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.
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.
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?