Sunday, July 21, 2013


One of my most missed foods from the USA is deli-style sandwiches, specifically the reuben. Even though my home-state is not at all known for deli food, being the Midwest and all, I could still manage to put together/find an amazing reuben.

Lunch meat is cheap in America, making our sandwiches rife with the stuff. That's a big part of a 'deli-style' sandwich, in my eyes - pile that meat so high that it is definitely going to be hard to eat. They're dinner sandwiches, preferably a dinner you're eating alone in a room with no cameras, so you can eat it with abandon.

Anyway, I'm always on the hunt for a reuben in the UK that will meet my mid-level expectations, but they've all fallen short so far. A lot of this has to do with A) lack of meat in the sandwich, B) weird bread choices, or C) very little dressing. Lots of corned beef/salt beef/pastrami, rye bread, and put on enough dressing that I can taste it. That's all I ask.

Mishkin's is a 'kind of Jewish deli with cocktails' owned by the same people who own Polpo and Spuntino's. I've eaten at both of those restaurants and enjoyed my meal, so I was looking forward to their attempt at deli food. The prices though, sheesh. Granted, I don't know how expensive delis are in New York, but the chain deli I frequented in the Midwest was hardly high falutin', being a place that served roast beef sandwiches and all. I know things are just more expensive in London, but it's hard to swallow (so to speak) half a sandwich, no sides, no drink for $9.00 - in a restaurant that is purposefully making itself look kitschy and out-of-fashion.

I'll do it, and I did do it, but I don't have to be happy about it. I'll avoid complaining about prices for the rest of this entry, but it does seem particularly egregious to charge import prices for food that can easily be sourced/prepared with ingredients in the UK. They're not taking in shipments of sauerkraut from anywhere but maybe Germany, so c'mon. Maybe I am more willing to accept high prices for foods I know little about (say, Polpo - I don't know how much some meatballs would cost me in Italy, so I can't complain) but when it comes to American-style food I have a pretty good idea of what the prices should look like, and you shouldn't be spending $16.00 on one reuben.

We started off our meal by splitting a plate of corn dogs, which was two corn dogs with 'green ketchup', which might be a thing in New York or something, but certainly isn't a common side in the other 49 states that enjoy corn dogs. Should be though, as it was quite nice! Slightly less tangy, and definitely less sweet than regular ketchup, it was a nice compliment to what ended up being some very delicious corn dogs.
The batter for these was nice & fresh, more on the side of crispy tempura/fish fry than the average cheap-o American corn dog that is coated in a weird sponge cake that tastes like cornbread. So, these were super tasty, if not significantly smaller than their American brothers. Quality over quantity, I suppose. I was glad they weren't mini corn dogs, the menu doesn't specify and I find the mini ones to be an abomination on all that is good about processed sausage dipped in carbohydrate mix. Here's a strange fact; Mishkin's serves ketchup and mustard in the 'classic' American squeezy red and yellow bottles, but the mustard is English mustard. So before you go dousing your corn dog in delicious, mild American mustard like you did at a carnival a decade ago, remember that it is eye-watering English mustard instead. Even though it is in a big yellow bottle like so much French's... tricksy.
To be fair, this is a pretty solid reuben panini. I don't know why it has been pressed and toasted as much as it has, and why the bread looks like Any Bread Ever instead of dark rye bread, but it is still pretty good for a panini version of a classic hot sandwich. Nowhere does it say that it is a panini, but that is the only possible explanation for the condition of the sandwich.

 The meat is good, there is plenty of it and pastrami is a perfectly acceptable substitute for corned beef - but there was so little dressing. If it wasn't so declasse, I would've pried apart my heat-pressed sandwich and inspected to see if there even was any at all. A reuben isn't meant to be slathered in dressing, but you should be able to taste it - I mean, it is part of the sandwich. The sauerkraut was there, at least, but it was a bit dry and lacked a pickled punch. I'll chalk this one up to it being more authentic, maybe - after all, Germany is more near Britain than it is America, so maybe it's meant to be like this and less like what we get at home. The cheese was fine, but all it had to be was Swiss and present. As you can see from the picture, it kind of just looks like a pastrami & swiss sandwich. I really think that if you're going to press the sandwich, which is going to dry it out, you have to double up on sauce - or else you end up with this - a very dry, meaty sandwich.

Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed. However, the onion rings & fries were quite delicious - onion rings battered in the same light and crisp coating as the corn dogs, and the fries firm with skins left on. No problems there, they were actually some of the best onion rings I've had in the UK.

At this point I was feeling pretty half-and-half about Mishkin's: what I came for was a bit of a bust, but there were some unexpected heroes in the form of classic American carnival foods. Maybe they ought to stick with that theme rather than the deli stuff?

I was interested to try dessert though, as I wasn't sorely disappointed and rarely do I find myself unhappy after a dessert. I ordered the Wonky Cookie Stack & Ice Cream, which is left tantalizingly vague on the menu. Or maybe that is actually a really good description, and not at all vague. Either way, I was intrigued.
It might not look inspiring, but this was easily the highlight of the evening - neigh, the highlight of my week. I will not take anything away from Mishkin's when it comes to this dessert - it was fun, tasty as all get-out, and best of all, actually warm and cold. So often when you order like, a brownie sundae, you get an icy cold brownie with a scoop of icy cold ice cream on top. Seems people are so concerned with the ice cream melting, they forget the amazing taste sensation that is a warm baked good underneath some cold, smooth ice cream. These cookies alone were delicious - oat-y but soft, chocolate-y but buttery. Just perfect - definitely felt like a freshly baked cookie, regardless of their true patronage. I would've been happy to just get a couple of these and some dunking milk for dessert.

The ice cream was good quality vanilla, with bits of bean flecked throughout - nothing to write home about, but it's Wonky Cookie Stack with ice cream, not ice cream with Wonky Cookie Stack.

The raspberry/red sauce was unexpected, and a great blend of tart and sweet - it might not immediately make sense on top of cookies and ice cream, but it really complimented the hearty cookies well, and it didn't compete. Somehow, it just made the cookies taste stronger - more cookie like. That extra bit of ice cream on the very top?

Brother, that ain't ice cream. That's a big gooey marshmallow, and it was awesome. This might not be the dessert everyone will immediately order, with cheesecakes of the day and bananas foster to be had, but when it comes to cookies I'm always willing to take a risk - and I was greatly rewarded this time around.

Over all, Mishkin's could be amazing. If they got the reuben in order, I'd happily spend the money they're asking. The service was good, very friendly and very quick. They need to not grill all the moisture out of the sandwich, and maybe rethink the price of a hot dog. Until then, it will be hard for me to justify a return trip, even if the desserts and sides were excellent.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Dick Taylor Maple & Coconut Bar

The Dick Taylor Maple & Coconut bar sounds like a dream come true for me, but it wasn't what I expected. It's like that dream where you've gained the ability to fly, but you realize flying takes forever to get anywhere, and there is all sorts of birds and planes that get in your way.

I ordered this one from, and as usual the shipping was top-speed and the service was great. I've never seen a site in the UK with such a selection, they're my favorite place to get gifts for my family here & I always throw on a little something for myself.
The packaging is really nice, with an illustration of a ship being built and some guys in wool clothing really sweating it out. I love the muted colors and the typography, and the texture of the paper feels raw and 'indie'. I suppose because it is. I just wish I could've loved the contents as much as I loved the outside, but this bar let me down on the inside, like so many Coreys.

Full disclosure, I did have this bar in the cupboard for about a month, so it might've factored into some of the things that I found to be 'wrong' with this bar - but really, I do think that this bar was just wrong for me, not wrong in general.
Unfortunately, that is not the sun shining artfully down on my Dick Taylor, it seems to be a kind of bloom. Correct me if I'm wrong, of course - it is only in that one corner, and I'm used to seeing bloom sort of all over a bar. Either way, I know that it is still safe to eat.
Hm, well, if it wasn't for the kind of unsightly light patch, this would've been quite a pretty bar, studded with caramelized coconut flakes. The bar snapped in two as I opened it, by the way, but that is because I have big ham hands when it comes to unwrapping things.

As it turns out, those caramelized coconut flakes are quite tasteless. Caramelized with maple, even. They don't even taste like coconut, & they kind of just get stuck in your teeth. I know that real coconut isn't necessarily a taste sensation, but I have eaten my fair share of fresh & dried, and it usually has some sort of flavor - these flakes just didn't. Maple didn't shine through either, but that I can forgive more quickly as I know that using maple as a sweetener when cooking or baking, especially if it is just a small amount, doesn't really imbue anything with a strong maple flavor. Just ask any of the "maple" cookies I've tried to bake that ended up as regular, albeit extra gooey, chocolate chip.

So, the two ladies I came to dance with stood me up - tasteless as they are. Shouldn't matter, sometimes the best things are the things you didn't expect.

Not necessarily in this case, at least not for me. I knew this was a dark chocolate bar, and I knew that I'm not really crazy for dark chocolate - I did buy it for the maple and coconut, after all. However, as far as dark chocolate goes, I can tell this is good stuff. It's fruity, but not citrus-y, semi-sweet with a kind of red fruit taste. Not bitter, not smoky, very edible. The snap seemed a bit off, but I think this had to do with the bloom, and I think that had to do with the heatwave we've had for the last couple weeks, being stored in my cupboard.

 Really, I think I would've liked it better if it didn't have any coconut flakes at all - in the end, they were just an extra thing to crunch and get in-between your gums. Without them this is a nice, well-rounded and easy to eat dark chocolate bar.

If you like dark chocolate and you're curious about this bar, I say go for it - maybe your palette will pick up on the subtleties I missed. However, if you're interested just because of the coconut or maple (like I was), I'd really have to say look elsewhere, as this one is a dark chocolate bar above all else. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Shake Shack, London Location

I'm sure you've already heard and formed an opinion about Shake Shack (& Five Guys) coming to the UK, so I don't need to explain to you that the two fast food uh...semi-titans have made it over the Atlantic. What is less than a titan but more than a human, anyway? A golem?

Okay, the two fast food golems, then.

Anyway, unless you are a recently animated golem yourself, you've heard about these two and you probably think they're all hype, or they're great, or maybe some combination of the two. Most people at least seem interested in trying them...

 Exhibit A: an enormous line really late at night on Friday, a week after Shake Shack opened:
Now, as I suggested earlier, both of these chains aren't exactly everywhere in America, particularly Shake Shack. While I could find a couple Five Guys in my state and enjoyed their giant portions of Cajun fries, there were sure as hell no Shake Shacks and I had only ever heard a little bit about them.

Keep in mind that I am the sort of person who knows a lot about fast food places that I have no hope of ever trying. For instance, I've known the In-n-Out 'Secret Menu' for ages, and I've never been within 1,000 miles of one. Shake Shack, I had a vague knowledge that they had frozen custard, but I was firmly in camp Ritters and was unconcerned with some east-coast hippy tycoons' take on what I viewed as a Midwestern classic. I've long said that the next thing to divide America was going to be frozen custard, I was just on the front lines.

Anyway, even though I had no loyalty to Shake Shack going in, I was still very interested because I love cheeseburgers, frozen custard, and I am a red-blooded American. So we waited in that really long queue, cue 'fast food' jokes.

The prices aren't amazing -it's that classic move where they've just replaced the $ with a £- but hey, in the USA the beef probably would've been injected with growth hormones and punched by a cowboy before it was slaughtered, so if you are particularly ethical about meat you should be happy. It kind of depresses me more to think that a cow was really enjoying life before I started eating it, though.

So, I got a single SmokeShack, cheese fries, and a Big BlENd frozen custard. It was about £15, which isn't bad for all that food, but it just grinds my hamburger to know how much cheaper it is in America.
My associate got himself a double Shack, cheese fries, and the Concrete Jungle frozen custard. It's all presented very nicely, particularly the burgers. Here's a closeup of his double Shack:
The lettuce and tomato is nicely stacked so it looks like it's just bursting out of the bun, and the cheese has an eerily symmetrical melt.

The most interesting thing to me about these burgers were that both of ours were cooked to be pink in the middle, which shows a lot of confidence for a fast food chain, who generally cook all of the potential for illness and flavor out of their beef.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a closeup of my SmokeShack, as we had been waiting in line for ages and I was quite hungry. You can kind of see it in the tray photo, it's behind the foreground burger. The SmokeShack has bacon, 'shack sauce', and peppers - pimentos, specifically. The bacon was amazing, crispy and not just loaded down with fat, it really did taste smoked and carefully prepared - not just that limp, pink & fatty stuff that is often on fast food burgers. The shack sauce is your classic 'special sauce', mayonnaise based and tangy - this is maybe a bit tangier than the average, but I could've just been tasting the peppers.

The peppers were really nice - they were sweet more than hot, kind of like a red bell pepper, and had a vinegar-hit to them as well. I was happy that the bun was very soft, a bit sweet, & reminded me of the average bun from America. I'm actually not nuts for the brioche bun trend, sometime they're a bit dry and 'big' compared to the kind of bun I grew up with, which was always just enough sustenance to make it so that you could eat beef and cheese without getting it all over your hands. Over-all, I was very pleased with my ShakeShack burger. If I was in the area again, I'd want to eat it.

This was the part of the meal I was most excited about, though-
I think it's a real shame that cheese sauce isn't a widely accepted condiment here. For instance, most everywhere where nachos are served in the UK, they're just tortilla chips with melted cheddar cheese on them. Sometimes jalapenos. It is the cheese sauce that makes nachos special, you know? It's the cheese sauce that makes french fries special, too.

I'm not usually wild about crinkle cut, usually it's a sign that the fries you're about to eat are very much just from a big freezer bag, but these were quite nice and crunchy with a soft inner belly. The cheese sauce was perfect, with that patriotic yellow taste, a hint of cheddar, and a lot of Velveeta. All it needed was more if it. I'd happily buy jars of this, Shake Shack would be smart to offer that as there really isn't a similar cheese sauce for Americans looking to make nachos, cheese fries, or cheese dogs. Or just eat semi-liquid cheeseproduct on a bagel or something. No shame.
I ordered the Big Blend, which is vanilla custard, chocolate custard, hazelnut brownies, and brown sugar biscuits. The two mix-ins are provided by St. John's Bakery, of really great doughnut fame. They don't disappoint with their non-fried bakery treats, the brown sugar biscuit tastes heavily of brown sugar and stays crunchy, even in custard! The hazelnut brownie is also delicious, fudge-y with a deep cocoa taste, and chopped hazelnuts. Both of them would've been nice outside of frozen custard, which is quite amazing, especially since I went so late at night I was a bit worried they'd have been stale by nighttime.

The custard itself is outstanding, it's been ages since I had frozen custard, so it really was nice to have some again. Frozen custard, in my opinion, tastes much richer than ice cream or gelato, and it carries vanilla as a flavor particularly well. Shake Shack's is no different, the vanilla was delicious - so rich and creamy, super premium stuff. The chocolate was very strongly flavored too, but I'm never that crazy for chocolate ice cream/custard/et cetera, but if you are this is a great semi-dark tasting variety.

I'd definitely come back to Shake Shack, especially for the frozen custard & cheese fries. I think once the lines die down, it will still stick around. It would be nice if they brought the prices down a bit, since it is still fast food, East Coast America exclusive or not-- but eh, at least it's tasty.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Pure Grape Gummy

This is another item sent to me by the awesome gang down at OyatsuCafe, this time a gummy from a very well-known gummy line in Japan, Pure.

Pure is known for having very strong, but pretty natural flavors. If you check the site, you'll see that they have quite a few flavors, and they also periodically release limited edition versions. Right now, they have a Mango and Yogurt, and a couple of apparently 'Harajuku' flavors, Honey Grapefruit and Peach Mango. Hm, maybe they're particularly sweet and youthful? Haha.

Well, the flavor I have today is just right - Grape!
Japanese candy makers seem just as enamored with grape as American ones, which is good for me, as I miss grape since moving to the UK. Why does blackcurrant have to be the exact same color? Why must it always get my hopes up? I've been here three years, you'd think I'd have learned by now...Anyway, I'm grateful that this is grape. Grateful Grape. The package itself is nice, and quite tiny. It might not look it in the above picture, but the blurry photo of it in my hands will prove that photo wrong!
See, just about hand-sized. It's empty in this picture, but they were filled up to maybe two inches from the top? So it isn't a skimpy amount of gummies, but it is nice that there isn't much wasteful packaging, and if you are the kind of person who brings gummies with you when you leave the house, these won't take up much room.

The smell was very strong when I opened them up, they smelled a lot like an Aloe Grape Drink you can buy from the Wasabi chain, and probably a lot of Asian grocery stores. Strong, very sweet, with a bit of tang. Definitely a 'purple' grape.
It's cute, isn't it? They're vaguely heart-shaped, and totally coated in granulated sugar. The grape flavor isn't meant to be sour, so this is just plain sugar to add a bit of texture and extra sweetness. Without the sugar, these are pretty tempered in sweetness, about the same level as an actual grape, but of course they taste more 'grape-y'. If you've ever had a Grape Blow Pop, or a grape anything from America, the taste will be familiar. The texture is really the nicest point of these, they've got a soft chew, and don't get stuck in your teeth like so many other kinds of gummy candies.

They're almost like the inside of a jelly bean, that sot of viscous chew - but they don't get stuck anywhere and you don't hurt your jaw in the slightest chewing them. Which is great for me, as I try to avoid foods that encourage too much chewing or stick around on your teeth - I just know that it is terrible for me, as I'm kind of cavity prone.

Not that you'd guess that from my candy blog...

Anyway, these are quite delicious and were a nice sweet, fruity treat over the course of two days. I'm not wild about gummy candy, but that's usually because I hate having them in my teeth and making my jaw click, but these don't do that at all. They're very delicate, with a strong & sweet grape flavor. For my own personal taste, I would've preferred a slightly tangier grape, but beggar's can't be choosers, and grape is so hard to come by in the UK that I'm happy to have grape candy in any form!

I'm looking forward to reviewing all the rest of OyatsuCafe's generous package; I've got some green tea cookies, and a few of those do-it-yourself Kracie kits. I'm thinking I should try and make a video for the Kracie kits - what do you think?

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

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cocomaya's Cronut

Ah, the cronut. Anyone who reads my blog has probably already heard about the cronut from a much more respected source, but who among us in London can say that they've tried one yet?

Probably a few, yes, but not that many! After all, I've only seen them available at Duck & Waffle for one day only last Sunday, and Cocomaya a bit more regularly in the last week. They were selling out very quickly, but through the grace of a very compassionate Cocomaya employee one was set aside for me on Sunday morning.
I've never been to Cocomaya before as all of their locations happen to be out of my way, but I was impressed by the prettiness of the surrounding street and the interior of the bakery was charming as well. Seemed like it was a small neighborhood place, with a kind of communal table to sit on inside and lots of seating outside, as well. The bakery is next door to the chocolate shop, but I didn't even peak in there so I can't say what was going on...presumably some sort of chocolatier-ing.

When we arrived, the cronut was bagged. We decided to take a seat and split the cronut with a couple coffees, so we took it out.
...and it was massive. It was like some kind of obelisk, I felt like dancing around it and throwing a tree branch at it. At first I had been thinking, "what a shame, why did I agree to share this cronut?" but upon looking, there was no way I could eat an entire one. And listen, I'm not trying to be demure and feminine, I can easily eat any burger, any giant brownie, and wash it down with a bunch of fries - for example, we ate at Honest Burger a few hours later and I happily ate my entire meal without even flinching. This, however, this cronut was ridiculously gigantic.

I foolishly didn't take any comparison photos, but imagine two fists pressed together topped with ganache and filled with chocolate cream.
Seriously, it was like two flaky doughnuts stacked together, sandwiched by chocolate custard-cream. The St. John's doughnut I had ages ago had a very similar filling, except the Cocomaya filling was chocolate flavored, and perhaps denser. It was like a cross between custard and whipped cream, with the density of custard but a bit of the bounce of cream.

This picture better illustrates the flaky layers:
Well, kinda! It really is a lot like a cross between a doughnut and a croissant - there is a sort of crispiness to the outermost layer, and on the inside it is layered like a croissant, but more dense & soft, like a doughnut. After I ate half, I felt super full and satisfied, unlike the way I feel after a doughnut OR a croissant. This is like the best bits of each of them, with cream inside.

I really recommend going to Cocomaya soon to try one of these - they're quite massive, so it might be best to split one...with me.

I think a new flavor is out soon, the one that I tried was chocolate cream and chocolate fondant with sprinkle stars. Who knows what's next? I'm hoping for something vanilla or white chocolate, myself.

Soon, I hope to try the Duck & Waffle dosant, and any and all other comers to the world of cronuts here in London. My first experience was very positive.