March 10, 2011

Good luck holding on to your Shamrock Shake

With St. Patrick's Day right around the corner, I was eager to down a bright green Shamrock Shake from McDonald's. Nothing says March 17 in America like the amalgamation of milkshake, mint, emerald food dye, shameless capitalism and fast food, after all.

Imagine my shock when my shake arrived not nestled in the comfort of its familiar paper cup of yesteryear, but held rigidly in a clear plastic McCafe container. Apparently you can now order this St. Patty's Day classic topped with whipped cream and a cherry -- a puzzling option available across the Mickey D's shake lineup.

My distrust for the McCafe series is well-documented on this blog. The idea just doesn't seem to fit the M.O. of the house that Ronald built: Classing up McDonald's with fancy-looking cups and special cafe areas seems as off-balance as the hot chocolate they hawk. I go to McDonald's for my $1 burgers, not for my taste of West-coast coffee shop.

If juxtaposing a cafe into McDonald's introduces discord into the restaurant world, McCafe milkshakes are downright oxymoronic. These shakes aren't made with coffee and they have as much in common with a cafe as your local Baskin Robbins. McIceCreamShoppe would have been better branding.

All that notwithstanding, the new cup has some serious functional drawbacks, namely its plastic construction. When the old paper cups got cold, they maintained a homey comfort. They were an organic product, and the gentle bend of their soggy paper felt good in your hand. These new plastic mugs, by contrast, become clammy and slippery after a few minutes of holding the shake. Grasping them isn't easy, and it certainly isn't comfortable. They're synthetic -- manufactured -- like the whole McCafe experience.

Fortunately the good stuff inside the cup is unchanged. Provided, that is, you use proper judgment and forgo the whipped topping and cherry. I, for one, kept the jade purity of my shake intact by refusing the crimson imperialism of the fruit.

My advice is to ignore the newfangled packaging around your Shamrock Shake this St. Patrick's Day and enjoy the minty goodness inside. The packaging change nets a mortifying zero sporks out of five. And if the Irish have any luck, this plastic cup won't be coming back next year.

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