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Have you tried the new Starbucks food?

Starbucks continues to experiment with better food, and hallelujah. I've always thought their pastries were substandard and a bit of an embarrassment, though I never had the nerve to tell founder Howard Schultz that when I met him several years ago. Two weeks ago, I noted that the Starbucks stores in the Bay Area were serving pastries from La Boulange Bakery, a company Starbucks bought and charged with bucking up chow quality. The new food has rolled out in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and now New York—over 3,000 stores—with plans to eventually go national.

Starbucks' new Tomato & Cheese Croissant

The tomato and cheese croissant I snapped just now is a typical example of the French-technique-focused food: nice, cheesy, concentrated tomato flavor on buttery puff pastry. The pastry came out a bit soggy (and too hot), but it's miles better than anything they offered before. It's allegedly 280 calories but seemed richer than that to me. No surprise—most of the choices are not low calorie, but some of the serving sizes are nicely small: a little caramelized apple cake is 290 calories. I lusted after, but did not try, a "flavors of fall" pumpkin cheesecake croissant, 320 calories.

HuffPo reports big plans going forward: "In addition to baked goods, items on the regular menu may include sandwiches stuffed with brisket and aged cheddar; mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes; turkey, tomato and provolone; ham, caramelized onions and creme fraiche; and roasted vegetables. Soups like chicken noodle, roasted tomato, minestrone and cream of mushroom are also in the works, as are salads of curry chicken, egg whites and orzo."

In other words, as they've long hinted, Starbucks is moving to more of a café model. If you're interested in why Starbucks is doing this (hint: stock price) check out this article from Nation's Restaurant News.

Fall flavors in Starbucks' new La Boulange offerings.

We will report on more of this food as we try it. But in the meantime, let us know if you've tried it, and whether it merits a thumbs up or thumbs down.