on the highest mount in Wales

9/20/06

The effervescent and wonderful Kaz of the comments section lives near us in LA and turned me onto the Cappucino Review blog run by her friend Amy Ferraris. In particular, this was a good entry, about a guy who is opening a new coffee place on Pico called The Schubert Coffee House, and why he is doing so.

First off, anything named after a composer is fine by me, as Tessa had a dog named Chopin, two dogs named Rachmaninoff (Rocky) and I had a hamster named Haydn, a cat named Elgar, a ferret named Sergei (for Prokofiev) and a dog named Kije (for Prokofiev’s beautiful “Lieutenant Kije Suite”). Lucy is lucky we didn’t name her “Albrechtsberger”.

Secondly, I have to admit to having something of a coffee fetish, in that there’s something about the subject that always gets me going. The flavor, the texture, the variety and of course, the caffeine all combine to, well, do something to me that is ineffably good. Shit, Bach himself wrote a cantata to coffee, and half of the Aubrey/Maturin novels involves Stephen and Jack waiting for a pot.

I know Kent thinks Starbucks tastes like “monkey ass,” but they rarely fail me, they always have soy milk, and the company is fairly un-reprehensible as companies go. I consider it the Target of coffee places, especially since the new Target stores are particularly satisfying.

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has some excellent blended drinks, but let’s face it: those are milkshakes, and besides, there’s some kosher rule that doesn’t allow them to use syrups. If you know me, you know that’s a dealbreaker.

IanToraniSyrups(bl).jpg

Yes, that is my collection of syrups at home. I don’t usually have that many, but this one online store was having a “Buy 12” sale for almost no money, and I splurged. My current crush flavors are “Chocolate Biscotti” and “English Toffee,” although they are all pretty much tastier than hell. Have me make you a 3-shot coconut latté one of these days and you’ll understand.

As I’ve oft said, it sucks that coffee places weren’t around when I was at Carolina because I would have GLADLY stopped driving pies for Gumby’s and bussing tables at La Rez. I like the calming habit of making espresso shots, certainly enough to stand around at Caribou Coffee and make $6 an hour in 1990. In college towns, baristas and pizza guys make the same amount of money, but women will only have sex with one of them, and it isn’t the guy who smells like cheese.

FrancisX1Venice(bl).jpg

I’ve gone through a few home espresso makers over the last four years, but I’ve settled on a favorite for form and function: the Francis Francis! X1, usually $1.3 million dollars, but you can get them refurbished on eBay for a song. The one we have in Venice is a rare pink, because, well, I’m a gay, gay man and also because our whole kitchen ended up being 1940s pink.

I know true aficionados only use freshly-ground beans grown on a south slope in Chile that have been kept in a humidor at 61 degrees, but I couldn’t stand the mess. I opted for the espresso pod, which looks like a cross between a tea bag and an unused condom, and it works wonderfully.

The crema (the brown oily foam that collects on the top of a shot) is wonderful, the bitterness is just right, and there is absolutely no mess. The Francis X1 could have a slightly more powerful steaming wand, but then you’re talking about thousands of dollars.

Until I figure out my chemistry, regain the energy I had in my teens, calibrate my seratonin from the Celexa and lead my team in rebounds, the effect of coffee on my brain is as close to vague euphoria I’m gonna get this side of a tequila bender. In the hour after a good latté, I am convinced anything is possible, anything can get done, and occasionally I do it. That such a spirit is legal and homebrewed is something to celebrate, so I ask… what kind would you like?

0 thoughts on “on the highest mount in Wales

  1. cullen

    I have a friend who has a funky feline named Penderecki–talk about catnails on a chalkboard.
    I ain’t shite in the a/m without some java; I’m as addicted to caffeine as my students are to chewing gum.

    Reply
  2. hkk

    The Dutch have it right…The proper mix of coffee, ummm, with high quality herbal side dishes is just a proper way to live on a Saturday morning. The peaceful balance of rally and mellow….

    Reply
  3. Isis

    Oh great, I was working on getting until lunchtime without thinking about food and you had to go and mention Gumby’s pizza. Thanks. Thanks a lot.

    Reply
  4. Just Andrew

    I never got into the whole specialty coffee thing.
    First off, I don’t like hot liquids of any kind. Black ice coffee suits me just fine and I don’t really care what the brand is.
    The wife discovered the Gas Station Cappuchino machines a while back and has become an addict. No info on the machines, but a little poking around online and it looks like a 16ozer has about 800 calories. Impressive.

    Reply
  5. the Other Lee

    AMEN!!!
    I love coffee and I just got my first espresso maker yesterday ( a cheap Krups one that a friend bought, decided he didn’t want and just gave it to me). Hopefully this won’t turn into another expensive and obsessive hobby like playing guitar (I’ve got 3 plus a marshall amp), shaving (3 vintage razors and some expensive badger hair brushes) and my technology obsession. Of course now I’m off to ebay to check prices on the the Francis Francis! X1.

    Reply
  6. Tanya

    I don’t have a coffee addiction, thank goodness. My albatross is diet coke. It’s like the crack of the caffeine world – quick, easy, cheap.
    As for coffee, eh. I don’t really like coffee, and wouldn’t be able to tell you the diff between one monkey’s ass to another. However, I can detect disgustingly WEAK coffee. Which is so. so. bad. I suppose I’ve never been able to get past the scalding hot liquid. By the time I brew it, pour it, and let it cool off enough to safely drink it, the caffeine headache has settled in for the day, and I’ve bitten off 8 people’s heads.

    Reply
  7. dpdir

    I don’t know so much about the coffee, but I can vouch for Ian’s “gay, gay” part. He has a fascination with the now defunt Big Cup coffee shoppe in Chelsea. Need I say more?

    Reply
  8. emma

    I developed a coffee addiction in my late twenties. I like the brewed coffee, the cappacinos and latte drinks. I try to stay away from the flavorings, mostly a calorie thing, although I don’t have any qualms about adding half & half. No skinny drinks for me. Today, if I have not had an intake of coffee, the headache and grumpiness sets in around 9 or 9:30 in the morning.
    I still think this is much better than my vice of my late teens and early 20s. I don’t have blackouts and hangovers from coffee and coffee generally doesn’t cause me to dance on tables and until the table breaks. I think coffee is a pretty big improvement for me.

    Reply
  9. Ken

    Not an espresso machine in sight – but 3 Cups in Chapel Hill serves fresh-roasted, french-pressed coffee in all it’s oily, delicious glory. And you have your choice among a dozen or so beans every day. I’ve driven by 10 coffee houses for a 3 Cups cup. It’s behind Penang (nee Pyewacket).

    Reply
  10. Lee

    Wait a minute… I don’t know why yall gotta go dissin gay people in tandem with people who like shitty coffee in dorky locations. Hellloooo??
    Lotsa folks would say drinking a latte, period, is gay gay gay. So we’ll claim that one and yall can stick to your Sanka.
    Gay…pffft!
    Now I’ll go sip my cappuccino I made on my gay latte maker that’s held together with duct tape.
    :-)

    Reply
  11. tregen

    God, you know, I love coffee. Cheap styrofoam cups from Circle K, truckstop mega-mugs, coffee shop gourmet flatten your wallet espresso shots and good old percolated coffee and my grandmothers. It just doesn’t matter. Cold pot of coffee sitting in the pot from this morning…pour it in a cup. Love it. Anyway, I digress. Hand pulling a cup of espresso from an old La Pavoni machine is my perfect cup. Especially if the machine is in an apartment in Montmartre. There is something about the ritual of hand packing the coffee, waiting for the machine to blow the pressure valve and then hand pulling and pressing a dark chocolate colored creamy espresso. Damn it, I have to book a flight to Paris right now.

    Reply
  12. Bozoette Mary

    Ah, coffee. I love it black. Gimme a dopio. Hey, I’ll have a latte! Coconut? Why not? Since I was 13 and my momma gave me my first cup to help me calm down during a bout of existential teen angst, I have been a java junkie. Oh hell yes.

    Reply
  13. tregen

    Kaz,
    I catch a tremendous amount of shit when I grab the cold coffee pot, pour it in a cold cup and drink it straight…. I love it but for some reason people act like I’m drinking piss strained thru underwear. BTW, Amy’s blog is awesome.

    Reply
  14. Amy F.

    Oh my goodness, I have been dwelling amongst specialty coffee martinets for so many years now that it’s like a breath of fresh air to see anyone owning their love of Torani syrups (and espresso pods… and gas station cappuccinos… ) with so much pride! I love it! There are 365 days a year. That’s definitely enough for a triple coconut latte every once in a while.
    And I agree. Coffee Bean definitely does the best job on the milkshakes (syrup or no syrup.) I think it’s the ice. Their ice breaks up easier in a blender than Starbucks’ does. Also, they use that cheap-ass whipped cream, which is delicious.
    Thanks for your kind words on the blog, too! I had been assuming that no one was reading it (except for a few people who share my last name. And sweet Kaz, of course.) So it’s nice to get some feedback.

    Reply
  15. Claudia

    Now I have total syrup envy. I haven’t even SEEN Orgeat since college. Will you share which online store you got them from?

    Reply
  16. Annie

    Now, Ian, I have to take issue with one of your points. It was NOT the coffee guy, it was the PIZZA guy, who was getting laid in the early 90s.

    Reply
  17. xuxE

    hello, my name is xuxE and i am a coffee addict. it’s been 3 hours since my last coffee.
    personally, i do the french press. i like the mixing of the beans and water in big gunky rich mess and squeezing the beans down to the bottom. just really feels good to me when i make it. cleaning it out is a bit of a hassle, but it’s not really that bad after you are used to it.
    i to am a sucker for the torani syrups, and when i go the latte route, i opt for sugar-free syrup (especially the sugar-free english toffee) and soy milk.
    best thing about starbucks right now though, are the pumpkin spice lattes. damn!
    oh, and did anyone hear that espresso actually has a lot less caffeine than regular coffee? isn’t that weird?

    Reply
  18. Alyson Peery

    I haven’t been a big coffee person since high school, when the only place to hang out in Fayetteville, NC, was the ONE coffee shop in town. It was called The Coffee Scene, it opened my sophomore year of high school, and it immediately attracted every teenager in Cumberland County who was not a jock or GI chaser/affiliate.
    Back then I mostly preferred double espressos with lots of raw sugar, or a black redeye. They also had some Irish coffee knockoff that I would get if I was on a particularly bad date, just to make myself feel better.
    Nowadays I don’t really drink coffee. Once in a great while I’ll have a 3-shot skim mocha, which makes me feel great. But once I crash, I’m just not any good to anyone. If I’m at my dad’s house, or we’re vactioning together, I’ll drink coffee with him. It’s been our thing since I was little, so I’ll still drink a cup of something nice with him. But the coffee I really, really enjoy is the stuff they give you at good, Southern fish camp restaurants. If the seafood is very fresh, and is fried very deeply, you know it’s safe to order a cup of coffee. It’ll be strong, strong, strong, and they’ll give you real cream. There’s something about holding the hot mug while looking at all the people in their football jerseys and permanent waves that is really appealing.

    Reply
  19. Steph Mineart

    That expresso machine is excellent. And I’m glad I’m not the only one who likes the cold coffee — I get crap for sticking the end of the pot in the refrigerator and drinking it later. I will no longer hide that fact.

    Reply
  20. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    I am late to the game here today (I hate when work gets in the way of my blog reading), but I enjoyed reading all about everyone’s coffee preferences! And I love that pink coffee thing . . . it is so pretty! I want one!
    I developed a severe coffee addiction during my early working years. I suppose the caffeine helped counterbalance the mind-crushing boredom. The hardest thing I did during my pregnancy was give up coffee. The caffeine withdrawal was vicious.
    I love any kind of coffee, as long as it is STRONG. I am talking STRONG LIKE SLUDGE. I love to have some coffee and Bailey’s at night, when I am walking the dog. I will share a secret — here in MD suburbia, we don’t have any Starbucks that are on my direct commute to work. But, there is a Wawa gas station down the road, and Wawa has some killer coffee. The Kenyan blend kicks my butt into gear every time. “Wawa — not your usual gas station brew!”

    Reply
  21. Spicoli

    I almost never have caffeine and I rarely touch alcohol. I read Ian’s tributes to both and feel resentful that, while no more harmful than a shot of espresso or Jack Daniels, my spirit of choice is not legal. To celebrate it makes me rebellious, when I’m really just a suburban mother who enjoys a mellow Saturday afternoon buzz.

    Reply
  22. Salem

    xuxE,
    I would have to say French Press is my favorite, but I just don’t dig the clean up. Coffee grounds are just heavy enough to really screw up your plumbing. I need to get a little Turkish Coffee thing-a-ma-doodle and just drink the silt away.

    Reply
  23. Rich

    I love coffee, I love tea.
    I love the java jive and it loves me.
    Coffe and tea and the java and me,
    A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup.

    Reply

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