November 28, 2010

Starbucks Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha

I know I said in my last post that I'd be back soon with a non-coffee review, but the Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha at Starbucks is too interesting to ignore. My first experience with this fusion of white chocolate, coffee and espresso came last weekend during the two-for-one holiday beverage deal at Starbucks. I held off on a full review until we made it past Turkey Day, but I feel comfortable taking on this Santa-riffic drink now that Black Friday has come and gone.

Those of you groaning at the thought of another coffee-based post need not worry, though. This drink may contain espresso, but its presence is hardly detectable. The flavor is more milk based than anything.

Milk based and delicious, that is. While I'm not the biggest fan of calorie-laden steamed milk concoctions, the Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha is a real treat.

Here's the recipe: Espresso, steamed milk and white chocolate are mixed with peppermint and some flavor syrups. Your local barista tops it off with whipped cream and some dark chocolate curls. If you think it sounds rich and sugary, you're right.

Fortunately, the sweetness doesn't overpower the peppermint flavor, which is present from first sip to last. It's astounding how seamlessly it all blends. White chocolate is the first taste on the tongue, followed by a milky, creamy middle and a peppermint finish. You won't mistake it for sucking on a candy cane -- the flavor is much more balanced.

My only complaint is the bottom of the cup. Flavored syrups tend to sink to the bottom, and the Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha follows this rule. As a result, the bottom of the cup tasted distinctly of salt. This is a little surprising -- I expected mint at the dregs , not sodium.

If you're a gung-ho fan of the sweet and salty flavor combination, you might find the bottom enjoyable. It was a little overpower for my taste, however. I'd recommend sticking to the top 3/4 of the cup.

Most of this drink was delicious, so it's certainly worthy of a high rating. Unfortunately I'm going to have to dock a point for the sub-par finish. Four sporks out of five.

And anti-coffee folks, I promise the next review will be in a different field. I'll even give you a hint of what we're tackling next: It starts with "chocolate" and ends with "pop rocks." If that doesn't have you coming back for a refill, I don't know what will.

November 20, 2010

2-for-1 Starbucks this weekend

Foodies, it's time for another friendly neighborhood free-food-and-drink service announcement. Today and tomorrow you can stop by Starbucks between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.and pick up two holiday-themed drinks for the price of one.

The deal is only advertised for the fancy mixed drinks -- sorry straight coffee lovers, you'll have to pay full price for your cup of delicious Christmas blend. Even so, it's probably worth taking a friend and cashing in on the beverage opportunity.

Those of you visiting the above link will no doubt note that this promotion has been going on since Nov. 18. My apologies for bringing it to you late. I can only share what I know, and I only knew about this yesterday. Better late than never.

I'm also sorry to those of you who don't like coffee. The blog's been on a real java kick lately, although I assure you it's pure coincidence and not part of a larger scheme to drive you off. For whatever reason, it seems like these free deals are always about coffee. So drink this bitter swill and rest assured that I'll be back soon with a fresh review in a different culinary pasture.

November 14, 2010

Two javas for me, none for you

Chocolate and coffee: a match made in heaven. Coffee-flavored ice cream, chocolate-covered coffee beans and the ever-popular mocha are evidence of that. But how does the combination work when the food in question is not quite so ... upscale?

Thanks to the folks at Twix, we have a chance -- well, two chances -- to find out. Twix Java bars follow the tried-and-true formula of two cookie, caramel and chocolate bars per pack. In this incarnation the cookie is chocolate, the caramel is infused with java flavor and standard milk chocolate coats it all.

My hope for Twix Java was that the bars would be perfect for those days when you need a Twix that doesn't pack the super-sweet punch of the standard bars. A little bitter coffee flavor would go a long way toward creating the ultimate afternoon snack for disillusioned sweet tooths.

Had this hope been fulfilled, Twix would have been catapulted beyond its current title of best workplace candy bar into the discussion for greatest candy bar on the market. As I've said before, the pairing of two bars per pack gives Twix an edge over any other candy at the office. It means your snack lasts longer and is twice as effective at distracting you from an angry boss or a pile of paperwork. What Twix usually lacks, however, is a depth of flavor. Standard Twix bars are satisfyingly sweet and crunchy but don't draw quite enough oral interest to land in the elite tier of candy.

Sadly, we'll have to wait another day for Twix to take the next step in candy bar evolution. Twix Java provides the same sugar rush as before without much discernible coffee flavor.

Some Java tones do linger after you've chewed and swallowed, but they don't land on your tongue. Instead they lurk at the edge of your perception, hovering at the back of your throat like the ghost of Starbucks past. It's as if you drank a cup of coffee an hour ago and recently ate a candy bar. Everything in your mouth still tastes like chocolate and caramel..

The closest food to which I can compare Twix Java is McDonald's Mocha. You may recall that I spent most of my time complaining that Micky D's went too heavy on the chocolate and ludicrously light on the coffee. Those same problems exist in our candy subject of today.

Those problems aren't a recipe for legendary status, or even four sporks. Unfulfilled dreams weigh heavily on Twix Java, and the bars come up short: three sporks out of five.Rather than making a name for itself, Twix Java is just an ordinary Joe.

November 6, 2010

Free Coffee, the Burger King version

Burger King and Seattle's Best Coffee sure seem like strange bedfellows.

A coffee I associate most with the cafes in Borders just doesn't seem to fit behind the counter of a fast food restaurant. The two brands mesh even less when you consider the fact that Seattle's Best is also served at Subway, a chain whose healthy food marketing doesn't exactly correspond with Burger King's ... heavy fare.

Regardless of whether it's a match made in heaven or an odd coupling, the King is trumpeting the partnership this month with free coffee Fridays. Never one to turn down a drink on the house, I picked up my 12 oz. cup on the way to work yesterday.

Calm down, lawyers. I moved the coffee from my dashboard to my cup holder before driving away.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I was a big fan of Burger King's old Cup of Joe. I wouldn't describe myself as miffed that it's gone, but I will miss it.

I should also tell you that Seattle's Best doesn't brew my favorite cup of coffee. The company was acquired by Starbucks a few years back, and its coffee has always struck me as Starbucks' lower-quality entry-level offering. It's not bad, it's just not great.

With that out of the way, I can say that my free coffee upped my opinion of Seattle's Best. The coffee starts out way too strong -- the first sip is a blast of bitterness and overpowering richness. It gets better as the coffee cools, which mutes the flavors a bit.  Roughly 10 minutes after serving time, everything settles into a pleasant balance of tastes.

Another thing that grew on me as I sipped was Burger King's coffee cup. When I was first served, the graphics simply did not work for me. The crisp lines of the Seattle's Best shield looked like they were about to be buried by a mudslide of flowing coffee and coffee beans. It appeared to be a very unhappy marriage.

The cup sat on my desk at work all day, and by the time I threw it out and headed home, it had grown on me. The tidal wave of coffee and that Seattle's Best logo must have gone to counseling at some point in the day, because I saw plenty of fun in their relationship. Time appears to be the salve that heals all graphical wounds.

At the end of the day, this wasn't my favorite coffee. In fact, I probably wouldn't pick it over Burger King's extinct Cup of Joe. Yet it was enjoyable, and the price was right. Three sporks out of five. I hope you pick up your own cup next Friday.

November 4, 2010

Free Coffee from the King

Foodies, Friday morning is just around the corner, and that means many of you will need a little pick-me-up to help start the final day of the work week. Fortunately there's a king of a giveaway going on every Friday in November.

Burger King is giving away free cups of Seattle's Best coffee. That's one of the best reasons I've heard for getting out of bed in the morning.

I'll be back soon with a review to get to the bottom of this giveaway. In the mean time, I thought you'd like a heads-up so you can partake in the deal.