Starbucks’ new sandwich menu 

Being the Starbucks fan that I am, I was pleasantly surprised when recently (ok not so recent anymore but this happened in 2016!) they launched a new lunch menu that saw 5 new sandwiches being introduced. For some time, they had a really boring food menu and whenever I wanted to have something substantial, SB would be the last on my mind. Even when they had sandwiches back then, they didn’t look at all appetising or filling for my voracious appetite, and besides they are pre-packed in the chilled display cases that somehow also do not whet my appetite the least bit. I would much rather go to, say Coffee Bean, where sandwiches are prepared only when ordered (or at least that’s what I remembered, if they still do that). Granted that the ingredients are a premix (e.g. chicken / tuna mayonnaise), at least the sandwich is put together upon order so the final product isn’t sitting on the rack for goodness knows how long.

The last menu they had wasn’t too bad – I liked the Tuscan Chicken sandwich that I had quite a number of times and it was satisfying enough for a meal. Their breakfast items have fared better so far, with the Egg White, Roasted Pepper, Mushroom & Cheddar wrap being one of my favourites, and now to add on, there’s also the Rosemary Chicken with Emmental Cheese croissant and Turkey Ham, Egg White & Cheddar sandwich.

This is their latest lunch sandwich menu:

Starbucks_sandwich_new2016I made it a point to try all of them and so far I’ve actually already tried 4! I’m not sure if I will get to try the last one, which is Beef Meatball Marinara croissant, since beef meatballs… maybe not.

So the first item off the list was Roasted Portobello, Pumpkin & Devilled Egg sandwich. What does devilled mean anyway? I have no idea, and I don’t know if I even tasted any egg because I didn’t really open up the sandwich since I was having brunch then with someone else and I didn’t want to seem like a messy eater playing with my food. I really liked this, and it contains mushrooms and pumpkin which also explains why it’s the first that I wanted to try. Love the bread used for the sandwich, with its sprinkling of black and white sesame and pumpkin seeds on top. Roasted mushrooms and pumpkins inside also makes everything so much better!

The choice of bread used for the sandwich greatly affects whether I order it or not. Maybe it’s also because it’s the biggest part of the item, so sometimes it may be a greater contributor to my choice rather than the filling itself! The second item I tried used a similar bread/bun except that it didn’t have any pumpkin seeds, just black and white sesame that still gave a nice flavour / taste to the bread. This was the Honey Mustard Chicken & Apple Slaw sandwich, which I assume should be chicken marinated in honey mustard dressing served with a salad of apple slaw.
I also liked this a lot, even though it felt a little more sinful than the first, because of the dressing used with the chicken. But it’s more fulfilling in a way also because of the chicken. The addition of shredded carrot and purple cabbage also made it nicer with the added crunchiness but at the same time also caused a greater deal of mess in eating because the shredded veggies tended to just fall out.Third try – Wholesome Tuna & Cheese sandwich. It was the third because it’s tuna mayonnaise, i.e. fattening (mayonnaise alert!) although the bun was a lure. Also pretty satisfying but perhaps they could go a little easier on the cheese. There was too much of it that at one point, I decided to just scrape out some of the cheese. But overall, I also enjoyed it. 🙂
Closer look.  The fourth and last item I’ve tried is the Buttermilk Chicken & Egg Croissant. Croissants are amazing pastries but also because of the amount of butter that’s used (I don’t know what else) that make such a small and fluffy pastry so calorie-dense. Once in a while, it’s nice to indulge though. Which is why this is the last item I tried, after exhausting all the other options based on the bread choice. Haha.

There was another reason – hard-boiled eggs. I don’t mind yolks sometimes, but usually only when they come in liquid / molten form such as sunny-side-ups or poached eggs. Hard-boiled eggs are not my kind of thing even if I need that protein for recovery. So while I ate this, I had to deconstruct it (not unusual for me with sandwiches though) and dig out the yolks. :p
Chicken used had a pretty good flavour. It’s supposed to be buttermilk? But I don’t know how that is meant to taste like, or perhaps the flavour is tangy red pesto as described in Starbucks’ website. It has a peppery taste that together with the croissant gave the overall sandwich a rather strong taste and perhaps that is also how it fills you up since croissant in itself doesn’t really make one feel full (at least not for me) or it doesn’t keep you full for too long.  A close-up of the insides, with the generous filling spilling out! This is also what makes the new sandwiches more appealing and value-for-money! Previously, at the kind of prices they charge their sandwiches for, I would be better off paying the same (or sometimes less) for sandwiches from other shops that make them fresh with fresher and more generous ingredients! Now they are at least a more worthy competitor for some other places, though of course we can’t compare SB with shops that specialise in sandwiches!

On the whole, still a great effort and I don’t mind having some of these sandwiches again! With a promotion set meal price of $9.90 during 11.30 am to 3 pm for a sandwich and a hot/iced coffee or tea, it’s quite a good deal (for SB anyway) since the sandwiches already cost about $8.90 on their own.

Saint Marc Café, Japan

Back then when I first tried this in Tokyo many years ago, probably during my maiden visit in 2006, I knew this as “choco-cro”, which is what is printed on the sleeve that holds the croissant, as pictured below. I guess the original version of this yummy crispy snack is the chocolate croissant, which explains its name. But it actually is a product of St. Marc cafe, which I only knew of when it opened in Singapore a few years ago. Talk about being ignorant! That’s me!  To be very honest, I seldom ever pop into this cafe in Singapore, because somehow I never had any serious craving for it. There are many other nice croissants around, and I am not super big on them anyway. Besides, I have this nagging suspicion that they are overpriced here, like most things that are imported, even if I am paying for overpriced coffee in many other cafes around… but well, you get the drift. I remembered meeting a friend there once for coffee and was feeling hungry so I had wanted to order a sandwich. But then, what they offered as sandwiches were sad-looking square slices of bread, kind of like those commercially-manufactured loaves sold in supermarkets, with equally miserable-looking slices of ham and lettuce of sorts wedged in between. That wasn’t the reason why I decided against ordering those sandwiches, but instead the price tag that read … if I remember correctly, S$7.80, or something in that vicinity. Imagine my shock. So I ordered the croissant eventually.

But these photos are from my trip to Sapporo a couple of months back. We actually went to St. Marc cafe for breakfast twice, since there was a fairly large outlet near our hotel and it wasn’t really crowded on both occasions when we went.

On the first visit, I ordered the chocolate croissant and it still tastes good. I think the ones in Singapore aren’t too bad either, just that somehow it feels nicer having it in Japan. For some reason. Haha. Double standards, I know.
On our second visit, I decided to try something else, which was a ham and egg mayonnaise sandwich, which I really love because the bun used is somewhat like a cross between a brioche and croissant. Or basically croissants are generally buttery anyway so that explains why I feel as though it’s like a brioche.Yummy bliss.
My friend tried the french toast, which looks a little limp, but I think it still tasted ok overall. Most of their pastries are already prepared and displayed on an open shelf that you could just pick up and pay, and they won’t be re-heated again so I guess that explains the general “limp-ness” of how they look, as compared to freshly-baked/prepared items that tend to look more fluffed up. I cannot recall what the other item contained within, but it’s a different version of the croissant, i.e. different filling contained within. So far, I have tried the matcha-flavoured croissant and a strawberry daifuku version before, in addition to the original chocolate. They are all pretty nice, because the filling is typically not so sweet and complements the savoury buttery croissant well, which of course also goes perfectly with a cup of piping hot coffee, especially on cool chilly days.Ah.. how I miss Japan!

Chai times, Singapore

 

Another cafe that I spotted before was Chai Times, which occupies a small space at Chevron House. I can’t remember if it used to be where Prints used to be (if it’s still there, I cannot recall) but it’s along the stretch where Costa Coffee now is, opposite Raffles Medical/Dental and Starbucks. I haven’t gone to that one, but to another of their branches, which was also fairly quiet during lunch on a weekday. These are the places that I wouldn’t mind going to, provided of course that they serve food, decent food that meets my low standards for food. Unfortunately, due to the very fact that they aren’t crowded, they typically aren’t sustainable and every so often, they just disappear before I can even make my next visit.

As its name suggests, this place doesn’t serve coffee, at all. For someone whose preference lies with coffee, it would seem weird that I would even go there, but it was lunch and I had my morning coffee, and I was trying to keep to a coffee per day. So far, I’m doing pretty good. There are some days where I will take more than one, but for perhaps more than 90% of the time, I have stuck to that.

This is also where they are probably quite serious about their chai latte, from its name as well. They serve a wide variety of chai lattes, and from what I could taste, the chai taste was pretty intense in the one I ordered, not spicy but distinctive. It isn’t like in some coffee places where their chai latte adopts a more milky type of flavour that overpowers the chai entirely, this is different. It was as if the milk wasn’t even there, or it was so thin/light that you don’t detect the hints of dairy. 20140619-082606-30366871.jpg

They serve food too, like I mentioned. But I don’t know if it was due to it being a Friday, there wasn’t that many options available. At least on the display case there was a fair bit of empty space where I think cakes used to sit. So it gave us little choice, but also made the decision-process a little easier.

Tandoori chicken croissant and vegetable wrap.

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I had the wrap, and I liked that it didn’t feel dry even till the last bit of it that I ate. The wrap was really thin and the ingredients were also fresh and tasty. I know most of these wraps are probably pre-packe/prepared and then heated up upon order, but the greens inside didn’t have that dark and oxidised look like with most of the over-the-counter wraps, so it wasn’t long before I devoured the enitre thing. Even one of my favourite wraps, the Starbucks Egg White Wrap, can’t compare with the freshness I felt for this. With the Starbucks version, the wrap skin generally becomes hard soon after I start eating and it can be a little too thick, especially at the edges so by the time I get there, I will just discard it because then it feels more like eating a biscuit or something.

Cheers to trying out new places, hope I will continue to keep this up!

diary of a (junk) food junkie

I realise that these days, I don’t have much of main meals with the exception of lunch where it is more of a social affair with colleagues rather than the want to eat a proper meal. It isn’t that I am not eating, believe me I still do eat a fair bit, but the choices of food that I pick probably does not qualify as a proper/main meal to most. In terms of the amount of calories, I think they are equal or even more than your typical meal, although in terms of portion size and person-dependent level of satiation, it could differ rather significantly.

I have sort of come to this conclusion that I can live without eating rice or noodles for a relatively long time, but I am a carbo person, or rather I think it is something that at this point, I am unwilling to give up. It is not impossible to alter eating habits and the types of food consumed, but sometimes I would think why I should be so hard on myself. It isn’t like I have some chronic health issues that require me to change the things I put into my system (or at least not that I am aware of), and at my age now, seriously, why? Besides I would like to think that I work so hard in the exercise area to compensate for all the extra carbohydrates that I am loading my system with, so maybe sometimes it is ok to let go a little and enjoy? Then again, there are those days when I think that after working so hard, why should I negate all the efforts that I have expended just for everything to go back to square one?

Anyway it is Friday today, and these few days I have not been feeling too great. For some reason my mood had taken a large downward swing and even though I should supposedly be beaming from ear to ear in TGIF mood, I still have not been able to pick myself up. Like my friend mentioned in her blog recently, sometimes scrolling through pictures that are stored in the phone helps to lift the spirits a little. And as my Bikram yoga instructor said one evening in class, that while we are in the dead corpse pose it is our choice to breathe away all the things that surface during that moment, be it nausea, dizziness or maybe some old memories. Things that are bad, it is our choice to not let them get to us, and surround ourselves only with the good things. Life is hard enough as it is without us beating ourselves up, but things are always easier said than done.

I would want to be positive all day long, whole year round too. And I would want to follow my heart, but yet I am afraid. Singapore has become a place where I don’t think I can survive on my own two feet if I were to give up my office job now to work in Starbucks or maybe take on a position in the retail industry. I can’t just drop everything on a whim and jet off to Japan to pursue my study of Japanese, because I have to think ahead to the future and my ability or not to buy myself a roof over the head. I don’t have that luxury of having a co-owner to share the cost of a property with, or in that respect, the cost of anything. Every dollar that I spend is something I have to work for, whether I like what I do or not. It’s like, because of the need to survive, I have to suck it up. That is how the situation is now in my own home country, where I am part of that unfortunate sandwich class that is not rich enough to live comfortably without too many worries about financial health in future, and yet not poor enough to warrant any assistance from the government. Each month I pay taxes in respect of the income I have earned in the past year, only to see this money being used to fund someone else, who in some or maybe most cases, have the choice to not receive help but due to certain circumstances or country policies they have benefited from the taxes that the rest have paid. It puts me in a dilemma whether I should stop working, or take a lower-paying job so that I pay less taxes or at all, so that maybe I can qualify for some of those benefits, yet then where am I going to live?

Sigh. Enough of this dreariness. It is Friday after all, and so to make myself happier, I shall end off this post with some past pictures of my guilty indulgences where food is concerned. It is appalling to know of the bad of eating all these, so yes I will balance these out by not having any of those sinful hawker fare that I used to have. 

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iBake, Star Vista

The last time I was at the Star Vista that is located just a stone’s throw away from Buona Vista MRT station, iBake was still a work-in-progress. I was happy to find that it had opened, when I was there again yesterday.

I can’t reiterate how much I love bread, and it’s one of those things that despite me going on like a broken record about needing and wanting to diet and whatever, I can’t bear to give up bread in my life. It is a large contributor of carbs that I take, and the aroma of bread is simply divine to me, so for the moment I cannot imagine having to live without it.

There are lots of eateries at Star Vista, which makes it a nice place to arrange for meet-ups with friends, and especially now that the Circle Line is in operation, it is not that difficult for me to get to this part of Singapore as compared to before! But there are a number of these eateries with an al fresco concept, which only works ok for me when the weather is cool like recently. I never really understood al fresco dining in Singapore, which is almost constantly going through a period of dense humidity that makes people like me perspire easily. But I suppose if you are not so prone to perspiring, it can be pretty enjoyable at times.

Back to iBake. Chosen poison for the day, americano.

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And we got a basket of petite pastries to share. When this was served, we were rather amused by the two tiny croissants (on the right of the picture), which you could easily pop into your mouth and finish it in one bite. It contains fillings, which I couldn’t really remember because the amount of filling in them was too little to leave a lasting impression but it belonged to the savoury variety. 20121224-104109.jpg

The other two croissants were plain but nicely-buttered and soft. Same goes for the chocolate croissants, or what are they called actually? These petites were fluffy and light, even if they feel a little oily, because when I used my hands to hold them, after that my fingers felt rather greasy, but taste-wise they were ok. Maybe because they were small so the greasy factor wasn’t too overwhelming. It was a nice little basket for sharing since each item comes in two portions. There is a separate basket that contains 6 different items but it would make sharing difficult unless you don’t mind having different things each, or cutting each piece into two to share.

Besides these pastries, the menu also includes salads and gourmet sandwiches. From what I saw on the tables of other patrons, the sandwiches look huge, and the breads were cut rather thick. But I kind of agreed with my friend’s opinion that despite the portions being huge, what was sandwiched between the thick slices of bread did not seem that much, as compared to say, what we would get at Cedele. Maybe it was just a matter of perspective, because with bigger and thicker slices of bread, of course even the same amount of filling would appear much lesser.

Delifrance

I wanted to have a different breakfast this morning, to have a heavier breakfast, despite me already eating a lot last  night. Instead of walking the usual way to Yakun to get my daily teh c, I turned the other direction and went to Delifrance.

There were just a couple of other customers ahead of me, and it didn’t take me long to get to the front of the queue, but from that point, I waited 15 minutes before I was able to leave. The cashier got me the croissant I wanted in a paper carrier, without asking if I would like it to be warmed up. I didn’t ask for it to be toasted since it’s morning, and I thought it shouldn’t be too bad; plus I really don’t mind pastries that are not warm because that’s how they have it in other parts of the world anyhow. Being asked if we want to have our croissants/muffins warmed up is such an Asian luxury.

The message was passed to another staff for a takeaway cappuccino, but I don’t know if she didn’t hear it, or it just did not register. She was standing just next to the cashier when he told her so it couldn’t be that she didn’t hear. She went on to serve other customers, and I saw her preparing drinks for customers that came after me so I asked the cashier if my coffee was ready. He turned to the barista who then asked if I wanted milk in my coffee… hmm. I thought I ordered a cappuccino?

In the end, I got what I ordered. Honestly, I was a little annoyed at having to wait so long when it was obviously not that busy. I mean, the queue formed because they were so slow in filling the orders, until the manager returned and suddenly the pace picked up a bit. You can’t just rely on one person alone to get the game going, and especially where peak hours are concerned, speed and precision are key to making a food joint work. Perhaps the coffee or tea that I buy from Yakun aren’t of the best quality, neither is Starbucks or whatsoever, but at least they make up for it in terms of speed, so the turnover is high.

Anyhow, Delifrance has been in Singapore for a long time, even if their presence seems to be dwindling, which I won’t be surprised if the service remains at such a level. It’s not bad customer service, just slow, and I appreciate the apology from the barista, so I bothered to say thank you to her when I left. Anyhow, the croissant already got a little soggy by the time I got to the office. But it still tasted alright, and the coffee was decent too.

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I won’t write them off totally but I’ll reconsider if I am rushing for time. I guess they are for days when I have more time to spare waiting for my order to be ready.