Not cool Häagen-Dazs

This is messed up: Häagen-Dazs is reducing the size of their ‘pints’. Thank you to the good folks at Serious Eats to let us in on this travesty. This is another case of downsizing, while companies charge the same amount for getting less product. Don’t believe me? Take a look at a container of Breyer’s Ice Cream some time. It sure isn’t a half gallon anymore. This downsizing stinks.

On the plus side, more of my ice cream spending dollars will be going to Ben & Jerry’s. They have announced that they won’t change their sizes and will continue to serve a true pint. So goodbye tasty flavors of Häagen-Dazs and hello to the full pint goodness of Ben & Jerry’s! I’ll be indulging in their Strawberry Cheesecake (formerly called Primary Berry Graham during the ’04 election), Chubby Hubby, and Imagine Whirled Peace!

Binge ice cream eaters and heartbreakees will appreciate those extra two spoonfuls of ice cream when the going gets tough. Thank you Ben & Jerry’s. No thank you Häagen-Dazs.

Such Great Heights at Peaks Frozen Custard

Frozen custard is a treat that our friends from the Midwest know dearly. In fact, if you’re from Wisconsin chances are you pretty much grew up on the stuff. (The folks at Peaks did, they’re all from Wisconsin.) I bet the three main food groups to folks from Wisconsin would be sausage, cheese, and frozen custard. Seattle has the first two locked down, now the area finally has it’s first frozen custard joint; Peaks Frozen Custard.

February 14th was the official ‘grand opening’ of Peaks Frozen Custard. That’s a bit of a misnomer though because they’ve been open for a few months now. But with a chance to get their sea legs, they decided to party and announce their opening on Valentine’s Day – a great day to treat yourself, no matter the circumstance. Seattle has a proliferation of ice cream, gelato, and froyo places, but up until Peaks opening, we didn’t have a frozen custard spot of our own. What’s nice about all of these frozen desserts is that they are unique, and frozen custard is no exception. It’s lusciously creamy and has a ton of mouthfeel. This will be the first thing you notice when eating it. Chalk this up to the greater percentage of egg yolks and that they don’t mix in too much air. Also, because it’s made fresh daily the flavors are very pronounced.

To find Peaks think of nearby landmarks. It’s about a 10-minute walk from Greenlake. It’s across the street from the Roosevelt Whole Foods. It’s neighbors to Teddy’s (one of my favorite bars). And it’s around the corner from Roosevelt High School. Knowing this you’ll know who’ll be going to Peaks; everyone! The Greenlake neighborhood is truly an epicenter for many and with their location on 65th and Roosevelt, all walks of life will make their way into Peaks. And that’s awesome. In fact, when we went, a couple of nice ladies invited us to sit with them. How neighborly!

The vibe of Peaks is very fun; it’s dressed up similar to a lodge. And they keep playing off this theme with the ordering system. You start your order at “base camp” (cone or dish; waffles are an extra option). Then you step up to “the climb” (flavors; they have vanilla, chocolate, and a ‘flavor of the day’). Once you’re on the climb you can choose to add toppings or not. But it’s the frozen custard that you go for and it’s delicious. Frozen custard has an unctuous creaminess that is unparalleled and Peaks does not disappoint. Because it’s fresh and not served as cold as ice cream you’ll notice that the flavors are deeper and more developed. The vanilla has a well-rounded taste and a lingering finish. The chocolate is awesome, smoky with a distinct richness unlike other chocolate flavors that I’ve tasted before. I wanted to take custard home!

Enjoy Peaks and all they have to offer! They also have a ton of fresh baked treats that they make in house. From the cupcakes to the cookies to the sandwiches, all are done by the good folks there. And they get their coffee from Lighthouse Roasters! It’s always nice to acknowledge places that use local Seattle coffee. I’m starting to get annoyed when I see coffee from south of Washington. Peaks Frozen Custard is going to be a nice little place to enjoy a snack of frozen custard goodness.

Peaks Frozen Custard on Urbanspoon

Photo courtesy of jdong’s Flickr

Trophy Life

photo_012909_001

This is more of an anticipatory heads up for those with a sweet tooth. And if you enjoy the benefits of retail therapy then it’s a perfect combination. Trophy Cupcakes is opening in U-Village.

I first learned of this in Rebekah Denn’s great devouring sEATtle blog; the much-lauded Trophy Cupcakes is slated to open in the spring. Their new location will be next to Pasta & Co. and Bryn Walker. This will be exciting for all those that enjoy a good cupcake. And for all the nannys and moms in Laurelhurst, Bryant, and Sand Point for when the kids have low blood sugar. For anyone really

Triophy Cupcakes has been in the Walllingford Center for several years now. And they have fans by the droves. In fact, Martha Stewart is a fan. Jennifer Shea of Trophy Cupcakes actually appeared on Martha’s show a few months back to celebrate cupcake week. Seattle represent.

They have a ton of flavors and my personal favorite is the Obamacake. The chocolate is rich and smoky but in balance with the creme frosting. I particularly like the cake aspect of Trophy’s cupcakes. Moist and springy like any good cupcake should be. The combination of the cupcake and frosting is also not too sweet, which shouldn’t give you sugar overload. (Well, this is what I’m telling myself.) Try a bunch of their flavors! But make sure to enjoy them! Appreciate these little works of art and let the flavors do their thing. They are about three bucks, so they’re by no means cheap. But these are treats not daily indulgences – unless that’s how you roll.

Now if only that location opened sooner…”Spring 2009″ can’t come soon enough.

Trophy Cupcakes and Party on Urbanspoon

Cream puff daddy

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, Seattle’s International District’s got you covered. Bubble tea at Gossip, cocktail buns at Mon Hei, now we can add another to the mix of fun stuff to get – cream puffs from Beard Papa’s.

I must admit, I had no idea of what Beard Papa’s was until about a week ago. Now I feel late to the party. Because I didn’t have any preconceived notions as to what Beard Papa’s is ‘supposed’ to be, I just enjoyed what they were. What first started out as a Japanese treat, became a bit of a phenomenon (read up on the history, it’s really interesting!). Apparently, lines would go out the doors with people clamoring for these cream puffs. Now, they’ve started expanding stateside with locations throughout California and New York. The first Seattle location opened up at Safeco Field this summer. Which makes sense given the strong ties the Mariners have to Japan (Ichiro!). But I wasn’t aware of this because the M’s stunk up the joint and fell off the map to locals that cared. Now Beard Papa’s has a location in Waji’s, that I’ll be sure to hit up frequently. And a third is coming to Lynnwood!

Located inside of Uwajimaya in their food court, Beard Papa’s sits as the anchor. And you can watch the whole show of cream puffs being made. I love cream puffs, the combination of dough and rich cream is always a winner. But Seattleites have been living in a state of cream puff mediocrity. Most are soggy and bland, and those ones you get before your meal at local pho places? No thanks, I’ll pass. The cream puffs at Beard Papa’s are a different story.

The cream puffs are large in size, about the size of a hockey puck, not the ping pong ball most are used to. And they bake them fresh throughout the day! Order a puff and choose one of three flavors of cream (vanilla, chocolate, and green tea), they’ll fill them in front of you, and then they’ll dust them in a bit of powdered sugar. Then they are yours! I love this process because adding the cream before serving keeps the shell crisp, so this dichotomy of crisp shell with creamy filling is a bona fide winner. Biting into it is a delightful experience I look forward to doing again and again.

The cool thing about Beard Papa’s is that the cream puffs are baked fresh daily and the cream is made day of. So things are fresh and they don’t use preservatives, so be mindful that they won’t keep that long. Why would they? You’ll finish yours soon enough. The staff is really friendly too, which as always nice. Smiling faces go a long way.

Head on down to Uwajimaya and enjoy feeling like a kid that loves sweets. Plus, the Waji’s location doesn’t have the massive lines that typify the Japan locations. I will say that they are a bit expensive. $2.15! But it’s a treat, not a necessity. So treat yourself to some cream puffs at Beard Papa’s.

Beard Papa's on Urbanspoon

The utter delight of a chocolate sandwich

While on holiday in Disneyland last week, we were able to ease into each morning with the Today Show. One day they were focusing on New Year’s parties and they had a segment with the fetching Giada De Laurentiis suggesting some appetizers for the New Year’s Eve shindig. One of them really caught my eye; it was for a panini with chocolate and brie, and this reminded me of one of my most favorite  snacks. Grilled chocolate sandwiches.

Giada made these unique panini sandwiches using chocolate, basil and brie. Not the first thing that jumps out as ingredients for a sandwich, but as mentioned on these pages, salty, sweet, and savory flavors are great in balance with each other. The richness of the chocolate plays nicely with the bite of the brie. Couple this with the freshness of basil and you have a fun sandwich.

Not all of us have brie at the ready in our kitchen however. So here is my recipe for an awesome snack that is perfect for any time of day. I first learned of this recipe in, of all places, a Williams-Sonoma catalog. They were talking about a panini press and included a recipe for chocolate sandwiches. I loved the idea of this and knew I had to try it. Glad I did because it’s definitely in my eating arsenal.

Here is how it goes; you take some bread, preferably a country white. I like Grand Central’s Como. Great flavor and structure, this isn’t the white bread you grew up with. It’s so much better. Then you get some chocolate. I’d do semi-sweet or dark, but if you have a voracious sweet tooth, milk chocolate could work. Hershey’s is nice, but if you really want to treat yourself, go Schokinag or Guittard. And you don’t need a panini press, just use a pan and you’ll be good to go.

To make it, you get a pan nice and hot and put in a pat of butter, throw on bread with the chocolate and treat it like you would a grilled cheese sandwich. Done! Williams and Sonoma suggested sea salt; of course this is good, salt is a flavor amplifier! I look forward to giving this a whirl with the Vanilla Salt from our friends at Secret Stash Sea Salts.

Yup, another ‘weird’ food idea. We’ve touched on a ton of odd combinations here (bacon ice cream, chicken and waffles, hot dogs with cream cheese, etc), but all were about highlighting ingredients, flavors, and how they all play well together. While your mind might have some reservations, your tastebuds won’t. They’ll welcome these flavors and enjoy them! Give a chocolate sandwich a shot, I’m sure you’ll love it!

Photo from Real Simple

Snickerdoodle Synopsis

The holidays are always a good chance to go crazy and indulge in food and drink. I think this is a good thing, eating with friends and family, taking naps after eating turkey, getting tipsy on eggnog, and taking in all manners of baked goods. And cookies. Lots and lots of cookies. As the holidays approach the sublime snickerdoodle is one of the best cookies out there.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the four pillars of cookie awesomeness are chocolate chip, ginger molasses, oatmeal raisin, and the snickerdoodle. I love holiday baking and snickerdoodles are always a good choice to hit up.

A major ingredient in snickerdoodles is Cream of Tartar. Generally this will be the ingredient that kitchens won’t have. Cream of Tartar is composed of tartaric acid, a byproduct of wine making, and this acidity helps provide balance to the volume of cinnamon that is used. The balance creates this perfect storm of sweet, sour, savory cookie goodness.

Sometimes you’ll see recipes that omit Cream of Tartar for baking powder. This is because baking powder is actually a combination of cream of tartar and baking soda. Instead, this acid-alkali concoction creates a yin-yang balance for baking.

I particularly like this recipe. It’s courtesy of Gale Gand, who used to have her own show on Food Network. She is a superstar pastry chef who has a gaggle of restaurants, so she definitely knows how to rock butter and sugar.

Now go bake some snickerdoodles! Soft, crispy, either way is perfect!

Snickerdoodles on Foodista

Photo from My Recipes

Halo Halo Happyness

Chowking Halo Halo

One of the things I most look forward to when I go to the Philippines is Halo Halo. Especially Chowking’s version. Halo Halo is a treat that pulls from different cultures, but is distinctly Filipino. It happens to be one of my favorite things.

First off, Halo Halo is pronounced ‘hollow hollow’ not ‘hey-low, hey-low’. Now that we got that out of the way it means ‘mix mix’. Clever, huh? And it is quite the mix. But what is Halo Halo? We know it’s a dessert, but it has a ton of interpretation. You start with a base of ice shavings, then it’s up to you. I love Chowking’s Halo Halo, because they bring the ruckus with ingredients. Some ube, a couple of scoops of ice cream, a piece of flan, some crushed puffed rice. It doesn’t stop there – there are also garbanzo beans, jackfruit, other candied goodies – and then they drizzle some condensed milk. This is their version, but you’ll find different takes of Halo Halo from most any Filipino food place.

Sounds a little odd but this remix of a dessert is awesome. Tons of flavor, texture and color. Like any good remix it has a lot of possibilities. When eating it, some people do their own personal Girl Talk and mash everything up. I like to do a modest mash, still keeping separation of all the good stuff. I do enjoy Filipino food, now I just need to find a taste of the Philippines in Seattle! Kawali Grill in Columbia City perhaps? Haven’t been to Inay’s in a while, maybe they have it. Of course, there are Chowking’s in California, maybe a field trip is in order.

I do love halo halo, it is a unique treat that is distinctively Filipino. And yes, Filipino food is more than chicken adobo and lumpia.

FroYo Fo Sho.

You may our may not have noticed this, but there has been an explosion of frozen yogurt places in Seattle. They are everywhere. Crazycherry in Capitol Hill. Mooberry in Ballard. Red Mango in U-Village and Downtown. I’m sure I’m missing some, but they are everywhere. I’ve only been to Red Mango and Mooberry, so let’s talk about them.

Mooberry is in Ballard across the street from the Majestic Bay theatre, and they also have smoothies on the menu. They have a couple of different flavors of froyo on their menu and some toppings. The thing I like best about Mooberry is that they give you a ton of yogurt. A nice serving and theirs has a good creamy tang. They also give a discount for movie watchers.

Red Mango feels like stepping into an Apple Store that specializes in frozen yogurt. There are employees everywhere and the store is awash in white. Their toppings are excellent; the berries are fresh and they even have mochi as a topping. The staff is super friendly; be prepared for a ton of smiles. Something I wasn’t as crazy about in my first couple of Red Mango visits was that the staff was weighing the portions. I chalk this up to the staff getting use to pulling the lever, but during my most recent visit, they gave us massive portions.

That leads me to cost, these new frozen yogurt places are expensive relative to the old standby of TCBY. Most places will charge a buck a topping. A medium with a topping will be over five bucks. Yikes. It’s too bad TCBY’s are all outside of the Seattle area.

But that still won’t stop the masses from coming thanks to Pinkberry, which started the craze for froyo. (Have you seen their American Express ads?) Since their expansion in WA is slow going, places like Red Mango and Mooberry are filling the Seattle void. And the next dessert craze that’s about to hit Seattle? Frozen custard. We’ll be getting one near the Whole Foods on Roosevelt. My friends from the middle will love this.

Bakery gem in White Center – Salvadorean Bakery

White Center probably wouldn’t be one of the first places to find a food gem, but at the corner of 17th and Roxbury lies the Salvadorean Bakery & Restaurant. I’m glad I went because I really, really enjoy baked goods, and they have some of the best in Seattle.

The outside of the Salvadorean Bakery is very nondescript. Inside there’s a small shop and a decent sized dining room. But the counter of baked goods is where it’s at; a glowing example of the greatness of carbs. There’s the usual fare; cookies, cakes, breads, etc., which are all good. But there is a ton of really unique stuff that’s worth trying. They even had Jerry Seinfeld’s favorite: churros! Definitely get the Salvadorean Quesadilla; an awesome little cake (not a tortilla most are used to). The texture is rad; the crisp edges and buttery goodness rock. Get one of these. Get one of everything! The prices are great!

But it’s not just the bakery that’s exciting: the lunch and dinner items are quite alluring. Folks love the pupupas; I will definitely have to try those when I go back. It really is a great place to grab something to eat. And don’t just take my word for it, there have been a lot of great articles on this place.

Go out and discover places that could surprise you. White Center has these places, and there are more out there; I can’t wait to find them.

Salvadorean Bakery on Urbanspoon

Doughy goodness

The Pike Place Market is a mecca for food lovers. One could explore and discover great produce, seafood, cheese, coffee, and restaurants; the places to see at the market are limitless. Filled with nooks and crannies, Pike Place Market is deserving of exploration, next time you go definitely explore. This is how we stumbled on Michou’s Bomboloni.

Michou is quietly tucked away in the Soames-Dunn Building of the Market; they have this doughy drop of heaven called Bomboloni. Slightly denser than a doughnut but you’ll get the same satisfaction from it. Definitely filling. And the cinnamon sugar dusting is always a crowd-pleaser. We each got one and know that it’ll be something we’ll grab on the run down the road. Skip past the mini-donut place and definitely go here.

The folks at Michou have all sorts of other stuff from baked goods to Mediterranean fare. And a great fresh squeezed lemonade too. The sandwiches are really good, I grabbed the turkey-bacon. As with any good sandwich, it’s defined by its bread, and Michou comes through. Definitely partake in the bomboloni though.

And that sense of discovery? We found it in a little courtyard tucked in the back. It felt like a little oasis in the Market. Down the steps from Post Alley. That little area also houses Sabra’s and Emmett Watson’s Oyster Bar.

Go out and explore your Pike Place Market, you’ll be glad you did.

Michou on Urbanspoon