Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Darn Good Food

Darn Good Food is a fast casual eatery, focused on making healthy food, nutritionally balanced to help busy professional power through their days, and making it fast.  All menu items include calorie and fat counts very prominently, with big banners advertising ones that are under 550 calories, so the healthy aspect of the restaurant is very in your face.  They promise that any item will be ready within 10 minutes, even though prepared to order.  The cafe is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, weekdays only.  Since I generally eat lunch and dinner at work, I've only ever stopped by for breakfast, which doesn't seem to be their strong point.

As I said, I've only been for breakfast, and, being myself, I've only been to get baked goods, rather than the actual healthy options available, like egg dishes or yogurt and fruit parfaits.  The lunch menu is all soups, sandwiches, and salads, available for dine-in or take out.  Dinner is more entree style, but served as bento boxes, again, with the intention that you grab it fast on your way by.  Smoothies make up a large section of the menu.

The space is large inside, which surprised me, since it seems like if most of the business is togo, they don't need as much dining space.  You order at a counter at the front, and can then seat yourself on one of two levels, at a table or a long bar area overlooking the lane behind the cafe.  The interior is all appointed with wooden furniture.

On the side is a condiments station, complete with sweeteners and milk for coffee, and self service cucumber water.

Staff have always been nice enough, but not particularly friendly.

The drinks I have had have all been fairly unremarkable, and the baked goods, actually quite bad.  I can't judge them on any of their housemade items though, since the baked goods are all outsourced from Semifreddi's.

Drinks

Darn Good Food sources Mr. Espresso for their coffee beverages, and uses an automatic magic machine to produce the drinks.  No real baristas here.
Decaf Americano, Single.  $1.95.
On my first visit, I just got a decaf americano, since they did not have decaf drip coffee.

It was a standard americano, no real complaints.  On the side condiment station, they also have skim milk and half and half, along with various sweeteners (but no cinnamon/nutmeg/etc).

Nothing remarkable, and it did the job, and the price was fine.
Decaf Americano, Double.  $2.35.
On my next visit, I upgraded to a bigger size.  The guy making my drink asked a question, which I thought was, "do you want room for cream?"  I pinched my fingers together and said, "a little".  I drink my coffee black generally, but if it wasn't good, I wanted the ability to add a little milk to help it out.

I was thus surprised when I got my drink, and it was very, very pale brown.  Loaded up with cream.  Since I'm used to drinking coffee black, or perhaps with a small amount of milk, this isn't really what I wanted, and it took some getting used to.  I felt like with every sip my entire throat was getting coated in cream.  Now, I love cream, don't get me wrong.  I eat ice cream every day.  And whipped cream most days.  I have nothing against cream.  I just don't want it in my coffee.

I'm not used to cafes adding the dairy product for you, and last time I was at Darn Good Food, they had different types of milk and creamer on the condiments station, so I was pretty thrown off here.  I can't really evaluate the coffee, since again, all I experienced was cream overload.

$2.35 for a large Americano was a fine price.
Decaf Iced Americano.  $1.95.
On a later visit, it was a beautiful hot day, and I decided to go for an iced coffee.  They don't have iced coffee, but offered to brew an americano over ice.  And ... that is literally what I got.  The cup had an insane amount of ice in it, and an espresso shot, and perhaps a tiny bit of water?  It wasn't full to the top, and literally, all ice.

Right before he handed it over, I was again asked if I wanted cream.  This time I knew better, and pointed to the condiment station, and said I'd add it myself.  I'm really unsure why they have the milk and sweeteners out, if they so eagerly want to add it?

Anyway, like the regular hot americano, it was fine, but not remarkable.  And, since it was basically just a single espresso shot, gone way too fast!
Pineapple Ginger Lemonade. $3.
On one occasion, I decided to try something besides coffee.

They offer several types of fresh squeezed lemonades.  I went for the most refreshing sounding: pineapple ginger.

In my first few sips, all I could taste was pineapple.  It was sooo sweet.  I finally picked up some ginger on the finish, but it was subtle.  I honestly didn't taste lemon, or lemonade, at all.

This was far too sweet for me, and needed to be watered down, and even then, I still didn't care much for it.  $3 was fine for a fresh drink like this, but I certainly wouldn't get another.
Protein Smoothie, Small, $5.
On one occasion, I decided to really branch out, and get a smoothie.  Now, I'm really not a smoothie person.  I was on a liquid-only diet for several months for medical purposes and, let's just say, I am seriously, seriously over smoothies.

But ... this sounded good.  I was really drawn in by the peanut butter: "peanut butter, soy milk, low fat yogurt, honey, strawberries, blueberries, banana and apple juice."

Really, it should have been called the "pb&j" smoothie.  It tasted SOOO much like a pb&j!  I loved the flavors: peanut butter on the finish, really fruity to start, with sweetness from honey.  It was freshly made, well blended, the right level of icyness.  But … I think I’m just over smoothies.  I didn’t want a liquid pb+j, even if it tasted good.

$5 price is standard for a fresh made smoothie.

I also tried the Antioxidant smoothie once, and found it to be way, way too sweet.  The overwhelming flavor was raspberry, which is fine, but it just wasn't very balanced.

Baked Goods

The breakfast baked goods all come from Semifreddis.  I know Semifreddis as my Whole Foods carries some of their goods, and Ojan is in love with their cinnamon bread.  Unfortunately, nothing I got from Darn Good Food was good.  It all tasted very stale.  I went on many different days of the week, and in the early mornings, so I don't think it possibly was an issue of old deliveries.
Semifreddi's Almond Croissant.  $2.75.
On my first visit, I went for the most decadent looking item, the almond croissant.

Semifreddi's describes it as "dusted with powdered sugar, topped with slivers of California Almonds and filled with a decadent almond paste."  It was indeed dusted with powdered sugar, and topped with slivers of almonds.  But the almond paste?  Not decadent.

I was really in the mood for an almond croissant after having the great one from Prima Cafe.  This looked good, particularly as it was coated in powdered sugar and almond slices.

But ... it was kinda dried out.  Chewy in a strange way.  It just didn't taste fresh at all.  It wasn't flaky nor buttery.  There was almond paste inside, but not much, and not well distributed.  I struggled to like this, as I really wanted to, but alas, it did not ever grow on me.

It was a very disappointing croissant, which made me quite sad, as I've enjoyed other Semifreddi's goods in the past.  $2.75 price was perhaps a bit high.
Semifreddi's Blueberry Muffin.  $2.25.
On my next visit, I went for a muffin, since I hadn't liked the croissant.  My choices were lemon-poppyseed, bran, or blueberry.  I wasn't feeling the others, so I went for blueberry, and knew that if I didn't like it, blueberry is Ojan's favorite, so he might like it.

Described as "cake-like and filled with wild blueberries, our muffin is packed with anti-oxidants and tastes so good that you won’t even realize it’s good for you."

I really didn't like it.  It didn't have any real redeeming quality.  It wasn't crispy on top.  It wasn't moist inside.  Not that it was dry, but it was just homogenous, in a really boring way.  It was very sweet, and, well, cake-like, as they said.  If I had read the description before picking it up, I would have chosen something else.  I love cake, but not in my muffin.  The blueberries were just little bits throughout.

I brought it to Ojan, who commented, "that really isn't a good muffin".  Clearly, not a winner, although the price of $2.25 was fine for such a large muffin.
Semifreddi's Lemon Poppyseed Muffin.  $2.25.
After my disappointment with the blueberry muffin, and the croissant, you'd think I'd stop trying.  But I know Semifreddi's makes really good morning buns, and cinnamon bread, so I wanted to give them another chance.

The description was encouraging: "These moist and delicious muffins are a perfect way to brighten up your morning! A burst of lemon, rich buttermilk and a little crunch from the poppy seeds...what a muffin!"

One of my complaints with the blueberry muffin was the lack of flavor, so I hoped that the buttermilk would add a desired tang.  And that the lemon would give it a zing.  But ... it didn't.  There was no real flavor to the base, again.  I barely tasted lemon.  It was loaded up with poppyseeds, which were nice and crunchy, but ... not very good.

The other issue was the texture.  Just like the blueberry, it was all completely the same, not exactly moist nor dry.  I love a nice moist interior and a crispy top, and this was all just the same.

Plain and boring, just like the blueberry.  I tried to share this with colleagues, and no one wanted a second bite.  It made me crave the Costco almond poppyseed muffin!
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