Oh, how the latte has fallen from grace

You guys aren’t going to believe me, but I’m going to tell you a sad truth.

In the past month, I’ve had four — four — pumpkin spice lattes since my most favorite of all drinks was re-introduced at Starbucks, Panera, Borders and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Four.

Four drinks. Total.

I used to go through two or three drinks in a week, easy peasy. Lots of caffeine and syrup happening over here. When my coworkers would head over on the morning Dunkin’ run, I’d throw in a few bucks or be generously treated by my friend Kelly, a total latte enabler, and find a delicious steaming beverage waiting for me in no time. Not every day; I mean, I’m not an addict or anything. Heh. Um. But, you know, at least two times a week. Three, max.

But this year? This year I got one on Aug. 30 with Spencer at Starbucks, then put up a tweet about it. Considering it was still 90 degrees out, we’ll let that be an indication of my dedication to this drink.

And, you know? It was good. I liked it. As good as I remembered, sure, and I sipped it while watching Spencer’s face as he tried his. Considering he’s not much of a latte/macchiato/espresso drinker, he was brave to give it a try. And was lukewarm on the experience.

For me, pumpkin lattes are all about the thrill of tradition. It’s so exciting to realize that yes, autumn is here again! And all of those exciting, fall things are available! Like choosing pumpkins at our neighborhood patch or seeing Halloween-shaped Peeps, it’s a harbinger of the holiday season to come. The pumpkin spice latte is, basically, how I mark the passing of time.

Last year I called myself a modern latte Goldilocks, flitting through the countryside and trying every restaurant’s offering. This year I even added Borders to my sampling plate, so to speak, and  enjoyed the pumpkin creme latte available at their Seattle’s Best Coffee cafes.

But this year? I couldn’t tell you which one I liked best. Because I’ve had exactly one from each location, drinking them passively as my mind was on other things.

What’s happened to me? How has my enthusiasm for something I once loved with all my heart waned so greatly? Did I just officially burn myself out on the pumpkin spice? The last time I dashed into a Starbucks on my way back to the office, I ordered tea. A chai tea latte.

I love tea, but am I seriously cheating on my pumpkin latte with chai? Something I can get all year long, no complications? No anticipation?

I don’t know what to tell you, friends. I’m pretty upset about this.

And I think I’ll go drown my sorrows in another chai to take my mind off it.

The Modern Latte Goldilocks

pumpkinOK, enough messing around — I have found the perfect pumpkin spice latte. I know you’re all chuckling to yourselves right now, probably shaking your heads sadly as you realize yes, I’m obsessing about a tasty seasonal drink again. But since you all know me well enough to know my quirkiness and coffee devotion is just another of my cutesy quirks, humor me for, oh, one more blog post. (Or a few more — it depends on how much I’d like to wax philosophical here. I’m thinking very much.)

My friend Kelly’s birthday was this past weekend and, devoted friend that I am, I forgot. In order to make it up to her, I hopped in my car and got myself over to the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts this morning. I managed to get inside with all of my appendages, which was a miracle in itself — those people in the drive-through line do not play. I was pretty sure one angry SUV driver was going to mow me down as I dared to cross in front of him to, you know, get inside the shop. I can barely open my eyelids too, people. Let’s play nice.

So I narrowly make it inside, order Kelly’s birthday donuts and casually glance around at all the brightly-colored ads around the store advertising — what else? — the pumpkin-flavored stuff they have. I resisted the temptation to get a pumpkin donut or muffin but the allure of a frothy, delicious latte was way more than I could handle. I may put on a great show, but my self-restraint can only take me so far!

And let me tell you — it’s perfection. Yes, I will boldly say that Dunkin’ Donuts’ pumpkin spice latte is the best pumpkin spice latte. Ever. Starbucks’ is great, yes — and I do enjoy the frappuccino version, too. But it’s got a tinge of bitterness to it and, no matter how much cream or sugar you pour in that puppy, you’re always very much aware that you’re drinking coffee. And Panera’s latte? Yummy, yes, but it’s actually overly sweet. Like licking pumpkin syrup from the bottom of the cup. Much more of a dessert than anything.

So here I am: Meg, the Modern Latte Goldilocks. Because Dunkin’s version? Oh, yes — it’s just right.

Do yourself a favor and grab one. Like, today, if you can. Because I have a feeling a nationwide Dunkin’ Donuts latte shortage will be happening in the very near future . . . because, you know, I’m really thirsty. And fall comes but once a year!

Pumpkin spice groupies

starbucks_sleeveFew things in life send me shouting and trembling with excitement — and most of them are hypothetical. (Like, say, hypothetically I would get an e-mail from an agent telling me yes, he/she’d like to represent me and already knows just the publisher for my absolutely incredible novel.)

But the ones grounded in absolute reality? Of course, nothing compares to going to a concert — and seeing a favorite band live for the first time. That magical feeling can easily sustain me for days, if not weeks, at a time! The first time I saw John Mayer? Heaven. Total heaven. And The Killers concert from Monday night? I’m still babbling incoherently about it.

But the other crazy, ridiculously exciting stuff? Usually it has something to do with food. And no, I know you wish I were joking . . . but I wouldn’t kid about something like this.

Considering I spend all day on a computer, you’d think I would be a little more up with the times on matters of vital importance . . . like Starbucks’ annual unveiling of the pumpkin spice latte. I mean, seriously! I lust after this drink all year and then I have no clue when it’s finally available in expensive coffeeshops across the U.S.? Am I insane?

And this where I chant, yet again, thank God for Twitter! Without it, I’m not sure I would know if nuclear war broke out, leveling half the world. Trending topics tell me all I need to know! So imagine my excitement when I saw a little Tweet from author Robin Benway . . . which prompted this response from yours truly:

pumpkin_spice

I immediately texted my sister with the great news as I jumped up from my desk, grabbing my keys and hastily waving goodbye to my coworkers. My hometown is littered with Starbucks cafes in grocery stores like Safeway, but I wanted the real deal. My Corolla and I sped over and, only fifteen minutes after discovering my beloved drink was back, I was holding one in my hot little hands.

And oh, it was heaven.

When Katie got home from college later in the day, I regaled her with the tale of my dedication to getting the pumpkin spice as soon as possible. I’d chosen the latte — the hot version — which allowed me to savor it over the course of, oh, an hour or so. Because everyone knows the drink experience will be severely tainted by a burnt tongue.

me_pumpkin_frapMy sister wasn’t content with just hearing about the pumpkin spice, though. Did I seriously think I was going to have the edge over her? We piled into her car after dinner and drove to a nearby Target where, yes, they had the pumpkin spice. And like I was going to miss an opportunity to get another drink? Though this time I went with the cold variety — the frappuccino. Grande, if you’re interested.

And that’s me at right, drinking it. And wearing my Killers concert T-shirt from Monday night. Two of my favorite things, combined! A good night. (Yes, Kate took this photo; we are those pumpkin spice groupies.)

So what’s the moral of the story? Rely on Twitter for news of your favorite beverages making their annual appearance . . . and, after drinking that grande frap, don’t drink two giant pumpkin drinks in one day. Seriously, bad idea.

Still — was it worth it? Heck yes. And all this pumpkin chatter has me hankering once more . . . I wonder when Dairy Queen’s pumpkin pie blizzard will be back? Maybe someone is Tweeting . . .

Gingerbread makes way for gingersnap

gingersnap_latteMy realization of this is probably way late, but where is the Gingerbread Latte at Starbucks? In November I stumbled into a store with my boyfriend, bleary-eyed and cold in D.C., and got that momentary jolt of anticipation thinking I could find my beloved Gingerbread drink. And what did I find? Something called . . . the Gingersnap Latte. Really? Gingersnap? With crystallized pieces of ginger? Doesn’t really sound that tasty to me.

But I had to try it, of course — and I’ve had it once more since then. It’s okay. Nothing to write home about — or blog about, since that’s more likely — but decent. It still boasts the frightening nutrition facts I’m used to — 13 grams of fat in a grande (small) with 2% milk; 42 carbohydrates — but does have 11 grams of protein. I can deal with that; I usually don’t drink lattes as meals anymore! Being away from the bookstore has had one positive effect . . . on my weight and my wallet. Though the ginger burns my throat a little.

On the bright gingerbread side, I can still grab my beloved drink at our Seattle’s Best Coffee at Borders . . . and I get a gingerbread man cookie inside the drink. On top of the whipped cream!

If I were feeling adventurous, I could actually make a Gingerbread Latte at home. Lots of recipes are circulating the Internets, but this one looked fairly simple. I don’t have the right the equipment nor the know-how, but for those of you who may be inclined to whip up this seasonal favorite on the weekend and have an espresso machine (lucky!), please see below . . . after the jump!

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Fluffy hot chocolate — yep, I’m in!

hot_chocolate I’ve decided there are some things I need more of in my life — and some things I need far less of! And landing squarely in the “must have more!” category is hot chocolate.

As the weather starts getting colder and I can no longer find my beloved pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks, I have to get crazy and find something new to enjoy. I am a fan of hot apple cider and various other caffeinated drinks, but I don’t think anything can beat the feeling of holding a mug of delicious, simmering chocolate with a huge dollop of whipped cream or, if you hang out around my house, tons and tons of mini marshmellows.

Now, I’m no hot chocolate snob. I grab the Swiss Miss and pour in the little dehydrated marshmellow bits as often as the next drink lover. In fact, some of my all-time favorite hot chocolate moments involve drinks using just hot water, a mug, some chocolate powder and a microwave.

When it snows in Southern Maryland, things basically shut down. We’re not well equipped for cold weather or, as the case may be, ice covering our driveways, roads and places of employment. So when the first few flakes would fall and the blessing of all blessings would be sounded out on the radio and TV — A SNOW DAY! — Kate and I would grab our boots, shovels and big coats and pad out to help Dad dig out the driveway. And after the labor was done, of course, it was time for . . . hot chocolate. With tons and tons of marshmellows!

I think maybe I’ll do something crazy this year, though — making hot chocolate. From scatch. With milk . . . on a stovetop! I know, I’m thinking big these days! But here’s a cool recipe, submitted by Jo Ann Schimcek, I found on Allrecipes.com — my go-to for matters such as these. Sounds easy enough that even I could do it . . . hopefully. And it has melted marshmellows!:

Fluffy Hot Chocolate

hot_chocolate_recipe

Ingredients:
• 8 teaspoons sugar
• 4 teaspoons baking cocoa
• 4 cups milk
• 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
In a saucepan, combine the first four ingredients. Cook and stir over medium heat until the marshmallows are melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Ladle into mugs.

Pumpkin spice is back!

I don’t know how I’ve neglected to mention this already, but something very exciting happened yesterday — Palmer and I discovered that the Pumpkin Spice Latte is back at Starbucks! He’s more of a Cinnamon Dolce type of guy, but there’s absolutely nothing — repeat — nothing I enjoy more than the pumpkin spice latte. Except for maybe the gingerbread latte.

Okay, yes — except for the gingerbread latte. I have a photo montage dedicated to my consumption of the gingerbread latte.

I now also have this gem of a photo, courtesy of my boyfriend. While it’s certainly not my most flattering shot, I’m posting it as an expression of my absolute excitement and dedication to the pumpkin spice. God bless you, Starbucks, and your $4 drinks. Gets me every single time.

And now I have the gingerbread latte to look forward to! The smooth, mellow flavor . . . The feeling of a million calories sliding down your throat and into your warmed tummy . . . Holiday music playing softly in the background . . . It’s a good life.