Monday, December 11, 2006

Captain Incognito

During one of the Podcasts, Nick and I discussed visiting shops. He felt that one should introduce himself, I didn't. It's not about being sneaky or spying, it's about respect. I'm just a humble visitor to a shop and I feel it's presumptuous that anyone in that shop would know me or kowtow to me because I announced my presence.

Anticipating chilly weather in the Big Apple, I grabbed my trusty La Marzocco baseball cap before jumping on the train to New York and threw on a button down over the 2004 USBC Atlanta long sleeve t-shirt I was wearing underneath.

That said, I really hate going into shops and being pegged for a "coffee person." It's embarassing. And the only way someone will know that I'm one of those "coffee people" is if I let some piece of clothing display that fact, or have gone off the deep end and become some proselytizing schmuck telling the shop staff "how to make coffee." If I'm ever the latter, please kick me in the nuts. I never want to be some jerkoff acting like he knows more than everyone else about coffee.

Which brings us to the point of this entry.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006 - 7:30pm, Spring Street, SoHo, New York, NY
As Lindsay, Karen ("Kahn" to the uninitiated) and myself are mindlessly drifting down Spring Street after a day of shopping (or in my case, traveling), Matt notices the Alessi store on Greene Street. If you're unfamiliar, Alessi is one of those European accessory companies that makes all sorts of unique, intersting and expensive furnishings for the home. Things like bowls, cups, pitchers, tableware, etc, etc. They're also the creator of a pricey latte art pitcher that those latte artists (like Defurious) seem to prefer.

Suddenly, for Matt, it's a "must see" and since we're just wandering aimlessly, into the Alessi Store we go.

But on the way in, I notice a small sign in the window that reads: "Joe The Art of Coffee."

We've just stumbled haplessly upon Joe's third location.

Inside the store is gorgeous in a modern, hip, Euro-urban kind of way. White walls, chrome store fixtures - everything is streamlined and integrated. The Alessi stuff is in the back while Joe takes up the front. The Joe half is scrumptuous. More white, a cushioned bench, what looks to be uncomfy stools along a very long and very abstract artsy bar. It's hard to describe. You'll just have to see it for yourself. For this location, Joe has armed itself with a two group La Marzocco Linea - a departure from the Synesso love at the other two locations.

Matt goes up and orders an Americano while I ask for a double espresso. As I'm looking for money in my wallet, the girl behind the bar notices my hat and comments, asking if we're in the coffee business. Crap, I'm Joe Jerkoff with the La Marzocco cap. Totally forgot I was wearing it. I wish I had buried it. Oh well, too late now. I acknowledge that we are in the coffee business when she asks where we are all from. I rattle off where we're all from, the Coffee Capitals of the World: Vancouver, Copenhagen and Baltimore.

That's when things took a turn to scary. "Baltimore? You're not Jay, are you?" she asks.


"Um, well, actually, yes, I am." Shit, don't know what else to say. Can't lie now.


Meister, Lindsay, Jay, Karen and Matt cold chillin' at Joe.

It's weird. This whole podcast thing. Whether it's by reputation or from hearing my voice, some coffee people seem to know who I am, and it's just odd. Don't get me wrong. I'm honored that people choose to listen and find the show enjoyable. I'm honored and humbled. But I'm also conscious about visiting your shop and coming off the wrong way. Besides, it helps to roll with a crew of baristas who are far more skilled, talented, passionate and committed than I will ever be.

So how was the visit to Joe's Alessi? Very cool. Meister (her name) made me a killer double shot of espresso. Full-bodied, tasty, complex, oh-la-la, I really enjoyed it. She was cool, friendly and welcoming - even though we waltzed in a half-hour to closing. The next day, we ran into Meister in front of Cafe Grumpy - seems that all of the New York baristas hang out there. She invited us to a NYC Barista Kickball Challenge on Sunday but we were gonna be gone by then.

Next time we'll be back and they shall fall.

Oh yes, they shall fall.

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