May 16, 2008

Iced CofFree

Dunkin' Donuts touted yesterday as "Free Iced Coffee Day." Stop in from 10 AM to 10 PM and get a free iced coffee. (Limit one per customer)

Iced coffee is a funny drink. Not funny like a shaken bottle of Sprite, where the carbonation bubbles up to your sinuses and makes you snort. Funny as in odd, -- peculiar.

It's marketed as something to drink on hot days, and is essentially a way for coffee-selling businesses to stay open during the warm summer months. And it does have refreshing qualities. Yet coffee is a diuretic, which generally causes a net loss of water because it forces more frequent runs to the lavatory.

So how can something that causes dehydration be refreshing in the middle of a sunny afternoon, when sweat runs thick and people need transfusions of H2O? Iced teas faces this same problem. When it's hot, people need to be putting more water into their bodies, not forcing it out.

Paradox is the only way to describe it. So let's accept that and move on to investigate the nuances of the drink.

First, it tastes much better with cream than skim milk. Sorry weight watchers, but a drink with an almost-caramel color needs to have some thickness to it. Milkshake consistency isn't required, but skim just doesn't give enough oomph.

Second, don't go overboard on the sugar. The beauty of coffee is its bitterness wrapped around rich tones. Pouring in sweetness only ravages the taste and makes it more common. If you want to drink something sugary, just go buy a Sprite. Maybe you can shake it up to simulate iced coffee's funniness.

Three-and-a-half sporks out of five for the paradoxical cup of joe. If it's free iced coffee day, make it a full four sporks. Just don't go back for too many free cups. You might dehydrate.

May 13, 2008

Food Fit for a Lincoln

Five. Five Dollar. Five Dollar Footloooong.

Something about the jingle is enticing, making for one of the best food advertisements on television in recent memory. Forced sunniness, ala McDonald's ads, isn't there. Neither is the in-your-face excitement of Taco Bell's spots, which is growing long in the tooth.

Personally, I still prefer The King in Burger King commercials, but he's been criticized as "creepy." Due to his lack of universal appeal and dearth of musical accompaniment, The King might have to take a back throne to the $5 footlong song.

A police officer, a weather-lady and an airplane stewardess all get in on the fun. And who could forget Godzilla making the "footlong" motion as he rumbles through skyscrapers?

Oh, and the deal is a pretty good one, too. Five bucks for a foot of Subway tastiness isn't the greatest thing since sliced hoagie rolls, but it's great to have a nice round number to pay. No need to worry about pesky quarters or pennies jingling around, just hand over a fiver! Ham, turkey, beef, tuna -- it's all five bucks!

The only thing that's missing is Jared making the "footlong" symbol with his hands in the ad. Maybe a whole footlong would be against his mantra of healthy eating. But the song is so catchy he could surely dance off some of those extra calories.

Maybe he's in the next "five dollar footlong" ad. We can only hope.

May 2, 2008

Cold Candy?

Buy a chocolate bar at the corner store, and it's going to be room temperature. It can quickly become soft and gooey, enabling the sweetness to come through.

Punch the buttons on a vending machine, though, and it might just be refrigerated. Sometimes you can find cold candy in a friend's icebox. The sugar is muted, enabling other flavors to shine.

Each temperature has its advantages. But my completely unscientific survey, also known as personal experience, has found room temperature candy much more common. So let's spend a few words on the phenomenon of cold candy.

Most noticeable is the increased hardness of cold candy. Like any matter, chocolate is more pliable when warm. Put it on ice and it becomes brittle. Instead of conforming to your teeth when you bite, it splinters along several lines of cleavage.

Consequently, cold candy doesn't blanket your mouth in flavor. If you can get over missing the initial sweet shock, more understated flavors take center stage, however. A brief sweetness gives way to the richness of the chocolate. It's almost like moving your chocolate bar a few pegs down the darkness scale. Milk chocolate tastes more like dark chocolate, while dark chocolate ... well, it tastes even more like itself.

The flavor change isn't just limited to cocoa products. If you're eating a peanut butter cup, nuttier flavors take precedence over Reese's normal glucose blast. Milky Ways showcase a thicker caramel that completely alters the texture of the bar. Twix Bars have a more satisfying crunch, provided they aren't over-chilled.

Coldness is probably best applied to simple candies, since it enhances the complexity of flavors. Add too much complexity, and your mid-afternoon snack starts resembling an oral jigsaw puzzle. Consequently, stick to Hershey bars or peanut butter cups. But make sure to avoid the Crunch bar. Even though it seems like a simple candy that would be enhanced by coldness, it's fools gold. Whatever chocolate Nestle uses shatters at the first bite, leaving you licking at unsatisfying tiny slivers.

Cold candy can either be a spork above or below its room-temperature counterpart. When used responsibly, it's a rewarding journey.