Archive for: starbucks
Starbucks is a coffee shop, so it was a surprise to me to learn that some of their locations are now serving wine in a program called Starbucks Evenings. As part of the program, these stores serve a variety of wines and small plates dishes after 4pm. The idea is that many customers already come to Starbucks to relax and unwind with coffee, but that some people might like to have the option of getting a glass of wine and a snack (the full coffee menu is still available) instead of heading to a bar or a full restaurant in the evening. At the moment, there are only a handful of stores located in Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Portland and in Dulles Airport in Washington DC. There are also two stores in the LA area and one of them happens to be just a short drive away from me, so I decided to head over and check out the concept to see what it was like.
At first, it looked like a normal Starbucks – until I noticed all the wine rack up where whole bean coffee bags are usually stored. The ordering process is just the same as with coffee drinks, where you order from the barista at the register and wait for someone to call your name to pick up your drink. The food takes a little more prep than the standard pastry case choices, so someone will bring any food you order over to your table when it is ready.
I am a huge lover of coffee, so it should be no surprise that I am also a huge fan of coffee ice creams. Coffee ice creams can deliver the flavor of a good cup of coffee in a cold, refreshing package that is perfect for hot summer afternoons, and the are the perfect base for delicious affogatos. I’ve had both dark espresso flavored ice creams and very mildly flavored coffee ice creams. This Cafe Latte Ice Cream falls right in the middle and will satisfy a craving both for coffee and for a frozen treat.
The ice cream has a good coffee flavor and a very creamy base that balances it, and you taste both elements clearly in every bite. It gives you the same flavor effect that you get from a cafe latte – hence the name of the ice cream. Of course, a plain latte isn’t going to be sweetened and this ice cream has some sugar added to ensure that it keeps a creamy texture and still tastes like dessert. Whole milk and heavy cream give this ice cream a rich, but easy to make, base. You can use a lower fat milk in place of the whole milk and still get good results, but just keep in mind that the ice cream may be a touch less creamy if you do.
I used Starbucks Via when preparing this recipe, as it is easy to use and really concentrates a good coffee flavor. Instant espresso powder will also work well and is easy to incorporate. If you don’t have either of these ingredients, you can infuse the cream with 1/4 cup of ground coffee or espresso beans by combining the cream and coffee, bringing it to a boil and letting it sit with the beans for 4-5 minutes. Strain out the coffee beans and continue with the recipe. It adds an extra step to the recipe, but definitely gives it a good flavor.
Fans of Starbucks’ ultra-convenient instant coffee, Starbucks Via, are definitely going to take note of the brand new flavored versions of Via that Starbucks has just released. These instant coffees are flavored with natural flavorings and sweetened with a little bit of sugar. This makes them more of an all-in-one product that regular Via, which comes plain and unsweetened, although it is available in different roasts. They’re available in Vanilla, Caramel, Mocha and Cinnamon Spice and incorporate easily into both hot and cold water, just like regular Via does. The flavors come through very well (especially the Vanilla!) and compliment the coffee. You might have to add your own milk or cream to the coffee when using these, but this works out well for me because I’d rather add my own milk than have powdered milk of some kind already blended into the coffee.
And how to they work for baking? While regular Starbucks Via is great for baking because it has such good flavor and is so easy to incorporate into a recipe, the flavored Vias are not quite as versatile because of that small amount of sugar in the mix. It might be nice to get that extra boost of vanilla flavor in a recipe, but the sugar can throw off the ratios a bit and might end up making your dessert a bit too sweet. That being said, it is not a huge amount of sugar and if you’re not a fan of black coffee, it might be more worthwhile to keep these around for drinking and just keep in mind that, if you are going to use them to bake, you might want to cut back on the sugar in your recipe by a tablespoon or two.
Anyone who has been in a Starbucks lately has seen Starbucks Via. The coffee company has been promoting their new instant coffee like crazy, so it’s pretty hard to miss. If you were lucky, you might have even gotten a free sample or two in a promotional taste test. I say “lucky” because Via is actually excellent for an instant coffee (and quite a bit better than some regular coffees). Starbucks came up with a new process to produce it, so it is not the same as the freeze-dried instant coffee that populates store shelves, nor does it taste anything like that watery, bland stuff. Via comes in two flavors – Colombian and Italian roasts – and tastes fresh and strong. It also dissolves easily in both hot and cold water, thanks to that new production process, so it can be used any time.
While I actually have taken a big like to taking a few packets of Via when I travel, I have found that it is an excellent baking ingredient in the home, too. Adding it into a recipe that calls for coffee flavoring is like adding a whole cup of coffee with just a little bit of powder. It definitely packs in much more flavor than regular instant coffee and incorporates much more seamlessly. This means that there is no need to dissolve it in a bit of hot liquid before adding it to a batter; you can stir it into dry ingredients just as you would with any ground spice, and it will blend perfectly into your finished product. The Colombian is good, but the Italian has a darker and stronger flavor, more like espresso. Via is a little more expensive than a generic instant coffee, but definitely well worth the price for the flavor and the convenience. I think that it is actually easier to use than the instant espresso powder that I usually use, and pretty much ties with Trablit coffee extract for flavor. Definitely worth keeping a box around the pantry if you like to use coffee flavoring in your baked goods or other dishes.
When all kinds of fruits come into season at around the same time, I end up trying to cram all kinds of things into each dish I make. It takes a lot of editing to pick out one or two fruits to include in the final result, but it’s necessary editing as no one really wants fruit salad muffins regardless of how delicious a fruit salad is. After all, you really want to be able to taste the individual fruit flavors in your finished dish.
These muffins got edited down to blueberries and apricots, inspired by some muffins I had a while back at Starbucks that incorporated the same fruits. The blueberries add lots of flavor, as you might expect, and the apricots add both a honey-like floral flavor and a lot of moisture. I used both fresh blueberries and fresh apricots for these muffins. You can use fresh or frozen blueberries for these muffins. Frozen apricots would work, but they’re hard to find unless you’ve frozen them yourself during the peak of their season. Another advantage to the fresh apricots is that you cane make some small slices to garnish the tops of the muffins.
The muffins are just dense enough to hold up all the fruit in the batter, but are still very moist and tender. The bread part of the muffin has a good buttermilk flavor to it, but the real flavor comes from all that fruit. Blueberries and apricots work great together, and even though they both contribute moisture to the cupcakes, neither one is so moist that they make the muffins soggy or wet at all. They’re very low in fat, although there is a fair amount of sugar in them, so they don’t feel too indulgent or too heavy in your stomach.