Today I was taking a leisurely stroll through my neighborhood with my children, trying to enjoy one last peaceful saunter before the beginning of a hectic new school year, when I discovered two new establishments right in my own neighborhood. Precariously perched on the corner of Briarbrook and Valley View Drives, I happened upon Kaylee’s Kool-Aid and Lemonade Stands. Sort of a Mark’s Carts kind of operation, right in my own neighborhood! They were selling authentic, Caucasian-American suburban street fare, the kind of low-tech operation that seems to be thriving in today’s economy. As an established food critic, I decided to do an on the spot review.
The first thing I noticed was that the two stands had a bright, open atmosphere. Minimalist in nature, they offered no tables, no seats, and no frills. Just grab a beverage and continue about your business. A novel concept, but without a quality beverage all the conceptual creativity would be for nothing. Sadly, Kaylee’s Kool-Aid failed miserably in the taste category. Serving only Grape Kool-Aid (more on that later), I couldn’t help but be put off by the overall watery consistency of the beverage. I fear that Kaylee is more concerned with her profit margin than with providing a quality product. I will not allow the tender age of Ms. Kaylee to influence my judgement. The Kool-Aid tasted like krap. I was also quite dismayed by the lack of selection. Only grape? Everyone knows that cherry Kool-Aid is the best flavor. This lack of managerial oversight spells impending doom for Kaylee’s long term success.
Another bad sign for Kaylee was the general lax employee standards. Her “employee” was too absorbed in some kind of hand-held video game device to acknowledge us when we approached for service. Also, it seems highly unlikely that Kaylee will survive a visit from the health inspector, as I counted no less than five critical violations when I first arrived. When I told the young video game aficionado that I wanted to speak with his manager, he looked at me like I was the fool. After I was finally able to speak with Ms. Kaylee, not only did she seem to have a complete lack of knowledge of the local health code, her haughty, off-putting manner made me feel as if I wasn’t a valued customer.
Bad service and lax food safety policy aside, I do have to spend at least one paragraph in praise of Kaylee’s lemonade. One sip of this beverage made the whole unpleasant experience melt away faster than the Nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was as if she magically bottled the melted popsicle juice from a Flav-o-Ice. At first, I detected what seemed to be an unctuous mouthfeel, but quickly this turned into a symphony of deliciousness. The sour, tart flavor of the lemon, coupled with the sweetness of the light cane sugar made for an appealing and overall refreshing beverage. I decided to seek out Kaylee again, to compliment her on the lemonade.
At first she thought I was stalking her, but after my daughter disarmed Kaylee with a compliment on her Hello Kitty shoes, Kaylee was receptive to a quick interview. After gushing over her lemonade, I asked about the grape only Kool-Aid policy. She danced around the subject, and even though she failed to admit as much I was under the impression that she was trying to appeal to an urban clientele. I felt we were having a nice exchange of ideas, when she proceeded to blame her Mom for having only grape Kool-Aid in her pantry. A sad state of affairs to say the least, I mean, does Eric Ripert blame his Mom when Le Bernardin has to eighty-six the foie-gras?
All in all, as much as I hate to give a local small business a negative review, and despite the luxurious lemonade, I cannot in good conscience recommend Kaylee’s Kool-Aid and Lemonade Stands. The health violations, the surly, indifferent employees, the watery grape Kool-Aid. Unless you are trying to be ironic, Kaylee, I declare your entrance into the refreshment business a complete failure.