Starbucks Review: Strawberry Funnel Cake Frappuccino Plus Chicken & Quinoa with Black Beans and Greens

I stopped into a Starbucks this weekend and picked up a frappuccino and salad — something very healthy and something quite a bit more indulgent.

So, the frappuccino isn’t quite as healthy as my other choice. The air conditioning in my car isn’t working so efficiently, and it’s been hard for me to resist frozen drinks in the hot weather. The strawberry funnel cake flavor seemed to be a seasonal or maybe limited edition flavor, and I often go for novelty, so I thought I would give it a try.

I tasted a lot of strawberry and whipped cream and sweetness but not a lot of coffee flavor. You can see from the photo that the whipped cream and strawberry are both on the bottom of the cup and layered on top. I was wondering how you could really get funnel cake flavor into a coffee drink, but that mostly came from a sprinkling of funnel cake pieces on the top.

It was refreshing, and, if I forgot it was supposed to be a coffee drink, I found it enjoyable like a milkshake or something different. The lack of coffee flavor was disappointing in something that was supposed to be … coffee. I felt the strawberry flavor didn’t blend and seemed to overwhelm the coffee flavor. I probably wouldn’t order it again. The barista behind the counter told me that she had not tried it, but that customers seemed to like it. So, although this is my opinion, you might feel differently.

Above is my salad as it appeared in the case and before opening. Below is how it appeared when I removed the lid.

There were assorted greens, (specifically, lettuce, spinach, tatsoi and chard) with white chicken pieces, cotija cheese, quinoa, black beans, charred corn, grape tomatoes, julienned jicama and a tomato vinaigrette.

Here’s another pic after I added the dressing and mixed everything.

The tomato vinaigrette contains tomato puree and looked thick like a tomato sauce before it was drizzled and stirred in. That was a little surprising.

I liked it. I detected quite a lot of natural sweetness from the corn, tomatoes, jicama and dressing. This was the first time this Northeastern girl tasted jicama, but I liked it. In fact, the ingredient wasn’t listed too prominently on the label, so when I came across it, I took a guess at what it was. I later saw it listed in fine print on the label on the underside of the bowl. The sweetness was balanced with a little tang from the dressing and some of the more bitter greens. The label listed sweet chile in the dressing, which I didn’t detect so much, so the spice level was pretty mild.

The chicken was moist, tender and savory, and it was satisfying to have some protein in the mix. The black beans also added some substance. According to the label, this salad has 420 calories. I would recommend the salad … not so much with the frappuccino.

I’m sharing this with Life This Week.

Weekend Coffee Share — Cedar Bean’s Coffee Joint

Iced black cow and cinnamon chip scone at Cedar Bean’s Coffee Joint, Cedar Grove, NJ

So, this week’s Weekend Coffee Share is all about … well, coffee! I have been giving Dunkin quite a bit of business lately, but Friday, since I had a little more leisure, decided to give an indie coffee house some patronage and drink in some atmosphere as well as coffee. I went to the Cedar Bean’s Coffee Joint in Cedar Grove, New Jersey.

Cedar Bean’s exterior on Pompton Avenue, Cedar Grove, NJ
View of inside coffee counter at Cedar Bean’s

I ordered an iced coffee drink called an iced black cow, a cinnamon chip scone and a house made yogurt parfait called a Yumyah.

Iced black cow and cinnamon chip scone
my Yumyah yogurt parfait

I sat down on a leather couch in company with this hipster buck.

It seems perfectly appropriate to come here either with a companion or solo. If you’re solo, you can work alone on your laptop or read a book from the book cart.

book cart at Cedar Bean’s

The iced black cow is a mixture of flash chilled coffee, black cardamom syrup and milk. My coffee drink was subtly sweetened. I asked for “a little sugar,” so they were careful not to oversweeten it. It was a lot less sweet than my coffee usually is, but that was fine. It was healthier, and I was able to appreciate the coffee and spice flavors a little more. The cardamom flavor was pleasant and not overwhelming, like having a little cinnamon with your cappuccino.

The owner, Dave Fletcher, came over to me and had a chat with me, and without me even telling him I was a blogger or any reporter-like probing on my part, he told me a whole story about my iced black cow coffee drink. The name “black cow” is a tribute to Steely Dan and their song, “Black Cow,” as he shared that he is a fan of the band.

He also explained the history of the black cardamom syrup. Dave shared with me that due to a trade dispute between India and Saudi Arabia, they weren’t able to get regular cardamom for a while for their chai drinks. Instead, they got black cardamom which is quite a bit different from regular cardamom and has more of a smoky flavor. So, they developed this black cardamom syrup. He did not feel he was a fan of the black cardamom but noticed that many of his customers liked it.

Honestly, when I placed my order, I was not sure how I felt about cardamom in particular and am not sure even now I can discern between regular and black cardamom. I do know I appreciate a little spice in either my coffee or tea. My goal when I came was to savor something a little different than a chain like Dunkin or Starbucks has to offer, and I think I achieved that.

The cinnamon chip scone was wonderfully delicious. It was surprisingly very moist in the center, more than I expected for a scone, and had a really nice crisp, flaky exterior. The yogurt parfait was also surprising in a positive way.

I read my label and saw sweetened condensed milk on my yogurt ingredient list. That might sound like it would be a little too sweet, but it wasn’t. It was a little sweeter than I expected, but it had a good balance of sweet and tart. I’m a big fan of berries, and my berry topping was very tasty. I read what I thought was “cohberry” on the ingredient list. If I did, I think it was a misprint, and it should be cowberry, also known as “mountain cranberry.” There were also blackberries, blueberries and raspberries and a homemade granola topping with all organic ingredients.

Cedar Bean’s has a really, pleasant atmosphere, with this corner leather chair …

and this crackling artificial fire.

Dave told me that he has a background in graphic design, and although we didn’t fit this into our discussion, I imagine then that he designed this clever logo, a coffee bean with antlers.

Some mellow jazz was playing throughout the place, and, at one point, I recognized “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck.

One thing that I enjoy about indie coffee places is that they often seem to support the arts in various ways. This is important to me as an indie book author and as someone interested in all forms of the arts. This support was evident here at Cedar Bean’s.

There was this groovy piano just outside, welcoming patrons to play.

This sign board was tucked into a corner when I was there, but Cedar Bean’s hosts an open mic on Thursday nights. Since I’ve been so actively writing poetry lately — even a coffee poem — perhaps, I should return as a participant.

Open Mic night sign at Cedar Bean’s

The place even showed support for student artists with a scrolling slide show display of artwork, including pottery, from students at Cedar Grove High School. A barista behind the counter explained that the art exhibit was closed to parents due to Covid, so Dave decided to display the students’ work this way.

If you are local or just visiting the area, come enjoy a coffee at Cedar Bean’s. If you are not, I hope you enjoyed a “virtual visit.”

Weekend Coffee Share — Cute Pets, Açai Bowl, Picnic in the Park

I’ve been splurging on Dunkin Donuts iced coffee (not pictured) this weekend, but the mug above, even though it doesn’t belong to me, represents two doggy friends that I was watching over the weekend.

My weekend was a really full one. I don’t think I could have squeezed much more in if I tried. I’m joining Natalie the Traveler and friends with her Weekend Coffee Share and jumping on a couple more applicable linky wagons. (Is “linky wagon” even a phrase? If it’s not, I think I just coined it.) I’m pinging Restless Jo and her Monday Walks, because my weekend involved a beautiful walk with friends in nature and Lisa Coleman of Birds Weekly because I got some photos of a swan and peacock in the park.

I watch French bulldogs, Theo and Remy, in their home from time to time. They are lovable doggies. Theo, though he looks so peaceful in this photo (and often is), is a little more exuberant and goofy.

Theo having a snooze <3

His Frenchie housemate, Remy, is just a little lady. I was noticing just by the way she prances through the grass in the backyard that she carries herself like a lady. Where Theo will tackle me with doggy kisses, Remy will just quietly look at me as I sit on the couch to tell me, “Pardon me, I would like uppies please. Give me a boost?”

Remy <3

They are good doggies. One of their owners told me once that she loves this breed, because Frenchies are lazy and snuggly. That certainly describes these two lovies.

I’ve also been dropping in to take care of a cat named Shultz, (a female in spite of the name.) She is a Scottish fold cat, and that breed is new to me. You can notice that her ears fold forward. Her owner told me that there is a Scottish straight breed and a Scottish fold breed that are closely related. They don’t know until kittens are born if they will have the fold or not. According to petfinder.com, it was discovered that “Any cat possessing one copy of the fold gene produced about fifty percent of Fold kittens.”

Shultz, the Scottish fold cat

Saturday, I went out and explored a relatively new smoothie place, Market 509 in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. One of the employees told me that they have been there since November 2020, but I only became aware of it a few weeks ago.

The unique shop is hard to define. They serve smoothies, ice cream, juice and bubble tea, but they also sell refrigerated vegetarian foods, Japanese snack foods, teas, tea sets and mugs and Japanese kawaii merchandise.

Japanese snack foods at Market 509

Some cutesy “kawaii” merchandise …

I tried an açai bowl for the first time. Well, previously, I tried a Dole brand version from the frozen food aisle, but it wasn’t quite the same experience. Açai berries are one of those trendy superfoods that have a lot of health benefits. They have a lot of antioxidants, fatty acids similar to olive oil, anthocyanins that can help lower cholesterol, Vitamin C and phytochemicals that can fight the growth of cancer cells.

I have never seen fresh açai berries sold in the U.S. My smoothie bowl was a mixture of berries and banana with açai powder added to it. There were two choices of açai bowls, Berry Blast and Pacific Twist. With it, you could choose four toppings and a drizzle. I ordered the Berry Blast with a mixture of banana, blueberry, blackberry, strawberry, apple juice and açai powder. For my toppings, I chose strawberries, bananas, coconut flakes and mochi. Mochi, for those who might not be familiar, is a sweet Japanese snack made from glutinous rice. I thought mine had the look and texture of marshmallow. I chose Nutella as my drizzle.

This was the work of art that was delivered to me.

My Berry Blast açai bowl at Market 509

And it came on a cute little tray …

Adorable!

This was my Saturday lunch. It was refreshing in the hot weather, full of nutrition and, very likely, had enough calories in it to make it a meal.

On Sunday, I fit in a lot and did a lot of driving all over creation (or, at least, parts of New Jersey.) I took care of doggy breakfast, pills and potty time back at the house where I was staying, drove about 20 minutes to take care of Miss Shultz and get her breakfast and then drove almost an hour (normally a half hour drive) to Sunday morning church. I thought I would be late, but I was actually early. 😛

My friend Adrienne planned a picnic lunch with friends at the James A McFaul Environmental Center in Wyckoff, New Jersey. Although this park is in the vicinity of church, first, I had to drive back to the doggies, give them some lunch, another potty break and bye bye kisses and then pack up my things, as the owners were due home that afternoon.

I was on a bit of a tight schedule, so I had half of my picnic lunch at the house. I thought I would be too late to picnic and might just join friends for the walk afterwards. It wasn’t too convenient to do “home-made” while house sitting, so I picked up some things at the Kings Supermarket: a tomato, mozzarella and basil sandwich on ficelle bread (I would have called it a baguette,) some Stacy’s pita chips and a Mash soda made with natural pomegranate and blueberry juices.

tomato, mozzarella, basil sandwich

It turns out friends were still picnicking when I arrived. There were six of us girls altogether: Adrienne, Sabrina, Iris, Jin, Cindy and me. I ate half my sandwich there, some cantaloupe that my friend Iris brought and a frozen snack from Adrienne, a blob of vanilla ice cream encased in strawberry mochi. It was a bit of a challenge to eat as the ice cream was melted, but I managed.

The James A. McFaul Environmental Center is a lovely park that has 81 acres of land with walking trails, a pond and observation deck overlooking it, various gardens, a picnic area, a few animal enclosures and a building with educational nature exhibits. The building was closed, but we were able to enjoy the trails, observation deck, picnic area and more.

I saw this lovely peacock in an enclosure.

It’s too bad he did not fan his tail for me.

Before we even hit the trail, we saw this beautiful swan in the pond right outside the picnic pavilion.

I liked the looks of this foot bridge.

I ended up getting a few shots of my friend Cindy on the trail, because we were leading the pack.

I enjoyed these log borders on the walking path. For a bit, Cindy and I tried balancing on the logs just like we would have done as kids.

I noticed several trees with tangled jumbles of roots.

Cindy identified these interesting plants in the foreground as skunk cabbages. The area is sometimes swampy.

After we walked the loop, we took this boardwalk up to the observation deck overlooking the pond.

Lovely friends

We got some more views of our swan friend.

Sorry, Lisa. I missed the photo op to capture the swan along with ducks and geese in one photo. I guess the point of the challenge was to capture birds of different species together. Just as I was ready to do that, my phone announced that my storage was full.

Human friends are important too. We had a rest from the heat at the top of the observation deck.

So my phone storage was up to capacity at the end of our time there, and I missed the opportunity to photograph an adorable fawn on our way back. Thankfully, my buddy Sabrina did not have the same problem.