Mouthful of Sunshine

Satisfaction in every bite

Tokyo Delights – Starbucks

March 4, 2013
Starbucks, Minato, Tokyo, Japan
さくらシフォンケーキ (SAKURA Chiffon Cake)
ザッハトルテ (Sachertorte)
さくらシフォンケーキ (SAKURA Chiffon Cake)
キャラメル&ウォールナッツパウンド フード (Caramel & Walnuts Pound)
さくらマカロン (Sakura Macaron)
フィローネ 春野菜&ミートローフ (Filone Spring Vegetables & Meatloaf)
ハニー&カスタードドーナツ (Honey & Custard Doughnut)
マンゴー パッション ティー フラペチーノ (Mango Passion Tea Frappuccino Blended Juice Drink)

ImageI had been waiting so long to visit a Japanese Starbucks. They have some different drinks and a completely different food menu from that in the US. I was extremely eager to try out the sweet pastries, savoury snacks, and sandwiches. Unfortunately, they had sold out of the SAKURA lattes and frappuccinos, something I was really looking forwards to. However, there were so many other choices to choose from.Image

Sticking with their spring promotion, Casey and I decided first on a slice of さくらシフォンケーキ (SAKURA Chiffon Cake). It was light and aromatic, with the lovely cherry blossom fragrance. The pink was so lovely to look at. The cake itself was airy, light, and slightly sweet. The cream on top was the same, and the little cherry blossom was also good. It was such a delicate dessert!Image

The ザッハトルテ (Sachertorte) was a slight let down after the pink delight of that first dessert. The chocolate shell was crunchy and the chocolate cake inside dense. The cocoa flavour was very strong and rich, and not overly sweetened. However, the cake was just slightly dry and this was just not particularly special.Image

The キャラメル&ウォールナッツパウンド フード (Caramel & Walnuts Pound) was delicious as well, and perfect for celebrating National Pound Cake Day (despite the fact that I was out of the US!). The caramel flavour was light and the walnuts added a wonderful crunch to the otherwise moist yet dense cake. My favourite part was the caramel frosting on top, which was not as sticky or moist as some frostings, more like a fondant layer. It was sweet and very yummy though.Image

The さくらマカロン (Sakura Macaron) was not to be outdone. Delicate and sweet, it also had a distinct cherry blossom fragrance that was just so light. The cream inside was a little denser and sweeter, contrasting the cookies nicely.Image

The フィローネ 春野菜&ミートローフ (Filone Spring Vegetables & Meatloaf) was incredible. The baguette was a little tough, the way I like it. I loved the asparagus, peppers, and other vegetables with the gravy and melted cheese. The meatloaf was thin but provided a richness to the sandwich. The flavour was clearly an Asian take on a western food, something I am familiar with and like very much.Image

The ハニー&カスタードドーナツ (Honey & Custard Doughnut) was not outstanding but still good. The honey made it sweet and the custard inside was dense, egg-y, and quite sweet as well. The doughnut dough was actually made from wheat or grain flour, not just white flour, giving it a fuller taste.Image

To drink, I got the マンゴー パッション ティー フラペチーノ (Mango Passion Tea Frappuccino Blended Juice Drink). It was not very sweet at all, with the aroma of the mango and the passion fruit juice that was slightly bitter and very tangy. It was incredibly refreshing and a better alternative for just cold juice.Image

My first visit at a Japanese Starbucks was just fantastic. The food and drinks were wonderful, not to mention the great service. Despite taking some time to communicate to the baristas what I wanted, they were very patient and helpful. They also had very interesting liquid sugar for people getting regular coffee. Everything was just splendid!

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On the Need for Paninis: Part XIV – Penn Bookstore Cafe

February 22, 2013
Penn Bookstore Cafe, Philadelphia PA
Chocolate Lava Cake
Tomato Caprese
Mango Raspberry Twist Frappuccino Blended Beverage

The Penn Bookstore Café is one of the most popular study spots on campus, offering a slightly more exotic drink menu and various delicious-looking desserts and lunch options. The atmosphere in the bookstore is also nice, quiet without the stress of a regular school building. The smell of coffee also helps.Image

My Chocolate Lava Cake was decent enough, especially since it had a very strong chocolate flavour. The base of the cake was a little dry but the top was more of a ganache that was sweet, sticky, and amazing. It did lack the molten chocolate gushing out of the cake though, so I would not exactly call this a lava cake.

ImageThe Tomato Caprese panini was pricy at $6.50 but very delicious. It was pressed nicely and the mozzarella was light and fresh, as were the tomatoes. There was plenty of pesto, which added to the richness of the panini. I never mind a little too much olive oil and pesto so it was great for me.Image

Although their drinks are very similar to Starbucks, they offered a Mango Raspberry Twist Frappuccino Blended Beverage not available elsewhere. It was such a pretty color and tasted even more amazing, with a very strong flavour of mango puree. The raspberry was more in the background and just added another tone to the tang and sweetness. It was so refreshing.

I am definitely coming back here more often to try their other interesting desserts, drinks, and sandwiches. They also offer soup, which seems to be delicious on a cold day. 

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Shamrocks and Fish – McDonald’s

February 12, 2013
McDonald’s, Philadelphia PA
Shamrock Shake
Fish McBites
Tartar Sauce
Grilled Onion Cheddar Burger

ImageIt seems I am always repeating this, but McDonald’s needs more than three special menu items every four months. Honestly, that would keep the menu so much more interesting, but we digress.

It was only the beginning of February but since Valentine’s Day was over, it was apparently prime time to roll out the Shamrock Shake again. I was not going to miss it this year, and I am glad I did not. It was lovely and sweet, smooth as all McDonald’s shakes go. The mint added a different layer of flavour and made it light and refreshing, despite it still being a caloric bomb. The green was actually pretty and appetizing looking, and I just liked the balance of sweet vanilla and mint.Image

The new Fish McBites were on promotion for three days; a snack size was only $1. This was such a deal, as they were really good. Well, as good as fast food fish can get anyways. Each mini fish nugget had tender Alaskan Pollock inside, flaky with the layers visible. The batter on the outside was slightly crispy and quite thin, as well as nicely seasoned. The Tartar Sauce that came with it was the same as the one on the Filet-O-Fish, tangy, sour from the relish, and creamy.Image

The Grilled Cheddar Onion Burger was also only $1, now part of their regular Dollar Menu. The bun was slightly sweet and toasted. However, the ingredients were subpar. The onions were a little too greasy; the white cheddar was a little bland; the hamburger patty was dry and overdone, not juicy in any way. The idea of the burger is nice but the execution needed some serious improvement.

Now, I am wondering what they will churn out for Easter and late spring. That should be interesting, but something with chocolate would be nice. Those Easter bunnies would like that, too.

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Well, Let’s Drink Bubble Tea – 茶井-Well Tea

ImageDecember 27, 2012
茶井 – Well Tea, Richmond BC
芒果雪泡 (Mango Bubble Milk Tea)
炸中卷酥 (Deep Fried Squid)
盐酥鸡炒饭 (Fried Rice With Deep Fried Chicken Nuggets)

姜丝大肠 (Pig Intestine and Shredded Ginger Stir Fry)
东港红烧蛋包饭 (Taiwanese Sweet & Sour Seafood Omelet Rice)

After a creative but slightly slow Life of Pi in theatres, my best friend, two others friends, and I went for dinner at 茶井 (Well Tea). The only other time I had been here was way back in grade ten, when we gathered as a class and had bubble tea after a party at a fellow student’s house. They had run out of pearls that time and I was not quite aware of the food they served. This time was different.

We did start out with bubble tea, though. My friend had the 芒果雪泡 (Mango Bubble Milk Tea). It was pearls in a foamy mango milk tea. It was sweet but not with fresh mango flavour. I was pretty sure it was done using powder. The tea flavour was not very pronounced. It was milky and decently bubbly. The pearls were, thankfully, quite good. They were sweet and just the right bouncy texture.Image

We all shared an appetizer, which was the 炸中卷酥 (Deep Fried Squid). It came with a spicy dipping sauce that was very flavourful. Even without the dipping sauce, though, the squid was good. The batter was thin but crispy and not overly greasy. It was also very nicely seasoned. The squid inside was chewy and tender, although it could have been a little less tough.Image

My friend also let me try her entrée, 盐酥鸡炒饭 (Fried Rice With Deep Fried Chicken Nuggets ). I have to admit that the chicken nuggets were bang on. The batter was so flavourful with salt and pepper that it was tasty but not at all overwhelming. The chicken inside was the super tried and crumbly stuff I am used to, but rather moist and tender. The fried rice was generic. The rice was thankfully not overcooked and had a light soy sauce flavour as the base.Image

Another friend went out on a limb and ordered the 姜丝大肠 (Pig Intestine and Shredded Ginger Stir Fry). None of us recalled ever eating pig intestine. I am sure I had at some point in life but was never incredibly aware of it. I will pretty much each any part of a regularly eaten animal so I was willing to give it a try despite the pungent odor. The sour and salty ginger at least masked some of that odor. I loved the squishy, chewy, and slippery texture but the smell was hard to overcome. I think if it was cooked longer, in a more flavourful gravy of some sort and braised, it might have been better. The side dishes were quite generic. I liked the light broccoli florets the most.Image

I ordered the 东港红烧蛋包饭 (Taiwanese Sweet & Sour Seafood Omelet Rice). The sweet and sour – and just slightly spicy – sauce was delicious. It did just taste like ketchup with perhaps some sort of citrus juice and a little sugar, or perhaps a little vinegar. It was flavourful, though. The egg was nice but could have been a little more underdone. I loved the shredded black wood ear and shiitake mushrooms but there was a serious lack of seafood. I found literally half a shrimp in the whole dish. It certainly did not qualify as a seafood dish, not at all. There was quite a bit of pork, though. The sauce really made this dish comforting for me.

Overall, service was lacking. We waited a long time for our bill despite there being hardly anyone else eating there. The servers were just not very attentive. However, the food arrived within a decent amount of time, freshly cooked and very comforting indeed.

Well Tea 茶井 on Urbanspoon

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Ribs That Shake and Melt – McDonald’s

ImageDecember 16, 2012
McDonald’s, Philadelphia PA
Egg Nog Shake
Cinnamon Melts

The local McDonald’s started to offer the long-awaited McRib at least two days earlier than the planned December 17. That was a rather nice weekend surprise. Despite previous bad experiences with the quality of assembling sandwiches, this visit was not horrible in comparison.

I had the limited-time Egg Nog Shake to start, perfect for National Egg Nog Month. I think the lady forgot the maraschino cherry on top but I never liked those anyways. The eggnog flavour was quite prominent in contrast to the vanilla soft serve ice cream. Although most would probably find this too much of a sugar overload, I loved it, even though I did not finish the whole thing. The sweetness of the milkshake went nicely with the spice of the eggnog, bringing back memories from elementary when I first tried eggnog.

ImageThe McRib sandwich was nicely assembled and delicious. The barbeque sauce was smoky with a slight tang and decently sweetened. It was not a heavy sauce and coated the very tender pork nicely. The pork was so tender it almost did not taste like pork. The onions added a refreshing, spicy kick but I found the pickles to be a little overwhelming, the flavour strong compared to the barbeque sauce. The bun was nicely toasted and overall was a delicious sandwich for McDonald’s standards. Too bad it only comes around once a year.Image

For dessert, I had Cinnamon Melts, which I have not had for a long, long time. It was warm and soft, with the dough drizzled in the warm, gooey cinnamon sugar mixture and melted icing. It was sweet on spice on sweet and I loved every bite.

McDonald’s seriously needs new items more often, as they add such variety to the menu, making it ever so interesting. I am curious as to what the spring will bring. Having missed the Shamrock Shake last year, I am definitely getting my hands on a cup this coming March.

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New Twists and Curls – Burger King

ImageNovember 30, 2012
Burger King, Philadelphia PA
Wisconsin White Cheddar Whopper Jr. 
Angry Whopper Jr. 
Seasoned Sweet Potato Curly Fries
Gingerbread Cookie Shake
Gingerbread Cookie Sundae

I thought I should get an early dinner and since I was already in Center City and having only had a light salad for lunch, a visit to Burger King was in order. They have so many new, limited-time items so it was quite a nice stop before heading back to campus.Image

The Wisconsin White Cheddar Whopper Jr. was not extraordinary. The beef patty was okay, decently juicy. The vegetables were quite generic – tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, and onions – as was the sesame seed bun. The bacon was actually crispy and quite good. However, I found the white cheddar to be a little bland. It needed more of a kick. Image

The Angry Whopper Jr. was fabulous as far as fast food burgers go. Again, the bacon and beef patty were both great, one crispy and one juicy. The melted Habanero cheese was also decent enough. The vegetables and sesame seed bun were like any other burger. What made this burger so much better was the strong, fiery spicy kick from the jalapenos and the spicy angry sauce. The sauce was so bold, spicy, sweet, and savoury, like a BBQ sauce on fire. The fried spicy onion petals were also something I had never had and quite enjoyed their crunch.Image

The Seasoned Sweet Potato Curly Fries was just an upgrade from what they offered earlier this year (straight-cut sweet potato fries). They were well seasoned with maple seasoning, adding savoury to the sweet. Crispy on the outside and smooth on the inside, they were fun and tasty.Image

I asked for a sundae but they gave me the Gingerbread Cookie Shake instead. It was so sweet but nothing is ever too sweet for me. The gingerbread flavour was quite strong. Mixed with a rich, creamy ice cream base, it was too much, even for a small size. However, a few sips were great. Image

I did get my Gingerbread Cookie Sundae in the end. I loved the gingerbread syrup, which tasted quite like chocolate to me. The gingerbread flavour was there, though. THe vanilla soft serve was quite generic but the cookie crumble on top added a nice texture and ginger spice flavour to the dessert.Image

Burger King is now churning out new menu items faster than most fast food chains, certainly with some interesting options. Not all may be brilliant, but some are certainly unique enough. 

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Chicken, Chocolate, and Everything in Between – Starbucks

November 18, 2012

Starbucks, Philadelphia PA
Chicken Santa Fe Panini
Marshmallow Dream Bar
Iced Lemon Pound Cake
Chocolate Chunk Cookie
Double Chocolate Brownie
Reduced-Fat Banana Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake
Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino Light Blended Beverage
Caramel Brulée Frappuccino Light Blended Beverage

With my recent indulgence in Starbucks treats, my stars and rewards are just piling up. So I thought, what better way to use them than to try new items? The food there all look so appetizing!Image


I started my Sunday with a Chicken Santa Fe Panini. It was quite scrumptious. The chicken was in large pieces but was surprisingly tender. With the melted pepper jack cheese so savory and gooey mixed with the sour cream green chili spread on top of the chicken, it had quite a kick for a panini. The bell peppers were a nice touch and very pretty with the red and green. The flatbread was chewy, like a good flatbread should be. Slightly moist on the inside and crispy on the outside, it certainly made the whole panini better.Image

The Marshmallow Dream Bar was decent. I could not taste much of the marshmallows as its sweetness and texture did not really stand out. The bar was lighter than I expected and not as sweet. It was not stuck together very tightly and the puffed rice were not packed together very hard. It was easy to break apart but still sweet and delicious.

The Iced Lemon Pound Cake was surprisingly refreshing. The icing definitely had enough sugar, just the way I like it. I wished the whole cake was covered in a layer of that yummy white stuff. The cake itself was airy yet still of substance, moist and soft. It was not very sweet and the tangy lemon flavor made it so refreshing for a pound cake.Image


The Chocolate Chunk Cookie was very good. There were plenty of large, semisweet chocolate chunks in the cookie. The dough was decently sweet. The center was soft but I wished the outer edge was just as soft and buttery. It was just a tad on the crispy side for me but still very tasty… simple but good. Image

The Double Chocolate Brownie was average. It was dense, moist, and certainly full of chewy goodness. The texture was great and the chocolate chunks added some harder texture. I wish there had been more chocolate chunks, though, and the whole brownie could have been a tad sweeter.Image

The Reduced-Fat Banana Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake was tasty but not extraordinary. The chocolate chips added to the texture while the banana flavor made the cake less plain. The cake itself had great texture, very moist throughout. It was just a simpler concept than some of the other treats there but still a quality banana chocolate chip cake. Image

For the last day of the BOGO deal on holiday drinks, I tried the Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino Light Blended Beverage. It was very refreshing, both from the ice slush and the minty taste. The light mocha and chocolate flavor was great and really complemented my other snacks. It was evenly blended and despite the chill outside, I enjoyed this beverage a lot.

The Caramel Brulée Frappuccino Light Blended Beverage was sweeter from the caramel brûlée syrup. I love that syrup so much. It’s rich caramel with that slightly torched flavor is amazing, making even a cold beverage extremely tasty. The caramel sugar crunchy topping was a very nice touch. The drink was sweet, cold, and very enjoyable.Image

With the cafe so warm and cozy, a cold beverage is always suitable. With nicely matching treats, an afternoon is just made that much better. The atmosphere is simply unbeatable.





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On the Need for Paninis: Part VI – Starbucks

ImageOctober 28, 2012
Starbucks, Philadelphia PA
Roasted Vegetable Panini
Caramel Frappuccino Light Blended Beverage
Raspberry Truffle Cake Pop
Salted Caramel Cake Pop
Bountiful Blueberry Muffin
Outrageous Oatmeal Cookie
Reduced-Fat Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake
Salted Caramel Mocha

With Superstorm Sandy on the way, I decided to not only get lunch and dinner at Starbucks, but also my fill of coffee and snacks for the next little while. I love how their new rewards program is loaded automatically on the card and food options are always greatly appreciated. Image

The Roasted Vegetable Panini was very delicious. One bite into the freshly toasted panini made me regret not trying the food at Starbucks earlier. The vegetables were wilted yet still juicy, soaking up the flavor from the tomato spread. I love zucchini, eggplants, red peppers, and spinach – it had all of my favorite vegetables. The provolone cheese was very gooey and flavorful as well. The tomato taste tied everything together, making the focaccia roll slightly soggy but delicious. The flavor was quite bold for a panini or sandwich, which is why I loved it so much.Image

It was National Caramel Month so the Caramel Frappuccino Light Blended Beverage satisfied my craving for something rich, cold, and sweet. I had a free drink on my rewards card and decided to get a venti of my favorite beverage to indulge in. The ice slush was great and it was sweet but not boring. I really do love caramel.Image

To celebrate National Chocolate Day, I tried the remaining two cake pops I have yet to taste. The Raspberry Truffle Cake Pop was a nice replica of an actual truffle. The raspberry infused dark chocolate cake was moist and just sweet enough with a strong raspberry aroma. The chocolate shell added a nice crunch.

To go with my caramel beverage, the Salted Caramel Cake Pop was very fitting. I loved the moist chocolate and caramel cake center. It was so dense and chewy… and very sweet. The milk chocolate and caramel frosting shell was also great but I was not sold on the ‘salted’ part. There was too much salt for my liking that instead of complementing the sweet caramel and chocolate, it overwhelmed the sweetness.

The Bountiful Blueberry Muffin did not meet my expectations, however. The crust topping was too greasy and buttery without enough sweetness to offset it. The blueberries were plentiful – or rather bountiful – but not juicy, plump, or sweet. The muffin base was moist and dense but again not sweet enough. I do not like to taste too much butter in my desserts so this was definitely not my favorite muffin. I think I liked their original version so much more.

ImageThe Outrageous Oatmeal Cookie was outrageously good… unsurprisingly. It was very soft an chewy and full of not just a variety of while grains, oats, and the like but also red and golden raisins and dried cranberries. It was huge and wonderful.

The Reduced-Fat Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake was scrumptious. The cinnamon sugar swirls were sticky, sweet, and decently spiced with a strong cinnamon flavor. The cake was moist and dense but not too sweet. Most of all, I loved the super thick crust topping of cinnamon and brown sugar. It was so sweet and so good.Image

Since it was a chilly day, I also decided to get a Salted Caramel Mocha before they stopped serving this special autumn drink. It was okay but definitely not my favorite. The chocolate flavor was quite strong in the mocha and there was definitely a distinct salty taste to it. There was not a very strong caramel flavor to it, though, so I would have preferred more. However, it was a nice drink that warmed me up… very comforting.

After spending quite a while inside Starbucks on this windy and chilly day, I know I will be doing this a lot more often, getting a whole day’s worth of food and more in terms of snacks from this world-famous café. ImageImageImage

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Icy But Cosy – Così

ImageOctober 8, 2012
Così, Philadelphia PA
Shanghai Chicken Salad
Iced Tea

Exam weeks are always stressful and do not leave anyone much time to get huge meals. The trick is to get something healthy and quick. Before my exam that day, I decided to stop by Così since it was close, fast, healthy, and delicious.

My Shanghai Chicken Salad was delightful. The ginger soy dressing was absolutely divine, especially with the crunch of the carrots and Asian noodles. The grilled chicken was super tender as always. I can never get over how delicious the chicken is at Così. The scallions were mixed in with the mixed greens and the entire salad was just excellent. I had not complaints.Image

I washed everything down with an Iced Tea. It was very refreshing, just tea and ice with a slice of lemon, nothing special but still nice.

Honestly, though, Così beats every other place with their salads, except maybe the huge ones from The Cheesecake Factory. Così still has the best chicken ever, though, hands down. 

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Bad but Comforting – Beijing

ImageOctober 2, 2012
Beijing, Philadelphia PA
Milk Tea Bubble Tea

At a club meeting, the presidents ordered the Milk Tea Bubble Tea from Beijing Restaurant for everyone. It was cold and refreshing, not overly sweet with a decently strong tea flavor. It was not the most authentic milk tea but I was glad it was not completely sugary. The pearls were very ‘Q,’ which is basically soft yet firm and somewhat bouncy. They were not overly-sweetened, either, which made it more refreshing. However, this was still by far one of the worst bubble teas I have ever had, just unauthentic and tasted very artificial.

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