Dear Starbucks: please change your oatmeal

Well, not the oatmeal itself, which is not too bad. But please change the cups you serve it in so that they actually fit and stack atop your coffee cup lids.

It’s very difficult to carry a “cuppa and oatmeal”, since the bottom of the oatmeal cup is exactly not-the-right-size to fit over your coffee lid. It sits right on the top: not quite small enough (like the bottom of a coffee cup is) to fit inside the plastic lid; not quite large enough to comfortably wrap around the outside of the plastic lid.

Now I know you spent thousands of dollars carefully engineering your current oatmeal cups to have the perfect colors, cool touch to the hands, exactly-spaced steam vents on the top, and so on, but it’s been two years (as evidenced by the copyright date on the lids), so maybe it’s time for a practical change. Pretty is great, but practical and fitting in with your beverage sizes is even better.

I’d vote for the over-the-lid size, just slightly larger: this serves all customers, since you could securely stick an oatmeal cup atop a cup of coffee and walk out of the store carrying both in one hand. I know some people might suggest the just slightly smaller, so the bottom of the oatmeal is the same as the bottom of a coffee cup, but that doesn’t seem to be as pleasing a proportion for eating out of, even if it would fit into a pressboard 4-cup holder.

Heck, if you tried just a tiny bit of engineering, I’m sure you could put a little lip on a 4-cup holder so that the larger oatmeal cups would also fit in, just slightly higher than cups do.

Yes, Dear Starbucks, I will submit this as an idea for you to steal. Just be sure to keep your wifi throughput up for all of us regulars now that you’ve let the masses in to use it at all your stores.

2 reasons I don’t like Au Bon Pain coffee

I skipped my coffee maker this morning since I came into work early, and decided to stop at the Kendall Au Bon Pain this morning for coffee. I remembered a couple of reasons I hadn’t been drinking their coffee for a while.

It’s not that the coffee’s bad: it’s certainly no paragon of coffee perfection, but it’s a fine chain bakery brew and I do sometimes like their Hazelnut mixed with the French Roast. No, it’s two issues about their materials:

  • Light cream. They serve light cream instead of half and half. While I like my coffee with a moderate amount of half-and-half, I inevitably get the amount of light cream to add instead wrong. 90% of the time I think I’ve got it, and it turns out to be far too white and creamy. Today, I was sure I did it right: a tiny splash of light cream and enough 2% milk to make up for it: nope, now it’s not quite rich enough. Sigh.
  • Cups. ABP cups have a far higher failure rate than other local shops – more often than not while driving or walking to work, I get a steady stream of drips down the seam side of the cup, from right under the edge of the lid. Either the seams are too uneven, or the plastic lids are too inflexible. It’s disappointing, and today I forgot to wrap a napkin around the edge of the cup, and so got dripped today.

What ever happened to the old, old Au Bon Pain, back when the baguettes were really flavorful, and the croissants were rich and buttery? Were they actually better back then, or did it just feel like that because they were one of the first chains to do those foodstuffs justice locally so long ago?

(Drat! I didn’t mention the “p” word, but even though it wasn’t on my mind I talked about croissants anyway, which I suppose counts. Another statistic plus for BHD!)

Haiku Wednesday

/ Blogging in haiku. /
/ Japanese doggerel, yes. /
/ But fits in a tweet. /

/ Breakfast sandwich fail. /
/ Tasty, delicious: not found. /
/ Caffeine kick in now?/

/ Am I late today? /
/ Terribly sorry doctor! Hey: /
/ Do you have a cure? /

/ Dumbledore is dead. /
/ Fun teen love angst; black flyers. /
/ Why the cornfield scene? /

/ Email, commit logs, /
/ (How do you follow the threads?) /
/ blog, tweet, chat, AIM: feeds. /

French Toast Alert? Not in the French Quarter!

  Actually, I am affected by the recent French Toast Alert, which was just upgraded to Guarded as the result of the forecast for snow, albeit mostly in the ‘burbs, and not in the Hub proper. I’d say that it starts earlier every year, but then again, this is New England, so it could snow at any time. I fondly recall a foot+ snowstorm one May long ago, which thoroughly covered the bright pink azalea bushes my father had in the side yard at the time.

Nope, I’m still wearing shorts today, and am looking forward to wearing them at least part of next week too, for I shall be next to the French Quarter enjoying 70F days next week attending lovely ApacheCon US. If you’re attending too, please add your favorite links to our handy ApacheCon wiki, where everyone can participate. The famous Sally has already done her part in adding a ton of suggestions for FoodNewOrleans, and we still need more BOF Proposals too.

In any case, even if it does blizzard tomorrow, we’re fine: I bought eggs, bread, and milk yesterday, so my family is secure even in the case of Weather.

A Belmont Coffee Disaster, Entirely Frustrating

Gratuitous Hyperbole Is Just Kinda Like Metaphorically Nebulous Oratory… and then I lose it. Most of you may agree I lost it a little earlier in the alphabet.

One early morning commute recently I stopped in Belmont center to pickup breakfast on the go: venti latte, and next door a bagel with schmear, excuse me, cream cheese (it was Bruggers, not Einstein). Several items in the shopping trip and afterwards caught my attention.

First, it was crowded – which shouldn’t surprise me, it’s morning commute time. But that gave me time to realize that I didn’t quite belong in that particular Starbucks: I was clearly on the wrong side of the highway. With my half-open and scuffed sandals, shorts, and an interesting yet obviously not stylish enough Hawaiian shirt, it was clear my dress code didn’t match up to Belmontian standards. I was glad to realize that the suburban beautiful people – while far more stylish and scented than I – still had to wait in line for their triple venti soy misto extra hot drinks just like I did.

Brueggers was less crowded and less stylish overall, patrons and store alike. They do feature salmon cream cheese, and chewily tasty if not excellent bagels. I was rushed making a decision, and opted for salmon on a pumpernickel bagel, wanting a savory breakfast. The plain (sliced) rosemary olive oil bagel I got for an afternoon snack was better, and is a rare treat in their bagel line up.

Sadly enough, breakfast was not destined to go well. While the pumpernickel was reasonably satisfying, it completely does not go with salmon cream cheese -even when the cream cheese shcmear is disappointingly small, as it was on that day. It was also rather difficult to eat, doing the splooge thing as chewier bagels are wont to do.

More importantly, before I got to work for breakfast, I spilled my coffee! I’d had part of it on the commute, but somehow – and I really don’t have any idea how, since I’ve never done that before – it popped out of the center cupholder and spilled on one floormat in the back of the car. Thankfully the top stayed on, and it was completely caught on the floormat. It was a doubly disappointing disaster, both in botched breakfast, and in cleanliness: I’d just had my car detailed in preparation for selling it.

Did I mention I’m selling my BMW, and looking for a new E36? Yes, it is clean and very shiny, and no, the floor mat (rear on the left) does not smell like coffee anymore.

The croissant-shaped brioche

It’s been that kind of week. I stopped at a cafe I’ve always liked but rarely pass by, because it was a special week. Café-au-lait because I want something different, and a croissant because they look good. Get to work, laptop refreshes for dual monitors, and dive into some work and my tasty second breakfast.
But it’s not. Tasty, that is. The café is blah, the au-lait I could have poured myself from a carton, and the croissant isn’t. It’s tasty, but it’s no croissant. I may not be French, but I’ve learned more than enough from Julia Child to know that this is actually a very trickily disguised brioche, shaped to look like a croissant. Nice, but not what I had gone out of my way for. I was actually doing the fancy second breakfasts several days this week because it was my birthday – a way of treating myself.
See, Amy was actually away on a trip on my actual birthday. When I woke up with Roxanne, I talked about it being a special day, it was my birthday. With the perfect clarity and sense that only a 3 year old has, she said no, it wasn’t – it couldn’t be my birthday without mom home. We’d just have to hold that thought until later in the week when the whole family could be here.
Hence, I sort of stretched my definition of birthday for a while, and had quite a lot of second breakfasts. Peet’s is my favorite, both for coffee and bar drinks, plus the excellent service locally (Lexington). They get snobby bakery croissants, which aren’t bad, but I usually go for their scones which are just about right on the slightly dry/crumbly side.
Today I did Au Bon Pain since I was passing by there. I opted for a croissant, since I’ve long ago bored myself of their mass-made scones. What the heck happened to Au Bon Pain’s croissants? It wasn’t even brioche, it was just vaguely buttery cooked dough shaped in a wrapped horn! Geez, I’ve had more layers in a Pillsbury Crescent roll before! Was it just me, and nostalgia for days past, or did Boston area Au Bon Pains actually used to have decent croissant? Not actual French croissants – no American chain could pull that off – but still, I recall watching The Chessmaster noshing on a nicely flaky ABP croissant in years past.
This is turning into more of a nostalgia trip than a riff on disguised bakery products, but I do remember The Chessmaster, and was glad to see he’s still there one second breakfast earlier this week. The used book shelves at the Harvard Book Store are still there, although the science fiction section is disappointingly short from the pre-Amazon days. And so many of the stores in HSq have changed! The past 6 or so years has seen a huge gentrification of the area, which is a real shame. I mean, Cardullo’s Wursthaus may not have been the healthiest place around for your wurst-mit-kraut, but it sure had an infinity more style than the stupid sunglasses and trends store they’ve got in there now. There really isn’t that much benefit to the new HSq, and there’s a lot less class and culture there now. I suppose a fair number of places are a little cleaner, though.

Now I really want some decent coffee – and a brioche-shaped brioche. Hmmm. That’ll have to wait for morning, I suppose.

A Milestone Weekend

Much of this Labor Day long weekend has been the stuff that memories are made of, but that makes for bad stories. It was the classic relaxing, enjoying, eating, visiting, good weather, lots of fun and just enough naps kind of time that you wish would last longer, and want to talk all about until you remember that listening (or reading) about that kind of stuff is dull. Unless you were there, and then you smile. And remember the excellent food – too much of it. And then remember that you’re going to have to go back to your regular workout soon.
The milestone was separate, although it did have to do with traveling. We were in CT staying with family, and had finished dinner and were saying good byes to the other dinner guests who came over as well. Then, it happened. One minute, we were all saying our goodbyes and Roxanne was giving hugs, and the next minute she was gone! Toothbrush, spare diaper, and “baby doll” in hand. she had accepted aunt Susan’s incautious offer for a sleepover, and we were suddenly alone.
Well, the in-laws were still there – it’s their house! – but we were alone as we’ve never been for nearly 3 years. This was her first sleepover ever, and it all happened on a whim of Susan’s. She asked, Roxanne said yes in a matter of fact way, and there it was.
I guess the metaphor (that I’m far too tired to awaken from my fingers at the moment) is all about how parents so much aren’t in charge, and how it’s often a surprise when the children are ready for something before the parents are.

It was great, by the way. We stayed up late watching cable (we don’t watch TV at home), and the only unfortunate thing was that I, Robot was the best thing on. We slept in a little bit late, and then helped to make breakfast in an oddly quiet house. Given the sleeping arrangements, I hardly even noticed, except for a small empty something that was missing in my brain.
Oh, and she had a great night too, as reported by Susan. Got ready for bed, slept on the special bouncy air mattress in her cousin’s room, was fine when she woke up, and even walked the long walk over to grandma’s house where we were staying – nearly late for breakfast too!
All in all a good weekend. Thanks, all!