Berkeley foodies have plenty to be excited about, from fine dining on Fourth Street to cheap eats in the Asian Ghetto. But they really go gaga over the slightest mention of secret menu items, even ones at big chains. Who wouldn’t? Around Berkeley, Starbucks, CREAM and Jamba Juice have sweet secret beverages to try, so here’s an inside look at some of these hidden treats.
At Starbucks, there are the “red tux mocha” and the “cinnamon roll frappuccino.” The red tux mocha is half white chocolate mocha and half regular mocha with raspberry syrup. The mocha’s flavors were beautifully layered in a reddish-brown concoction reminiscent of one of my favorite desserts, red velvet cake. At first sip, the raspberry flavor excites the taste buds, and after a couple of seconds, the subtle white chocolate mocha flavor comes through. I usually dislike mochas because their heavy chocolate flavoring drowns out the taste of the coffee, but this drink balanced the mocha with different layers of flavors that pop at the exact right moments. Meanwhile, the cinnamon roll frappuccino is vanilla bean frappuccino with cinnamon dolce syrup, and it tasted like I had just taken a bite out of a warm and delicious cinnamon roll. The best part: It leaves a pleasant creme brulee aftertaste. While the flavors in this drink were also layered, the effect was more subtle. The entire experience was like eating two desserts in one go, except in smoothie form.
CREAM is famous for its ice cream cookie sandwiches, and it also offers an expansive milkshake menu. But you can be creative and ask for the cookie shake, which is a blend of your choice of ice cream and cookie. Just a heads-up: Not all employees recognize the cookie shake by name, so be prepared to describe it if you order one. As expected, picking the right combination of cookie and ice cream is crucial. Not looking to get too wild and crazy, I picked a chocolate chip cookie and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, and the shake ended up tasting exactly like if I had eaten the ice cream cookie sandwich version of this combination. The finished product was way too sweet, and it was very difficult for me to finish. The cookie chunks sank down to the bottom and were impossible to get without a spoon, so I ended up drinking a vanilla shake with some chocolate pieces here and there then eating cookie pieces afterwards. In hindsight, I should have chosen a coffee ice cream and chocolate chip cookie; the roasted bitter flavor of coffee would counter the sugar in the chocolate for a better balance.
To round out my secret-menu beverage run, I hit up Jamba Juice and ordered a Fruity Rocks smoothie, which was supposed to taste like Fruity Pebbles cereal. When I took my first sip of the purple, berry-color drink, my mind went to cherry Skittles. After about half the cup, the taste became increasingly familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Finally, 20 minutes later, I realized that it tasted exactly like Smarties candy, which always makes my mouth feel a little dry. This effect was not too enjoyable, but I continued to walk down Telegraph Avenue, sipping on my thick, fruity smoothie because, as a kid, Smarties were among the few nonchocolate candies that I really liked. The nostalgia made the experience worthwhile.
My friends always say that I’m adventurous when it comes to food. You know that feeling of an adrenaline rush when you’re on a roller coaster when the wind charges at you? That’s the feeling I get when I eat something I’ve never tried before. Squealing and screaming occur with both food and roller coasters, and taking the pass less traveled with cuisine usually comes with rewarding surprises. Secret menus exist to be dug out, and the adventures are definitely worthwhile.
Image source: Jed Schmidt under Creative Commons