Random thoughts, and Twitter, on National Coffee Day

September 29, 2016

Found at Your Lighter Side Blog, 2014.

Found at Your Lighter Side Blog, 2014.

It’s a commercial and wag-created day of note, National Coffee Day. It’s not declared by Congress in a memorial resolution, nor honored by the President with a proclamation.

Doesn’t mean we can’t have fun

September 29 is National Coffee Day, or in many corners of the internet, #NationalCoffeeDay.

A few Twitterized thoughts.

Driving between Duncanville, Texas, and Appleton, Wisconsin, on one of those “visit the kid at college” trips, we encountered this truck. Despite its hopeful sign, it really carried gasoline, sort of a visual pun on coffee, I suppose.

We collect coffee mugs — not always consciously. They add up. There’s a story behind each mug pictured.

The nice oak racks were handcrafted by Kathryn’s father, Ken Knowles. Two of the racks hold 23 mugs, and a third holds 20. We also have a high shelf that holds the overflow mugs, including the seasonal favorites that get rotated in at appropriate times, like the Dracula and witch mugs for Halloween.

I used to be a tea guy. Off at college I didn’t take much pleasure in the cup o’ joe offered by the Huddle or Student Union at at the University of Utah (though I drank my share). Teas other than Lipton started showing up in small shops, Celestial Seasonings started up and took off. I had a variety of tea infusers, and cleaning the smaller tea paraphernalia was always easier than keeping up with a coffee pot or a Mr. Coffee with two years of rancid coffee oils built up on parts of the device.

Out in New York with the L. A. Jonas Foundation’s Camp Rising Sun (CRS), I ran into Greg Marley from Albuquerque (yeah, the irony), and we swapped methods and stories of brewing teas way out in the Southwestern deserts, where local “weeds” offered a variety of great things to supplement teas. They don’t call that plant “Mormon tea” without reason, you know? At CRS I often partook of Mama Glenn’s stout percolated brews, for the incredible caffeine jolts they offered. Mama Glenn always used sweetened condensed milk to lighten it, and if you tried it black, you understood why.

I’ve driven the length and width of the nation, had coffee over campfires, in diners and luxury hotels, in every state except Maine, North Dakota, Alaska and Hawaii. I’ve awakened to those tiny cups of dark, heavy Scandinavian brews in Denmark and Sweden; spent most of a week with English breakfast coffees and that infernal heated milk they lighten with. Tried some thick muds in Monterrey and Nogales, Mexico, and had pretty good cups from Vancouver to Toronto — coffee is almost always better in the mountains, by the way.

Tea still catches my fancy often, especially if I don’t want caffeine. But coffee is my drink of choice.

I was fortunate enough to get a trip to Seattle in the near-early days of the rise of the Northwest coffee culture that gave rise to Starbucks. In town for the Computer-Aided Manufacturing – International (CAM-I) convention (does the group still exist?), corporate consultant extraordinaire Roger Beynon and I sampled coffee all over town, and I knew things were looking up.

The successes of Peet’s, and the dramatic spread of Starbucks, put pressure on almost all commercial coffee sellers to step up their games. In most towns in America today, in most supermarkets, you can buy a very good cup of coffee or the beans and accoutrements to brew one on your own.

A couple of years ago son James and his wife Michelle took me to the weekly Friday fest in Louisville, Colorado. We had a grand night listening to the band, whose name I forget, and arguing with a couple of cheeky libertarians posing as the local Republican Party. On the way out, about 10:00 p.m. we stumbled on a woman brewing coffee in a Chemex drip, and giving out samples. What fortune!

The woman was Neige LaRue, proprieter of Snow Street Coffee, a roasting company. The coffee was an Ethiopian bean, Yirga Cheffe. It’s a medium roast, where I usually prefer a darker roast.

But that coffee! It was sweet, hot, aromatic, with only tasty hints of bitterness — struck me at the time as the best cup of coffee I’d ever had. Several pounds later, I think it still holds up, though Ms. LaRue can brew it better in her Chemex than I can in our Melitta (Kathryn’s brewing is better than mine, and I swear we do it exactly the same). In any case, I highly recommend it.

We may rankle at its corporateness, and its ubiquity, but Starbucks still does a good job of brewing a good cup. They’ve also changed how we think of coffee houses in America, and maybe around the world. I’m disappointed they don’t carry music CDs anymore. And I really wish they’d bring back that much maligned bit of putting controversial quotes on their cups. A hundred times I’ve wished I had a thousand of cup #289 in their “The Way I See It” series:


Mad Housewife Chardonnay

January 28, 2012

Kathryn isn’t exactly a haus frau, not with all the lawyers she must deal with daily.

Probably more of a comment on her husband.  A good friend offered this gift a while back:

Mad Housewife Chardonnay - IMGP2636 Photo by Ed Darrell, Creative Commons license

Mad Housewife Chardonnay - Photo by Ed Darrell, Creative Commons license

We laughed.  Then we found, in the box, an accompanying chardonnay glass:

Change du Life wine glass - IMGP2637 Photo by Ed Darrell, Creative Commons

Change of Life wine glass

“Hot with complex characteristics.”  Still hot after all these years (that many? really?).

Drinking it poses a conundrum:  A Trophy Wife ™ really should be taken out on an occasion to drink a wine with a name like that, right?  But I’m stingy enough not to want to pay the corkage on a bottle brought in.  In no case should this one be drunk with a dinner she’s slaved over for hours.

Maybe it’s time I hit the kitchen.  Old Bay crab cakes, maybe?  It’s a great wine.


Literary mushrooms in Rockport, Maine

October 20, 2010

Greg Marley’s new book on mushrooms is out, and there is a launch party set for October 30, in Rockport, Maine.

Can you be there?

Greg’s book party:

Book Release Party and Mushroom Talk

Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares, by Greg Marley
Cover of Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares, by Greg Marley

Saturday, October 30 from 4-6:00 pm
at Farmers Fare on Route 90 in Rockport [Maine]
Light refreshments served and beverages available

Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore and Mystique of Mushrooms

Welcome a new book by Greg Marley, celebrating the wonder and mystery of mushrooms. Enjoy a readable, captivating and informative collection of great mushroom stories. From world-class edibles (with recipes) to the most deadly, learn about the mushrooms in your neighborhood and how to invite them into your life, or even how to grow your own.

 

Hey, if you’re in the neighborhood, drop in.


Watermelon salad, blueberry bock pie

September 14, 2010

It was a benefit for the Arlington Master Chorale (Kathryn’s group); it sure turned pleasant to discover that Olenjack’s, at Lincoln Square in Arlington, Texas, has some stunning things on its menu.

Kathryn swears by the watermelon and onion salad, crisp, sweet watermelon and sweet onions with greens and a great dressing.

For dessert I took the blueberry bock pie.  The one slice must have contained (barely) a pint of fresh blueberries.  The crust complemented the blueberries perfectly, crisp and exploding at the fork.  The bock?  It’s made with bock beer, Shiner Bock.  I suspect chef Brian Olenjack reduces sugar considerably to add the beer, then probably simmers it down.  As a result, it’s the sweetness of the blueberries one gets, and not a sugary, syrupy, sweet goo.  With hints of nutmeg, it’s a wonderful concoction.

At $4, it’s one of the best pie buys in Texas right now.

Kathryn took a bowl of cinnamon ice cream, another steal at $2.

Blueberry bock pie and cinnamon ice cream, together?

(Also:  I stuck with appetizers — the lamb lollipops will make lamb lovers, also love Olenjacks.)

We’ll be back.  Rumor is the fruit pie changes ever few days.  There’s a strawberry rhubarb in the mix.

More:


18 mushroom hunters dead — don’t jump to conclusions

August 30, 2010

What would kill 18 mushroom hunters in Europe?

Reuters gives the scary headline:

Mushroom hunter “massacre” claims 18 lives in Italy

MILAN | Mon Aug 30, 2010 12:52pm EDT

MILAN (Reuters) – At least 18 mushroom-lovers have been killed in accidents while hunting for their favorite fungi in the mountains and forests of northern Italy.

Mountain rescuers say eager mushroom seekers are abandoning safety procedures as they don camouflage and hunt in darkness to protect coveted troves, la Repubblica newspaper reported on Sunday.

“There is too much carelessness. Too many people don’t give a darn about the right rules and unfortunately this is the result,” Gino Comelli, head of the Alpine rescue service in northwest Italy’s Valle di Fassa, told the newspaper.

You may be a fan of the fungus yourself, or mycologically or botanically or culinarily inclined, and right now you’re thinking, “If these guys don’t know what the safe mushrooms look like, they shouldn’t be out in the woods.”  You’ve heard the stories of the mushroom experts who ate something they swore was safe, and of the lovely eulogies delivered a few days later.

But you’re leaping to conclusions.  Not so fast, Bunky.  Pay attention.

Yes, the death toll is astounding.  But it’s not mycological poisoning.

Seventeen people have died in nine days — six in 48 hours alone — mostly from sliding off steep, damp slopes in the northern mountains, la Repubblica said in a story headlined “the massacre of the mushroom hunters.”

Another person has been missing for more than a week, it said.

Ansa news agency said a man who had been hunting mushrooms was found dead on Sunday in the Alpine region of Valtellina.

A combination of August thunderstorms and hot weather has led to a bumper mushroom crop that has drawn the first hunters of what is expected to be a boom season.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

An Oklahoma or Pennsylvania deer hunt would be more analogous — it ain’t mushrooms that killed the mushroom hunters.  It’s just plain old being-careless-in-the-woods.

Resources:


Black Forest Cafe and the “Too Fat Polka”

December 6, 2009

Foray to the Container Store a success, the question:  What to do about dinner?

Kathryn asked, “How about that little German joint in back of Half Price Books?”

The Black Forest Cafe and Bakery.  Legendary for its Black Forest Cake.  For years it had a small shop inside the “mother ship” of Half Price Books a half-block away.  Before Starbucks, in Dallas there was the Black Forest Cafe.

It’s really more like a delicatessan.  Out of the way.  A real hidden kitchen of Dallas.  A refuge for Germans and lovers of German meats, mustards, chocolates.

Not immune to kitsch, though.

We were surprised to find the place packed late on a Friday.  At a couple of tables, obviously a part.  A private function?  We found a table at the rear of the cafe.

And along the way we passed the guy in leiderhosen.  He carried a large, burgundy-colored accordion with a German-sounding name.

Soon after we got our seat, he stood up at a microphone in a corner of the place, said a few things and I heard “most popular song of 1957.”  Vic Damone on an accordian?  Frank Sinatra?  Buddy Holly?

“Too Fat Polka!”  Kathryn and I both laughed.  We knew it from Bob Wills’ repertoire, old cowboy movies.  In a crowd of mostly young Dallasites, we would be the only ones to recall it (1957?).

From the opening notes and especially through the chorus, the entire crowd sang along.

Who knew?

The Hungarian-spiced bratwursts exploded with flavor, and the mustard was perfect.

Note: No, it was 1947.  An Arthur Godfrey success, McGuire Sisters.   And anyone else who had a band and a recording contract in 1947.


Yeah, it’s ironic (hacked e-mails and global warming)

November 26, 2009

James’s Empty Blog:

It is hard to miss the irony in people eagerly poring through illegally-obtained private email, looking for ethical breaches by the writers! I’m sure we can all imagine the outrage if one of the emails revealed that a scientist had hacked into one of the sceptics’ computers and was reading all their correspondence. So a bit of perspective is called for here.

James Is A Scientist (IANAS), and he has much good stuff to say (read some of the other posts about the hacked e-mails while you’re there) — but you gotta wonder about a blog that follows such a post with this:

Prawns, Jules Berry

Prawns not in their native habitat. Probably Tastimus deliciousus

Tip of the old scrub brush to Stoat.


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