I don't much care for Starbucks coffee, but I also don't go out of my way to avoid it. We have the decent new Blonde Roast at the house when it's my girlfriend's turn to pick up beans, and it's never wrecked my morning. I like Starbucks coffee enough to drink it in a lazy pinch, but not enough to advocate for it; it's over-roasted and bitter and I accept that those are valid grounds for serious coffee people to hate it.
And I think it's weird that Starbucks as an idea or an entity is so frequently co-opted by people trying to make Big Serious Points about the state of the world, but I don't pay much attention to that beyond thinking it's really, really cheap and hacky to still, in 2012, be making jokes about triple-soy-quadruple-soccer-mom-SUV-yoga-lattes. It's high time we realer-than-thou salt-of-the-earthers find a new yuppie straw man to bash.
So Starbucks doesn't mean too much to me, good or bad, in its two most prominent roles as coffee purveyor and societal bellwether. One area in which I do have a very strong opinion, however, is the food. In my experience, Starbucks food blows.
I've tried just about all of it despite the near-constant disappointment, because there was a Starbucks on my block during the recently bygone era when marketing departments loved to give freelancers Starbucks gift cards for Christmas (now they give us nothing).
This was back in my single days, when I bore the apartment's sole bean-buying burden and therefore drank better stuff at home. I lacked the ambition to explore the black market gift card underworld and lacked the means to just throw them away, so I bought a lot of sweaty ham paninis and dry turkey sandwiches, along with the occasional way-overpriced cup of yogurt and granola.
It was healthier and quicker than most fast food, and it was free, so it was fine. But I can't remember the last time I spent my own money on solid matter from Starbucks.
I'm willing to spend Serious Eats' money on just about anything, though, so one day last week my girlfriend and I set the alarm a few minutes early and took ourselves on a romantic little precommute date to check out Starbucks' new Chicken Sausage Breakfast Wrap.
The press releases are pushing this one as a healthy, high-protein way to wash down your coffee, and I must say that 14 grams of protein, 10 grams of fat, and 300 calories sounds like one of the less-deadly ways to spend $3.25 on fast food. And that's also a pretty fair tariff for a meat wrap at a chain often derided for its inflated pricing. So the numbers work from a distance, and I was guardedly optimistic as I waited the 45 or so seconds for my plastic-wrapped sandwich to come to life in one of those multipurpose convection toasterwave ovens that have taken over the industry lately.
Our breakfast came out hot as hell but quickly cooled, allowing me to appreciate the deep brown mottling on the wheat wrap. The bread was actually crunchy in spots—not stale, but legitimately toasty-crunchy—and while it had no flavor whatsoever, it was well suited to the job of holding the egg white, chicken sausage, and vegetables inside.
The vegetable situation was ludicrous. The plant-based elements of the stuffing were so scarce as to seem accidental, and if I hadn't been promised "fire-roasted" vegetables, I'd have assumed the one nub of white mushroom, two half-pinkie-nail chunks of zucchini, and light dusting of red pepper had fallen in by mistake. The green and red bits didn't taste like anything at all, and the mushroom did a pretty good job of impersonating the sausage.
The sausage comes in the form of crumbles added both above and beneath the egg-white patty that forms the bulk of the operation, and it's pretty good. The texture is disappointingly flaccid and gummy when eaten in isolation, but it works fine when taken as directed. It tastes like standard-issue breakfast sausage; nothing exciting, but it doesn't suffer noticeably for being chicken. It'll do.
The egg's also decent for its genre. It's about three eggs' worth of whites, and considering its provenance it could be a lot worse. It's only medium-rubbery and, in a rare twist, slightly undercooked.
If you can forgive the veggie shortage, the Starbucks Chicken Sausage Breakfast Wrap is a reasonably tasty, reasonably healthy, and reasonably priced alternative to the majority of fast food sausage and egg sandwiches.