McDonald’s trots out fresh-baked breakfast treats

I got to know the Muffin Man ;a little bit today. Turns out he is a she.

Kimberly Shelton of Crestone Group Baking Companies led 14 bloggers through a tasting of McDonald’s new bakery offerings this morning at the Seaport Hotel in Boston. She was joined by Sylvia Becker, marketing manager for McDonald’s, the purveyor of five of Shelton’s creations: Banana bread, cheese croissant, blueberry muffin, multi-grain berry muffin and miniature vanilla scones.

In typical Commuter Daddy fashion, the day started before the sun was up this morning as I departed Middletown, NY, at 5 a.m. My goal was to blow through Hartford before that city’s rush hour and hopefully catch a break as I neared Boston during the peak morning traffic, all in an effort to make it to the tasting by 10.

I must have made the correct ;sacrifices ;to the commuting gods this week. Even with some traffic on the Mass Pike at the Newton and Allston tolls, I made the trip in under four hours, gaining me an hour to do some day-job work. Score one for productivity!

Most of the 14 bloggers in attendance were women, but it didn’t feel like a mom-specific event and therefore I didn’t feel out of place. We’ve all got to eat, right? We’re all looking for variety in ours and our kids’ diets. If we can sneak some fruit into a baked good, that smells like victory to me.

When I first arrived, I set myself up at a table near the rear of the suite. I wanted some room to spread out, take some photos, do some writing, sip some coffee, etc. Soon, I was joined by two moms and their children. I had established the kids table! It turned out to be fortuitous. One measure of culinary success can be accomplished via the mouths of toddlers. Would the kids like the baked goods?

A 19-month-old daughter of one blogger tried playing peek-a-boo with me, but her hands were occupied by the banana bread, so she simply turned her head side to side in a modified version of the game. Her mouth was occupied too, seeming to savor every bite of the banana bread. I had to agree with her. It was pretty tasty, with just the right amount of crunch on the crust surrounding an otherwise moist bread. Shelton said they used as little flour as possible among the 12 ingredients, which at times meant the bread would barely hold together during testing. The banana taste was faint, but it still was my favorite among the five offerings.

It didn’t taste nearly as sinful as the cheese croissant. ;”It’s butter,” Shelton said about the croissant. “It’s a lot of butter.” It was fabulous, but it couldn’t possibly be in my regular breakfast rotation, in much the same way the beloved sausage biscuit is not on my personal menu regularly. My daily fight against cholesterol would surely be lost if the cheese croissant was in my commuting breakfast repetoire. It has 14 grams of saturated fat, which is 70 percent of the recommended daily allowance, according to the nutritional labels that were shared with us. Be still, my clogging heart. The way Shelton described the ingredients — a “big block” of croissant dough, a “big block” of butter and sweetened cream cheese — made my LDL dance with joy. Don’t get me wrong. Each bite was a dreamy mouthful. Even before Shelton described the care that went into making the croissant light and airy, I could tell this was no ordinary fast-food croissant. It will be interesting to see how airy they are at the restaurants when I do get around to indulging in such breakfast decadence once in a long while.

The aforementioned 19-month-old also appeared to like the miniature vanilla scones. They were a shade too sweet for my taste. Nevertheless, I know our small army of boys will love the scones when they have a chance to try them. I will describe them to the boys as iced Munchkins — two words that go very well with their palettes. One bite, and they will be hooked and learn to connote the word scone with other breakfast treats they like. The 3-scone serving size packs a caloric whallop, though. They make the cheese croissant seem light by comparison: 420 calories for the scones serving, 380 for the croissant. I am already feeling as if I can increase my croissant allowance.

The lightest item among the offerings is the 280-calorie multi-grain berry muffin. It also has only 6 grams of fat total, with 1 gram being saturated — a much better fit for my diet. It would be impossible to eat cleanly while driving, though. As it was, I got a small berry stain on my pants while sampling in a much more controlled setting than my driver’s seat. No wonder I was at the kids’ table! That said, this muffin ran a close second to my banana bread favorite. Anytime you can mix crunchy grains with a moist breakfast food, I am all in. One bite and I was immediately ;nostalgic ;as my culinary imagination whisked me to Fog Island Cafe on Nantucket for my favorite “Trail Cakes.”

I have to bet the McDonald’s multi-grain muffin and its simpler blueberry sibling are much better for me than the Fog Island breakfast, and more cost effective too. Becker said McDonald’s restaurant operators have been advised to price the bakery items between $1.59 and $1.89. Bundle it with a small coffee (Newman’s Own Organic, of course, already a regular staple in the Commuter Daddy road diet), and you’ve got breakfast for under $3.

The better news? The bakery items are available all day, unlike most of the rest of the McDonald’s breakfast menu, which is unavailable after 10 or 11 a.m., depending on where you are and whether it is a weekday or weekend.

One blogger pointed out that the items being showcased were akin to offerings at Panera, with the added bonus of the McDonald’s drive-thru. No longer is a sports parent required to shepherd some or all of the family from vehicle to restaurant and back again to get some something other than Pop Tarts and sugary cereals into the kids’ gullets. Drive up, place order, get served, distribute food, and voila! Multi-tasking zen achieved with at least twenty minutes gained. Becker said 60 percent of McDonald’s business is conducted via its drive-through window. We parents and commuters can vouch for that.

One of the bloggers in attendance asked the McDonald’s representative whether the company has added the baked goods as part of a strategy to compete more directly against Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. Becker deftly side-stepped the question twice, bringing focus back to the McDonald’s variety, affordability and all-natural ingredients, without explicitly stating against whom those value propositions should be applied.

But make no mistake. The breakfast and freshness race is on. Certainly Starbucks perceives McDonald’s as infringing on its market share. If I were a betting man, I’d wager that similar feelings are held by McDonald’s executives.

Bad news for those outside of New England, though. These baked goods are strictly a Northeast offering for the moment. Becker said breakfast tastes vary greatly by region, and while McDonald’s would like to test something in Chicago based on their New England success to-date, they are proceeding slowly and cautiously. It’s not often that McDonald’s offers regional products (plus or minus a ;McLobster), so there seems to be an extra dose of caution being applied.

From the commuter perspective, these offerings are not ideal drive-and-eat fodder. They won’t score well on the Commuter Snack Index that is in the works (more to come), but not many baked goods will score highly, no matter the origin. So that’s not a knock on McDonald’s. These latest offerings are, however, ideal grab-and-go food for everyone else in the car. There’s sure to be something that finnecky kids will like and can pair with a smoothie for a pretty well balanced meal when contrasted against other McDonald’s breakfast options.

Sure, they look and are delicious, but for my long-term health give me the multi-gran berry muffin any day.

Also in attendance today:
As Cape Cod Turns
Being Loopy
Capability : Mom
Charlene Chronicles
Don’t Mind the Mess
MommyCosM
Natick Patch: Weekly Bites
Pragmatic Mom
Providence Journal Food Blog
Stowed Stuff
The Coupon Goddess
The Frugalette

Disclosures: I was not paid to attend today. Our hosts, SHIFT Communications, did pay for parking, and ;food and coffee were supplied for free. Each of us was also presented with a thank-you basket, containing a McCafe apron, small spiral-bound notebook and coupons. I would like to give away the coupons to the first 9 new people to like our Commuter Daddy Facebook page. Please send an email to commuterdaddy@comcast.net to let me know you’ve added yourself among the Facebook fandom, and whether you’d like a free smoothie (2 available) or a free bakery item coupon (7 available).

Getting stuff done

Just another day at the home office:

Thanks to Julia for calling this video to my attention. Resemblance to some of my days at the home office is purely coincidental — and for the official record, infrequent.

Yes, there has been a blogging drought over here at Commuter Daddy HQ. It’s not for lack of commuting, though. The travel and work calendar is as full as it has ever been, but so is the school schedule as I finally wrap up my bachelor’s degree some 22 years after starting on that path. Throw in this summer’s Little League all-star coaching schedule, plus trying to stick to some semblance of a cycling schedule, and well, blogging (none since May) and golfing (once in 2011) have been duking it out for my attention amid a serious bandwidth shortage.

Things should ease up in a couple of weeks. Just in time for the fall soccer schedule to kick in….

In the interest of getting things done, however, I have briefly interrupted my involuntary blogging hiatus to implement Blogger’s mobile-friendly rendering. So now you can get Commuter Daddy on the go. No separate URL is necessary. Make sense, right? You may soon wonder how you ever lived without it on your smart phone.

So long as I pick up the blogging pace.

Dear, boys, this one is for you

I get asked why I blog. Why share photos of the boys? Why admit my parenting foibles? Why share some of the inner workings of our family?

Some of it comes from a love of writing. I do much less of it than I intended when I first embarked on my career path, but this blog allows me to keep at it — albeit sporadically.

Blogging also allows me to be a practitioner of what I preach in my day job. I learn best by doing, so I learn about blogging and related practices by doing it. I create content via the blog and distribute it and share other items via social media. I immerse myself in both spaces so that I can speak from experience and authenticity when I address groups about how these practices can enhance business success.

But there’s an equal measure of the personal touch here. The undercurrent throughout this interactive journey is that I am creating the modern equivalent of an old-fashioned slideshow. The blog is my projector. The posts are the slides.

Someday, the boys can look back at this blog, and the related collection of Flickr photographs and YouTube videos, and relive some memories. They might even share it with their kids.

That spirit is captured by this Google Chrome ad:

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

p.s. Happy Birthdays, Benjamin (turned 6 in April) and Mason (turned 10 today)!

Commuter Daddy is List-a-licious

I know you are not keeping score at home, but if you were, you would want to know that Commuter Daddy has been included among NursingSchools.net’s 50 Best Blogs for Brand New Dads.

Cue Entrain: ““I must be doing something right…!”

What’s interesting to me about the list is I am one of four “Working Dads” listed. Meanwhile, 10 other distinguished bloggers were categorized as stay-at-home/work-from-home bloggers. I would argue I am a better fit for the latter group, given that I probably spend at least half of my time working from home.

Details, details…. Why quibble? It’s an honor just to be noticed.

Commuter Daddy’s 2010 resolution report card

Related Reading:
Pass/Fail: 32 Stories About Teaching,
from Inspiring to Hilarious

In last year’s recap of Commuter Daddy 2009 readers’ favorites, I embedded some New Year’s resolutions that many of the posts inspired. Now that 2010 is nearly concluded, here’s a pass/fail report card:

  1. Cycle 2,500 miles: Fail.
    I rode 1,609 miles, including my first century ride, but the cycling activity tailed off in the fall. Sinus issues and chest congestion were partly to blame. The rest of the lull was due to not making time for fitness over work. I will renew this goal for next year. Can’t wait for the warmer temperatures predicted for this weekend to melt the ice from the Cape Cod Canal bike path.
  2. Cook more in my hotel room. Pass.
    I actually filmed some video of my hotel quesadilla experiment, but never got around to editing and producing it for the blog. I should increase the frequency of my hotel-room cooking, but for now we’ll take satisfaction from having done some throughout the year.
  3. Forgo candy on the commutes: Fail.
    I managed to skip candy for a while, but then I rediscovered Necco Wafers. They are my new commuting vice and addicition. The good news? They’ve been modernized and made all natural. Who’d have thunk?!
  4. Install drainage at side door: Fail.
    Bought the materials, but they are still sitting in the shed. Channeled this energy into building a PVC soccer goal for our back yard instead. The boys are ecstatic, but the basement still needs me to divert some water. Again, will renew this resolution for next year.
  5. More sharing of favorite podcasts: Fail.
    This list is not going well. Not a single such blog post was written in 2010. I now have at least one blog post topic for sometime in January.
  6. Read a book per month: Fail.
    Was on a good pace at the beginning of the year, but am still on book #7, 1968: The Year That Rocked the World, which I think I started in April. I hereby vow to finish that one in 2011, and renew my goal of a book per month. I predict this will be most likely to be marked as a fail on next year’s report card. I’ll see if we can provide a mid-year progress report. Maybe that will keep me on track.
  7. Travel with refillable coffee mug and water bottle: Pass.
    Never leave home without them.
  8. Choose mobile conferences over newspaper ones: Pass.
    I attended only one conferences in 2010: ThinkMobile in New York. The trip even inspired four blog posts:
    - No streaming media while riding the rails
    - Keep it wild
    - A wrinkle in the commute
    - More on Acela Wi-Fi via the iPad
    That’s a sign that I need to attend more mobile conferences, even if only to inspire more blog material. Speaking of which….
  9. Blog more: Pass.
    This will be the 57th post written this year, beating last year’s total by 5. I tied 2008′s total, but that’s OK. I have another post scheduled for tomorrow, ensuring complete passage of this resolution.

So the final score for 2010 is failures beat out passes, 5-4. That’s not to say other things weren’t accomplished in Commuter Daddy land, though many of them were outside the scope of this blog. There were two Florida vacations, including the first family trip to Walt Disney World. My wife and I also managed to sneak away for a kid-free overnight in Boston, a rare treat for us. I painted and installed a wooden screen door — again. The wood pile has been replenished, despite our first fall of all three boys playing soccer in the same season. I carded my first sub-100 round of golf. All in all it’s been a great year.

I’ll just need to focus more in 2011 on personal enrichment: cycling, reading, writing and home improvement. These are all things I enjoy doing. It should not be so difficult to make time for them. Consider at least that much — more personal time — done.

    All the news that fits — and the blogger too

    Spied via Mediabistro’s Facebook feed, who found it on Engadget: The ultimate bloggermobile. My VW is worried.

    The “bufalino” contains bedding, refrigerator, cooktop, basin, water tank, and storage bins. The back doors can even function as a clothesline — especially handy for beverage mishaps.

    A commode is apparently not an option, but road warriors are used to having to pull over for nature’s call, so I don’t see that as a deal breaker. Plus pulling over and moving around helps stave off thrombosis.

    There was no such thing as blogging when I drove cross-country from California to Massachusetts after college, but I still could have used a vehicle like this. I didn’t have enough money for a hotel room at every stopping point, so there was at least one night somewhere near Flagstaff that I slept in the front seat while parked at a Denny’s. My Isuzu Trooper was so tightly packed that I could not recline the seat. The bufalino bed looks quite comfortable in contrast to that memory.

    Still, the VW is safe. With the rear seat folded down, I can fit my bike and my golf clubs in the back. Not sure that would be the case in the bufalino. A bike rack might make that thing pop wheelies.

    Will blog for coffee

    One thing you have likely learned about me from this blog over the years is that I love coffee. I subscribe to the reportedly Turkish proverb: “Coffee should be as black as hell, as strong as death, and as sweet as love.” All those in favor indicate by saying, “Aye.”

    Aye.

    My coffee reliance runs deep. On the days that I commute to New York, the timer on the coffee maker has been set the night before to make sure there’s a hot pot brewed by the time I head out at 5 a.m. This also ensures that Commuter Mommy has coffee waiting for her when the boys and the dog start stirring a little later in the morning. Commute mornings are all about survival of the fittest for all involved, and coffee gives us a leg up on the Commuter Urchins. Lord help us when they start drinking coffee.

    There are likely two additional stops for coffee in my future on these commuter mornings. By the time I get to the office 4 1/2 hours later, I am wired and ready to jump right into the requisite meetings and conference calls — right after a stop in the men’s room, naturally.

    On the ride home later in the week, there’s almost always a coffee pit stop, too. While this wreaks havoc with getting to sleep once I arrive home, it helps me make it home in one piece.

    The side effect is that I also indulge in three cups of coffee during most mornings spent in the home office. We realized the extent of our addiction when we recently purchased decafffeinated coffee by mistake. Brandy and I wondered why we were still feeling so tired after consuming the first pot made with the impotent grounds, and only realized our shopping error when checking the package in our still-bleary-eyed attempt to make a second pot.

    I’m not proud of this addiciton, but given that I have shed or severely curtailed most of my other vices — cigarettes, red meat, martinis, midnight ice cream binges, Jelly Bellies — I will be clinging to this last bad habit for a while longer.

    All of this is a long-winded way of explaining why I am introducing you to three fellow caffeinated bloggers today as part of the New England blogging carnival. They are all part of the larger network of New England Bloggers compiled at Thoughts From an Evil Overlord, where Commuter Daddy is also listed.

    There are some other coffee-themed or named blogs that I follow from time to time and therefore should also introduce: Catnip and Coffee (also New England-based), DailyCupofJo (not New England-based) and Marketing Over Coffee (also New England-based; truthfully, I listen to the podcast more than I read the blog).

    Enjoy, and cheers!