The Endorsement: Starbucks’ Madeleines.

Sublime little sponges of mass production baking genius from Starbucks are giving me the mens rea for gluttony. The mug shots are below:

madeleines.jpg

madeleines_annotated_1.jpg
images from an interesting post by Joel Amantia on metadata.
I guess these madeleines have been around for a while, though I haven’t noticed them until recently. As commentators have pointed out, I have a taste for the pretentious, and so it suits me now to link to this article about Proust’s madeleines.

But all of this verbiage distracts from the message of this post. The message is that the first bite of a Starbucks madeleine is like that moment in Garden State when Natalie Portman’s headphones first reach Zach Braff’s ears. (That’s right. I went there.) Dipping one of these madeleines into the depths of a burnt, over-fatted, over-milked, over-sweetened coffee is a tactile pleasure akin to playing with liquid mercury – smooth, silky, and a little bit dangerous. It tastes like a psychospiritual sex trapeze in my mouth. Try this mind-bending, earth-shattering, galaxy-fucking experience at your local Starbucks. Or the Starbucks next door.


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44 comments for “The Endorsement: Starbucks’ Madeleines.

  1. June 7, 2007 at 1:34 am

    …think of how good the non-starbucks version must be.

  2. June 7, 2007 at 1:34 am

    they are not as good as these:

    http://www.donsuemor.com

    then again, starbucks isn’t as good as peet’s, either.

  3. piny
    June 7, 2007 at 2:14 am

    …think of how good the non-starbucks version must be.

    No shit. Starbucks pastry is legendarily awful. As far as I’m concerned, anyway.

    There are cute little designer blueberry ones at the bakery down the street.

  4. June 7, 2007 at 2:58 am

    then again, starbucks isn’t as good as peet’s, either.

    As a Peetnik (aka an employee at Peet’s), I just have to say thank you with a big goofy smile.

  5. June 7, 2007 at 6:56 am

    Given the endurance of madeleines as a metaphor for conjuring memories, it’s odd (to me) that I only know of one blogger who uses the word to denote posts about memories.

  6. June 7, 2007 at 8:50 am

    The whole Starbucks phenomenon cracks me up. Over here, the branding is that it’s this very European, espressos-in-Milan kind of place, whereas in Europe, it’s seen as quite American (and some of my colleagues want to go specifically for the American cheesecake they sell). They’re quite good at playing both sides of that.

  7. Shankar Gupta
    June 7, 2007 at 10:55 am

    But all of this verbiage distracts from the message of this post.

    Seriously, yo.

  8. June 7, 2007 at 10:58 am

    No shit. Starbucks pastry is legendarily awful. As far as I’m concerned, anyway.

    Their cookies are pretty good…

  9. Meghan
    June 7, 2007 at 11:08 am

    I like their scones, the pumpkin one in particular.

  10. Betsy
    June 7, 2007 at 11:09 am

    I will always hold a soft spot in my heart for starbucks, however much I’m supposed to despise them as a good leftie, because back in the early 90s they brought my mother so much happiness. She is something of a coffee obsessive, and in the little corner of Texas where we’d moved for her job, she could never get “decent” (her word; I hate coffee) coffee anywhere but her own kitchen until Starbucks came along.
    Also, I thought for awhile they were good to their employees (decent wages, health insurance) but now I hear they’re union-busting, which suxxxx. So, that makes me love them less. Oh well. I’ll have to try their madeleines, though I agree with Piny that generally their pastry is nasty.

  11. Amanda M.
    June 7, 2007 at 11:16 am

    This is totally off topic but then again what do Starbucks Madeleine’s have to do with feminism??

    My friend went to a Fair Trade Conference in D.C. last week and was telling me about one of the more controversial topics – Starbucks.

    Five percent of Starbucks coffee is fair trade. This leads many fair trade advocates to frown upon Starbucks b/c its such a small amount & they could be doing more. Some would support a boycott of Starbucks.

    The other side of the debate is that 5% of Starbucks coffee sales is over $6 billion – which supports fair trade and leads to better working conditions & wages for the workers than if Starbucks sold 0% fair trade coffee. People on this side of the debate emphasize that many consumers go to Starbucks simply out of convenience (they are everywhere) so it would be hard to implement a successful boycott. Also, a boycott would lead to a cut in a large portion of fair trade coffee sales – hurting the very workers that activists yearn to help. This side of the debate thinks it would be wiser to collaborate with Starbucks to gradually increase the amount of fair trade coffee they have & to encourage them to advertise it more.

    As a Starbucks addict myself, I admit I’m on the second side of the debate.

    How much fair trade coffee does Peet’s sell?? I think Peet’s came from the Bay Area, right? So I’m assuming it sells a larger percent. Please feel free to correct me.

  12. Sally
    June 7, 2007 at 11:17 am

    She is something of a coffee obsessive, and in the little corner of Texas where we’d moved for her job, she could never get “decent” (her word; I hate coffee) coffee anywhere but her own kitchen until Starbucks came along.

    Not to derail, but I actually think this is a general phenomenon. A lot of people who rail against chain stores live in places where you could always get that stuff, previously from lovely independent businesses with individuality and personality. But if you live in a place where previously the only bookstore was a B. Dalton, Barnes and Noble is a godsend.

    I’m agnostic on Starbucks. I don’t go there much: I don’t like their coffee very much, and I’m trying hard not to spend money on coffee anyway. But I appreciate that they pay their employees decently, and I don’t see them as the scourge that a lot of people think they are.

  13. zuzu
    June 7, 2007 at 11:18 am

    This is totally off topic but then again what do Starbucks Madeleine’s have to do with feminism??

    We write about whatever we want to write here, Amanda. Don’t like it? Start your own blog.

  14. June 7, 2007 at 11:34 am

    We write about whatever we want to write here, Amanda.

    And thank goodness for that, because where else would I get intelligent commentary on BSG? :-)

  15. June 7, 2007 at 11:48 am

    She is something of a coffee obsessive, and in the little corner of Texas where we’d moved for her job, she could never get “decent” (her word; I hate coffee) coffee anywhere but her own kitchen until Starbucks came along.

    This is an important point. I grew up in Seattle, where there has long been a great coffee culture. There were obviously lots of Starbucks, but there were also tons of smaller coffee shops who did pretty good business because the quality was good and coffee was such a staple of everyday life.

    But even in New York, it was hard to find a good cup of coffee outside of Starbucks (the 50 cent street vendor coffee is fine, but I’m an espresso girl). That’s changed a lot recently, but I think the whole coffee phenomenon in cities across the country was at least partially spurred by Starbucks — I know we didn’t get Ninth Street Espesso (best coffee place in the city, IMHO) until a few dudes from Seattle moved here and opened it, and there wasn’t all that much of a demand for good espresso until Starbucks created it.

    Although I will say that I avoid Starbucks now that there are other (and better) options — except in the morning when I’m in a hurry, Starbucks is fast, and they can just swipe my debit card and I can be on my way. So I think there’s something to be said for the convenience factor.

    But Starbucks seems like it’s expanding much too fast, and the quality is going down quite a bit. At least where I live, it’s really hit-or-miss whether you’ll get a good latte or a burnt, shitty one. Plus the stores are dirty, loud, etc. Back in the day, Starbucks was always nice, clean, fast and high-quality; now it’s the McDonalds of coffee.

    But like I said, I can’t hate too much — they’re also pretty good to their employees, which is important.

    If anyone is in NYC and wants some delicious non-Starbucks drinks, check out Ninth Street Espresso on 9th and C or 13th between 3rd and 4th. Mudd is also delicious, especially their chai — they have a store on 9th btwn 1st and 2nd and their famous truck outside the Astor Place subway stop.

  16. June 7, 2007 at 11:50 am

    We write about whatever we want to write here, Amanda.
    And thank goodness for that, because where else would I get intelligent commentary on BSG? :-)

    Or Junebug pictures which, Zuzu, you have been very derlict on recently. WE WANT JUNEBUG PICTURES!!!

  17. zuzu
    June 7, 2007 at 11:52 am

    Mud has a truck on Wall Street as well.

    But they really need to turn down the music, because between that and the construction going on in the street, it’s really hard to place the order.

    I’m usually looking for a dollar cup from the roach coach, though. Mud’s a little pricey for a simple morning caffeine delivery vehicle.

  18. zuzu
    June 7, 2007 at 11:56 am

    Or Junebug pictures which, Zuzu, you have been very derlict on recently. WE WANT JUNEBUG PICTURES!!!

    OKAY!

    Now that I have the paint off her and the camera battery charged, I’ll take some pics at the park. Good?

  19. June 7, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    I’m a big fan of the ginger molasses cookies myself. And their seasonal lattes – pumpkin spice, maple syrup, and gingerbread. Yum.

    I have mixed feelings about Starbucks. I hate that the push out local independents. On the other hand, I’ve found that their employment practices tend to be tons better than many local independents. The local independent in the college town I used to live in had a great selection of fair trade organic coffees and teas. Too bad they thought they it was acceptable to pay their employees less than minimum wage (under the table, of course).

    And I’ve gotta say, sometimes finding a Starbucks when you’ve been travelling for weeks, don’t know anyone, don’t speak the language, and are staying in crappy hostels with no air conditioning is oddly comforting. The decor is the same, the music is the same, the product’s the same. I never thought I would be so excited to be inside an American mega-chain.

  20. June 7, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    It’s easy for me to be snotty about Starbucks because almost always hate their coffee. It tends to taste like it was brewed through a well-loved gym sock.

  21. piny
    June 7, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    It’s easy for me to be snotty about Starbucks because almost always hate their coffee. It tends to taste like it was brewed through a well-loved gym sock.

    Meh. I’m a froofy-adult-milkshake lover, and I don’t like theirs because they’re too sweet.

  22. June 7, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    And I’ve gotta say, sometimes finding a Starbucks when you’ve been travelling for weeks, don’t know anyone, don’t speak the language, and are staying in crappy hostels with no air conditioning is oddly comforting. The decor is the same, the music is the same, the product’s the same. I never thought I would be so excited to be inside an American mega-chain.

    I know exactly what you’re talking about.

  23. Halloween Jack
    June 7, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    It’s easy to be snotty about Starbuck’s if you live in the right neighborhood in a big city, or in some part of fly-over country where someone has, against all odds, decided to open a decent coffeehouse. There’s a nice place in Galesburg, Illinois, but it’s about forty minutes by interstate from Peoria, where I live. Even the couple of restaurant/coffeehouses that serve the local small college are only so-so; the few other places in the area are crap. And, sometimes (especially in the morning), what I really, really need is an efficient caffeine-delivery system, as cold as that sounds.

    I realize that, like most big corporations, there is at least a tendency toward doing bad things, and it still bothers me a little that they sued Kieron Dwyer for doing a T-shirt parody of their logo. But I also have lingering affection for them from the years when I would visit relatives in Chicago by rail and they were on the walk from Union Station to the El line that I took north. Very nice to have a coffee or hot chocolate on that walk in the winter.

  24. June 7, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    Given the endurance of madeleines as a metaphor for conjuring memories, it’s odd (to me) that I only know of one blogger who uses the word to denote posts about memories.

    Only because I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

    I’ve been wanting to whip up some madeleines for a while now. I even have my own madeleine pan (which I bought after making it through my first reading of In Search of Lost Time). I’ve only made them once before, but I seem to recall that they involve cake flour and a lot of butter, and maybe lemon zest (but I could be confuzzed).

    Ah, well, time for some research on the Innernets! And baking…

  25. June 7, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    How much fair trade coffee does Peet’s sell?? I think Peet’s came from the Bay Area, right? So I’m assuming it sells a larger percent. Please feel free to correct me.

    That’s a good question Amanda. I know we specifically market a Fair Trade Certified Blend, which makes me think it’s the only one, but I could be wrong (and in this case I’d like to be — Peets may be small, but we’re mighty!). I’ll ask my boss and get back to you.

  26. June 7, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    And I’ve gotta say, sometimes finding a Starbucks when you’ve been travelling for weeks, don’t know anyone, don’t speak the language, and are staying in crappy hostels with no air conditioning is oddly comforting. The decor is the same, the music is the same, the product’s the same. I never thought I would be so excited to be inside an American mega-chain.

    I remember one time when I was in rural Alabama doing research into a civil rights murder from the sixties. Driving on back roads, pulling over to snoop around, comparing houses and businesses to faded photos. (This was fifteen or twenty years ago, long before I bought my first cell phone.) I had New York plates and a NARAL bumpersticker on my car, and by the end of the day I was pretty damn jittery.

    I usually eat local when I’m on the road, but this trip I went with the chains. I remember walking into a Wendy’s one evening and being absurdly happy to discover that the place had been built from the exact same architectural plans as the Wendy’s that was three blocks from my college apartment. Just knowing where the bathroom was going to be gave me a tremendous sense of security.

  27. June 7, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    Starbucks does have some good pastries. And I must say I love their creme frappucinos… (i don’t drink coffee at all).

  28. June 7, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    A random yummy-good-stuff plug: New Harvest Coffee Roasters. It’s in Rhode Island (they ship of course.) Good stuff. Good prices. Organic, fair trade, shade grown, etc–you can find it there.

    Not only are they reasonably priced to start with, they also have quantity discounts fopr multiple bags (if you drink a lot of coffee or have friends who share in your order) and VERY cheap 5 pound bags (ditto). Daily roasting. And they’re friendly. AND they make me blends for free. It’s worth a look.

  29. June 7, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    I hate Starbucks.

    Why?

    Because I find myself in the drive-through on a regular basis, impatiently tapping my foot on the floor of my SUV, wearing giant sunglasses with soccer equipment in the trunk, and realize I AM ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE. And I resent that.

    Unfortunately, not many other coffee shops in town boast drive-throughs AND soy milk.

  30. June 7, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    There’s a nice place in Galesburg, Illinois, but it’s about forty minutes by interstate from Peoria, where I live.

    I assume you mean Innkeepers, right? That’s a fine place. One of my friends (Knox graduate, I went there for a year) reports that they are now building a Starbucks in G’burg. I really really really hope it doesn’t push Innkeepers out of business.

    Is One World Coffee and Cargo still open in P-town?

  31. June 7, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    Halloween Jack —

    Are you talking about Innkeepers? I went to college in Galesburg, at Knox. :-)

    Innkeepers has good coffee, but they don’t treat their patrons all that well. They’re not big on the kinds of customers who want to actually sit and study or work or whatever while drinking their coffee. But Kaldi’s, a few streets over, run by the folks who own Cornucopia grocery, is a great coffee shop — good coffee and very good atmosphere.

  32. Kira Seldon
    June 7, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    One of the best sweets I’ve ever had was Starbucks’ cherry blossom flavored meringue cookie. I recommend it if you should happen to be lucky enough to find yourself in Japan in April.

  33. Cecily
    June 7, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    I agree that Starbucks is expanding too fast. I travelled from Washington through Oregon and California recently, and the WA and OR ones are pretty respectable. Clean, comfy, consistent coffee quality, et c. Once you hit CA, it’s kind of spotty, so I shudder to think what they’re like even further from the point of origin.

  34. June 7, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    I agree that Starbucks is expanding too fast. I travelled from Washington through Oregon and California recently, and the WA and OR ones are pretty respectable. Clean, comfy, consistent coffee quality, et c. Once you hit CA, it’s kind of spotty, so I shudder to think what they’re like even further from the point of origin.

    Yup. Starbucks in NY are disgusting. They smell bad, they’re dirty, and I’d have to pee pretty damn bad to consent to using their bathrooms.

  35. Cecily
    June 7, 2007 at 9:58 pm

    That’s hilarious. In the PNW they’re a great place to find a clean bathroom :p

    I guess it’s like Nordstrom…the further you are from where it started, the less the original corporate culture holds sway.

  36. June 7, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    It’s true! Nordstrom in Seattle (where it started) is also fantastic. Elsewhere, not so much.

  37. Amanda
    June 7, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    We write about whatever we want to write here, Amanda. Don’t like it? Start your own blog.

    um…obviously, i don’t have a problem with it – which is why i further went off topic & discussed fair trade coffee something not mentioned in the original post. maybe you didn’t sense my sarcasm?

  38. Kim
    June 8, 2007 at 7:49 am

    I guess it’s like Nordstrom…the further you are from where it started, the less the original corporate culture holds sway.

    I’m not entirely sure about that. I’m a barista in the Kittery, ME, Starbucks, and we’re super-clean, warm and friendly, and always willing to work with a customer as long as it takes to make them a drink that they’re going to love more than any other. Drinks too sweet? Let’s try it with less syrup – a lot of us find it too sweet, too. Too fatty/high calorie? Try it with nonfat milk and sugar free syrup – and we’ll give it to you on the house. All the Starbucks in our area are superclean and non-jerkwaddy and quality-conscious, too. Then again, there’s only, like, 4 or 5 Starbucks within 15 miles of mine – not one every 1,000 feet or so like in the bigger cities.

    One thing that I heard mentioned is our low percentage rate of Fair Trade Certified coffees. One thing that a lot of people don’t know is that -all- of our coffees -could- be Fair Trade Certified, but that would require the farmers that grow our coffee for us to spend up to 3 years’ worth of their income to -get- that certification. The company has the same strict standards for sustainable planting/harvesting, equitable treatment for the farmers/employees, etc. – if a coffee farm doesn’t meet those standards, it doesn’t matter how tasty their coffee is, the company won’t purchase from them. They will, however, help get them the funding they need to -get- up to that standard. On top of that, Starbucks works with their farmers to build health clinics, schools, etc. to help build and sustain the communities in and near the farms.

  39. Linnaeus
    June 8, 2007 at 9:51 am

    I like to call it StarBorg instead of Starbucks, but I have to say that I have the luxury of doing so because here in That City On Puget Sound you can’t spit without hitting a coffee shop.

    That said, I did learn to appreciate it a bit more when I traveled to other parts of the country to visit my family, and Starbucks was the best thing available. When I go to visit my dad, I’m at Starbucks nearly every day.

    I still give the edge to Peet’s though. :)

  40. Britta
    June 9, 2007 at 4:12 am

    I’m from Portland OR, which has tons of good coffee shops, including Stumptown, a local chain with some of the best coffee in the US. Starbucks on every street corner here, and while it is clean (sterile) environment, there’s far better coffee to be had for less money–they are the most expensive chain (and perhaps coffee shop) in the city, at least in my experience. In my neighborhood, when the most recent Starbucks went in a couple of years ago it was firebombed by a local anarchist group. The homemade molotov cocktail did not go off, it merely broke the front window so there wasn’t much damage done, but now there’s a security guard posted outside.

  41. Nicki
    June 9, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    And I’ve gotta say, sometimes finding a Starbucks when you’ve been travelling for weeks, don’t know anyone, don’t speak the language, and are staying in crappy hostels with no air conditioning is oddly comforting. The decor is the same, the music is the same, the product’s the same. I never thought I would be so excited to be inside an American mega-chain.

    Absolutely.

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