Mouthful of Sunshine

Satisfaction in every bite

Au Bon Cupcake – Au Bon Pain

ImageApril 30, 2012
Au Bon Pain, Philadelphia PA
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Macchiato Cupcake
Double Chocolate Cupcake
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All I have to say is that these are the best cupcakes ever! Seriously, they are that amazing. They made me a happy girl today. It may seem hard to believe that a restaurant chain like Au Bon Pain actually sells the best cupcakes, better than even bakeries that should be more specialized in cupcakes. It seems impossible, but it is true, believe me. These cupcakes are not particularly large, but they were very fresh. They sell out everyday so they would be fresh. 

The Macchiato Cupcake had a nice and light coffee aroma. The coffee cake base was so soft and airy, and just the right moisture for a cupcake. It was not dry at all and the texture was consistent throughout. It was not particularly sweet so it was quite a light cake. The colour matched the flavour. The whipped cream icing on top is in no way oily. Instead, it was very sweet and not too fluffy, although I would not mind it if it was a bit more firm and dense. The flavour is exactly how I like it, rich but very sugary. You can almost feel the texture of the sugar. The chocolate-coated Espresso bean on top was very crunchy and was a nice little surprise. The cupcake looked simple but the flavours blended beautifully.Image

Next is the Double Chocolate Cupcake. Can I just say, this cupcake perfectly embodies my ideal version of a chocolate cupcake. The cake itself is soft, light, and moist. The perfect texture and density for a cupcake. For a regular chocolate cake, I would like a bit more moisture, but for a cupcake, this is excellent. It was not too sweet to balance out the frosting. According to the Au Bon Pain website, the cake base is chocolate cake mixed with chocolate pudding, which could be why it is rather moist for a cupcake. It suits me just fine! The chocolate cream cheese frosting is sticky, dense, and sweet. It tasted more like a semisweet chocolate ganache, a little sweeter and not as hard. I just love the sweet and chocolatey gooeyness. The shaved chocolate on top added a little something extra to make it pretty much perfect. 

Clearly, I am amazed by the quality of Au Bon Pain’s cupcakes. I will really miss them next year as they will close at the end of the summer semester. At least there are stores at the airport, which means I will still have chances to satisfy my taste buds with their scrumptious cupcakes!

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Classy Cinnamon and Special Strawberry – Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

ImageApril 29, 2012
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Philadelphia PA
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Cinnamon Bun Doughnut
Strawberry Cake Doughnut with Cream Cheese Icing
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Another doughnut-filled brunch at the dining hall just made my day that much better. Today, they had some more of the special flavours. There were too many that I could not even try all of them, so I am going back tomorrow in the hopes they will have Krispy Kreme doughnuts during the week as well.

I picked up the Cinnamon Bun Doughnut without knowing exactly what it was. When I bit into it, I was pleasantly surprised. The glaze was nice and thick, perfect as always. The yeast dough was again soft and chewy, tasting very fresh. The cinnamon surprised me but I absolutely loved it. It was not too overwhelming but definitely distinct. I just love the cinnamon sweetness and spice with the sweet, sugary glaze. The two together, with the chewy doughnut texture, was amazing!

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I also tried Krispy Kreme’s new feature doughnut, the Strawberry Cake Doughnut with Cream Cheese Icing. Let’s start from the inside out. The cake dough was slightly disappointing. It was not sweet, but it had lots of food colouring to give it that lovely pink colour. This I liked, but I could use more sweetness. The texture was also more like a yeast dough rather than a cake batter. The little pieces of strawberry in there was not distinct. What I did not really like was the artificial strawberry flavour. I am certainly not a fan of artificial fruit flavours, especially strawberry or cherry. They are just too different from the real thing.

The cream cheese icing, together with the glaze, was amazing though. The amount of tartness was perfect. It was creamy and rich, and the sprinkles added a little something extra. With such a perfect icing, I could almost overlook the negatives of the dough.Image

Clearly, Krispy Kreme is quickly becoming a favourite of mine, raising the bar for doughnuts once again. Their doughnuts just taste really fresh, whereas many I have eaten before seemed stale, even if they were made that morning. I am eager to try all their varieties now, so watch out for more doughnuts this week!

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Original and a Classic – Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

ImageApril 28, 2012
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Philadelphia PA
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Original Glazed Doughnut
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I was right about our dining hall having Krispy Kreme Doughnuts for brunch. I could tell they were Krispy Kreme’s doughnuts because of the thick glaze and the varieties they had. There was the exact same one I had on Friday, the Chocolate Iced with Sprinkles Doughnut. Even the sprinkles were the same green, blue, and orange.

This time, I decided to try their Original Glazed Doughnut. It was as good as I expected. The glaze was nice, thick, and sweet, melting in my mouth. The yeast dough was soft and chewy, the best texture for a doughnut you can possibly ask. Clearly, it was a classic. With what I have tried so far, my standards for doughnuts have definitely been raised. There was a time when I loved doughnuts a long time ago and then lost my soft spot for them because most of what I was eating were dry and stale. This has certainly turned that around!

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Back to High School with a Macaron – Sugar Philly

ImageApril 27, 2012
Sugar Philly, Philadelphia PA
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Blueberry Lemon French Macaron
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Another lemon-y delight on this wonderful Friday after a lovely riding lesson. I love Sugar Philly’s surprise flavours on Fridays. It always brightens my day. I get excited when they tweet the day before, saying they are having a special flavour the next day. The colours this time – blue and yellow – reminds me of my high school colours. We were blue and gold and this macaron was more like purple and yellow. But again, my first high school was purple and gold. With that, I recall the stress-free days that are way behind me. Well, at least this macaron can help me de-stress a little!

This particular Blueberry Lemon French Macaron was nice and tart. The mix of the two fruits did not convince me enough. However, the tartness did go together. It felt a little forced, but the colours were splendid! I love that bright yellow with the purple-bluish filling. The shell was not only crisp with a soft centre but was also lemon-flavoured! I could still taste the almond flavour in it though, which was good. The blueberry filling was also light and refreshing. It was not creamy nor like a jelly in texture. Overall, the macaron was not too sweet with its blend of sugar and acidity. 

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Chinese Yet Again – 生记-Sang Kee Noodle House

ImageApril 27, 2012
生记 – Sang Kee Noodle House, Philadelphia PA
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雪豆炒素鸭 (Sauteed Snow Peas with Mock Duck)
炒银针粉 (Needle Noodle)
口水鸡 (Spicy Savory Chicken)
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One week later, David and I are back at Sang Kee. This time, it was my turn to foot the bill. It was more delicious this time. Overall, I was more satisfied with these dishes. None were too oily, salty, or bland. Also, my craving for chewy foods was somewhat satisfied. 

I mistakenly thought this was snow peas leaves. Only after the server left did I realize I ordered not the leaves, but the actual peas. However, I love mock duck. The 雪豆炒素鸭 was actually pretty good. The sauce was savoury and slightly sweetened at the same time, with a lot of soy sauce flavouring. It was not very oily but very flavourful, and it soaked into the mock duck. That was my favourite part of the dish. Bean curd products always have the tender chewiness that I love so much. It was cooked perfectly. I was a bit displeased with the large pieces of carrots though. That and the snow peas could have been cooked a little more thoroughly. The mock duck was lovely though!

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Next came 炒银针粉, which the server said was really good when I asked her what kind of noodle it was. Instead of describing it to me, she told me the name in Chinese. Not much help that was since it was printed right on the menu. She was right, though, in saying the dish is good. These needle noodles are short and thick but pointed on the ends. They were translucent and were quite chewy, cooked to the perfect texture. Slippery and chewy just made my day. The egg on top, lightly passed through oil I believe, was lovely. It was very soft and tender and the whites and yolk were whisked together so it was neither heavy nor light. The pork was good, as were the bean sprouts and scallions. The shrimp were a little overcooked though, typical of Sang Kee. Well, they were probably frozen shrimp so that is as tender and chewy as you can get. I would have preferred fresh, grilled shrimp that are not overdone.

ImageFinally, we ordered 口水鸡. This is supposed to be a traditional, very spicy, cold dish. It was not served exactly hot, but definitely not as cold as I would like. The sauce on top was spicy, but not spicy enough. At least it was spicier than most of their dishes though so it was nice to have that spicier flavour. It also did not have enough of the ginger and scallion in oil and soy sauce aroma. Considering the overall standard of Sang Kee, though, it was decent. It just was not up to my standards of the traditional 口水鸡. It was definitely not very mouth watering. The chicken was cooked nicely though. It was tender and not over done nor undercooked as it will be sometimes. I liked the texture and the extra spice in it well enough.

Overall, I think the needle noodle and the mock duck are going to become a part of my staple next year. They were delicious enough and not oily that I would definitely eat it more often. After a meal like this, I just keep on thinking how much I love chewing my food. I need that texture!

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Gourmet Doughnuts? What? – Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

ImageApril 27, 2012
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Philadelphia PA
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Glazed Lemon Filled Doughnut
Chocolate Iced with Sprinkles Doughnut
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What a nice surprise when I got back from a morning ride, courtesy of Residential Services. Upon entering the college house, there was a table and on it were stacked Krispy Kreme Doughnuts boxes. There is a reason Krispy Kreme is one of everyone’s favourite doughnut places. Their desserts are just good. It is one of the few things I approve of at the dining halls, when they have these doughnuts in different varieties.Image

The first time I entered, I grabbed the Glazed Lemon Filled doughnut. The glaze never ceased to amuse me. I love sugar and sweetness and the glaze just melts in your mouth. This is a texture I approve of when I am eating sugar. The doughnut was super soft and also quite moist and chewy on the inside. It was definitely one of the best doughnuts I have eaten based on the quality of the dough. The lemon filling was tart with a touch of sweetness. The acidity made it so that it was light and refreshing instead of rich and filling. However, I would have preferred more filling as there was only a little bit inside the doughnut. The ratio of doughnut to lemon was definitely off.

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The second time I came in, I decided to go with the Chocolate Iced with Sprinkles. It just looked so pretty, calling out “eat me!” The green, orange, and blue appealed to me today so I figured, why not. This one was also glazed in addition to the chocolate icing and sprinkles. The doughnut was again very soft and chewy, the texture quite delightful. My favourite part, though, was the chocolate and sprinkles. It came off of the doughnut when I used a fork, separating from the doughnut easily. I just loved that topping. Their chocolate icing always melts in your mouth, not dry or hard at all like some other places’ doughnuts. Add to that the crunchiness of the sprinkles and it was one sweet treat!

Now I cannot wait to eat some other varieties when our dining hall has them. Their doughnuts are more gourmet than fast food, or so it seems. At least they are great quality desserts! All I can say is that it is certainly not surprising why people look very highly upon Krispy Kreme when talking about doughnuts.

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Lovely Mangoes, Drop the Mangoes – Ben & Jerry’s

ImageApril 26, 2012
Ben & Jerry’s, Philadelphia PA
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Mango Mango Sorbet
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With a coupon for free ice cream, I happily made my way down to Ben & Jerry’s, knowing I was going to try Mango Mango Sorbet. I am not the biggest fan or sorbet, preferring a richer, creamier ice cream. However, I can never turn down anything mango. It is just one of those “never go wrong” flavours. It reminds me of my role as Asaka in Once On This Island when she was obsessed with mangoes. The “lovely mangoes! Drop the mangoes.” Yeah, mangoes are that awesome.

This sorbet did not disappoint. Its texture was almost like that of an ice cream but more refreshing. The flavour was quite sweet, with the perfect amount of tartness. It tasted like summer and just made me really happy. It was not as icy as shaved ice but still had that juicy base, which made it not overly rich. Overall, is was a wonderful sorbet. Clearly, mangoes, once again, did not disappoint!

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Extremely Americanized in Chinatown – 利口福-Lee How Fook

ImageApril 25, 2012
利口福 – Lee How Fook, Philadelphia PA
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酸辣汤 (Hot and Sour Soup)
杨州炒饭 (Yang Chow Fried Rice)
宫保鸡丁 (Kung Pao Chicken)
北京片皮鸭 (Peking Duck)
豉椒牛肉 (Beef with Black Bean and Hot Pepper)
罗汉豆腐 (Buddha Delight with Bean Curd)
干炒牛河 (Pan Fried Noodle with Beef)
椒盐鲜鱿 (Salt Baked Squid)
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Before going to the Phi Psi formal, everyone in Michael’s pledge class and their dates went to Lee How Fook for dinner after the reservation at La Viola was cancelled due to overbooking. I think we were lucky they accepted a group this large at a last minute notice. I was not particularly happy because this is not the kind of Chinese food I approve of. I was glad though, that their food is not oily. It is in fact very light in the oil department compared to the majority of Chinese restaurants. In a way, it is better since it is a lot healthier.

Michael wanted soup so we ordered 酸辣汤. This was surprisingly decent. It was quite sour and spicy with a touch of sweetness. The flavour was nice and strong. The bamboo and the black wood ear or jelly ear were lovely with the quite a bit of chili pepper flakes. I was not sold on the thick strips of pork, though, and would have liked more eggs. A bit of tofu would be nice in the soup too. The texture was alright, neither too watery or viscous. This was actually one of the better dishes of the night.

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Next came the 杨州炒饭, the classic fried rice. This dish is usually a disappointment in most restaurants. This one, however, was pleasant, as I am willing to overlook how traditional it actually is. I just wanted a decent fried rice. There were quite a lot of shrimp, scrambled eggs, and other vegetables in the rice. The amount of soy sauce added gave it a nice flavour so it was not bland. The colouring helped too. Overall, I was pleased with this traditional dish as they did not try to cut back on the ingredients too much. The rice being not overdone helped too as I hate soggy rice. This was nice and chewy so it was good.

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One of the biggest disappointments was the 宫保鸡丁. It was neither sweet nor spicy. I could not taste the spiciness and it should have been very spicy. It tasted just like a regular Chinese sauce. There were hardly any chicken either. Most of the dish was canned bamboo. Not that I do not like bamboo, but it should never be in this dish, end of story. The fact that it became the main ingredient was just unacceptable. At least they did have peanuts and carrots. However, the flavour was completely off, the chicken bland on the inside and overcooked, and it was basically a bamboo dish.

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The 北京片皮鸭 was barely passable. The meat was cooked well but that is hard to get wrong. It came in super large pieces though, and the legs had the bones on them. There is no way you can make a roll out of that. I have always loved the sauce and scallions are, well, just scallions. The pancakes were surprising though. These are not Peking duck pancakes, which should be flat and thin, one piece split into two. This was more of a flat bun and I have never seen this served with Peking duck. This simplest, most popular of traditions was not adhered to, making it disappointing.

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The 豉椒牛肉 was okay. The black bean sauce did not have a strong black bean flavour so it was more like a generic sauce. There were too much scallion and not enough snap peas. The beef was at least tender and the dish was, thankfully, not oily at all.

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The 罗汉豆腐 had the same sauce but slightly lighter than the beef’s black bean sauce. The vegetables were a nice change in this dish and it was not oily, which I really appreciated. The tofu were nicely fried and soaked up some flavour. I also enjoyed the mini corn and the gai lan in the dish since I have not had those in a while. It is hard to get a dish like this wrong and there is no traditional standard so it was okay.

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I ordered 干炒牛河 because I figured this is the one dish that just cannot be screwed up. It was, though, as the one piece of beef I had was not exactly edible. It was chewy, perhaps a bit too much. I could not bite it into pieces. However, the rice noodles were fine. The onions were not completely cooked and I really did not like the raw onion flavour in a dish like this. It is just too strong. They need to make sure the onions are actually cut into pieces and not chunks. Overall, this was slightly disappointing as it is not a difficult dish to get right.

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After reading all the good reviews about 椒盐鲜鱿, I decided to give it a try. The fact that it was baked was definitely a plus. This was one of the better dishes of the night, though I still fail to see how it receives so much praise. It was merely passable for me. The batter was nice and crispy for a baked dish, tasting like it was fried but not dripping with oil. The squid was chewy which was nice. However, I missed the point of the scallions as garnish. They seemed to serve no purpose. Without a sauce, it was hard to eat the two together and the scallion hid the salt and pepper flavour of the squid, which was not very distinct in the first place. It also made the dish look odd. I think sprinkling bits of the greener part of the scallion on top would have worked better. Either that or perhaps a carrot or radish flower to give it more colour.

I would not come back here again just because the food is simply not on par with my standards of Chinese cuisine. This is just too Americanized, not authentic at all. A word about their English translations as well. There was no hot pepper in the beef and no where in the description does it say 干炒牛河 is done with rice noodles. At least it tasted better than dining hall food but that is something I can say about pretty much any restaurant. Let’s just say I did not mind eating here. Oh, and thank goodness it was not oily.

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The Standard in Mexico – Las Cazuelas

ImageApril 24, 2012
Las Cazuelas, Philadelphia PA
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[Tortilla Chips and Ranchero Salsa]
Guacamole Ranchero
Enchiladas De Mole
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I was super excited to come here with the Equestrian Team for our team year-end dinner as the reviews of the Mexican food were excellent. As I entered the restaurant, I forgot about the sketchy neighbourhood it was in. The place was quaint and cozy. The decor gave the place a casual, Mexican feel and I loved it. It was a very comfortable place, somewhere I can relax and enjoy delicious, quality comfort food. We had a large table upstairs in a sectioned-off area. I loved the map of Mexico on the wall and the music they played, though it was too loud to allow for easy conversation.

The huge disappointment of the night was a major problem, however. They were apparently extremely understaffed. The hostess was also our server and it took half an hour to place our orders and then another 10-15 minutes before she started bringing us cups of water. She made three trips for nine cups of water and they were three trips one after the other. Image

After we ordered, it took another twenty minutes before the server brought our Guacamole Ranchero. She did not bring the complimentary Tortilla Chips and Ranchero Salsa until another ten minutes, so we all sat there, awkwardly staring at the guacamole. It was just a lot of waiting. When we did get the chips and salsa, we all dug in. I would have preferred the chips to be warmer, but they were crispy and delicious like most freshly fried tortilla chips. There was, however, in our first basket, a stack of chips stuck together and some of the chips were a bit soggy with the oil. It just was not consistent. Our second basket of chips later on in the meal was better though. The green salsa was good. It had a very strong cilantro flavour and did not have much of a tomatillo taste. It was rather watery but refreshing and light. I wanted more heat to it, though, since it was a green salsa. I love really spiced up foods.

The guacamole was good but it was missing some acidity. More lime would have been better. The avocado was smooth and I love the strong cilantro flavour. Together with the chips, it was a Mexican classic. As we were all extremely hungry by this point, it tasted even better, though still nothing special.

I ordered for myself the Enchiladas De Mole as I saw on the reviews their traditional mole sauce was amazing. When the food finally came, after about one and a half hours of being in the restaurant, I was ready to dig in. The presentation was quite good. The sour cream, cheese, and onions garnish looked nice, as did the pyramid of Mexican rice. The beans were too close in colour to the mole sauce, I thought, but there is not much to be done about it.

After so many rave reviews, I was expecting something out of this world. I was disappointed at what I tasted. It was great Mexican food certainly, but just not as good as I thought. The corn tortillas were sort of soaked with the sauce, giving them moisture and flavour. The marinated chicken inside the enchiladas were full of flavour and quite nicely cooked for chicken. The onion garnish, however, was too strong for me. It was not sweet onions so its taste lasted too long in my mouth. I thought the cheese would be a thick, gooey layer, but what I got was powdered cheese sprinkled on top. It was flavourful by itself, but with the entire dish and not enough cheese, the flavour was lost.

ImageThe mole sauce was good, but not amazing. It had a nice smokey flavour but I could use more sweetness. I could not taste the chocolate and could barely taste any sweetness at all. The first time I ever tried mole sauce, it was really sweet. I am not expecting it to be that sweet, but in this case, I could hardly taste any sweetness. The refried beans were even in texture, quite nicely done. The Mexican rice also tasted good with the carrots and corn.

Overall, the dish was pretty good, though I will definitely try other dishes before returning to this. I also think they need to integrate some vegetables into the dish. There were no vegetable sides or vegetables inside the enchiladas. Some mixed vegetables or a refreshing cactus salad would be a really nice alteration to the dish. Right now, it is just too heavy with the chicken, tortillas, sauce, rice, and beans. 

We were all frustrated with the service, even though the food was decent. The music also did not get turned down until we were almost finished with food. Apparently, it was the day one of their Groupons expired, so there was an unnatural amount of customers. However, it is a Tuesday night and it should definitely not be like this. I did enjoy my food although I am not sure the wait was completely worth it. 

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A Little Bundle of Tiramisu – Starbucks

ImageApril 23, 2012
Starbucks, Philadelphia PA
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Tiramisu Cake Pop
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I bought this cake pop two days ago, but never had a chance to eat it over the weekend. At least it was still fresh, since the cake is inside the chocolate shell. My second time eating Starbucks’ Tiramisu Cake Pop tasted just as lovely as the first time. Seriously though, their cake pops are one of the best treats they have ever offered.

The coffee-flavoured chocolate bean on top was a little bland without a rich coffee or cocoa flavour. The white chocolate shell also did not taste like rich, pure chocolate. I would have really liked it to be made from a better chocolate, as I just love the white chocolate sweetness. However, the light taste did match the tiramisu aspect of the cake pop.

Tiramisu is not supposed to be sweet. Instead, the cake pop did reflect the light, refreshing aspect of the dessert. The cake pop certainly lacked the mascarpone cheese flavour but it mirrored the lightly sweetened coffee-soaked cake well. The inside of the cake pop was very dense and chewy. I love the sticky texture and the chewiness of the cake, as well as the moisture and light coffee flavour. The moisture and density that comes with mixing cake with frosting for the cake ball on the inside is for my taste buds a truly splendid texture. 

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