Friday, December 4, 2009

Oatmeal #6: Cafe Descartes

Firstly, this post is officially "Oat and About: Thanksgiving Edition." What does that mean, you ask. Nothing. There. That's my holiday spirit for the year. (Well, perhaps a little more will turn up around Christmas/New Year's.) Secondly, I am sure you are looking at that picture and saying, "Pardon me. This is not a latte blog. How does this relate to oatmeal?" And let me say, readers, I am touched by your politeness. What you see here is an "oatmeal latte," a very clever form of oatmeal created by Cafe Descartes, a non-chain coffee shop located in the Chicago Loop. (It's so non-chain that it doesn't even have a website. How very retro of them.) I met two of my co-workers, JM and CM (not related), there for breakfast a week or two month ago (it takes me awhile to write posts), specifically to try these nifty concoctions.

Cafe Descartes is, in and of itself, a kind of interesting place. I like the atmosphere, I suppose, but it is a little unsettling. With a name like Cafe Descartes, one would assume there would be a philosophical theme, which there sort of is. (The irony that a coffee shop is named after Rene Descartes, who apparently regularly stayed in bed until noon, is not lost on me. Neither is the general sucktacularness of there being a man named "Rene.") One wall is covered with pictures of famous Western philosophers, while the opposite wall is covered with Eastern philosophers. (Face off! Or do I mean Face/Off? Two hours of shooting! Nicolas "You are all so turned on right now" Cage is in trouble with the IRS! There is justice in this world! Act your way out of THAT one! No wait, don't. A) No one wants to watch that, not even an IRS agent and B) We know you can't, anyway. It would just be sad.) The rest of the place looked like a Middle-Eastern antique shop exploded (My writing is trite and uninspired! Next I will use the phrase "unless you have been living under a rock for the past 4 months." HAR!), which has potential, I suppose, but it ultimately just produced a disorganized clutter that not even my five weeks of Arabic class allowed me to decipher. (WAAAAAH-jib! That means "homework." Surely that will prove to be useful on my next trip to an Arabic-speaking country.) But no matter! A fine oatmeal product can overcome any manner of unaesthetic decor! And it wasn't crowded, which seems odd for 8am on a Friday, but is nice for us patrons who don't like other people. Stranger danger!

Anyway, as I said, we specifically met here to try the oatmeal lattes, which are a creation unique to this place. Basically, they make oatmeal at the bottom of a cup with various nuts and fruits, and then on top of that they put a traditional latte (hence the picture above that looks like a latte). So I suppose the idea is that you drink a latte for awhile (a pretty good one at that), and then Surprise! oatmeal for breakfast! So they conveniently also give you a spoon. Therefore, it's basically your morning in a cup, because you sip the latte while you walk to the office, and then when you get to the office, Voila! you pull out the spoon and you have hot oatmeal! Genius! It's also very "green" (may cause problems if you're colorblind) because you only need one container for your whole breakfast as opposed to the violently wasteful two cups the average coffee-and-oatmeal consumer would need. Anyway, allow me to verse you in the ways of the oatmeal latte.
  • Price: My total $4.95; with tax it was $5.46. Considering that you basically get a small latte and an oatmeal, I think that's pretty good price. (8)
  • Size: It was made in a 20 ounce cup, and I would guess it's about half latte, half oatmeal, though it is difficult to tell. I suppose one could be annoyed that there aren't size choices, but I think 20 ounces is pretty much perfect. Any bigger, and I think it would be overwhelming; any smaller, and it would be wimpy. And wimpy oatmeal is just not in the vocabulary of this blog. (8)
  • I suppose the main weakness of this product is the topping selection. You don't really get a say in what goes into the oatmeal, unless you can request for things to get left out (which i didn't do, because everything looked good to me). Anyway, the menu says it comes with dried blueberries, walnuts, almonds, golden raisins, and "spices" (suspicious, given the atmosphere). That's some pretty decent stuff, and it fits well with the concept. A lot of the topping choices I would usually like to have, like fresh fruit and chocolate, wouldn't really work in this situation, so I think the limitations aren't really a negative. (8)
  • Texture/appearance: After I drank the latte for a bit, I suddenly encountered a solid and started spooning out the oatmeal, which looked like this:

(This is the point in the proceedings where JM laughed at my digital camera and told me it looked like something Zach Morris would own. I told you it was old. Bonus info: Zach Morris is credited with being the first television character to carry a cell phone. I always knew that show was the cutting edge. Wikipedia says it tackled "environmental issues" (Campaigning against excessive use of aerosol hairsprays? Seriously, you don't brush curls!), so there you go. That show was an Al Gore guest appearance away from being added to the Library of Congress's National Registry.) Anyway, it may not look that great, but the picture really doesn't do it justice. The latte part was a pretty good latte, appearance-wise, with a nice, creamy foam. (And I worked at Starbucks for 3 years, so I would know, thank you very much). The oatmeal was good too--it had a nice "bite" to it, and I think it was the least soggy of all the ones I have tried so far. My one complaint would be that, as you are drinking the latte, little bits of oatmeal and toppings are sometimes floating in the milk, and so as you drink they suddenly pop into your mouth, which can be kind of unpleasant. I am one of those people who can't stand pulp in my orange juice (Why don't I just swallow a handful of worms while I'm at it?), so to have little bits of oatmeal and dried fruit floating around kind of makes me gag. But at least they aren't soggy or slimy bits, so it really didn't bother me THAT much. (Yeah, I know the formatting is messed up. This is what I am doing to those of you who care. Because I'm an ADULT.) (7)
  • Temperature: For the first time in this whole oatmeal-fest, I burnt my tongue! And I look upon this as a positive, because I would prefer oatmeal makers to take the approach that the consumer is going to take their product back to the office, and so it should be hot enough to last that commute. (Seriously, oatmeal makers must be worried about a McDonald's-esque lawsuit, since most of them have issues with serving hot oatmeal.) Obviously, the oatmeal at the bottom stayed warm, too, since it is ensconced in a latte. Even though I sat in the cafe and ate it there, I am pretty sure it would stay hot until I reached my office. (9)
  • Taste: The latte, as I mentioned, was pretty good. Usually, I get a little flavoring in my lattes, but the spices they put in infiltrated it, rendering anything additional superfluous. It was hot and cinnamon-y and all-around good. The oatmeal was slightly bland, in a way, yet still somehow seemed to have a bizarre kind of cheap coffee flavor. I suspect that, when they make the latte, they pour the shot directly onto the oatmeal, basically using the espresso to cook the oatmeal (as opposed to milk or water), which gives it the very different flavor. If I were in charge of making it, I would perhaps do it slightly differently. However, the oatmeal was still plenty good. (7)
  • Calories: Blech. Who knows, and there's no way to find out. I am going to pretend this category doesn't exist this time.
  • Intangibles: The spoon they give you is not nearly long enough, so if you try to eat any of the oatmeal too early, your fingers will get all messy. Perhaps this is Cafe Descartes's way of teaching a lesson in patience. But it is kind of annoying. If I want to be greedy and eat the oatmeal before I drink the latte, you had better give me a spoon that lets me do so! Another negative about this place is that it isn't really that close to my office (over a mile away), nor is it convenient for me to stop by on my way to work. Therefore, I doubt I patronize this place very often. That isn't their fault, obviously, but it is an inconvenience. I also got SLIGHTLY JITTERY that morning after eating/drinking this. I don't know what "spices" they used, but they must have been powerful. Or foreign. I am a Midwesterner. I don't react well to anything unusual. However, points for coming up with the concept of the oatmeal latte, which I have never encountered anywhere else. (2)

TOTAL: 8+8+8+7+9+7+2=49

Ladies and gentlemen, oatmeal lovers of all ages (well, all literate ages), we have a new leader! (The subtitle of that picture is "Great Moments in Administrative Assistant History.) With each post, the mystery concerning who is going to win is building and building. Right now, I would put the suspense level somewhere around "Sixty Percent of the Way Into a Law and Order Episode." (That's the original Law and Order, not SVU or Criminal Intent. We passed those suspense levels when the internet was invented. I am above another Al Gore reference.) In case you were wondering, that suspense level is somewhere above "Clearing Printer Jams in the Office" (even though I am pretty good at that) and slightly below "Buttering and Then Consuming Sourdough Toast" (good at that, too).

Now, for the grand finale of today's post, I am going to ask YOU, the dedicated readers who made it all the way to the end of this mess, to do something. Please go to (It's a search engine; perhaps you've heard of it?) and Google "Why won't". You HAVE to go to the homepage. None of this "Google toolbar" nonsense. (Bit of a giveaway here--if you are too lazy to do it, I'm going to show you what happens anyway.) Well, for those of you who did it, I'll now give you time to laugh...




For you slovenly, slothful bums who didn't because you need everything handed to you on a silver platter (preferably one holding oatmeal), here is what comes up. I hope you can read this, because if not....oh man, you are missing something:

Indeed, why WON'T my parakeet eat my diarrhea? I demand to know! I assume Google is identifying those as the ten most commonly asked questions that begin with "why won't," which, of course, leads to the inevitable next question: "Why do so many people have freakin' parakeets?" which, of course, is quickly followed by "Does owning a parakeet lead to diarrhea?" Though, I should note, if you are dying to know "Why won't he marry me," I am sure Google can give a very sympathetic and well-researched answer to that question. (That answer being, of course, "You own a freakin' parakeet that gives you diarrhea! Either it goes or I go!")*

I also must note that, of the top ten questions people apparently have that begin with "why won't," four of them relate to why their Apple product won't work. Take THAT, RR!**

Now I must give credit where credit is due, and note that I didn't make this little discovery on my own. Another co-worker of mine, DL, was asking a very legitimate "why won't" question ("Why won't my printer sync to my laptop?" Answer: Probably because you have a Mac. Oooooohhhhhh! Said it! Said. It.) and unearthed this little gem. So thanks to her. If you found that amusing, here are some more search results along the same lines. If you didn't find that amusing, then you are my sworn enemy, and may our friendship be torn asunder!

And if you're keeping track (which, you should be), that is the third picture in this post, a new Oat and About record. I take pride in the little things.

*I should note that, since this post was published, you now have to type "why wo" in order to get "why won't my parakeet eat my diarrhea." Google is onto us.

**It's a long story. But I swear I do like most Apple products, when I can muster up the patience to learn how to use one. If Macs would get a right mouse click feature, I'd buy one this instant. THIS INSTANT! If someone gave me a thousand dollars.


  1. Ahhh! I heart oatmeal was those "spices"...very questionable indeed. Can we do another oatmeal adventure soon?