Starbucks has said that “The Perfect Oatmeal” was its best food product launch ever and its most popular food item (http://www.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUSTRE48M9WT20080923). Many people commented on how great the stuff was shortly after its premiere. But is it worth the hype? And, more importantly, is oatmeal worth $2.60?
For the last 7 months, I’ve had an unshakeable and stable romance with oatmeal. I’ve eaten it almost every day. Our affair began after I woke up late one cool summer day the week before returning to Yale. After five minutes of shifting boxes and turning cans looking for something warm, thick, and filling to anchor my stomach in the hopes that the heat from the food would radiate to my limbs from my core, I came across a box of oatmeal after denying ten cans of Campbell’s New England clam chowder the opportunity to take my palate out on a date.
Oatmeal seemed perfect. As the microwave hummed away I sliced some juicy, meaty plums, the kind that ooze the abundance of California’s Central Valley, and waited with salivating breath for the perfect quick breakfast on that breezy day.
When I heard a couple days later that Starbucks was launching a new product, boldly titled, “The Perfect Oatmeal,” I knew I had to try it. Unfortunately, living in Swing Space with my miraculously never-ending box of Costco Quaker Instant Oatmeal kept me from making the trek.
Today, however, I made time for “The Perfect Oatmeal.” As I waited in line, I pondered which topping I was in the mood for. I’d heard that Starbucks offered brown sugar, dried fruit, or nuts to go with their oats. For comparison’s sake, since I usually take my Quaker Instant Oats with dried fruit, I decided that was what I would go with.
My expectations were high. I knew only I was guaranteed oatmeal in a perky, 1960s minimalist-mod container in the display case. Turns out that first of all, Starbucks serves it all day—it doesn’t discriminate against post 11 AM oatmeal cravings. As an oatmeal lover, I thought that was rather considerate. The barista handed me my oatmeal in its autumn-color themed carton. My dried fruit was resting neatly on top in its plastic packaging. I hadn’t expected that I was supposed to add my topping in myself, but I suppose it was a nice touch, since people probably like their dried fruit in different quantities.
I shook out the 100 calorie bag of dried cherries, cranberries, raisins, and blueberries, mixed it into the thick, milky mixture of barely steaming oats, and took my first bite. Something was amiss. Sugar. It desperately needed sweetening. I should have known. Luckily, Starbucks keeps free Splenda and sugar handy. Following the theme of healthy snacking, I picked up a packet of Splenda and shook it into the cup, stirring the oatmeal until it was sweetened to taste.
Once the seasonings were adjusted, I focused on the rich, consistently smooth texture of the oatmeal. Boy was it creamy! Although I didn’t ask, I think the Starbucks secret might be adding a little bit of steamed milk to their oats for that extra richness. Where is this coming from? My oatmeal looked a little milky before I stirred it together. Skim would probably be my guess, since they tout that their standard oatmeal serving is 140 calories on their website. I thought I would never make instant oats using just water ever again. I only wished that they’d used hotter liquid to make the oatmeal, because it quickly became a lukewarm failure in that respect.
The tartness of the dried fruit cutting the richness of the oatmeal was probably the highlight of the cup. While the oatmeal is delicious, the combination of fruit and oatmeal is something that I know I can enjoy at home. More importantly, I would prefer to eat my warm oatmeal in my room and savor its affectionate embrace as I gear up for the cold, especially since Starbucks’ oatmeal is $2.60 including tax. It’s at least worth a try. Who knows? You might be a repeat customer. I think I’ll stick to finding the milk to water ratio I’m crazy about and make “The Perfect Oatmeal” for less money per serving and much less pain in my fingers.