Croissant Doughnuts & Cronuts

It’s been far too long since I’ve dined anywhere interesting, but before I start dwelling on the depressing, let me instead mention something that makes me happy!

Enter the… croissant doughnut.  Some may refer to it as the Cronut, though technically, not all croissant doughnuts are Cronuts.  Did you know that the term “Cronut” was actually invented and trademarked by Chef Dominique Ansel of Dominique Ansel Bakery of New York in mid 2013?  And let me tell you, those Cronuts sure gained popularity quickly — and internationally!  So simple, yet so innovative!

I was first introduced to the croissant doughnut aboard the Golden Princess this past May, and I must say, it quickly became one of my favorite breakfasts.  #mentaldrool

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The delicious hybrid pastry was slightly crispy, yet slightly chewy — look at those layers of doughy goodness! — and also noticeably sugary — but not too sugary! — which personally, I thought was a bonus.  The best part about the snack aboard the Golden was that since it was offered in the International Cafe, which was open all day long, that meant I could have one whenever I wanted to!  It was so tempting to have more than one that I had to keep telling myself not to go overboard… no pun intended.

Have you tried a croissant doughnut or Cronut before?  I’m all ears for good bakery suggestions!

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Panera’s Pesto Sacche-what?! Sacchettini!

How many of you actually know what sacchettini is?  Be honest now.

Well, I have to admit… until today, I didn’t.

Panera was the pick for lunch, and in the mood for something new — surprised? — I decided to try one of their pastas.  Since I had no idea what the Pesto Sacchettini was, I posed my question to the cashier, who responded by holding her right hand up and forming a small circle with her forefinger and thumb.  In other words, she didn’t really know either.  After watching her struggle to explain, I went ahead and ordered it anyway — with chips on the side, of course.

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In case you’re curious, Panera’s website describes the Pesto Sacchettini as “purse-shaped pasta stuffed with a blend of ricotta, parmesan, romano, Monterey Jack, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses then tossed in a nut-free basil pesto and topped with a sprinkle of asiago and parmesan.”

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Sounds delicious, right?  Well, the first few bites were, but honestly, I got kind of bored and had to empty an entire bag of chips on the side to break the cheese/pasta monotony.  I alternated between bites of pasta and bites of fried-potato-goodness, which resulted in a temporary crescendo.

The tenderness of the pasta contrasted with the crispiness of the chips was interesting.  I’m still trying to decide if I like that particular combination.  I’m leaning towards yes, but would want to give it another try…

Overall, the Pesto Sacchettini gets an “okay” from me.

The Philly Cheesesteak, An American Staple

I haven’t eaten out all week, which makes me sad.  But no matter, that won’t stop me from blogging about food!

My most exciting lunch this week was probably a Philly cheesesteak that I had from the cafeteria at my office.  Beefy, cheesy, toasty… complete with a nice helping of mixed bell peppers and grilled onions.  Yum!  Also served with baked chips on the side.  Chips were a bit greasy, but also pretty tasty.  Overall, I’d have to rate it somewhere between good and fine, maybe closer to fine.  By cafeteria standards though, I suppose it’s really closer to good…

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Stay tuned for more culinary adventures!

Chips at Caffé Oliva on Ohio Street Beach

Today’s dreary, gloomy, and rainy weather made me long for sunshine… and that brought back memories of a month ago when I was visiting Chicago, enjoying the gorgeous weather at the “beach.”  (FYI, a Floridian like myself would naturally laugh at the thought of referring to “land by the water, with sand and rocks” as a beach.  Real beaches don’t exist in Chicago!)

Caffé Oliva*, located right along Lake Michigan, is an outdoor beach-side restaurant, set up on Ohio Street Beach.  With tables for two and wooden cabanas (among other seating arrangements), this somewhat-out-of-the-way cafe is perfect for soaking up the sun and people watching, while eating a meal or even just snacking.  (The restaurant also serves a short and sweet brunch menu on the weekends!)

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Since my friends and I were headed to a BBQ later in the day, we just ordered some chips and dip.  Kettle chips, sumac aioli, and hummus, to be exact.  The combination was fine!

*Location:
E Ohio St
Chicago, IL 60611

Lime Opens Nearby, Offers Eight Varieties of Salsas

Since I didn’t have a great Mexican experience yesterday, I thought I’d give it another try today… with something a bit more mainstream.

Lime Mexican Grill just opened near my office, so a couple co-workers and I stopped by to grab a quick lunch.  Seemed to be a pretty popular lunch spot, as the line was out the door when we arrived.  There’s also an outdoor — covered, I might add — seating area, which looked very inviting!

At first glance, the menu seemed fairly extensive, but after reading the fine print, we noticed that many items only differed by one or two ingredients.  Bummer.  Regardless, I ordered three Original Tacos (two soft and one crunchy) with chicken.  Was super excited about the chips on the side since the restaurant also offers eight different types of salsas.  Eight, really?!

After ordering, I made a beeline to the salsa station to pick up some dippers while I waited for my food to arrive.  (On my way over, I passed a wall of hot sauces that I just couldn’t resist taking a picture of.)

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Here are the tacos.   Continue reading

Choriqueso from Tenango’s Taqueria

Ever order food for no other reason than…  it sounds intriguing?  I often do — and am always up for trying something new, like the patacón I had a couple days ago!  For lunch today, I ordered Choriqueso, a Mexican appetizer comprised of sausage (chorizo) and cheese (queso), at Tenango’s Taqueria*.

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The Choriqueso came in a small bowl, with 6-7 small flour tortillas on the side, to wrap the sausage and cheese.  I must say… while I don’t deny that the combination of ingredients was flavorful, it got kind of boring after a couple bites.

The cheese was somewhat melty but also somewhat stiff at the same time (ugh), so got kind of difficult to separate, but I felt like the dish was missing something… perhaps some onions?  Or maybe bell peppers?  Just something to balance out the saltiness.  I did appreciate that there was an adequate number of tortillas, but that was probably the only thing I appreciated.

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Overall rating?  I guess I’ll go with okay.  Erm… mostly because I’m feeling somewhat nice.  Probably doesn’t help that the waitress didn’t bring my guacamole though…

Oh, almost forgot, all diners get a cup of chips, bean dip, and salsa to start off the meal.  Guess I forgot to mention that until now because well… it wasn’t very memorable.  The corn chips were somewhat stale and the bean dip and salsas weren’t terribly tasty.  In fact, I’d rate the dippers okay and below average, respectively.  The red salsa had a smoky taste to it, which was not quite the profile I was expecting.

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Overall assessment?  The analyst in me concludes that Tenango’s Taqueria’s price-to-taste/value ratio lands it on my do not re-visit list.  #oneanddone

*Location:
8349 NW 12th St
Doral, FL 33126

Venezuelan Patacón, the Twice-Fried Plantain Sandwich

What’s the essential ingredient in any sandwich?  Why the bread, of course!

Now, imagine a sandwich without bread.  In place of bread, think twice-fried green plantains — some of you may know these as tostones — sliced lengthwise.  Sound delicious?  Well, it is!  The Venezuelan patacón is a sandwich made with two slices of twice-fried green plantains and filled with a choice of meat (chicken, pork, beef, etc.), as well as cheese, lettuce, and sauce/salsa.

Tucked away in the Miami neighborhood of Doral is a Venezuelan restaurant called La Coriana* that serves great patacones (and for the record, no, that does not have an accent on the “o”).  For lunch, I ordered a patacón with chicken.

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The fried green plantains didn’t taste over-fried, like those which I’ve experienced at other restaurants, and the filling was flavored just right, not too light and not too strong.  I’m not exactly sure what the white sauce was, but can assure you it was also pretty tasty.  Portion size was just right, too.  I felt full, but not uncomfortably so.

You know what?  I just might have to rate this one a good.

*Location:
3655 NW 107th Ave
Doral, FL 33178

Carnival Conquest: Lunch on Lido

Today would’ve been a great day for cruising, but since I’m not on vacation, I settled for lunch on a cruise ship instead.  Carnival Conquest here I come!

Fun fact: Carnival Cruise Lines has 24 ships in its fleet and my goal is to set foot on all of them.  Might be tricky though, since one of the ships — and soon to be two — currently sails out of Australia.

The Conquest offers a decent number of dining stations on the Lido deck, including Fish & Chips, Italian, Southern Comfort, Guy’s Burger Joint, Blue Iguana Cantina, Pizza Pirate, Deli, and Sweet Spot.  They weren’t all open for lunch today, but a majority of them were.

I started off my meal with a small cup of ceviche from Fish & Chips.  I’d bet that most passengers don’t know about this station, since it’s tucked away on the upper Lido.  The ceviche included mostly shrimp, but also bits of calamari and scallops (I think), along with diced bell pepper and onion.  Rating… okay.  Would’ve been nice if there were more calamari and scallops…

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I tried the Italian station next.   Continue reading

Argentinian-Uruguayan at Punto Sur

Happy Friday, everyone!  Do you know what Friday means?  It means lunch out of the office, yay!  (For the record, I don’t always eat lunch outside the office on Fridays, but I try to as much as I can.)

As if I hadn’t had enough Latin American food recently, today I lunched at Punto-Sur, an Argentinian-Uruguayan joint serving empanadas, salads, sandwiches, grilled meats, pastas, and desserts, among other things.  As a small starter for the table, the restaurant offers savory bread with garlicky-mayo (and butter)… mmm, so tasty!  #fatty

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To continue the meal, I sampled some empanadas, Latin American pastries filled with a variety of sweet and savory selections.  I tried the carne picante (spicy beef) and capresse (mozzarella, tomato, and basil) options, which turned out to be somewhere between okay and fine, based on my previous experiences with empanadas.  A little more filling inside would’ve been nice.

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I ordered the skirt steak sandwich with fries for my main entree.  FYI, the sandwich is big enough to share, especially if you’ve had some empanadas or other appetizers already.  The sandwich came with green chimichurri sauce on the side to further flavor my skirt steak.

Did you know that chimichurri sauce generally includes parsley, garlic, olive oil, oregano, and white (or red) wine vinegar?  Or so Wikipedia says… but hey, that’s totally a legitimate source nowadays!

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The thick-cut fries were pretty standard fare, though I appreciated that they weren’t overcooked.  I’d say the entree rated between okay and fine for me.  It was generally what I expected it to be, so I’m not complainin’.  Plus, I was with my Toastmasters crew, so it was all good.  Good way to start the weekend.

*Location:
7902 NW 36th St
Doral, FL 33166

New Flatbread Sandwiches at Panera Bread

Back again at Panera today.  Since I’d never had their flatbreads before, I decided to try a couple.  The menu listed four options:

  • Mediterranean Chicken (chicken, curried lentil hummus, feta, cucumber, napa cabbage blend, tzatziki sauce)
  • Thai Chicken (chicken, cilantro jalapeno hummus, napa cabbage blend, cilantro, peanut sauce, Thai vinaigrette)
  • Southwestern Chicken (chicken, black bean hummus, feta, southwest corn blend, napa cabbage blend, cilantro, BBQ ranch)
  • BBQ Chicken (chicken, frizzled onions, mozzarella, smoked gouda, fresh baby spinach, cilantro, BBQ sauce)

I went for Thai Chicken and Southwestern Chicken.  Survey says… just okay.  The sauces in both sandwiches didn’t really taste distinctively Thai or Southwestern, which left me bummed and confused, and the flatbread itself was less chewy than I was expecting.  I guess the overall meal was okay from a taste standpoint though.  Likely won’t order it again, but may consider the BBQ chicken flatbread since I do like BBQ-chicken-you-name-it.

Front: Southwestern Chicken Back: Thai Chicken

Front: Southwestern Chicken
Back: Thai Chicken

I did have a coupon for $1 off a pastry, so there was that… strawberry rhubarb mini-cake here I come!

Do you eat at Panera?  What do you order there?