Between McDonalds and Starbucks Coffee

Just in case you don’t already know, the coffee war down south had just spilled over the border to Canada.

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A few months ago, McDonalds setting its sights on Starbucks fired the opening salvo by putting up billboards that proclaimed “four bucks is dumb”. Dozens of these billboards were erected in the Washington state and from what I read, there is even one erected right in front of the Starbucks HQ in Seattle. It was direct confrontation of the specialty coffee market in the US.

Last week, the coffee war came to Canada when McDonalds announced that you could get a free coffee during breakfast time in all outlets for a duration of two weeks. Starbucks reacted with a feeble attempt by giving free coffee for just a few hours.

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Suanne and I do not normally buy coffee. We make coffee at home and there is also a Starbucks coffee dispenser at work. Two cups in the morning is just about the max we consume everyday.

Last Sunday, we decided to go check out what the fuss was. We woke up early, very early and drove to the Starbucks at Ironwood and bought a cup of Starbucks regular coffee.

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We then brought it across the parking lot to the McDonalds outlets to get the free coffee. OK, Suanne was afraid of being caught taking a Starbucks coffee into McDonalds, getting a free cuppa and then take pictures. It was quite obvious what we were doing to the people around us. LOL!

Bear with me OK? I am no coffee expert but this is just my way of comparing McDonalds coffee with Starbucks. First off, we are comparing apple-to-apple. Both cups are small coffee (McDonalds Canada does not have espresso yet, I think).

Size wise, Starbucks wins with its taller cup, slightly wider cup.

The Starbucks cup costs $1.65 while McDonalds is 22% cheaper at $1.29. McDonalds wins.

The cup in McDonalds I heard was a new design which does not require a sleeve … Starbucks does. While the sleeve was made of recycled materials, still it is another piece of garbage that needed to be handled by the system. McDonalds wins here.

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Starbucks lid is of simpler design. I like the McDonalds one which has a pullback tab which helps keep the coffee hot a tad longer. McDonalds wins.

You probably read about how big a problem these coffee cups are to the environment. They had largely managed to figure out making the cups environment friendly but the biggest problem is with the plastic lids. They still have no solution to making a viable cheap alternative to the plastic lids.

Oh, there are now proposals to start taxing plastic bottle (I know I am digressing here) in Vancouver. I think it’s a great idea but I know the Vancouver City Hall is up against powerful industry lobby groups.

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And now to the coffee. Starbucks serve the coffee with just the right temperature. I can just drink it the moment I get it. For McDonalds’, it was scalding hot when we got it that we had to carefully sip it in the beginning. Starbucks wins.

Starbucks will hand you a cup and lets you add in your own sugar and cream — and you get to chose what creamer you want. In McDonalds, they ask you if you want sugar and cream and adds it for you. You, of course , could add in more if you want but what if you wanted less. OK, Starbucks wins.

Taste wise … heck, I don’t know! Suanne says they taste the same … no difference. I felt Starbucks tastes like 2.4% better because I tasted a hint of bitterness in McDonalds’s cup. Starbucks wins.

Smell wise Starbucks has a stronger coffee smell and so I gotta give it to Starbucks. Starbucks wins.

Give me a sec while I tally up the score …

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Qoola on Denman, Vancouver

Updated: 22nd Dec 2014; This restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

ChowtimesNoWord32x32This post is written based on a complementary meal from Qoola.

A week ago, Suanne and I received an invitation to checkout a new frozen yogurt place called Qoola. Since we were going to be in downtown anyway for the Taste BC event on the same night, we decided to pop over. I know it is kind of weird … we were going for yogurt, waffle and crepes immediately after wine and cheese, sushi, burger … all on the same night.

So, Suanne, Angie and I took a short drive to the western end of Denman to where Qoola is. Qoola is actually located at the old location of Cupcakes (1116 Denman).

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We were met up front by Warrick who is the man behind the entire idea of Qoola. Warrick came across to us as a bright, energetic young man with great passion in what he does.

Qoola had been opened for just one month so everything is spanking clean. We love the bright greenish interior. Qoola is green … more greener than what we expected and we soon realized how seriously green they are.

We had a crash course, to say the least … much of which went swosh over my head. Too much data and too technical for me after all the wine from Taste BC.

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Not really a person who knows what is what, we left the choice to Warrick and his partners. The only thing we asked is that they surprise us. First came their Green Tea Yogurt with blueberry and marionberry sauce. It was good and we like it.

I don’t care much for frozen yogurt. The only time I had frozen yogurt of note is Red Mango which we had in Bellevue,WA. I was told that many frozen yogurt places uses powdered yogurt which contains only about 1 million bacteria. However, Qoola uses only fresh yogurt despite its limited shelf life of a couple of weeks only. Fresh yogurt has 400 times more bacteria than powdered yogurt.

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The next surprise is the Original yogurt with apples, cinnamon flakes and caramel sauce. We love this more than the earlier one. I like especially the fresh looking and crunchy apple chunks. (more…)

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Vinegar and Oil Tasting

Karen brought a couple of her vinegar and oil for us to taste as she did not have to prepare much for the community meal the next day. Basically, she’ll made the Chili in Indian Sauce for the community meal entree and salad for the sides. We helped Karen to wash and chop two big boxes of greens to be used for salad the next day. The food bank also donated two large platters of cookies for the community meal and that takes care of the dessert.

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Karen brought a couple of oil and vinegar for us to taste and she also shared a few vinagrette dressing recipes with us. Here are what we tasted:

A sherry vinegar which has quite a strong sour taste. A lemon infused olive oil which has a very nice lemon flavour. A balsamic vinegar which is mellow and smooth, not too sour. The grape seed oil does not have any flavour in it which is very good for cooking because of its neutral taste.

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We also compares the oil with an ordinary olive. We did the tasting with some bread. Bing a typical Chinese who do not serve salad at home, I have very little knowledge of vinegar and oil. When I walk into a gourmet store with racks of vinegar and oil, I’m just lost. Anyway, it is a good experience to taste some of these vinegar and oil which I have never used before. So, what is your favourite vinegar and oil?

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Seattle Trip “Bite of Seattle”

The Bite of Seattle is an annual affair held at the Seattle Center. The 2006 event is the northwest premier food festival and hosts more than 50 restaurants, 30 food product companies and other food and beverage related events. We were there primarily for the food.

When we got there at about 2 pm, there were already a lot of people. Couple with one of the hottest days, it was quite unbearable really. Our main grouse is that the organizers did not have a proper eating area with tables and chairs. So, most people ended up eating on the lawn under trees.

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The below is Alligator Meat. It tastes a lot like chicken to me and do wonder if they really are alligator meat. A skewer costs $5 … it better had to be alligator meat for that kind of money!

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The Louisiana Crab Cake costs $5 and is served over dirty rice and lemon garlic and tomato wine sauce. We’ve never tried this before but frankly, this does not stand up to Chinese style dish of the same sort. I guess we’re not used to having so much sauce drowning the rice.

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The Salmon and Cream Cheese Piroshky is a Russian food very much described as a pocket pastry. It appears deep fried. It is crusty on the outside and has a pillowy pastry just under it.

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DinnerWorks.com – Meal-Assembly Centre

I heard about DinnerWorks.com over the radio last week on the way back home. So after dinner, I checked out DinnerWorks.com and found that they are the first meal assembly center in Vancouver. I have never heard of meal assembly centers before now — this is all new to me and I was very curious to find out more. Today, there are more than 700 of such centers in the United States — this is a new concept to Vancouver.

DinnerWorks is in the meal preparation business. They basically does everything for you except cook. The idea is simple — eliminate the stress and save some of the cost and time of meal preparation. And all it does is somewhat of an assembly line for food prep.

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Suanne signed up through the DinnerWorks.com website. DinnerWorks publish their schedule from which you choose a time you are expected to show up. They also publish the details of the menus — there are 12 delicious sounding menu items to select from.

On the website, you select your time and menu item you wanted. This will allow the folks in DinnerWorks to make sure that they have all the ingredients and food delivered FRESH just in time when you turn up.

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We had no problems finding the place and were very surprised how nice the setup was. For some reason, I thought that “food assembly” means some cold warehouse setting with concrete floors and all. The place was spanking clean — makes Suanne feel like an iron chef preparing a gourmet meal! 🙂 We like it. Why, we were even given a nice DinnerWorks apron to don — what is missing is a chef hat.

We were greeted by Chris Roscoe who jointly owns and operates DinnerWorks with his wife. Being new to meal assemblies, Chris were very patient in showing us everything we need to know.

They emphasize a lot on cleanliness and food hygiene. We were initially shown where the wash stations and gloves (should we need it) were. The place were very well equipped with all kinds of kitchen utensils. Most of what we need it is already placed for us in the station but should we need more, there are lots. Suanne wish that her kitchen is like that — I think she will spend more time in the kitchen cooking.

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The above is the picture of one of the eight meal preparation stations in DinnerWorks. (more…)

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