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Monday Madness: Really, it’s Egg Nog Season


It’s not Christmas season, it’s eggnog season! I swear, it’s one of the things I look forward to most. And I don’t mean cocktail style, with rum or whatever people put in it. Just plain old, ridiculously sweet, rich, freaking delicious eggnog. Last year I made pancakes with it. This year I’ve been thinking about making cupcakes. Spice cake with eggnog frosting. I’m pretty excited.

I keep thinking about the pumpkin saturation we’ve been seeing the last few years. every fall, or rather, late summer, pumpkin starts creeping in, and by the end of September you can barely take a step without colliding with something pumpkin-flavored. Maybe it’s that fact, or maybe I just don’t like them as much anymore, but I’m pretty much “over” pumpkin coffees. I’ll get a handful throughout the pumpkin spice season–somewhere between 5 and 10, I’d guess–but I don’t crave them every day and I don’t get that excited for them to come out.

I reserve that feeling for the delicious, probably not nutritious, eggnog latte. Starbucks started having it just before Thanksgiving, so I’ve already managed to have two. Cafenation is advertising one as well. I’m not sure if they have them yet or if I’m going to have to wait a bit longer, but I’m really looking forward to it. Cafenation does everything well, so I’m sure I’ll love it when they combine two of my favorite things, coffee and eggnog.

This should not be such a big deal. You can in fact get eggnog any time of the year, and I suppose I could get an espresso machine (although at this point I don’t really want one), but eggnog has always been seasonal for me. We had it every Christmas morning. And probably Christmas eve. Now I tend to drink it all through December, padding a little in November and January depending on availability. I don’t want it at other times of the year.

That’s probably a good thing. It’s not exactly the best everyday food. But it is THE BEST holiday drink.

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It’s Only Tuesday?!! Ugh…


I went out during a break in the (awesome) rain with the intent of getting a cup of coffee.

 

I am currently drink an Orange Spice Iced Coffee, of the dreaded Starbucks variety. It’s certainly the most interesting coffee that I’ve had in a long time.

It’s not quite to my taste, that is, as something I would order again. It’s an interesting flavor experiment, but I prefer regular coffee or tea. It might be a good beverage, I can’t really tell.

I definitely wouldn’t call it good coffee though. But I generally only think Starbucks coffee is good if I buy the beans and brew it at home. So that could just be me.

I could probably write in detail about why Starbucks’ coffee is not actually good, why they’re inferior to the single-cup pour over places that charge like $3 for just a regular cup of coffee (as opposed to $1.95+tax for a grande). When I go to a local, independent cafe, I do in fact think the coffee tastes better.

But, you know what? I’m not a coffee expert. If you like Starbucks coffee, that doesn’t mean your palate’s just not as sophisticated as mine. (It might, but I don’t take it that way.) I just know what I like. And I still buy Starbucks coffee, if not as often as I did before. I’ve mentioned in at least one previous post how I feel about this leviathan chain. I don’t love them, for sure. But I don’t hate them either. As far as “evil” corporations go, I don’t think they’re that close to the top of the list. And they have done wonders for making coffee convenient, even if you have to spend more to get the REALLY good stuff.

So thanks, Starbucks…

Controversial Coffee


I’m watching this documentary on Netflix right now called “Perfect Cappuccino.” It’s about a woman who’s obsessed with cappuccino in particular, and coffee as an extension. She doesn’t have a great voice for narration, in my opinion, but she seems to be able to tell a story well.

It started out focusing on her experience and logistical stuff about making cappuccino correctly, and how everyone in Italy makes them correctly, and there was a bunch footage of interviews with Italian baristas and other people who know about coffee. Then the whole documentary kind of turned into an analysis of Starbucks, the quality of their products and the nature of their business, and the effect of the enormous coffee corporation in America. I was a little disappointed at that point, because I feel like I spend enough time hearing about Starbucks.

She also said that she thinks most independent coffee shops have terrible coffee, and I strongly disagree with that. She probably meant cappuccino in particular (which she says no one in America can make correctly, including Starbucks).

I talk about coffee a lot, and I do go to Starbucks, and independent coffee shops, and I just thought I’d weigh in on the whole “Starbucks is evil” thing and then move on and not post about it anymore.

I don’t hate Starbucks. I do not think that they’re a totally evil corporation that’s ruining coffee. I have a registered Starbucks card. I love their chai in particular, and some of the special seasonal lattes are quite enjoyable. I love the cinnamon dolce latte, and the eggnog latte once in a while (although it’s a little weird, because eggnog steams differently than milk, because it’s thicker). I also don’t love starbucks. I think their dark roasts are rarely good when I buy them at the stores. I like them fine when I brew them at home. Their lattes are just ok to me. The whole “drink customization” thing seems a bit out of hand to me; one or two extras or whatever is one thing, but coffee should not be that complicated to order. And there’s almost never anywhere to sit because it’s such a popular hangout, people get in there and they sit for hours. I had that problem once when I resorted to Starbucks for an internet connection, years ago; I’d have to stand around sometimes for 15 or 20 minutes before I could sit down. And to me, their pumpkin spice latte is disappointing. It tastes too much like syrup and sugar and not enough like coffee.

I like the independent cafes better. I almost always find their coffee is better than Starbucks, and the lattes are definitely better. I prefer the atmosphere in them too. Not because of the art on the walls, but the space just feels more pleasant to me. The food is almost always better. They are also a little bit pricier–but not usually by much, unless they’re super fancy, in which case it’s just not somewhere I’ll go a lot. So Starbucks is the slightly cheaper option, but I usually feel okay about spending a little more at the independent cafes to get that extra deliciousness. Unfortunately it makes enough difference saving those few cents that I can’t just go to the local shops. In addition, Starbucks shops are everywhere and they are predictable, which is one of the things this documentary mentions.

Sometimes I want the special, new experience, and sometimes I want the quick and predictable. It depends on what else is going on at that moment. I don’t think that Starbucks is driving all the other cafes out of business. There are tons of independent cafes I can name in Boston. Some of my favorites are Cafenation, City Feed and Supply, Pavement, and Render Coffee (which I can’t afford to go to very often). I like having both available. (I’m sure they do some of those big corporation things that people hate, and I do not think they should, but I haven’t done research to talk about that and I don’t know much about economics anyway…)

I like Peet’s better than Starbucks, and unfortunately there are only two of those whose locations I can think of without using google maps.

The documentary goes on to talk about other things, like the social benefits and history of coffee shops in general, but it keeps coming back to Starbucks. I guess it only makes sense, as it’s a documentary about coffee and Starbucks is a huge name in coffee. I guess I just thought it would be more of a personal coffee journey and less of a social commentary sort of film. It goes on to talk about the spread of the chain/corporation style coffee shop in Italy. If you’d like to get a better idea of just what the film is saying, I do recommend watching it. It’s not bad.

So, that’s my general feeling about this whole issue. You should get the gist of it from this.

Food Acquisition, plus Spinach Tortellini with Tomato Saute


If anyone knows how to type  in the e with the accent on it so that I can spell “saute” correctly in the title, please let me know.

First, a brief review!

This is not the best coffee in the world. This is just a tribute.

This is not the best coffee in the world. This is just a tribute.

The caption there is a play on the Tenacious D song, “Tribute,” in case you aren’t familiar. These were bought online due to a Starbucks membership promotion. Yes, I have a Starbucks membership, and no, I don’t go there every day. I got a gift card for Christmas and registered it mostly because I wanted the free birthday beverage. I think it was a Vanilla Spice latte. If not… doesn’t matter. In any case, I had a discount coupon, so I ordered these items. Haven’t tried the coffee yet, so I guess it could actually be the greatest coffee in the world. Kind of doubt it though.

If you can’t see it well enough, the via product is an instant version of their “very berry hibiscus refresher,” which is made from coffee juice, I guess. I tried one the other day, and it wasn’t bad, but tasted very different from the one you can buy freshly made. I would only recommend buying this if you can get it on sale, like I did.

Last week, I did two grocery shopping trips in one day, spent nearly $70 total–quite a lot for one day for me (on food, that is), but I still have a lot of food left from those trips, so I don’t think it’ll work out to be much more for the month’s groceries than I usually spend. In case you’re now wondering, I do not work off an actual budget. I’m sure I should, but I manage fine without it, and I have a tendency to rebel against the approach of “you CANNOT spend any more than ___.” I’ll spend more just because. So I don’t bother.

Things I should always buy in multiple when I go to Trader Joe’s: Spicy Powdered Chai Mix, Chile Lime Chicken Burgers, Chicken and Cheese Tamales, Pumpkin Ice Cream (when available), individual serving Greek yogurt, frozen naan. Having these things available at any given time makes my life better.

Last, but not least, I have a non-recipe to share (finally)! It is a very uncomplicated thing to make, as its base is quick-cooking spinach tortellini. I used the package bought from Trader Joe’s, but any variety you can find will work.

I just want to take a moment to say that I LOVE spinach tortellini. It’s weird, because I’m not a fan of the flavor of cooked spinach. However, dishes that involve cooked spinach in which other flavors are more prominent than the spinach itself can be as delicious as anything. What I have done in the past with instant tortellini or ravioli is just melt some butter and mix in some herbs, and pour it over the pasta. This is a slightly more involved version of that practice.

The actual cooking part doesn’t take much time at all, but I always forget how long water takes to boil. Start boiling your water first or you’re going to be sitting there trying to keep your sauce warm and tapping your foot yelling, “Goddamn it water, boil!”

I’m not going to explain how to cook the tortellini, because there are instructions on the package. For the tomato saute, I started by melting a whole bunch of butter in a small pan. Read the rest of this entry

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