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.

Back In The Saddle (Empire Goes Kaput, Part Two)


Woe is me.

I'm back behind the bar again after a five day sojourn. And I'm suffering.

These mid-week jaunts are a tempting mistress. They're the sweet seductive fruits that cause mighty men to crumble and fall weak at their knees. Spend a few days doing nothing in particular except eating lavish meals and hanging out with beautiful women and you too wil succumb to the warm waters suspending and massaging you body and mind into blissful submission.

Until you wake up and your empire has crumbled, your fortunes wiped out and you're left penniless sleeping under a highway overpass.

Another weekday holiday with Lindsay and Matt in New York City was just too good to pass up. Coffee. No Coffee. It didn't matter to me. I was enjoying taking off during the week, in spite of what Donald Trump once said:

Bad for business. You start missing weekdays, you start to like it too much, your whole empire goes kaput."

They said my momma raised an intelligent, articulate and inquisitive son. They didn't say I was smart.

From Wednesday to Saturday, it was a dizzying array of activity and people, punctuated by hours of nothingness. Weird. Even though I had lived in Greenwich Village and cut my teeth in the pretentious clubs of New York, there were times when I just felt bored and out of place in the busiest city in the world. Hours would pass and I would do nothing. Then, once Lindsay arrived, it would be a tornado of activity.

It's too much to process in one post. It was crazy and beautiful at the same time. We saw everyone in New York. All the usual suspects and then we ran into the unexpected - people like Karen from Estate Coffee in Copenhagen who wasn't in town for the coffee as much as the record shopping. Turns out Karen (pronounced: "Khan") is an aspiring deejay with hiphop and funk influences. I hope she names her CD release "Wrath of Karen."

A morning stop at the Chelsea Cafe Grumpy found a surprised Daryn Berlin of Counter Culture Coffee and Tony from Atlanta's Octane Coffee and a Clover made cup of Red Mountain Papua New Guinea (which was deelish, by the way). But the true surprise of the trip was the very excellent double-shot of Intelligentsia's Black Cat espresso made by Dan Griffith at Cafe Collage. A true first, since I had never experienced a shot of Black Cat that I liked. This one was dark, chocolately, complex, thick and very good to start. However, the last half ounce was just incredibly bitter and not to my liking. But finally, a good pull of Black Cat.

All in all, it was too much. Lindsay liked to walk. And so we walked. We walked like pilgrims on the way to Mecca. From Spring Street in Soho, all the way to 57th and 7th Avenue. Then back again. I was a sore bitch by Friday morning. But I wasn't going to let it show. If she wanted to walk to 242nd Street, I would be there: humping it. Thank goodness a bitter cold front moved into the city, making walking just miserable and forcing us to use the subway or cab.

In the end, it was a fun trip. One that I wish didn't have to end. I really was hoping for a Miami extension. Oh well, some other time.

Meanwhile, I'm just trying to find enough clothes to keep me warm under the highway...