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TASTE Coffee

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When did I have my first cup of coffee? Was I in college? Did I really like it? Isn't coffee a step towards a certain type of surface maturity, in the same vein as, say mixed drinks or cigarettes?

These days, kids are exposed to the oh so glamorous life of coffee at toddlerhood, as moms and dads bring their kids into retail chains, so they can enjoy their expensive coffee drinks, while their kids get a juice and a cookie. Soon, however, these kids will grow up, and ape the lifestyles of the adults, which means more gourmet coffee drinks.

We all know Starbucks has turned the nation into a caffeine-addicted horde, willing to spend four times what they used to for a cup of coffee. What you may not be aware of, however, is their success in promoting milk. Their lattes, cappuccinos, and ready-to- drink bottled Frappuccinos don't really advertise the fact that much of the beverage is milk based. In fact, from 2000 to 2001, the ready-to-drink coffee product market grew by 23.1 percent.

The coveted 18- to 24-year-old age group makes up the majority of iced coffee consumers, and these drinks usually contain milk or cream. They like these drinks so much, that they consume almost twice as much as the next highest group.

So, it's not really surprising, that Folger's has just introduced their own line of refrigerated extended shelf life coffee with milk beverages. The National Coffee Association claims that there has been a 25 percent increase in the number of 18- to 24-year-olds who are discovering sweeter and milkier coffee products.

Currently, there are an estimated 107 million daily coffee drinkers, and two million are daily drinkers of iced coffee beverages. Coffee sellers believe the evolution of these sweeter and creamier drinks has turned coffee drinking from a morning-only pick-me-up into an all-day affair.

Milk producers are slowly waking up to the fact that they can produce their own bottled coffee drinks, and sell them cheaper than the Starbucks bottles. Even Starbucks knows that, despite new outlets opening on every corner, not all consumers have easy access to their stores. Still, the glass bottle retail Frappuccino line is a $400 million business for Starbucks. It's such a profitable business, that the company recently launched a canned espresso product called Double Shot, which contains nonfat milk—and cream. Meanwhile, Folgers' Jakada is the first chilled coffee beverage to be sold in plastic bottles. For some reason, they believe the plastic makes their drinks more user friendly.

In the future, look for more interesting innovations, like flavors from what coffee experts refer to as the Brown and Sweet category. Dulce de Leche, Hazelnut, Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream, Peanut Butter, Butter Cookie, S'mores, and Caramel Corn.

If you aren't yet nauseas at the thought of drinking Peanut Butter Coffee, you might be glad to learn that the producers of these freakish coffee drinks are hoping to lower the number of calories and grams of fat included in each.

To go with that coffee, you might want to try a fresh bagel. And, finally, those in the Loop have an option other than those chewy rubber discs from Dunkin' Donuts. Landmark Bagels has recently opened on West Randolph, and offers up bagels that are made from scratch.

As an independent store, they are not supplied with frozen dough that is then baked at the store. Instead, owner Bill Kohn, formerly a food engineer at Kraft Foods and executive in a software company, who moved from Connecticut to be closer to his new grandchild, supervises the steam-infused baking of 18 flavors (poppy seed, onion, cinnamon raisin, cinnamon crunch, Swiss, jalapeno, French Toast, sun-dried tomato, blueberry, sesame) of his bagels. Top your bagel off with one of nine varieties of cream cheese (very berry, maple walnut, sun-dried tomato, garden veggie, and, of course, the classic plain). To go along with the bagels, diners can choose from an assortment of smoothies and baked goods, like frosted brownies.

For breakfast, there are a number of bagel and egg combos, as well as internationally flavored breakfast salads, like the Salat Moscow (tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers, with cottage cheese and horseradish), while lunchtime fare includes sandwiches (Reuben, ham and cheese, turkey bacon club), soups, and salads (Mexican fiesta, chicken Caesar, garden salad). Specialties include a cashew chicken salad, and vegetarians will have a lot to choose from. Better yet, all the breads, including rye, wheat, focaccia,ciabatta, baguettes, and sun-dried tomato, are baked on the premises.

Coffee lovers will be pleased that local bean roasters Intelligentsia are providing the coffee, and have even come up with three special roasts for Kohn—Breakfast, Vienna, and Espresso.

Landmark Bagels is located at 442 W. Randolph Street. The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch, seven days a week, Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, to place fax/ phone orders and arrange for catering, contact the store, phone (312) 441-1800, fax (312) 441-1888, or visit the Web site, --------------------------------------- See the front page, left side directory of for Dining Out listings.

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