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RESTAURANTS | DRIVE-BY DINING

Trendy choices, a sniff above that other place

July 05, 2007|Dog Davis | Special to The Times

REMEMBER when the Lakers could win a playoff series, celebrities almost never went to jail and Starbucks smelled like freshly roasted coffee? Nowadays, Starbucks' need for flavor-locked packaging to serve its 13,000-plus stores worldwide may be depriving customers of the aromatic pleasures of its early days, but it's this type of packaging that's allowed the ever-expanding giant to move into the world of fast-food breakfasts.

Several L.A. Starbucks have begun serving toasted egg and muffin sandwiches. There are five varieties: "classic sausage" with cheddar; "peppered bacon" with cheddar; Black Forest ham with (yup) cheddar; a meatless eggs Florentine with baby spinach, Havarti cheese and creamy herb spread; and a reduced-fat turkey bacon with cholesterol-free egg, reduced-fat white cheddar and a multigrain muffin. Each is $2.95 and available day and night at participating locations.

Freshly made? No way, Jose! But tasty? Read on.

weekend@latimes.com

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Starbucks' Breakfast Sandwiches

Taste****

Watching your barista pull a pre-made sandwich from a cellophane wrapper and pop it in an oven may not whet your appetite, but the results are surprisingly yummy. The oven toasts the muffin and the corners of the egg patty, while the cheese gets warm and slightly greasy. Mmmm! All the sandwiches have their merits, but the Black Forest ham really rocks. No doubt these newcomers will graduate near the top of the Fast-Food Class of '07.

Diet Watch**

The "classic sausage" version is the most filling with 470 calories and 25 grams of fat, while the reduced-fat turkey bacon is the least with 350 calories and 11 grams of fat. Then again, a McDonald's Egg McMuffin has only 300 calories and 12 grams of fat. And calorie-counters, don't think that if you order something with "reduced fat" in its name, you've earned the right to wash it down with a Venti-sized Double Chocolate Chip Frappuccino with whipped cream (a delicious but deadly 670 calories).

Portability -*

They really need to work on this. The sandwich comes in a paper bag sealed with a sticker that says "Great Coffee Deserves Great Food" in large letters and "Caution: Very Hot" in tiny ones. The warning portion of the sticker should be bigger and ought to include, "Grease may soak through bag. Do not place on your lap, car seat or the armrest of a Starbucks comfy chair while you obliviously type on your laptop."

Hype-o-meter*

Starbucks has breakfast sandwich ads in newspapers, on radio, on billboards and online, but that's nothing compared to how it's pushing the new Paul McCartney CD, which is on its Hear Music label. Even the cash register receipts have been used to hype the songs. Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged.

* Ratings are on a scale of one (lowest) to four (best).

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