Saturday, July 30, 2011

Oatmeal # 14: Sopraffina

Just look at that smoldering temptress carefully etched on that cup and tell me you don't immediately want to eat here. And would you take a look at the artistic daring of using a different font (and in a different CASE, for the love of mercy) for the f's in their name? Though honestly, with my fontal knowledge, it could be the exact same font, just someone had the idiocy/daring/burst of creativity to hit caps lock and ctrl-i before typing the f's. Well, it works, because it always makes me want to pronounce it "SopraffffffffffffffffffffffffffffINA!!!!!" Hopefully that distracted you from the dead-sea-creature-that-is-just-beginning-to-rot oatmeal that I have dared to present before you in .jpeg form. (This paragraph just made several graphic design people crawl under the nearest table in horrified shame.* Hehehe.) Let's completely ignore the stack of papers to the left, which clearly speaks to my level of importance at my job. You can see that they give me a phone, and, as the ubiquitous blue cord evidences, internet access. So they trust me to successfully interact with humans. But alas, I have already said too much, as you have undoubtedly now eliminated "rock quarry" from my potential places of employment, and that's just too close for comfort.

*I liked it until they showed the alien.

Sopraffina (or Sopraffizzle, for my under 30 readers, and Sopraffina Marketcaffe for my obnoxious readers) does not have a Wikipedia page, so my research sources are exhausted. (But my knowledge of Serafina and Children of the Vault has increased tenfold! Wait, a ten times increase of zero is still zero. So I guess my knowledge of those two things at least now exists!) As far as I can tell, it is only located in Chicago (Elitist and exclusive! Just the way I like it.), with a grand total of five locations, all in the Loop. It goes a bit above your typical soup/salad/sandwich lunch cafe, as it also serves pizzas, pasta dishes, and antipastis (yuppies). For example, you can get a roasted salmon platter for the REALLY important meetings or to show off your aristocratic taste buds to the people with whom you eat lunch. It also serves a breakfast that isn't just bagels and muffins, as I have actually seen them scrambling real eggs with mine own blue eyes. They apparently also have sausage, which, thankfully, I have NOT seen them making with mine own blue eyes. (Ha HA you were expecting a link showing sausage being made! Psych!) My friend NL, who speaks Italian, or at least is pretty good at faking it, informed me that "sopraffina" translates to "super fine," so use that word next time you are trying to woo someone of the opposite sex. However, I would not use the Sopraffina delivery truck for such a task, because it looks like it came down with automotive gangrene or trench foot** and someone had to amputate the front of it, and that's just not romantic at all. Trust me, someone tried that one on me once.***

**If you don't know what trench foot is, my high school history teacher just pwned the living daylights out of yours.
***Not true, though now I wish it were.

  • Price: $2.59, and coffee is a dollar with a breakfast item, so my total was $3.97. That makes it ten whole cents more than Caribou Coffee. $2.59, and they got rid of their coffee special, so my total was an over-the-line $4.93. (8 4! Those punks. This will cost them dearly, both in their total score and in their ability to relate to the commoners.)
  • Size: Yowzers. They basically give you a 10 gallon hat and let you fill it to the brim with oatmeal. Oh, think I am exaggerating, do you? Well, my friend AG once said about me, "She does not exaggerate. The world adjusts itself to her hyberboles." So next time I go in here to buy oatmeal, they'd better darn well give me a 10 gallon hat. Or else I will use the written word to shred them to bits in front of the entire audience of this blog, which is at least one person when I remind them to read it, and NO, it isn't my mother. (10)
  • Toppings: My initial reflections on this topic bring to mind the British rationing system during World War II (how about THAT segue, eh?). If you didn't have my high school history teacher and need a refresher course, simply go eat dinner at your typical American chain. What you eat at that meal will be approximately equal to what a British person was allowed for a whole week. (If there are peanut shells on the floor of said American chain restaurant, divide your food in half before making this comparison.) Point is, the toppings choices are sparing at best, and the portions are all discombobulated. You are given enough brown sugar to bake half of a batch of cookies (though a few times it has been so hard it was basically petrified), and then you can choose between a smidgen of mixed caramelized nuts or a pinch of dried cranberries. Admittedly, they are excellent caramelized nuts, but given the vat of oatmeal they give you, they kind of need to work on a balancing act. Now I must rid myself of the black cloud of guilt that has followed me for months and admit that there were a few times where I took BOTH the nuts and the cranberries, because they just keep them in these little containers next to the register, and it wasn't clear to me at the time how many you were allowed. Gosh, I hope they don't refuse me service next time. That would probably get me thrown out of the Oatmeal Alliance. (Ho ho ho and you thought I was making it up!) (3)
  • Texture/Appearance: Weeeell, I can't tell if it's steel cut or rolled (Side note: rumors abound that Ryan Reynolds loves McCann's Irish Oatmeal as well, which, because it's Ryan Reynolds, is unfortunate*, but supposedly he looks like this so...take that for what you will.), which is obviously a bad textural sign. It seems overcooked and mushy. The picture looks quite terrible, but I bet you're no spring flower first thing in the ole a.m. either, so back off. Though sometimes there would also be chunks of uncooked dried oats, so that's no good. (3)
*I think that's Ryan Reynolds, anyway. Hard to tell with that clever mask that hides his entire nose.
  • Temperature: They keep it in an enormous pot like soup in a cafeteria, so usually it's pretty hot, but since it is just sitting in this pot not getting stirred or anything, it tends to not be evenly hot. So, in a way, it's like a public pool that has some warm spots because kids have peed in it. (6)
  • Taste: It actually is surprisingly good, given the appearance, serving technique, and etc. It has a very nutty flavor and isn't sweet at all, which I always appreciate. I think I could eat this almost without any toppings. So it's basically like a cupcake with no frosting. (8)
  • Calories: They don't provide nutritional information for their oatmeal, but I am pretty sure it's just oats and water. Nevertheless, I suspect it's a disaster. The killers here are the caramelized nuts and the massive portion. I suppose I could just not use the nuts, but honestly, they give me little alternative. Perhaps you are thinking, "you fat American, just don't fill the container all the way." I can't believe you would make such an unpatriotic suggestion so close to our Independence Day.
  • Intangibles: I have a terrible suspicion that they just make a massive pot of oatmeal on Monday, reheat it every morning, and throw away what's left on Friday. I also have a terrible suspicion that I am the only person who gets oatmeal here, as I have never seen someone else even APPROACH the oatmeal area (though they do kind of hide it). But I definitely notice the oatmeal level in the pot slowly going down as the week goes along, and I am reasonably certain that Chicago's oatmeal consumption doesn't exponentially increase as we get closer to Friday. Shady. The oatmeal process was also incredibly confusing the first time I went. Yeah, you thought this blog was all fun and games, eh? Well, it's NOT. I had to ask no fewer than THREE people where the oatmeal was, because the sign said it's "near the barista bar," which, for a well-trained former Starbucks employee like me, means "near the coffee." And it was near the coffee, if we're talking about the coffee in the Dunkin' Donuts across the street. Because the oatmeal is right near the door, and the barista bar is completely across the restaurant. Naturally. But the coffee is good (except the iced coffee is PRESWEETENED, which is basically like smoking while you're pregnant. Give people the choice, eh?) once you solve the treasure hunt, and I actually really like this place for lunch. (5)
TOTAL: 4+10+3+3+6+8+5=39

Now, that may not be a great score, but it's at least as good as freestyle canoe dancing. (The "action" really starts at 1:20. I also highly recommend the interpretation of Phantom of the Opera in the suggested videos if you have the stomach for some REAL drama on the high seas. (High Cs? HAHAHAHA nerd joke.)) Just check out that crowd! People flock around my desk at work in a very similar fashion to watch my oatmeal taste tests. That or they are just coming to use the combination printer/fax/copier that is right in front of me. Sometimes it's hard to tell. But if I've learned anything in my 3+ years at my job, it's that we DON'T have to dial 9 to send a fax.

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