#248: Garden of Eat’n

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I’ve been needing to post something lately and tonight had a sudden urge (led by my stomach) to check out a place that I just recently heard about called Garden of Eat’n.  This is a salad & wraps place located in the Creekside Town Center across from the Galleria.  I headed in at around 5:30 and was the only customer (briefly).  I was greeted right away and asked if I had ever been there.  Obviously not, as I stopped at the wrong end of the kitchen.  I was shown over to the correct end where  I now saw the menu displays.

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I got strong vibes of Jack’s Urban Eats mixed with a little bit of Chipotle.  The ingredients were numerous and looked fresh, although the chicken and some other meats were pre-prepared and kept cold with the rest of the toppings.  There was a little conveyor driven oven where they warmed up the chicken for my order.  You can choose from house recipe salads and wraps or build your own.  I opted for the Spicy Chicken Bacon wrap (lemon-peppered chicken with crisp bacon, grape tomato, romaine, in sriracha ranch)[$8] and added a Mac & Cheese [$5.50], just to try more than one thing.  To drink they had bunch of bottled beverages, a watermelon limeade in a self-serve dispenser and Stubborn Sodas on the fountain machine.  I had never heard of Stubborn before and tried out the Lemon Berry Açaí [Medium with free refills $2.75].  They us no artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup or dyes.

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I picked out the one tortilla flavor that they were out of and ultimately got the Spicy Chipotle.  They built my wrap pretty quickly and said they would bring the mac & cheese out to me soon.  I set my wrap on a table and snapped a few photos until it came out maybe a minute later.

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Both looked pretty good.  The wrap was full and almost coming apart so I had to pick it up carefully.  It wasn’t heavy though.  Most of it was romain and tomatoes, though I did get chicken and bacon in just about every bite.  The chicken was decent.  I think it could have been a little juicer and definitely could have been much hotter.  I think having it pre-prepped and stored cold is the culprit here.  I’d be willing to wait longer for fresh chicken.  The bacon had good flavor and the tomatoes were nice and ripe.  The best thing about this was the sriracha ranch.  It was delicious and even had a really nice heat that snuck up on me in the first half of the wrap.

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The mac and cheese was unfortunately extremely bland.  Texture was about the only thing going for it.  The cheese was gooey and the noodles were cooked just right.

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Probably my favorite thing about this visit was my discovery of Stubborn Soda.  The Lemon Berry Açaí was awesome.  I am still sipping it now and enjoying every little bit.  The berry flavor is actually pretty dominant, I can barely taste any lemon at all, but it’s fantastic nonetheless.  I’m going to be looking for bottles of this to pick up soon (which they do have also).

Ultimately it was a kind of disappointing experience.  The meats being re-prepped, I feel, really hurts this place and the prices are a bit high for what you get.  Jack’s Urban Eats just mops the floor with the same concept.

AM19: Vampire Penguin

Bold statement: This was probably one of the most unique and fascinating desserts I’ve ever had.  Ok, tone set.

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I saw this place called Vampire Penguin, next to Blue Oaks Century Theaters in Rocklin, a while back and my usual curiosity had me drive close to it to see what it was.  Looked like some sort of dessert spot so I added it to a list of possible places to visit.  They are apparently a small Sacramento-area chain, with 5 of their 9 locations here locally.  The others are in San Mateo, Berkley, Eureka and Reno.  Today I decided I’d go grab some dinner at Prime Wok and hop over to Vampire Penguin for dessert.

I arrived just after 6PM and the place was kind of busy.  The dining room was about 75% full.  I don’t have a photo of that to show you unfortunately since I hate pointing my camera at strangers, but it was very clean, bright white with metal chairs and modern-looking.  There was no line so I headed up to the counter and was greeted immediately.  I told her that I’d never been so I needed a moment to look at the menu.

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She pointed out their most popular item, the Strawberry Cheesecake (Strawberry & Vanilla shaved snow w/ crushed graham crackers, strawberries, raspberries, white chocolate sauce, strawberry sauce, and condensed milk), and a couple of her favorites – the Dulce De Leche (Vanilla snow, sliced bananas, drizzled in caramel sauce, whipped cream and flan) and the S’moreos (Cookies & Cream shaved snow, crushed graham crackers, oreos, marshmallows, and chocolate syrup).  Not being entirely sure, I asked “so is all of this like shave ice?”  She corrected me, saying it is shaved “snow”, Vietnamese style, having a texture more like snow.

I ordered the S’moreos in a small for $5 (large is $7.  Prices vary slightly between the flavors, and you can build your own as well).  They must have had a small rush before I arrived, because about 3 or 4 orders came out before mine, so it took a little while, maybe up to 15 minutes max).

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It was gorgeous.  This small size was about 4 inches high.  The snow was chocolate colored throughout, different from shave ice apparently since it was very uniform, rather than a flavor syrup working it’s way in from the outside.  I was extremely skeptical about the claim that shaved snow was different from shave ice, but the moment I tried to scoop a spoonful out of the side I knew this was something very different.  My first impression was “wow, this is dense.”  I thought maybe there was something else mixed in that I hit with the plastic spoon, impeding it’s movement.

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When I took my first bite, I was stunned at the texture.  It was dry!  Actually no, that’s not an entirely accurate description.  It was not wet.  Ha, I know it sounds like the same thing, but I swear it’s a better description, you’ll have to try it out and see what I mean.  When I think back at all the shave ice I’ve ever had, I would definitely describe that as cold and snowy, but also wet.  This is indeed very different.  I think they must keep their ice significantly colder than normal blocks of ice used in the Hawaiian-style shave ice.  By the time I was at my last bite it had not melted one bit.  The plate helped since it was clearly kept in a freezer prior to preparation.

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While it was incredibly dense, it was also strangely soft and snowy in texture.  The chocolate flavoring of the snow was delicious, as was the chocolate syrup, crushed graham crackers and oreos.  The marshmallows were good as well and a little chewier due to how cold they had become.  I thoroughly loved every single bite of this thing and I can’t wait to come back.  This is a place that I expect to take visitors in town to, which I think is one of the highest forms of praise I can give a place.  I cannot recommend this enough.

A customer next to me had ordered a large Strawberry Cheesecake and let me take a snap of it:

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#247: Moe’s Southwest Grill

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It feels like we’ve had a lot of traditionally non-California chains expanding into our area over the last couple of years.  Moe’s is one of the newest and I was brought here by an offer of a free burrito for downloading their rewards app.  They are located at the corner of Sunrise and Cirby, in the new building next to Starbucks.  Since they’re a big chain I’ll let the photos do most of the talking, but my overall impression is that it’s like a more colorful version of Chipotle.

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My burrito was the following: pulled pork, southwestern rice, grilled mushrooms, grilled onions, grilled bell peppers, sour cream, guacamole, corn salsa and a creamy southwest-type of dressing with a bit of heat, then finally finished off with a dash of their hottest sauce.  It had to be double-tortilla wrapped due to how stuffed it was.  Overall it was enjoyable.  I must admit however that I have a huge love for Freebirds and will most likely continue to go there for my spicy burrito needs.  One nice thing here is that they deep fry their complimentary tortilla chips right in-store.  Downside is that the side of guac I got was tiny (+$2.80 for the guac and a soda).

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