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Yesterday, I made a last-minute dash to Pedro & Vinny’s burrito cart, but by the time I got there, around 2:30 p.m., owner John Rider was already packing up his portable tin can. So I walked across McPherson Square to check out to Organic to Go, the Seattle-based chain that has been spreading like kudzu across the D.C. metro area.
I was not so impressed with my chicken and smoked mozzarella sandwich, which, by the time I got back to the office and unwrapped the bastard, was a soggy mass of bread, melted cheese, and thick slices of breast meat. These are clearly not the conditions under which you should judge an operation, even a budding behemoth like Organic to Go. What really caught my eye, though, was Organic’s display case of cupcakes, which is obviously the current generation’s idea of a security blankie. I mean, you can’t walk a block without bouncing into a cupcake these days. (Maybe someone will develop a shop in which cupcakes are injected with fro-yo?)
So, anyway, I saw these cupcakes, which were not only behind a display case and wearing traditional cupcake-wrapper shorts, but they were also sealed in plastic. I’ll say that again: They were sealed in plastic—-at a place that’s committed to green practices. I needed some answers.
First off, a publicist for Organic to Go tells me the cupcakes are indeed not organic. But, she says, they’re all natural, meaning they’re made with no artificial “colors, flavors, ingredients or preservatives.” Then just as I start to check into the plastic container BS, I notice a stamp on its lid: It says Greenware. A quick Google search turns up this informative bit of news from Green Guide:
Research soon yielded the happy revelation that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved drink receptacles made of PLA (polylactides), a polymer derived from corn. Smooth, clear and visually indistinguishable from petroleum-based plastics, the material for these cups is produced by NatureWorks LLC, a branch of Cargill Dow. PLA plastics biodegrade completely in 90 days in commercial or institutional composters, require 50 percent less fossil fuel than regular plastics to produce, and are not toxic to burn.
As for the cupcakes? They were decent—-moist yellow cake, without a hint of staleness. The frosting, however, was a dense swirl of chocolate paste, as thick as the commercial toppings I remember as a kid. I don’t think that’s a criticism, just an observation.