Customization is a big word in the food world.Â Starbucks “takes it to heart” during this month of hearts, most especially with that god-bless-delicious Chocolate Hazelnut and Banana on Marble Loaf sandwich.
This February, Starbucks is all about (more!) customization, creating your own drinks and giving customers ideas on how to do just that. There are two beverages presently creating a strong buzz around this coffee house: the Honey Orange Latte and the Honey Orange Mocha. I’m initially wary of the concept since orange, in anything, but most especially in coffee, is something I’m inclined to run away from. It takes a more open-minded friend to get me to see that the concept works. The citrus zings through the latte’s espresso and steamed milk, pointed up by the gritty honey orange topping on the whipped cream. The orange-you-glad-you-tried-the-orange-beverage is more agreeable, infinitely more delicious in the Honey Orange Mocha: cocoa punching up citrus, and together riding a ripple of espresso and milk. I’m a “no whip” person, but believe you me when I say that the whipped cream blesses this beverage with delicious dimension. Work off the calories tomorrow.
Citrus-driven edibles dot the menu. Most apparent is the Honey Orange Poppy Seed Loaf, a fairly dense loaf that I enjoy in the morning. A restrained amount of poppy seeds gives crunch along with the irresistible streusel topping.
Another member of the citrus tree, this time lime, shines in the Southern Lime Chicken and Roasted Corn Wrap. Though it’s recommended best when cold, I prefer it at room temperature when the flavors of grilled chicken come through accompanied by accoutrements of lettuce, salsa, cheese, and sour cream. Think of this as a more elegant burrito.
I love the “messes” that I make when eating flaky pastry. Conversely, what I don’t like is how on occasion, the pastry’s filling is paltry. Starbucks does a good job with their savory “flaky-s”, but I’m wishing for more of the spinach and tuna in this Spinach and Tuna Pie.
The Chocolate Hazelnut and Banana on Marble Loaf makes me squeal. Really, this is one of those things that makes me think, “Now why didn’t somebody else offer this sooner?” The penchant for this pairing ”“ hazelnut and chocolate ”“ is common: Selecta’s Hazelnut Brownie ice cream, in jars of Nutella easily found in supermarkets and made into pies , the hazelnut crepe at Café Breton. And now this grilled sweet sandwich. What especially appeals to me is the dual-colored lean bread dough, brown on white, rolling and riding following the hazelnut-chocolate smears punctuated with bananas sliced on the diagonal. It’s sweet, crispy, chocolaty; thank goodness I don’t have to share! Definitely my favorite item in this season’s food portfolio.
I especially like the Chocolate Hazelnut and Banana “sandwich” with a cup of black and brewed Guatemala Casi Cielo, one of Starbucks’ more unique, rare coffees from Latin America. Beans from this region hit all the right notes in terms of balance and body and an even finish. It’s a very sophisticated cup that emphasizes the hazelnut-chocolate pairing.
Think of the creamiest hot chocolate you’ve drank and then imagine it in cheesecake form; from liquid to just-this-side of solid, and then chilled. This is the best way I can describe the Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake. Sitting on a nut-speckled chocolate crust, I’m sure it would preen if only it could see itself in the chocolate mirror that crowns it.
Still more things I take pleasure in at Starbucks as V-Day approaches:
- Make Your Drink Mondays where I’m entitled to a single free espresso or syrup shot for every beverage I order.
- The arrival of more specialty whole bean coffees like the Arabian Mocha Sanani. Sanani is the coffee-growing region around Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. The small, irregularly-shaped beans are highly aromatic and yield a full-bodied cup. Next to the Guatemala Casi Cielo, this is on heavy morning rotation at my house.
- Starbucks’ best tumblers yet. I’m no fan of those towering 16-ounce tumblers ”“ seriously, who drinks that much coffee in one go, anyway? The new 12-ounce tumblers, appropriately called the Mocha (mine is pictured here) and the Latte tumblers, come with the recipe for the mentioned drinks. Plus, check out their new cap that mimics a real Starbucks (paper) cup. Awesome!
- A surprise for all of us on February 13 & 14, 2010. I’ve been sworn to secrecy but I assure you it’ll be a sweet and heart-y surprise!
Food products and beverages featured here are available at all Starbucks stores nationwide until February 22, 2010.