You’ve got to have something of a coffee fetish to operate a coffee blog–even half-assedly like I do. Being the coffee shop junkie that I am, I always considered the coffee shop to be an ideal social destination–mainly because I couldn’t really think of any other ideas. That said, I also considered the coffee shop an ideal place for doing homework, business meetings, family reunions, and sleeping. Coffee’s a social drug drink, and is therefore adaptable to a variety of social situations.

On the other hand, maybe it’s not that simple You may recall my report on my hometown being overrun by bikini coffee shops. While the subject inspired some spirited (and entertaining) debate, I never made any serious correlation between coffee and sex. I mean, bikini-clad women and coffee seemed like a pretty arbitrary pairing to me, and  it turns out that business model may not really have much to do with the coffee anyways. I figured since you could substitute wings, burgers, and internet domain name services, sex and marketing is a proven formula, coffee was just replacing the variable.

…or so I thought. To start things off, let’s hear from executive transvestite (not “weirdo transvestite,” mind you) Eddie Izzard who shares an often quoted anec-joke about the coffee/sex correlation:

So “coffee” is street slang for sex. That’s cool, but at the same time it just seems…confusing. Sure, there’s the possibility of social faux pas with heads of state, but given coffee’s wide social presence, that can’t possibly be a hard and fast literal rule. Perhaps, like all slang, you’ve got to pay attention to the context. Case in point:

Hearing this information again flashes me back about nine years to one of my very few experiences cold-asking someone out on a date. I asked a barista out for coffee and she declined, having already made plans to go to an Incubus concert that weekend. Realizing now that I had possibly propositioned and been turned down for sex certainly changes the flavor of that interchange. In my defense, she was sending mixed signals by being a barista.

Perhaps it’s not entirely about the coffee, but more about opening that door to extend (or start) the evening. If there’s anything we learned from the Land Shark, you’ve just got to have the right line (everyone loves candy!). Perhaps if your date is on the fence about you, you’ll sell them on the coffee. “Would you join me for a cup of coffee?” certainly beats a number of alternatives:

Holy hell, they totally went there.

Being a married man now, I’m forced to re-evaluate the role of going out for coffee in my life. What kind of signals am I sending when I join a friend for a casual cup of coffee? Are others whispering behind my back about my coffee shop promiscuity? Am I being honest with my wife about going out for coffee and what role should it play in our relationship? Before you ask, no, I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore, but I will say that if you don’t have an honest coffee talk with your spouse, your feelings may surface in inappropriate ways.

Yeah, I’m sure he’ll get some at the plant. Perhaps the plant has a “desk sergeant” as well. Ugh. Men are such dogs. Actually, if I’m going to cite advertisements as proof, I should point out that coffee also apparently turns women into dangerous vengeful maniacs. Par for the course I suppose.

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Do you know Mon Ami?

September 5, 2011

Mon Ami on Urbanspoon
It’s a shame I haven’t really written about Mon Ami, the West ‘Couve community caffeination epicenter. I don’t mean to slight the other phenomenal coffee shops in Vancouver, since, as I’ve said before, there are plenty. In every good community, however, there’s the community coffee shop that’s the default choice when you talk about going to chat and grab a coffee.

Interior of Mon Ami coffee shop

See, if you're going to do the chalkboard menu thing, get creative with it. Boom! Menu...in 3D!

Mon Ami is a community coffee shop, meaning they’ve got a lot of local–and loyal–regulars. They’re a Stumptown coffee institution, which is cool if you’re into that kind of thing. Even if you aren’t (*ahem*), they’ve come up with some great coffee concoctions, such as the “Cuppa Cho” latte special, so they aren’t just sitting back on their haunches. The floor plan leaves a bit to be desired, with about half of the seating stretching into a narrow corridor between the counter/kitchen and wall. Fortunately that works well in catering to the drop-in-and-chat-with-a-friend crowd. This also serves the I-love-my-laptop clientele with wifi and lots of wall outlets, because who wants to lean under their table to plug things in?

There are a few other shortcomings as well, most of which are really pluses with a slight drawback. Their crepes are excellent, but they’re also their only non-pastry food offering. From a craperie perspective, that’s great. From a coffee shop perspective, it can leave you wanting. This can be limiting to those craving a simple and cheap eats from their local cafe. In addition, with typically two folks working behind the counter at a time, orders can run into a bit of bottleneck, particularly when one of the folks is making crepes. If you want a crepe in a hurry (and who does?), you may be out of luck

The thing is, beyond the tasty crepes and reliably good coffee, Mon Ami is just simply a great place to hang out, and it’s a community location. If you live in the West ‘Couve, you’ve likely already been there, and know the name of most of the baristas. So to you folks, keep going there. If you’re from PDX and you haven’t been there, it’s a definitive answer to the question “why the hell would you want to live in Vancouver?”

Because Mon Ami is there.

The Red [and Black] Scare

August 10, 2011

I met with a new manager the other day, and I was told how my observations as a new employee were valuable since I still had the perspective of an outsider. I can understand that, since once you’ve been tainted jaded on the job for a while, you can’t shake the burden of expectations. For example, I’d love to meet President G.W. Bush, but I don’t think I could shake the expectation of him being an absolute imbecile just like I’d sit down to dinner with Mike Tyson expecting my ring finger to be bitten off. Some would argue there is evidence to support these expectations, but in reality, I’ve never met either of them personally, so there’s no reason for me to expect G.W. Bush to cut himself with a butter knife or Mike Tyson to mutilate me with one.

This brings me to the Red and Black Cafe.
Red and Black Cafe on Urbanspoon

The counter at the Red & Black Cafe.

See, it looks like just your average cafe, but that's how they get ya'.

The Red and Black Cafe, a “worker owned, collectively–managed, IWW-member vegan café,” certainly has some revolutionary undertones (Their PCs run on Linux! ¡Viva la Revolución!). I’m sure I should be saying overtones, but there was something…subdued in their revolutionary attitude, and it’s not just the heart-shaped anarchy symbol on their logo. I admit, I know about as little about anarchy as I do about chemex brewing or ancient anglo-saxon literature. A reading over of their blog convinced me I was dealing with bona fide anarchists, just ones with values like job security, civic-mindedness, and sanity. I must admit, though, they dropped the word “radical” like a Gatorade bottle uses “electrolytes” or Flash comics use “molecules.”

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means, what you think it means.”

Myself and my dinner companion enjoyed some light conversation as we took our merry time ordering from the rather diverse menu. I had misconstrued R&B Cafe as merely a small vegan cafe when apparently it’s a cesspool of radical liberalism that serves espresso and vegan food. I ordered the hummus sliders (which were great, by the way) with an iced coconut latte, and after having a seat it became apparent that my iced coconut latte had been forgotten. I certainly did not slight them for a minor oversight, since they apologized and promptly made the drink. On the other hand, I did have to wonder, what kind of self-important radical establishment simply forgets to make a drink? This wasn’t a strike against them as a cafe, but rather as revolutionaries. It is possible, however, that they were just cool people who made a minor oversight, but I imagine one of them recognized that I had recently worked for a state institution and was striking back at the man.

Iced coconut & hummus sliders.

Vegan fuds. Om nom nom nom.

In short, it was a pleasant, quirky dining experience. Their portions were generous to the point that my dinner companion mentioned “I always like what I get here, but they give me so much of it!” I don’t claim to be the anarchy auditor, but I guess I just want the “radical left” to be as unhinged and crazy as the right paints them to be (notably, I haven’t been disappointed by the opposite). In fact, one of the goals of the Red and Black Cafe is to show the reasonable, practical side of anarchism. Red & Black definitely had a revolutionary air about it, but in a way that said, “Yeah, whatever, we’ve been doing this for years. Take it or leave it.” It’s almost as if they had something they believed in rather than merely something to prove.

Ugh. That is soooooo un-Portland.

Note: I read a few other reviews mentioning incidents involving a police officer (and other folks deemed “to be causing a worker or patron discomfort or distress for any reason”) being asked to leave. Perhaps they’ve gone soft, or maybe I just came on an off-day. I’ll drop in again and bring an on-duty police officer, Dick Cheney, and an intoxicated Larry the Cable Guy and see if sparks fly.

"The best Italian cheeses money can buy."

"The best Italian cheeses money can buy."

I’ve been living in Vancouver for four months, and any day now Comcast is going to hike my introductory cable internet rate up and I’ll respond by heaving a cinder block through the window of their business. Also in that time, I’ve discovered a few primo dining establishments. Now, I’m not a food reviewer nor do I aspire to be one, but I am a huge fan of Pizza Paradise on the corner of Evergreen and Main Street. Sure, their pizza is fantastic and I love that they go to the effort to use green leaf lettuce instead of iceberg for their salads. The free wireless makes them the perfect spot for a lunch break as well. What I truly love about Pizza Paradise is that they prepare their pizza with Grande Cheese. Not just the cheese, mind you, but the slogan:

Grande cheese: The finest Italian cheeses money can buy!

I’m not going to deny it, that cheese is damned good, and with good reason. That’s not my issue though. My question is, if you’ve truly got your hands on “the best Italian cheeses money can buy,” what’s to stop you from having the best Italian cheeses money can’t buy? I mean, if I knew that there was cheese so good that standard currency is insufficient, who knows what lengths I’d go to get my hands on it? Just picture it:

Grande Cheese: Too good for your money. You want our cheese? Give us your kidney.

Now that’s marketing.

Croissant Sandwich & Spanish Coffee @ The Press Club on 26th Ave in Portland

Croissant Sandwich & Spanish Coffee @ The Press Club

A few days ago I had the distinct pleasure of being introduced to one of many hip hideaways in Portland. On 26th Ave off of Powell, there is a quaint mini-district that has all of your basic needs: three bar/restaurant/cafes, a couple record stores, a theatre, and a car selling t-shirts out of the trunk. After some duo bass jammin’ was treated to a mini tour of the area and had lunch at The Press Club bar/gallery/restaurant/cafe. The Spanish coffee was wicked, by the way. As a side note, nearly everyone we ran into was in a band. I’ve yet to determine whether or not the entire area is one big supergroup.

“…and just like for an instant, all his life is just folding in on itself and it’s obvious to him that time is a lie.”

Sippin' Rogue at the Terrace.

Sippin' Rogue at the Terrace.

A year ago when I was blasting off fireworks with siblings that were strangers to me merely three years ago, I figured it wouldn’t be possible for another Independence Day to live up that one. Never again would I have such a unique combination of family, friends, fireworks, and spirits.

Cafe Flame Lily, which I broke into.

Cafe Flame Lily, which I broke into.

A year later, well, it still seems pretty impossible. I certainly would have never thought I’d come close though. I woke up today on a sofa in Tacoma, Washington. I ended the day sipping a mini Afritini at Café Flame Lily, an African Cuisine Restaurant that I broke into.* I also had dinner with the mayor of Lake Oswego and enjoyed some fantastic food expertly prepared and served by the staff of Terrace Kitchen. We swapped crazy family stories sipped Arnold Palmers (iced tea and lemonade), and enjoyed a panoramic view of a dozen fireworks shows in Portland and various surrounding areas.

All because I decided to attend a jazz jam session at Proper Eats on Thursday night. Causality is a crazy thing.

I’d love to elaborate, but it’s damned late. Happy Fourth, y’all.

*for the record, I did not actually commit breaking and entering.

I had something that I was going to post today, but  not anymore. That can wait until tomorrow.  I’ve been inspired by this wonderful blog post which completely kills off one of the two rules I learned about marketing.

1. There’s no such thing as bad publicity.

2. There are no accidents in marketing.

There are bad marketing choices, and there are marketing disasters. Bad marketing choices get you bad/generous publicity. Marketing disasters deep six your entire company, and that rarely happens. Unlike the rest of the marketing gaffes on the list, this ad is truly a mistake and unquestionably a marketing disaster.

Wow. Just wow. Let’s recover from that with the Seinfeldesque mix-food-and-sex-into-one-urge trick.

“Put it in me, Scott.” As Paris Hilton (the girl who sexed up Carl’s Junior ads) says. “That’s hot.”