Coffee house or donut shop?

Source: Wikipedia/Julius Schorzman

Source: Wikipedia/Julius Schorzman

I’ve been confronted by the great dilemma of our times: do I want good coffee, or do I want good pastry? Because I have a lot of trouble finding both.

Chocolate chocolate-chip muffins? YES!

Chocolate chocolate-chip muffins? YES!

Recently, I’ve had to temporarily live away from home. This has shaken up my habits. Among other things, I’ve had to go find a place nearby to get my daily coffee and pastry fix. And for me, pastry has to include a substantial amount of chocolate as an option.

In this neck of the woods, Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks dominate the landscape, with the occasional Au Bon Pain or Panera, as well as the independents. Dunkin’ has a broad range of coffee, and even their regular isn’t that high in caffeine, so that’s all to the good for me. But their signature donuts and muffins tend to be soft and sugary. They’re good for a few days, but then I get to feeling I’m going to become a diabetic when I visit them. Starbucks, long known for their bitter coffee, has finally seen the light with lighter blends, but their pastry case usually leaves me cold. I find the only time I frequent them by choice is when I visit a Barnes & Noble bookstore in the late afternoon or evening, and want to curl up with a book, a big, soft, chocolate-chip cookie, and a latte.

When it comes to pastry, especially for the morning, I like the independent bakeries the best. My last hometown before this one, Amherst, Massachusetts, has the Henion, which offered a decent range of coffee along with their drool-worthy pastry case. I’m checking out a new bakery in my original home town, and so far the pastry is good, but they’ve got only one flavor of coffee (admittedly in regular and decaf). Maybe I’ll have to drop a word in their ear.

I like my coffee house decor a little more subtle than Van Gogh's depiction of one

I like my coffee house decor a little more subtle than van Gogh’s depiction of one


About Brian Bixby

I enjoy history because it helps me understand people. I'm writing fiction for much the same reason.
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15 Responses to Coffee house or donut shop?

  1. Paul Diming says:

    Love it! BTW, I choose coffee. You will enjoy coffee at lot later in life than pastry 8^)

  2. I usually always choose coffee, but since I cannot normally go to the places I would like to visit as a change, I stick with the café at Barnes and Noble. You know, my Happy Place.

    • Brian Bixby says:

      I recall, from your own blog posts.

      It turns out there’s an independent bookstore across the river in Boston that has both coffee and beer. I’ve stopped there once. I’ll have to try it again. 🙂

  3. crimsonprose says:

    In the days when I indulged in ‘coffee and pastry’, the pastry HAD to be Danish ‘maple and walnut’. But that’s now so long ago I can hardly remember it. As for coffee: strong, made with Arabian beans. Nought else will do. But for that, I brew my own.

    • Brian Bixby says:

      I’ll have to remember that and have such a Danish in your honor sometime. 🙂

      Probably the strongest coffee I’ve encountered is a place near Central Square in Cambridge that makes what it calls Turkish and Arabian style coffees. I don’t know what the difference is there.

      My own introduction to coffee was a pleasant, then disastrous experience on the West Coast of the U.S. in 1992. I didn’t realize that what was devastating my digestion was the coffee and espresso I was drinking.

      • crimsonprose says:

        I made a slip with the Danish – it should be ‘maple and pecan nut’. It’s very yummy. My first coffee was not very yummy; it was ‘Camp’, which is coffee and chicory, comes in syrup form and is disgusting. But it’s all my mother would buy, and anyway coffee isn’t good for kids. I then discovered coffee as served in the trendy coffee bars of the sixties (no mega-chain names, we’re talking Norwich here; we’d only just got our university. A few years later I discovered Turkish coffee. Yeah, liked that. But I think I’d now consider it too sweet (it was sweetened before served). But it seems the love of Arabian beans continue.
        I have twice quit coffee. Ouch, that day four withdrawal headache is THE worst imaginable (and I’m used to migraines). Even to speak was an agony. I had to cut work early (shucks, missed an evening with an Abba lookalike band). Every smell encountered on the walk home made my nauseous. But it was worth it. Oddly (or not) I quit alcohol at the same time. Totally unintentional, just didn’t want it anymore. I have since returned to both poisons, and have again given them both the push – no withdrawal symptoms this time. I have returned to the coffee (not the alcohol), but generally drink only one cup per day, that’s in the morning with my breakfast, and heaven help anyone who gets in my way.
        As to tea, the great British salve. I can’t abide it, and never have. I do, however, drink Red Bush (a South African green tea), and various fruit teas, cos, let’s face it, I’m a health-nut (in my dreams).

        • Brian Bixby says:

          While I started drinking tea first: treatment for a case of pneumonia I came down with in my senior year in high school.
          I’ve quit coffee once since drinking it steadily, at doctor’s orders. (He later told me he meant me to just taper off.) I somehow avoided any withdrawal symptoms, possibly because I was too worried about other health problems at the time.
          There was a brief period, around 2009, when caffeine would cause migraines and abort cluster headaches, while alcohol had the opposite effect in both cases. I used that as an excuse to drink a great deal of both. 😉

          • crimsonprose says:

            Myself, I’m unable to drink coffee if I have a migraine. Reason is simple. Years upon years ago, my GP prescribes a drug (Caffecot Q) for treatment of migraine. They were massive, at least 1″ diameter, though discoid, and they had to be chewed. Ingredients: Caffeine and Ergot. (They have since been taken off the market for pretty obvious reasons). But they tasted so strongly of caffeine, that they created an association of caffeine = vomiting – but only when I have a migraine in process. I now take clonidine (6 tabs a day) and have only a very occasional migraine, and never full-blown. Yippee!

  4. davekheath says:

    I live outside Portland Oregon the land of The Doughnut shop. even smaller rural cities like Sandy and Estacada have at least one mom and pop doughnut place puts all the doughnut stores I went to when I lived in California to shame. In fact independent doughnut places are so good and prevalent that I while I am sure Portland has some chain stores Like Dunkin, I can’t recall seeing them.

    • Brian Bixby says:

      Sounds wonderful. I remember that region for my introduction to coffee (OK, in Seattle, not Portland, but, hey, I’m on the other side of the continent!), which unfortunately did not go well at the time. Not the Pacific Northwest’s fault, just a sensitive digestion.

      Now I’m going to have to ask my friend in Bend which shop she likes the best.

  5. danagpeleg1 says:

    When I lived in the US, it was in California, and only last year I realized how bad coffee can be in between coasts… more or less, like this cup. by Meret Oppenheim:

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