Mouthful of Sunshine

Satisfaction in every bite

Monstrous Buns – 旺角站饼屋–Mong Kok Station Bakery

ImageNovember 23, 2012
旺角站饼屋 – Mong Kok Station Bakery, Philadelphia PA
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吞拿鱼包 (Tuna Fish Bun)
火腿蛋 (Ham & Egg Bun)
粟米包 (Ham & Corn Bun)
~

Dad and I once again picked up breakfast for the next morning from a nearby Chinese bakery. Not that many were still open late Friday night but at least Mong Kok Station Bakery was still welcoming customers, partly because they are also part cafe with a dim sum and snacks menu and dine-in seating.Image

Taking my first bite of 吞拿鱼包 (Tuna Fish Bun), I knew then that I would not be going back. The bread was not soft, moist, chewy, and slightly sweet. Instead, it was airy and slightly dry, without much flavour. The filling was not very flavourful either and quite dry and bland. There was not very much of it either. The canned tuna was mixed with some chopped water chestnuts, I think, to add a crunch.Image

The 火腿蛋 (Ham & Egg Bun) certainly did not live up to my standards. The omelette was not thick and fluffy. The ham was far from savoury. The bread was dry and tasteless. This should have been such a simple bun, but even the mayonnaise was bland.Image

The 粟米包 (Ham & Corn Bun) was no different. The bread was especially dry and tasteless, making the texture unwelcoming. The corn was overcooked and not sweet, as were the peas. There were not that many to start with. The mayonnaise was bland but a little greasy. 

There was nothing about this bakery that will bring me back, not to mention that my dad asked for the Curry Chicken Bun and not until I ate it the next morning did I realize it was the Tuna Fish Bun. They need to figure out how to bake and sell it correctly. 

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Pastry Buns Rules – 大家乐面包西饼–K.C.’s Pastries

ImageNovember 23, 2012
大家乐面包西饼 – K.C.’s Pastries, Philadelphia PA
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芋头包 (Taro Bun)
咖吔包 (Pineapple Custard Cream Bun)
芝士粟米包 (Corn & Cheese Bun)
~

We stepped into K.C.’s Pastries to grab a few bun selections for breakfast the day before. I did not go last time Dad and Mom went but the place seemed decent, with quite a few customers.Image

The 芋头包 (Taro Bun) was very good, even if it was not up to T&T Bakery standards. The bread was soft, sticky, chewy, and sweet, very moist and freshly baked. The taro filling was very generous and decently sweetened. It could have used more taro, though, as it did taste slightly artificial. Not that I mind, but more taro would have been nice.Image

The 咖吔包 (Pineapple Custard Cream Bun) had the same great bread. The pineapple sugar topping was too crumbly and a little too dry. The texture was just slightly off. The custard cream inside was light yet sweet. It was the kind that I like. Image

Finally, the 芝士粟米包 (Corn & Cheese Bun) was the worst of the three. The bread was not as soft, moist, and chewy but at least it was still slightly sweet. The cheese was very bland, as was the corn. I could not really taste much of either of the flavours. Image

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Thanks Mom, Thanks T&T – 大统华面包坊–T&T Bakery

ImageNovember 21, 2012
大统华面包坊 – T&T Bakery, Richmond BC
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菠萝叉烧包-港式 (BBQ Pork Pineapple Bun (HK))
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Honestly, the 菠萝叉烧包-港式 (BBQ Pork Pineapple Bun (HK)) is one of the best buns I have ever tried. Even after a long flight, it was fresh and super tasty. I finally got the chance to taste that slightly sweet, very moist, chewy, and soft bread, thanks to my darling mother. The sweet sugary pineapple crust was so crumbly. The BBQ pork inside was incredibly flavourful, sweet and savoury. There was a perfect balance between fatty and lean meat. The filling was quite generous. Absolutely divine.

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On the Need for Paninis: Part VII – Metropolitan Bakery

ImageNovember 7, 2012
Metropolitan Bakery, Philadelphia PA
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Fig Bar
Raspberry Bar
4013 Salad
Rosemary Olive Oil Roll
Roasted Portobello Mushroom Panini
~

It was the last day of National Fig Week so I decided to drop by Metropolitan Bakery for lunch. The day was drizzly and gray but sitting in a little café cheered me up a little. The place is nothing exquisite, unlike some of the quaint little bakeries in center city. However, the server was friendly and the place was rather clean.

The Fig Bar did not live up to all the hype on the online reviews. However, it was quite good. The fig filling was not very sweet but had quite a lot of figs inside it. You can taste the strong fig flavor and the seeds made it crunchy. The crust was a little dry and left in the oven a tad too long. It was quite buttery and crumbly but not overly greasy or sweet. This would go well with a latte.Image

They also offered samples at the counter. The Raspberry Bar was not as good as the fig one in my opinion. It was much more generic, with a very buttery crust and topping. It was not sweet enough for me and slightly too buttery and bland. The raspberry filling was quite generic. The bar was very fresh, though, and was still a tasty bite.Image

For my lunch, I started with a 4013 Salad. For almost $8 after tax, it was definitely not worth it. The salad was in a decently sized bowl, but it was still just a handful of spring mix, chopped granny smith apples, walnuts, and bleu cheese. Everything was just thrown in and I asked for raspberry vinaigrette on the side. The ingredients were fresh but it was just so not worth the price and was thus very disappointing.Image

The salad also came with a roll and I picked the Rosemary Olive Oil Roll. It was simple but had a nice and light rosemary fragrance. The roll was perhaps left out just a tad too long as it started getting a little too tough on the outside. The inside was airy but slightly dry.Image

Finally, the highlight of my meal was the Roasted Portobello Mushroom Panini. This was actually very good, which it should have been considering it was $8.50 before tax. Despite the fact I loved it, it was still outrageously over priced. At least it was good, though. The focaccia bread was absolutely lovely – slightly soggy on the inside, very airy and flavorful in the middle, and crispy on the outside. The panini was quite large and had a whole roasted Portobello mushroom that was very flavorful and juicy. I loved the texture of it. The roasted red peppers were also great, along with the provolone cheese and the very fresh basil pesto. I loved that there were still bits of basil left in the pesto. This was certainly one of the best paninis I have ever had.

I seriously thing Metropolitan Bakery should reconsider their prices. It is the most unattractive aspect of this café. The ambiance simply does not justify the overpriced items. However, I will admit that they make a mean panini.

Metropolitan Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Ten Veggies and a Slice of Bread – Hale and Hearty

ImageOctober 12, 2012
Hale and Hearty, New York NY
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[Sourdough Bread]
10 Vegetable Soup
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I headed up to New York City to visit two company offices as part of a career trek experience with some other students. We stopped at Chelsea Market for lunch and I fell in love with the quaint little place. Who would have thought such a traditional market existed in the middle of New York? It was crowded but all the artisan food shops looked absolutely delicious.

The Sourdough Bread was decent. I loved the very chewy and tough crust with the very soft and airy center. It was not as sour as I would have liked though.

ImageI went with Hale and Hearty since I was up for something warm and comforting and soup sounded perfect. The 10 Vegetable Soup was just what I needed. The various vegetables were great, especially in the tomato-based soup that was not very thick and creamy but rather more like a broth. It was delicious with a wonderful blend of spices.

I absolutely love soup and would have loved to try everything they had. So many varieties to choose from and everything sounded divine. I just wished such a place existed on campus. Having a few of their selections at the Gia Pronto on campus is just not enough.

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C’est La Vie en Philly – Bistro St. Tropez

ImageOctober 5, 2012
Bistro St. Tropez, Philadelphia PA
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[Bread and Basil Pesto]

Watermelon Gaspacho
Tartare de Saumon
Saumon
Paella
Croustillant
~

Students spend way too much during Restaurant Week but Philly’s food scene is so awesome that the deals are just awesome. My friend Casey and I decided on Bistro St. Tropez for lunch as i have never really had any proper French food and it was the closest one to campus. We had a nice walk under the warm, lovely  sunshine. For $20 each, we each got a three-course meal, and we sampled each others delicious selections. Too bad they only had one choice for dessert. Image

To start off, they gave us a basket of complimentary dinner rolls, expected at a high end restaurant. The small rolls were crisp and tough on the outside but warm and soft on the inside. It was one of the best dinner rolls I have ever had, especially when dipped in the basil pesto. It was the perfect start. 

Casey chose for her appetizer the Watermelon Gaspacho. I found it to be a little too sour and did not have much of the sweetness of watermelons. I did enjoy the roasted sweet corn, though. The cucumbers added a slight crunch but not much. The taste was just not what I expected but it was smooth and refreshing.Image

I went with the Tartare de Saumon, which had cucumber, capers, avocado, kalamata olives, and mango. It was served with four crunchy crostini that were drizzled with oil. I am not a fan of olives but once I picked those out, it was lovely. The salmon was nice and the dig was very flavorful. I especially loved the tang from the mangoes. The avocados were creamy. The crostini were lovely and the balsamic was not too pronounced but the acuity was faintly there.Image

Casey’s Saumon entree was salmon and stuffed zucchini wrapped inside phyllo and baked. I found the zucchini tasty but the salmon slightly bland and dry. The pistachio and goat cheese crust seemed to be missing. It was a decent size, though, and a nice fillet of fish. I do not like phyllo but this was flaky and buttery, like a good one should be. I loved the mixed vegetables, especially the spinach in the light curry sauce. The cauliflower purée was so creamy and wonderful I could have eaten a bowl of it.Image

My Paella was also very delicious. It consisted of two large, juicy, and tender prawns, tender chicken, spicy house-made sausage, and mini mussels amidst saffron yellow rice that was somewhat soaked in broth. The dish was quite lovely. I loved the prawns and chicken as they were very tender and succulent. The sausage was super flavorful and had quite a kick. It also soaked up a lot of the north flavor. The rice was good, not soggy, and decently flavored. The mussels were so small but flavorful. I found there was a lot of rice and j could have used more vegetables and seafood instead. However, the saffron aroma was great and quite fragrant. 

ImageDessert was Croustillant, a puff pastry base with three scoops of Basset’s vanilla ice cream, syrup-soaked strawberries, and chocolate and vanilla drizzle. The puff pastry had thin, flaky layers but still does not please me much. The ice cream was great – creamy, rich, smooth, and with a perfect balance of sweetness and vanilla flavor. It was so rich the strawberries were much-needed to offset that richness. They were sweet and refreshing while the syrups just added another layer of flavors. It was a simple idea but the quality of ingredients and the large portion size made it good.

The restaurant is located at the tip of a design center. I would never have suspected there was a restaurant of such level here, in a run down building with showcases on each floor. They surely do not get much foot traffic but the food is nonetheless exquisite. The service was friendly and the place was quaintly decorated to reflect an older period in France. The place was brightly lit and clean, making it a hidden gem in Philadelphia.

 

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Gourmet Sandwiches & Gigantic Sweets – Potbelly Sandwich Works

ImageSeptember 19, 2012
Potbelly Sandwich Works, Philadelphia PA
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Mushroom Melt Sandwich
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie
Sugar Cookie
~

Also available through catering – at another club – was food from Potbelly Sandwich Works. The Mushroom Melt Sandwich was decent. I liked the melted cheese, which included Swiss, provolone, and cheddar, over the cooked mushrooms, making them quite savory. The lettuce and tomatoes also had that nice toasted taste. The roll was very chewy and slightly tough, like a nice and soft baguette without such a thick crust. Overall, it was simple but delicious for a hoagie, though I have never been much of a fan of subs or hoagies and sandwiches of this type.Image

The Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookie was decent – not too sweet and with gooey chocolate chips. I actually liked the oatmeal texture to make it more interesting. It was a huge cookie and quite soft. I definitely could have used something sweeter but it was decent.

I liked the Sugar Cookie better though, with crystal sugar on top adding sweetness and a nice crunchy texture. The cookie dough itself was simply sweet with a nice buttery taste. It was also soft and moist, though I think it could have been thinker and even softer and moister.

ImageAgain, I would probably not go to Potbelly Sandwich Works on my own just because I do not like hoagies or sandwiches on rolls and generally stay away from sliced processed meat. However, I do think this is a better option – and pricier too, I guess – than chain restaurants like Subway and Quiznos, though with less choices.

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The Italian Deal – Salento

ImageSeptember 6, 2012
Salento, Philadelphia PA
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[Bread and Sundried Tomato Spread]
Mozzarella
Veal Ravioli
Orecchiette Al’anatra
Linguini Alla Pugliese
~

I was very excited for a formal Italian dinner at Salento, finally able to use my Groupon. Only two or so tables were filled when we got there but as the evening progressed, more students entered the restaurant for a BYO and business was soon booming. Clearly, a BYO near a university is not a bad idea.Image

They first brought out a complimentary basket of bread with a sundried tomato pesto spread. The bread was warm, with a tough, hard crust and a softer middle. It was airy but slightly more dry than I would like, especially in the place between the crust and the dead centre. The tomato pesto spread also had red bell peppers, basil, olive oil, and perhaps a squeeze of lime. It was very delicious, with the mushy tomato base, refreshing basil and olive oil aroma, and made for the best dinner bread accompaniment ever.Image

We started with an appetizer of Mozzarella. The mozzarella had a good, bouncy texture but was very bland; there was no flavour in it. The grilled vegetables, which included zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, and eggplants, were on the greasy side and a bit bland without the red bell pepper vinaigrette. They were all soft and nicely grilled, though. The red pepper vinaigrette was very tasty, not overly sour or salty but quite refreshing. It was certainly not a generic flavour, and I appreciated it very much with the vegetables.

The daily special of Veal Ravioli was perhaps one of the best raviolis I have ever had. It was served with a light cream truffle sauce that was rich, creamy, and delicious. The ravioli wrappers were red and they were cooked to perfection with the pasta al dente. The ground veal inside was absolutely amazing; the meat was so tender and juicy. It was also ground finely so the texture was slightly creamy. The dish was nicely seasoned and each bite was a soft bite of a heavenly pasta dish.Image

The Orecchiette Al’anatra was too salty. The duck meat was succulent but slightly tough although not dry. There could have been more in the dish. It was served under a slice of cheese, which melted into the pasta and became lovely and gooey. Poured over top was a thickened, broth-like sauce with some diced vegetables. This was very salty, though, and the saltiness soaked into the duck. The pasta was extremely undercooked though. All the orecchiette stuck together and was still raw in the middle of the little stacks. We pointed this out and got the dish replaced without a fuss.Image

For our replacement dish, I decided on the Linguini Alla Pugliese. I was craving seafood and was quite satisfied after I ate more than my share of small mussels, extremely tender and chewy calamari, and prawns. The prawns were bouncy and tender and the squid had an incredible texture. There were plenty of calamari rings and mussels, though the mussels were tiny. The zucchini pesto sauce was not overly flavourful but slightly bland. The pesto had an appealing green shade with a consistent texture. The linguini was cooked al dente and coated with the pesto sauce. However, since it was not sauce inside the pasta, I found it a bit bland – I would rather eat filled pastas for this reason.

The service was great at Salento and I can totally imagine the entire restaurant filled with excited students coming for a BYO. The service was great and I appreciated the no-fuss with the replacement of the pasta. Their dishes are generally quite delicious and it is certainly one of the better Italian restaurants I have been to. With the Groupon, it was such a great deal. I would certainly come here, hopefully with a group of friends to ease the stress from school.

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No T&T in Philly – 大家乐面包西饼-K.C.’s Pastries

ImageSeptember 6, 2012
大家乐面包西饼 – K.C.’s Pastries, Philadelphia PA
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鸡尾包 (Cocktail Bun)
花生酱卷 (Peanut Butter Bun)
榨菜肉丝包 (Szechuen Pork Bun)
沙爹牛肉包 (Satay Beef Bun)
椰丝菠萝包 (Coconut Pineapple Bun)
~

Mom had some extra time on her hands while I had class, so she did me a favour and scoured out the Asian bakery scene in Philadelphia’s small Chinatown. According to her, KC Pastries Inc. was the best one she found because of their reasonable pricing and focus on the freshly baked buns instead of selling a bit of everything.Image

The 鸡尾包 (Cocktail Bun) was actually not too bad. The dough was soft, chewy, sticky, and slightly sweetened. However, it was not as dense as I would have liked and a little more moisture would have been nice. I enjoyed the custard lines on top, as they were very mushy. The coconut filling inside was quite sweet but had a weird colour, somewhat like a taupe or a funny lilac, instead of a yellow as I am used to. The filling did not seem very fresh, and the sesame seeds on top seemed a little out of place.

ImageThe 花生酱卷 (Peanut Butter Bun) was probably the most boring of the bunch. It was just a bland peanut butter rolled into bread dough. It was soft and fluffy, but I could not taste the peanut butter very clearly. It was kind of dry and crumbly, and there could have been much more in the roll. However, despite the light flavour, I liked the deviation from the regular peanut butter taste.Image

The 榨菜肉丝包 (Szechuen Pork Bun) did not taste much like pork. The meat was ground so finely it was more like a pate with the Chinese pickled vegetables. It was quite a savoury filling inside the soft and chewy bread. The texture was dense yet soft and mushy, which was fine by me. The colour was again somewhat off, making me question the freshness of the bun.Image

The 沙爹牛肉包 (Satay Beef Bun) was also soft, sticky, and chewy, although there was not too much bread as the shell was quite thin. The filling of ground beef in satay sauce with onions and other spices and ingredients had a slight kick to it, something that is hard to come by with Asian breads. I liked the spice quite a lot. The strong flavour contrasted the slight sweetness of the dough quite nicely.Image

Finally, the 椰丝菠萝包 (Coconut Pineapple Bun) just could not compare with the ones at home. The pineapple crust topping was crumbly but slightly over-baked. It was falling apart really quickly, and did not taste very rich and complex, just a simple sugary sweetness. I prefer a thicker topping as well. The bun was again nice and soft as well as chewy, sticky, and the like. The coconut filling inside was okay. There was plenty of shredded coconut so the texture was mostly that. It was sweet with the custard-like coconut filling and I wished there was more filling. Despite all the coconut inside, it was still slightly greasy. They probably should have cut back on the oil as well.

ImageOverall, I was quite pleased with the quality of the dough. None of them tasted as fresh as the ones at T&T Bakery back home, but they were definitely more than acceptable. I think with a much lower demand, you cannot expect extremely fresh, always day-old items. While KC Pastries Inc. certainly cannot compete with the many bakeries back home, it will do the trick when I am craving Asian bread buns. ImageImage

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TTYL T&T – 大统华面包坊–T&T Bakery

ImageAugust 26, 2012
大统华面包坊 – T&T Bakery, Richmond BC
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菠萝红豆包-港式 (Red Bean Pineapple Bun (HK))
榨菜肉松包 (Preserved Mustard & Dried Pork Bun)
蒜蓉肠仔包 (Garlic Sausage Bun)
全麦香肠包 (Sausage Wheat Bun)
提子条 (Raisin Twist)

菠萝牛角包 (Pineapple Croissant)
~

One final time getting a bag of mix-and-match buns from T&T Bakery this summer. Actually, Mom got it and I was not there to pick out what I want but she knows. I love it when the bags have mostly what we like and what we have not tried. All in all, buns make me a happy girl.Image

The 菠萝红豆包-港式 (Red Bean Pineapple Bun (HK)) is one of my all time favourites, regardless of where I get it from. T&T Bakery just makes the best I have ever had. The pineapple crust topping is crumbly yet not very dry. The bread is slightly sweetened, moist, soft, and even quite sticky on the sides where it touches the paper cup. I love sweet and chewy bread too much! The red bean paste filling was also delicious; some beans were blended into the paste so that they still have their original shape and gave it a contrasting texture though they were almost mushy when bitten into. It was a dense but very good quality filling. The whole bun was jut varying levels of sweetness, which is just perfect for me!Image

I have never tried the 榨菜肉松包 (Preserved Mustard & Dried Pork Bun) before. It was a regular, non-sweetened bun topped with lots of sesame seeds and filled with a blend of dried pork fluff and finely diced Chinese pickled vegetables or pickled mustard greens. The sweet and savoury pork is a favorite of mine and tasted even better when the pickled mustard were added, giving it a slight crunch and the slightly tangy savoury flavour; the two certainly complimented one another. I just wish there was more filling and that the bread was not as dry. To be fair, it was okay, but I prefer moist, sticky dough to give it more of a chew.Image

The 蒜蓉肠仔包 (Garlic Sausage Bun) was rather disappointing. I could not taste much garlic in the centre even though the green specks made it apparent. The design was pretty to be sure but the sausage pieces were small and slightly dried and hardened. The bread could have been a little sweeter, although it was moist and chewy. The bun tasted good, just nothing extraordinary. With a stronger garlicky aroma, it would have been way better. The ‘petals’ pulled apart easily, pivoting perfect bite-sized portions, each with a thick slice of the normal hotdog wiener. I think T&T Bakery can definitely experiment with gourmet sausages.Image

The 全麦香肠包 (Sausage Wheat Bun) was also just okay. The wiener in this one was the same but because it was not cut up, it retained its tender texture and moisture. The bread was decent though, being made from whole wheat. It had that whole wheat aroma and the slightly chunky texture. It was not over-baked and so was still soft and chewy.Image

The 提子条 (Raisin Twist) was a little over-baked. The dough was still soft but it could use more moisture and stickiness. Still, it at least had a pleasant, very light golden colour. The raisins were plentiful, scattered quite evenly throughout. They were quite sour, however, but I rather enjoyed the tanginess rather than just sweetness. It looked pretty but the taste was nothing spectacular.Image

Finally, the 菠萝牛角包 (Pineapple Croissant) was definitely over-baked. I liked the idea of a pineapple crust topping on a croissant, adding some crumbly sweetness to the buttery, flaky pastry, making it Asian along the way. However, the whole thing turned out very brown and almost burnt. There was no moisture or buttery flakiness that melted in your mouth. The sweetness of the pineapple topping was masked underneath the burnt scent. I do not think I would buy this again, even if it was made well, but when it is not burnt, it would have been a nice pastry nonetheless.

ImageI am quite satisfied with all the buns and bread I have had from T&T Bakery over the past few months. It is always interesting to try some new products but I know there are always scrumptious choices to fall back on. Bread of this quality is certainly hard to find elsewhere in North America and will always be a plus when returning to Vancouver.

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