Early this evening, I enjoyed this better-than-Sixx cappuccino at Alterra's Prospect Ave. location. On a perhaps not entirely unrelated note, Mötley Crüe's Dr. Feelgood recently played over the speakers at the Lakefront location.
Tonight brings a sensory experience I haven't had in too long: brisk April air and the overwhelming scent of laundry from a dense South Side neighborhood--to me, Milwaukee. I'm enjoying a late dinner break at Classic Slice in Bay View--to me, Milwaukee. I note that with New Glarus Fat Squirrel in my plastic tumbler (this being Classic Slice) and a newly concocted, nearly perfect coffee blend in the grinder hopper back at the office, life seems very good indeed. The blend consists of 1/3 Anodyne Breakfast Blend, 1/3 Starbucks Tribute Blend and 1/3 Alterra Delta Mud. Sobriety permitting, I'm going to go out of my way and drive through St. Francis on the way back, mostly because it's called St. Francis, but also because it's a place dedicated to others' interpretation of the faith that's been so much on my mind lately. That, too: to me, Milwaukee.
I finally made it to Fiddleheads Bakery in Thiensville. I hadn't been here since the bakery portion was opened, other than once to grab a quick cup of coffee to go. Conveniently, you're able to order coffee also while placing your bakery order. Your drink is then prepared while you walk across the room to the coffee bar. Ingeniously, the baked goods lineup features many of the same items as City Market, only done much better. I'm enjoying a Fiddlefuel scone (pictured here), which is a vast improvement on City Market's rightfully renowned but rather hockey puck-like Power Scone.
UPDATE: I brought a loaf of whole wheat bread back to the office with me. It's fantastic! And it, like the scone, were marked half off towards the end of their business day.
A coffeehouse that, four years ago, was among my least favorite has lurched ahead to become my Number 1: Rochambo. Lately, I always get the same thing. A young woman has the ability to make a soy cappuccino that is unlike any other. Not quite sure how she does it, as soy milk is notoriously difficult to foam. The coffeehouse also features fast, reliable Internet.
I'm eating a late lunch at City Market in Shorewood. The cafe/bakery chain seems to have gotten a divorce from Stone Creek Coffee. (I'm told the power scones spend every other weekend with Dad.) City Market is taking advantage of the opportunity to live it up a little, featuring brewed coffee selections from Anodyne and Stone Creek as well as whole bean coffee from Valentine. I started off with a mug of Anodyne's House Blend and am now trying Stone Creek's White Out Blend. My longstanding assessment is that no roaster would want to be closely associated with City Market. They just don't know how to do coffee. The drip brew is weak, bitter and overheated, proving yet again that #coffeeishard.
I also note with sadness that the "european bakery & cafe" has been banished from the corporate moniker. It's been replaced with "bakehouse", an arguably artificial word that refers to. . .not much. Rather than language being a vehicle to take suburban society to a higher plane than its current ostrich-like existence, too often it becomes a hollow sleeve devised by compound modifier-happy marketing folks. To my knowledge, all coffee beans are "hand-picked" and all bagels are "water-boiled"; even if not all are, informing us of these attributes doesn't enrich our lives one whit. For these establishments to deliver consistently friendly, efficient service (and palatable coffee) would enrich our lives, but evidently that's often asking too much. #languageishard and #qualityishard, but both respond remarkably to genuineness of intention.
This morning at the N. Downer Ave. Starbucks location, the staff unpacked the Valentine's Day-themed hot cups that will mark the holiday, featuring a heart design and the word "Love". The barista informed the rest of the staff: "We're supposed to push these until Valentine's Day." I was upset enough when Starbucks began selling the emotion of "bliss" in its cranberry bars; now it seems to claiming to peddle "love." Love seems like an overwhelming concept somtimes, but I would argue that even the non-romantically inclined such as I can readily experience and express love. To me, love is nothing so much as an attitude towards life. It's one that runs counter to the prevailing ethos in our society.
To me, it's consistently making the difficult choice, even when we can hear the noise of the gears grinding and belts scraping in our heads and hearts. I'm happy to be out of touch with the only slightly younger people I overhear in hipster coffeehouses and pizza joints. I don't need a repertoire of snarky pop cultural references. It's much more gratifying to be moving into a stage of life where I can realize and nurture my store of expertise so that others may take it and grow it. I'm not in a relationship right now, but it's fun to be at an age where I know I can feel things on a deeper level. When it does happen, I know it will be a whopper!
I had an interaction tonight that I'm not sure what to make of, so I thought I would throw it out there. I placed a delivery order from Mona's Restaurant on N. Farwell Ave. via GrubHub. The online ordering system apparently defaults to the option for leaving a cash tip, even when paying via a stored credit card. After placing the order, I had the sinking realization that I had forgotten to add the tip. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from the annoyed-sounding delivery driver. "So, you're at 123 West Fairview? Is that a house, apartment or what?" OK, well, not everyone has a GPS unit or similar feature on their cell phone, right?
I waited and the door and welcomed the driver with a warm smile. I explained that I had forgotten to add the tip, but would be ordering again soon and would make it up to him then. "This said that you were paying in cash. . .for the tip," he said, waving the printout that I had to sign. "I don't get a delivery fee, so that kind of sucks." OK, well, hmmm--I didn't have any cash on me. After the driver left, I felt pretty bad and resolved to drop off a large tip (i.e. $10 or even more) for the driver on Monday night, after I had a chance to get cash.
A few minutes later, someone else from the restaurant called to ask whether I was enjoying my food. I promptly explained the situation and said that I intended to drop off a tip, and the representative gave me the driver's name. So far, so good. Considering that my ticket total was about $15, a 20% tip would be $3. Three bucks. I guess I think $3 doesn't really warrant any bad feelings on either side, especially when I gave my word to make it up next time. (I know I look pretty shady now with the goatee and all.)
Not sure if it warrants a phone call from the restaurant either. I know it's standard procedure for the manager to intervene if a waitperson gets stiffed, but there must be some distinction between waiting on diners who stay an hour or more and driving 7 minutes each way to drop off food. I can certainly sympathize with the need for fair tipping, as I've had friends and family who worked for tips (mind you, not those kind of tips!)
It occurred to me this weekend that I feel genuinely sorry for those who are directly engaged in attracting the U.S.--particularly Milwaukee-area--consumer spending dollar. (Incidentally, I include politics and religion in consumer "spending," even if it is largely mindshare that is being spent.) There seems to be a lack of even side salad-sized solutions to our big, beefy basic problems. There also seems to be a lack of wisdom informed by empirical observation. For example, I'm now being reminded that the "killer app" of the coffeehouse is what I would call the "woman conversation." There's a certain volume and tone of voice used in these dyads that I feel like I've witnessed a million times. A chain like Starbucks could probably survive on the woman conversation alone. Obviously, the implication is that for your coffeehouse to succeed, you want the music to be right and not too loud. (I note that the coffeehouse I frequent that seems to be struggling the most plays loud, jarring music.)
This only goes to show how dependent businesses like coffeehouses are on certain groups and certain modes of behavior. They have to catch lightning in a bottle, it seems, over and over again. It's evident to me that you've got your little base of eligible spenders, who are constantly preoccupied because the Packers are playing or it's the World Series or whatevertheheck. Add to that the challenge of putting forth a message that will "cut through" and attract the 15-second attention span of a population that, by and large, spends most of its time driving and watching television. It's hard not to be scared of what lows the political scene will stoop to before the Presidential election cycle is through. Indeed, as I saw Saturday night, it's hard not to be scared of the lows that have already been reached.
When I arrived at Apollo Cafe, the television was tuned to the Republican Presidential debate, where the candidates jockeyed to position themselves as the most anti-gay rights and anti-abortion. My stance on these social issues has tended to waver over the years, but I've always felt that these issues have a primarily symbolic character. They're proxies for deep, substantial conversations about the nature of life and sexuality that, for whatever reason, we refuse to have. In some cases, institutions such as the Roman Catholic church do have those substantial conversations, but reach a conclusion that I consider incorrect.
Tonight, all of the debate's participants except perhaps Mitt Romney--who has always been the most palatable Republican to me and tonight seemed to be on the defensive--just absolutely gave me the willies. I guess I just find it hard to believe that with all of the possibilities of globalization and the Internet, we've regressed to such an extent. I can only hope that more individuals start thinking outside the constraints on the political conversation imposed by the Republicans and put forward something truly groundbreaking and positive.
This afternoon, I had the pleasure of being served a mug of freshly brewed coffee by a well-dressed young man. Having lived through more Wisconsin winters than I care to admit, I've long abandoned any attempt at fashion, especially in winter. The chief reason is that one is constantly going from a too-cold environment to a too-hot one. Most of our indoor spaces are older (kind of like yours truly) and have moody (kind of like yours truly) heating systems. To me, layers seem like the only way to go, especially because I spend a lot of time walking outside.