Saturday, March 27, 2010

Scone Fail Continues

While stocking up on Buffalo "Chik'n" Nuggets the other day @ Trader Joe's, I happened upon TJ's mini cranberry orange scones and decided to give them a try. (Aside: the search for a suitable replacement for Panera's orange scone has begun in full force, and will not end until said replacement is determined.) They're tasty! And mini! Not as tasty as the product I'm seeking to replace, but pretty good. There's a unique set of drawbacks associated with the cranberry orange scones, though, these being:

1) They don't have as much frosting as I would prefer;
2) They come in packages of six, and six is too many scones for one person to comfortably eat in a few days' time (Hook doesn't eat scones);
3) They seem to spoil quickly. The package I purchased (on 3/23) had a sell-by date of 3/27, but the scones had gone bad by YESTERDAY. Believe you me, I'll be sending an email of complaint to Trader Joe's corporate to notify them of this mold problem.


Hook and I saw "Greenberg" last night and it was considerably better than either of us expected. We both had a hunch that it might fall into the "Away We Go" category - you know, movies that (based on their trailers) seem like they'd be enjoyable, but that are actually deflated by their own strained efforts at "quirkiness" and indielate20somethingsearly30somethingscuteness. On the contrary, "Greenberg" was mellow, plot-wise: the apparent paucity of a plot didn't announce itself as such, and Ben Stiller was the perfect casting choice. Hook was totally amused by the similarities between Greenberg and myself, these being:

1) Our tendency to write letters of complaint to major corporations;
2) Our sample shopping lists (His list included ice cream sandwiches and whiskey);
3) Our tendency to walk in pedestrian-unfriendly zones.


My mom arrives today! Our city-touring plans aren't totally solidified, but I think tomorrow is MoMA day (and, if my mom is up for it, a tour of the claw-machine floor at the Metreon). Today we'll probably walk through GG Park and visit the Tea Garden - a lot is blooming this time of year.
Holla for family visits!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Death of a [junk-food] era

I detest the idea of letting my blog go altogether - after all, I've been blogging for roughly eight years, and thought of being blogless (despite the relative infrequency with which I update) makes me uneasy - but lately I'm starting to understand how many of my favorite bloggers have gone the way of twitter/tumblr/long-ass facebook updates. Yes, there is exciting stuff happening in my life! Yes, there is mundane stuff happening in my life - mundane stuff I would like to share with the world! And yes, I do often catch myself thinking, "Okie, will blog about that later." Invariably, I'm then sidetracked by facebook (durrrrr), a crossword puzzle, a beer, a bird, or the outdoors.

But here I am, updating! Today's update - or the first of many updates, perhaps? Or perhaps I shouldn't be overly-ambitious? - regards something in the "Mundane Stuff I Would Like to Share With the Internet" category. So, ahem: those of you who know me know the purity of my love for Panera's orange scones. This is not a love of which I'm proud: this love, heretofore, was kept secret from all but a select few, the same select few who've seen me without makeup and have viewed the Most Frequently Played list on my iTunes. My embarrassment about this fondness stems from my recognition that Panera is not the classiest pastry joint around - far from it. As far as consumption of confections goes, I'm pretty well-traveled: I've had croissants in Paris, scones and clotted cream in England, Monhschnecke in Germany, Mozartkugeln in Austria, and so on. Despite my diverse pastry-eating experience and my knowledge that Panera's scone is composed primarily of refined white flour, high-fructose corn syrup, and orange dye, my love remains steadfast.

Strike that: remained. Yes, friends: Panera changed the recipe for their orange scones, and I am not a fan of the replacement.

Last weekend (weekend of awesomeness, incidentally, but maybe I'll get to that in another post), Hook and I walked to the one Panera location in San Francisco so that I could get an orange scone. I'd been craving one for some time, and hadn't eaten one since last summer (late July), and Saturday was an awesome day for a walk. Upon entry into the bakery-cafe, I sensed something was amiss. The scone, unlike its favored predecessors, was more oblong than square in shape, and its frosting was lighter orange than normal and flecked with largeish chunks of orange zest. Despite my rising anxiety, I ordered the scone, hoping that its unusual appearance belied the familiar taste I'd grown to love. Sadly, the scone had been prepared according to a different recipe. Its texture was flakier (less dense) than the original, the buttermilk flavor more prominent. Both the frosting and the scone were less sweet than the standard.

I was crestfallen. I'd walked halfway across the city for this damn scone, only to find that the recipe had been changed while I was unaware. Hook tried to console me by suggesting that maybe this was only a regional difference - chain restaurants, after all, are known to include different products in different geographic regions. At some level I knew that this assessment was false, that my treasured scone was gone for good. That evening, I sent an email to Panera re: perceived changes in the orange scone. (I also mailed a letter to the CEO.) Today, I received the following response to my email:

Dear Kate,

Thank you for contacting Panera Bread about our new Orange Scone. We
reformulated our Orange Scone to improve its texture, flavor and
appearance. After nearly two years of testing in both districts and
entire markets, the new scone debuted nationwide in January of this
year. Although we are sorry that you miss our old scone and
disappointed that you do not care for the new one, we appreciate your

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us. We hope you will
continue to enjoy Panera Bread.

Customer Comment Coordinator

Disappointed that I "do not care for the new one?" How about my disappointment? I'm not sure where/with what audiences this scone was tested, but those audiences were WACK. It seems to me that Panera changed its scone to appear "healthier" - the sugar content has obviously been reduced (if only marginally), the frosting is no longer neon orange, and the bits of orange zest punctuating the frosted top probably trick a goodly number of consumers into thinking they're eating actual fruit. I'm the first to promote healthy eating, and I'd say that my diet is healthier than that of 85% or 90% of the population. BUT, every now and then, I like to eat total, sugary crap, and Panera's orange scone was the sugary crap I loved the most. I loved the crunch of that godawful frosting, the crumbliness of the trans-fat laden dough. Never again.

I am adrift.
I am accepting suggestions for a pastry/baked good (nationally-available) to replace Panera's orange scone in my pantheon of junk-food craves.
This is all.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The one you really love.

The past three days have been packed with Stephin Merritt, and Oh! what a glorious three days these have been. Saturday afternoon, S.M. hosted a "DJ Set" at Amoeba; I use quotation marks here because the intent/outcome of said set were dubious. S.M. was onstage (in the presence of a bouncer-type person) for half an hour or so and played a few songs - some his, some not. Then, he signed autographs. Guess who got her copy of Realism signed? That's right! The procurement of the autograph was an experience not without challenges, however: when it was my turn to hand my CD to S.M., I could not speak. I mean this in the most literal sense: face-to-face with one of my musical heroes, I couldn't think of a single thing to say. And so I stood there, staring, until S.M. said, "I really like your earrings, but I wonder how they don't get tangled in your hair." To which I responded, "Oh, they do. But it's cool." And that was the end of the exchange.

Sunday night was the (unofficial*) world premiere of Strange Powers, Kerthy Fix and Gail O'Hara's documentary of the Magnetic Fields. The event was held at Mezzanine, which, despite its marginal utility as a movie theater, is a really cool space. The film** was really well done: Fix and O'Hara compiled footage and interviews during a ten-year period, and the result was smartly-edited and informative and funny and sad: just how you'd want a documentary of your favorite band to turn out. After the screening, Fix, O'Hara, S.M., and Claudia Gonson responded to questions posed by audience members, some of which (and of whom) were quite stupid. Referring to S.M.'s filmed description of the narrative arc of "California Girls," one audience member asked, "Did you really write a song about a fat Midwestern woman who hates California girls?" Um? Yes.

Yesterday was the finale of my own personal Merrittfest: the Magnetic Fields played at the Herbst Theatre***. The show sold out a few hours after tickets went on sale, but Hook got tickets on StubHub as an Xmas gift (thank ye, considerate boyf!); we were sitting four rows from the stage, which was pure awesomeness. The show was super-sedate: I was among the youngest people in attendance (ha!) and the sets were both mellow, featured lots of songs from the new album and from "Highway Strip." Not a ton from "69 Love Songs" or "I" or "Distortion," but this was OK: I was [mostly] OK with this. I could spend all day listening to Stephin Merritt sing. I knew what Hook meant when he said that, once S.M. left town, it would be as though an old friend had left town (though neither of us is acquainted with the man, obv.). Indeed, I have the same feeling now as at the end of a vacation. Fewer pictures, sure, and no sand at the bottom of my duffel, but the same contentment with the new-minted memories & time well spent.

*The official premiere will be at SXSW on March 15th.
**I hate using the word "film" when referring to anything but an actual art film, but I already felt like I was overusing "documentary," so there you go. I'm not an asshole, I promise.
***I also typically spell this word "theater," but the name of the venue is an -re.