Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Chips Ahoy! Thins Cinnamon Sugar

Folks, thin cookies are in. Growing up I was strictly an ooey & gooey kinda snacker, but as I've gotten older I've grown to appreciate thin & crispy cookies. It's a good thing too, because that's basically all the new stuff coming out in America now, with the exception of dozens of Oreos. Heck, even they've got a 'Thin' variant now.

Cinnamon sugar is a less frequently praised combination than say, peanut butter & chocolate or birthday & cake, but it had big fans in my household growing up. Toast, butter, cinnamon, sugar. A real solid snack, if you ask me. So when I saw that Chips Ahoy! was going forward with a cinnamon sugar version of their new thins, I was in.

Of course, your standard Chips Ahoy! chocolate chip cookies have also shed some inches and become Thins, but the Cinnamon Sugar version intrigued me far more.

Upon opening, you're hit with a very strong sweet cinnamon smell - not like Cinnabon, but like a snickerdoodle.

The base cookie has the same buttery & sweet flavor of your classic Chips Ahoy!, but it's enrobed by cinnamon sugar. There is also that hint of salt in the base flavor that always elevates Chips Ahoy! above store brand chocolate chip cookies, and it really makes this cookie sing too.

The creamy chips seem really tasteless, like they add nothing but a bit of creamy texture - personally, I think the cookies would be better without. They'd be crispier & no creamy chips would probably mean less calories as well. Not that these are particularly bad in that way, weighing in at about 150 for 4, but the cookies would be just as tasty minus those chips if you ask me.

Generally, I appreciate this new thin trend in cookiedom, but I think for my own personal taste I'd prefer a less sweet cookie that had a larger diameter. As it stands, these are small cookies that only satisfy in larger quantities, but you'll probably tire of their sweetness before you're satisfied by the amount. Think I'm going to have to accept that cookies, or rather...biscuits in the UK were really far superior to American ones. Had I known this, I would'v absconded with a few packs of HobNobs before I left London.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Choco Chip Oreos

I got one word for these cookies, and I hate to say it: boring.

I don't know how they screwed this one up, honestly. I used to eat Chips Ahoy Creamwiches until I popped - they were Chips Ahoy plain chocolate chip cookies sandwiched with Oreo cream. Yes I was a tubby young woman, but the late 90s - early 00s were a great era for junk food. Those halycon days of the movie tie-in soda pop...Makes me go all misty eyed.

Anyway, when I heard that the next batch of limited edition Oreos was going to include a 'Choco Chip' variety, I was pretty excited. Then I started seeing the pictures come in, and my excitement waned a bit. See, these are still flat Oreo cookies, and the flecks of "choco" chip don't really have any mass, they just look like flat, colored bits in the cookie. It's not chocolate chips - ergo, "choco" chip. They taste okay, but while I was expecting them to be like saltier, butterier Golden Oreos, they were more like sweeter & less flavorsome Golden Oreos. A real let down.

The biggest disappointment however was definitely the creme. I can honestly say it seems nearly tasteless to my palette. They would've been better off just using the plain creme. This was just sweet & gooey, not pasty like the usual creme texture in an Oreo. I felt no textured chip bits, it was just a smooth, gooey creme that tasted like sugar...brown sugar if I'm being generous. Take a look at the texture - it was really gummy. I've had that experience with a few other limited edition Oreos, think when they can't integrate the flavor well into the traditional cream they use more emulsifiers and it comes out like this.

I dunno, I'm really disappointed in these. It could be that my nostalgic desire for Creamwiches return has colored my opinion, because Creamwiches these ain't. But ... decent cookies these ain't, either. A real meh, wish I would've gotten any other Oreo.

Friday, July 8, 2016

SnackFever, June Original Box

Subscription boxes are a funny thing. The ones that I've subscribed to I've really enjoyed, but for some reason I find it harder to justify spending $20 - $30 on snacks when they come in the mail every month, versus spending that amount on snacks I've chosen at a store, online or in person. If I get right down to it, I think it's all about choosing things for myself. OyatsuBox was perfect for me as my taste seemed to run right down the line with theirs, but I'm waiting to renew my subscription until the autumn so I can get chocolate in my boxes without fear of melting. I'll be back, don't you worry.

In the mean time, I did want to get my monthly foreign snack box fix, but I didn't want to risk international shipping in the hot weather. That's when I discovered SnackFever, who are based in LA but send out Korean snacks. Sounds too good to be true, but at $20 a month for a good sized box I figured it was worth a shot. I also thought their social media was really charming, and being mere hours from LA I knew that my box would probably arrive ASAP. I'm impatient about shipping, what can I say?

One interesting thing I observed about SnackFever was that they have 3 sizes for the boxes but it's not just a matter of more stuff added on as you go along...The three boxes actually all contain slightly different things. There are some that carry-over but what your friend got in their mini box isn't necessarily going to come in your original box.

The Deluxe Box is $40, but apparently comes with more premium snacks. I'm not knowledgeable on Korean snacks in the same way that I am about Japanese snacks, so I can't say whether or not the items in the largest box are observably more 'premium', but there are definitely more of them!

The Mini Box is a pretty good deal at under $15, but I'm happy spending another $5 to ensure I get a drink & ramen, so Original Box it was!

The box itself was cool, it's nicely branded & seems very sturdy. Definitely was filled up with intriguing snacks, as well. Like I said, Korean snacks are a new world for me so I didn't recognize anything straight away. SnackFever didn't include an actual print-out explaining these specific snacks, but there was a print-out with some info on them as a company and I believe a coupon code - I lost it, though. However I did get an email explaining what was in my box, so you will have all the information you need!

So let's do a quick run down of what I received - not everything has photos because some things got eaten in a gluttonous haze:

Snack Ramen
This was a delicious instant noodle - while Korean candy & snacks are new to me, I've had a lot of Korean instant noodles & I love them. This one isn't knock-your-head-off spicy, but it's got some definite red pepper heat to it. It's a soup noodle and a bit smaller of a portion than your classic instant noodle...ergo, 'snack' ramen. There was some heat & a bit of meatiness to the broth, and the noodles had a substantial chew. Basically you can't go wrong with Korean instant noodles, in my opinion, if you love a bit of heat. This would be a good beginner-to-intermediate noodle.

Margaret Choco Cookies
Mm, this was a lovely thick cookie with a firm, almost crumbly chocolate filling. It reminded me of chocolate-filled pastries, as the surrounding cookie wasn't too sweet and wasn't particularly crunchy. More of a soft pastry texture, with a bit of chew. Went really nicely with a cup of tea - unfortunately I had to share this with my husband so I only got to try one. What a one it was, though! I'd pick up a box if I spotted them somewhere.

French Macchiato Pastry
This one was really cool, I suppose it's meant to taste like coffee but I felt it tasted like maple syrup. The SnackFever blog suggested having it with a cup of coffee, and it did pair very nicely. Could be the name is actually just meant to say, 'Have me with coffee!' not...I am coffee. It was a very crisp & thin bit of proper pastry. Again, I'd happily pick up a box.

Poteau Crackers
These were interesting! I didn't know what to expect as the blog described them as cream cookies, but they're really more like sandwich crackers in the style of Ritz or Tuc for my UK readers. Buttery & just a little salty, but instead of having a cheese filling as is customary for sandwich cracker snacks, they a butter flavored filling, that was actually a bit sweet. It was cool & I happily scarfed down the pack I had but I think my tastebud's prefer a more savory filling than these had. If I got another set in my box I'd eat them, but I won't seek them out. Unless they come in other flavors!

Candy Kitchen Hard Candies
These come with three flavors, Broccoli & Kiwi, Tomato & Grapefruit, and Carrot & Apple. Yeah, weird huh? You guys know I'm not nuts for hard candies, I understand their place in the world but I'll choose something I can chew any day of the week...That being said, these were cool and very unique. My favorite by far was the Tomato & Grapefruit, because I can taste both in equal measures. The grapefruit is the first flavor that hits, and it's a very true, not too sweet grapefruit, it has elements of bitterness that I didn't expect in a hard candy. The tomato comes out as kind of a vegetal sweetness - it's just cool & accurate. Seems like I should be eating it as an expensive salad, not a hard candy. The Apple & Carrot just tasted like an apple, which makes sense as carrots are actually pretty sweet & unassuming vegetables. The Broccoli & Kiwi tasted just like kiwi to me, but kiwi is one of my least favorite fruits so I can't judge. These are very cool, and something I never would've tried had it not been for this box!

My Chew
Nice addition to the box, but if you've had Hi-Chew you'll know what to expect. I got the grape flavor and it's a nice little taffy, but hard to shout from the rooftops. Still, good candy is good candy.

Aye-Shyuh Candy
They're not kidding folks, these are sour! Really small but powerful melon (?) flavored balls of chewy sour-osity. I had one to try it, but I'm not a sour candy fanatic so that's all I needed. if you like sour sweets though, these are the ones for you. I appreciated that they were gently chewy, and didn't get stuck in my teeth like a lot of other similar candies would. I'd buy a pack for a kid and watch their face, haha.

Pineapple Drink
My least favorite thing in the box, but I do understand the difficulty with finding interesting drinks and shipping them from overseas. Says the person who commissioned a box with two new Japanese Pepsis in it and shouted out loud about the shipping...you'll see that review sometime later. Anyway, this pineapple juice drink was not bad, but it didn't feel particularly special. It was pulpy and sweet, probably could've used a shot of rum or something... Considering how awesome I thought everything else was though, it was just a bit of bonus juice really.

Kkokal Corn Honey Butter Snacks
These were delicious, and I'm just the kind of person who loves the fact that they had a League of Legends tie-in. I don't play LoL much (laptop can't take it) but I know tons of people who do, and I've watched every documentary about e-sports there is, so seeing that it ties in to the national league for Korea...that was cool. These are honey butter flavored, which was a flavor that took Korea by storm awhile ago. They're a bit salty, a bit sweet, have some of the unctuous taste of buttered popcorn but by far the best thing about them is they're basically Bugles. I haven't had Bugles in years, but they're dunce-cap shaped corn snacks that had a particularly satisfying crunch, much like these. Nice one, Kkokal Corn! I'd love to try a more savory flavor sometime.

Pororo Yogurt Mix
Okay, you mix this powder with milk to make yogurt, I think, but I actually don't much keep milk in the house. I eat cereal with, funny enough, yogurt - so I don't need milk. We do have half & half though, so I followed the instructions on the packet but subbed for half & half where it said milk. I don't know if that messed something up, or if I just didn't spend enough time mixing (about 5 minutes), but it never really thickened up much. I took a sip and it was like unsweetened plain yogurt milk. Can't say I loved it, but I definitely appreciate the sentiment & the chance to try something I'd never even heard of before. What I do love, however, is that duck & frog combo. Nice.

Over all my experience with SnackFever was great - for $20 shipped that's a load of snacks, and plenty that I would've otherwise not seen or tried. They do an admirable job of sourcing Korean snacks from within LA, and I think they also have deals with some Korean snack companies in order to bring out exclusive snacks, too! I'm looking forward to future boxes indeed.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Red Velvet Chips Ahoy!

One thing my husband has yet to adjust to/appreciate in America is our on-shelf cookies. He thinks they're too sweet (he's right) and are not worth the calories (he's wrong). So I know that when I buy a box of Oreos, or Chips Ahoy, or whatever - I know they're all mine. Which is both good and bad, because I also think on-the-shelf American cookies are really sweet, and therefore not something I want to eat an entire box of. That's what is keeping me from buying the Key Lime Pie Oreos - hear me, Nabisco? Maybe it's time to finally release just single rolls of the limited editions, huh? Your missing out on the illustrious Creamy Steaks purchasing market. How I fight against the sweetness, however, is by coupling them with black coffee.

So yes, I absolutely suggest trying these Red Velvet Chips Ahoy! with a hot mug of black coffee because they're very sweet. However, they're also very tasty.

The cookie base itself does have the delicate cocoa tones of a classic red velvet cake, and is slightly bittersweet. It's got the classic chewy Chips Ahoy! texture that's super moist and just the slightest bit mealy - not in an unpleasant way, just in a very 'processed cookie' way.

The cream cheese chips are mostly creamy, with a hint of vanilla - frankly, I think they're just white chips with some sweetness. The cheesiness & tang will ultimately come from the filling, which is a firm cream cheese style frosting. It's a very thin layer, but the taste is strong enough to come through and be identifiable cream cheese frosting.

While they're very nice, as a person facing the idea of having to chomp through the whole package by myself...well, I don't see that as a cause for celebration as I would with plain crunchy Chips Ahoy!, for example. If you have a spouse who can stomach sweets or better yet, kids, then this is a nice pick up. If you're a single person you'll probably enjoy the first serving but then wonder what you're doing with yourself as you stare down another 20 or so cookies.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

HoneyCreme USA

I'm alive! I've just got a new job is all - and as with all my jobs, it saps a lot of my writing energy, since it is based around...writing on a computer. It's cool, exciting work, but it doesn't necessarily leave a lot of desire to write in my leisure time.

Also, while San Francisco is a nice place to live in a lot of ways, you may be surprised to hear they just don't have the limited editions like middle America has. The new Blueberry Pie Oreos taunt me, the Fruity Crisp Oreos are laughing my face...and instead I'm cruising through the snack aisle faced with $8 chocolate bars and more plain Ghirardelli squares than I can shake a stick at.

They also have traditional & regional things that I just don't feel like anyone would be that interested in hearing about, like Mother's brand taffy sandwich cookies. Number one, they sound kind of gross to me. Number two, if you won't be able to find it or even order it online, do you really want to hear about it? ...Then again, today's review won't be easy to find for anyone outside of Singapore, China, or San Francisco...so....well, this one is unique enough to make up for that.

HoneyCreme is a chain from either Korea or Taiwan (really difficult to find specifics on this in English) specializing in 'Korean style' soft serve ice cream & honey based toppings. I've heard a bit about how massive soft serve is in Korea, it's apparently having a real moment throughout the Asia Pacific region. I've always been a fan of soft serve, see my review of Twirl & Dip, one of my first in San Francisco, for proof.

What I wasn't sure about, however, was how Korean style may differ from plain ol' American soft serve. I know that 'milk' as a flavor is utilized way more in Asian countries, so I expected it to perhaps be along those lines.

Well, I wasn't wrong - but it's so much more delicious than just ice milk!

Consider the richness of whole milk or cream, the sort of buttery sweet flavor that accompanies them. Now, top it with clear & warming honey. It's really an awesome sensation. So rich, with very little 'vanilla' to speak of, but you'll be surprised by how flavorful it is just being rich milk.

The toppings include: honey swirl, honeycomb, chocolate beans, salted dark chocolate sauce, cotton candy, affogato, mixed grains, and popcorn. Mixed grains is a powder, can't say what exactly it is, but I think it may be misu, a Korean mix of grains that is used to make a sweet & nutritious drink. Makes me think of malt powder, but I really have no clue as I've never tried it.

As you can see I ordered mine with the honey swirl topping, and I'd definitely recommend it. The dark chocolate sauce also looked good, but unless you're going for a photo opportunity I'd probably pass on the honeycomb (literally a chunk of honeycomb, no sauce accompaniment) and even, sadly, the cotton candy topped version. It's a cool idea, and it looks amazing, but I think it would be hard to actually eat and would contribute little to the soft serve.

There was a bit of seating in the cafe, just a long bench by the window but it could probably sit maybe 6 people max?

I think I paid a little over $4.00 for this, and it's not a bad deal really. It's a fair sized portion and a high quality soft serve, and if you're in San Francisco you've got to be used to these prices by now, right?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Oh Yeah! One Bars - Lemon Cake, Birthday Cake, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

I tried a few of these popular new Oh Yeah! One protein bars. As a fan of the Quest bars they're kind of emulating, who also dabbled in the original Oh Yeah! bars, I feel qualified to give my opinion. Not that being qualified to give an opinion has ever stopped me from doing it before.

Generally all these bars are softer & less chewy than the Quest bars, and covered in a thin layer of chocolate or choco-style coating. If you're sensitive to the aftertaste in protein bars I don't think these will change your mind - however if you can handle Quest bars, these are no worse. Some flavors will mask it better than others, like the first two I review. From what I've read and my own rudimentary knowledge, these are nutritionally sound with 20g of protein and just 1g of sugar. They're not 'natural', but see my dearth of Japanese novelty candy reviews to see how little I care for nature, anyway. I'll break down the first three flavors I tried, and will be updating again once I've tried the remaining 8.

Lemon Cake - I'm kinda 'meh' on lemon flavored things, but this is so accurately sweet, 'wholesome' and lemony, I actually love it. There's something to be said about accuracy in flavor making up for whether or not that flavor is actually great or not. I mean, the texture of these bars lends itself so well to something dense but not chewy, like a lemon bar.

Would I ever choose a lemon cake over a spoonful of cookie dough or a birthday cake? No. Would I choose this bar over those flavors? Oh yes, because it tastes exactly like a lemon square. I'm putting out an APB on APB - accuracy in protein bars. This one is the main suspect.

Birthday Cake - This is the flavor everyone else seems to go nuts for, so my expectations were high. I wouldn't say I was let down, but I did think it was inferior to lemon cake. I think it comes down to a personal preference thing though, as I prefer more 'strong' flavors rather than subtle. This birthday cake is pleasantly sweet & has a good base of vanilla, but it just didn't knock my out.

To be fair, I just don't think anything birthday cake flavored really would at this point. I've had it a lot, it's been a trending flavor for a few years now... while it is pretty tasty, it is basically sweet vanilla and not exactly mind blowing. I can see why people love this one so much because it does hardly taste like a protein bar (that protein taste is very well masked here!) but as someone who doesn't mind that protein bar aftertaste, I'm looking for something a bit more...esoteric. The sprinkles were cool, though.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough - This one gets very few admirers, as Quest really cornered the cookie dough fan market. You can see my review on that ol' classic here. Right away you can see that the Oh Yeah bar is covered in chocolate, while the Quest bar is left unadorned. The base flavor is pretty similar, which is salty, sweet, and indeed a lot like cookie dough.

 The main difference is that the Oh Yeah bar is covered in a thin layer of chocolate, but the Quest bar has large chunks of it throughout the bar. That emulates cookie dough far better than a thin coating. I think that the Oh Yeah bar has maybe one or two chips, but definitely no chunks at all. Then there's the issue of microwaving - the bar is coated in chocolate which would definitely melt, and make it too messy to experiment with in that way. The Quest bar, however, is elevated to perfection when microwaved - gooey & texturally accurate.

It's not a bad bar by any means, but I'd always choose Quest for this specific flavor. Over all though, Lemon Cake wins over all other protein bars I've had before!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Pancake KitKats

I know these are pretty late, but if you can still find them out in the wild - spoiler alert - definitely get them. So yes, technically these were an Easter promotional KitKat in Japan (hence the bunnies) but I don't really get what pancakes have to do with Easter, or really, any season at all. The only holiday that I can vaguely connect to pancakes is Mother's Day, just because of all the mothers in advertising who love brunch.

It's the same format as Japanese KitKats usually are, small two finger bars in a sharing bag. These are special as the two fingers are fused together to create the ears of a bunny face. Pretty cute, but forget about splitting them in two. Frankly these are so teensy I don't think anyone would be sharing a single bar, anyway!

The flavor is intensely maple and therefore incredibly sweet. The crispiness of the wafers really does bring to mind the edges of a stack of diner pancakes with tons of syrup & melty butter.

I think these would make a really good permanent edition to some KitKat line, somewhere. They're very sweet so I don't think it's something you'd necessarily binge on, but a mug of coffee or tea coupled with one or two of these would make a very tasty treat, no matter what time of the year.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Ritz Crackers Ultimate Butter

Ritz Crackers are an American classic that everybody loves; like Lucille Ball, Tillamook cheddar, and Sinbad...both the comedian and the legendary sailor. They're salty, a bit sweet, and have a buttery flavor & flaky texture. They pair well with savory toppings or sweet ones, and Ritz Bits are one of the best examples of American fake cheese snacks.

What happens though when that classic gets coated in more artificial butter flavor than it's usually coated in? Let's see!

Visibly, they don't seem all that different from standard Ritz crackers - there are visible grains of salt, cute little scalloped edges, and a golden brown color.

When you taste them, however, you can really tell the difference. They're indeed more 'buttery' in flavor, but what seems even more evident to me is that they're a fair bit sweeter than standard Ritz. That I kind of don't like...where regular Ritz can stand up to toppings and accompaniments both salty & sweet, these seem like they'd really only work on their own, or topped with like...peanut butter. I do think they'd be a nice ice cream topping, or macaroni and cheese topping. I do get a hint of nutmeg as well, which is why I think it'd couple quite nicely with mac & cheese.

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?