Monday, July 17, 2006

Down on the avenue...

If you happened to spot me walking down Oak Bay Avenue today, you may have thought to yourself "who is that delirious looking woman wandering down the street with a coffee cup in her hand."

I did one of my favorite things today...I went for a walk on the avenue to "run" some errands. Not run though, walk, and walk slowly which most know I don't do often (despite all M's efforts to shape my inappropriately fast walking behavior). I picked up some packing things at the hardware store, stopped at the bakery, then the italian deli (for fresh local veggies and other nice treats) and the grocery store (for boring things like milk and bread). On my travels today I had what was possibly the single best cup of coffee of my life thus far. That is saying something - I have had many outstanding cups of coffee. Before I say much more I must confess that I am an unadulterated coffee snob. Here are two scenarios that emphasize my point:

1) DH and I walk into a little bakery, hoping to get a nice cup of coffee and maybe a pastry. I look around, see yummy pastery, but no clue as to what type of coffee is served. There are large generic pots brewing away (often, though not always a bad sign) and generic paper cups. Suspicious, I casually ask the counter person (unfortunately, I can not use the term "Barista" here) "So...umm...what type of coffee do you brew here?" Counter person stares at me blanly (warning sign # 2), and eventually says, "Umm..I think, ah you mean what BRAND do we have?" Sighing, I reply "yes, what brand" knowing the question is now totally unnecessary. Counter person says "Umm..Canterbury I think." Tyla - "Hmm..(high pitched hmmm)..okay, thank you" and wispers to Daryl "let's get out of here." Daryl looks appalled and replies "you can't just LEAVE now" and I say "well I'm not paying 2 dollars for canterbury coffee." We leave.

2) DH and I have a bit of a wait between buses downtown. There's a (usually) decent coffee place nearby, and DH runs in to get us some coffees for the trip. He comes back, hands one to me. Both of us take sips, turn to look at each other, shake our heads and comment on the absolute disgrace of a cup of coffee we are drinking. I try very hard to keep drinking, as does DH. Finally DH can take it no more (he has been corrupted by this point) and marches to the nearest garbage can and tosses the entire venti coffee. Seconds later I do the same. This is not the first, nor will it be the last time I have tossed a coffee (I once winged a nasty cup of gas station coffee out the driver side window of my car I was so disgusted. Luckily it didn't cause an accident).

Okay. Now that you understand what a good (and bad) cup of coffee mean to me, you will appreciate the experience I had this afternoon. Well, maybe not in the same way that I do...but...

I finally walked by this new little bakery while it was open (I've passed it many times in the evening after it is closed). I decided I needed a pick me up and wanted to check it out, so went in for a coffee and a peak at the pasteries. Firstly - the pasteries and cakes were of the absolute highest quality. The cakes were complete works of art. I was amazed. After gawking with my mouth open, I ordered my coffee. Here's what made it so special:

First - it was Illy coffee (the finest italian coffee - to DIE for). Second the barista (no hesitation here) pulled the shots three times, before she decided they were good enough to use. Having worked in a cafe, and loving straight espresso, I often see people pulling the shots for my drinks and am thoroughly dissapointed. These shots (the good ones) had a beautiful dark coloring, with a thick, creamy caramel coulored creme on top. I love the creme. When I get americano's or straight espresso I sip it off before anything else :-). Today though, I had ordered a double macchiato. Now I must clarify for the Starbucks fans (of which I frequently am one) that a true macchiato is not full of milk and topped with whip cream and caramel sauce. A true machiato is a double shot (or more) of espresso topped with foam (foamed milk). No actual steamed milk is poured in,and it is not sweetened in any way. The machiato I had today had beautiful thick foam (the best kind) - I knew it would be perfect as she foamed it slowly, and tamped the steaming jug down several times. I was served only the best shots of espresso, from the best coffee, with the best foamed milk on top. I walked out into the sunlight, removed the top, and drank in the first sip. There is nothing that compares to the perfectly drawn shot of espresso filtered through thick creamy foam. It was bliss. So, I walked slowly the rest of the way, in order to fully enjoy this creation.

I picked up the groceries and am now off to unpack them and get dinner prepped before we go for our run. Huge to-do list for the evening, but first things first :-).


Magnificent M said...

good coffee, good chocolate (the french/italian/swiss type not this waxy brown stuff we pass of as chocolate here in North America) and good wine - all things to be savored and appreciated.

I agree, bad coffee is just not worth it. And bad coffee usually gives me a headache. If it doesn't taste good, what is the point?? I'm this way about my wine and my coffee - I don't drink for the extra benefits, I drink for the taste. Now chocolate on the other hand, I can eat mediocre chocolate... can't eat that really cheap crud though.

T. said...

Yes...we don't quite have the income to be quite as selective about our wine as we are about our coffee. We have to drink "plonk" as my parents call it most of the time, and get nicer bottles every once and a while. But I think we've zeroed in on the best of the worst! lol!

coramie said...

What a hoot!!
I so can picture you in each of the situations you describe....I am sooo glad you obtained the ultimate cup of coffee on the Avenue before you left. What a way to remember Oak Bay!!

Zack's beans in your care packages will be a must....not as good as Oak Bay...but a close second I reckon!!

T. said...

Yep, the Zacks we will definately need lots of care packages of!!

Magnificent M said...

ahhh, good wine is not always expensive... thank goodness. My dad, who ironically could afford to buy expensive wine, is known for his willingness to try the cheap bottles. There is an italian wine that he often buys, starts with an M and the name escapes me but it is cheap and good. And its at the BC LQ. next time I'm there I will look at the name and send it to you....oh wait, it came to me.... Massi.


Sarah said...

I totally know about the good coffee... and the unbearble disappointment of a disgustingly bad cup. I was recently devastated to discover that one of my favorite coffee shops down on Granville Island had gotten rid of their "Crema Coffee Machine" which was my guaranteed standby for a good cup of coffee. Whenever I had a bad day, I used to go there, knowing that I could get a great cup of coffee, thick and dark with a solid layer of creme on top (also my favorite part). I'll now have to find a new reliable source of good strong espresso. Really, I should find where they dumped their old machines and tackle someone for them.
By the way.... I was thinking we should do something on the Saturday, July 30th night - the fireworks are on... I thought we could maybe have a bar-b-q at my place and then all traipse down to Kits to watch them? What do you think?

Simply Victoria said...

ah yes, I've had the disgusting cup. all the more disappointing when you are in desperate need in the wee hours of the morning (as early as 9am these days!! :P). Weak coffee is the worst.