Saturday, June 29, 2013

Berlin Food Round-Up

So, I'm back from Berlin! I had a super time...or is that an uber time?

Being that I am a snack blogger, my favorite part was the food. Also time off work, pleasant weather, and exploration...but yeah, the food ranks highest. Sorry museums and historic sites, next time add some salt & a sauce or something.

I had done a little bit of research before we arrived, and there was one place I knew I'd have to go.

Fassbender & Rausch is a chocolate shop & cafe that gets high praise all over the internet, and was specifically recommended to me by Fiona on Twitter. Thank you, Fiona. I would like to buy you a chocolate for suggesting such a perfect place. Spoiler alert, I found this place totally perfect.

Not only do they serve cakes and pastries, particularly my favorite kind (mostly cream, little cake), they also have a giant chocolate shop on the ground floor. The shop has some awesome chocolate displays, like a giant chocolate Brandenburg gate & a giant bear, which seems to be the spirit animal of Berlin.

I had the Frankfurter-Kranz tortchen, which was comprised of French buttercream, a sponge base, raspberry compote, and caramelized...bits. I think they were some kind of nut, but they were more or less crunchy caramel.

My husband had the Peach Bellini, which was peach jelly, cream, and a sponge base. It was also delicious, but texturally I was a bigger fan of mine. The cream in this one felt a bit like jelly, sort of wobbly. Maybe it was more like a chilled custard, or an American style pudding.

We grabbed a box of chocolates from the shop before we left. We opted for the choose-your-own selection from the counter, which was a bit overwhelming. I should've gotten a couple photos of the counter, as there were about three or four counters worth of chocolate, separated into alcohol-including, petit-desserts, no-alcohol, and marzipan. Amazing value, too - it was about 7 euro for a box of 12. I'd definitely put the quality above Godiva and more 'high street' chocolatiers, and basically above all US-based chocolatiers I've tried, but not in the exact same tier as William Curley or Paul A. Young...but you're not paying as high of prices, either. The only issue is you'd have to go to Germany for a box.
Worth it, I think. There are a few fruity truffles, as those are the kind my husband and I both enjoy most, and two balsamic truffles that we were warned were 'quite strong'. The server at the counter must've thought we were delicate since all the rest of them are white chocolate/passionfruit/coconut/mango, et cetera. My favorite was the balsamic, though - it tasted like a sour lemon cream more than vinegar - but then again I'm crazy for vinegar tastes so it might be horrible for people who don't like punchy sour stuff. The two roughly textured white ones at the bottom were vanilla butter, which tasted like dense vanilla butter covered in buttery white chocolate. That was a close second as my favorite.

 The cream centers were all perfect, smooth and supple and naturally flavored with whichever fruit was meant to be included. Wish I could remember more specifics, but we ate these very quickly about a week ago so...sorry! But Fassbender & Rausch is a must in Berlin if you like sweets. Highly recommended!

It wasn't all sweets, however. I also discovered a new favorite junk food...currywurst.

Unfortunately we were never able to get down to Curry36, the most recommended currywurst place, instead we ate at Curry Express a few times...which I'm sure is the absolute lowest common denominator of an already pretty junky food, haha. I loved it, though. I can't wait to have nicer ones when we go back.
This went best with a Mezzo Mix, which is cola with orange. It nearly just tastes like Coke, but at the very end there is a snap of citrus. More of an after-taste than anything, but it makes it much more palette-cleansing than your usual cola. Might I also mention that the french fries in Berlin were always exactly how i like them best - thin and crispy. The sausage at Curry Express was super soft and squishy, and they offered pomme-frite sauce, as much as you like...their mistake, because I took a lot everytime, haha. It was like slightly more tangy mayo, went so nicely with the crispy fries. I really loved this place, even though I'm sure it is extra trashy and grubby. I kind of like that, though. I mean, after all, I had to be talked down from eating here:
We also went to the zoo, which was a great opportunity for me to get a huge sunburn and a Cornetto. Lucky me that there was an exotic Cornetto to be had among the mandrills and hippos. Hippos are crazy looking in real life, by the way - kind of monsterous and dinosaur-y.
This flavor translates to Buttermilk and Lemon, which took me a minute to really understand. Turns out, buttermilk is a popular pairing with citrus in Germany. Well, at least in my brief analysis which included eating this, seeing buttermilk written down on a lot of signs, and buying a box of buttermilk and lime chocolates, which were sadly scarfed before a review could be done. You'll get the gist of it by this cone, however.
The combination of buttermilk and citrus actually makes a good amount of sense, considering you can 'make' buttermilk, or at least a fair substitute, by adding lemon juice to fresh milk. Basically, it's just tangy milk with tangy fruit. This is particularly nice if you already like citrus sweets, it reminded me of a lemon cheesecake or a sweeter lemon yogurt dessert. Very refreshing for the summer, as it isn't too sweet. In the middle of the ice cream, there was an icy lemon sorbet all the way down the cone, which blended really well with the ice cream and kept the citrus taste going all the way down. Very clever, because otherwise the lemon just came from the sauce on top. I'd happily eat one of these in the UK, it is a shame it probably won't make it over here, probably because buttermilk isn't a common ingredient in...much of anything? I'm not sure, in America it is only really used in pancakes, and maybe southern style gravy? Either way, give this one a try if you're in Germany this summer. This, and any other buttermilk chocolate - it's quite similar to yogurt chocolates, just a bit more tangy.
I saved the best, or at least my favorite, for last. I brought these Halloren Kugeln back with me, kind of thinking they were just unassuming little chocolates from a WH Smith-type shop inside the train station. I was drawn to them because they seemed quite nostalgic, and I usually like anything that claims to be 'cream'. More or less, I thought they'd just be decent. How wrong was I. They were so awesome.
They look pretty unassuming out of the pack, too. Just thick, glossy buttons. I was right about them being nostalgic, these are produced by the oldest German chocolate factory, so lots of history in these. After all, as we all know, Germany is the land of chocolate.
So, inside these are split into two sections, but I couldn't really tell a huge difference. Then again, I enjoyed them as a whole so much that I never even really attempted to eat them separately...sorry snack scientific method, I failed you this time.

The filling was so dense but somehow kind of springy, and so chocolate-y. It was like eating the nicest combination of marshmallow and brownie you can imagine. Or fudge. Actually, it reminded me a lot of the kind of fudge you make using Marshmallow Fluff, except covered in sweet dark chocolate. There were a good number of them in the box, but they were eaten so quickly between the two of us they might as well have just been an outline of chocolates, or a note that said 'Sorry' with only two bitten chocolates left. What I'm saying is that we ate them as fast as Looney Tunes characters run.

I've still got a few things left from Germany that I brought back, such as a coffee banana chocolate bar, some strawberry mint truffles, and a weird (and very cheap) mixed selection of soft drink powders to combine with water. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Look Chocolate, Matcha Mousse & Azuki Bean

I was so pleased to receive a box of goodies from OyatsuCafe for the purposes of munching and reviewing.

There is tons of stuff to get through, including some fun (albeit very chewy looking) Kracie kits, but I'm starting off with these Look Chocolates.

Look Chocolate is pretty popular in Japan from what I can tell - when I was there on vacation a few years ago I remember seeing quite a few different varieties in all the convenience stores and groceries. I remember eating some kind of Belgian chocolate mix one, where there were four different textures/flavors of chocolate in the box...I think it had some tie-in with a pop group, as well. Anyway, I can't think of a very similar product in the UK or America, they're like small chocolate variety boxes, sometimes 4 different flavors and sometimes just 2, with twelve little bits of chocolate in each box.
As you can maybe tell, this particular flavor is primarily green tea, however look closely and you'll notice that there are two different colored fillings on top of the matcha mousse. I couldn't really figure out exactly what the toppings were, as I don't speak Japanese, but my research indicates that they are red bean sauce and red bean paste, or cream? If anyone has a more clear idea, let me know!
The chocolates themselves spell out 'Look' in three rows, cute touch. When I opened the box, the smell was quite strong green tea. I personally really like green tea confectionery, so I was excited.

Unfortunately I couldn't not for the life of me get a clear picture of the inside of the chocolate, but they look like the diagram on the front of the box.

The chocolate is very milky and not too sweet, more fatty than sugary as is usually the case with Japanese snacks like this. The green tea taste was as I expected quite strong, which was good for me, with a pretty dense and long-lasting mousse texture. It wasn't aerated like an Aero bar, it was more like a 'truffle' center. The sauce or 'milk' on top was hard to really taste, and even when I managed to get just a little bit of it and some chocolate eaten together, it all just tasted like green tea.

The difference in taste was negligible between the two different toppings, the main difference was textural. One variety of chocolate felt more like a red bean paste in texture, whereas the other one was wetter, more like it had sauce on it. I enjoyed both textures, and really appreciated how each piece could be savored for awhile since it was such a dense filling.

Overall, these were quite tasty and were an enjoyable snack to have on hand. It's a pity that green tea flavored things are few and far between here in the UK, except of course actual green tea. Who wants that when you can have it dipped in chocolate and in a cute box, though?

(OyatsuCafe so kindly provided me with some products for review, but all opinions are just my own!)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dairy Milk, Strawberries & Creme

Maybe I'm beginning to get a bit picky.

I really slammed that Krispy Kreme the other day, and why? Just for being sticky and gross in this world? All it wanted to do was get eaten, it never asked to be reviewed, or even thought of for more than the minute it takes to be eaten. What makes me such a big shot that I can tell a food what it should taste like?

Anyway, I really didn't much care for this bar.

My main issue comes from the name, which I think was a bit of a reach to try and make a bar of standard strawberry yogurt chocolate connect to a British summer classic. To me, it tasted just like those Lidl strawberry yogurt chocolates, which isn't really a bad thing, but it wasn't what I wanted nor what I expected from a bar labelled strawberries & cream.

I'm usually a big fan of Dairy Milk, I think the standard stuff is milky and just the right amount of sweet. I did think that the sweetness of Dairy Milk combined with the sweetness of the strawberry filling was overkill though, and I don't often say that. When I think of the continental European strawberry yogurt chocolates, I usually remember them as not terribly sweet chocolate-wise, with a decent tang from the yogurt.
While this was tangy, it was more sweet than anything else. I guess I was anticipating a bar of strawberry & vanilla cream type filling. That would've been sweet too, of course, but at least it wouldn't have been false advertising.

Obviously, this wasn't really a case of false advertising, as the creme in the title could very well be referring to the fact that it is a cream center, and it even is described on the back as a strawberry yogurt filling, but I still just didn't care for naming this bar after something it really doesn't taste like at all. If it had been named Dairy Milk Strawberry Yogurt, I would've known I wasn't interested.

 While I am a fan of chocolate with tang, like some of my favorite everyday chocolates are the Hotel Chocolat Cheesecake range that have a very nice sour cream edge to them, I just felt that it didn't gibe well with the Dairy Milk...maybe it also didn't help that it only comes in a big bar. Even though I shared it with my husband, I still felt like I was slogging through it by the end. 

Too sweet, strawberry too artificial, and it just didn't all gel together that nicely. The filling could've been good with another chocolate, and the chocolate would've been great with another filling, but alas.

(quick blognote, I've been having trouble with my bite/jaw lately, going to a specialist to sort it out, but luckily I have some old posts to get through such as this one. hopefully I can start reviewing new stuff again very soon! Thanks for sticking with me through delays and periods of non-posting.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Cheese Curry Noodles

Cheese, curry, and noodles. I like all three of those things in pretty equal measure, which is to say I like them a lot.

Put them all together, and baby, you've got a stew going. A curry stew with noodles.

Enter Cheese Curry Noodles by Nissin,  ordered from the fine folks over at OyatsuCafe. I ordered two pots of these along with a few other delicious bits & pieces to be reviewed later, and enjoyed a great chow-down of a lunch with my husband. OyatsuCafe is great, the shipping was very cheap considering what I ordered, I think they've got economic packaging down pat. I also like that OyatsuCafe has a different selection to a lot of the other Japanese snack shops online, for instance they have way more instant noodles & other savory foods than any other place I've found.  Ergo, this review.
I will alert you now that the pictures after this exterior shot are quite uh...weird, if you don't cotton to instant noodles and the idea of reconstituted cheese product. You should though, you should like those things because this is one of the tastiest meals you can have in around 4 minutes, where all you have to do is put on a kettle.

Opening this one up, it definitely smells like Japanese curry. If you've never had Japanese curry, I suggest you buy some and try it very soon. Maybe Pokemon Curry? It's quite a bit sweeter than Indian curry, and even the stuff that is labelled 'hot' isn't hot in the same way that a Vindaloo is--it just has more spices. Oh, but it is so good.

So, smells like sweet curry powder. Looks like...
Cubed cheese and beef bits with noodles. Waugh. I'm sure you'll feel better to know that I think those aren't beef bits, they're actually pieces of curry roux and mushroom. The cubed cheese, however, is very much cheese so deal with it. To an instant noodle fan, and a person who loved salami & cheese snack sticks from petrol stations as a youth, this looks absolutely amazing to me. I'll gladly eat preserved cheese product, and ask for more.

All you have to do to prepare this is boil a kettle, fill the cup up to the line with the boiling water, and wait four minutes. The whole time, it smells like sweet curry with a slight cheddar tang.
I can see where some people might look at this picture and be absolutely disgusted. I do get that. However, this is extremely tasty. The darkish bits are just curry sauce, and the yellow bits are cheese, of course. It looks much nicer once you mix it, it just looks like noodles in a curry sauce.

It tasted amazing, Just like Japanese-style curry, which is sweet and mildly spicy, with little bits of tangy cheddar cheese. The noodles are thicker and chewier than other instant noodles, which are usually imported from China, Hong Kong, or Vietnam...basically, countries that aren't Japan. Japanese instant noodles in general are a bit nicer quality, but they're also more expensive so unless you're particularly into instant noodles it probably isn't worth the extra cash unless it is a flavor like this.

Once I'd finished the noodles I had tons of curry soup left, and it tasted amazing. I usually hate the soups left over in instant noodles because they're just salty and boring, but this one tasted spicy & sweet just like an actual Japanese curry. The little bits of mushroom were super, too--not too chewy and not too soft, with a good meaty taste. It was also way more filling than other instant noodles, probably because there was a ton of noodles in it, and lots of bits of mushroom. It also didn't seem as salty, but that might be because the curry taste and tangy cheese overpowers the salt.

If this were something I could easily get in the UK, I'd buy them 24/7. It's a shame that instant noodles are one of the more expensive things to ship from Japan, because I'd happily buy a case of these to eat every couple weeks. I was thinking I might experiment with using Japanese curry roux (fairly easy to get in the UK) and bits of processed cheese on top of noodles to kind of replicate this...let's hope it doesn't turn into some kind of The Stuff situation.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Cookie Crunch Doughnut & Orange Gloss Sundae, Krispy Kreme

Happy belated National Doughnut Day, America!

I have a long history with doughnuts here on Creamy Steaks, and yet if you would've asked me what my favorite baked good is, doughnuts would appear pretty low on that long...long...long list. I need to give it up to the doughnut, though.

 I mean,  I've posted doughnuts I'd like to eat, doughnuts I have eaten (Red Velvet, St. John's Custard/Cream, Chocolate Truffle) and my profile picture is me in the act of eating a doughnut. Clearly, I like them quite a bit even though I would've said cookie, cupcake, cake, blondie, and brownie before them.

They'll always beat out pie, though. Come on pie fans, you gotta get real.

As I said though, cookies are my top pick. Combine a cookie and a doughnut and you've got my attention. Of course, combine a doughnut and croissant and you've really got me looking. Cronuts in London NOW! Til then, I guess cookie/doughnut has to suffice. Doughkie? Oh, just sounds like dookie. Kindly forget this whole paragraph.
I gotta say, I think it is very silly that this is called 'Cookie Crunch', when it is so clearly cookies 'n' cream.

This one is your classic Krispy Kreme yeast-raised ring doughnut encrusted in sugar, but with a key difference...there is cookie crunch on top of it. Hey, you spilled Generic Cocoa Sandwich Cookies on my doughnut! Well, you got doughnut on my Generic Cocoa Sandwich Cookies!

Until I looked at this picture I had no idea that there was chocolate frosting underneath the cookies--so, not too strong of a taste there. The cookie bits were unfortunately not very crunchy, they were kind of softened up. Maybe if you got this doughnut straight away after glazing it would be good, but unfortunately my Krispy Kreme location is a kiosk in a train station, so I don't think they ever have the doughnuts 'hot'. Do any Krispy Kremes do that here? In the US, at least back in my day, Dunkin' Doughnuts and Krispy Kremes both had signs that lit up when the doughnuts were fresh-and they were always a million times better than the ones you would get hours later. You can replicate this a bit by microwaving them for 3 seconds at home, but I don't have a microwave so waa-waa.

Really, this was no better or worse than the classic Krispy Kreme, the cookie crumbles added so little except a vague cocoa-taste, tooth-blackening, and a handful more calories. Unimpressive, I'm sad to say. I would've been better off with a filled doughnut of some sort. To be fair though, I got this at the very end of the day so it might be quite nice when it is fresh and still has some crunch.
While the Cookie Crunch doughnut just disappointed me, like a child who did poorly on a test because they didn't even try; the Orange Gloss Sundae enraged me, like a child who didn't study for a test and instead spent all day huffing whipped cream & glue.

Whipped cream & glue is a pretty accurate approximation of this thing, by the way.

Sure, it looks pretty--I really like the glossy coat, it is shimmery and even glittery in real life, but they do not have the texture down on this kind of "icing". It feels like some cruel parent coated children's Aspirin in honey & molasses and made you gulp it down with more honey, chased down with some old bread. Before you can swallow it, they squirt whipped cream in and weird, horrible orange curls.

The orange taste in this is quite disgusting, and I usually like citrus with sweet. It does taste like children's medicine, and the doughnut itself was quite dull and chewy. So it was like a sticky, chewy Flintstone's vitamin. The only solace was the tragically tiny splotch of 'kreme' frosting in the center--can't fault that, it tasted like it always did but with the unfortunate undertone of ..."orange".

So, don't eat it! There are plenty of nice doughnuts at Krispy Kreme...why don't you eat them?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hummingbird Bakery, Jam Doughnut & Strawberry Milkshake Cupcakes

Hummingbird Bakery has recently (as in, starting last month) began doing 'head-to-head' flavor battles here in the UK, the first of which was Sticky Toffee Pudding and Lemon Meringue. Not being a huge fan of either flavor, but more importantly assuming I'd know exactly how they tasted, I shrugged and waited for the next month to see if maybe a weirder battle emerged.

I was right to wait.
This month is Strawberry Milkshake and Jam Doughnut, and I was actually there on day one in the mid-afternoon. Preliminary results showed that there were tons of Jam Doughnut ones left and very few Strawberry Milkshake...but what did I think?

The one I was most excited about was Jam Doughnut, for one reason only: cinnamon buttercream frosting. I love buttercream frosting, all the better if it is anything other than vanilla or chocolate--but cinnamon? Cinnamon is a delicious partner to overwhelming sweetness, such as what is seen in frosting. I was on board. However, less exciting was the actual cake itself, which was just vanilla sponge, and the kind of dorky inclusion of a tiny doughnut hole on top. I also don't care for jam.

 So I suppose I'd be just as happy with a snicker-doodle cupcake. Feel free to write that one down, Hummingbird. All I ask is 10 percent of all snicker-doodle sales and free cake for life.
I was not let down by the Jam Doughnut, but all I really needed it to be was cinnamon-y. The frosting was just perfect, Hummingbird does a very tasty buttercream, and I consider myself a bit of a frosting connoisseur. Very smooth and creamy, not at all oily or claggy. The difference with the cinnamon buttercream is that it is a bit more gritty, just because the top is dusted with cinnamon sugar. It is delightful--really reminds me of the best kind of cinnamon rolls, the kind that have buttercream frosting on top of them instead of icing. Man, I am a pig.

The sponge was good, vanilla cake basically. Airy and not dense, which is the way sponge is usually baked. I'm usually more of a fan of dense, moist cakes, but that might be a bit of overkill with the amount of frosting on any given Hummingbird cupcake. Did it taste of vanilla? Well, it tasted like cake. Do you think any 'cake' tastes like vanilla? If so, this will taste like vanilla to you. Me, I'm quite partial to a strong vanilla hit so I'm usually disappointed by 'white cake' or 'yellow cake' masquerading as vanilla. It just tastes like butter and sugar to me.

The jam center was tiny, and I was glad for that because I don't much care for jam. A cupcake with a few inches of frosting is already quite sweet, does it really need jam? Hummingbird says that it is strawberry jam, but really, it is just the red stuff. No specific taste, just very sweet and vaguely tart.

The miniature doughnut on top, really a doughnut hole technically, was very chewy and not particularly nice. It was coated in sugar though, so not a complete loss. Would've been just as good without it, but it does make for a cute way of acknowledging the doughnutical inspiration of the cake.
The Strawberry Milkshake is described as 'strawberry milkshake sponge swirled with frothy strawberry milkshake frosting', topped with an edible straw. Don't get too excited, the straw isn't functional and it tastes like sugarpaste--because it is sugarpaste. Looks pretty cute, though.

You might be thinking what makes strawberry milkshake sponge different than say, strawberry sponge? The answer is nothing. However, what makes strawberry milkshake frosting different than strawberry frosting Strawberry milkshake frosting tastes like strawberry condensed milk! It was a bit tangy, quite milky, and sweet. Tasted like a strong, true Crusha. I was a fan.

Like with most frosting-heavy cupcakes, most of the taste comes from the big glug of sugar and fat on top, not so much the smaller splotch of fat and sugar at the bottom. The cake base was nice, but definitely tasted like standard strawberry cake--nothing milkier about it. Not that there's anything wrong that.

I would've been interested to see how a Strawberry Malted Milkshake cupcake would've gone down, as that would be a good way to make it a bit more beverage-like, and less like a standard fruit cupcake. Again, Hummingbird, take a note to my terms above. Use both, and I'll make it 15 percent all together with a cupcake assortment delivered monthly to my workplace. Sounds fair? Call me.