Starbucks' La Boulange Pastries: The Most Disgusting Breakfast On Earth

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Dave Lieberman
Starbucks has always had crappy pastries. Their scones have always been dry; their doughnuts have always been leaden; their much-vaunted hot breakfast sandwiches taste like salty cat tongue and rubberine egg inside a miniature bedroom pillow three weeks overdue for a wash. The pastry case has always been the breakfast of last resort for bleary-eyed business travelers on autopilot, purchased in airports only because it's better than the spooge served on board the aircraft.

They've outdone themselves this time, though, with the co-option of the La Boulange name, a small chain of decent-but-nothing-special bakery-cafés in San Francisco. Starbucks bought them out for $100 million a year and a half ago, in the hopes of revitalizing their quick-service food options.

It didn't work.

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Caffeine and Coiffure at Platinum Brew in El Modena

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Dave Lieberman
"ESPRESSO!" screamed the ubiquitous tall flag on a curved pole as I headed east on Chapman, intending to stop for a cup of liquid charcoal at the Fourbucks in El Modena after dropping my daughter off at school.

Quick left . . . okay, where's the espresso? It's not nice to hide espresso from the desperate and undercaffeinated, especially not when it advertises coffee by Kean.

Another sign as my truck bumps over the driveway lip: "LOCATED INSIDE SALON."

That's right; not content with having once sprouted delicious Korean dumplings in liquor stores, fantastic burgers in gas stations, and unbelievable backyard barbacoa, Orange County has sprouted a great coffee shop in a nail salon.

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French Coffee Costs $9.60 If You're An Asshole, $2 If You're Nice

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Flickr User Yen Huang Yong
I wonder how this'd go down here..

At a café in Southern France, your coffee's going to cost a lot more if you're an asshole. The menu at Petite Syrah in Nice lists "un café" for seven euros ($9.60) but a "Bonjour, un café, s'il vous plait" at only 1.40 euros ($2.00).

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Third-Wave Coffee Is Killing Itself

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I love great coffee; there's something about the first aerated slurp of a truly great cup that suffuses my body with relief beyond the assuaging of my insistent caffeine addiction. I seek out the great when I can, but I am sufficiently dependent upon coffee that, should I need to, I will drink the chemical-laden sludge that oozes forth from the three-in-one spigot at the gas station.

There's one place I won't go anymore, though, and that is the so-called third-wave coffee shops, the new generation of coffee bars with patent machines and a heavy concentration on knowing exactly which patch of steep, shady, equatorial land the coffee beans came from.

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Portola Coffee Lab Announces New Bottled Iced Coffee

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Portola Coffee Lab
Legions of Portola Coffee Lab fans will no longer need to wait in line each morning for a cold brew. They can simply open their refrigerators.

OC's temple of caffeine has announced it will offer bottled iced coffee, a move that will expand the Portola empire. Co-founder/owner Jeff Duggan talks to us about the bold new project.

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Web Extra: Highlights And More Photos From Our Cover Story On Portola Coffee Lab

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This week's cover story features Jeff and Christa Duggan, the husband-wife team that brought third wave coffee to Orange County in the form of the mad science spectacle known as Portola Coffee Lab. Read the story here and pick up a copy on newsstands now.

Here are a few interesting things we learned about the Costa Mesa-based coffeehouse:

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Seventh Tea Bar Debuts Steampunk Brewing Tomorrow With Twitter Giveaway

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Anne Marie Panoringan

While folks are hardcore about their lattes, we mildly obsess over Seventh Tea Bar's newest contraption: Alpha Dominche's Steampunk 4.0. It's got brains and beauty, like many of our Weekly counterparts.

Admittedly, some of the terminology is over our heads. Owner/Mad ScientistJeff Duggan got all Alton Brown with us as he discussed negative pressure, ultra-consistent profiled agitation and temperature stability. What we took away was the idea that up to four teas could be brewed simultaneously, all under different controlled temperatures. The process began with pre-heating our water, and ended with aforementioned negative pressure flushing our scalding liquid through a piston, straining the flavors of a first (and second, or even third) extraction.
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Diatribe With Dave: Talking with the Java Viking, Shawn Anderson of Old Town Roasting

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Anderson: Nice beard!
Every second and fourth Wednesday night of the month, legendary bartender/chef/restaurant insider Dave Mau hosts Dinner with Dave at Memphis at the Santora, where he treats drinkers to a free meal and live music as the evening progresses. To remind ustedes of this great night, Dave treats us every Wednesday morning that he's on to a random OC food or drink musing of his choice. Enjoy!!

I'll freely admit I don't know a goddamn thing about coffee. I'm not totally oblivious: I can tell the difference between that over-roasted Starbuck's crap and the watered-down Farmer Brothers stuff from the corner gas station that tastes like someone stirred a twig in a cup of hot water and handed it off to me. I've also experienced what is called "campfire coffee" on the trail with the High Sierra Pack Station crew which entails adding more grounds to an institutional-sized pot each day as the trip progresses and by day five or six is literally as thick as mud and potent enough to jump-start a bulldozer. Aside from that, however, I'm fairly oblivious to its finer aspects (and surprisingly at ease with my lack of knowledge). In fact I'm the kind of guy that makes a half pot of coffee and leaves it sit for a few days, nuking one cup at a time, much to the chagrin of my more erudite friends. Blasphemy indeed.

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Azul Café, Valle de Guadalupe: Southern Mexico's Coffee Without Leaving Baja

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Dave Lieberman
In the center of the wine and olive oil laboratory known as La Escuelita (but officially as la Estación de Oficios de El Porvenir) stands a wooden building with mattress springs for walls. Inside is a brown clutter of detritus: a Christmas tree made of upturned wine bottles stands anachronistically next to a wine barrel; colored bottles seem to be everywhere, except where a small passthrough allows the barista to pass through the fruits of his labor.

This is Azul Café, the home of the best coffee in the Valle de Guadalupe, and where Southern Californians can go to taste the impending Mexican coffee revolution. 

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Free Anniversary Blend At Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Wednesday

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Photo courtesy CBTL

We used to be addicted to their Malibu Dream Ice Blendeds. But lately, free is our beverage of choice. Wednesday is not only National Crossiant Day, but Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (CBTL for those texting) will toast their 50 year anniversary with one hot deal: FREE coffee or tea!

In addition to the special, their Director of Tea (We want that job!), David Decandia, will conduct a live chat on their Facebook page at 11 a.m., PST. What scorching questions will folks ask him? We want to know how they plan to counter Starbucks' plans to open a chain of tea shops. If you're more focused on the prize, we've got the all-important disclaimer coming up.
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