it on top of warm sweet things. The British in general love cream, and I am right there with them - pouring cream, flavored creams, cream as a standard dessert condiment...It's just not like that in America. I'll make due with whipped cream, but I'll be thinking of clotted cream.

European meat...While I love Mexican chorizo & I'm glad I will be able to enjoy it again, I will be missing Spanish chorizo. Also German Garlic Sausage, and German Brunswick Ham, and many Italian & Spanish meats. While nearly all of these are available in America in some form or another, they're quite a bit harder to find & will set you back a far prettier penny...or, pence. American lunch meat is way cheaper than British lunch meat of the same style (plain turkey, for instance) but the continental stuff will be hard to replace.

European/British cheese...Cheddar is better here. There are dozens of speciality continental cheeses at almost every supermarket, and if you want a deep-fried camembert damnit, you can get it. There is no question in my mind that cheese variety & quality is better in the UK than it is in the US. While my husband is excited for Monterey & Pepper Jack, I know that the novelty will wear off soon and he'll want something with the sting (and stink) of European cheese. Velveeta won't sustain us in the same way extra mature cheddar did.

Brewdog...Tons of cool beers in America, for sure. Are they Brewdog though? Nope. The packaging, the variety, all the pubs along the city of London (and beyond!) make Brewdog feel special, and like something I'll be missing. It helps that it was the very first beer I tried that didn't make me recoil in grossosity, and while my tastes have expanded now to enjoy all sorts of beer, Brewdog's Punk IPA will always hold a special place in my heart for being the very first!

Pret & Eat...There are plenty of alternatives to these two chains in terms of generic mid-range lunch option, but I've gotten so used to the rhythm of Pret & Eat's seasonal menu, and I look forward to the introduction of new toasties or wraps every few months. The flavor combinations are also usually pretty different than what we get in America, so my favorite Red Pepper Tapanade & Halloumi hot flatbread from Eat will be hard to replace like-for-like.

Luxury yogurts...Obviously we've got loads of yogurts in America, actually probably more than in the UK. Red velvet greek yogurt, yogurt with mango & sriachia, and even weirder varieties...the issue is in America yogurt is really only considered a 'diet food', or at the very least, healthy. Nobody's trying to make it more caloric, but listen...adding whipped cream to that yogurt makes it REAL good. Makes it like a smooth cream dessert with the addition of kinda-healthy probiotics. What's not to like? America, think about it. Meanwhile I'll be missing the M&S range of luxury yogurts and Muller fancy corners.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Chinese Laundry, Islington Restaurant

As you may have read earlier, I'm moving to San Francisco in the coming months. As much as I've loved so much of the food I ate in the UK, and even found plenty of great analogues to American foods that I missed, there was one (okay, two counting Mexican) food genre that just never hit the spot for me here like it did back home...Chinese food.

Of course, American Chinese food is nothing like real Chinese food, but it is super delicious, especially if you're raised on it. I've had plenty of Chinese takeaways here in London and they always just fell a bit short on the flavor side of things. Like, it was serviceable chicken-with-sauce but it wasn't the flavor-blasted chicken with extreme sauce that you get in American Chinese buffets. Also,  there is a soul shattering lack of Crab Rangoons.

 For all I know here in London it's closer to authentic (I'm certain it's closer to 'authentic' than Indiana!) but it's just a bit 'meh', usually. Kung pao tasting rather like sweet & sour, you know what I mean? Samey samey.

Okay, long lead up to tell you that I've had the best Chinese food ever in London now, so I'm feeling even more bummed out about leaving! D'oh!

Chinese Laundry opened up in Islington sometime last year, and I was quite keen to give it a try as I love the theme: Northern Chinese food, as prepared by/for a family, in the 1980s. Specific...I love it. We made it over for brunch and I thought it was awesome that the theming continues all throughout the restaurant. I spotted some super-cool drinking glasses, including a Mondrian print one that I must've pointed out to my husband no less than a half dozen times. The chairs, all the dishes, it was all very on theme and a bit kitschy - not the familiar kitsch of the West - but still identifiable as of a time and of a type. We split everything we ordered and felt very satisfied.

Started off with what I assumed was a drink, but later figured out is kind of a soup - Peanut & Rice Milk. Top tip - use a spoon. It was very nice, more savory than the Peanut Milk at Bao, which is fair enough as they're from two different parts of the world and of course, definitions of 'peanut milk' will vary! Either way, it had the savory nuttiness of a satay sauce, with none of the accompanying spice, and a bit of rice grain sweetness. It was very thick, and a really pleasant start.

Next we had the Bacon & Egg Bing, which is a fried 'pancake' of sorts, in the same way that Korean pajeon is a pancake. The flavors were very different though. Pajeon is almost always kind of oily tasting, but the bing at Chinese laundry was fresh & much 'lighter' in feel. Seemed like there was a lot of basil involved, with a soft-cooked egg & thick and plentiful salty bacon. Lovely meld of textures and flavors of sweetness, herbs, and spice.

The Pork Belly Baozi was next, and it's like a massive bao, slightly bigger than a man's fist. The pork belly was sweet & slightly hot and just the perfect texture of pork belly - with a bit of softness & a bit of chew. There was nothing to dislike about this one, it's an easy pleaser! The green bean version also sounds interesting.

We also ordered the Milky Little Buns which come as one steamed bread, and one fried version of that steamed bread. Two different sauces also accompany, one quite hot & vinegary thin sauce and one thick, condensed milk based sweet almost frosting-like sauce. You could mix and match the two buns with the two sauces, my favorite pairing was the steamed bun with the sweet sauce. Soft, kinda chewy, and so milky sweet. It was an awesome extra, I really loved being able to go from sauce to sauce.

We finished off the food with the Dumpling Stir Fry which was a ton of tasty dumplings fried up with peanuts, bacon & garlic. I think they were pork dumplings, they also had a bit of a basil taste to them. There was a kind of creamy, peppery sauce on top - it's hard to describe this one really, but it was probably my second favorite course after the bing! Highly recommended.

We also enjoyed a couple different teas, I definitely remember one had the word monkey in the title...regardless, they were both very nice. There was a salted lemonade as well that was rather intriguing, I'll order it next time!

I'll have to fit in another visit to Chinese Laundry before I go, although I'm sure San Francisco has it's fair share of awesome Chinese food, this place seemed really special & unique.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Big News: CreamySteaks Relocation

Hey readers!

So, I know I've been soooo quiet lately, but that's because of some big changes that required and continue to require a lot of my time. Cut a long story short - I'm moving back to the USA. My husband's job is taking him to California, and of course I'm accompanying!

This has been in the cards for awhile, always kind of the plan to move back, but it does feel odd. I've really developed a life here in the UK and I know there is so much that I will miss about it. It's bittersweet - I know this is the right decision for our life goals & our future, but this is really where I felt like I became an adult. Started my career here, learned public transportation here, got married here...Just a lot of nice memories & beginnings all happened in this country. Then again, I have loads of nice memories & beginnings from the US -- and more to come in the future, I'm sure.

So the big news for you guys is that I will no longer be reviewing UK restaurants & products as of late March. I'm sure I'll get the occasional care package, but there will be less UK focused content to be had.

In general, CreamySteaks will review US products & San Francisco-area restaurants from late March. I am going to continue blogging, but the content will differ - I'm sorry for the change to my long time UK readers, but I hope that perhaps you'll continue to read to find out what sort of cool things are going on across the pond. I know I'll keep reading the blogs kept by the lovely UK bloggers that I've gotten to know over the years. I'll miss being able to just pop out to Sainsbury's and find the stuff, but I'll keep on reading!

Of course, I will still be reviewing Japanese snacks, perhaps more often as it's a bit more accessible in America. I'll also still be doing Food I'd Like to Eat round-ups, maybe even more, as those are quite fun!

Thank you all so much for having read CreamySteaks, and I do hope you'll continue down the road with me as I explore San Francisco's seemingly endless restaurants and all the wacky Oreo flavors of America...and beyond!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Food I'd Like to Eat: Chocolate Edition

Living here in the UK, I do feel that we get a fair share of chocolate treats. Like very rarely do I think, "Man, I wish we had that over here." It does happen though, and here are a few things that have me wishing I could trade in some crummy new-style Creme Eggs for something from further afield.

This is kind of a cheat because I've had this one before, from France - although I guess this brand is Swiss. It was so amazing, stiff & nutty praline cream surrounded by blonde chocolate. Blonde chocolate, if you're not sure, is like Valrhona Dulcey or an upmarket Caramac. Kind of white chocolate flavored with caramel. These were really just amazing - very satisfying, quite sweet, with a lot of nutty flavor from the center.

I loved Cherry M&Ms when I was younger when they first came out, and I hadn't seen them in ages! So when I saw they were back, I was like - oh yeah, how romantic. Unfortunately, duh, they're only in America. They've also released a Strawberry version, but to me that one seems like it would be a bit too sweet and not have the tangy edge of a cherry chocolate.

Another cherry chocolate! This combo doesn't get a ton of play here in the UK, except in cake form. This one would obviously be way better than the M&Ms, it's dark chocolate and a much higher quality brand.

I found two different varieties of peanut butter & jelly chocolate bars on this US small-batch producer website, Mouth. Uhhh I'd try both. I love peanut butter, I love jelly, I love chocolate - I just know this combination would work really well. Salty, sweet, and tangy!

This one is passion fruit jelly, and it seems super tall. Looks...good. Like, what's not to like? Unless you're allergic to peanuts. This one is by Fixx Chocolates.

This one is 'peanut praline' and raspberry pate de fruit. Also, apparently, described as 'crispy'. Reckon it's like crunchy peanut butter, then? This one is by Tumbador Chocolates.

Finally, these strange 'chocolates' called Il Morso are made of coffee beans & cocoa butter, so it's not really coffee flavored chocolate, it's a coffee based confection. Like, an entirely new thing. Cool though, I'd love to try it! There are a few flavors; Americano (plain), Coffee & Cream (well...creamier, I'm sure), Mocha (added chocolate) and Matcha Green Tea (no coffee, matcha instead!). I'm down to try them all. Unfortunately they're only in the USA for now, but this more than the rest seems like the sort of thing that would take off in the UK!

Well, that's about it for now - any chocolates you've seen overseas that you wish would make the journey to the UK?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Paul A Young, Golden Sugar Coated Caramel Bombs

Happy 2016!
Long time no see, readers! Let's just say one of my 2016 resolutions should be to update my blog more frequently. Unfortunately, January 2016 comes in with your classic dieting proviso, so I can't promise tons of reviews. I'll definitely try & make more time for the blog, regardless. Maybe more round-ups of interesting foods of the world?

Hope everyone had an awesome holiday with lots of good food & drinks going around. One of the snacking highlights of Christmas for me this year was these Paul A Young x Billington's Sugar Truffles.

This is the second time in my memory that Paul A Young has paired with Billington's for a sugar-based truffle - the first time around that I tried it was a triple sugar truffle that was just extra sweet. Shouldn't have shocked me, right? Anyway, I also recall they were presented alongside the regular Paul A Young truffle selection - I don't remember a box this adorable, that's for sure.

See, looks like a box of sugar. Except instead of a bunch of boring old sugar, it's 9 truffles made out of sugar! Oh, and chocolate, and probably a little salt or...I'll cut to the chase.

These are extremely delicious. If you have any kind of sweet tooth whatsoever, you will like these. Where I remember the sugar collaboration truffles in the past being just a bit too sweet, these are just the right level. That awesome Paul A Young dark chocolate, just a bit fruity & tart, topped with a wee bit of crispy sugar, and on the inside...A caramel with a ganache texture & a true brown sugar edge. You know the taste difference between baked goods made with brown sugar & those made with white sugar - think that, but through the medium of caramel and probably using one of the nicest & most flavoursome brown sugars in the world.

 I think there must be a bit of salt included as well, because these really stay on the right side of sweet for something that hinges on it's use of a specific kind of sugar.

These may not have been the most esoteric of Paul A Young truffles available at any given time, but I'll be damned if they weren't tasty in spite of their relative tameness. That's a true master chocolatier, indeed! Are they still available? I'm not sure, if someone wants to enlighten me I may just go pick up another box, haha.