Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oatmeal #8: Corner Bakery




When I started this blog, I recall my stated goal was to post once a week or so. Believe me, my shame is weighing heavily upon me. However, I swear it is not due to a waning interest in all things oaty that I have been neglecting you, faithful reader. I began the New Year staunchly determined to flood the internet with oatmeal information, but alas, I forgot that January is busy season in my profession. Strike 1. Then, I was sent to a very small town in another state for work for two and a half weeks, where I was so incredibly busy being awesome that I didn't have a chance to try to experience writing a blog on dial-up. Not that it mattered, because this small town was SO SMALL that there was no oatmeal to be found. Yes, turn to your neighbor and look aghast. (Or, in the case of that picture, aghastedly confused as to how your acting career sucks so badly. Yup, find something there worthwhile. I dare you.) Strike 2. Then the Olympics* (i.e. The Greatest Feat in the History of Mankind Except for This. C'mon. I'm obviously kidding. It's This. C'mon. No. It's this. Hehehe, no. It's this. No, really, it is that. Fine, stop reading.) started, and, until those ended, I had not a moment of free time. Strike 3. Then I went on vacation. (Spring training for the Cardinals in South Florida. Heck yes.) Strike 4. (Blogger baseball is the less common "four strikes allowed" version.) Two months without a post. A thousand apologies. Get over it. I will strive to do better in the future. (Nope.)

*Admit it, you wish you'd thought of it first.

Anyway, this post might suck, because I ate this oatmeal November 12th (I keep detailed records of everything I do every day, apparently), and I don't really remember it that well. But it's my blog, so suck it. It's from Corner Bakery, a charmingly yet deceptively named chain of fast-casual restaurants based in Dallas. I say deceptively named because, while the particular store I went to was on a corner, they'll throw one right in the middle of a strip mall without so much as a by-your-leave. Kids these days. Corner Bakery is a pretty nondescript, boring sort of restaurant, content to blend in with all the other chains just like it, right down to the over-sized black and white pictures on the wall of the "original" Mr. Bakery pulling warm bread out of the oven. (You fool no one. I bet those pictures are the fast-casual equivalent of those cheesy pictures that come in a picture frame when you buy it. They're just another item in a restaurant supplier's catalogue. Actually, I think that picture would be rejected because the right side of the family isn't jubilant enough, probably because their generic photo is actually being used in an informational about colorectol cancer. Yeah, you'd be ticked, too. One guess about which person in this family is the jerk passing the cancer to the innocent child.) So, desperate for fodder for this post, I read online reviews of a couple of the locations in the Loop area and was amused to find that many people see it as "authentic Chicago restaurant." These people need to get out more, because, with that logic, it would somehow also manage to be an "authentic Houston restaurant," "an authentic Los Angeles restaurant," and "an authentic Philadelphia restaurant," all at the same time. These are probably the same people who go to Outback Steakhouse for an authentic Australian experience and Starbucks for authentic homemade pastries. I think I just authentically puked on the floor. (Is that enough authenticity for you, AL? Happy authentic birthday.) Anyway, we've no time to waste, because I have a back-log of posts to write that, at this rate, will keep me busy until the 4th of July.

  • Price: The oatmeal was $3.29, then with a medium coffee and our absurd taxation (Obviously I don't agree with that; it just made me laugh.), the total was $5.78. I think this is the most expensive non-sit-down-restaurant oatmeal that I've had. However, it comes with these crazy crispy bar thingys (called "sweet crisps"--see photo above) that I don't quite understand, yet find remarkably tasty. I don't know if they are worth the higher price, however. There also aren't any breakfast deals available. Actually, most places I've visited don't have breakfast deals, but, since the first restaurant I reviewed (Cosi) had breakfast deals, the precedent has been established that they all should have breakfast deals. Unrealistic expectations? Perhaps. But that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. (Face it, you do it, too. See: M. Night Shyamalan. First movie (The Sixth Sense): Shocking Twist at End. Ergo, all M. Night Shyamalan movies must have shocking twist at end. Result: Disappointed by every M. Night Shyamalan movie since.) (3)
  • Size: Only one size is available, which is the pretty standard fast-casual oatmeal size of 9 or 10 ounces. (I really like the word "fast-casual." But only if you say it really quickly. Then, it's right up there with "spurtle." And "indefatigable." (Merciful F! TWO PREFIXES! Means the OPPOSITE of what it should! Fun!)) (5)
  • Toppings: The choices are currants, dried cranberries, brown sugar, slivered almonds, and walnuts, which is an ok selection. As always, some fresh fruit or chocolate would be appreciated. I got everything but the currants. The portions were very generous, which is always a pleasant surprise (and, as you will soon discover, a necessity). I have gotten this oatmeal twice, and once they stirred the toppings in for me, and once they didn't. (Obviously they didn't this time.) I prefer the stirring-in methodology because it makes my job as an eater easier (because eating can be exhausting, which is why mini-Oreos were a necessity), and so I find it very interesting that this is the first time I have seen this done. This is the most boring paragraph in the history of blogging. In compensation, I will reveal to you that, when he was in his early 20s, my dad became irritated by the early morning squawking of the neighbors' peacocks (understandable) and went chasing after one with a broom. Well, as you may have noticed, a peacock's head-to-body ratio is pretty low, so it didn't respond well to being bludgeoned on the side of the head with a blunt instrument. In fact, its body's defensive response was to die. My dad is a peacock murderer. I understand if ethical reasons require you to abstain from further reading of this blog. (5)
  • Texture/Appearance: Actually, the appearance was pretty good. It had a nice color. (The picture doesn't really do it justice.) However, I can assure you that it looked NOTHING like this, which is a promotional photo of CB's oatmeal. (I am allowed to refer to Corner Bakery as "CB" because I'm really cool.) (I really don't know who these restaurant marketing executives are, since they apparently think that we're all blindingly dumb and will totally buy into the idea that our oatmeal will really look like that, even though bananas and honey aren't even an option. Well, wake up marketing executives! I have eyes! That work!) There wasn't a lot of "bite" to it either, meaning it was a lot like eating thick yogurt. I would say the consistency was pretty good (i.e. it wasn't really runny or five bad minutes away from becoming a solid, hello Jello), so that's a plus. (6)
  • Temperature: This location is pretty far from my office, so I was pretty pleased to make it all the way to my cubicle and still find the oatmeal to be pretty hot, especially considering that it was a fairly cold Chicago day. When I hold my oatmeal conventions (coming soon to an abandoned cafeteria near you), Corner Bakery will head the "Temperature" break-out. But that's all. (8)
  • Taste: Weeeeell here's the poop: VOM. (Did anyone else ever play that computer game "Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego?" Obviously I had to provide a link for that so you would know I'm not making it up. I played it rather frequently when I was maybe...8 or 9, and one time one of the detectives giving me a clue said "OK, here's the poop." I have yet to stop laughing. Have I mentioned that I'm an adult?) Without the toppings, it was kind of gross. It had kind of a glue-y texture and taste, which only worsened as it cooled. (Yup, I ate glue when I was a kid. I had the incredible foresight that, at some point in my life, I would want to compare the taste of something gross to that of glue, and I didn't want anyone to be able to call my bluff. I ate grass and leaves, too, so I'm ready for the forest-themed oatmeals soon to come. Toppings choices: Twigs, clovers, fronds, fall foliage, and tilled soil. It will be the first oatmeal to get a negative score, especially when it gives me poison ivy. In my tummy.) It also was too sweet. Maybe if I got it without the brown sugar, that would help, but perhaps the sweetness covers up some of the grossness, so I am not sure if I want to take that risk. I did like the little sweet crisps that are included. They're really thinly sliced pieces of toasted bread with nuts and raisins coated with a bit of sugar. They're especially good when dipped in the oatmeal, like a Tostito's chip to the oatmeal salsa. (3)
  • Calories: Their website claims 140 calories, but that is without toppings or the sweet crisp. So I am guessing that those two easily add another 150, maybe more. As the oatmeal isn't good without toppings, you're pretty much required to take the extra caloric hit. Sorry, dude. (I will give $5 to the person who creates an oatmeal that qualifies for that website.)
  • Intangibles: 1) They sometimes have friendly service. I am not sure how to approach that, point-wise. If a place has consistently terrible or excellent service, at least you know what you are getting into, and can either brace yourself for "Waddya want? FOOD? Why?," or pre-think of clever quips you can exchange with your friendly cashier. ("Boy, it's cold in Chicago in the winter! Fancy that!") However, when I get fluctuational service, do I give points for the potential for good service? Take away points for the bad service I inevitably will get at some point? It's a very tough call. B) They have coffee. This cannot be stressed enough. C) They have pretty good coffee. D) They have one of these, which is "a mark of prestige and glamor for a building and its architecture" (per Wikipedia). E) The aforementioned revolving door is well-oiled and easy to push. The importance of this cannot be over-emphasized when you are trying to exit through the revolving door while carrying a bookbag, lunch, purse, coffee, and oatmeal in your hands. A mere nudge has me back on the street, storming towards my office with some peppy morning song playing in the background as crowds part before me. F) Before she got hitched and moved to another state, I used to meet my friend JP here for lunch a couple of times a month. Points for the nostalgia. G) The jovial yet bizarrely proportioned uni-colored fatty in the logo. I want an action figure. (3)

TOTAL: 3+5+5+6+8+3+3=33

Meh, a 33 is definitely on the weaker side. Cafe Descartes shakes its mighty oatmeal fist in the air as it withstands another paltry assault. I don't know what else to say here, so I'm just going to let this paragraph gracefully end.

I also want to mention that Corner Bakery has something they call "Swiss Oatmeal," which is a chilled version served with apples, bananas, currants, dried cranberries, yogurt, and milk. It sounds interesting (and a lot like muesli, which is delicious), but the fact that it's cold has kept me from trying it. If one of you wants to be a brave soul, let me know how it goes. I do find it strange that they offer apples and bananas with the chilled oatmeal, but not the hot. Someone's an idiot.

Finally, there is a disturbing trend to this blog. I am finding that a great majority of the videos to which this blog links are taken down. I can only assume that the large numbers of people that read this blog crash their servers, so they take down the videos to punish us. Therefore, after you watch this, don't tell any of your friends. Or enemies.

Also, if you haven't seen it, this surpasses anything you or I have ever done in terms of total coolness. Well, maybe not me. But definitely you. (It really was done in basically one take.)

1 comment:

  1. I'm an intangible!!! Sweet! I feel so honored.

    Also, I love the "How to Report the News" clip. I'll try not to tell anyone, but it will be difficult. ;)