Monday, October 31, 2011

Brewer's Collection

Along with our Italian feast, M asked me to go pick out a beer from the Brewer's Collection so we could check that off our list as well. Since I'm the bigger beer fan of the two of us, it made sense for me to go. The Brewer's Collection was situated right next to the German kiosk so it was designed in a similar Bavarian style.

Bavarian Beer Hall Kiosk

I selected the Altenm├╝nster Oktoberfest as I love nice, malty Oktoberfests, and I had been craving one for a while ($6.25):

This wasn't quite as malty as I was expecting. The beer itself was also a little lighter in color than most other Oktoberfest brews I've had. I almost wondered if they gave me something else by mistake. In the end it was crisp and refreshing, but I missed the sweet malt flavor of a good Oktoberfest.

Ultimo Piatto del Giorno

The Italy kiosk was mobbed for almost all of Saturday. At the end of the night, we staked out a spot at the Italy Pavilion for Illuminations (the nightly fireworks spectacular) and, with plenty of time, decided to make Italy our last food stop of the night.

So empty! What a contrast to Saturday (the day we went)!

Unlike a lot of the other menus, the names of the dishes at the Italy kiosk were actually written in Italian (which made M happy):

We tried the ravioli di formaggio all'Emiliana (baked cheese ravioli with creamy beef bolognese, parmesan and mozzarella) ($4.50):

M's take - The ravioli were very good. Very cheesy. I was disappointed that there wasn't that much bolognese sauce since I love bolognese sauce. I was hoping we could try this again to see if there would be more sauce the next time but we didn't have enough days.

A's take - Very tasty dish. A little rich because of the heavy layer of cheese, but that also made it so tasty. The bolognese was sparing, and I wonder if that was because we went so late in the day (night). What little sauce was there tasted very good. It had just the right mix of sweetness and tang.

We also tried the capellini con gamberi piccanti (capellini (angel hair) pasta with spicy shrimp) ($5.25):

M's take - This was good. It had a nice clean healthy flavor. There were a decent number of shrimp and the dish was densely packed with pasta. I think it would be easier to recreate this at home (unlike the ravioli) but it was still very good.

A's take - This was a tasty pasta dish, but M is correct. This is something we could probably make at home. The shrimp was good, but the parts I had were a bit chewy, almost like it had been overcooked a bit. The sauce was similar to the bolognese but without the meat.

For dessert, they had the cannoli al cioccolato (chocolate covered cannoli filled with sweet ricotta cheese, chocolate and candied fruit) ($3.50):

M's take - I don't usually like cannolis, finding them very, very rich and heavy. This one was pretty good. The chocolate shell had a nice crunch and the cheese inside was so smooth and rich. The dessert had a nice sweetness to it.

A's take - I'm not usually a huge fan of cannolis either, and while this one was tasty, the heaviness and richness just didn't sit well with my palate. The chocolate covered shell was crisp, though, and that was a pleasant surprise.

It was easy to see why the Italy kiosk was so popular. The food there was good and the perfect filling snack.

Favorite dishes from the Italy kiosk:
A: Ravioli
M: Ravioli

Chocolate Dipped Coconut

I saved the chocolate dipped coconut Luna bar for last. I hoped that it would be my favorite since I love the combination of chocolate and coconut (mmm, Mounds bars).

Photo source

The bar certainly looked different from the others - instead of just one layer of "icing" on the bottom, this one had a chocolate layer on the bottom and what looked like a coconut layer on top with a chocolate swirl.

It was really good. The chocolate-coconut flavor combination wasn't as strong as a Mounds bar, since it wasn't stuffed with real coconut, but the bar was soft and chewy like a candy bar would be. Definitely the winner of this Luna bar experiment. It's going to be difficult to try some of the other varieties after having this one. It's a new flavor according to the package and definitely a keeper!

My rankings, through bar 6:
1. Chocolate dipped coconut
2. Toasted nuts 'n cranberry
3. Blueberry bliss
4. S'mores
5. White chocolate macadamia
6. Vanilla almond

Out of Luna bars for now, so I guess I will turn to the kids Clif bars or Fiber One bars or brownies. Happy breakfasting!

Bunny Chow?

South African cuisine was one of our 2010 food revelations. We had never really had it until our World Cup celebration (other than some dishes in the buffet at Boma at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge), but immediately loved the complex and interesting flavors. Since then, we have become fans of South African cuisine, loving bobotie and other fun dishes.

We were excited to try the South African food at the festival because we saw that they had bunny chow! We have always wanted to try bunny chow, including the version served from the ESPN Match Truck (still annoyed at their actions last year), and were glad to have this opportunity.

The first snack we tried was the seared filet of beef with smashed sweet potatoes and braai sauce ($5):

M didn't really like the beef here, finding it a little tough and chewy. But she doesn't really like steak, so she wasn't expecting to like it. The sweet potatoes were tasty and the braai sauce (a sweet and spicy bbq sauce) added a nice flavor.

A thought, as seems to be the case for everything, that the beef was overcooked. The braai sauce was amazing. As mentioned, it was a little sweet and a little spicy, and the full flavor was great. The sweet potato mash was a perfect accompaniment, and the dish matched so well.

The second snack was bunny chow, described on the menu board as "vegetable curry served in a bread loaf" ($3.25):

We were very confused by the bunny chow. The description on the menu board sounded similar to everything we had ever heard about bunny chow. It's a hollowed out bread loaf stuffed with curry. But that's not what we got. This bunny chow was some kind of puff pastry... with vegetable curry as a sauce. The curry sauce itself had a nice flavor, but it's not what we were expecting for bunny chow.

It looks like a visit to a South African restaurant to try some real bunny chow may be in order...

Favorite dishes at the South Africa kiosk:
A: Filet of beef
M: Bunny chow

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Taco Disappointment

After the Starship concert, we hit up a few rides (fastpass for Test Track, yay!) and then made some stops for a late dinner. It was still pretty crowded around the world showcase but the line for the Mexico kiosk was much shorter than earlier in the day. We had heard the tacos were good and wanted to try them.

Day photo of the Mexico kiosk from Monday. Not this bright or empty while we were getting food.

The menu had 2 tacos and 1 dessert. The margarita sounded good too and we thought maybe we would get that another time (never did).

First up, the grilled ribeye taco with chipotle pepper sauce and scallions on a flour tortilla ($5.50):

Very dark outside = blurry photos

M's take - This taco was prepared as described and the chipotle pepper sauce added a lot of flavor. It was OK. We have had better meat tacos before, but this wasn't bad. I expected to like the shrimp taco better (more on that later), but I think this one wins for me because the sauce actually had flavor and because I love scallions.

A's take - I was more disappointed by this. The chipotle pepper sauce was more salty than spicy and lacked any smokiness. Also, the meat was tough and overcooked.

We both felt that this taco definitely wasn't worth the price, especially since it was one taco. Over $5? Very expensive. (After all, M has previously ranted about a $4 taco which was more food than this one and had guacamole.)

Next, the crispy shrimp taco with chipotle lime mayo and cabbage on a flour tortilla ($4.95):

M's take - This was just OK. It had a few small pieces of fried shrimp underneath the mayo and giant pieces of red cabbage. If the cabbage had been more like a slaw, this taco might have fared better, but it was a little difficult to eat with that giant cabbage piece (which added nothing). Cabbage should really just be used for crunch and a little bitterness in a taco like this, but instead its presence was kind of overwhelming.

A's take - I was really disappointed by this dish. The shrimp was flavorless, and it was drowned out by the mayo. The red cabbage is supposed to be shredded and not crammed on in giant pieces, and the whole taco was just one big mess.

We both expected more from this considering some rave reviews we had read. And it was overpriced. Just because it's shrimp doesn't mean that one taco needs to be $5. The quality of the taco surely didn't justify that price tag.

For dessert, flan (vanilla custard with caramel) ($3):

M's take - The flan was OK. Rich and sweet like flan should be, but nothing very special. Not a huge fan of very rich desserts so it wasn't my favorite. The description on the kiosk menu was that it was vanilla custard with caramel, but the one given in the mobile app is much more elaborate. It's described as "smooth as silk" (it was pretty smooth) and a "decadent" dessert (it was) with a "complex blend of fruit flavors - including apples, bananas, figs, lemon, papaya and pineapple - along with a hint of honey, oak and spicy vanilla." It was sweet, but not as fragrant as that description makes it sound!

A's take - I thought the flan was quite good. It was nice and smooth outside of the small film on top that had formed. There was absolutely no fruit flavor as was described by M, but that's not something I expect from flan. I expect caramel flavoring and sweetness. In the end, that's exactly what I got.

We love Mexican food and eat it frequently here at home, but this kiosk just didn't live up to the taco deliciousness we normally get at our food carts and trucks. Kind of disappointing. Also, we know that at a festival like this the prices are going to be high for small portions, and we haven't really complained about it before. But at the Mexico kiosk, it was kind of egregious. Maybe it's because we get more Mexican food here and know the price point at which you can execute good Mexican food. A $5 taco should be something really special and these just weren't.

Favorite dishes at the Mexico kiosk:
A: Flan
M: Ribeye taco

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Toasted Nuts 'n Cranberry

The toasted nuts 'n cranberry bar is described by Luna as a mix of "bursts of dried cranberries" and "lots of cashew nut goodness."

Photo source

My first thought when looking at the toasted nuts 'n cranberry bar was that it didn't have any sort of icing (either the white icing or chocolate) on it. It looked the same on both sides of the bar - just bar, nuts and little dried berries - which, so far, makes it unique.

I liked it. It tasted like a regular fruit and nut bar and you could really taste the nuttiness. The cranberries weren't as strong in flavor as craisins usually are, but they did provide "bursts" of dried berry texture and flavor which was a nice change. Although the blueberry bliss had a stronger berry flavor, I'm going to give this one a slight edge because the berry flavor tasted a little less artificial.

My rankings, through bar 5:
1. Toasted nuts 'n cranberry
2. Blueberry bliss
3. S'mores
4. White chocolate macadamia
5. Vanilla almond

Shrimp Cakes and Sugarcane Skewers

Our last snack before the Starship concert was from the Singapore kiosk. This kiosk was in a really crowded part of the showcase, especially at concert time. We both had traveled to Singapore once before (over 4 years ago) and were hoping the food from the kiosk would bring back memories of the delicious food we had there.

We were hoping the menu would have something like laksa but sadly it did not:

We tried the beef rendang (coconut braised beef) with jasmine rice ($3.25):

M's take - This was OK. It had a lot of flavor (but that also meant that it had a lot of sodium). We have had rendang at various restaurants though, which did a better job at it.

A's take - In a word, disappointing. There wasn't the normal heat you normally get from a rendang, and overall the flavors didn't seem quite right. Maybe this is traditional rendang, but I don't think every other restaurant we've tried was wrong.

We also tried the shrimp cake on a sugarcane skewer with Singapore noodles ($3.50):

M's take - This dish was a mix of highs and lows. I liked the shrimp cake a lot. It was like a big dumpling (or as A says, a meatball - that's probably more accurate). But the Singapore noodles were so bland! I'm used to the Singapore noodles with lots of flavor and curry, but these had very little flavor and were kind of disappointing.

A's take - We love Singapore noodles, but these just weren't that great. No flavor, and not really much of anything. The shrimp cake thing was tasty. Nice and soft, definite shrimp flavor to it, and really reminiscent of a giant shrimp meatball. The sugarcane stick was actually fun for me. I've always enjoyed gnawing on sugarcane and getting the nice sweetness that comes out. M wasn't quite as good at it so she let me enjoy it more.

Favorite dishes at the Singapore kiosk:
A: Because of the shrimp cake and sugarcane it's the noodles, but the noodles themselves weren't very good.
M: Shrimp cake (but not the Singapore noodles)

Friday, October 28, 2011

White Chocolate Macadamia

I like white chocolate macadamia cookies. The flavor is so rich and luxurious, and I was hoping the Luna bar would capture some of that feeling.

Photo source

It was OK. The bar itself looked a lot like the vanilla almond bar - coated with a white icing on the bottom half, a swirl of icing on the top half - but was just slightly lighter in shade. It also tasted very similar. Although the macadamia nuts added a nutty texture to parts of the bar, the flavor was fairly similar to the other bars. There wasn't any of the white chocolate richness like you would get from white chocolate chips in a cookie. The macadamia nuts didn't add any special flavor (thinking about mac nut pancakes now...), just texture. It tasted fine, but wasn't anything like one of those cookies.

My rankings, through bar 4:
1. Blueberry bliss
2. S'mores
3. White chocolate macadamia
4. Vanilla almond

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Priceless Taco Feast

Today was the first of Mastercard's series of food truck feasts as part of its Priceless promotion. If you follow them on facebook or tweet with the #PricelessNY hashtag on twitter, you can get free lunch from a food truck!

The rules

In midtown today, both the Kimchi Taco truck and the Gorilla Cheese truck were participating in the free food extravaganza. Since I'm still sick, grilled cheese wasn't the best idea, but tacos definitely sounded good. I braved the cold (40s!) pouring rain to get to the truck for my free tacos and it was definitely worth it.

Rainy and freezing

As part of the promotion, you got 2 tacos. I picked beef (since I hadn't been able to try it before - sold out last time) and chicken.

Free tacos! Beef on the left, chicken on the right

It looks like the taco toppings have changed a little since my first visit and I think I liked them better this time. The tacos were delicious. I could definitely have gone for some more!

Usually the taco platter comes with 3 tacos so I knew this wouldn't be enough for a complete lunch. I topped it off with a cup of chili from Wendy's (nice on a cold dreary day). Thanks to Mastercard, I spent less than $2 on lunch which made me very happy. They're doing this every Thursday for the next few weeks (sadly I can't go next week) and I can't wait to see which other trucks participate!

Canada, Eh?

Canada, our neighbors to the north. The planned first stop for our WorldEats challenge (which we have still not yet begun). Our cruise destination back in August. The next stop on our food and wine festival journey.

Canada kiosk on Monday. Add lines in both directions and at least fifty people and that was what it was like on Saturday.

We had heard a lot about Canada's kiosk before we got to the festival. People love Canada. Here's their menu:

And here's what we tried:

Maple and moosehead beer-glazed salmon with barley salad ($4.50):

We usually prefer our salmon on the medium rare side in a dish like this, but this salmon was well done and not very juicy. The barley salad included vegetables. The sauce was a bit too sweet, but the barley had a nice bite to it. Overall A thought that it wasn't that great of a dish. M thought the dish was OK but didn't need to have it again.

Chicken chipotle sausage with sweet corn polenta ($4):

We had heard about this dish before going to the festival. M really wanted to like this because she loves chicken sausages and polenta, but found this to be really salty. With all the good reviews, she wondered if she was missing something and wanted to try it again if we had the chance (but we never did). A thought this dish was amazing. The sausage and polenta together were a little salty, but the caramelized onions sweetened and tempered the saltiness of the dish and finished it off beautifully.

Canadian cheddar cheese soup ($3.75):

We had also heard about the soup before going to Epcot, as it is one of the highlights of the festival and also served at the popular Le Cellier restaurant. The soup definitely lived up to its hype. It was rich and decadent, full of cheddar cheese, bacon and beer, but so tasty.

Favorite dishes at the Canada kiosk:
A: Cheese soup
M: Cheese soup


Today's Luna bar (I'm really committing to this series, huh?) was the S'mores bar, described on the website as "marshmallow nuggets swirled with graham crackers, topped with dark chocolate."

Photo source

My first impression was that it looked like a plain granola bar with a layer of chocolate on the bottom:

Side view of the bar

And it was. Nothing about this said s'mores to me. Did it have that same Luna bar taste? Yes, generally, but a little less citrus flavor, which was replaced by chocolate. After all, there had to be some chocolate flavor since chocolate was visible in the bar. But no hint of marshmallows or graham crackers to me, and I don't think it's because I'm sick. It just tasted like any other chocolate granola bar.

My rankings, through day 3:
1. Blueberry bliss
2. S'mores
3. Vanilla almond

Another Cuban Combo

Recognize this sandwich?

Maybe from last January or last July?

I went back to Sophie's Cuban for lunch today and got another sandwich/soup/water combo (now $9.99, price went up since the last time I was there). I was in the mood for more chicken soup (well, more accurately, my throat was in need of some after the coughing that never ends) and Wednesday is a chicken soup day at Sophie's. I had never tried it before so I thought today would be a good day.

The soup wasn't too bad. It was full of potatoes, corn on the cob (a little hard to eat in a soup), noodles, chicken and the usual soup vegetables like celery. The soup had a good flavor to it, but since the sandwich is so tasty and has much stronger flavors, it didn't seem that flavorful when I first started it after the sandwich.

In the beginning, I was adding some of this to the potatoes and chicken in the soup:

Their green hot sauce which I love. Even when the flavor of the soup got stronger near the bottom, I kept adding more because the green sauce is so, so good.

I should probably try something new at Sophie's soon. The ground beef stew looked good today, but I was really in need of soup. It's just so hard to try another dish when the baked chicken sandwich is so good!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Blueberry Bliss

Another day, another Luna bar. I was prepared for this to taste the same as the other few that I've tried - but I was pleasantly surprised by blueberry bliss!

Photo source

I figured that fruit flavored ones should taste different, but I had previously had the lemon bar which tasted the same as all the others with just a hint of tangy lemon flavor. This one, I am happy to say, tasted like blueberries (at least the way blueberries usually taste when they're in a cereal or granola bar), and, unlike the vanilla almond, I would be able to guess the flavor!

My first hint was the look of the bar:

Sorry for the not-so-great webcam pics... it's just easier taking them this way during breakfast

There was a dark blueberry-colored layer on top of the bar, so I was thinking it had to taste somewhat different. So far blueberry bliss has vaulted to the top of my list. Maybe I'll try a chocolate-based one tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Outra Caipirinha Por Favor

As the day went on, and the heat continued, we found ourselves looking for our next meal and also a nice cool drink. Brazil ended up filling both of those criteria, and it had a very short line. That was a little odd since there were so many Brazilian tourists, and it made us a little wary that it perhaps was not the best representation of the cuisine.

Brazil's menu:

The first thing we tried was the seared mahi mahi with steamed rice, hearts of palm and coconut lime sauce ($4.50):

The fish was a little overdone, but the hearts of palm salad was tasty. The tomato-based sauce that the salad came in added a nice acidity and a little sweetness as well. We thought the dish was pretty good.

The second snack was feijoada ($2.75):

Feijoada is Brazil's national dish - a stew that usually consists of black beans and pork. We haven't tried this at a Brazilian restaurant yet, so we have no real basis for comparison. This tasted like hot dogs in a thick black bean stew. It wasn't anything that amazing based upon what we ate, but we're hoping to try a real version at some point to compare. M liked this more than A, but she also just likes hot dogs.

We finished off our Brazilian snack with a Leblon frozen caipirinha cocktail ($7.50):

A caipirinha is a cocktail made with cachaca (a sugar cane rum), lime and sugar. M loves caipirinhas. She had one for the first time in law school, made by the Brazilian LLM students in a large pan, and it was excellent. A also loves caipirinhas, but perhaps not as much as M. This caipirinha was so good that we immediately wanted another one but we didn't know what drinks the other kiosks would bring. The drink was very refreshing, but we weren't here just for the alcohol like a lot of other people. We stopped at the one and moved on.

Favorite dishes at the Brazil kiosk:
A: Mahi mahi (although none of the dishes were anything special)
M: Feijoada (since drinks don't count)

Lemon Ginger Herbal Tea

I usually ignore the caffeine-free tea in my assorted tea box (still working through the "straggler" tea bags and cannot find the big boxes of tea from the move) but today, still trying to get over my illness, I thought the Stash lemon ginger herbal tea sounded like a good idea.
I like the Stash brand of tea, especially the chai green tea, the scent of which just makes winter feel cozier.  I couldn't really remember what this tea tasted like, but it was a good blend of citrus, sweetness and ginger.  According to the package, it contains ginger root, lemongrass, lemon flavor, safflower, hibiscus and citric acid.  It's good when you're sick.  I think I have a few more bags left, but may finish them all this week!

Vanilla Almond

I'm torn on Luna bars. I love the idea - a nutrition bar made for women - and they are perfect for breakfast, but despite all the different flavor names, I find that the bars largely taste the same. This weekend I picked up 6 of them - 2 at Trader Joe's (where I usually pick them up) and 4 from Stop and Shop (they had a scanner promotion where you could buy 4 and then get $1 off, so it was like getting one free). I'm hoping that since I have more, instead of the usual 1 or 2 at a time, maybe this time I can finally see the differences between them.

Photo source

Webcam pic of the bar

Today's bar was vanilla almond. It had that same sweet but citrus-y flavor that many of the others seem to have. I can taste the differences in other products like Clif bars (I buy the kid ones), but these all seem so similar (a google search tells me that I'm not alone in this). This one had some vanilla "icing" on the bottom and swirled on top, but without the wrapper, I would have never been able to discern vanilla or almond. I don't even know if I could have put a name on the flavor. I guess we'll see what happens with the next bar. I'm leaving for last the one that I expect to like the most - chocolate coconut - and hoping that at least that one will be a winner!

Shrimp on the Barbie

The first stop on our second food trip around the lagoon was the Australia kiosk, which was quite busy. It was Saturday afternoon, the world showcase was packed and we had resigned ourselves to standing in line wherever we went. Australia's menu looked good so we decided to stop there.

The kiosk on Monday. On Saturday, we couldn't really see what the kiosk looked like.

Looking at the menu, M's guess before eating was that her favorite would be the shrimp. A thought his favorite might be the lamb chop. Would the food live up to our expectations?

First, shrimp on the barbie with pepper berry citrus glaze ($4.50):

M thought the barbecued shrimp were good, but they were really just grilled shrimp in a good sauce. They were nice bite-size pieces. M wouldn't be opposed to having this again, although it was almost $1 per shrimp and they were not jumbo shrimp. A thought the shrimp were good as well, but they were a bit small. The sauce was a little sweet, a little spicy, and with just the right saltiness. Overall a solid sampling.

Second, grilled lamb chop with potato-goat cheese salad and shiraz reduction ($5.75):

M didn't really like the lamb chop, but only had a bite since she's not really a big fan of lamb chops in general. However, she thought the potato and goat cheese salad was really good. The lamp chop was flavored well, but it was overcooked. A prefers his lamb chops more towards rare, and these were more medium well. The salad was very tasty, though. It was the best part of the dish and an excellent addition.

Dessert was last - Lamington cake ($3):

Lamington cake is a signature Australian cake consisting of sponge cake (in this case, yellow cake) covered in chocolate and coconut. M really liked this dessert, but she's a big fan of desserts that mix chocolate and coconut. From the chocolate desserts, this might be her favorite. A thought the cake was very moist and chocolaty. The coconut was a great addition as well, and it was a dish that we both would have liked to have gotten again.

We've always wanted to go to Australia so we were looking forward to this kiosk. Generally, the food was pretty good here, but our guess is that the conditions and speed at which they needed to get the food out made the meat a little less than perfect, but the flavors were good, and hopefully we can go compare for real some time.

Favorite dishes from the Australia kiosk:
A: Lamington cake
M: Lamington cake (followed by the potato-goat cheese salad)