Belgian Waffles

One of the delights of downtown Brussels is their waffle stores.  Here, you can eat freshly made waffles with a variety of toppings.  A big variety.  The ones I tried were delicious but a pain in the but to eat on the go, specially as the plastic forks provided were too weak to easily cut the thick waffles.  The flavors were great, however.  I might want to recreate this at home.


OrangeGlad Sweet Box Subscription Review – March 2015

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OrangeGlad, sweets from artisan bakeries, $22/month
Promo: LACOOKIES15 for 40% off or SPRING30 for 30% off

OrangeGlad is a subscription box that sends you goodies from bakeries around the country. It’s a great concept but it’s pretty expensive at $22 a month, in particular because they send very few treats. This box had a value of approximately $15. They do have coupons, though, and if you catch a good one and use it on a 6 month subscription, you can bring your costs to the low teens. I got this box with a $15 off coupon, so I only paid $7. It was worth it for that price.

Apparently the box used to have packaged much more nicely. It’s pretty utilitarian now. This is what it had:

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Itty Bites from OrangeGlad

Chocolate Almond Macaroon from Smackaroons

Kiss Me I’m Irish Cake Pop by Sweet E’s Bake Shop

Russian Tea Cakes from Lark’s Fine Foods

San Juan Sea Salt Milk Chocolate Truffle Bar by Seattle Chocolates

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Itty Bites from OrangeGlad, bag of 10, est value $5

These are cute and tiny little shortbread cookies. I’m estimating their value because they are not currently for sale at OrangeGlad. Unlike regular shortbread these were pretty short and came with instructions to eat right away (as if I wouldn’t). We all thought they were delicious.

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Chocolate Almond Macaroon from Smackaroons, 1 macaroon, value $1.25

This was your run of the mill macaroon. Delicious like macaroons are. I did find it a little dry, however, which is to be expected.

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Kiss Me I’m Irish Cake Pop in red velvet by Sweet E’s Bake Shop, value $3.75

I love red velvet cake and this cake pop was very good – but also pretty generic as far as red velvet cake goes.

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Russian Tea Cakes from Lark’s Fine Foods, 3 cookies, est. value $1.15

I’m a fan of Russian tea cakes and these were delicious – though a bit on the dry side.

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San Juan Sea Salt Milk Chocolate Truffle Bar by Seattle Chocolates, value $3.5

This was probably my favorite item in the box. Oh so good. Unfortunately I left it out and my dog ate most of it. But I’ll keep an eye for these bars ’cause they are yummy.

Unsubscribing from OrangeGlad was quick and easy, just took an e-mail.


Joan’s Bakery Cafe

Joan’s Bakery Cafe has been opened for just a few months and is already in its last legs.  It’s clear from the offerings that its owners don’t have the capital to keep it running. My bet is that it will close soon, very soon.

The space that Joan’s occupies has been having troubles for years.  It seemed fairly successful when it operated as Planet Coffee under its original owners, but a series of new owners and new names were unable to make it succeed.  I’m not exactly sure as to why, as before this latest incarnation as Joan’s Bakery, the offerings were both good and well priced.

Joan’s Bakery Cafe, however, is a mess.  First of all, it’s not a bakery.  I don’t know if it ever was, but right now all they sell are pre-packaged, dried Chinese baked items from a bakery in Oakland and old and stale bagels and doughnuts, I recognized as sold at Grocery Outlet.  They do have cafe offerings, though I cannot comment as I didn’t try any.  Though I did order a large glass of orange juice, thinking it’d be freshly squeezed (it should have been, for the $4.50 price), but it was not.

The place was empty, both of customer and of stock, and it seemed to me like the owners had run out of money and couldn’t keep with the expenses of daily operations.  Indeed, it turns out that the space is up for lease.

The food itself wasn’t bad, though grossly overpriced.  I had the lamb shawerma ($8).  The tiny sandwich came with lamb, thick slices of cucumber, tomato and sauce.  The lamb was nicely spiced, it definitely had some curry powder, but not an overwhelming amount.  However, there were no sides (not even chips) and I was nowhere close to full after eating it (the doughnut I bought for dessert must have been a week old).

Mike had the rib-eye blue cheese sandwich ($8) and it was also minute but very tasty.

The whole cafe is in charge of a young girl with limited command of English. She has to attend to customers, answer the phone and prepare and serve the food.  That means limited service even if you’re the only ones eating there.

In all, I’m sad this cafe was such a bust – but I look forward to the space being occupied by a good restaurant one day.

San Leandro Restaurant Reviews


Ciao Bella Blood Orange Sorbet

CB_bloodorg_lgI have a pretty nasty cold, so I only want to eat things which are smooth going down my throat and so flavorful that I can taste them despite my stuffed nose.  Ciao Bella blood orange sorbet fit the bill perfectly.

Of course, I can’t tell you how someone that has their 5 senses would experience it, but to me it was delicious.  The sorbet had a strong orange flavor, with some welcome bitter undertones.  It was very creamy and smooth.

They have these at Grocery Outlet here in San Leandro for $2 now, and I think I’ll stock up.


Four Seasons Cafe & Deli – San Leandro – Review

Four Seasons Cafe & Deli is the latest incarnation of the cafe and sandwich bar that was once Mr. Bagel and, before that, Planet Coffee.  The cafe has been remodeled a little bit and the menu has been updated.  The Middle Eastern owners, for example, have replaced the Vietnamese sandwiches with me Middle Eastern equivalents.  You can order chicken, lamb, falafel or hummus plates for $8, lamb or chicken shawarmas, falafel, chicken or turkey wraps and traditional sandwiches for about $6.  Vegetarians will have plenty to chose from, including a Mediterranean veggie sandwich that comes with fresh mozarella, Kalamata olives, spinach, tomatoes, red pepper pesto and balsamic vinaigrette on toasted focaccia.  I haven’t had it, but it sure sounds good 🙂

What I did have was the lamb shawarma.  It was good without being extraordinary.  Pretty much what you would expect a lamb shawarma to be.  The portion was pretty large, in particular considering the $6 price.  I’d have it again.

Four Seasons also offers breakfast bagel and croissant sandwiches, fresh orange and carrot juice and your basic coffeeshop drinks.  I had their coffee once and it was pretty good, but I’m not demanding coffee wise.

The new menu seems to have quite a few fans, in my last visit, the place was busier than it used to be.  The service was good and the cafe still a great place to meet up with friends – as well as have a cheap lunch in San Leandro.

Four Seasons Cafe & Deli
1423 E. 14th St.
San Leandro, CA
510-667-1004
Free local delivery with $20 order
M-Sa 6 am – 6 pm
Su 7 am – 5 pm

Marga’s San Leandro Restaurant Reviews


Not really ice cream reviews: Gelateria Italiana vs. Tempt

First of all, let me start by saying that I feel like a complete jerk for blogging about ice cream after reading this article about the torturous conditions in which California inmates find themselves, and hearing from a friend of mine who is a prison lawyer, that water was being rationed in California women’s prisons during the heat wave we had last week.

Be that as it may, not blogging about ice cream won’t change any of that, so here it goes.  These are two new, for me, brands of ice-cream-like products that I found at Grocery Outlet, here in San Leandro.

Gelateria Italiana

I tried both their Hazelnut & Chocolate and Pistachio flavors.  The Hazelnut & chocolate one was divine.  It tasted exactly like you would expect it to taste, but it was lighter that your regular gelato.  The Pistachio was pretty good as well, but less exciting because, after all, pistachio ice cream gets boring after a whole.

The ice cream comes all the way from Italy and I would fully recommend it but for its ingredients.  The first two ingredients are what you’d expect: milk and sugar (I guess no cream in gelato), but we then encounter “glucose syrup” – which is basically like corn syrup, but not necessarily from corn – and then “refined vegetable oil”.  Say what?  What is oil doing in my ice cream? I’ve made ice cream many times and gelato a few, but never, never have I heard of using oil.  I might have thought the oil was for cooking the hazelnuts, but it comes before “roasted hazelnut paste” as an ingredient, which means there is more of it than hazelnuts.

The gelato came in a 30 oz tub (so not quite a quart) and cost about $3 at GO.

temptTempt

What tempted me to try Tempt Coffee Biscotti “frozen dessert” ($2 for a pint at GO) was that it’s main ingredient: hemp milk.  Sure, I knew there would be nothing “naughty” in the ice cream, but I like the idea of supporting the hemp industry.  Alas, the “ice cream” was very disappointing.  The texture is nice enough, quite creamy, but the ice cream’s flavor is very mild and somewhat off putting.  According to my daughter, the after taste is better than the taste, however.  Tempt could probably improve this flavor, at least, by using more coffee so the coffee flavor is stronger, but they should also forgo the soggy, flavorless, gluten-free biscotti.

Tempt uses mostly organic ingredients, chief among them rice, but it also includes oil in its formula.  In all, it’s probably not a terrible choice for vegans, but others will probably want to avoid it.

 


Three Twins Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Review – Yummm!

3twinsChocolatePeanutButterI found this gem of an ice cream at our local San Leandro Grocery Outlet for $2.  It was the first time I came across a three twins product, but I’m one of those people who absolutely loves peanut butter and chocolate (as I write this, I’m plotting to make my husband go and get me the ingredients for a peanut butter shake), so I had to try it.  I’m glad I did.

Unlike most ice creams of this type, this wasn’t chocolate ice cream with swirls of peanut butter or vice versa. Instead both the peanut butter and the cocoa powder are mixed together into a combined flavor.  I think I still prefer the traditional type, but this is quite good too, albeit more peanut butter would be better.  Then again, nothing stops you from adding your own.

My oldest daughter pronounced it the “best ice cream ever”, and while my youngest wasn’t as enthusiastic, this is a girl with a limited like for sweets.

Three Twins seems to be this century’s answer to Ben & Jerry’s.  The company is based in the North Bay and makes organic ice cream from locally sourced milk and cream.  They have four stores and they seem to mostly sell through Whole Foods (which would explain why I never heard of them).  In addition to regular flavors, they have some interesting sounding ones such as cardamon, lemon cookie and sea salted caramel.  They sell ice cream through their website for $10 a pint, so the $2 Grocery Outlet price is particularly tempting.


Con Pane Rustic Breads & Cafe – San Diego

We went to Con Pane last February (2012) when we visited San Diego for the Democratic Convention.  Our friend Ralph took us there for breakfast one morning – and we had enough bread leftover for lunch!  I got the Sweet Bread Baker’s Plate ($4), consisting of 3 enormous slices of fresh bread (your choice), served with butter, fruit preserves and creme cheese.  The bread was delicious.  Probably my favorite was the Pain au Levain, your basic country white bread – with butter and jam it was just heavenly.  The Kalamata Olive bread was probably my least favorite, but I’m not a huge olive fan.  I recommend that you get a bread plate to share – one slice is definitely enough.  We also shared a couple of pastries, but it was too long ago and I can’t recall what they were.  My recollection is that they were good, but not impressive.  Coffee was good, and the place quite nice.  All in all, I’d go back.

Con Pane
2750 Dewey Rd, #105
San Diego, CA
(619) 224-4344
M,T,Th,F 7 am – 6 pm
Sat 8 am – 6 pm
Sun 8 am – 4 pm

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews – Outside the Bay Area


Mr. Bagel Cafe – San Leandro – Review

Update Oct. 2013

Mr. Bagel is no more.  Four Seasons Cafe & Deli has taken over the space.

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Mr. Bagel is the cafe that replaced Planet Coffee on East 14th in downtown San Leandro.  The small cafe offers all sorts of coffee drinks, as well as lots of bagels and bagel sandwiches, some pastries and cookies and a full menu of hot and cold sandwiches ($5 to $7).  Best of all they have Vietnamese sandwiches as well.  My friend got one a while back and it was very yummy.

In the last few weeks Mr. Bagel has become my “to go” cafe in San Leandro when I want to have a private talk with someone.  I love Zocalo, of course, but it’s impossible to go there and not run into a friend or acquaintance and have an uninterrupted conversation with any one person.  Mr. Bagel, fortunately or unfortunately, it’s pretty much empty all the time so it’s a great place to meet.  It’s also quite comfy, their coffee drinks are great (I liked their caramel latte more than Zocalo’s zahlua) and the people who run it could not be nicer.  It’s really a gem of a cafe, and I really wish more people would stop by.

I still have to try their sandwiches – and bagels! -, I’ll make a point of it next time I visit.

Mr. Bagel Café
1423 East 14th St.
San Leandro, CA
510-351`-5527
M-F 7am – 5 pm
Sa 8 am – 5 pm
Su 8 am – 3 pm

Marga’s San Leandro Restaurant Reviews

 


Swiss Delices bakery – Castro Valley – Review

A few weeks ago I got a $20 voucher for $10 for Swiss Delices fine bakery & pastry through GotDailyDeals.com.  I hadn’t tried the bakery before, but it got fairly good reviews on Yelp.  After having tried a couple of their offerings, my conclusion is that it is fairly good, but overpriced.

Once I got to the bakery I realized that the voucher was only good for “morning pastries” (e.g. danishes and scones), bread and full cakes.  Neither the beautiful looking individual dessert cakes (~$4) or the cookies (75-cents) were included.  That was a pity because that’s what I was most interested in getting.  We ended up getting a dozen cookies to take with us to an event, and a small chocolate mousse cake to enjoy yourselves.  Cakes start at $28, so even with a voucher you end up paying $18 + tax for what is a relatively small cake.

I enjoyed both the cookies and the cake but I wasn’t awed by either.  The cookies (peanut butter and chocolate chip) were a bit dry, though they had a good flavor.  The same can be said about the cake, though the mousse did provide needed moisture.  It was very chocolaty, my oldest daughter enjoyed it but my youngest didn’t like it.  As good as it was, I much prefer the triple chocolate mousse cake from Safeway.

Swiss Delices uses organic flours, real sugar and free range eggs, which of course ads to the cost.  In all, I’ll go again because I have another voucher, and if I lived in Castro Valley I’d buy one of the individual desserts to try them out, but I wouldn’t otherwise go out of my way to get something there.

Update

I returned to Swiss Delices in December just before my voucher expired (though it turns out that vouchers don’t expire in California).  I was planning to get a cake to serve with Christmas Eve dinner, but the ones they had were all around $38 and I knew they wouldn’t be worth it.  Instead, I got a bunch of morning pastries.  My favorite were the cream cheese (or was it custard?) danishes, they were very flavorful.  The cinnamon rolls were good, but a bit dry, while their bread pudding was too heavy for my taste.

If you are interested in giving them a try, you can get a $10 voucher for $5 on Valpak.  This voucher seems to cover all types of pastries.

Swiss Delices
20669 Santa Maria Ave.
Castro Valley, CA
510-881-8669

http://www.swissdelices.com/

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews