The Philippines’ first coffee drive-thru and some Christmas treats you must know about.
There’s a Starbucks store at the Fort that seems to have sprouted from out of nowhere. Situated off to the side of MC Home Depot, it poses quandaries for those like me who are “directionally challenged,” (i.e. no sense of direction). Coming from the Buendia flyover, it’s possible to make a cautious left turn (there’s no left turn sign on the stoplight), although I feel it’s easier to come from Serendra and make a right at the Starbucks billboard exhorting me to “turn right here and make a left on Lane R.” (!)
Thankfully, my destination is more straightforward than the journey. There’s ample parking which is always a plus and prominent signs mark the path and process of procuring a cup of coffee without leaving the car.
This is the first coffee drive-thru for Starbucks in the Philippines. While the concept is already commonplace in other countries, it’s quite the novelty here. While I can recite the Starbucks coffee menu standing and while asleep, I find that’s not the case when seated and faced with a speaker and a strategically-placed videocam. I’m thrown off when I hear a supremely cheerful voice asking me for my coffee order. Half-tempted to order fries and a burger, I opt for a black brew of the day, the Guatemalan Antigua. My friend, Celine, Starbucks’ R&D Specialist, is more specific with her order: a tall iced Americano with one Splenda.
It seems pointless to go through the drive-thru and then not drive off but I want to see the store. Opened just this week, it’s an exemplar of eco-awareness. Several of the wooden planks, beams and accents are either reclaimed or sourced and crafted locally; double-paned windows reduce energy consumption by providing better insulation; lighting is powered by LED bulbs; and even the table we sit at is made from salvaged driftwood. This is a large and intelligent two-floor store, a place where they “walk the (eco) talk.”
Back at the table and coffee in hand, Celine rolls out a few – okay, six – of Starbucks’ roster of holiday treats. The Margherita Pie is an ode to the eponymous pizza, puff pastry in place of pizza dough. It shatters in mouth, setting off a flavor cascade of basil, tomato, and mozzarella. This must be heated for optimal enjoyment. I want to finish the entire pastry since I haven’t had breakfast but there’s too much more to come.
From one crumbly pastry to another, the Pecan-Butterscotch Roll is the simple cinnamon roll elevated to star status. There’s a coil of pastry cream ensconced in the pillowy middle, hidden until I take a forkful before it oozes out lazily. Butterscotch has seeped into the roll’s whirls and whorls, the four fanciful pecan halves reminds me of a four leaf clover; perhaps this pastry is my good luck reward.
And what is Christmas without a cookie? The White Chocolate Cranberry Cookie echoes the season’s blush, its chewy-crunchy texture exemplifies its bigness and boldness. Celine has me try the sweet both cold and warmed – I prefer the latter, but the cold reminds me of biscotti, ideal for dunking into my hot drink.
Last year, I encouraged Celine – no, “goaded” is more like it – to come up with a cookie dough cheesecake. “Who doesn’t like cookie dough?” I remember saying. My friend could only give me an enigmatic smile. Well, this Christmas, my wish came true. Starbucks’ Cookie Dough Cheesecake mirrors one of my favorite flavors in three ways: a cookie dough crust, a cookie dough middle, and mini cookie dough rounds as garnish. A rather robust chocolate cuts through lush lashes of cream cheese and white sugar making for a most memorable cheesecake. Frankly, I could eat this all throughout Christmas.
Utilizing familiar chocolate bar flavors is quite the trend in the dessert world and Celine has done just that in the Almond Roca Cheesecake. It’s the same cheesecake as above but this time, it’s adopted a gutsier, grown-up swagger. Waves of caramel are folded into the cheesecake batter to make an amber-colored base, a contrast to the plain cheesecake that sits atop it. Almonds are a recurring theme here, studding the graham cracker crust and shooting through the twin-colored batters like stars on a white night. A ganache is painted on the cheesecake’s surface and that too is pressed with smashed almonds, the pièce de résistance being that of a chocolate rosette, its jaunty top sprayed with edible gold dust. Quite the looker this one, and big on taste too.
I’m pleading inwardly for mercy and perishing the thought of no more stomach space for Thanksgiving dinner but Celine has saved the best for last. It’s her rendition of a Hot Fudge Cake. “Some people think it’s ugly because it’s all melted and gooey,” Celine tells me, her voice somewhat apprehensive. I wave my hand dismissively, taking in the sight of this dark beauty. Its complexion is dark and textured, qualities conferred on it by cocoa powder, rendering a simple, flavorful chocolate cake, feather-soft and comforting. Like the jewel on a crown, there lies a layer of chocolate fudge studded with marshmallows and nuts, a rocky road to dessert dreams. Of course the lot is made even sweeter by a puddle of hot fudge sauce, sticky sweet and the stuff of dreams. I bite and it’s hot-cold-hot, bliss enfolding me in its Christmas embrace.
Note: The food and sweets featured here are available in all Starbucks stores nationwide. Ask for them if they’re not displayed in the pastry cases.
Starbucks Drive-Thru store
32nd & 7th Streets (on the side of MC Home Depot and S&R)
Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.