Monday, July 28, 2014

dessert/soft serve: HONEY CREME



HONEY CREME
No. 8, Lane 169, DunHua S. Rd, Sec. 1
台北市大安區敦化南路一段169巷8號D室
(02)2740-7070

MRT: ZhongXiao/DunHua

website: Honey Creme's FB 

hours: 11:30AM- 9:30PM, open until 10:30PM on weekends

$ (about NT$150/person)

Kid friendliness: kids will want their own cone/cup.

Visit reviewed: 3/5/2014


If Honey Creme had NT$150 for every person that was curious about their glistening honeycomb soft serve ice cream, then they'd be rich. I suppose that's the idea. A rebranded version of Softree's soft serve from Korea, Honey Creme had lines around the block early on when it opened and it was not even summer yet. Even when I went in drizzly gray March, there were people lingering and eating their cones outside, though you could just walk in and order your ice cream. Was it the honey comb? Was it the craze for everything Korean because of the Korean soap You Who Came From the Stars? Was it just because people in Taipei LOVE to wait in line?

With the soft serve wars going down in Taipei, you could opt for a cone at 7-11 or Family Mart that would be less than half the price and just as tasty (with Matcha, Mango, Strawberry or flavor of the moment), or at Godiva, Gakuden or maybe your neighboring bakery. But then you wouldn't have the honeycomb- is it worth the extra dinero? 






I think part of Honey Creme's success is the design of the store and elements- everything is so photogenic and instagrammable. After all, that is how I started seeing a flurry of photos of colorful cones stacked up high, piles of honeycomb under the glass counter and perfectly swirled vanilla topped with a mini honeycomb chip on instagram. Otherwise, who would choose to pay US$5 for ONE soft serve cone (outside a theme park or restaurant).?


 


You can get the ice cream in a cup or a cone, from NT$110 plain to NT$170 for the ice cream in a pastry like twist roll and honey comb. There's also options for organic (?!) cotton candy, chocolate beans, honey castella cake or dark chocolate sauce toppings. There's only one vanilla ice cream flavor to choose from, which is rich and milky, like the hokkaido milk soft serve I've tried from Costco, but less intense.




After you order and pay, the next server will make your order to deliver to the pick up window. I stuck to the classic Honey Comb in a cone (NT$150), which she expertly swirled high on the skinny colorful cone. 

A small chunk delicately set atop from a box of precut honeycombs.



The yellow cardboard cutout at the base of the cone is a great idea for catching melty drips that are bound to happen in the hot Taipei weather.


Finally!! I get to try it after seeing it for weeks on friends' timelines and instagrams. 


The honey itself had a nice flavor and sweetness, though I kind of wished there was a bit more of it. At Softree in Seoul, which I tried in March, they were actually out of the honeycombs (which they called honey chips) and so have an option where you just get honey. Obviously that's not as hard to replicate at home and not as cool looking, but to be honest the honeycomb itself was waxy and not edible. If you suck all the honey out, then it's a bit messy. At first, I tried chewing it expecting it to be a bit crunchy, but instead it was soft and waxy and then I had bits I had to spit out. So I'm glad I gave it a try, but it's too pricey to be a regular treat. 


Before I left for LA, I spotted a branch of the OG Softree from Korea opened up in Taipei at ATT4Fun with less fanfare (and no lines) so it's interesting how marketing (and branding) plays a factor into the success of a dessert shop. Honey Creme is definitely more pretty and enticing, while the Softree location looked less appetizing (even their honey chips were not as beautifully presented). I wouldn't have even noticed it except that I had recognized their signage from visiting the Korean Shop and researching them when Honey Creme had opened. Interesting to see if it will ever blow up in the same way.





But if it doesn't, we'll have Honey Creme to fulfill our honeycomb ice cream desires.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

western/pizzas: i recommend LMNT (ELEMENT) EAT




LMNT (ELEMENT) EAT
at Neo 19
No. 28, Song Shou Rd.
粉絲團 台北市信義區松壽路28號
(02)2723-0068

MRT: XiangShan or Taipei 101 stations

website: LMNT Drink and Eat's FB Page

hours: 11AM- 2AM

$$

Kid friendliness: high chairs available, room for strollers. casual vibe during day

Visit reviewed: 6/12/2014



Neo 19, like the rest of Taipei's restaurant scene, has changed a lot since I first moved back to Taipei almost 10 years ago. Gone are Macaroni GrillJust In BistroDazzling Champagne Lounge BarWatami, Azabu Sabo (that's for you really old school readers), Jogoya buffet, Happy Hong Kong (sad face)-- Now currently replaced by Lighthouse Cafe, Warugaki Ramen, LMNT Drink and Eat, Nike's 2F, Very Thai, Hutong, Shanghai Tea House... So when I saw construction at LMNT Eat, my first thought was damn, I didn't get to write up my post from when I went last year in December and my second thought was another bites the dust. But I was wrong- LMNT was just getting a facelift and remodel. And luckily I was invited to the soft opening event for food bloggers to try out their new menu.

Inside, the front area is more lounge-y to transform from day to night and LMNT Eat can be sectioned off into two areas.


It was definitely more roomy and the tables had more breathing room between groups.


LMNT Eat's new menu is focused on their pizzas and pastas, but still has a selection of tempting appetizers and dishes that reflect a trendy fusion spirit that we saw on their previous menu. So instead of ramen burgers, there are now kimchi fried wontons, peanut butter pineapple burgers, or loco moco. I was happy to see they also kept their red velvet waffles and cake as desserts on their new menu, but bummed to see the huge gooey mac and cheese was gone.



Parma ham with melon and homemade figs (NT$280)


I liked the Kimchi Spam Fried Wontons (NT$280) and found them slightly addicting with the thin crispy wonton skin and the spicy sour filling inside. I didn't get spam in the first one, but I did in the second with chopped up pieces of kimchi cabbage.  There's also pulled pork nachos, chicken wings and fries with truffle sauce on the appetizer menu.


Grapefruit Summer (NT$180) Italian Soda was refreshing and fun. 


I really enjoyed the homemade squid ink spaghetti (NT$320)- the portion was huge, the al dente pasta was surprisingly flavorful for appearing to not have a lot of sauce and the squid was fresh and large enough to cut up and share. I couldn't finish this and took it home and it actually kept well the next day after reheating. I'd definitely order this again.




Always check yourself after eating squid ink pasta though! It's going to be messy.

We got a cool little packet from LMNT to make squid ink risotto at home. Still haven't had a chance to try it though...


The fun thing about going to blogger events is seeing some of the chefs that you usually can't spy on in the kitchen and seeing how they prepare their special dishes. LMNT had one chef prep a pizza from pizza dough scratch and their dessert chef make both desserts we were given to taste.




I liked the Truffle Mushroom Pizza (NT$300) too- the thin crust was not too crispy and the toppings were generous with four kinds of mushrooms- oyster, button, shiitake and porcino. You get a bit of the truffle aroma with the truffle oil and truffle bits, but at this price you aren't going to get shaved truffle atop (and you might not miss it).



And while you have to admire LMNT for being adventurous in trying to make UFO deep dish pizza with Hungarian beef (NT$320) or seafood fillings, it's more a pizza "bowl" than the Chicago style deep dish pizza that I'd love to see make its way to Taipei. I'd say stick to the regular pizzas as I didn't love the cheese atop or the doughier version of the pizza bowl crust.



As for the desserts, they let us sample lychee berry mousse (NT$220)...


and chestnut berry shell eclair (NT$250), I unfortunately am not personally a huge fan of mousse or chestnuts, so I can't say accurately how the desserts were. I would recommend the red velvet waffles or give the caramel banana shell eclair a try next time though.


All in all, LMNT Eat did a great job with their revamp- besides the dishes they highlighted during the event, I saw a number of things that I'd like to come back and try myself (vodka pasta, truffle mushroom risotto). There's also omelette and two egg options for all day breakfast or a weekend brunch menu available. Thanks to LMNT for inviting me to the event!

Monday, June 30, 2014

drinks/american: i recommend BEER & CHEESE SOCIAL HOUSE

 

BEER AND CHEESE SOCIAL HOUSE
No. 169, Jianguo S. Rd, Sec. 2
+886 916 549 373

MRT: DaAn Park Station or Technology Building Station

website: Beer and Cheese's FB

hours: 6PM - 1AM

$$-$$$ (about NT$500-700 per person)

Kid friendliness: it wouldn't surprise me as I've seen people with their kids at hotpot at midnight, but I'd say no kids at the bar please.

Visit reviewed: 4/9/2014



Does anyone else crave melty grilled cheese sandwiches late at night? Apparently it's not just me, as the genius founders of Beer and Cheese offer just that, along with a huge selection of craft beers from around the world. Just a few blocks away from the Taipei Main Library sits this small bar that's already become a buzzed about place to chill with friends, especially for those of us who don't "lounge bar" anymore.




Sitting inside Beer and Cheese, my friends from LA and I all agreed that we were transported away from Taipei to Silverlake (or fill in the blank of the hipster area in your city from the States). All the neighboring conversations were in English, the bartenders/servers spoke English and the decor was very cool. I was surprised to find it fairly crowded on a weeknight, but luckily there were a few open tables in the back to grab. I think there's a second floor as well, but it wasn't opened up that night. 


Inside, the menu is scribbled on black chalkboards along the walls and seats can be found along the bar or corner tables. Beer and Cheese sticks to its focus for munchies- a handful of grilled cheese sandwiches, nachos or I strongly recommend the spicy beer pretzel. 


And I'd heard of wine and cheese pairings but never before with beer. But it's worth a try, especially if you want to get a hand picked sampler with the Flight or the Mill St. Flight. I don't even really like beer and I enjoyed it. I went with a couple of guys and we all shared two flights and ended up ordering a third. I probably ate most of the cheese.

Mill St. Flight  (NT$390) had Lemon Tea Beer with pepper jack, Tankhouse Ale with Danish Blue and Coffee Porter with Gouda. All the beers had distinctive flavors and it was fun to take a sip and eat the cheese to see if the matches enhanced each others flavors.




Flight  (NT$290) had Estrella paired with pepper jack cheese, Red Point with english sharp and Asam Bock with Gouda.




I loved the spicy beer pretzel (NT$180). Thinking about this pretzel while I'm typing up this post at 1AM.  With a spicy jalapeño cheese dip, the beer pretzel was soft, hot and I could have eaten the whole thing by myself.






Skillet nachos (NT$220) were generous with lots of salsa and cheese. 


Running out of room for all our food and beer.


I liked the Dutch Blue grilled cheese (NT$270), but the blue cheese taste was very faint, if at all. The bread was a tad on the dry side for me especially on the surfaces, compared to buttery grilled cheese sandwiches I've had in the past. The sandwiches are definitely on the expensive side, ranging from NT$250-280, making Toasteria look like a deal, or for those of us who make grilled cheese at home. But they are big enough to share, and I could only eat half.


My friend's jalapeño grilled cheese (N$260)


So if you find yourself craving a hot pretzel and a cold beer at 11PM, now you know where to go. 

It's exciting to have new additions to the growing scene of gastropub/wine bars have opened in Taipei in the past few years, including Whinos, Diary, EIEIO, Lobster Bar. Write ups coming soon someday, I swear!

PS. Proof of the hipster vibe, the total and bill is tallied on the iPad. 


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