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No matter how long my business-trip flights are—and how many time zones they span—you can pretty much always find me in coach. (Let's just say it's not a matter of principle; I don't have Bill Gates's reputed fondness for cramming into 72F to make a gesture or save money—unless it's from my own trifling bank account, of course. ) So the in-flight meals I usually sample on the Travel Editor beat tend to be airline cuisine at its most quintessential—without the well-paid imprimatur of a celebrity consulting chef, without the pampering if pointless course-by-course service, without a starched little first-class tablecloth. I usually plan on skipping the airplane meal altogether —when it's even served at all these days—but even if I've brought my own food, a sense of curiosity (or misguided journalistic zeal, or gluttony, or boredom) takes over and I usually end up tasting it anyway.
In coach, even an airline's tiniest efforts not to serve glop or junk food can go a long way. Obviously, on most airlines—especially U.S.-based ones—efforts like that aren't made too terribly often. So it was a nice surprise to find, on a recent Virgin flight to London, an incredibly rich, real-tasting, cocoa-dense pot au chocolat served for dessert in a cool, designy little black pod. On the way back, it was a moist, dense brownie, the taste hinting not at all at the typical packaged, processed, refrigerator-flavored airplane desserts. Both confections are made by a company called Gü Puds, which distributes only in the UK right now. Gü also make tiny chocolate-and-amaretti-cookie tortes, black-forest cakes, white-chocolate creme brulees and a bunch of other desserts I hope to try on future flights. I'd even look for this stuff—and buy it—in a store if it ever makes it to the U.S. When the flight attendant cleared my dinner that night, I kept the dessert wrapper so I'd remember to look for these Puds next time I'm in the UK. The rubbery pasta? I left that on the tray.
P.S. If any readers have come across surprisingly good food in coach on a specific airline, I'm always eager to hear about it.