Re: The mystery of Starbucks

1

hmmm...

is Starbucks really no good? i don't like it much myself, but i always assumed that's because i'm not a big coffee drinker.


Posted by: cleek | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:26 AM
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I love coffee, and I love strong coffee. Starbucks tastes bitter and kind of burnt to me. It's not disgusting in a latte, where it's drowned in milk, but it's not good coffee.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:27 AM
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Yeah, their espresso is pretty egregious. I guess it's good raw material for sugary drinks, but alone it's never enjoyable.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:29 AM
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Starbucks coffee coffee is horrible, whereas the lattes and other pretentious stuff (their bread and butter) are fairly decent. I think they're actually made very differently. Is that what you're referring to, or all of their stuff?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:30 AM
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Last time I said that Starbucks coffee was minging pishwater, I got told I was being a coffee-snob. But it is minging pishwater.

It does also taste burnt as per 2.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:30 AM
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Is anyone's espresso good? Although I am certain to appear a jackass for saying this, I've come across maybe 2 places in the US that do it well.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:32 AM
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I don't like Starbucks, but I like Peet's even less, and all the people who know anything about coffee tell me that Peet's is superior. The Coffee Connection was the greatest, but they sold out to Starbucks eons ago.

My favorite coffee in Boston comes from Red Barn Coffee. They seem to sell their beans online, but I've only ever seen the brewed stuff in coffee carts; they don't have proper cafes.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:34 AM
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re: 6

Here in the UK, a fair number of places. Oddly, I get a better hit-rate on espresso in restaurants rather than coffee places. Maybe I'm just inclined to interpret the espresso as good after a nice feed and some booze, though.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:35 AM
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ttaM, I'm not sure that a Briton gets to have an opinion. You people pay a premium for fucking instant coffee. Sanka is supposed to be luxurious. Puke.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:35 AM
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4: There's some kind of hot chocolate + coffee thing that's great albeit loaded with calories. Otherwise, I've certainly had much better plain coffee.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:35 AM
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6: I've found a local place that makes good espresso, but of course that does you no goddamned good whatsoever. Mwahahaha.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:36 AM
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re: 9

What is Sanka? And I haven't drunk instant coffee for a decade.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:38 AM
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8: mr oudemia used to whine whenever visiting his grandmother (in your ancestral homeland) that "espresso" there still largely meant something odd from a packet, but perhaps this is part of the beneficent Starbucks effect and everyone's has improved.

Also, I am a snob I guess. I think that most of the coffee in France is rubbish too.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:40 AM
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The problem with Starbucks coffee is that it's brewed way too hot, near boiling, as you might suspect. It doesn't "burn" the coffee, but it draws out all the bitterness from the beans. One of the things I learned while working at coffee shops was how to make "toddy," in which you mix a gallon of lukewarm tap water with a pound of ground coffee, let it sit at room temperature for a day, and then filter it. It's as strong as espresso, but with zero bitterness. Very tasty, but labor-intensive, and I prefer my coffee hot anyway. But the principle stands that making coffee with boiling water is a recipe for gross.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:41 AM
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I am too cheap for Starbucks. My sister likes their flavored Coffee Drink Experience Sugar Bombs, but stopped when she attributed a 15lb weight gain to her coffee habit.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:42 AM
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11: One of the good places is here in NYC! Just not so very near to me, drat. (Taralli e Vino on 1st and 10th)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:42 AM
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14: Huh. All the coffee snob boards complain about boilers that don't get hot enough on home equipment, etc.

At home I'm a Peets + press pot gal.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:43 AM
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I love coffee, and I love strong coffee. Starbucks tastes bitter and kind of burnt to me. It's not disgusting in a latte, where it's drowned in milk, but it's not good coffee.

The latte doesn't contain the coffee, right? Espresso.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:44 AM
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Sanka is high-end instant coffee crap. At one point they actually raised their prices to make it appear to be a luxury product, when instant coffee is, almost by definition, not. I think it was a post-war thing that persisted through the 70's.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:44 AM
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I can't stand cappucino now, because I had such a delicious one in Florence.

I had a very nice cup of coffee last week at a place in Union Square called Tisserie.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:45 AM
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re: 13

There's many more coffee places around, yeah, since the boom of the early 90s [partly Starbucks driven].

But there's also loads of old-school Italian places that have been around for decades. I could think of several in Glasgow, for example, that did [and have always done] really good coffee and London has loads of them.

At home I use a press. I'm not madly snobbish about brands either. One of my favourite ground coffees for use in the press is a mass-market one. Oxford has quite a decent old-school coffee seller, though, who sell quite nice ground coffee [or beans].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:47 AM
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Stumptown coffee in Portland is reputedly much better than Starbucks. For example, at the Bipartisan Cafe, 79th and SE Stark, run by my brother, also featuring homemade pie.

I actually wouldn't know, since I only drink lattes (triple 12 oz with almond) and like Starbucks just fine. When my brother was at Starbucks he though that a lot of the little coffee shops he visited were sloppy and inconsistent about how they made coffee, whereas Starbucks had a consistent protocol producing a consistent product. Stumptown is not the same as Starbucks and also produces a consistent product, but I I couldn't tell you what the difference is.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:48 AM
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14: AWB, if you like Toddy, there's a company that makes a special pot for it.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:48 AM
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Some of us like and seek out that bitterness in coffee. As a long-time coffee drinker, and someone who got hooked on Espresso-based beverages in Italy in the seventies, I find Stabucks coffee to be excellent. Most other stuff I find overly bland and lacking in body.

To each her or his own, I guess. But I wouldn't call milder stuff "bad", just milder.


Posted by: double-plus-ungood | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:49 AM
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In the UK, there's a couple of chains produce coffee that I quite like. Nero and AMT [mostly little carts in train stations] are mostly good.

Starbucks is by far the worst. I'd rather go without. That said, Starbucks have nice pastries.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:51 AM
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There's another Tarallucci e Vino a block north of Union Square. Both are delicious all around.

I have close family that live in one of the premier coffee-growing countries in the world. I was appalled to discover that for the past two years, they were drinking Starbucks for breakfast, as it "tasted better". Thankfully, they've recently found a local ground that they like.


Posted by: mike d | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:51 AM
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I like bitterness, too, actually, and am not that fond of toddy as a beverage, but it is on the opposite end of the coffee-flavor spectrum from Starbucks, and people who don't like bitterness seem to like it better. I used to make drinks with it for people who wandered into the coffeeshop saying they didn't really like coffee, but felt they should cave to the social pressure to be able to order coffee drinks.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:52 AM
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No. Starbucks coffee is terrible coffee that's terribly prepared. I moonlight as a part-time baristo at a great cafe that my friends own and Starbucks has ruined people for coffee. All the time people ask me to scald their milk, even returning steamed-milk drinks to ask me whether I can make it hotter. But once you raise the temperature of milk higher than warm-to-hot you're no longer denaturing it, you're breaking down proteins (something like that, I forget the chemistry exactly). And foam? Fuck foam. That's not how you're supposed to make a drink. The consistency of the milk should appear uniform—it's by the pour itself that the thin creamy head is brought to the top of the drink. Baristas pride themselves on latte art because latte art can only be accomplished using perfectly steamed milk and accurate pours. Gah, Starbucks, gah it's gross!


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:53 AM
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26: That's the name! Other than, the place next door to Emily, which is what I normally call it.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:53 AM
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Apparently cold-brewed coffee has less caffeine in it, which is a negative in my view.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:54 AM
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I cry a little when I see baristas set the steam wand into the milk and walk away.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:56 AM
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Baristas pride themselves on latte art

Yeah, because it's fucking cool, and you know what? Lattes with art always seem to taste way better.

You know Starbucks sucks because they do things way too goddamn fast. At my favorite coffeeshop, where they use Metropolis beans, it can take like five minutes for me to get my drink. But it's always goddamn delicious.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:57 AM
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Come to think of it, it may be that a lot of Starbucks are breaking the rules, because during his Starbucks days (where he started out) my bro told me that it was important not to let the water reach boiling.

The best coffee I've ever had was in Taiwan in 1983. Choice of about 14 beans ground and brewed one cup at a time right before your eyes. Probably based on a Japanese model. $3/ cup which would probably be close to $10/ cup now. Taiwan had a 200% luxury tax on coffee.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:57 AM
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Roasting makes a *huge* difference to taste, too. I'm convinced starbucks systematically over-roasts theirs.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:58 AM
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oudemia, have you tried joe? A coffee snob acquaintance of mine used to work there.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:58 AM
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That said, Starbucks have nice pastries

I find them wet and heavy, for the most part. I don't have much experience, largely because I stopped after the third or fourth disappointment. I'm a pastry-lover, but I'll go without rather than go with Starbuck's.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:58 AM
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But once you raise the temperature of milk higher than warm-to-hot you're no longer denaturing it, you're breaking down proteins (something like that, I forget the chemistry exactly).

"breaking down proteins" and "denaturing" are the same thing.

Probably what you mean by "denaturing" is just heating, or maybe making it more able to dissolve things. I'm not sure what you mean.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:58 AM
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Some of us like and seek out that bitterness in coffee.

Yes, one of the rare common qualities in my ex and my wife (besides inexplicable sexual attraction to me) is an addiction to Starbucks French Roast, the burnedest of the burned. Some people like that stuff. Me, I pour flavored CoffeeMate in my Community medium roast.


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:59 AM
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33: I've had some amazing coffee at ethiopian places too, where they start with green beans, roast them, grind them, then prepare. Takes a while though.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:59 AM
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re: 36

Some of them, maybe yeah. I quite like 'stodge' though, so 'nice for me' isn't necessarily nice for everyone.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:59 AM
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the thing about `french roast' is that it doesn't really matter much what the beans are like going in, so it's got to be pretty cheap for a big chain to do (a consistency is easier, too).


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:00 AM
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In Boston, Au Bon Pain has much better croissants than Starbucks does, and ABP's aren't in any way amazing.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:01 AM
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I confess that it makes me feel crazy when people both admit to such incredibly nuanced preferences about coffee drinks, elevating them out of the realm of preferences in fact and into the realm of absolutes, and when people suggest that persons who do not share the nuance of their preferences are mindless feebs. Does this make me sort of a snob in my own way because I am not tolerant enough of people's very particular coffee needs?


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:02 AM
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35: You know, I haven't, since I rarely find myself west of 5th Ave. (I range freely up and down the east side of the island, not sure why this is.) It's like a 10 minute walk from my office. So thank you, w-lfs-n!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:02 AM
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I like the bitterness too and make coffee at home bitterer than I've ever bought.

One of my Arab ESL students got marked wrong and a standardized test when he chose "I like this coffee because it is bitter" instead of "I like this coffee, although it is bitter."

Cultural differences, folks! He also unfairly lost a point when he chose d) "Lewd women should be stoned to death" instead of a) "Lewd women should be sought out for happy fun times".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:03 AM
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I had a palate-expanding espresso at the Seaport location of Jack's here in NYC. Amazing richness of flavor.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:04 AM
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There's a newish chain in London called Apostrophe which does pretty decent espressos.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:04 AM
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Oh, and I'm just a tool for not clicking on your link, Ben, and thinking I knew where it was. There are two within 5 minutes of my office. Dummy!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:04 AM
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I agree with 43. I've never detected any sort of pattern in which coffee drinks I end up enjoying, except for
A) the small cappuccino that comes after the meal at Italian restaurants, which I always enjoy
B) Caribou's "Obsidian" coffee which is good.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:05 AM
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I know someone who works at A starbucks in New York. He's a musician and music teacher, and for nwo it's giving him steady income and benefits. He says that as a consumer, he'd never pay more than a dollar for a cup of regularly brewed coffee.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:05 AM
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Sybil should be stoned for intolerance!

The way Apo is stoned every day of his life!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:05 AM
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re: 43

Nah, I feel that way too. I have distinct preferences about particular coffee places [because some places are objectively shite] but have no view on black versus white, sugar or no sugar, espresso versus latte, etc. People who think that one of those is 'the one true coffee' are being dicks.*


* Yes, that means you, Mr 'I take it black, no sugar, and anyone else who doesn't is clearly a degenerate wimp'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:05 AM
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52: Look, ttam, if you can't take it that way you have no business being at the gay bar in the first place.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:07 AM
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50: That's why I'm inclined to defend Starbucks. Benefits! I knew someone who worked at one when they went public and she got options!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:07 AM
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52: Ha, one of my few short-term relationships was with a girl who on our first date told me it was a good sign that I was taking my coffee black, because she always does and she thinks it's manly too. But I usually put cream in it. Did I want to marry this narrow-minded girl and have to pretend to be a black coffee drinker for the rest of my life?! It was not meant to be.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:08 AM
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39: Oh, I love Ethiopian coffee ceremony. I've had it in KC and Cleveland, but none of the Ethiopian places in NYC seem to do it.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:08 AM
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Starbucks treated its employees very, very well when my brother worked there. Bottom level managers, well in some respects and badly in others.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:08 AM
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56: Empress Taytu!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:08 AM
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I miss Empress Taytu. None of the NYC places come close.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:10 AM
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I would never marry a manly girl. Probably a dyke. Real women drink foo-foo drinks.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:10 AM
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There's a newish chain in London called Apostrophe which does pretty decent espressos.

Huh, I should've tried that out then. I had their filter coffee, which was served in a french press, and it was pretty insipid stuff. I figure mild beans, and too little of them.

I never found Caffe Nero to be much better than Starbucks, their espressos always seemed too bitter and lacking in other flavors to me.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:11 AM
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That said, Starbucks have nice pastries.

Oh, yuck.

Starbucks coffee is terrible coffee that's terribly prepared.

This is true only for a tiny minority of consumers with the most rarefied taste. For most of the country, even minimally decent coffee was unobtainable before Starbucks became ubiquitous. For effete coffee snobs in coastal enclaves and major college towns, Starbucks might be a step down. But for virtually everyone else, it's a major step up from what was available before.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:12 AM
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re: 61

I much much prefer Nero to Starbucks. Shows the vagaries of personal taste, I suppose.

For effete coffee snobs

You say that like it's a bad thing.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:14 AM
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37: Like I said, I forget the chemistry exactly, but there is a red zone heat at which things go bad wrong wrong and that is where Starbucks situates their drinks. I can tell by the sound of the steaming alone whether the drink has gone too far.

43: I'll own up to being an insufferable snob, if that's what you want to call it; I have a little enough training to feel comfortable saying things like right or wrong in place of tasty or bitter in this one realm.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:14 AM
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it's a major step up from what was available before

I have to remind myself that at least 40% of the commenters here have no adult memory of a world where Starbucks was not ubiquitous. Just trust me on this one, y'all.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:16 AM
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Choice of about 14 beans ground and brewed one cup at a time right before your eyes. Probably based on a Japanese model.

Did they brew them in something like this? That stuff makes amazing coffee with Vietnam's dark, almost espresso-roast, beans. Their individual drip filters really are the secret ingredient, since they highly compress the rough-ground coffee and allow the hot water to drip through only very slowly.

(I'm unsure about that article's claims about ice, since I've never had iced coffee in Vietnam, ever. Ordering ca phe sua always produced an individual compressed-coffee drip filter like the one in the picture, hot water, and a mug with a bit of condensed milk)


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:20 AM
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re: 65

Demonstrably false for myself. I like some of the coffee chains where I am from, I have no problem with chains in general.

Starbucks may have driven part of the market expansion, but at least where I used to live and work in Scotland, Starbucks weren't the first big chain to make inroads and when Starbucks did arrive, it was a disappointment.* They weren't as good. For a lot of people, they weren't a step up.

* ironically the first chain I remember regularly going to was a chain that explicitly copied Starbucks [they just happened to get into the Scottish market earlier]. Starbucks moved in a year or two later and bought them out. The coffee went significantly down in quality [for my own taste].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:20 AM
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I guess that this is a coastal enclave thing, but do you remember the Coffee Connection. That was about getting a good cup of coffee, not fancy lattes and sugary drinks. They also did light and medium-roasts.

I agree that Starbucks has probably improved the quality of coffee generally. Hell, even McDonald's has good coffee now, I heard that McDonald's is going to start selling espresso drinks. That's not a good sign for Starbucks where visits are flat. Dunkin Donuts is riding some sort of basic retro chic, because they seem to be growing like gangbusters.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:21 AM
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Did I want to marry this narrow-minded girl and have to pretend to be a black coffee drinker for the rest of my life?

This would be a great running joke in some offbeat movie. Every morning the guy gives just the tiniest wince as he drinks his coffee.

In a mainstream movie you'd have all these gags about how he sneaks cream when she's not looking.

In a foreign movie*, the guy would end up pouring cafe au lait all over his mistress and drinking it off her.

* 1950s definition


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:21 AM
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Yeah, I didn't grow up in a fancy town, but in 1993, my first job was working at a coffee bar, and my friends and I all hung out at independent coffee shops, of which there were tons. Most of them were little houses that had been turned into places to drink good coffee and hang out, with the coffee bar in the kitchen, a pool table upstairs, a library in the living room, etc. Starbucks didn't introduce my town to "fancy" coffee; it just took away the atmosphere, the skilled workers, the small-business spirit. I hate to sound all romantic about it, but there was really good coffee before Starbucks.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:23 AM
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70: It just wasn't available via drive-through. So it practically didn't exist.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:24 AM
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I grew up in an area full of Italians. Consequently, one could always find ok coffee (and arugula and rapini and fresh mozz).


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:24 AM
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For most of the country, even minimally decent coffee was unobtainable before Starbucks became ubiquitous.

When the Bad Old GF and I drove cross-country together 11 years ago (surprisingly few fights, at least until I ran out of money ahead of schedule - I was in charge of paying for gas), we made a no-chains pact, for the rather obvious reason that chains are available at home. Starbucks was an exception; when we got to SF, she hadn't had a decent cup of coffee in 2+ weeks. Of course, in SF in 1996, there would have been good, non-chain coffee available, but she wasn't going to dick around (she liked the bitterness, I might add).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:26 AM
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66: Somewhat similiar, but I didn't look closely enough.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:27 AM
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I always meant to get one of those Vietnamese presses while I lived in Austin, where there's a large Vietnamese population and you can buy the right sort of coffee for it.

I have a copper ibrik for making Turkish coffee, but no Turkish coffee for to make.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:29 AM
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70: Shit, I'd forgotten about this one really awesome coffeehouse that was, more or less, driven out of business by Starbucks. Actually, the neighborhood business district it was in has had virtually all local businesses driven out by chains. 17 years ago, there was a Gap and maybe an Ann Taylor. Now there's almost nothing but chains (and ultra-high end boutiques that can pay the rents). Creative destruction and all that.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:29 AM
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Starbucks roasts its coffee extremely dark -- it's the company's signature roast style -- and dark-roasted coffees tend to have a slightly burnt flavor. It's like eating any food that's been baked a bit too long. Some people like the crispy, toasted flavors, but others think the food tastes overcooked.

In truth, each individual coffee roasts differently, and there is no perfect roast. However, most good coffee roasters prefer light to medium roasts, as it preserves a coffee's natural flavors without imparting the "roasted" flavor on top. If you roast a coffee dark, you're going to taste the burnt flavor more than the coffee flavor. Again, basic cooking. One dirty secret of coffee roasting is that dark roasts can mask the fact that the raw "green" coffee isn't very good. If you roast a coffee light, its inherent flavors are exposed for everyone to taste, so you'd better make sure it's a good coffee from the start. If you roast dark, you can sometimes get away with buying an average green coffee.

The reason small coffee shops tend to serve lousy coffee is that they don't really know much about the coffee part of the business. Most liked the social, community aspect of coffee shops, or they wanted a career change and thought it would be fun to own a small business. The best coffee shops, however, are run by people who are coffee fanatics, or who at least do a good job of pretending. Maybe they apprenticed at a coffee roaster for a while, or spent the first six months before opening touring roasteries, pulling thousands of shots on the espresso machine, attending training sessions, etc.

That's why Stumptown Coffee in Portland is so good. The owner apprenticed at a roaster in Seattle for five years before opening in Portland, and he knew his stuff before he had served a single shot. He treats coffee like oenophiles treat wine. Yes, that sounds snobby to many people, but it's also why his coffee is generally much better than anyone else's. He flies to producing nations and sources the coffee himself, he pays top dollar to growers (which most people don't), and he trains the heck out of his employees. He's not the only one, of course. Batdorf & Bronson in Olympia, Wash., is good, as is Espresso Vivace in Seattle. And there are lots of others.

Sorry for the coffee dissertation. I wrote about coffee for a number of years, so I have a personal investment in the product. And to be honest, I cringe a bit when I hear people talk about coffee pretension. There's no question that people can take it too far -- especially in the realm of foo-foo espresso drinks -- and many coffee folks are insufferable. But it's also true that coffee is like any other agricultural food product -- it can be really good or it can be really awful. And like those same food products, the way it's roasted and prepared is really, really important. It's like eating a vegetable dish that uses the very best fresh vegetables and is cooked well vs. eating one with frozen vegetables that's cooked way too long.


Posted by: FunkyDuck | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:29 AM
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In 1993, my first job was working at a coffee bar....

Not really before Starbucks. Starbucks had over 200 outlets by that time. They went international in 1996.

Starbucks probably did pick up a trend already in existence, and marketed it and made it available to more people. I don't remember good coffee being widely available before ?1985?-?1990?, though you could usually find a place in Portland if you knew where to look.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:34 AM
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79

there was really good coffee before Starbucks

Of course there was. The Coffee Connection is a great example of that. But you had to know where to look to get it, and it wasn't available everywhere. Starbucks has changed that, whatever you think of its product or ambience.

When I left the U.S. (early 90's), there were three products that were essentially unobtainable outside of upscale ZIP codes and/or college towns: good coffee, good beer, and good bread. When I returned (early 00's), Starbucks had revolutionized coffee, microbreweries had revolutionized beer, and artisanal bakeries were beginning to appear outside the Alice Waters demographic.

Sure, a lot of this stuff is crap, but it's a much better class of crap than what it displaced. My glass if half full.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:37 AM
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77 is def. right and coffee can be good or bad and anywhere in between. and when my in-laws serve frozen veggies I can turn up my nose at them and discuss fresh greens behind their backs, which makes me a fucking hypocrite. But it seems like the discourse on coffee and its presentation so uniquely valences in the bougie upwardly mobile sort of register; I don't know, it just makes me want to roll my eyes and feel embarassed on behalf.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:39 AM
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79: Again, I must insist that you are neglecting my paisans. We had good coffee, good bread, and, well, good wine. And none of it was presented as upscale or gourmet and was sold in funky storefronts.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:39 AM
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FD is right that there's a worthwhile distinction other than snobbery to be made. I don't moralize about the way Taco Bell murders their ingredients and sells shit that people eat because TB is cheap, and some people like it. The thing that bugs me about Starbucks is not just that their coffee is gross, but that it's gross and wickedly expensive. If Taco Bell cost as much as a really excellent, locally-owned Mexican place where the chef really knew how to prepare beautiful food, then I'd get pissy about TB too.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:39 AM
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One dirty secret of coffee roasting is that dark roasts can mask the fact that the raw "green" coffee isn't very good.

Dark malt can cover up brewing errors too. The only halfway decent beer I ever brewed was a very dark stout.

My brother thinks of his own (Stumptown) coffee as better than Starbucks' I'm sure, but I think that he also realizes that he's competing for a demand created by Starbucks. He's in a generic non-yuppy neighborhood where even Starbucks isn't well-established, but there are people there who like good coffee.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:40 AM
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Taco Bell is great. Geez. Of course, like all very fine foods, you can't have it all the time, but still.

Sybil, say "valence" again, I dare you.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:41 AM
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Starbucks is expensive, but seriously, can be objectively called gross? That's silly, right? I think a lot of expensive shit is gross or ugly, but that doesn't mean it *is.*


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:43 AM
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79: Did it really displace anything, though, if espresso drinks weren't widely available before Starbucks?


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:43 AM
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I have to remind myself that at least 40% of the commenters here have no adult memory of a world where Starbucks was not ubiquitous.

I'm just grateful to Starbucks because I can get good coffee almost anywhere in Vancouver now, rather than just twice a week when I was in the Italian neighborhood.

I had to do that for almost twenty years.


Posted by: double-plus-ungood | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:43 AM
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We had good coffee, good bread, and, well, good wine. And none of it was presented as upscale or gourmet and was sold in funky storefronts.

I'm assuming the funky storefronts were not in the C- and D-counties of the heartland? Because that's where Starbucks is now. And I give them credit for that. That's all I'm saying.

I'm not begrudging anyone their coffee connoiseurship; Starbucks probably tastes to you about the same way Maxwell House tastes to me, and I respect that. But the resentment of Starbucks is, IMO, misplaced.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:43 AM
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What's wrong with valence? Do I say valence a lot?


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:43 AM
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When I left the U.S. (early 90's), there were three products that were essentially unobtainable outside of upscale ZIP codes and/or college towns: good coffee, good beer, and good bread. When I returned (early 00's), Starbucks had revolutionized coffee, microbreweries had revolutionized beer, and artisanal bakeries were beginning to appear outside the Alice Waters demographic.

I would agree with this assessment.

Starbucks had over 200 outlets by that time.

There are 186 Starbucks within 5 miles of City Hall, NYC. I would not say that 1993 featured very many Starbucks in the USA.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:44 AM
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To be sure, they are great progressive employers.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:46 AM
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A quick search reveals that this was the second time you've said "valence." Maybe I'm just sensitive.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:46 AM
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88: Huh? I'm not one of the Starbucks resenters.

My only point is that plenty of blue collar towns were filled with good bread, what now passes for fancy produce and cheese, and good coffee because of the particular ethnicity of its inhabitants.

(Actually, I think there's a Sopranos ep. where Paulie gets furious in a Starbucks, because "this was ours!")


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:47 AM
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From the Astor Place Starbucks you can in fact see another Starbucks.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:49 AM
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I'm familiar with some majority-Italian towns in northeastern Pennsylvania. I don't think any of them have neighborhood espesso shops. What they do have is pizza places.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:49 AM
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I'm familiar with some majority-Italian towns in northeastern Pennsylvania. I don't think any of them have neighborhood espesso shops. What they do have is pizza places.

Vancouver's Italian neighborhood (Commercial Drive) was lined with coffee shops in the pre-Starbucks world. Still is, actually, and competing with only a single Starbucks.


Posted by: double-plus-ungood | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:51 AM
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Did it really displace anything, though, if espresso drinks weren't widely available before Starbucks?

First of all, better beer and bread have certainly displaced at least some of what preceded - beer sales, for instance, have gone up by less than the increase in microbrews, meaning that some pisswater producers are being squeezed (for ex, in Pgh, Iron City is no longer guaranteed a tap at every bar in the city; you see a lot of bars with a couple upscale taps, then Bud and Coors Light - if there's only a couple taps of pisswater, the nationals get it). As for coffee, it's not so much fancy coffeehouses replacing old fashioned coffeeshops; it's better (not premium) coffee available at all but the most old school locations (e.g, neighborhood bakery that now has a couple carafes of decent coffee in place of the percolator that used to run all day).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:51 AM
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The demographic that Starbucks won over includes people like my mom, who never liked coffee at all, but wanted to be the kind of person who could go to a coffee shop with a friend and order something. At local places with highly trained staff, she felt intimidated ordering something like a mocha latte with as little espresso and as much whipped cream as possible, while the corporate environment of Starbucks makes her feel the way she likes to feel as a customer, that she can ask for anything she likes and no one can judge her.

Similarly, there are better and cheaper local bread places than Panera, but she will always choose Panera, because the product is uniform, she knows what she's getting, and they won't get irritated if she asks to sample everything behind the counter, because all those costs get eaten way up the chain.

I think there's something about the corporate retail experience that people really like. The person selling things to you has no emotional or personal investment in the product. My mom would like to be the kind of person who enjoys, e.g., local restaurants, but she doesn't, because she's afraid it will hurt the chef's feelings if she wants to make substitutions on a dish.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:53 AM
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(Actually, I think there's a Sopranos ep. where Paulie gets furious in a Starbucks, because "this was ours!")

First episode. The guy was nuts from the get-go (he shoplifts a stovetop espresso maker just on principle).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:53 AM
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95: Can't speak to PA, I guess.

Can speak to NJ and RI -- which are loaded with the sort of place I am describing: espresso machine, sandwiches, pastry and bread, shelves and shelves of weird Italian imports, deli case with pre-made things like arancini and cavatelli and broc, dairy case, etc. Oh, and fresh pasta.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:53 AM
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I avoid Peets coffee because I want to be able to drink the bad coffee they have at work. I don't want to have to walk out of my way and wait in line for coffee.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:53 AM
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the particular ethnicity of its inhabitants.

OK, I'll buy that. I'm referring more to the parts of the country where ethnicity is, errr, somewhat homogenous.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:53 AM
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99: Yes! And Paulie -- like all of my wop brethren -- would have already had a stovetop espresso maker.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:55 AM
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oudemia. Stop talking about food!! How am I going to be able to do a one-armed pull-up if you keep making me want to eat?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:55 AM
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only 2 times? Christ. You should see my dissertation.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:55 AM
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104: mmmm, arancini!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:58 AM
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Ogged:

are there other words with usage limits?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:58 AM
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Oudemia:

Good news! I just heard that high waisted, wide jeans are making a come-back!


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:59 AM
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80 and 82 are right on. There is a trend toward noxiousness in coffee discussion. And it's tough, because it's hard not to roll your eyes when a coffee cupper talks about a coffee's mouthfeel, acidity, nuttiness, etc. But there's a difference between evaluating a green coffee -- which requires the use of such tasting terms -- and the tendency for certain folks to turn such discussions into a lifestyle litmus test. And I think that's why people cringe. It's one reason that I can't bring myself to order a "grande" or "vente" size coffee, but instead ask for a "large" or "16-ounce" cup.

Also, while I'm not a big fan of Starbucks coffee, I'd also rather drink it than the coffee served by many small independent shops. It is lousy compared to the best independents, IMO, but it's also better than many others. And I do believe it's raised the overall bar nationwide. I think that speaks less to Starbucks' quality, however, and more to just how low our standards were in the heyday of Folgers and Maxwell House.

One other good thing that the company has done is start to pay growers higher prices for its coffee. Given the low commodity prices that coffee farmers have suffered through for the last generation, any movement in this direction is a net positive, IMO. Contrast that to, say, Folgers, which has an incentive to keep green coffee prices as low as possible because it wants to keep its retail prices low.


Posted by: FunkyDuck | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 12:01 PM
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108: Ha!

(But seriously, wide-legged pants and higher-waisted jeans are back -- but not so much at the same time.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 12:02 PM
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Starbucks makes for useful standard measurements.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 12:02 PM
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Costco's house brand coffee beans are roasted by Starbucks (according to the fine print, anyway), and cost about $5-$7/lb less than the Starbucks branded coffee available down the aisle. More interesting, as far as I'm concerned, is that the Costco brand doesn't have the bitter-burnt taste that Starbucks does.


Posted by: Ubu Imperator | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 12:04 PM
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But seriously, wide-legged pants and higher-waisted jeans are back -- but not so much at the same time.

I found this out by reading USA today at lunch yesterday.

Apparently though, "high-waisted" means you only have to shave half-way down your pubic area to insure that the pants cover everything.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 12:07 PM
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92: The man who shot Liberty Valence -- he was the greatest of them all.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 12:08 PM
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I wish I hadn't clicked the link in 111. What the fuck is wrong with people?


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 12:11 PM
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115: "you people" meaning the people who comment on TMZ?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 12:13 PM
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Sorry, I misread 115.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 12:13 PM
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When I came to Portland OR in 1964, there was one great Italian grocery (Corno's), one deli (Pieri's), and at least one pizza place (Mama Maria's, which still may be there.) There were a mile apart on the average, so you'd really have to care to hit all three in the same day.

In short, a lot of the changes in American bread and coffee patterns were in mostly non-Italian areas like the Pacific NW where -- da-dum! -- Starbucks got started.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 12:15 PM
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118: the Pacific NW where -- da-dum! -- Starbucks got started.

Where did Starbucks come in the history of the coffee boom in Seattle? Did they drive it? or ride it and then expand out? My experience was that Seattle led the way in general "gourmet" coffee availability (non-ethnic shop category) across an entire metroplitan area (suburbs and all) in the US. By the late 80s/early 90s, recall being surprised at the shops (not Starbucks) even up in remote places along the Stevens Pass highway.

[I also associate Seattle with driving the microbreweries early on, I could be wrong on that as well.]


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 12:33 PM
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[I also associate Seattle with driving the microbreweries early on, I could be wrong on that as well.]

I think this was more a timing thing - microbrews got "big" (i.e., press) at the same time that Seattle was culturally hegemonic. Penn Brewery, fr'ex, started in 1986 or 88 - well before "Pacific NW microbrewery" had national significance.

It's a shame that the Cascadia concept has never taken off. Not so much the secession part of it as the fact that it's a handy shorthand for a cross-border common culture that is fairly distinctive.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 12:51 PM
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Starbucks was founded in the early '70s in Seattle at Pike's Place Market. They were one of the early specialty coffee pioneers, but drew their inspiration from Peet's in SF, which opened in the mid-'60s I believe. Alfred Peet is considered the godfather of the specialty coffee movement in the U.S.

In the early days, Starbucks, like Peet's, was all about single-origin coffees, meaning that was where you went to get a pound of fresh-roasted Kenyan, Ethiopian, or Guatemalan coffee. Nobody did espresso in the U.S. at that point, except for some Italian cafes in bigger cities.

That started to change in the mid to late '80s (I think), when Howard Schulz came onboard and began to envision an ever-expanding network of coffee shops that traded on the idea of an "espresso culture." I'm not sure exactly how the idea evolved, but I think it had something to do with a few trips to Italy and an admiration for Italian-style coffee bars. He put an American spin on it by adding a ton of milk and sweet flavors, and then de-bohemianized the average coffeehouse decor to make it more palatable for yuppies.

One of the original Starbucks founders now runs Peet's, having left the company after Howard Schulz changed the vision too much for his taste. It's kind of funny, because Peet's is now a chain that many people associate as Starbucks-like.


Posted by: FunkyDuck | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 12:53 PM
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because Peet's is now a chain that many people associate as Starbucks-like.

with better coffee.


120: Yeah; fer ex. Vancouver and Seattle probably have more in common with each other than they do with any other cities on the continent, either side of the border.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 1:04 PM
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I have a consumer question. With the startling hops prices, there will likely be some microbreweries that cut corners. Is there a clearinghouse for gossip about which ones? There are some genuinely local ones I care about, but I'm wondering about Saranac in particular, as they're my fallback 6-pack.

Valence is a great word, since orbitals are cool and hard to describe, but that seems a weird usage to me.
Ramifies, maybe? Something to describe a local maximum in the density of esthetic states. Maybe there are analogies to the van hove singularity, in that people happy to create lots of tiny differences will absorb any suitably directed advertising, even for civet coffee.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 1:13 PM
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bakeries are far, far behind coffee shops in terms of penetration and quality, ime


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 1:18 PM
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I think this was more a timing thing - microbrews got "big" (i.e., press) at the same time that Seattle was culturally hegemonic.

As someone who got interested in microbreweries around the year 2000, I wouldn't put Seattle in the list of top 20 cities I associate with microbreweries. I couldn't name a single Seattle brewery. Largely because they aren't distributed around here, but still, it's not synonymous with that movement in any way. I'm very surprised to see that it ever was.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 1:34 PM
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Upon further reflection, there aren't 20 cities I associate with microbreweries, unless I'm allowed to list ten different small Pennsylvania cities. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say Seattle is tied for last with a few dozen other cities.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 1:36 PM
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Ever heard of a little brewery called Red Hook, Ned?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 1:57 PM
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I just love coffee. Tons and tons of coffee. With plenty of cream and sugar. All day long.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:06 PM
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Texas Pecan flavored coffee is particularly delicious.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:06 PM
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Flavored coffee is objectively and authentically disgusting.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:07 PM
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You're unlikeable.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:09 PM
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Hey, so am I!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:09 PM
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I don't like to drink flavored coffee, but only because it requires sugar in order to taste good, and I don't want to eat too much unnecessary sugar. Ordinary coffee only requires cream.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:10 PM
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132: Unlikeable, objectively and authentically disgusting, or particularly delicious?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:11 PM
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I think 132 was to 108.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:13 PM
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One can be all three, hbgb.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:13 PM
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79: yes. See also: bookstores with more selection than a mall Waldenbooks or B. Dalton's.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:13 PM
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(not that I make any particular claims about LB, of course)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:14 PM
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Probably pointless question:

At what point, if any, do microbreweries grow themselves out of that designation? Clearly Red Hook or Sierra Nevada are smaller than, say, Bud, but they're pretty damn ubiquitous. It seems odd to lump them with regional microbreweries (like Great Lakes or the aforementioned Penn Brewery) or truly micro breweries (like East End Brewing, which delivers growlers by bike - scroll down).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:14 PM
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Until this very moment I assumed Red Hook was from Brooklyn!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:21 PM
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139: Sam Adams doesn't seem that much like a microbrewery anymore.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:23 PM
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126: Ned, I think that your sample is too small. One of the things about microbrews is that they tend to be local, anyway. If you can find a Seattle microbrew where you are, it's just barely a microbrew anymore, since it has national marketing.

Portland OR has more breweries per capita than any city in the world, they say.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:24 PM
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See also: bookstores with more selection than a mall Waldenbooks or B. Dalton's.

Here's a place where I think the chains have almost wholly displaced locals, except for giant cities and local institutions (Tattered Cover in Denver). Probably not the worst thing, esp. since the locals would have struggled to survive against Amazon anyway, but a bit sad. At least there are still used bookstores.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:25 PM
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140: Nah, other side of the freeway, in Wallingford.

Or did you mean that other Brooklyn?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:25 PM
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I would say Red Hook is clearly not a microbrewery anymore. Annheiser-Busch is a partial owner, a move that allowed the company to achieve a much wider distribution. However, there's no question that Red Hook did play a part in Seattle's rep as a beer city, just as Henry Weinhard's played a big role in Portland's beer history. But yeah, neither have anything to do with the current microbrewery scene.


Posted by: FunkyDuck | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:25 PM
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144: Yes, that Brooklyn, with a Red Hook.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:26 PM
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If you can find a Seattle microbrew where you are, it's just barely a microbrew anymore, since it has national marketing.

Speaking of which, if any westerner would like to send me some Fat Tire beer, I'd be most grateful. I hear all these folks raving about it, but apparently they don't ship east of the Mississippi.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:28 PM
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When I left the U.S. (early 90's), there were three products that were essentially unobtainable outside of upscale ZIP codes and/or college towns: good coffee, good beer, and good bread. When I returned (early 00's), Starbucks had revolutionized coffee, microbreweries had revolutionized beer, and artisanal bakeries were beginning to appear outside the Alice Waters demographic.

AFAICT there's only one place in SF that makes really good bread, and they know it, and charge an arm and a leg for it. (This would be Tartine, of course, ever since having whose bread Acme just doesn't seem worthwhile, even if it is significantly cheaper. Bay Breads, Semifreddi's, and whoever it is that makes the bread at Urban Bread aren't even worth considering.) Actually that's not true, I got some good bread from someone at the Ferry Building farmer's market some time ago. But still.

Contrarily, basically every bakery I bought bread from in Greece made great loaves, and they were dirt cheap. Certainly never more than 75 lepta.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:32 PM
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Why, we drink Fat Tire all the gosh-darn time. What's your address, Stanster?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:32 PM
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Stanley - you can get Fat Tire all over the place east of the Miss'. Nearest place to you I can think of off-hand is down in Williamsburg, but there must be closer...


Posted by: mike d | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:35 PM
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148: This is a constant source of amazement to me when I'm in europe. You can spend months and months trying to find a really good bakery in a city of 4 million here ... and fail. You go to france, spain, switzerland, holland ... sometimes it seem slike you are tripping over them everywhere.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:36 PM
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149: seriously?! e-mail sent, but in the meantime, I'm going to keep searching locally, per mike d's advice. Thanks, guys!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:36 PM
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Beer distribution in the US of A is strange.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:37 PM
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Fwiw, this local joint is what led me to believe it was not available here:

A few folks have called and asked us if we plan to carry Fat Tire. We would love to sell it to you. Alas, this Colorado brewery won't deliver east of the Mississippi.

Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:38 PM
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148: La Farine in Rockridge is very good, and cheaper than Tartine. Tartine is great, but so crowded and jostly.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:39 PM
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Oh, Ben. And I thought I was a bread snob. Of course, my snobbery is wholly rational and correct.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:41 PM
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Rockridge isn't in San Francisco, even if it does seem to have a lot of good food places. Ici is better than Bi-Rite.

Tartine seems to keep the bread line moving pretty quickly around when they start coming out of the oven.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:42 PM
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Stanley - I may have spoke too soon. My Billyburg contact says "they demand that the train cars be refrigerated and you couldn't get that from colorado to virginia".


Posted by: mike d | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:44 PM
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Baking involves getting up at about 3:00 am.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:46 PM
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155: Arizmendi in Oakland (near Lake Merritt) is also quite good, although never having had either La Farine or Tartine I can't say how it stacks up against them.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:46 PM
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I always meant to get one of those Vietnamese presses while I lived in Austin, where there's a large Vietnamese population and you can buy the right sort of coffee for it.

Dude, get thee to Clarendon.

I have a copper ibrik for making Turkish coffee, but no Turkish coffee for to make.

There have to be a dozen places you could easily pick some up. You're not living in rural Idaho, for goodness sake. (Not that there's anything wrong with rural Idaho other than its lack of caffeinic diversity.)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:50 PM
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Good Nazi coffee is available throughout rural Idaho.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:52 PM
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From Wiki "By the summer of 2007, New Belgium [Fat Tire brewery -JP] expanded distribution again to include select areas of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Minnesota metro area and Iowa."

It seems to have gotten to Chicago in 2006.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:54 PM
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I hear all these folks raving about it, but apparently they don't ship east of the Mississippi.

Kick your expectations down a few notches before you try it, just to be sure. It's a pleasant session brew, but nothing spectacular.

Where are you in the country?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:55 PM
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159: Which I suspect has a lot to do with the serious lack of good ones here, I'm sure.

I've talked separately to both a baker and an Indian sweet maker who were shutting down their business upon retirement because after 10+ years of looking, they simply couldn't find anyone willing to take over and work their hours.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:55 PM
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Vietnamese coffee! I like setting up my coffee press to drip directly into a can of condensed milk.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:55 PM
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148: When I read a comment alleging that there was only one place in the whole of San Francisco to get good bread, I thought to myself, "Now, there's a w-lfs-n-ism for you", and sure enough, I checked and I was right.

It's a good thing that I was dropped on my head by wolves as a child and suffered irretrievable palate damage, since I thus manage to live under the happy delusion that there are several good bakeries even here in Minneapolis.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:57 PM
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Where are you in the country?

Virginia.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:58 PM
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Coffee is good.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:59 PM
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Stanley refuses to go to my friend's coffee shop.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 2:59 PM
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170: not true! I just keep forgetting.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:00 PM
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167: I've manage to find a decent one, if not great, in every major metro area I've been too. Usually takes a bit of looking, though. Smaller areas are sometimes s.o.l. though.

The european/us divide on this isn't that you can't get excellent bread in the US, but rather that you have to work at it here and some places in europe it seems hard *not* to.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:00 PM
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Oh right I forgot I've never been to the Arizmendi in the sunset. I take back my earlier claim.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:01 PM
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At the beginning of the fall, mrh mentioned how tasty Starbucks' pumpkin spice latte is. I hadn't darkened a Starbucks doorstep in quite awhile, but there was one across the street from my brunch spot the next day, so I tried it.

Damn you, mrh.

(I know I've facebook cursed you for this already, but the damage to my pocketbook is cause for a second cursing.)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:03 PM
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Vietnamese coffee! I like setting up my coffee press to drip directly into a can of condensed milk.

Mmmm, yummy. Also Thai iced tea/coffee and cafe cubano are soooo decadently sugarly delicious.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:04 PM
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Everyone should watch this. You'll never buy non-fair-trade coffee again. (Assuming you have a soul, which leaves out a few folks right off the bat.)

I am among the Starbucks loathers, but I'm glad they've started to get on board with some more-fairly-traded coffee.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:05 PM
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Oh right I forgot I've never been to the Arizmendi in the sunset.

Most bakeries are better closer to the sunrise, but maybe it's a West Coast thing.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:06 PM
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When I read a comment alleging that there was only one place in the whole of San Francisco to get good bread, I thought to myself, "Now, there's a w-lfs-n-ism for you", and sure enough, I checked and I was right.

This is the same Ben w-lfs-n who claimed that there was no place in all of Berlin (Berlin!) that had good bread, which is conclusive evidence that he simply doesn't know good bread from shinola.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:07 PM
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It's one reason that I can't bring myself to order a "grande" or "vente" size coffee

"Venti" is of course particularly annoying as it is an Italian word for a non-metric volume measurement.

I have never ever been impressed by these "Microbrews". Beer is an industrial product and not really suited to small-batch production. (Although I note that the term is certainly meaningless if it includes Sam Adams, which you can buy in my local Sainsburys). Particular hate on for "Sierra Nevada", which appears to have mistaken "quality" for "stuffed so ludicrously full of hops it tastes like fucking pine resin" - I suspect that if you drank more than a pint or two of that stuff your sinuses would turn inside out.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:07 PM
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The european/us divide on this isn't that you can't get excellent bread in the US, but rather that you have to work at it here and some places in europe it seems hard *not* to.

Amen, brother!


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:08 PM
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172: The thing is, what does one mean by "good bread"? Is the baguette the litmus test? You can get pretty good ones from one place and rather the stodgy ones that I like from a co-op bakery. There are no good bagels to be had for love or money, although I'm not adverse to sandwiches made on some of the bagel-shaped bread that passes for them round here. The co-op bakery in question makes peasant bread sort of things that are as good as those I've had from Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, which is widely considered to be fairly decent. There are a couple of places which make good brioche-type-stuff, but croissants range from awful to tolerable. Weirdly, the yuppie grocery store has bread that is actively awful.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:09 PM
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142 et al: Googling around on the web, it does seem that if you expand Seattle to the Pacific Northwest in general that its role as the early leader in the US for microbreweries is correct. The three early ones I recall are Red Hook, Pyramid & Grants. I myself encountered them all in Seattle, but 2 were made elsewhere in Washington. Portland does get specific mention. Here is the Obit for the guy who started Grants in Yakima.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:09 PM
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dsquared I think we all know where you come down on beer.

Sierra Nevada is hardly hoppy by American microbrew standards, in any case.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:11 PM
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`microbrew' is sort of like `independent music'. You're right that as an industrial product, there are certain benefits of scale, however as a product there are certain benefits of not scaling to bloody large. If you take `microbrew' to mean `lots smaller than guiness/budweiser/etc' it includes an awful lot of beers, some of which are quite good.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:11 PM
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At what point, if any, do microbreweries grow themselves out of that designation?

When they sell out to one of the major breweries (e.g. Red Hook) to get distributed nationally, or when they start having the major breweries produce their stuff under license (Sam Adams).

(I'm not implying that makes them bad; it's just that they no longer fit any reasonable definition of "microbrewery")


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:13 PM
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There are no good bagels to be had for love or money

Here, too. Sigh.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:14 PM
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Hmm... According to the list here, it looks like Fat Tire hasn't been seen around Virginia, Maryland or DC yet. If you would like, I could probably ship you a few bomber bottles (22 oz) of the stuff. Or maybe a six-pack, though I'm less sure we have Fat Tire in the six-packs yet (we do have the other New Belgium beers in six-packs for sure).


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:14 PM
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Sierra Nevada is hardly hoppy by American microbrew standards, in any case.

Horribile dictu, you are probably right. In this context, thought, I find it rather hard to take all the "ugh, that horrid bitter Starbucks taste! Coffee isn't meant to be that bitter" seriously. Beer is meant to be less bitter than coffee.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:16 PM
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188: notwithstanding, you know, bitter.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:16 PM
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187: Thanks for the offer, PMP. I think heebie's on the case, and I don't want to wear out my getting-beer-mailed-to-me karma.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:16 PM
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Beer is an industrial product and not really suited to small-batch production.

That is so false I don't know where to begin. Beer was an artisanal product for many centuries before industrialization. It took some fairly heroic engineering to make it possible to produce it on an industrial scale.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:16 PM
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That really puzzles me. I've made bagels (in the Peace Corps. I was desperate.) and while they weren't right, they were closer than what you get most places outside of NY. If you don't like bagels, don't sell them, but they're not insanely hard to make right.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:17 PM
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There are no good bagels to be had for love or money

As far as I can tell, this is true of almost all of the continent.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:17 PM
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Sierra Nevada is hardly hoppy by American microbrew standards, in any case.

Though it is much more bitter and less balanced than most of the really hoppy microbrews I usually drink. I'd also say Sierra Nevada is probably the most piney tasting hops I've had outside of Dogfish Head's 60 Minute (and perhaps Bell's Two-Hearted Ale), so I can kind of see where dsquared's coming from.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:19 PM
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dsquared, you troll and troll on this issue, and you're never convincing.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:19 PM
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190: No worries. Though, if I could find someone on the west coast willing to ship me some Stone brews, I'd be mighty happy. Eh? Eh?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:21 PM
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192: agreed (with the exception that Montreal has better bagels than NYC). I really don't understand why they even market most of the stuff called `bagels' , but someone must buy them. In truckloads.

191: No, he's not wrong ... you're describing what happened to *most* processes (all of those old enough to have been pre-industrial). Which isn't by itself an argument against the industrial process. Industrial beer is a good example of scaling that worked very well. Wine also, but less so.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:21 PM
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(which isn't to say that most industrially produced beer is really good or anything)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:22 PM
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192: LB, you made bagels in the Peace Corps? I might have overcome my doubts about the Peace Corps had I known that was an option.

It is weird about why there aren't any good bagels--everyone comments on this and no one, er, does anything about it. Here, it's pretty much because you can get a fairly tasty locally-made not-bagel (although the primo distributor of not-really-bagels has scaled back lately) and so there simply isn't the impetus. Also, of course, most people haven't had good bagels. I had one, once.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:24 PM
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197.1: Apples and oranges. Pommes et oranges. Two entirely different things.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:25 PM
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No, no. I taught math in the Peace Corps. I made bagels a couple of times when I was visiting a friend who had an oven while I was in the Peace Corps because I wanted them, not professionally. (Although a project of introducing bagels to Samoa is an idea -- they like hard-to-chew baked goods. Ships' biscuits, and locally made imitation ships' biscuits, that you have to gnaw through rather than bite, are a popular foodstuff.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:28 PM
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The thing is, what does one mean by "good bread"? Is the baguette the litmus test?

From personal taste, I would argue for the German Bauernbrot as the measure of all things. But tastes differ, obviously.

I think the hierarchy of bread quality goes something like this:
At the bottom, bread from industrial production packaged in plastic with a soft crust
Above that, bread baked fresh from frozen dough at a supermarket bakery or chain bakery (this includes most baguettes in France, by the way)
Above that, bread baked fresh from fresh-made dough and commercial yeast
At the top, bread made fresh from fresh-made dough made with a starter or sponge.

Of course, there are additional quality parameters related to the quality of the flour, the skill of the baker, the nature of the oven (wood-fired oven and cloche being better than electric steam-injected oven), and the flavor of the starter.

Finally, purveyors of supermarket breads adulterated with rosemary, olives, sundried tomatoes and the like are consigned to a special circle of hell.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:29 PM
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200: Ok, that's fair, they really aren't the same thing. But given the choice of only one...

I've found one west coast bakery that could really do them. That's it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:30 PM
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This is the same Ben w-lfs-n who claimed that there was no place in all of Berlin (Berlin!) that had good bread,

I would never say that. You can get excellent bread in Berlin on the food level of KaDeWe. It comes from France, but you can get it in Berlin. Also that Turkish flatbread you can get all over the place, that's good too.

Beer was an artisanal product for many centuries before industrialization. It took some fairly heroic engineering to make it possible to produce it on an industrial scale.

On the other hand...


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:31 PM
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202: There are a lot of really lousy baguettes in Paris, fwiw. But you can find a different place 2 blocks on, so the search isn't too horrible.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:31 PM
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197: I accept that brewing scales pretty well. I don't accept that it *only* works on an industrial scale, as d-squared trollishly asserts. That's just false. My brother brews delightful beer in his garage.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:31 PM
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I agree with 194. Very hoppy beers vary a lot depending on the sort of hops you use. Racer 5, for example, is much more hoppy than Sierra Nevada but has a lot less of that piney taste. Recently one of my friends has been brewing some very hoppy beers and the more of the hops were Amarilo rather than other varieties the better it came out.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:32 PM
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203: I like both, but very much prefer the New York ones, perhaps because I teethed on them. Also, the Montreal ones are a wee bit sweet. But mr oudemia's brother lived around the corner from St-Viatur and we would eat them all the time.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:32 PM
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From personal taste, I would argue for the German Bauernbrot as the measure of all things.

This would be the sort of stuff that falls somewhere between feldspar and quartz on the Mohs hardness scale, right?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:33 PM
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That really puzzles me. I've made bagels (in the Peace Corps. I was desperate.) and while they weren't right, they were closer than what you get most places outside of NY. If you don't like bagels, don't sell them, but they're not insanely hard to make right.

This is America. As a society, we don't put much weight on the concept of authenticity when it comes to food. If most people like baked bread-like products that are shaped like a donut rather than what has traditionally been referred to as a bagel, that's what they'll get. See also "Chinese" and "Mexican" food.

Also, Starbucks Coffee isn't spectacular. But it's a lot better than what I used to get at my local diner (in SF), and a lot better than what I get at McDonalds, and it's miles better than anything I'd expect to get at whatever place that sold coffee I'd expect to find when passing t hrough a strange city.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:33 PM
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We must add Einstein's "Bagels" to the Burn This Shit Down list. If they called themselves "Einstein's Round-Bread-with-Hole," the food would still suck, but at least they wouldn't be deluding millions of people into believing they'd ever tasted a bagel.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:33 PM
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208: Basically, I've just given up on eating them these days. I very much prefer the montreal style, but would be very happy if i could regularly find decent NY style. Not going to happen.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:34 PM
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Semi-pwned by 210.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:35 PM
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This would be the sort of stuff that falls somewhere between feldspar and quartz on the Mohs hardness scale, right?

Uh, Ben, you do realize that there are two bakeries on every block in Germany because you're supposed to buy your bread daily, right?

[And I'll have you know I edited a "reason _____ is because" structure out of this comment just for you.]


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:38 PM
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210: I think I know what you mean, but this isn't really about authenticity. Montreal style bagels in parts of Montreal and a few other places are amazing. NY style bagels in parts of NY and a few other places are amazing.

The things marketed as `bagles' almost everywhere else, that can be found just about everywhere? They are at best terribly mediocre. I can only believe that most people like these only because they've never had a good bagel.

So the weird thing isn't the availability of donut-shaped, dense buns, but why haven't more people had good bagels?

American `Chinese' and `Mexican' food isn't authentic, but can be really really good. That's not true of these bagels.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:39 PM
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By the way, I can't believe M/M/ is missing a discussion of bread and beer production, the chemistries of coffee and hot milk, and all things artisanal. Add soul music and organic vegetables, and that's the list of Everything That Matters Most. At least he's spending the day with vegetables.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:42 PM
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As a society, we don't put much weight on the concept of authenticity when it comes to food.

Authenticity is overrated. Authenticity is only valuable to the extent that it is a proxy for good. [/soapbox]


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:42 PM
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217: but as noted, lack of authenticity *isn't* the problem with these bagels. The problem is that they aren't very good (and often sold stale, to boot)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:43 PM
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Uh, Ben, you do realize that there are two bakeries on every block in Germany because you're supposed to buy your bread daily, right?

So what, you think I buy the bread and leave it around for a few days before eating it?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:44 PM
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I just don't dig on super-dense bread, is all. I've heard reports of non-super-dense German bread. This is great news! I haven't encountered it and after a certain number of failures one stops taking the risk.

I do appreciate the editing.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:45 PM
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219: I suspect the thought was that, American style, you'd buy bread for a week or more in one go.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:47 PM
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218: 217 before 215. I agree that most bagels are chewy stale bread most suitable for being an excellent conveyance of cream cheese. I've never had a real bagel, so beyond that I can't say.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:50 PM
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I didn't figure you were doing it quite as badly as in 221, but a lot of the Brötchen really are only one-day deals.

Of course, poor students might have to make due with cheap day-old bread, and do that thing where you warm it up in the oven, and then eat it in that brief instant when it's all soft again, before it becomes even more rocklike than before.

(In my defense, I haven't done that in more than a decade.)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:50 PM
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I've never had a real bagel

Emergency Fed Ex to Cala!!!


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:51 PM
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Dsquared is right about excessively hoppy microbrews, though completely full of shit in general.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:52 PM
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215: My mom works for the Board of Ed. of the town I grew up in NJ. They'd switched vendors or something for the cafeteria and the new folks told her that they were changing bagel procurement practices -- the old vendor bought the bagels from a local place. The new vendor would be shipping them in frozen. My mother tried to explain that this wouldn't really fly, these were little NJ kids who knew from bagels. Of course the new folks didn't go for it, but a month later, after monstrous whinging from students and parents, they did indeed switch back to the real bagels.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:56 PM
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In case it wasn't clear, I think that authenticity is overrated and that our lack of emphasis on it as a society is a very good thing.

As for the lack of good bagels thing, I'm not sure. My local supermarket has a wide variety of the bunlike objects, some of which I find horrible (the "whole wheat" ones), and some of which are certainly tolerable. The freshly baked bagels are much better than the ones that come a half dozen to a plastic bag, but I find that they deteriorate much more after spending a few days on my counter, and my laziness outweighs my desire for a really good bagel.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:58 PM
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Even lousy baguettes bought in Paris are far far far better than most specialty bakeries in the US. Bouley Bakery sells a mediocre baguette for something like 3 dollars ! At least mediocre baguettes in France/Paris cost less than 1 euro.

Also, I question the claim that most baguettes sold in Paris are made from frozen dough. It's pretty much just the bakeries with the "banette" signs/stickers in the windows.

For once, I agree with Mr. w-lfs-n. I don't dig on super-dense bread either.


Posted by: Willy Voet | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:58 PM
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Dsquared is right about excessively hoppy microbrews

No he isn't. You're just confused because the two of you are on the same wrong side of an issue for once.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 3:59 PM
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lso, I question the claim that most baguettes sold in Paris are made from frozen dough. It's pretty much just the bakeries with the "banette" signs/stickers in the windows.

Naive!


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:00 PM
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Also, I am very grateful for spending part of my life in northeastern NJ. Great bagels are very easy to come by.


Posted by: Willy Voet | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:00 PM
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This is for dsqaured. I've been wanting to try one for a while, but now I'm even more excited because I know it'll upset him.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:01 PM
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At that point, why not just buy some hops straight and make a salad?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:03 PM
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227: I think that was clear --- I don't think there is much value in authenticity for it's own sake. As someone mentioned above, it *sometimes* is a good proxy for quality, and the bagel seems to be one of these cases.

It's pretty clear that many americans regularly eat very mediocre bread happily enough. If there were more demand, better stuff would be easily available. I can't really understand why the demand isn't there.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:06 PM
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229: Are you saying that there aren't a lot of excessively hoppy microbrews, or that microbrews can be as hoppy as they want to, and no one should say anything for fear of hurting their hoppy little microbrew feelings? Because a lot of them are too damn hoppy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:07 PM
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soup biscuit's attitude is intolerably snobbish. People like the non-boiled items sold by 99.9% of "bagel" places, and have opinions on which of these places has better "bagels", because some of these places have better "bagels" than others. They aren't failed imitations of the BAGELS found in certain corners of two of the world's metropolises; they are a different, easier-to-make, and easier-to-eat type of object, which are sold because people want to eat them and find that they taste good.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:09 PM
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233: You should taste their 90 Minute IPA or the 120 Minute. There's a lot of hops, but it's still paired with such an incredible amount of malt that it's not overpowering. It's just packed with flavor in a way that no kids' cereal could hope to match.

So more hops from the Randall probably just shifts the flavor balance to what a normal IPA would have, only it takes half a sip to match a normal gulp's worth.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:10 PM
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If there were more demand, better stuff would be easily available.

You can't demand something you don't know exists.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:10 PM
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Vitamin and mineral-enriched marijuana-hopped coffee beer is the beer of the future, though I've never actually had it. All your goodies at once.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:13 PM
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I'm saying that you can't handle the hops, and it's not anyone else's fault but your own.

(More realistically, I'd say that nowhere near a majority of microbrews that I've drunk have had a problem of excessive hops for the beer. Probably more like a couple have.)


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:14 PM
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240 to 235


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:15 PM
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233: aside from the alcohol part of the equation, I'm tempted.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:15 PM
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It's a matter of taste, but I really don't like excessively hoppy beers, even if they're very malty too, and a lot of U.S. microbrewers go that way. I think it's a "Who's penis is longer?" competition.

I've heard that these beers kill parasites and make embalming unnecessary, but my parasites are mostly pretty benign and I've always planned to be cremated.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:17 PM
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You can't demand something you don't know exists.

It's really too bad no one has the resources to engage in a broader marketing campaign to introduce people to the world of "real" bagels. Given the size of the country it would probably have to be a national, or at the very least regional, corporation. Their marketing efforts would probably drive a national increase in bagel consumption, and the only downside would be some whining from snobs about how these "Buckstars" bagels were crappy and how their local bagel shop was complaining about the competition.

Someone should try to do it.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:18 PM
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I have a hard time picturing what excessive hops would be. As long as they're good hops, I say the more the better.

Sierra Nevada is swill, of course.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:18 PM
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The "Budweiser is a good beer because it provides me with everything I want from a beer without costing nearly as much as those complicated bottles of wankery I sometimes experiment with" argument is kind of the reverse of the "Almost everyone on earth thinks they're eating bagels, but they aren't, and they would be unhappy about it if they had any taste" argument. But it's even more specious, because it's necessarily a statement of opinion by someone who doesn't care one way or the other about the thing he's opining about. I'm sure dsquared will agree with us that someone's opinions about something he doesn't care about are not likely to be worth noting.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:18 PM
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236: Bullshit. I'm saying they aren't even good for what they are. That there are much better products in the same aisle. That the typical prebagged supermarket aisle bagel is the nadir of supermarket baked products, and I don't understand it.

I understand, I think, why americans value different qualities (longevity, to some degree price, compatibility with certain uses rather than others ) in breads than say europeans do. I'm not being particularly snobby about this; there is a definite convenience vs. taste etc. tradeoff to be made, and I understand that many will choose to make it in the convenience direction. It's a shame for you, when you're trying to make the opposite trade off, but it's understandable and not `wrong'.

I just don't understand the bagels.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:19 PM
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The Budweiser thing is pure trolling. For all we know, Dsquared is a teetotalling maiden aunt in Kansas.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:20 PM
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Naive how? I live there, and most independent bakeries without the banette symbol sell bread from fresh dough. Now, I am not sure the exact numbers here, but I doubt that most (i.e. more than 50% of bakeries) have the banette symbol.


Posted by: Willy Voet | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:20 PM
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They aren't failed imitations of the BAGELS found in certain corners of two of the world's metropolises; they are a different, easier-to-make, and easier-to-eat type of object, which are sold because people want to eat them and find that they taste good.

Yeah, but they're doughnut shaped rolls, differing from other rolls only in their shape. I don't mind if people want to eat toroidal rolls, but if you're going to make something different in flavor and texture from a bagel, why keep the name?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:21 PM
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Bullshit. I'm saying they aren't even good for what they are. That there are much better products in the same aisle.

Which products are better than what? Are there good bagels at the supermarket by real bagel standards?

I was more talking about people's decision to eat at Panera and Einstein Brothers, which some would tell us is a false consciousness. No, it's still a good breakfast on its own terms.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:22 PM
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and 250 is quite correct. I was trying to differentiate the two somehow in text because they really aren't the same thing at all. Didn't mean that to come across as snotty.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:23 PM
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Yeah, but they're doughnut shaped rolls, differing from other rolls only in their shape. I don't mind if people want to eat toroidal rolls, but if you're going to make something different in flavor and texture from a bagel, why keep the name?

Oh, just to piss you off and lure people in who end up disappointed. I'm sure you've been fooled time after time, hoping that THIS Panera location is the one with the New York-style bagels.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:24 PM
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And I'd go a little further, saying that they're often unpleasantly dank and squooshy rolls. But if people like dank and squooshy, who am I to say them nay?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:25 PM
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Yeah, but they're doughnut shaped rolls, differing from other rolls only in their shape. I don't mind if people want to eat toroidal rolls, but if you're going to make something different in flavor and texture from a bagel, why keep the name?

Hmm... maybe we aren't eating the same thing then. The plastic bag supermarket bagels that I get are much denser than your typical roll, by a factor of at least two, and have a much thicker and stronger crust. These are all attributes that BAGELS have, albeit to a much greater degree, so why not call them "bagels" rather than "toroidorolls" or some other silly neologism?

I also don't think that there's a problem calling the chunky stuff full of onions and cilantro and spices and whatnot "guacamole", even though the original guacamole is a very runny and creamy sauce.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:27 PM
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I'm with 243 - I'd much rather have a not-overly-hopped brown ale or a stout than a 360-minute IPA or some such nonsense.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:28 PM
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255 - Huh? It's mashed avocado -- if it's runny, that's a terrifying sign.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:29 PM
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I was more talking about people's decision to eat at Panera and Einstein Brothers, ... No, it's still a good breakfast on its own terms.

Which wasn't what I was talking about at all. This came from talking about bakeries. The bagel chain places is a different issue. There's an E.B.s 100 yards from here. I think they're pretty objectively mediocre, but not because they are a failed attempt at a NY bagel. They're making something else. And it's not very good, but it's reasonably cheap.

But it's a fast food chain. What do you expect? I don't think of a fast food chain as providing the same thing as a bakery,

In much of the country, you can't find a good bagel for love or money. In many parts, you can find really good bread if you look. But not bagels.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:30 PM
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That the typical prebagged supermarket aisle bagel is the nadir of supermarket baked products, and I don't understand it.

I'm sorry, but this is just completely wrong. My supermarket bakery aisle includes those horrible "apple pies" that come wrapped in something like wax paper, as well as some pretty unappetizing white bread, and brand-extended whole wheat english muffins. The prebagged supermarket bagel is much better than any of these, or at least the brand that I get.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:30 PM
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253: I'm really not meaning to be all "What are these things you people call... chains?" but do I gather that Panera is a chain specifically devoted to 'bagels'? Weird.

Look, it's not all that important. If I were Mexican, I'd be making subtle gagging noises every time I saw someone drive into a Taco Bell, thinking "You call that slop Mexican food?" And I'd be right that, to the extent there are any broadly agreed standards of what makes one item of food better than another, Taco Bell is going to lose to most actual Mexican food. I grew up eating bagels. I feel similar distaste for the dank toroidal rolls with weird things in them (blueberries?) that are available in the rest of the country.

This is partially an esthetic reaction, partially provincialism, but there's no reason to treat it as a big deal. Accept it as an annoying quirk New Yorkers tend to have.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:31 PM
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Oh, I forget about the pies, sorry. Nadir of `bread products' then. Typically even the english muffins are preferable. If you must.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:32 PM
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I've been told that the Bagel Factory in Pittsburgh makes proper old-style bagels. I should investigate next time I'm in town.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:34 PM
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LB, I think part of it is provincialism (there's this food I love, why can't they make it correctly here?), but there is something bagel-specific going on too. At least it seems that way to me.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:35 PM
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255 - Huh? It's mashed avocado -- if it's runny, that's a terrifying sign

The guacamole that I got on the side of the road in Mexico and that I see in the diveyer taquerias around town appears to have a large amount of some sort of cream mixed in. I think it's sour cream.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:36 PM
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I had an incredibly hoppy microbrewery beer the other day (and I do mean "micro" brewery. They have twenty employees." ) The person peddling it boasted about how many awards it had won, and I was amazed at how hoppy it was (it was a regular ale, too, not an IPA). It made me remember a previous conversation here on Unfogged when a self-described beer snob (was it you, PMP?) was shocked to find out that not all beer snobs liked really hoppy beer.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:39 PM
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It looks like this.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:39 PM
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264: The dudes from Puebla that make my favorite guac here don't add anything creamy to it and it is fairly chunky. I do remember watching Sesame Street or something as a kid and seeing a Mexican-American kid and his mom make guac and they put like two packets of Philly Cream Cheese in.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:41 PM
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256: url?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:42 PM
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263: Part of it is the running-gag nature: "These bagels suck" is right up there with "No one likes fruitcake." (Although Buck makes killer, delicious fruitcake. He sent out about twenty pounds this year to various employees and professional contacts, and got the same initial response "Fruitcake? Ewww." followed by a few days later "You know, I had a piece, and it was really good. Took me about two days to eat the whole thing.")

The other thing is that bad bagels are really disappointing somehow -- biting into one is like thinking chocolate and getting carob, because they look reasonably convincing. Everyone who travels outside NY should be used to the middle America bagel, by now, but the memory of that first "WTF did I just bite into?" remains strong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:43 PM
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269: One objective benefit for the montrealers I guess. They really don't look the same, so no issue of raised expectations


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:44 PM
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God, I love good fruitcake. Would Buck have any interest in sharing his own particular good fruitcake recipe?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:44 PM
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Hyperbole re: Dogfish Head's 120-minute IPA, perhaps?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:46 PM
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There were actually two batches this year, one loosely based on my grandmother's recipe, and one loosely based on the Joy of Cooking. Most of the interest was in the variety of dried fruits and whatnot he added in place of the normal evil candied citron and radioactive cherries. And a whole lot of kirsch to soak them in.

I'll see if he knows what he did well enough to send you a recipe for either or both.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:47 PM
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Cryptic Ned, you've cracked me up twice today. Yay!


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:48 PM
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269: That makes me sad. My mother made really good fruitcake, but as time went on the fruitcake jokes got to her and she quit making it. My own yuppy sister got the word and turned it down. I really hate Calvin Trillin, who I believe is the big fruitcake-joke guy.

The secrets are, don't let it get dry, use enough rum, use enough nuts and dried fruit, but minimize the Brazil nuts and bright-colored candied fruit (citrons.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:48 PM
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Re: 264, 267 -- Gotta use Cali avocados for guac - preferably Calavo. Not Peruvian, not Mexican, and certainly not Floridian. Mandatory (sigh) disclosure statement: I'm related to retired California avocado ranchers.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:49 PM
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Super, thanks! Using good fruit, nuts, and booze is of course crucial. Actually, I have one fruitcake recipe that isn't even really cake -- more like an amazing Italian fruit and nut puck -- and it doesn't have any booze. But normally.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:50 PM
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276: Now who is being provincial?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:50 PM
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Someone remind me next year, and I'll make up a pre-Christmas fruitcake distribution list -- another twenty pounds or so couldn't be that much of a hassle. It's not like I'm ever going to make anyone here a mix CD.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:50 PM
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262 I've been told that the Bagel Factory in Pittsburgh makes proper old-style bagels. I should investigate next time I'm in town.

My former New Yorker wife says they are the closest to NY bagels she has seen in Pittsburgh and views them as pretty damn close, she buys them or nothing. I am sure that her assessment is open to dispute by the truly discerning among us.

I like them—but trust me I am not to be trusted in matters of taste.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:50 PM
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Thanks for the endorsement, JP, that is good to know.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:52 PM
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Fruitcake for mixcd exchange, maybe?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:52 PM
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Yeah, but mostly I don't actually want the mix CD's.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:53 PM
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Rockridge isn't in San Francisco, even if it does seem to have a lot of good food places. Ici is better than Bi-Rite.

I haven't been to Bi-Rite, but it's hard to believe Ici's ice cream is better than anything. Ici has fancy presentation; very fancy script on its signage; extremely fancy flavor varieties; unbelievably fancy prices; and almost no flavor in the ice cream itself. The Beanery, an okay coffee joint across the street, sells Dreyer's ice cream - much better than Ici, and much cheaper. Yet Ici always has lines out the door and up the block. In this case, people seem to prefer the "fancy food" signifiers to actual good ice cream.

(Also, to be pedantic, Ici is in the Elmwood district, not in Rockridge. I wouldn't bother to be that pedantic, but it's w-lfs-n...)


Posted by: freight train | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:55 PM
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I'm sure they make festive holiday coasters


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 4:55 PM
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Hm, maybe I will make out-of-season panpepato (the awesome pucks) after my dissertation defense. It's not like it will be all that hot out in March, and it's really good with coffee or cheese or both.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 5:11 PM
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255, 257: I've been wondering about this, because I've never seen a recipe for guacamole that wasn't mostly mashed avocado. I wonder if the runny style (which I've seen) is cheaper because extended with something not as spendy as avocados, and has thus turned into a rival style.

Anyone who knows mexican food have a recipe for the runny stuff?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 5:12 PM
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Anyone who knows mexican food have a recipe for the runny stuff?

Why, for gawd's sake?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 5:14 PM
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I've been wondering about this, because I've never seen a recipe for guacamole that wasn't mostly mashed avocado. I wonder if the runny style (which I've seen) is cheaper because extended with something not as spendy as avocados, and has thus turned into a rival style.

More likely is that the runny style is cheaper and so is what was used in the not-notably-wealthy mexico, and then the rich Americans saw no need to cut their guac with sour cream. I think this is behind the more meat and less rice and beans in an american burrito.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 5:15 PM
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Just curious. This looks like it might be relevant, and suggests that the thinning agent is just water.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 5:16 PM
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Most of the interest was in the variety of dried fruits and whatnot he added in place of the normal evil candied citron and radioactive cherries.

I want to say a word in defense of candied citron and radioactive cherries. The stuff that you get in the supermarket--bathed in high fructose corn syrup and chock full of sodium benzoate--is genuinely awful, no doubt about it. But candied fruit peel carefully made with real sugar is a lovely addition to fruit cake and other X-mas goodies. Unfortunately, I don't know any domestic source for it.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 6:06 PM
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291: Fauchon has a 5th Ave. store and I think a mail-order operation. Their candied fruits are gorgeous. But price-wise it's like blow.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 6:09 PM
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Unfortunately, I don't know any domestic source for it.

The King Arthur Flour catalog has some very good quality candied peel made with glucose syrup.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 6:11 PM
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It's not Fauchon quality, but I find it entirely pleasing for baking with.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 6:12 PM
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The ingredients for the orange peel, which I have in my fridge at the moment, are sugar, glucose syrup, and orange peel.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 6:13 PM
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294: It is good, the King Arthur Flour catalog kind! I forgot about that -- CA (mr oudemia -- tired of typing that!) uses it when he makes his Christmas cakes with the horrible white icing and little trees and ice skaters and whatnot on top.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 6:16 PM
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all that sweet, sweet smack
+
price-wise it's like blow

Are you trying to tell us something, Oudemia?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 6:20 PM
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293-296: Thanks for the tips.

The mention of Fauchon make me wistfully remember the days when Fleur and I lived just up the street from the Fauchon on Place de la Madeleine. Sigh...


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 6:22 PM
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297: No! I am clean like whistle!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 6:23 PM
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299: Clean as driven, err, snow.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 6:42 PM
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299 reminds me of my family saying, "Strong like bull, ugly like oyster."


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 6:55 PM
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My family's family saying, I mean.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 6:55 PM
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Unfortunately, I don't know any domestic source for it.

Your kitchen.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 7:29 PM
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Your kitchen.

Excellent; when I'm next moved to go to, say, Michael Mina, I'll just call you up and have you re-create the menu at your place instead.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 7:32 PM
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I don't tell my brother this, but there's a lot to be said for making instant coffee with hot tap water. All the caffeine and more than enough flavor. Condensed milk and a few spoons of sugar, and Mmmmmm. 10 secondsor so, and cheap!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 7:55 PM
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Eating the spoonful of dry coffee is even more efficient.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 7:57 PM
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I was going to say that, but I didn't want to upset people.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 8:06 PM
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I'm not upset, it's just that the thought of instant coffee crystals makes me shudder. Why not drink tea? It's much cheaper than coffee, and I think it has more caffeine.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 8:14 PM
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Coffee smells sooo good.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 8:15 PM
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Real coffee smells very good, but instant coffee smells like chalk dust and poverty.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 8:16 PM
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Instant is instant! Time-efficient.

IA is working out personal issues.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 8:20 PM
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I have a hard time believing anyone who comments here is that pressed for time, John.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 8:28 PM
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I'm a go-getter -- getting ahead, making things happen, always striving, always on the job. For me, every second counts.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 8:34 PM
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IA, some of us love the smell of chalk dust and poverty. Snob.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 8:36 PM
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The only thing good about instant coffee is its usefulness in baking.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 8:39 PM
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AWB misunderestimates the time it takes to read the 200-plus comments per thread, while keeping track of the embedded links and visting to and fro from one site to another like a virtual gadfly. It's a full-time job, almost, if also a social art form, and it requires considerable skill at multitasking.

But 312 is quite excellent.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 8:42 PM
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For me, every second counts.

Time is money for John Emerson.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 8:44 PM
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The only thing good about instant coffee is its usefulness in baking.

Somewhere around here is a recipe for an amazing torte made with super-dark-chocolate layers of cake and then an icing of chocolate, rum and instant coffee between the layers and all over the outside. *drool*


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 8:45 PM
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The Canadians are an honest and frugal, but rather lazy people.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 8:56 PM
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319: We're not lazy. It's just that it's cold as charity up there, and we need to devote our energy to keeping warm, and not waste it on imperial adventures of heartbreaking grandeur, nor on various and sundry dubious schemes of a venture capitalist nature.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 9:07 PM
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Turnips grow well in Canada, no? Also potatoes?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 9:15 PM
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Excellent; when I'm next moved to go to, say, Michael Mina, I'll just call you up and have you re-create the menu at your place instead.

I didn't say my kitchen.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 9:15 PM
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And it seems that Michael Mina trafficks in more than just candied citron.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 9:16 PM
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mano negra might be able to confirm how ubiquitous instant coffee is in Chile, but the family I lived with made only instant coffee. This floored me, as good-quality Colombian espresso stands are plentiful and relatively cheap throughout Santiago.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 9:27 PM
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Randall-ized beer is good stuff. The people slamming the beers for being "too hoppy" need to realize that hops have a dual identity, with bitterness and flavor, and that different brewing and service processes get more of one or the other. Randall, like dry-hopping techniques, doesn't add any bitterness (since the bitterness only goes into solution during boiling). A homebrew club at one of the recent national homebrew conventions had a system that dispensed a single decent base pale ale through one of four different containers of hops; it was a good way to learn what different hops tasted like.

So, Sifu, you're coming to the Extreme Beer Fest, right? First session.

And JRoth (139): The "microbrew" terminology is definitely kind of clunky. The term the industry folks like to use seems to be "craft brewery".


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 9:32 PM
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I admit to loving crazy-hoppy beers.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 9:36 PM
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I saw Hop-Ocalypse at the grocery store tonight, and the name cracked me up.

PMP: If you can't find any willing West Coasters, I'll happily send along a six pack of Stone. Our local grocer stocks the pale ale, and I think I've seen the IPA, too, but maybe only on-tap. Of course, it'd be fresher from a West Coast source. (Regardless, my e-mail's below.)


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 9:40 PM
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And JRoth (139): The "microbrew" terminology is definitely kind of clunky. The term the industry folks like to use seems to be "craft brewery".

Hey, what good timing - I just got back.

But it still seems odd to have one term that spans from a 1,000 gallon producer to a 1,000,000 gallon producer. Hell, I probably have the orders of magnitude off, and the scale is even bigger. I understand what unites them, and "craft brewer" is good for that; it just seems that there should be something else.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 9:47 PM
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327: Do you get Arrogant Bastard Ale, Double Bastard, or Ruination?

Their IPA and Pale Ale are tasty, but I can find some really good substitutes in the area. It's those other brews, and their Vertical Epics, that just have no replacements.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 9:54 PM
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328: This site (beertown.org) has a set of definitions. Don't know how widely accepted they are, but might be worth a look.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 9:55 PM
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Do you get Arrogant Bastard Ale

Check. In 22 oz. bottles (I think).


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 9:57 PM
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The range covers five orders of magnitude, at least in the US. A-B makes about 100 million barrels per year; lots of small outfits make 500-2000 barrels per year, total. Sam Adams is #6 nationally, with 1.4 million barrels per year. Sierra Nevada is at #10 with half that, and Pittsburgh is #11 with another half of that. Source here, from 2005.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:10 PM
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280: JP, you're in Pittsburgh? If Dr. Oops ever resurfaces, we might have enough for a meetup. Especially if we could lure some of the eastern Ohio contingent....

Also: Bagel Factory bagels are NY-good? [Not meaning "as good as NY" but "good along the lines of an NY bagel] I had no idea.

Despite spending 2/3 of my youth in Westchester and northern NJ, I can't say that I know what a good NY-bagel is supposed to be. I've heard so much rhapsodizing that I no longer believe I have ever had this mythical bread product. All I know is that some toroidarolls are delicious - crusty with a dense, slightly yeasty interior. They're good for exactly 24 hours. If soup biscuit is talking about prepacked, plastic-wrapped bagels, he should know that many supermarkets also have one-off toroidarolls in the bakery case that are more or less inferior versions of what I just described.

Panera, my blissfully ignorant LB, is a chain centered around baked goods rather than coffee. None of their baked goods are very good, IME. They might be "stodgy" - I've never heard that word for pastry before, but the way it's been used here might apply. "Dense for no apparent reason" is how I'd characterize.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:11 PM
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Baking bagels is my job. My guess would be that the main difference between "real" bagels and the kind you get in supermarkets is that the former are steamed or boiled before baking (or during the first phase of the bake), and the latter are not. The gluten content of the flour may be different as well.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:17 PM
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332: Pittsburgh Brewing is Iron City - think PBR. I've heard varying opinions on whether it is superior or inferior to any other American Pisswater Lager. D^2 would love it. Penn Brewery is Penn Pilsener and Penn Dark, which are very successful microbrews that at least one chauvinistic German I know swears by. I don't actually understand why it's not on this list - it should be somewhere near, but below, Great Lakes. I'm 99% certain it hasn't been bought out.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:18 PM
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Check. In 22 oz. bottles (I think).

Email sent!


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:23 PM
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If y'all don't mind, I'll slip a little shameless promotion in at this point: a cousin of mine has a brew pub in Selinsgrove Pa., short of an hour north of Harrisburg. (that is, in the very middle of nowhere). It's really good. I have another cousin who has a coffee business out in Vancouver. Ethical Bean. People like it -- I don't drink coffee, so I can't say one way or the other . . .

In other news, I had a little qat yesterday. To the amusement of many. You have to chew it an hour or more to get the buzz, though, and that's just too much committment for me.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:35 PM
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In other news, I had a little qat yesterday.

You misspelled "cat", Nápi.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:38 PM
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Hey, I worked on a Verizon Wireless store in Selinsgrove! I was there several times over the course of 4 months. I don't recall a brewpub - was it there in early '01?

Hey, while we're promoting - and since the Pgh population here (that I'm aware of) just doubled: there's a new Ethiopian restaurant, Tana, on Baum Blvd., right near the existing Ethipian restuarant. I did the facade renovations, and the owner is desperately in debt.* Please go!

* I've been paid, so this doesn't benefit me except insofar as a successful business is a better image for my portfolio than a shuttered one.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:39 PM
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335: I know at some point Pittsburgh Brewing was doing some Samuel Adams production under contract.

I am also pretty sure that Penn Brewery is independent unless they are owned by someone in some deep cover mode. My favorite is their Märzen. (and via Wikipedia it seems that in the very beginning Penn Brewery had Pittsburgh Brewing and then later Jones Brewing make their beer due to some restrictive laws. PA is the bureaucratic state from hell for anything alcoholic.)

I assume this is the Selinsgrove Brewery in question.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:44 PM
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333: Yes, I'm aware of the ones in the bakery case; a noted improvement over the shipped in a bag sort. In my experience still dissappointing, but it's not like I've done an exhaustive search (as noted, I've given up)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:46 PM
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PA is the bureaucratic state from hell for anything alcoholic

Oh, god, yes. First time in Philly:

Me: We're going to go pick up some beers.
Host: Oh, shoot. The beer distributor is closed. You'll have to go to the Chinese restaurant.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 10:49 PM
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Host: Oh, shoot. The beer distributor is closed. You'll have to go to the Chinese restaurant and get a six-pack to go.

How is that not kind of awesome?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:08 PM
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343: "Host: Oh, shoot. The beer distributor is closed. You'll have to go to the Chinese restaurant" and get a six-pack to go for only twice the price.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:12 PM
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340c -- Indeed.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01- 9-08 11:16 PM
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a lot of the Brötchen really are only one-day deals.

...after which their dried up, hard remains become reincarnated as Semmelknödel. Mmmmm.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-10-08 5:38 AM
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The French invented the 'cafe-filtre'. It was a triumph of French 'logique' over common sense.
You placed ground coffee in a lidded aluminium filter cup over your [always] cold coffee cup and filled the filter cup with hot water. Then you waited - and waited.
Always you got impatient and attempted to lift the lid to see if it had 'filtered', which, of course, it hadn't and you got your fingers scalded by the heat.
So then you waited over long, with the result that, by the time the coffee HAD filtered into the cold cup, it was just tepid! French culture extended far and wide - I recently saw 'cafe-filtres' for sale in Vietnam.


Posted by: Herr Torquewrench | Link to this comment | 01-10-08 7:55 AM
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Wow, looks like some awesome kayaking in the Susquehanna near Selinsgrove - even some parks on those islands.

Brewpub, kayaking... this would have constituted a plan pre-parenthood. Alas.

PS - Knecht, am I interpreting that rezept correctly, and the author wants me to sprinkle some flour (stärk? coarse, like semolina?) in the boiling water?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-10-08 8:02 AM
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When I first saw "Yuengling" I thought it was Chinese.

Germans (as in PA, MN, WN, and MO) are tremendously important in the history of American alcohol. I just saw a new book out about "Minnesota 13", a local moonshine which was major during the depression. It was apparenly made in small lots by German Catholics in Stearns and Todd Counties. I have met personally one man whose parents ran a still, and the book interviews others (even the kids are in their 80s and 90s now; Prohibition ended 75 years ago). According to report, the Pope informally sanctioned this moonshining and some monks offered technical help.

However, I must sadly report that the Sioux City brewer whose foreman killed the Prohiitionist was not my great-grandfather, but a competitor of his. I'll have to take that emblem off the family coat of arms.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-10-08 8:11 AM
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348: Stärkemehl = Speisestärke = cornstarch.

I had never heard that tip before, so I don't necessarily endorse it. Sounds plausible, though.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-10-08 8:45 AM
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Thanks, Knecht.

When we stayed with my FIL near Koblenz last spring, he and my daughter developed the most wonderful ritual of going every morning (she was early-rising at the time) to the bakery in town for the daily bread. She had Mohnbrötchen every day, as my wife enjoyed the Bauernbrot. There was a bit of a panic one Saturday when we were touring around and realized that we had no bread for Sunday. I don't actually recall the resolution. Maybe toast?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-10-08 8:56 AM
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