I’m not the biggest fan of Chipotle – mostly because it’s boring and expensive. I understand why people might seek it in places that don’t have a great taqueria (or taco truck) in every corner, but I fail to understand its appeal in California. Still, my daughter likes it, so we ordered it for lunch a few days ago.
This time I decided to try the quesadilla, which is basically a deconstructed burrito grilled enough to melt the cheese. It’s served with 3 “sides” which really mean the ingredients you’d otherwise have inside the burrito, things like rice, beans, salsas, etc. Burrito extras, like guacamole, are still extra for quesadillas.
The steak quesadilla was tasty, but it felt smaller than a burrito (probably just my imagination), and having the salsa/sour cream/guacamole (it came in a different container) outside the burrito only made it more difficult to eat. The shape of the quesadilla, and the fact that it’s cut in two diagonally made it even more impractical – the filling kept filling out as I tried to dip it.
At $11.40 (prices vary by location), it was a pretty poor value – though I’m sure no worse than anything else at Chipotle.
On the plus side, the ingredients were fresh and the beef has less gristle/fat than that at some local taquerias. Also on the plus side, Chipotle is very vegan friendly. Not only do they offer sofritas, a plant based protein, as a vegan alternative to meats, but their rice, beans, tortillas and chips are all vegan. Often times, Mexican restaurants use chicken broth for their rice, or lard for their beans and/or tortillas.
I have never been to a Sprouts in person, but I’ve become quite fond of the supermarket since I subscribed to Instacart during the pandemic. Still, I hadn’t ordered from there in long enough that I’d forgotten what things they had that I liked and disliked. Thus this post – to remind me of what to get again, and what to avoid. I’ll be adding items to this review as we consume them. Note that the prices are Instacart prices.
Sprouts Pastrami on Multigrain Bread Grab & Go Sandwich ($5 for an 8 oz sandwich)
I got this for my husband to replace a chicken salad croissant sandwich that wasn’t available. He thought it was “ehh,” the sort of pre-packaged sandwich he’d expect to get at a convenience store. He felt it was dry, probably as it doesn’t seem to come with condiments. He wouldn’t order it again.
Black Garlic Chicken And Mushroom Saute ($6/lb, tray was 1 3/4lb)
I bought this thinking it was a ready-to-heat meal, as others I’ve gotten at Sprouts. Instead, it’s a ready-to-saute meal which requires you to dump the ingredients on a saute pan and cook for about 10-15 minutes. The chicken is raw, so don’t be tempted to use your microwave.
While it was very simple, it was surprisingly tasty and served two people adequately. I’d get it again.
Chocolate Custard Twists ($4 for 6 small twists)
This has to be my favorite item from Sprouts. When we spent a month in Paris, a lifetime ago, my husband would go to the bakery every morning and get us a very similar pastry. These are just as delicious – which is amazing, giving how badly even the best American bakeries do at imitating French pastries. At 70-cents each for the pretty small pastries, this is not a cheap treat, but mostly because it’s just impossible to eat just one. Still, they are great so get them!
Lakewood Organic Pure Orange Fresh-Pressed Juice Not From Concentrate ($6.5 for a 32 oz bottle, on sale for $5)
I’m always in the quest for the best commercial orange juice – something that tastes as close as possible to fresh squeezed but that I can buy already squeezed. Unfortunately, fresh squeezed OJ is not available at any of my local supermarkets, though they do have it at the Saturday’s farmer market. Alas, we don’t always make it.
So far, my favorite commercial orange juice is Costco’s Kirkland Signature Organic Orange Juice. However, the last two times I’ve gotten it, it tasted like it was already going bad – I’m sure you know what rotten oranges taste like, and this was half way there. So I’ve been looking for an alternative – I’ll give Kirkland another try in winter, but it’s obvious the OJ can’t handle the summer heat.
Unfortunately, Lakewood Organic Pure Orange Juice suffers from the exact same problem. The lid may say the juice doesn’t expire until 2023, but it already has the tell-telling bitterness of OJ going bad. It is also extremely sweet. I don’t know if this is a consequence of it being almost rotten, or if it’s made this way to hide the rotting flavor. Either way, it’s initial taste is disgustingly sweet, and its finish rottenly bitter. I would not buy it again and I have half a mind of writing to Lakewood and asking for a refund.
Clara’s Kitchen Chile Verde Breakfast Burrito ($5 for 10 oz burrito)
I had ordered the Clara’s Kitchen Cheese & Bean burrito but this is what Instacart brought me instead. My husband ended up eating it and he was quite disappointed. He felt it had very little flavor. He wouldn’t have it again.
Reds Organic Cheese Quesadilla Burrito ($3.3 for 5 oz burrito, on sale for $2.5)
I got this and other Reds burritos for my cheese-and-bean-burrito loving teen daughter and it was a bust. She liked the tortilla well enough, but didn’t like the filling, it just tasted wrong for her. Won’t get it again.
Sprouts Cheese Puffs and Cheese Curls ($2.3 for 6 oz package, on sale for $1 each)
Sprouts versions of cheetos are not bad. They seem to have less of an intense flavor than the brand name, and less annoying orange powder to get all over your hands, but they are tasty enough. The puffs are, IMHO, better than the curls. I’d order the puffs again, particularly at the sale price.
Roast Beef ($13/lb)
This was pretty generic deli roast beef, which means it was perfectly acceptable without being remarkable good. I’d buy it again.
As advertised, this pastrami comes in very thin, irregular pieces. It has a subtle flavor, with only a limited chemical pungency and tones of sweetness. Unfortunately, I can’t say how well it holds up to the rye bread as I opened up to taste it, and ended up eating half the bag on its own (and the next day, the other half). As half a bag ended up being my dinner, I’d say that the package ($11 at Safeway) should produce two generous sandwiches.
I was in the mood for BBQ sauce last week, and decided to give a new BBQ sauce a try. I’m a fan of sweet sauces, but dislike anything that tastes like Kraft BBQ sauce. My favorite bottled sauce is Everette & Jones, but I’m fine with Kinder’s and even Sweet Baby Ray’s.
Blakey’s Original was on sale at Safeway, so I figured I’d give it a try. All in all, I was pretty pleased. It basically tastes like a generic BBQ sauce, but it has a bitter/smokey flavor that makes it unique. The flavor does come from liquid smoke or something similar, but it’s not as blunt as liquid smoke usually is. Given that all the profits go to the California firefighters, I felt it was appropriate.
I used the sauce for meatloaves and it worked pretty well. The 18 oz bottle is regularly $6 at Safeway, but was on sale for $4. I wouldn’t buy it for $6, but it’s fine for $4.
In all, this corned beef tasted exactly as what it is: pre-packaged deli meat. It could have been corned beef, pastrami, roast beef, turkey for that matter – it just tasted like generic commercial deli meat. And flavor wise, the 6 ounces of this corned beef were overwhelmed by the two slices of rye bread in the sandwich.
Though Bara’s Deli has been in San Leandro since the ’80’s and we’ve lived here for over 20 years, I didn’t try it until recently. It’s not in “our” part of town – though it’s pretty close by -, and there were other closer sandwich places. Still, I’ve heard good things about them and when, a few weeks ago, I was looking to try a Reuben sandwich, I decided to give them a try. And then another.
So far, I’m fairly happy. These are not the best sandwiches I’ve ever tried (that distinction goes to Giugni’s Deli‘s in St. Helena where, granted, I haven’t eaten in a decade but whose sandwiches were great for the two decades before that), but they were very good anyway. The sandwiches look a bit small, but they are quite substantial and they definitely won’t leave you hungry – if you can finish the whole thing.
I’ve had the Reuben twice now, and while it’s still the only Reuben ($11) I’ve ever had, I liked it a lot. The meat to cheese to sauerkraut to bread ratio was perfect, it was a very well balanced sandwich, and made me a fan of Reubens. I just ordered the ingredients to make some myself. I’m actually not sure if this sandwich is meant to be hot – both times it came in the same bag with another hot sandwich, but it works well either hot or cold.
My husband had The Hangover from their specialties menu ($11.25), a sandwich consisting of “hot roast beef, Swiss cheese, red onions, jalapeños, mayo, BBQ sauce on Dutch crunch.” We both liked it very much, again the ingredients were well balanced.
I was less enthused by the meatballs. I had a meatball sub ($10) one time and a side order of meatballs ($6 for a small) another. The meatballs are small, are too salty and they otherwise have a very generic taste. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were commercial rather than made in house. They are a bit too dense and just not particularly tasty.
The caprese panini ($9) was better. Again, the ingredients were in the right amounts to balance each other and the bread, and the whole sandwich was tasty. My daughter – who ended up eating it – would have preferred fresh basil (in season now) to pesto, but that’s not a big deal.
A “make your own” roast beef sandwich ($10.50) was good and had ample meat.
The one real disappointment was a side of macaroni salad ($3.50) which was just a waste of calories.
In all, we’ll continue ordering from Bara and I look forward to trying other sandwiches.
My basil has been incredible this year – at least the one I keep by my kitchen window. It started from a small pot I got at the supermarket in the spring and since then it’s grown, grown and grown. It’s done significantly better than the basil we’re keeping on a pot inside.
And what better to do with basil than to make creamy pesto? The recipe below is very basic but it works. You may need to use less Parmesan-Romano cheese if you use a high quality one – I just went with a pre-shredded supermarket brand because it’s cheap and easy. I used walnuts, as I already had them, and they’re far cheaper than pine nuts – but, of course, pine nuts are tastier and more traditional.
If you are looking for a vegan version, try this one.
Creamy Pesto Sauce
2 cups basil leaves
5 garlic cloves, 3 whole and 2 minced
3/4 cup grated Parmesan-Romano cheese
1/2 cup olive oil plus more for sautéing
1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
Using an electric food processor, puree the basil leaves, whole garlic cloves, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, pine nuts and salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a small saucepan. Add the chopped garlic and sauteé for 30 seconds. Add the pesto sauce and sauteé for another 30 seconds. Add the cream and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes.
Rotisserie chicken. I just saw an ad for something that looked like one and it brought me back to my childhood. The pollos al spiedo going round and around at the window of the rotisería (how else would we call a deli?) kitty corner from my apartment building. The smell and taste were unparalleled and continue to be. I can almost l but not quite, relive them in my memory.
Rotisserie chicken was expensive, plus my mom didn’t eat poultry- a consequence of a childhood cleaning the chickens her doctor father was paid with-, so it was a special treat. In the life of culinary excess we live in America, there are relatively few of those. It was a treat I shared with my dad, who also preferred dark meat but would let my brother and I have the legs anyway. My sister Gabriela would eat the wings.
Later, one of the butchers near my house started selling chicken parts, pollo en presas. So we could all have legs which my dad would grill on the parrilla over wood we’d gathered around (and coal, of course) and we would eat with a squeeze of lemon juice. Not my mom, of course. It was still more expensive than beef, I think.
I have been juicing oranges for decades, but I usually juice them a few at a time, and had never actually done a whole bag. Still, I got an 8 lb from Safeway not too long ago, and figured I’d juice all of it and see what I got. The answer: 4 cups of orange juice, a quart.
Navel oranges are selling at Safeway now for $6/7 for the 8 lb bag.
I got these Butterfly Crispy Rolls at the small 88 market in San Leandro. I didn’t have high expectations for them, but they were very tasty, to the point of being addictive. They are flaky but less dry than I would have thought. I had imagined they would need some filling, but they are flavorful enough that they don’t need it. All in all I’d buy them again.