#280: Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream

5:30PM, 8/3/2022

https://handelsicecream.com/store/roseville/

This week I ate so much junk food, and Handel’s made up a good portion of it. I sense a lot of salads in the coming week to compensate. On Wednesday I stopped at this ice cream place across from the Galleria (right next to Buffalo Wild Wings). They originate in Ohio and have expanded to 10 states. This location opened about a year ago. I think I’ve been here once before. I don’t recall what I ordered though. I arrived at about 5:30 and it was about 102º, perfect.

Inside the space is quite large. Half or more is behind the counter, chilled storage for their many flavors, and more space behind them, I assume where they make it. I’ve dabbled in ice cream making and the scale here is impressive. I can’t imagine the batch size they work with. On the menu I found the perfect item for this visit, a 4 scoop sampler [$6.75]. I decided I would pick 1 scoop from each of the 4 main ice cream categories on the menu (Chocolate, Specialty, Fruit & Vanilla). Including the basic flavors and some other specialty options (vegan / ice / sherbet) there were 50 flavors to choose from today.

I went with: Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie (chocolate ice cream with Reese’s Peanut Butter® ripple and brownie chunks), S’mores (graham cracker ice cream with marshmallow ripple, chocolate chips, and mini marshmallows), Strawberry Cheesecake Chunk (cheesecake ice cream with strawberry ripple and cheesecake chunks) & Oree-Dough (vanilla ice cream with Oreo® cookies and cookie dough pieces).

In general, I really love the overall consistency of this ice cream. They keep it just cold enough to keep it solid because it’s very soft and almost fluffy in texture. I ended up taking most of it home, where I keep my freezer about as cold as it will go, and the ice cream was solid as a rock when I pulled it out the next day. Flavor-wise it held up well though.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie – The chocolate ice cream base here really dominated the flavor of this scoop. The brownies stood out well in terms of texture next to the soft cream. I think it could have benefited from more peanut butter. What was there simply got overwhelmed by the rich chocolate ice cream.

Strawberry Cheesecake Chunk – This one was delicious, and it was the one I was least excited about (I’m not so much into fruits with my sweets). The ice cream had a great cheesecake flavor to it and the strawberry ripple, which seemed almost syrupy, was a nice bright contrasting flavor. The cheesecake chunks sort of blended into the ice cream and I didn’t notice them that much.

Oree-Dough – While still good, this was my least favorite of the four. It just didn’t strike me as particularly special next to the others. There was plenty of cookie dough chunks and pieces of Oreo cookies though. I think the vanilla ice cream (which I am generally a fan of; “vanilla is a flavor” -Nick Wiger) is the weak link when right next three very good bases.

S’mores – The star of the show for me. I kind of blew right past the description of this and didn’t realize the ice cream base itself was graham cracker flavored. The color took me by surprise. This was amazing and really captured that mix of ingredients well. The marshmallows were still nice and soft, which I was really impressed by, but the marshmallow ripple did most of the heavy lifting for that flavor.

At work on Friday they had an ice cream social thing (a shockingly rare event from my company for its employees) and it turned out to be catered by Handel’s. So once again I was eating more ice cream. I went with the S’Mores again (it’s that good) and also tried the Mint Chocolate Chip (mint ice cream with chocolate chip specks) which was nice, bright (both in color and flavor) and as refreshing as a dairy-based desert can be.

All in all, Handel’s is a solid ice cream shop. They don’t do any sort of crazy or fancy stuff, just straight up good ice cream scoops.

yelp_logo

AM25: Window Box Cafe

9AM -7/30/2022

https://www.windowboxcafe.com/

This morning I woke up unusually early for a Saturday and scrapped plans to do a post about ice cream spots (probably next week now) and instead headed down to Window Box Cafe after the gym for breakfast. This cute little cafe is located on Five Star Blvd, not too far from Costco. Although the open sign facing the street was on, when I pulled into the very empty parking lot I wondered if they really were open or not (looking at their posted hours now I see they run from 7:30a-2p every day). The doors were unlocked and I stepped into a quiet lobby, where I could see part of the dining room, empty, just beyond. Within 10 seconds a woman came around the corner, greeted me and grabbed a menu as she told me to pick any table. She would end up being not only my server and cashier but also the only worker I saw during my visit.

She offered coffee to get me started as I settled into my seat near the open patio entrance, which let in a nice cool breeze now and then. The menu is a pretty general breakfast menu, nothing too fancy aside from a handful of crepes and eggs Benedicts. The lunch side is equally standard with burgers, sandwiches and salads. I sipped my coffee while my eyes ping ponged around the menu trying to find the right item. With a packet of sugar and a little French vanilla creamer it was totally fine. I think It came hot but cooled off rapidly in it’s mug, likely due to my proximity to the open door.

I ended up deciding on the Corned Beef Hash & Eggs (2 eggs any style served over house made seasoned corned beef with country potatoes, bell peppers & onions)[$15]. Most of the items in this section of the menu come with a choice of hash browns, country potatoes or fruit. This dish effectively makes that choice for you, but you also get another selection of either toast or mini pancakes. That was an easy decision since I had considered ordering a short stack anyway.

My order took just about 10 minutes. By this time about a half dozen parties had arrived and the quiet atmosphere was replaced with the bustling kitchen and conversation that echoed around the room easily. The kitchen appeared to have a long window with some light folding shutters to block it off, but it let most of the noise through. I think it would get very noisy here when they are packed.

I had ordered my eggs over medium, which is always hit and miss nearly everywhere, and I think they did a great job on them which lifted my expectations a bit as I started buttering up my pancakes. The breeze made me work quickly through everything so I could enjoy it while it was hot. The pancakes were nice and fluffy. The maple syrup didn’t seem to be “the good stuff” but it was heated up which sort of made up for that a bit.

As for the main dish, I found myself pretty disappointed with it. While the potatoes, peppers, onions and eggs were all perfectly good, the main attraction of this dish really fell short. It was supremely dry, stringy and chewy. Nothing like that almost melt-in-your-mouth ultra tender corned beef, edges crisped up a bit on the griddle, most places serve up. The flavor was ok, just difficult to enjoy through the unpleasant texture.

Portion-wise this was just right, even with the mini pancakes. I ate every last bite and left satisfied without feeling like I needed a nap. The service was fast, efficient and polite. Ultimately though, I would rather brave the crowds at Four Sisters just a few blocks away, even if they might be slightly pricier. Which is a shame because I had heard good feedback about Window Box.

yelp_logo

#280: Vegan Plate

1:10PM, 7/9/2022

https://www.veganplateroseville.com/

This morning I was repeatedly spinning a little random selector wheel app with all the new restaurant options and nothing was piquing my interest until I hit Vegan Plate. I instantly thought about Green Boheme and Baagan Cafe, both of which I enjoyed but ultimately did not end up returning to. Honestly, as a….Meatatarian (Meatasaurus? Man of the meats? Bear with me, I’m still work-shopping this) it usually something that looks particularly interesting to get me to go to these types of places (not counting going for this blog, which is one of the reasons I do it!). For all the obvious reasons (health, environment, animal welfare) I think it is a commendable lifestyle. I just don’t see myself giving up things like BBQ and sushi. I enjoy dipping my toes into this world once in a while and see how things are progressing.

I took a quick look at some photos online of the place and some food items and what I saw felt very ambitious. Sure, I’ve had burgers and cheesesteaks with Impossible’s beef substitute, and they are anywhere decent to pretty good. I’ve heard that chicken nuggets/ground patties can be done pretty well with soy, although I haven’t tried any that I can think of. But it was the shrimp. That’s what I saw that sealed the deal that I would be going here today. I’ve never seen this before and had to know if the taste and texture of a shrimp was something that could be approximated these days.

It was about ten past one when I arrived in the Hobby Lobby shopping center on Douglas at Sierra Gardens Dr. Two things struck me as I checked out the front of this building. I was surprised to see that the Jimboy’s was gone, and I realized that Vegan Plate now occupies the spot where Bo Bo Cafe was, which was just my 6th post ever (over a decade ago now, what a trip), and the first time I’d ever tried Vietnamese cuisine. I snapped some shots of the exterior and headed in.

The space is straightforward, a counter at center back for ordering, with a nice big black board menu that’s easy to read, and plenty of cafeteria-type seating to either side of the walkway that runs to the counter right down the middle of the room. A couple of wooden crate displays have some shirts and snacks for sale in the isle. There were just a few people in the dining room when I entered. The counter was unmanned but someone emerged right away once I got there. I said I was just starting to take a look at everything and he handed me a bound menu and said I could take a seat and come up and order whenever I was ready.

I knew I had to check out the Bang Bang Soy Shrimp (made of potato starch Konjac, Soy Protein Tossed with our house made sauce – 8 pcs)[$9.25] – as a minor tangent, I googled Konjac and it’s a root vegetable native to Asia, but I loved some of the other names it’s known by and had to share = devil’s tongue, voodoo lily, snake palm and elephant yam. I also decided to get the Soy Crispy Chick’n Sandwich (Patty is made out of Soy and Wheat. Veggies: Lettuce, Tomatoes & pickles – side of fries)[$14.95]. Beverage-wise they have a bunch of options as you’ll see in the menu photos. I went with the Tropical Sunrise, which looked like one of the lighter and more refreshing things available (orange juice, lime soda and grenadine with orange slice and cherry topping)[$5.95].

My food was ready and brought out in seven minutes, with the drink lagging behind a few more. After some quick pictures I took the first bite of the item that brought me here, the Bang Bang Soy Shrimp. What this dish seems to try to mimic is a battered, deep fried shrimp. Where most of those have a very light, crispy texture to them, this had a more substantial crunch to it. This first bite was good (insert George Takei “oh my” here), but the rest were even better. The rest of the pieces had something the first oddly lacked, and that was that, somehow, they’ve gone and done it and found a way to replicate the texture of biting into a shrimp. Well maybe not a whole shrimp but at the very least chopped pieces of shrimp within the battered shell. The flavor had a tease of heat right at the start but it never really turned into anything. The sauce was a little bit sweet. This was very good overall and while maybe not 100% convincing, if you were trying to fool me, it’s getting there.

The Soy Crispy Chick’n Sandwich was much more straightforward and exactly what I expected. The patty had a light crisp to it and it had a very convincing texture of ground chicken. The lettuce was nice and crisp, the tomatoes perfectly ripe and juicy, and the sandwich was finished off with some kind of Thousand Island type sauce. The pickles were kind of all in one spot but that’s about the only nitpick I have with this. I really enjoyed the bun, which was encrusted with nuts and was very rustic feeling. It both added a great texture to the sandwich and was strangely interesting to hold. The fries were the flat steak variety, which had me a bit worried at first. They were sliced quite thin which made them very crisp and they turned out to be totally awesome – with ketchup or without!

Last but not least, the Tropical Sunrise was just as tasty and refreshing as I had hoped. This was the only item that felt a little overpriced. It could have been a bit larger for that amount.

So this place totally blew me away. One of these days they’re gonna perfectly replicate a fatty BBQ beef brisket and the day that happens I’ll take that little voice in the back of my head telling me I should probably consider eating less meat a lot more seriously.

yelp_logo