Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Plotting & Scheming at Starbucks

Some texts, a Vivanno and my recipe book while thinking about punching that guy in the dick.

The big news in the coffee business lately isn't about dick punching (though that takes the cake for the most stupidity expressed in a customer service issue that I've ever seen), it's about Starbucks' recent announcement that they would be closing six hundred stores and laying off one thousand employees. Gosh, sucks to be them.

In the coffee business, I'm known for not really giving a crap about what Starbucks does, so while my buddies in coffee prance to their local Starbucks every few weeks or so, to "see what Big Green is doing," I'm busy at home snuggling with a bunny or plotting my next adventure (or at least my next meal).

So it's ironic that I found myself at the local Starbucks today for a little hiding out and menu planning.

The truth of the matter is that, next to Border's Bookstore, Starbucks provides one of the best venues to hide out. Comfortable seats, tables, air conditioning, tasteful decor - it's much more comfortable and conducive to plotting your diabolical plan to take over the world than say, McDonald's or the local indie coffeeshop.

Oh, and I hear the coffee cognoscenti massing in the courtyard for my lynching...

But that's the truth. 99% of indie coffeeshops suck at providing a relaxed, tasteful environment for hiding and plotting. Sure, they've got "ambience" - if you want to believe that remnant furniture and weird decor is ambient. But in this heat, we need proper air conditioning and a quiet place to plot, without some sort of college-level chalang-a-lang music banging in your ears. And for that, Starbucks tends to deliver in spades.

Even my beloved Spro Coffee is a poor stand-in for diabolical planning. Heck, I could own the most conducive place on the planet for planning and scheming and I still wouldn't be able to plot and scheme. The sad fact of the matter is that it's absolutely impossible for me to hang out in my own shop. First off, God knows my customers don't want to see the owner hanging out and fucking off in the corner at a table. If they see me, they need to see me working, not sitting there with a notebook.

Secondly, it's my shop, which means that I can never get anything done if I'm there. Once inside, there's always phone calls to field, customers with questions, staff crises, inventory problems - there's always something that demands my attention, and it ain't World Domination. It's more like: "Do you think we need to order more Lapsang Souchong tea?"

So, off to Starbucks it is. The other option was the local hookah lounge where they welcome (and encourage) cigar smoking. But while I love me a good cigar, I just wasn't up for one this afternoon and I didn't want my clothes to rank of smoke later. I decided to save the cigar until my forces have conquered the next distant land.

My problem at Starbucks (or any coffeeshop, for that matter) is what to order? God knows the espresso is terrible and I'm scared to death of the frappuccino, so iced tea it is. It's a perfunctory cup of iced tea and I had it with "one pump" of syrup (evidently the 16z normally gets four). Not the best tea, but certainly enjoyable.

I spent the next hour or two pouring through some cookbooks for ideas and shopping lists and then ran out of iced tea. Damn. Now what?

I'm not one who likes to camp out without supporting the establishment, so I went for round two. After a blinding blitz by the baristas to try their new Vivanno, I defensively ordered one because I didn't know what else to get. The Vivanno is their new blended drink with mango, orange and banana. It's not very good. Actually, it could have been great - had they used fresh fruit instead of their mix from Naked Juice. It left a filmy residue on my palate and just sucked. Cut the protein & fiber powder and 2% milk and go all natural - it's much better tasting that way.

In the end, I had a decent iced tea, a lame smoothie and a not so exciting Top Pot Doughnut, but at least I finished next weeks' menu.

And what's this menu for you say? In August, The Spro celebrates it's Second Anniversary and since I'll be behind the bar all next week, I decided to offer a special menu to celebrate. Our actual anniversary is on August 18th, but I'll be in Hawaii that week, so we'll do our celebrating this coming week.

Here's the proposed menu. It may change depending what I find at the farmer's markets this weekend. I'll spend the rest of the evening writing the actual recipes.


Monday, August 4th
- Strawberry Mint Terrine
Locally grown strawberries and home grown mint in a citrus terrine.
- Grilled & Chilled Eggplant
Charcoal grilled eggplant with sesame dressing. served cold.

Tuesday, August 5th
- Spanish Gazpacho
Traditional tomato based Spanish-style cold soup.
- Grilled Steak & Tabbouleh Salad
Sliced ribeye over tabbouleh, served cold.

Wednesday, August 6th
- Oranges Like Fred
Sliced oranges with olive oil and sea salt
- Salad of Grilled Asparagus and Spinach
with Roquefort cheese.
- Thai Red Curry
with lobster?

Thursday, August 7th
- Tangerine, Frisee & Sweet Potato Salad
- Chilled Southern Fried Chicken
with cornbread and coleslaw

Friday, August 8th
- Melon with Tequila & Lime
Honeydew melon, Patron tequila and lime.
- Tacos Campechanes
Mexico City style tacos filled with chorizo and shredded beef, topped with cilantro and onions on a corn tortilla.