Saturday, September 23, 2006

Regular Jo

When I was in my 20’s I was a bit of a wine snob. I understood wine back then, and my taste buds were younger and more attuned to the complexity of that which was very good. I was once asked what I had been most disappointed in life at that point. I thought for a moment and I honestly and flippantly replied, “The first time I tasted Asti Spumonti.”

I gave up my wine habit when I moved out here, not because of any bouts with alcoholism, but rather the price of French wines in Oregon were ridiculous. Back on the east coast, French wines cost far less than the mass produced California wines.

Anyway, I’m taking this far away from where I intend to go, which is with bad coffee.
Like many people I am a person who enjoys things that taste good. I’m not talking about taking down a pint of ice cream in one sitting because it was that good, but rather one who is satisfied if something, even just one thing on my plate is outstanding.

Coffee is a good starting point for this discussion because it is usually the first beverage we assume every day. I wrote about food imprinting earlier, and we have all imprinted our personal brew on ourselves. This becomes a problem when we dine out and expect to find good coffee.

Some restaurants understand the delicate balance of making good coffee. First, it doesn’t come out of a big aluminum or stainless pot. Sometimes it doesn’t come out of a Mr. Coffee device, yet sometimes it does. I personally respect a coffee that is a bit richer than what I make at home. The smell should wake you up. If you add half and half the result should have a creamy look not a watery look.

I’ve gotten to the point of walking into a restaurant, and the first thing I do is sniff the air like a bear. From that sniff I can tell not only how good the food is, but how good the coffee is as well. I will often eat in places where the food isn’t great out of convenience, but I will not drink the coffee in a place where I can’t smell it when I walk in. I’ve been disappointed too many times. In those situations I will order tea with honey. Tea is hard to screw up, though I have seen it done.

It’s really ok to order a flavorful tea. Try it when you suspect you will be disappointed by the coffee.

Another place I no longer drink coffee is in hotel rooms. Those little in-room coffee makers make the worst possible coffee. Those damn things even make water for tea taste bad. How is that possible?

Also a note to wait staff: if someone has cream and sugar in their coffee, please don’t refill the cup until it is empty. Refilling messes up the delicate balance.

One thing I miss is the “Regular.” If you’ve ever spent time on the East Coast; New York, Connecticut and New Jersey in particular, if you walk into a diner or a newspaper shop with a counter and ask for a “Regular”, you got a dark blue cardboard cup with pictures of Greek columns on it. The coffee was delightful, with a spoon of sugar and a splash of cream. The cream and sugar seemed to draw the flavor out of the coffee. Black coffee is pretty bland, but the cream and sugar took this beverage to a whole new level. Oddly I have never had a bad cup of coffee that came in the blue cardboard cup. I don’t understand how or why places who serve their to-go coffee in those blue cups always get it right. Nor do I understand why restaurants out here can consistently serve bad coffee.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'll find the best coffee in town is served at Astoria Coffee Co, the next is the new one in town
Astoria coffeehouse. Yum, yum!

1:31 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Thanks for your review, and I encourage coffee drinkers to patronize non- corporate coffee houses. Yes I know that FiveBucks (as I call Starbucks,) pays benefits to employees, and all that happy crap, but they are still a corporation without a soul. Have you ever seen two Starbucks within sight of each other? Probably pretty often. They are putting one in, in that shopping strip mall by Fred Meyer and there is one in Fred Meyer. It seems that if you pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a franchise that you should have some exclusivity to location. But it seems that Starbucks would rather litter our world with more of their logo.

6:21 AM  
Anonymous wende said...

Good coffee is hard to find in this town. However, I've grown partial to Coffee Girl. But, it's that girly foam art that gets me. :D

1:50 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Guys don't mind some foam now and then. Give one of us a can of whipped cream and watch it go...but that there is the nitrosoxide in the can as well.

I think I'm going to have to walk some streets down town and see all the new businesses. Businesses come and go quickly and I need to reacquaint myself with the latest batch. Is Coffee Girl Zetty's place?

4:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stop by Astoria coffehouse. I had lunch there and a very good cup of coffee, the lunch was a treat.
Another good lunch was at Andes cusine, service at both were excellent.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous wende said...

Yeah, Coffee Girl is Zetty's place. :) I'm addicted to her coffee. And it's a good value.

2:01 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

I really need to start going there. I've always enjoyed Zetty's news work and I'd like to keep her in the community.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous ocb said...

you are so right about the "regulars". That always amazed me. When on the road I always have a hard time finding a good cup of coffee. I am one of those that prefer a stronger coffee and based on what I am usualy served, I am amongst a minority. That frustrates me because the one place I know I will find a cup of coffee that I approve of is Starbucks. And I realllly hate resorting to Starbucks. lol

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Starbucks coffee is bad! Your so right about coffee in a hotel/motel room. I bring my own.

2:50 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Are you saying it tastes bad, or just a bad business?

And OCB, one of the local gripes we have about Starbucks here is that a local shop owner who's name was Sam (Samantha)Buck was sued by Starbucks for copyright infringement. Starbucks won. Her shop was called Sam Bucks.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Starbucks coffee tastes bad! Sam Bucks coffee wasn't the greatest!

6:05 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Now that would have been a way to settle the case...a taste off. Who ever had the best tasting coffee would win the law suit.

Damn, I should have run for Judge...

6:48 PM  

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