Sunday, October 15, 2017

Review: Taco Bell by the Beach

So there's a Taco Bell along Highway 1 in Pacifica, California (just south of San Francisco) - which isn't just ANY Taco Bell - but it's a Taco Bell with the most iconic view.  And tacos definitely taste better when you are eating them on the beach.

So when you are eating a cheesy gordita crunch, it's always better in the sand and when you have sandy feet.

I'm telling you all about this since I didn't know it existed until we went here for a trip recently.  It's probably the best view I've ever had eating at a fast food restaurant; and it makes the tacos taste that much better.

  • If you find yourself in Pacifica, California, stop by the Taco Bell along the ocean.  Even if you don't want Taco Bell, it's worth it to take in the view.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Review: The Experience at Ichiran Ramen

Japan is known for a ton of amazing foods, including ramen.  I've had ramen in the states at 'authentic' restaurants but honestly didn't have high hopes for the ramen we'd have in Japan.  Plus, ramen reminds me of cheap college food.

Good thing I was wrong.  We found Ichiran Ramen on TripAdvisor when we were in Tokyo, and it was literally the best ramen I've ever had in my life.

Let me break down how you order ramen in Japan at a place like Ichiran.  First of all, if you go there at a prime eating time (i.e. lunch, dinner) you are going to wait in a single file line.  I have mad respect - they are so organized in Japan that if the line to get in the door is too long, they set up a SEPARATE line so you wait in 1 line, to wait in another line, to ultimately get in the door.  And when you are waiting in line, you take in the sights of Tokyo (complete with brightly colored lanterns).

Once inside, you order your ramen from a vending machine.  You might be like...wait, what?  Let me explain.  

It's a vending machine with buttons that you push to pay and get a receipt for your ramen.  We put our money in the vending machine, and I pressed the button for the traditional pork ramen (noodles, pork broth, pork, onions).  Then I pressed another button because I wanted a salted soft boiled egg on my ramen.  Then I pressed another button for extra noodles.  Then boom - we got a receipt for our order.

Then you wait in another line to get seated.  From there, you fill out a sheet of paper with how you want your ramen prepared.  Want extra garlic?  No garlic?  Want spice?  Extra extra spicy?  It's all there.  

This last line that you stand in is the line to get seated.  You are seated in individual booths with dividers, so while not ideal for large groups it's a cool individual experience (plus you don't have to worry about others judging you for slurping your ramen).  Your ramen is handed to you through a little window at your seat, and if you wanted a soft boiled egg they hand you the egg in a separate little bowl.

Doesn't the below look awesome?  I'm salivating over the broth.

  • Ichiran Ramen = best ramen I've ever had.  Only downside is it's in Tokyo (yes, it's a far flight - but an absolutely amazing bowl of ramen)
  • I also see there is an Ichiran Ramen in New York, but people didn't seem to excited about it.  Maybe it is the price, maybe it is the individual booths, etc.  But I'm 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Review: Taiyaki

First of all, what is taiyaki?  It's a fish shaped cake, without any of the fishy taste.  The taiyaki batter reminds me of a Belgian waffle batter, and it's poured into fish shaped molds.

Two of the fish shaped 'cakes' are sandwiched together, and in the middle is a filling.  The traditional Japanese filling is red bean paste, but they also have versions with whipped cream, vanilla cream, milk chocolate, etc.  They either come in a hot or a cold version; the cold version traditionally had whipped cream in it.

I've seen pictures of taiyaki posted on Instagram (as well as taiyaki ice cream cones that you can find in major cities in the US), but I got a chance to try the real, authentic thing - and dang it's good.

I'll be honest, it also may have been so good since I was starving and craving a sweet, snacky carb, which to my surprise wasn't super easy to find in Japan (home of the taiyaki).

While my husband tried the authentic red bean paste taiyaki, I was 'meh' about it since it tasted like sweetened beans and in general I'm not a bean person.

My go-to was the milk chocolate taiyaki.  The only place I found these cute little milk chocolate guys was in the anime/electronics district, and probably because of this, they were shaped like Pokemon Magikarp - so kawaii (cute)!

In general things tasted 'healthier' in Japan.  Reason I say this - the milk chocolate filling tasted like a milk chocolate pudding (and it probably was!)

I also tried the strawberry and whipped cream taiyaki, which reminded me of a strawberry pop-tart!  Very light and airy.

  • You MUST try taiyaki if you have the chance - I know I miss it!  Next thing I want to taste is a taiyaki ice cream cone in New York or California (I've seen them grace my Instagram page, and it makes me have food FOMO!)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Review: Big Mac Sauce

Yes, you saw that right.  I'm reviewing Big Mac sauce!  Straight from Canada!

Right now, you can only get Big Mac sauce in bottles to take home at Canadian grocery stores.  I'm not sure why they don't have it in the United States because I know it would be a hit (but for real)!  

Luckily I have some amazing co-workers who knew I wanted to try Big Mac sauce and McDonald's other sauces for Danielle's Dish, so they brought some back home to the United States so I could give you all a full review!  In full disclosure, I wanted to try Big Mac sauce on the vessel it is known for - a burger!

So I'll be completely honest, and I think we all already know this, but Big Mac sauce, including the Big Mac sauce in this bottle, tastes exactly like Thousand Island dressing.  Maybe even a bit more mild than some brands of Thousand Island dressing.  

While it was delicious on my burger, I don't need to go completely out of my way to snag another bottle (if, let's say, I haven't been to Canada in awhile to get another one!)

Also stay tuned.  There are also Filet-O-Fish sauces and McChicken sauces at the Canadian grocery stores which I will also be reviewing for you as well!

  • The Big Mac sauce truly tastes like Thousand Island dressing, but it somehow feels better to know the Thousand Island dressing you are eating is coming out of a Big Mac bottle.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Review: Jar Bar

So Jar Bar recently opened in Northbrook, IL, and I was primarily interested because they have cake in a jar.  Yes, you heard me right - cake - that's in a jar!  The reason it's so cool is they dye the cake - by layer - into different colors to stick with a 'theme.'  Like Pride for the month of June.  Or pink and green to celebrate 'watermelon,' the fruit of the summer.  Or red, white, and blue for the 4th of July!  See?

The cake is actually super moist between the layers of creamy frosting.  I actually have no complaints about the cake in the jar, it was much more moist and fresh than I had anticipated so that left me happy.  I will pay for novelty so even though the price was more than a traditional slice of cake, I'll take it to get the Insta.

But for real, this stuff tasted good.

However, if you are going to order breakfast, I would refrain from ordering an acai bowl.  As you've seen in earlier posts and photos, I tried acai bowls on a vacation at the end of last year and loved them ever since.  But the acai bowl I had, the Mermaid, while pretty, did not have any flavor at all.  My friend had an acai bowl that was supposed to have a shot of coffee in it, but we did not taste coffee or much flavor at all.  Don't let the pretty look of the bowl fool you:

So disappointing for such a pretty bowl!  Next time I come in, I want to try the oatmeal.  That's what I saw the locals eating.

  • Get the cake in a jar, but not an acai bowl.  Next time I'd try a different breakfast item if I need something more substantial than cake.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Review: Singing Donut

So I went to a place this weekend called Singing Donut - it's a bit out of the way from most major cities (Door County, WI - in Fish Creek, to be exact) but I wanted to review this place because it's a super cool concept and they make delicious, hot and fresh cake donuts.  And the name is amazing, I mean, it's called SINGING DONUT for crying out loud.  It's just pricey.

The concept is simple.  You can buy a single donut, a half dozen, or a dozen.  And that's where the fun begins.  You get to pick out the frosting for your donut (i.e. chocolate, vanilla, caramel, powdered sugar) and the toppings for your donut (ranges from marshmallows to sprinkles to Oreo pieces), and they actually make them fresh right in front of you.

Or you can choose from one of their specialty creations.

I chose a Scooby Doo donut, which was vanilla frosting with Fruity Pebbles cereal and a chocolate drizzle.  My husband just wanted a donut with chocolate frosting.

But you actually see a guy in back making the donuts with a donut machine, and then they actually dip the fresh donut into the frosting you want and sprinkle on the toppings right in front of you.

What will be awesome is when they expand I hope they get additional frosting types and toppings.  Like Nutella.  Peanut Butter.  Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

But really the biggest let down is the price - and I know it's in a touristy area but for my husband to get a single donut (they are sized fairly small, even smaller than a regular Dunkin Donuts donut) with just chocolate frosting the donut was a little under $1.50 USD.  So my reco would be to stagger out the pricing so if you didn't want a ton of toppings (just wanted frosting) it would be closer to $1, for example.

  • It definitely makes for a cool concept.  But bring your wallet because it's one pricey donut.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Review: Hostess CupCakes

So when you don't have a working kitchen, you realize you end up eating all sorts of things that you wouldn't have eaten in years but are oh so delicious.  Like CupCakes.  Because they are super easy to eat in individual wrappers, and when you are done you just throw away the wrapper, since who wants to deal with cookies that you have to re-package up and put away in your living room because you can't use your kitchen.

Ok so maybe it sounds lazy and I just wanted CupCakes, but it was the perfect excuse for CupCakes for dessert.

These babies tasted just as good as I once remembered - moist from being so processed, vanilla cream filling in the center, and topped with a soft chocolate topping (it's not really a cream, it's more like a softened topping).  And if you want something super chocolate-y, this wouldn't be the thing to get since it's more like a fake type of chocolate taste - but it definitely does the trick!

From a size perspective they aren't huge (and maybe they've gotten smaller over the years to keep up with the times), so I could probably stuff an entire CupCake in my mouth if I really wanted to.

See?  They really aren't that big but again definitely is the right size if you want a dessert!

  • It's a processed CupCake with a fake-ish chocolate icing and vanilla cream in the center.  If you have the craving, it's the same CupCakes we know and love from childhood.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Review: Big Bowl Appetizers and Soup

So let's talk about Big Bowl.  Big Bowl is a favorite sit-down Chinese / Thai option for our family.  It's part of the Lettuce Entertain You chain of restaurants, and I've never had a meal I didn't like at any of the Lettuce Entertain You spots SO you know it's good.  I can't speak for if the food is authentic or not, so regardless I'm going to go for it and talk about taste.

Last time we were at Big Bowl, we came in and had a bunch of appetizers so I'm focusing on those today (and I'll let you know about the entrees another time!)

Some of my favorite pan-fried chicken potstickers come from Big Bowl.  Maybe it's because they set the potstickers in the soy sauce so the potstickers start soaking up that salty goodness.  Maybe it's because they're ACTUALLY filled with chicken and not the mush that you get at some chinese restaurants.  Maybe it's the fryer they use.  Regardless, if you are a fan of potstickers, you have to order these.

I typically LOVE crab rangoon.  But I'll be honest - I like the crab rangoon from the take out chinese places better than the ones at Big Bowl.  I mean if you are going to force me to eat their crab rangoon I will - but maybe I like the crab rangoon at chinese places better because they have more cream cheese in their crab rangoon than actual crab?  Maybe it's the thick breading on the Big Bowl crab rangoon?  If you are a rangoon fan and you have the ones at Big Bowl, let me know what you think.

And then the chicken wonton soup is an absolute must.  The chicken broth is SO GOOD and there's a chicken potsticker (or two!) in the bowl of soup.  It's an easier way to get me to eat my vegetables when it's soaked in chicken broth

  • Go to Big Bowl even if you want to share some apps and soup!  You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Review: Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe

Happy Sunday Funday! 

So in full transparency I’m not a huge breakfast eater unless I’m feeling hungover or sick to my stomach.  I’ll usually have soda (but I'm trying to kick that habit) or coffee during breakfast time, and at that point I’ll usually skip to eating during lunch.

But lately we’ve been eating out a lot more (I think I’ve mentioned there are portions of our house that are completely unusable at the moment), and breakfast is one of those meals where we've either gone out or picked something up in order to skip lunch.  I guess our eating habits have temporarily changed since food isn't as accessible at home.

There’s a place in Chicago and the surrounding burbs called Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe, and it's some of the best brunch food I've had.  It's high quality food, you get huge portions, and if you want a coffee they actually have a coffee bar with options outside of a traditional cup of coffee (honey nut toffee latte, turtle mocha, or vanilla berry latte anyone?)

The prices are high for breakfast food, however it tastes so good and you get such large portions that I can look past the prices.

This weekend I got the Homemade Corned Beef Hash with 2 Eggs Over Easy and Cottage Cheese.  I've been a fan of Corned Beef Hash ever since I tried my husband's that he got at a small restaurant in Door County.  It wasn't greasy and had more meat in it than the ratio to hash browns, which I was happy with!

But as you can see, portions are massive.  On top of that, you can choose from a side and I chose the specialty pancakes for an upcharge (I wanted Banana Cream Pie flavored).  I LOVE when restaurants allow you to get a side or a single portion of a specialty item, mainly because many of them are extremely sweet so an individual portion is perfect for that!

But really this pancake was bomb.  It had a brown sugar topping, cream 'pudding' and a whole banana chopped up.  You can't go wrong with Wildberry, and I recommend it highly to anyone looking for a yummy brunch spot with good food!

  • I don’t think you can go wrong with anything you order from Wildberry.  It’s pricey, but it comes with the territory of great breakfast food.  I’d rather pay for quality when it comes to breakfast!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Review: Olive Garden To Go

Lately our family has been eating out A LOT at restaurants, fast food places, take out...not that we didn't before, but it's been way worse now that we don't have a functioning kitchen.

That being said, we've gotten sick of everything that's close by us so we've ventured into chain restaurant central for take out options.  And we've found a real winner in Olive Garden.

What's great is you literally order what you would at the restaurant, and you get it to go!  That includes the unlimited soup or salad, and the breadsticks, with every meal!

First of all, let's start with the Olive Garden salad.  Yes, I know I don't typically touch vegetables but Olive Garden salad is an exception.  I think it's because it's an iceberg lettuce covered in that awesome Italian dressing with delicious croutons.  But you get a HUGE portion and if one dressing isn't enough to cover your salad, ask for extra at the counter when you pick up your Olive Garden to go.  And if you hate olives or peppers, you can ask for your salad WITHOUT them!

So pretty much I'd say I'm full after this point because the salad is seriously massive and I usually hate leftovers so I try to eat as much of this salad as I can.

Then each meal comes with two breadsticks, and because I'm getting old two breadsticks is enough if I'm having salad, breadsticks, and an entree.  And speaking of entrees, they are also HUGE.  I got the spaghetti with 3 meatballs and dang, that was enough for an extra meal.  Maybe it would have been two if I was that type of person who doesn't eat a lot.

Oh, and to finish off the meal you also get those awesome chocolate mints (Andes mints) that Olive Garden gives away.  So yum.

  • You have to get Olive Garden To Go!  So. Much. Food.  And you won't miss the fact that you aren't sitting at the restaurant eating unlimited salad and breadsticks.  I would much rather eat it at home in front of my TV watching the cable or Netflix.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Review: Culver's Frozen Custard Sundae

To caveat, we've been eating out A LOT - way more than normal.  I guess that's what you get when you don't have a functioning kitchen.  But I've been having a lot of fun with it, even though it's not the healthiest thing to do (thank goodness I still have a HIIT fitness membership for weekends).  In the mean time we've been eating a variety of things - like Culver's!

Being from Wisconsin, Culver's was a big deal when I was growing up.  The first time I went there was for dinner before a Packers game with my neighbors.  Then, it became a tradition to drive across town to get a brownie fudge sundae at Culver's with my mom when I had my driving learner's permit.

Now, it's where we go as a family because it's such good food!

Culver's is most famous for I'd say its cheese curds and butterburgers (which I will also be reviewing at a later date) but that being said, when it's nice and sunny we'll go get frozen custard to beat our dessert cravings.

But why is it so good?  Culver's frozen custard is so creamy and smooth - they have 3 flavors: vanilla, chocolate, and the Flavor of the Day.  The Flavor of the Day is typically a vanilla or chocolate custard with toppings mixed in (my personal favorite is Turtle, so be on the lookout for that!).  Today, I got vanilla custard with a hot fudge topping.

What's also great about Culver's is if you like more topping to frozen custard ratio, the 1 scoop sundae gives you the most toppings for your money.  And toppings galore, they have so many - candies, nuts, fruits, or hot fudge, caramel, marshmallow sauce, or even peanut butter!

And they have a huge variety of menu options for their frozen custard.  Don't want a specialty sundae or build your own?  They also have shakes, malts, and concretes (sort of like a McFlurry).

  • Culver's butterburgers and cheese curds really satisfy my 'Wisconsin' craving.  But with the dessert craving hits, a nice cold bowl of frozen custard is just what the doctor ordered.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Review: Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino

The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino is a big deal because it gained popularity on social media and LITERALLY the day it was released all I saw on my Instagram was pictures of the Unicorn Frappuccino from every food blogger out there.

Of course I had to go to Starbucks and see what all of the excitement was about - and taste what a drink made with the 'finest unicorns' really tastes like!  I'm not joking since it was even on the sign at the local Starbucks - see?

So I get the drink in a tall size at Starbucks because I don't need anything larger than that, and WOAH - it truly took a few sips for me to figure out what the drink tasted like.

I also had a few other people taste the drink and let me know their thoughts.  Some people thought it tasted like cotton candy.  Others thought it tasted like fruity cereal milk.  I thought it tasted like bubble gum, but I can't stand the flavor of plain bubble gum.  It's kind of gross to me.

But really, this isn't something that you'd order normally when you go to Starbucks.  It's just there if you want to order something 'fun' and different.  Also, there's a ton of 'unicorn' beverages and food circulating menus right now, so Starbucks must have felt like they needed to jump on that bandwagon.

  • Only get specialty Starbucks drinks like the Unicorn Frappuccino if you want to take an Instagram photo.  It was a mix of bubble gum / fruity cereal milk, and not something I'd typically order to get my caffeine fix.  Too sweet and sugary isn't my thing at Starbucks.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Review: Walker Bros Apple Cinnamon Pancake

I don’t know about you, but I still can't get over HBO’s Big Little Lies finale from earlier this week.  And because I didn’t read the book, the ending was a total surprise (no spoilers, however if you haven’t watched this show you MUST – it’s only 7 episodes so it’s super easy to get through in a weekend)! 

I’m going to stick with my ‘best brunch around’ posts because I’ve had some amazing brunches recently and I’m not even a breakfast person.  I went to Walker Bros: The Original Pancake House in the Chicago suburbs for a birthday breakfast, and had to have their specialty – an Apple Cinnamon Pancake.  If you can make it to one of the Walker Bros. locations, you have to order this pancake.  If the picture doesn’t sell it in, I don’t know what will.

First of all, this pancake is ginormous, like the size of your head huge.  I made it less than halfway through the pancake, so not much damage (but it made for a perfect lunch at work that week).  The pancake is filled with soft cinnamon apple slices, and covered in a sugar and cinnamon glaze.  Be careful, the first few bites I took into the pancake were extremely hot from the baked apple slices inside the pancake, so watch your mouth.

They also have a take and bake option, so if you don’t have time to eat in at the restaurant, grab a frozen Apple Cinnamon Pancake to make at home!  Additionally, if you want to order this pancake at home even if you aren’t near Chicago, Walker Bros. has a form you can fill out on their Web site to get one shipped.  Good stuff!

  • ·        If you are into sweets and the flavor of apple, try the Baked Apple Pancake at Walker Brothers
  • ·        If you don’t have time to eat in at the restaurant, grab a pancake to take to go!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Review: McDonald's Mac Jr.

I had a hopping weekend.  I spent the second half of my weekend researching appliances like oven hoods, so I'm glad to have this break to chat about the Mac Jr. (because, trust me, no one should spend that long researching oven hoods).

In full transparency I also love Big Mac sauce, so of course when I saw McDonald's was coming out with some new Big Mac options I had to try them.  So I tried the Mac Jr., which is a single burger patty (seemed slightly bigger than the patty on the hamburger or cheeseburger) with cheese, pickles, lettuce, and Big Mac sauce on a sesame seed bun.

However I'm going to be honest here - you aren't missing much because the best Big Mac is really the original Big Mac or adding Big Mac sauce to a cheeseburger or hamburger.  Reason being:
  • The Mac Jr. didn't have enough sauce for the meat/bread ratio, so it tasted dry.
  • I didn't think the sesame seed bun added to the flavor all that much; really the sandwich as a whole was pretty dry.
Per my below picture, the greatest amount of sauce was on the bun:

However, don't be alarmed.  The original Big Mac is still amazing, plus you can still add Big Mac sauce to any menu item for an additional upcharge to get the Big Mac taste you know and love.

  • Instead of the Mac Jr. or any of the other 'specialty' Big Macs, order the original Big Mac or my favorite combination which is a cheeseburger, no pickle, add Big Mac sauce.  The Big Mac sauce alone settles my Big Mac craving, and for less money.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Review: Brunch at Bongo Room

So I had brunch at an epic place in Chicago - it's called The Bongo Room, and I hear they typically have an insane wait because the food is that good.  Well, my friend and I got there around 10am and only waited 20 minutes (for 2 people, mind you) but if you have a large group get there early.  The Bongo Room is also good about letting customers get 'half orders' of menu items so you can try a few different things out for brunch!

I ordered the Chocolate Tower French Toast and a White Chocolate and Caramel Pretzel Pancake.  I guess I was feeling 'sweet' on this particular morning.  My friend ordered a vegetarian omelet and the Red Velvet Pancake.

The Chocolate Tower French Toast was amazing!  The French Toast is 'chocolate' but it isn't too sweet so it's more like a dark chocolate.  The French Toast is sitting in a creamy sauce that has a slight banana flavor (so if you don't like bananas, this wouldn't be your thing).  It's covered in chocolate shavings and banana slices.  Apparently the 'sauce' between the slices of bread is a maple flavor but I completely missed that.

The second thing I got was the White Chocolate and Caramel Pretzel Pancake.  Just no.  It makes for an awesome Instagram photo, but it's way too sickly sweet.  I tasted some crunchy pieces in it (probably the pretzel) but it didn't taste like anything besides the sweet cream that was covering it.

My friend ordered a vegetarian omelet (said great things, that it was filled to the brim, and contained fresh ingredients) and she also ordered the Red Velvet Pancake which I tried.  If you are going to get one of the 'cool' Instagram worthy pancakes from The Bongo Room, atleast get one you can eat.  The Red Velvet Pancake wasn't as sweet, and the creamy top reminded me of a light cream cheese frosting.

  • Get the Chocolate Tower French Toast!  It's also only on the weekend brunch menu, so make sure you're at The Bongo Room on a Saturday or a Sunday.
  • Don't get the White Chocolate and Caramel Pretzel Pancake.  It's complete sugar and sickly sweetness overload.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Review: Unicorn Hot Chocolate

So Unicorn Hot Chocolate has been going around across Instagram for the last few weeks now, and I wanted to jump on that bandwagon.

Even though it was 60 degrees in the Chicago suburbs, it's never too warm for Unicorn Hot Chocolate, right?  So I set off with my faithful Danielle's Dish companion (today it was my sister) to Palatine, IL, to Christie's Dairy Delights see what Unicorn Hot Chocolate was all about.

We go up to the counter and order Unicorn Hot Chocolate, and decide to split one since, let's be real, does one person really need that much sugar?

But anyway, I'm the fool who decided to wait a bit before taking a photo to make sure I had the right lighting while also forgetting that hot chocolate is 'hot' and it is going to melt all of the marshmallows, whipped cream, candy, and cotton candy.  Which is why my Unicorn Hot Chocolate is 'sunken' if you will.

But what is it?  The hot chocolate itself isn't flavorful.  Actually, it didn't taste much like chocolate, it had a bland milky flavor and soaked up the flavors within the marshmallows and cotton candy (so it tasted like a light strawberry milk).

The drink is covered in whipped cream, topped with flavored marshmallows, a dollop of cotton candy, a giant marshmallow that has fruity flavors and coconut on it, and then a bunch of sugary candies.

But like for real - it was sugar rush with all of the candy and the cotton candy, and a bunch of the candy sunk to the bottom of the drink (which I proceeded to eat after I drank all of the 'cocoa') and needless to say I had a stomach ache.  So while it was awesome for a photo opp and it was the first time I've ever had a 'pink' cocoa, I don't think I'll be having this again.

But - this shop where we got Unicorn Hot Chocolate also had ice cream that looked totally legit.

  • Go get Unicorn Hot Chocolate if you want a picture.  I'd rather get a regular hot chocolate if I'm going for taste.  But the Unicorn Hot Chocolate does lead to a pretty cool Instagram photo.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Review: Hoosier Mama Pie Company

So this is a review based on some pie that I had at Hoosier Mama Pie Company in Evanston, IL.  And it was awesome.

As a heads up, I'm not the person in the family to get excited about pie.  My husband is the one to talk about pie, wanting to bake a pie, or eating pie in general, but I'd rather have ice cream, cake, or even Boston Cream Pie (which I don't even consider a pie.  It's cake with a cream filling in the middle).

Anyway, I was in Evanston before picking up our dog from doggy daycare, and thought, why not?  I hadn't tried Hoosier Mama before.

However I was not the only one who wanted pie.  It took me 20 minutes to stand in line, order my pie, and get said pie.  This location is also a large coffee shop (Dollop Coffee Company) so there was a good mix of people wanting coffee and pie.

Anyway, after all that waiting, it was finally pie time.  I got my husband a slice of apple pie, and I got a slice of the s'mores pie.

The s'mores pie (which I am excited to review for you all) had a crust with a graham cracker consistency, a chocolate cream, and then the top was light, marshmallow-y, and airy with a 'campfire' like taste.  I hope they took a blow torch to the top of this pie.

Sure, I think I waited too long to get this pie, but I would be back.  My husband also loved his apple pie, if that's any consolation.

  • If you are in Chicago or Evanston and want some pie, I recommend you go to Hoosier Mama's and get the s'mores pie specifically.  But I've also heard good things about the apple...

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Review: Mango Lemonade from TBaar

First, some background on me – I love it when food is presented in fun ways.  Like, a slice of meat loaf that is decorated with condiments and veggies to look like a teddy bear.  Or an ice cream sundae that looks like a clown with a hat made from a sugar cone. 

So it’s no surprise that I wanted to go to TBaar in Chicago when I saw it was home to a place where I could get lemonade served in a light bulb.

TBaar has a few different lemonade flavors, such as cucumber and watermelon, but I was told mango was the most popular so that's how I made my decision to order mango.  Everything is made to order at TBaar, so it takes time to get your drinks (my lemonade took about 5 minutes) but that’s how you know it’s fresh.  So be patient.  

The mango lemonade DOES come in a light bulb, and it also has chunks of fruit in it (mango).  Once I got my finished drink and tried it, it tasted like a tropical beach.  Or maybe Sunny Delight but without as much of a fake flavor.  

Also, since the drink is in a light bulb, you could do something with the light bulb and recycle it.  I've been told some uses for the light bulb include making ornaments and terrariums.  That's definitely ambitious, but I guess people do it.

  • Try the Mango Lemonade at TBaar.  I happened to hit up the Chicago location in Little Italy, but there's a few different locations to choose from.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Review: Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chalupa

How do I know the new Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chalupa (released January 26, 2017) is actually THAT GOOD?

Well, let’s take a step back in time to when Taco Bell introduced their breakfast menu. 

I am a huge Taco Bell fan, so I thought it would be fun to bring in an assortment of Taco Bell breakfast items to the office when the menu launched.  I brought in the Waffle Taco (RIP Waffle Taco), breakfast tacos, AM Crunchwraps, and the Cinnabon Delights (which are amazing by the way).

So I got about $50 of Taco Bell breakfast for the office which accounts for A LOT of Taco Bell, and the only thing that was gone were those Cinnabon Delights, and everything else was just kind of poked and picked at (like eating the bacon or sausage out of the taco but not eating the eggs, if you know what I mean). 

So was the Taco Bell breakfast successful?  Eh.  I mean, I haven’t been back to eat it since that day.

Sooooo while I didn’t have high hopes for this Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chalupa, I was super excited to try it and bring some to the office (and FYI Foodbeast I saw you had a launch party for the Naked Chicken Chalupa, and I want to be invited to the next major TBell launch party you have).

I got 8 of the Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chalupas for the office, which I already thought was too many since I didn’t expect people to like it, but I decided to go for it anyway. 

And WOAH!!  Not only did I think the Naked Chicken Chalupa was delicious, but ALL of the Naked Chicken Chalupas I brought to the office were gone.  So that should tell you something.

Ok, now for a description of the taco.  It’s a thin breaded chicken patty shaped like a taco shell.  Not as greasy as you’d actually think (and it had a crunch to it).

The bottom of the taco is covered with an avocado ranch sauce, which combats any of the dryness from the chicken taco shell.  Then it’s topped with lettuce, tomato and cheese.  But seriously.  That avocado ranch sauce needs to be on everything they serve at Taco Bell.

  • Try the Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chalupa – it’s actually really good, the chicken shell keeps you full compared to tacos with Taco Bell’s questionable beef, and that avocado ranch sauce…do I need to say anything more?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Review: Cone Ice Cream

Let's talk about dessert.  Have you ever had an ice cream cone covered in Lucky Charms?  I did at Cone in Chicago, and not only was it the most ADORABLE looking ice cream cone ever, but I was able to have my ice cream with one of my favorite breakfast cereals.  See?

Cone's great because they allow you to sample the ice cream before you make your selection.  I clearly felt nostalgic, so after trying an assortment of flavors I chose my cake cone with blue Cookie Monster ice cream.

Like the famous Sesame Street character, the ice cream is bright blue (but it tastes like vanilla) and it contains chunks of Oreo cookies, cookie dough ice cream, and Chips Ahoy cookies.

But what makes Cone unique are its ice cream 'toppings,' like Lucky Charms breakfast cereal.  And you can get them on an ice cream cone as well as an ice cream sundae.  It meshed well with the sugary, cookie taste of the Cookie Monster ice cream.

  • Check out Cone in Chicago if you want some unique ice cream flavors and toppings - just look at my Cookie Monster ice cream with Lucky Charms topping!  
  • I thought prices were steep for ice cream (my cone was over $6 USD), so for me it's a once in awhile treat.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Review: Silo Pizza and Chili

Coming in hot from Chicago's North Shore, Danielle's Dish went to Silo Pizza in Lake Bluff, IL, to have some pizza and chili on a cold January afternoon.  And yes, these are the best things on their menu (outside of the Taco Salad, according to others - but to me the meat doesn't taste exactly like Taco Bell, so I'll stick to pizza and chili for now).

Do you remember what the old school Pizza Hut pan crust tasted like?  Well, that's what the Silo deep dish crust is - EXACTLY like the old Pizza Hut pan crust!  And then the sauce is sweet with large chunks of tomatoes, and is extremely cheesy (especially when you eat in the restaurant with a fresh hot pizza).  Honestly, the crust is what MAKES this pizza what it is, and I haven't had anything like this since I was a kid with old school Pizza Hut.  Sorry Pizza Hut, your crust now just doesn't compare.

And then the chili - this is the best chili I've ever had.  It comes covered in onions and melted cheddar cheese, tortilla chips on the side, and then the meat - the meat in the chili is SO good!  I'm not sure if it is the same stuff as Taco Bell meat, but I'm not a big fan of ground beef unless it tastes like Taco Bell meat and this stuff does (but in the BEST WAY EVER - it's so flavorful!).  If you ever get the chili to go, you get a huge bag of chips, cheese, and onions to put on the chili yourself which I highly recommend.

  • Go to the Silo for deep dish pizza and chili!  But I'd skip the rest of the menu and just get pizza and chili.  It's worth the drive from Chicago.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Review: Acai Bowls

Ok, yeah - I know this post is for something 'healthy' and not the traditional Danielle's Dish fare.  But if I like something healthy AND it actually tastes good, then I need to tell the world!

In Hawaii I had the most amazing acai bows at this food truck called Baya Bowls.  First of all, if you ever get the chance you must try the acai bowls at their food truck!  But if you can't, I'm positive there's somewhere nearby where you can try acai bowls to get a feel for the taste (or even make them at home if you find frozen acai at Trader Joe's!)

Second, if you don't know what an acai bowl is, it's a very thick acai berry + fruit smoothie that you eat with a spoon, and then it's topped with granola, various fruits, a drizzle of honey, and then an assortment of other ingredients (flax, cacao, coconut flakes, to name a few).  What's an acai berry you might ask?  Well I think it tastes like a mix between a blueberry and a grape.

The closest thing to homemade acai bowls in the Chicagoland area that I've had are at Mingle Juice Bar in Glenview.  Since they taste exactly like the acai bowls we make at home, the only reason I will go here in the future is if I don't want to cut up all the different kinds of fruit for the top, or blend up the frozen acai in my blender (it stains our counters if any of it comes out of the blender, ugh).

I tried the Blue Monday at Mingle Juice Bar, which is organic acai blended with coconut water, mixed berries, and banana; topped with granola, banana, cacoa nib, seasonal berries, and raw honey.  Doesn't it look refreshing?

  • You must try an acai bowl for a delicious and healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, date night, after a workout, or with friend!  See if there's somewhere around you that makes them, or else they're fairly simple to whip up at home.
  • And if you are in Hawaii, try the Baya Bowl food truck.  You don't want to miss it for a mind-blowing acai experience.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Review: Jollibee

So it's been a long time since I last posted (i.e. years ago) and I really don't have any excuses. Sure, life got in the way (wedding, dog, home, dog, the house again), but life's always going to get in the way of whatever you are doing, so you have to push through and keep going. I also had the revelation that even though I haven't updated my Danielle's Dish Instagram in years, I've still got a steady stream of followers who kept following, so I should probably give the people what they want - more food reviews! So while Danielle's Dish posts may not be as frequent, when I have a food story to tell you about, I will.

Enough about that. This week I was messing around on my phone, probably in one of those bored moments because I have no idea how I actually stumbled upon this or even found out that this place existed, but there's a new-ish fast food restaurant that opened up in Skokie (and now in Chicago) called Jollibee. Jollibee's been around for awhile throughout the world and the United States. From what I understand, it's the Filipino solution to McDonald's. And the Jollibee mascot looks like a bumblebee in a red suit jacket. When I asked my foodie friend about Jollibee (who also knows when every new place opens up in Chicago), she said she heard about the Jollibee hype, too. And being a fast food lover myself, how could I not try this or attempt to brave the said 'long lines' mid-week when I actually had time to sit and wait?

So I buckled up myself and my dog (what can I say, I wanted company!) in the car, and we were off. First of all I have to set the record straight - there was not a crazy line at the drive-thru (2 cars ahead of me) so perhaps some of the hype around Jollibee wore off. I know much of the negativity around Jollibee has to do with how long people have said they had to wait for the food at a FAST FOOD restaurant.

I do want to say one thing about the Jollibee menu compared to other American fast food joints. It's extremely random. Sure, they have burgers and chicken. But when I pulled up to the window at the drive-thru, it smells like Chinese restaurant. Oh, and they sell Spaghetti. Something called Fiesta Noodles. A sandwich with Spam inside.

Given that I'm one person and wanted to try a sampling, below's what I came away with from Jollibee. There's only so much food that I believe is actually justifiable for one person to try and eat themselves.

To break my Jollibee findings down, I got:
  • Jolly Spaghetti meal, which came with a 2 piece Chicken Dippers, gravy for dipping, and a drink
    • Jolly Spaghetti is different from any traditional spaghetti I make at home or eat in a restaurant because the sauce is VERY sweet (I'm told this is more of a traditional Filipino spaghetti). And I LIKED that! Kind of reminded me of the spaghetti and sauce I used to eat in the elementary school cafeteria. Inside the spaghetti sauce is chunks of meat, and it's not very distinguishable what kind of meat this is. The Website says it is ham, sausage, and ground beef, but I swear it's hot dogs. It's topped with a mild cheddar cheese and the noodles are cooked al dente. Maybe it looks weird, maybe it looks like something you wouldn't normally get from a fast food restaurant - but seriously - TRY IT!!
    • There's absolutely no need to get the Chicken Dippers. The chicken batter is so flavorless that I'd rather go to KFC or Popeye's or McDonald's or Taco Bell any day for chicken. Gravy was delicious and very salty, but what fun is it to have gravy when the dipping vessel for said gravy is no good?
  • Amazing Aloha burger. Your traditional beef burger with cheese, tomato, and lettuce, but what makes it special is their sweet mayo and a juicy pineapple slice. Last time I had a burger with a pineapple slice was in Hawaii, and I loved the way the sweet meshed with the salty-ness of the burger patty. If I'm craving a fast food burger with pineapple, Jollibee's where I'm going!
  • Peach Mango pie. Has a thicker, less crispy crust than McDonald's, but a TON more filling. The mango cuts down on the overall sweetness of the filling. It was good, but I'd take chocolate any day over a fruity dessert.

  • First of all, remember this is FAST FOOD joint. So I'm reviewing this like if I was looking to eat fast food spaghetti, or a fast food chicken tender (not like what I'd eat at a Michelin Star restaurant if I ever went to one). So go in with an open mind because this is fast food.
  • Seriously try the Jolly Spaghetti and the Aloha Burger. Remember that both of these items have a sweet flavor to them. 
  • Skip the Chicken Dippers.
  • Only have the Peach Mango Pie if you are a pie person. Or love Peaches and Mangoes. Next time I'll have to try the Halo-Halo dessert (it's the colors of the rainbow and has what looks like balls of ice cream in it).